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John Warner’s ‘Why Google Isn’t Giving Update Advice Anymore ’ Talk – Benchmark 2019 Reviewed

Benchmark Search and Digital conference wouldn’t feel complete without Click Consult’s very own John Warner, so it was great to welcome him back to the Hilton Deansgate Manchester 2019


It seems as though every week we are writing about, or discussing the various Google updates, yet the conversations don’t start with Google, they start with industry experts. Why is this and why isn’t Google giving update advice anymore? This was the topic of John Warner’s Benchmark talk…

John started by telling the audience that his story was essentially a conspiracy theory. A nod to the fact that just because Google don’t mention the updates it’s actually that they don’t tell us anything so there is no hidden agenda. He also warned them to take it with a pinch of salt and that the talk could also be titled, ‘The possible reason that Google is probably not, most of the time, giving advice about a large proportion of updates’.

According to John: “SEO has a far better excuse for not knowing what it’s talking about than global politics and that’s the conspiracy, nobody actually knows what’s going on at Google or with them.”

He attributes this to the rise of machine learning and the fact that perhaps some of the actual decisions for making an algorithm update aren’t decided in the boardrooms of Silicon Valley, but are instead done by machines getting smarter.

He said: “One of the most important developments has been the adoption of neural networks as the predominant method of learning for machines and from machines. This is the reason that things like IBM Watson crushed human opposition at Jeopardy, for Google to win at Go and most importantly for recognising cats in previously uncategorised videos.”



John’s talk was as entertaining as it was informative. He motioned that AI was supposedly going to be programmed from the ‘ground up’ by ‘data scientists’ and ‘data hackers’, but in truth the results were far too narrow which is why there has been such a focus on machine learning.

John then explained the importance of neural networks and the science behind them. He said, that in a similar way to search, we put in an input (a search query) and via the interconnecting pathways of the algorithm we receive the output (the answer or search result).

John then declared his admiration for Bill Slawski and his site SEObythesea, joked nervously at being in the presence of Richard Wallis, the founder of Schema.org who would no doubt put him right on all aspects of semantic markup, and explained how Google has created a series of user input patents to simplify how they perform task – eluding to the Occam’s Razor, and that the most logical answer is normally the right one.

During the talk, which can be seen below, Warner also looked beyond RankBrain, algorithm fluctuations and how you can monitor them and what it all means for SEO.



The key learning was that there is no quick fix and that businesses shouldn’t chase updates. Instead they should conform to industry best practices, be adaptive to change, respond to new updates as they arrive and more efficiently across all facets of search.

According to John:

  • Links will always be important
  • Expertise is vital so create expert entities
  • Structured data is a must – especially for machine which are learning
  • We should write for robots

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