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Shhh! Google releases its own 2019 SEO guide to getting found on the Internet

Google has taken an innovative approach to sharing what’s working in SEO, especially when it comes to its own search engine. It’s done so by explaining what it does “to stay on top of the latest Google Search updates” for its own web properties, 7,000 websites that are managed by hundreds of its product and marketing teams all over the world.

When done well, SEO can provide an important — and cost-effective — strategy for organic growth. In fact, the latest research from web analytics company shows Google Search accounted for around half of external referrals to the publishers in its network this past year.

Sean O’Keefe, Website Optimization at Google

In an update on Think with Google—where the company showcases it’s “latest data, insights, and inspiration”—Sean O’Keefe, data scientist at Google has shared a comprehensive guide (along with resources) to How Google approaches SEO.

“Over 200 changes every single day”

According to Sean, to get the most out of SEO, it’s important to stay on top of the latest Google Search updates, and it’s no different for them internally.

Over 200 changes are made to these websites every single day, all of which could potentially affect a site’s SEO. When it comes to how Google sites appear in Search, they receive the same treatment as any other site on the web, and our teams follow the same external guidelines provided to webmasters.

While 200 may appear to be a phenomenal number of changes for a single day, it’s spread across 7,000 web properties, so it isn’t as complicated an affair as it may sound. In fact, Sean advises that “for big SEO results, start small.”

To this end, Google has put in place a cohesive website SEO strategy that publishers can rely on irrespective of what algorithmic changes are introduced, and that anyone with a website can learn from.

According to the search giant, focusing on small, incremental changes to a website’s overall SEO strategy really can produce noticeable gains over time. The Google My Business marketing site, for example, saw a near 2X increase in organic traffic, partly because the team implemented a number of web fundamental best practices, such as showing search engines what URLs to index by implementing canonicals.

Organic traffic increases after SEO improvements to Google My Business

Google suggests that if you’re struggling to identify some of the issues your site might be facing, Search Console’s new URL inspection tool is a great place to start.

Sean also advises that to succeed with search, don’t be scared of changes — embrace them. According to the company, search features are always evolving to surface the most relevant content for users and to keep up with their changing behavior. For example, today, over 50% of website traffic comes from mobile, and Google Search has quickly been adapting in response, with new developments such as AMP and Progressive Web Apps.  

It can be easy to get overwhelmed by these changes, but internally we’ve found that the more we embrace them and experiment with them, the better our SEO results.

Sean’s final advice is, where possible, consolidate.

While it can be tempting to create multiple websites, each containing very similar content, to target different customer profiles or geographic regions, it leads to a large number of near-duplicate sites based on different campaigns or marketing goals, which is actually harmful from a search perspective.

Duplicate content is not only confusing for users, it’s also confusing for search engines. Creating one great site instead of multiple microsites is the best way to encourage organic growth over time.

For example, Google decided to overhaul their marketing websites for Google Retail by cleaning up six old websites, consolidating content, and focusing their energy on one great website. This doubled the site’s call-to-action click-through rate and increased organic traffic by 64%.

“The lesson here is clear,” Google says. “While on-page performance is important, a successful SEO strategy must take into account your entire web ecosystem.”

“Google doesn’t always get SEO right”

The company’s innovative take on sharing the latest Google Search updates ends on a pretty humble note, saying “Just like other companies, Google doesn’t always get SEO right, and we’re constantly working to make improvements to our own sites.”

Nevertheless, they conclude, by focusing on the three areas discussed above, Google has been able to build an SEO strategy that’s “flexible enough to adapt to new changes, solid enough to drive powerful results, and adaptable enough to be applicable to all websites.”

All that’s left unsaid for publishers is, so can you.

For further details, visit Inside Google Marketing: 3 ways we think about SEO

Google resources referenced in this article:

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide
  2. Search Console’s new URL inspection tool
  3. New Google Search developments: AMP and Progressive Web Apps
  4. Web Fundamentals, “Google’s opinionated reference for building amazing web experiences”
  5. Think with Google, the latest data, insights, and inspiration from Google

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