SEO Report Card - Slides


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  • For those that don't know, SEO stands for "Search Engine Optimization," and Google's SEO report card doesn't assign grades like A, B, or F to individual SEOs. Half the room just let out a huge sigh of relief.
  • Rather, we wanted to look at how well Google executes on the best practices that we recommend to webmasters. In effect, we wanted to answer the question: "How well does Google do at SEO for"
  • Now the nice thing is that Google has something going for it, which is that we swim in PageRank--not because we created PageRank or give ourselves PageRank, but because in 2002 we passed Adobe to become the most linked to domain on the web. So Google has a ton of PageRank simply based on merit.
  • But here's what's really shocking: Google doesn't do SEO. To the best of my knowledge, there isn't any dedicated team that works solely on search engine optimization. We build products for users and rarely think about how they will rank in search engines. 
  • In fact, some Google properties ask me for SEO advice. I wanted our advice to be public, so a guy on my team named Brandon Falls wrote up an SEO starter guide and we made it public. When colleagues ask for SEO advice, we send them the SEO starter guide.
  • At this point, I wanted to include a joke slide from a few years where someone asked "What if Google designed its search interface for search engines?" They thought we'd end up including a bunch of not-that-great links on the home page.
  • So now we come to Google's SEO Report Card. We looked at 100 Google properties and scored them based on whitehat SEO methods like meta description tags, consistent internal linking structure, and descriptive titles. So what did we find?
  • Well, the initial results weren't that great. Only about a third of Google properties had a meta description tag. That's SEO 101, because a meta description tag will sometimes be used as the snippet that users see in the search results.
  • Let's look at some bad snippets. The top snippet is a legal disclaimer. The middle snippet is vertical bar plus the language of the page. And the bottom snippet is empty, and looks like an uncrawled page.
  • And here's my personal favorite snippet. The Google Patent Search page copied a page from Google Books and never changed the meta description tag. So the patent url looks like it's about Google Book Search. Oy. 
  • Well, how about a consistent url structure? It turns out we have almost a perfect three way tie between,, and with a trailing slash. That's really not very consistent at all.
  • And just to call out one specific property as an example, the webserver for Google Books will respond with content for all of these different urls. That means that search engines have to sort out the duplicate content, even if it was inadvertent.
  • We also learned that 70% of our web page titles were just "Google Product." We were missing a chance to include a small number of helpful keywords. On the bright side, our products have descriptive names, like "Google Patent Search."
  • One of the best SEO wins happens when your internal linkage is consistent, which means you pick a preferred pattern and stick with it. We saw that less than half of our product logos linked to the correct preferred or canonical url for each product.
  • Here's a couple of examples. On Google's Mobile Ads property, if you clicked on the logo it would take you to a 404 error because that page didn't exist. We found a similar broken logo link on Google Finance. We even provide a free tool to spot 404 errors like this.
  • You can tell that programmers make because the alt text on Google Map Maker was "Go to %1$s", which is clearly some sort of website template gone awry.
  • I called out a bunch of examples where Google didn't do stuff well, but it wasn't all bad news. For example, Google does a pretty good job of using descriptive anchor text and descriptive product names.
  • Have you seen this video where a boy and a girl are doing a video chat and a completely different guy in a towel walks in the door, goes "Oh #$%" and walks back out? That was a sitelink for Google Video. We provide a tool to remove bad sitelinks.
  • So what did we learn? The short answer is that Google doesn't pay a lot of attention to SEO. At all. So naturally we'd done a bunch of silly things. The good news is that we've already fixed a lot of them, and that from our mistakes, you can learn a lot.
  • The even better news is that you can download the SEO report card yourself. It's very readable and it will probably give you some ideas for simple, easy fixes you can make on your own site. Thanks for listening!
  • SEO Report Card - Slides

    1. 2. How does Google do at SEO for
    2. 3. Credit: bensonkua
    3. 4. Credit: bensonkua
    4. 5. November 2008: SEO Starter Guide
    5. 6. Source:
    6. 7. 100 products scored on:   Search result presentation   URLs and redirects   On-page optimizations
    7. 8. Many products missed the basics.
    8. 9. Not all snippets were inviting or descriptive.
    9. 10. Be careful when reusing code.
    10. 11. We're going to need some redirects...
    11. 12. define:duplicate content 200 OK 200 OK 200 OK 200 OK
    12. 13. 70% of titles were in the "Google Product" format
    13. 14. Product logos don't always link to canonical URLs
    14. 15. Monitor Webmaster Tools (or logs) for 404s.
    15. 16. Go where?
    16. 17. Many products had great anchor text
    17. 18. Google Video had an embarrassing sitelink
    18. 19. Key takeaways?
    19. 20. SEO Report Card: SEO Starter Guide: