I recently caught up with two ex-Googlers, Fili Wiese and Kaspar Szymanski, at the OmCap conference in Berlin, Germany, and used this opportunity to ask them their opinions on the future of search.
Fili (pictured right) was with Google for seven years and has been the driving force behind Google Search Quality policy, tackling webspam, internal tools development and webmaster outreach. In addition, as a developer and abuse analyst he also contributed greatly to the click fraud teams efforts to protect advertisers from click spam. Today Fili is a freelance SEO consultant working in Berlin.
Kaspar (pictured left) worked on the search engines manual web spam team from 2006 till 2013. During that time he gained visibility in the SEO industry through his Google blog contributions and conference talks. In 2012 and 2013 his teams work made national news with announcements such as this. Kaspar is now also a freelance SEO consultant in Berlin.
Why are we still seeing many sites with spammy backlink profiles ranking well?
Many of these sites have already faced the consequences of their past Google Webmaster Guidelines violations. Some have approached us seeking guidance in refining their strategy.
Lastly its everyones decision how much risk they are willing to accept for their online presence. As far as we can tell, less and less webmasters tend to believe that polluting the internet with spam links is a good idea. And so do we.
Which ranking factors do SEOs typically over and underestimate the importance of?
A lot of people tend to waste resources on gaining PageRank passing links, while their sites are barely crawlable. Off-page is hugely overestimated while on-page can be the real killer factor if properly optimised.
What is the best way to future proof SEO campaigns?
Unsurprisingly it is whats always been working: focus 100% on the users. Anything else will follow including success in search, regardless if you need it or not.
Which competitor does Google fear/respect most?
Fear tends to cloud logic. As far as we can tell at Google Search, competition is met with respect and embraced as a source of inspiration to push for more. Right now it does not seem that there are any serious global search engine competitors out there but we hope this will change. Competition is the fuel of progress!
In your opinion what is the biggest mistake Google has made?
Now, you need to keep in mind we share our personal opinions, nothing else. There may have been some things we personally did not like much. Streetview cars scanning WiFi signals comes to mind, discontinuing popular products like Google Reader or cool product features like Instant Preview, too. That said all in all, we still enjoy Google Search, Gmail, Drive, Maps. It looks like after all they do a lot of things right. Or do you search with a better, alternative engine?
If you had access to Googles algorithm for one day, what changes would you make?
Use all their processing power to map Earth’s oceans! We know more about outer space than about the depths of our own water reservoirs.
In 10 years time, what do you think the search engine landscape will look like?
It will be determined by the changing demographics and decreasing entry barriers. With new generations of early adopters, savvy silver surfers and a likely 100% of the population having the means at their hands to search anywhere, anytime. It will be an exciting time!