Back to SEO Basics – from Site Review Session at Google I/O 2009

June 20, 2009 – 12:30 pm

In between the whole nofollow-gate affair, SMX Advanced, Google indexing links in Java and a velvet revolution in Iran, there was a Google I/O conference. The conference sounded like a pretty cool place to be, especially with the Google Wave announcement and the Android phones being given out to all attendees, there was also a Site Review Session done by Matt and two guys from his team, Brian White and Greg Grothaus (who mostly  sat and looked at their laptops while Matt was stealing all the limelight 🙂 ).

So while Matt was talking mostly about pretty basic stuff (which was understandable since this was not the usual SEO crowd he caters to), I managed to fish out a few interesting tidbits from his talk. While these are not necessarily new for everybody, it seemed to me that some of the stuff he said was not always clear enough or was just guessed, so it is nice to have them out in the open and confirmed. I would recommend for anyone interested to go and watch the video and for those that do not have time/mental strength to do so, here are a few gems that I  picked out of the talk. Again, it is possible that none of these are new for you, but I am sure that there will be people that will learn some things from this:

  1. Google doesn’t read the text in the images. While this is clearly stated in Google Webmaster Help section, every now and then there are speculations popping up about how Google definitely reads text inside images. So Matt clearly said that Google will not OCR the whole web and will not read the text inside images any time soon, even if they do have OCR capabilities, as can be seen from the Google Books example.
  2. Don’t worry about keyword density, make sure Google knows there is a word on your page, after 2-3 repeats, it doesn’t matter any more. While it was clear for a long time that keyword density does not play a role in the ranking algorithm, I have never seen a clear statement of “2-3 repeats” and then no impact. Matt did review a site that was stuffing keywords and made it clear that Google knows how to discover these cases and punish them.
  3. If you want some links to get more PR, put them higher up in the page. We all knew that the links showing higher up on the page seem to be more important, but this is the first mention of the fact (that I know of) that there is different PR flow related to the position of the link inside the page. This may explain several phenomena that people were seeing affecting the importance of the link (such as supposed decreased importance of links in footer)
  4. Google doesn’t care if you link to as opposed to All that matters is the linking distance from the homepage. Other search engines, however, may deem that importantSo while it is not exactly news that Google does not care how deep your URL structure is, as long as the pages are linked from homepage, it is interesting that he bothered to mention the situation with other search engines. So when building your website hierarchy, try to make it as shallow as possible
  5. Pagerank can go to images, not only pagesAgain while this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, it is interesting to hear it directly from Matt himself. So when thinking about those linking images, make sure that you are using an optimal image that you would want to appear in the Image SERPs
  6. Typically, Google revisits the whole index on a weekly basis. In the worst case, it will be monthly. This seems like a good benchmark to start checking whether your pages are in the main index or the supplemental  or whether you are being punished or neglected for some other reason.

None of these are news to people that have done optimization for a while, however i have a feeling that a few newcomers may find this information valuable, especially when one sees the questions that are being asked on forums, blogs and Google’s Webmaster Help groups. So there it is.

  1. 5 Responses to “Back to SEO Basics – from Site Review Session at Google I/O 2009”

  2. You have linked to a post from OnlyGizmos as speculation. I just want to clarify that the article actually shows how you can use Google to read the text in editable format from scanned documents.

    By Annkur on Jun 24, 2009

  3. I wanted a free Android phone 🙁

    By Dave on Jun 24, 2009

  4. @annkur speculations are not a bad thing. Google keeps things in the dark intentionally and it is not always clear to what use they put all their abilities. OnlyGizmos article (and all the others i linked to) shows that Google does OCR, however it is not clear whether they use it to index and rank images in the Google images SERPs. Matt says they don’t. That is all i wrote.

    By Neyne on Jun 24, 2009

  5. Very interesting indeed. I will take everything matt is saying with a grain of salt; he obviously knows more about the Google algorithm than any of us, but I have found at least one fact written on his blog which has proven as incorrect according to my tests.

    By agroup on Jul 5, 2009

  6. Google will eventually OCR the web, maybe not anytime soon, like you say, but it is natural to expect that they will.

    By Jenny on Mar 15, 2010

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