Spotlight on Search is an interview series that shines a light on search marketing professionals to learn more about the nature of their work, differences in SEO amongst categories of web sites and of course, SEO tips, tactics and useful tools.
Maile Ohye has become a well known public figure from Google that works with webmasters and web marketers coordinating Google Webmaster Central outreach efforts, including the Webmaster Central Blog. She has been speaking at search conferences for several years and has done many interviews like the one at the bottom of this post with Greg Jarboe on real-time search. Her involvement with Google’s Webmaster Central has been instrumental in helping many web site owners find solutions to their Google problems.
In this interview, Maile shares her experience working with Google, Webmaster Central, offers tips on improving page speed, shares unusual SEO problems, offers her perspective on SEO and Social Media as well a hint at her upcoming keynote presentation at SES Toronto.
Please tell us about your career at Google and what’s the most exciting thing about your work?
I’ve worked at Google for over four years. One of my responsibilities is to manage the Webmaster Central Blog. I love the internet, love Search, and it’s all exciting. Monday through Friday I’m able to eat these great lunches (food is another love of mine), collaborate with the coolest people, and work toward a cause I totally believe in: a better web. In my current role, I assist webmasters to implement open standards and best practices that allow search engines to crawl/index their site. Because in the end, better sites make a better web which better facilitates users finding relevant information. Yay!
So dorky, I know. Can’t help it. I really dig this stuff.
Google Webmaster Central has been a great resource for many webmasters. What tips can you share with web site owners to make the most out of Google Webmaster Tools?
Awww, Webmaster Central a “great resource” for many webmasters? That’s wonderful to hear. As for tips, I’d say verify ownership of your site in Webmaster Tools, sign up for email forwarding in Webmaster Tools’ Message Center, and then check out all the specific data for your site: our Top Search Queries feature was just revamped. Crawl Errors is cool for making sure your site is accessed as you’d expect (many people find unknown 404s, or realize they have server downtime because of noticing the “Unreachable” errors), HTML Suggestions shows you the URLs with duplicate titles or meta descriptions. I think once you start poking around in Webmaster Tools you’ll learn more and more. It’s addictive.
How does one become a Bionic Poster?
Lee, Bionic Posters aren’t born, they’re made. They’re the most active, helpful, accurate, friendly webmasters in the discussion forum. Many of them were bionic posters before we ever had recognition for bionic posters — they just went about their day helping others in the webmaster community. It was an honor for me to meet Richard Hearne and dine with webado while I was on holiday in Montreal. They’ve both individually written thousands (thousands!) of posts to help webmasters.
This thread still brings tears to my eyes.
The disclosure about page speed being a ranking factor will certainly have an impact on user experience. What’s the impact for Google?
Speed is now a factor in rankings because we’re trying to best serve users, and studies show that users are happier with faster sites and less satisfied with slow sites. More satisfied users are shown to spend more time on the internet. More time on the internet means more time spent learning new things, becoming a better informed citizen, surfing the web and, of course, checking out your website. Speed can be a win for all parties involved.
Please share a few tips and/or tools for improving page load speed:
First, I’d get a gauge of your site in Webmaster Tools Site Performance. Then, I’d download the Page Speed plugin. Simple implementations to improve performance are compressing/gzip-ping as many file types as possible, using an expires header, and ordering stylesheets the top of the page/scripts at the bottom. More information in my blog post/video from last week, You and site performance, sitting in a tree…”.
In your work with Google Webmaster Central, what are some of the most common mis-conceptions about SEO? Common problems? Really unique or unusual problems?
A more complex problem we’ve discussed recently is what to do with a page that has its (boilerplate) template translated into different language, causing different URLs, but where the actual (non-template) content remains the same. In other words, only the navigation can switch languages, the content itself is unchanged. This configuration is common in user-generated sites. For example, a discussion forum may have it’s template available in 20 languages, however the individual user posts are written in any language and are not translated.
Because the actual/main content is the same, rel=”canonical” makes theoretical sense. So should the webmaster use rel=”canonical” from the different languages to one preferred version? Let’s say the webmaster uses rel=”canonical” on her entire site. She points the French/Spanish/German versions to her canonical English-template version. Now, however, French-speaking users only see the English-template version in search results. Is this a desirable user search experience?
It’s a tough call. At this point, we can’t give a best practice recommendation across the board. It’s a decision left to the individual webmaster as they know their audience best.
If a web site owner was deciding how much effort to focus on standard SEO (keywords in content & links, crawling, external link acquisition) compared to social media (creating profiles, growing a network, sharing content) what tips would you give to help them decide where to spend their time? How do you see SEO and social media working together?
I think having a solid site: great content, good experience for users (intuitive navigation, responsive), descriptive page titles, standardized URL structure, etc., is of primary importance. A strong site is the foundation where you’ll likely make your online conversions. Once this foundation is established, the social media approach helps drive traffic, builds excitement (and inbound links), that you’ll be able to capitalize on with your solid site.
Congratulations on the keynote presentation at SES Toronto. What will you be speaking about?
Thanks! I’m super excited. I expect to talk about Search, Real Time Search, Webmaster Tools, cool new projects on the web. And hopefully I’ll hear feedback/concerns from the web community in Toronto, too.
Thanks so much for the interview, Lee. Hope to talk again soon.
Thank you Maile!
Update: I’ve added a recent video interview with Maile from Search Engine Strategies in New York. As noted in the interview above, she will be presenting a keynote presentation at the upcoming SES Toronto, so be sure to get more information on that event and get signed up.