This is the first episode of our brand new weekly show, ‘This Week In Organic’, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news.
DAVID BAIN: Broadcasting live from London, welcome to This Week in Organic, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news. Sign up to watch the next show live at www.thisweekinorganic.com.
Alright and welcome! I’m David Bain and this week I’m going to be joined by knowledgeable, opinionated, loud folks to discuss the latest happenings in anything that impacts organic traffic.
Today’s the very first show. We’re going to have challenges. It’s live and that’s the fantastic thing about doing live broadcasting. And of course we’d love for you to be involved as well with your viewer, so just use the hashtag #TWIO on Twitter, and if you’re watching live, your thoughts will magically appear on the chat box to my left-hand side.
So let’s find out more about today’s guests, so where they’re from and what caught their attention this week. So starting off with Adam.
ADAM VOWLES: Hi. I’m Adam Vowles from SUSO Digital in London. I guess one of the main things that’s caught my eyes this week is the fluctuations in the local search results which is a result of the Google map bomb that came out a few weeks ago. I thought that was quite interesting, especially what are they going to do to stop it because obviously it’s quite embarrassing for Google to have that crop up.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, and how about Alan?
ALAN MORTE: So, I’m Alan Morte. I’m from Three Ventures. I’m the only American on this so make me the guinea pig! But I’m pretty interested in the fact that Google says ‘near me’ search traffic has doubled. I think that’s going to impact a lot of local search and in the future I think that’s a big thing for businesses, especially small businesses.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, and just to make it confusing, we’ve got two Marks on the call. Mark A – first in the alphabet.
MARK ASQUITH: Hello. Yes, it’s Mark Asquith from DMSQD and the thing that caught my eye this week isn’t necessarily related directly to digital marketing but I think it is interesting for content marketers, and that’s Apple’s acquisition – today, I think – of Metaio, the Germany augmented reality company. I think there’s a heck of a lot of scope for augmented reality in content, so that’s piqued my interest.
DAVID BAIN: And last but not least, Mark B.
MARK PACK: Hi. I’m Mark Pack. I’m Associate Director here in London for Blue Rubicon, where we specialise in reputation management. And I guess the thing that most caught my eye was by flicking through some stories on Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch and so on earlier today, was just how familiar they are. So things like the importance of speed, the importance of mobile, the questions about what’s happening with reviews. What really struck was that sometimes people get very focused on the technicalities of the latest change but there are some really underlying core principles that seem to come back again and again with all the different stories that come up.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. Back to Adam, you’ve touched on a point saying that obviously Google had updated their local search algorithm recently because they had some challenges over the last week. Do you want to summarise the kind of challenges that they face?
ADAM VOWLES: Well it’s people manipulating the local maps with obscenities that came out and it’s quite embarrassing for them to have that show up in the search results. So we’re yet to see the extent to which things have changed. We’ve got to look at it but obviously things like this are incredibly embarrassing for them to deal with because it doesn’t look favourably on them at all. So it’s going to be quite interesting to see the kind of changes that they’re going to implement to stop this happening in the future.
Obviously there was the Google bomb that happened a good few years’ ago with the White House. I think it was either ‘Miserable Failure’, where people searched for Bush, I think it was. So they managed to quash that but then this is a new strain of that which has come out.
DAVID BAIN: And a lot of this is obviously because people can add their own reviews to things. Do you think there’s any issue with Google continuing to offer completely public access to actually being able to write reviews at the bottom of these listings and things like that?
ADAM VOWLES: Yeah, definitely. The issue is how do you stop people manipulating it. Do they put processes in place to stop people forcing these kind of reviews through or how do you monitor it, really?
DAVID BAIN: Okay then. Anyone got any solutions for that?
ALAN MORTE: I don’t necessarily know if I have a solution but I know Google’s the leader in machine learning and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have a fix for this but it causes another blunder. It’s the whole artificial intelligence issue or machine learning issue. When you implement an algorithm you may fix this problem, but it’ll probably cause an additional by-product that could be a problem just like this one.
ADAM VOWLES: Yeah, I would probably agree with that as well.
DAVID BAIN: I mean, the challenge is that Google have got so much going on with things in their algorithm that they’re looking to move towards machine learning and a lot of engineers don’t even know what fixes are going to result in different issues obviously, moving forward as well. So watch this space, I guess.
ADAM VOWLES: Yeah.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, so topic number two.
ALAN MORTE: That’d be that Google says the ‘near me’ search has doubled. We at Three Ventures, our digital marketing agency, we do a lot with analytics and search and while I don’t think this is going to impact enterprises who don’t have many retail stores, I definitely think this impacts small businesses a bunch. You know, the ‘near me’ searches have doubled. What I think that really means is that Google’s going to try and take this as an opportunity in the future to implement some form of new ads.
I mean, you’ve got to remember something – Google’s not necessarily a search engine. Google’s an advertising agency with a search engine. And so I wouldn’t be surprised if you see Google really try to exploit the really local, ‘near me’ searches with a new type of ad format or again a change into the amount of results in a search. We’ve seen many different searches over the last couple of years, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this…much like they had a mobile get-in…like a local get-in. You know, a complete rework of local. I wouldn’t be surprised.
