Pubcon 2016 Las Vegas, Day 3 Recap | Outbrain Blog


Pubcon 2016 Las Vegas: Day 3

| Liraz Postan


Good morning. Day three of Pubcon started off with another session with Gary Illyes of Google. He talked about search infrastructure, features, and ranking in his morning keynote.

Morning Keynote, Gary Illyes, Google

First up, here’s what he had to say on search infrastructure:


Gary suggested that everyone switch to https at some point. He explained that it makes sense for UX and it protects users from annoying scenarios. Google tested it with some publishers. While some were initially affected negatively by the change, they fixed those problems and it works properly now. Gary told publishers thinking about making the move to catch him on Twitter.


Google decided to drop the mobile-friendly label from search results, and won’t show pages that don’t work on a mobile phone. On January 10th 2017, Google will also change their mobile algorithm to demote sites which are not mobile friendly.

AMP should fix a lot of issues for mobile. If your client does not have a mobile site, AMP can be an easy way to create a mobile friendly site that’s super fast. So, depending what site you have, you can use AMP to improve your mobile page speed.

Mobile First Indexing
Our systems weren’t designed to get two versions of the same content, so Google determines your ranking by the Desktop version only. Google is now switching to a mobile version first index. Gary explained that there are still a lot of issues with this change as they are losing a lot of signals (good ones) from desktop pages that are don’t exist on mobile. Google created a separate mobile index, which will be its primary index. Desktop will be a secondary index that is less up to date. (Read about it here). If you care about recipes, don’t forget to upgrade your structured data to mobile as well.

Ranking and Spam

Gary moved on to the topic of ranking and spam. Here’s what he had to say on each of the following topics.

Rater Guidelines
Google, he explained, is using human evaluators to better understand if its modified search result is better. It doesn’t have a final version and it is always evolving. Read and go back to our rater guidelines, follow it and see what has changed. It’s 160 pages long so scan it for top issues that you find interesting.

RankBrain and machine learning in rankings
When it launched, no one really talked about Rankbrain because Rankbrain doesn’t really change anything. It works well with long tails and negative queries. It is multi-layer and very complicated. Google wants their search to learn and evolve from failures in rankings.

Gary explains that for months he bugged ranking leads to open up the Panda algorithm and he still thinks they need to release more info about it. (Additionally, if you are interested in more questions about Panda, Outbrain answered a lot of questions in this article.)

Penguin will not push sites down in search results. It will discount bad links and incoming spam and ignore them. If Penguin sees bad links, it can demote an entire site. It works in real time. Not all directories are bad, but if the purpose of the directory is to place links, that’s a bad directory.

And finally, on the year ahead

Assistant Progressive Web Apps
Google plans to release “Google O” for voice search. This can help everyone with their day to day lives. Gary couldn’t talk about the coming interesting things they are about to do with it, but in a couple of months, they will be announcing it. Google is trying not to rush and it will ultimately change a lot. As a close, Gary said to keep an eye out for it, especially when creating a native app, as PWA can send push notifications to users.

Session 1: Bill Hunt: Thoughts on Search Marketing

Key takeaways from the first part of this session with Bill Hunt, President at Back Azimuth Consulting:

  • Help your product pages rank better by helping the product team understand SEO
  • Help your PPC teams rank for high bids keywords. There are missed opportunities that you can all improve. After SEO and PPC coordination, his client gained SEO revenue to increase by 67%, with no loss to PPC and a PPC gain of 26% in revenue.
  • Rule Mobile: A 100% fresh index is coming from mobile and Google is making a lot of money out of mobile only.
  • If 70% of your site is not indexed, you’re in trouble. Make sure all is readable through sitemaps and make sure Google crawls it.
  • Make sure your ad campaigns are adjusted more frequently. I’ve seen some ads on Christmas offers in the summer. They didn’t even know due to their enterprise account.

Session 2: Carrie Hill, Rich Snippets, and Semantic Markups

Wise words for all SEO specialists to live by from Carrie’s session: “Semantic markup is not a Band-Aid for bad SEO. If you do it wrong, you will get pushed down.” Other highlights from Carrie’s talk include the following tidbits:

  • Realities of Schema: 80% of the pages lacked data in June 2015, according to Raven.
  • Review Markup: Google has really locked up review markup. You can only markup reviews that live on your site. If you have third party reviews, you have to markup them in schema and mention who wrote them and the date of publication.
  • Ratings: Ratings must be sourced directly from users for local businesses. Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites.
  • JSON vs Schema: Markup sometimes breaks the page when you update a page, but JSON is more solid in this term. Google has indicated they’ll use both and doesn’t favor one over the other.
  • Tools: There are many tools for markup. Validate before markup on production to avoid errors in the search console.

There are so many cool things that Carrie showed us you can do in email markup!


Session 3: Michelle LeBlanc, Leverage Influencers in User Acquisition

Michelle gave a great breakdown of which type of influencers to reach out to per business.


After you’ve reached out to them, she also advised you follow this helpful triangle of content:


She also delved into each of the following:

  • Facebook User Behavior: She said you must absolutely reach this audience. You can reach them with paid ads or you can reach out through influencers that they/or their friends might be interested in.
  • How does the Facebook Algorithm work?: As most of us already know, friends and families are prioritized first. The feed should inform and entertain, connecting people with the stories they find most meaningful.
  • Top Facebook features for influencers: She cited video, live videos for events, groups, photos timeline contest.
  • Be Responsive: Always be available in case your users want to engage with you.
  • Plan it well: Once you do it good, you’re going to start seeing positive ROI immediately.
  • Measuring: Measure activity with third-party tracking systems, video annotations, and UTMs on YouTube. The portion of the users are exposed to the brand and only then do the purchase. You can go through Google Analytics and see an increase in referrals and branded traffic.

Final Session: SEO in 2016, by Duane Forrester and Eric Enge

In this session, Duane and Eric explained that they are currently seeing a lot of major brands invest in speed: Apple news, Facebook instant articles, and AMP by Google. The two did an a/b testing  before  launching the AMP version and this is what they got:


Rankbrain basically makes things much easier as it has a better understand of language. For example, there’s a difference between a search for “the office” (the TV Show) and just a plain “office.” It is the same for negative keywords as well. Google used to demote “without” and it now doesn’t:


So, what’s next?

  • Search engines will look for quality content.
  • There’s no correlation between shares and links. You don’t share everything you read.
  • Google still has a monopoly. Bing is gaining more market share, but it’s happening slowly. What’s the new threat for Google? The future, which may mean no search box and no search engine. For example, Amazon is already twice as strong as Google when it comes to product searches and Facebook owns the news cycle right now, not Google. Also, messaging apps include Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, and not Google Chat.

What works when it comes to content marketing?

Why is content marketing so important?


With content marketing, you can create killer content that draws a lot of attention. The effect of rankings takes time. But once you get there, your content takes off.



“Influencers shifting, celebs are losing ground.” says Duane.

More slides:

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Liraz Postan

Liraz Postan

Liraz is SEO Manager at Outbrain's digital marketing team. Previously worked at 888, Neogames, Go internet marketing and Plarium- Social... Read more

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