Key points from Google’s keynote at SMX Seattle

Posted by Rebecca Appleton on 29 Jun, 2016
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SMX Advanced took place last week, with speakers from firms such as Microsoft, Vistaprint, Conde Nast and of course, Google.

But what we were really all interested in was the SMX Advanced Google keynote conversation with the search engine’s analyst, Gary Illyes. So what exactly are the key points to take away from the afternoon session and how will it help with search marketing strategies going forwards?


Although it’s been two years since Google said it planned to stop using authorship markup, most web publishers have been a little reluctant to pull the plug. However, the Keynote clarified that it’s now safe to remove it from your pages with Google confirming that it no longer uses it – not even for in-depth articles.

Takeaway: If you have Google Authorship mark-up on your website, you can safely remove this without fear of impacting on your SEO. Of course, there is no negative effect to leaving it on site so this is simply a personal choice. Moving forwards, simply omit authorship mark-up from new posts. 


The long awaited answer to whether you can optimize for RankBrain has finally been answered. And the answer is no. According to Gary, there are no “scores” for RankBrain, although he did reiterate that RankBrain is a ranking signal. When pushed, Illyes elaborated a little, noting that while you can’t optimize for RankBrain, the signal attempts to return the most relevant searches, so those producing content that is written naturally, and not keyword stuffed, have nothing to worry about.

Takeway: Don’t get fixated on RankBrain when setting out your SEO strategy. The clear message here is that you can’t fool Google into seeing relevance by manipulating your SEO to win favor with the algorithm. The advice from Illyes is clear – do not keyword stuff your content. When creating a new web page or blog post, write naturally and for your audience. 


Google’s content quality algorithm, Panda, is still a continuous update. However the update takes effect very slowly and takes months to fully roll out. Reiterating the need for targeted and fully-researched keywords to ensure quality content, Google continually crawls the web and assigns a score to the site. But as mentioned above, it takes months for that score to roll out to the index. 

Takeway: They key thing to keep in mind from this segment of the keynote is that results can be slow to filter through. If you have recently adopted new best practices, or put more time and effort into creating good quality content, don’t be disheartened if an upswing in your rankings is not immediate. 


The long-awaited updated version of Penguin is still in production. However there is currently no release date as yet.

Takeaway: Keep an eye on Wordtracker for updates but, as of this week, there is no planned date for a Penguin roll out. We’ll keep you updated with developments as they happen so you will need to be ready to adapt, but don’t be fooled into making knee jerk reactions by scare mongers saying there is a large Penguin-shaped shadow lurking over your search results.

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), Assistants and Search Bots

Gary said that AMP is going to be big over the coming year, and SEOs and webmasters should act now in order to get ready for it. He also said that assistants, bots and chatbots are continually progressing and developing, and webmasters should pay attention to that area. 

Takeaway: AMP is still fairly new to the search discipline and it hasn’t yet filtered down to the mainstream. Google has spoken more about it recently and Illyes’ comments at the keynote suggest it will become increasingly important so, now is the time to get informed and futureproof your search marketing efforts. AMP centers on the creation of mobile friendly content – meaning you’ll need to make mobile optimization central to your activities and ensure your content is searchable, readable and user-friendly for those on mobile devices such as smartphones and laptops. 

See some of our latest mobile posts here:

Mobile Index

Google’s search results for desktop and mobile currently use the same index and most of the same ranking signals. But according to Illyes, Google is looking to separate some of them out and as a result, is currently working on a mobile-only index. It is likely that this will only be used for smartphone searches, and be separate from the normal index.

Takeaway: Mobile is not going away . If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to develop a mobile SEO strategy. For some, this may mean taking the leap and investing in a mobile website design, for others fine tuning of performance metrics such as page load times. Whatever state your mobile SEO is in, making it a priority will become non-negotiable in the coming months.

Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster tools)

Three years ago, Google promised more data and longer history of data in the Google Search Console. And it appears that it may now be coming as the team is apparently working on it right now. This feature will be a welcome addition for webmasters, as they will have more detailed history, search analytics and other data in the Google Search Console.

Takeaway: There’s nothing to see here yet but, expect to be able to tap into more data and make more informed decisions soon.

HTTPS Adoption

Signaling a huge growth in HTTPS, Gary announced that 34 percent of the Google index is now HTTPS. And as a result of this, he recommended that webmasters migrate their websites from HTTP to HTTPS soon in order to keep ahead of the game.

Takeaway: Speak to your web developer about migrating your site to HTTPS if it currently is HTTP.

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