In search engine optimization (SEO), where the focus often swings toward the latest trends and advanced tactics, Google’s Search Off The Record podcast team recently reminded everyone to get the basics right first.
Martin Splitt, Gary Illyes, and John Mueller of Google’s Search Relations team explained that many websites still need help with basic technical SEO issues like site crawlability, indexing, and page rendering.
These foundational factors directly impact a site’s performance in search results. As such, they should be addressed before less critical optimizations.
Technical SEO: Foundation Before Innovation
Technical SEO involves optimizing a website’s architecture and infrastructure to improve crawling and indexing by search engines.
Unlike content creation or promotion, technical SEO focuses solely on the behind-the-scenes elements of a site.
Illyes explains why he often posts on social media about technical SEO:
“I like to post about technical things…because every now and then we notice that big site owners or big site SEOs will miss critical basic things.”
Illyes described his observations from conferences where attendees were captivated by the ‘next big thing.’
“Just make sure your content is good first… looking at these websites that people put there, they are not helpful or useful to me as a user trying to find things.”
Further, he underlined the significance of technical aspects in SEO, saying:
“If Googlebot cannot reach your site, or rendering fails miserably, or there are no tokens (words) on the site or a page, then there’s not that much that Google can do for you.”
Splitt agreed, stating technical SEO “is still important – it’s like all of those basics.” He suggested troubleshooting with a site’s homepage, as search engines view this as the most vital page.
When these technical aspects are neglected, it may lead to critical issues, such as rendering failures or inaccessible sites, which can severely affect a website’s performance in search engine rankings.
Quality Over Quantity: Rethinking Traffic Metrics
Another key discussion point was the evaluation of content and the common misperception that high traffic equates to high-quality pages.
Mueller cautioned relying solely on analytics without considering user experience:
“I sometimes feel it’s misleading to just purely focus on the traffic.”
He recounted an example of a site ranking well for generic keywords but providing little value to users. When traffic from those low-quality keywords declined, the aggregate stats looked concerning – but the loss was irrelevant.
What Should You Pay Attention To?
The hosts emphasized that metrics beyond traffic, such as user engagement and satisfaction, are more accurate indicators of a page’s usefulness and quality.
“You almost need to look at the bigger picture of all of the traffic that’s gone, but also keep in mind… a lot of this was useless.”
He encourages focusing on relevant queries and tracking lower-level pages to understand a site’s performance better.
How To Create High-Quality Content?
It’s not enough to churn out a high content volume; the content must serve a purpose and provide value to its intended audience.
However, Illyes suggests that creating high-quality content might be more straightforward than most people think.
The key is to focus on what will help people achieve their goals when they visit the page. This could mean providing comprehensive answers to common questions, solving problems, or sharing engaging and entertaining stories.
“What if quality is actually simpler than most people think? What if it’s about writing the thing that will help people achieve whatever they need to achieve when they come to the page?”
This discussion between Google’s Search Relations team emphasizes two key takeaways.
First, mastering the basics of technical SEO is essential before delving into advanced tactics. Second, the quality of content and user engagement are more important than mere traffic numbers for evaluating a site’s success.
They advised that websites can significantly improve SEO performance by focusing on these areas.
Featured Image: LCV/Shutterstock