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Google Highlights Poor SEO Practices

4 min read

In a live interview at a search conference in May 2024, Google’s Gary Illyes shared insights on why Google places less trust in signals that site owners and SEOs directly control. Although this interview went largely unnoticed, it contains valuable information for digital marketers about how Google ranks web pages.

Illyes explained that signals under the direct control of site owners and SEOs, such as meta tags and internal linking structures, can be easily manipulated to boost a site’s ranking artificially. Because of this, Google tends to de-emphasize these signals in favor of those that are harder to control and more indicative of genuine user engagement and content quality.

He emphasized that site owners and SEOs should focus on optimizing the aspects of their websites to provide users with real value. This includes creating high-quality content, improving site speed, ensuring mobile-friendliness, and building a solid backlink profile from reputable sources. By prioritizing user experience and producing content that genuinely meets the needs of their audience, site owners can more effectively and sustainably align with Google’s ranking criteria.

Illyes’ insights offer a clearer understanding of Google’s ranking priorities and highlight the importance of focusing on authentic, user-centered SEO practices.

 

Authorship Signals

 

During a live interview at a search conference in May 2024, Gary Illyes of Google addressed whether the company would reintroduce authorship signals. This topic has been a focal point for some SEOs, fueled by Google’s advice to study the Search Quality Raters Guidelines to better understand ranking aspirations. However, many SEOs need to understand this guidance and dissect the document in search of potential ranking signals.

Digital marketers have increasingly viewed EEAT (Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) as signals that Google’s algorithms prioritize. This belief gave rise to the notion that authorship signals could significantly impact rankings.

The idea of authorship signals isn’t unfounded. At one time, Google provided a method for site owners and SEOs to include metadata about webpage authorship. However, this initiative was eventually discontinued.

Illyes explained that signals controlled directly by site owners and SEOs, such as authorship metadata, are susceptible to manipulation. Consequently, Google places less emphasis on these signals, favoring those that reflect genuine user engagement and content quality. He advised site owners and SEOs to deliver real user value through high-quality content, site speed optimization, mobile-friendliness, and earning backlinks from reputable sources.

Site owners can better align with Google’s ranking criteria by prioritizing user experience and producing content that genuinely meets audience needs. Illyes’ insights underscore the importance of authentic, user-centered SEO practices in navigating Google’s evolving algorithms.

 

SEO-Controlled Markup Is Untrustworthy

 

In a live interview at a search conference in May 2024, Google’s Gary Illyes addressed a question about the potential return of authorship signals. He promptly explained that Google finds SEO-controlled data on web pages, such as markup, often becomes spammy and untrustworthy.

The interviewer asked: “Are Google planning to release some authorship sooner or later, something that goes back to that old authorship?”

Gary Illyes responded: “Uhm… I don’t know of such plans, and honestly, I’m not very excited about anything along those lines, especially not one that is similar to what we had back in 2011 to 2013 because pretty much any markup that SEOs and site owners have access to will be in some form spam.”

Illyes explained that SEO and author-controlled markup generally do not make for sound signals. He illustrated this point by mentioning that elements like the rel-canonical tag and meta descriptions are treated as hints rather than directives by Google.

“Having something similar for authorship would be a mistake,” he added.

Understanding that SEO-controlled data is not a good signal is crucial because many in search marketing believe they can manipulate Google with fake author profiles, fabricated reviews, and carefully crafted metadata designed to rank for specific keywords. Illyes’ insights highlight the importance of genuine user engagement and content quality rather than relying on manipulative practices.

 

What About Algorithmically Determined Authorship?

 

Gary Illyes recently addressed algorithmically determined authorship signals during a live interview at a search conference in May 2024. His insights may surprise some SEOs and site owners who have invested significant effort in updating their web pages to improve their authorship data. Illyes described these signals as needing more value.

Some SEOs created the idea that “authorship signals” are crucial for ranking, but Google does not promote this concept. Google representatives like John Mueller and Search Liaison have consistently downplayed the necessity of author profiles for years.

Illyes explained his perspective on algorithmically determined authorship signals: “Having something similar for authorship, I think, would be a mistake. If it’s algorithmically determined, then perhaps it would be more accurate or could be higher accuracy, but honestly, I don’t necessarily see the value in it.”

The interviewer noted how rel-canonicals can sometimes be poorly implemented: “I’ve seen canonical done badly a lot of times myself, so I’m glad to hear that it is only a suggestion rather than a rule.”

Illyes’ response to this observation was revealing. He emphasized that while rel-canonical tags are essential, they are not absolute directives: “I mean, it’s a strong suggestion, but still, it’s a suggestion.”

This implies a relative scale of trust in specific inputs from publishers. For example, Google may place more vital trust in rel-canonical tags because it’s in a publisher’s best interest to use them correctly. In contrast, authorship data can be prone to exaggeration or outright deception, making it less trustworthy.

Illyes’ comments highlight that while some SEO practices are valuable, Google remains cautious about relying too heavily on signals that site owners can easily manipulate. This underscores the importance of genuine user engagement and content quality over manipulative practices.

 

What Does It All Mean?

 

Gary Illyes’ recent comments provide crucial insights for optimizing a web page correctly. Illyes and other Google representatives have repeatedly reiterated that authorship is not a signal that Google prioritizes. The emphasis on authorship is a notion created by SEOs, not something Google has promoted.

This underscores the importance of not overestimating the metadata value controlled by site owners or SEOs. Instead of focusing on potentially misleading signals, genuine user engagement and high-quality content must be prioritized.

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Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]