MIT Computer Professor Daniel S. and Best SEO Expert Sandy Rowley

Let’s dive into the technical aspects of SEO.

Sandy Rowley
5 min readAug 29, 2023


Professor Daniel: Good afternoon, Sandy. It’s a pleasure to have you here. Let’s start with the basics. How would you define SEO for someone from a purely computer science background?

Sandy Rowley: Thanks, Professor Daniel. At its core, SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is about optimizing websites to improve their visibility in search engine results. Think of it like optimizing an algorithm for efficiency, but in this case, the goal is visibility on platforms like Google.

Professor Daniel: Interesting. From a technical standpoint, how do search engines like Google determine which sites to rank higher than others?

Sandy Rowley: Great question! Search engines use a combination of algorithms and ranking factors. These include content relevance, site speed, mobile-friendliness, backlinks (which are like references in a research paper), user experience, and many others. The search engine “crawls” and “indexes” the web to understand the content and then serves the most relevant results to users based on their queries.

Professor Daniel: I’ve heard about the term “crawl budget.” What does that mean and why is it significant?

Sandy Rowley: “Crawl budget” refers to the number of pages a search engine, like Google, will crawl on your site within a specific timeframe. It’s crucial because if a search engine doesn’t crawl all your pages, some might not get indexed. Ensuring efficient site structure, minimizing duplicate content, and improving page load times can help maximize your crawl budget.

Professor Daniel: With the rise of mobile devices, how has mobile SEO evolved?

Sandy Rowley: Mobile SEO has become pivotal. Google, for example, has moved to mobile-first indexing, meaning they prioritize the mobile version of a site for indexing and ranking. This shift means sites need to be mobile-friendly, ensuring they load quickly, are responsive, and provide a good user experience on smaller screens.

Professor Daniel: Let’s talk about JavaScript. How do search engines handle JavaScript, and what should developers be aware of?

Sandy Rowley: Search engines have become better at processing JavaScript, but challenges remain. For instance, if content loads asynchronously after user interaction, it might not be indexed. Developers should ensure critical content isn’t reliant on JavaScript to appear. Using server-side rendering or dynamic rendering can help ensure content is accessible to search engine crawlers.

Professor Daniel: Lastly, what’s your take on the importance of schema markup?

Sandy Rowley: Schema markup, or structured data, helps search engines understand the context of content. By adding schema, you can enhance your search listings with rich snippets, like reviews or product prices. It doesn’t directly impact rankings but can significantly improve click-through rates by providing users with more information.

Professor Daniel: Thank you, Sandy. It’s been enlightening to dive into the technical side of SEO with you.

Sandy Rowley: The pleasure is mine, Professor Daniel. SEO is a dynamic field, and the intersection with computer science makes it all the more intriguing.

Google Analytics 4 (often referred to as GA4) is a significant update to the Google Analytics platform. Let’s continue the interview with a focus on GA4.

Professor Daniel: Sandy, I’ve heard a lot about Google Analytics 4, or GA4. Can you enlighten us about its significance and how it differs from the previous version?

Sandy Rowley: Of course, Professor Daniel. GA4 is a complete rebuild of the Google Analytics platform. While the previous version, Universal Analytics, served businesses well for years, GA4 is designed to address the modern challenges of data privacy, cross-platform tracking, and user-centric reporting. Here are some key differences and features:

Event-Based Tracking: Unlike Universal Analytics, which was primarily session-based, GA4 focuses on events. This means interactions like pageviews, clicks, or form submissions are treated as events, offering more granular insights.

User-Centric Model: GA4 provides a more holistic view of the customer journey. It integrates data across devices and platforms, giving a clearer picture of how users interact with content.

Improved Audience Building: With GA4, businesses can create more dynamic audience segments based on a combination of attributes and behaviors, and then use these audiences for retargeting or advertising.

Predictive Metrics: GA4 uses machine learning to offer predictive metrics, helping businesses forecast potential revenue from a particular audience or the likelihood of a user to churn.

Codeless Event Tracking: In GA4, tracking certain user interactions doesn’t always require additional code. Through the interface, you can set up and modify events without altering website code.

Enhanced Reporting: GA4 offers more customizable and flexible reporting. Reports are modular, and users can drag and drop various dimensions and metrics to tailor reports to their needs.

Data Retention and Privacy: With increasing emphasis on user privacy and data regulations, GA4 provides better tools for data retention and allows businesses to be more compliant with regulations like GDPR and CCPA.

Professor Daniel: It sounds like GA4 is a step forward in analytics. Do businesses need to switch immediately?

Sandy Rowley: Not immediately, but it’s a good idea to start using GA4 alongside Universal Analytics. Google has indicated that GA4 is the future, so familiarizing oneself with it now will be beneficial in the long run. The transition also allows businesses to ensure data continuity and get accustomed to the new features and interface.

Professor Daniel: Thank you, Sandy, for shedding light on GA4. It seems like a pivotal tool for businesses in this data-driven age.

Sandy Rowley: Absolutely, Professor Daniel. Staying updated with tools like GA4 ensures businesses can make informed decisions and stay competitive.

I hope this addition provides a clearer understanding of Google Analytics 4. If you have more questions or topics to delve into, feel free to ask!

Make sure to check out the Digital Marketing courses available at MIT.