DAVID BAIN: Will some SEOs move towards including the term ‘near me’ on a page to hope to rank higher for that or is that old-fashioned SEO and dead and not…
ALAN MORTE: I don’t think that’s old-fashioned SEO. I mean, in the paid search world that works. People don’t understand when you put qualifiers in front of search queries (like ‘how to’ or ‘near me’), those types of things work. They can be prefixes or suffixes and they usually have high conversion rates. So what I would look out for is what’s going to be the impact for SEO. On mobile you really have one screen load. Not too many people swipe down – they normally comb the first couple of results. Like I have Apple iPhone 6+. I get five results, right? Are we going to be able to see an organic result, much like has been talked about for the last five years’ of mobile on search? That’s the real question. I don’t think it is.
DAVID BAIN: So what other aspects of SEO are going to positively impact those kind of listings? Are we talking about things like microdata?
ALAN MORTE: Oh definitely. I think that SEOs will always be creative. SEOs are, ‘I have this great strategy to be found in search but also to be found in craft, nifty ways in search.’ I think that you’ll see really a fight back from SEOs, whether it be with Google or having to do something with Bing, with Siri or Yelp. I think that SEOs will expand just beyond a typical Bing, Google, Yahoo! I think they’ll bring in other things as well, like Yelp. Any sort of review sites. Any of those will also be key and I know that goes beyond the scope of SEOs but I just think as a local business, that’s going to be the new role for anybody who’s looking to get that really organic-esque traffic, regardless of where it comes from, as long as it’s not paid.
MARK PACK: I think that review point is absolutely crucial because if you…the classic example of where a ‘near me’ search is really useful is if you’re looking for something like a café and whether a café is any good at doing websites and metatags. Is the café any good at doing coffee? Is it any good at doing food? That’s what really matters, though I think that just at SEO people will be looking for the clever, technical bits to pull, search engines will be trying to move onto rely much more heavily on things like reviews, which are actually about the substance of the product, rather than the marketing that’s around it.
ALAN MORTE: I totally agree. Not to pinpoint what Mark does but Mark’s spot-on. That’s a very big thing and he hits on a key point. They’re great at making coffee – or at least we hope they are. We’re great at SEO. That’s the thing.
DAVID BAIN: I was just going to ask Mark Asquith actually, because Mark, you run a design agency in the north of England, your physical address. Are there many things that you are doing differently now for local SEO to get people to find your business compared to what you were doing a year or two ago or has not much changed in terms of marketing your own business?
MARK ASQUITH: It’s an interesting question actually David, ‘cause we do less on the actual physical SEO side of things and we do more around, ‘Okay, what happens when people get to the site?’ and what we’re tending to see is that whether we’re looking at heat maps or whether we’re looking at journeys throughout a website, we’re seeing that people’s attention spans are really, really struggling. People are just bouncing around and they’re really not taking anything in. So what we’re trying to do is work with more comprehensive SEOs and say, ‘Well actually, what can we do when people get on site?’ and I think that will become more and more important, especially as local kicks in much more. Because subjectivity will play a much greater part. Opinions will form and you will ask your peers much more readily than you perhaps would do now about certain things. So from our perspective it’s very much around, ‘Okay, how can we take this brand and elevate it? It’s alright getting the traffic in but how can we keep that traffic and start to convert it?’ and I think that end of the process is something that people are really starting to worry about a little bit. As a small, bricks-and-mortar business, a lot of the time they’ve just not had to deal with that but because of this prominence because of the idea that Google is now searching this local info much more readily, people are (even at what we’d term the lower level, the real bricks-and-mortar cafés, as you say) really starting to take notice of that. So I think that’s the part that we tend to play in that and I think people are starting to fret about that and it’s certainly something that comes through our door a little bit more.
ALAN MORTE: So Mark, a good question for you and a follow-up is, you know, we do a lot of work here with website performance management and application…doing exactly what you’ve talked about with more mathematical models, A-B testing, multi-variable testing. That gets expensive. There’s a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of regression analysis with business analysis. How do we as service providers offer realistic solutions to help these small businesses where it’s fair for us and it’s also fair for them? Do you have an idea on that? That’s something we’ve been talking about here and we haven’t been able to come up with anything good yet that’s fair for both sides.
MARK ASQUITH: That is a really cracking question. Really, really good question. It’s something that I think when you look at the design side of things, you look at the holistic marketing side of things, that’s what has prohibited small business – certainly the bricks-and-mortar side – from really embracing that. Because frankly, like you say, it’s expensive for them to do it properly and the agencies that do it properly aren’t interested in their budget because it’s just not there.
So what we are doing now internally is just looking at, ‘Well what solutions are already out there that get us almost there and all we have to do is apply our own knowledge onto those platforms?’ So things like HotJar. David over at HotJar, which I’m a real advocate of, provides really effective heat mapping, split testing, user journey analysis – really, really fantastic stuff.
And then kind of obvious things that are out there already that people perhaps just don’t use to their full potential. So things like LeadPages. We use LeadPages so, so much just to do the split testing, to take landing pages that are already kind of proving to convert or theoretically convert. So for me it’s about taking the tools that are out there already, applying our layer of knowledge, and then applying that in a way that helps with whatever budget a small business or a bricks-and-mortar business has.
I think that kind of thing is changing. I think people are looking for a solution but they’re certainly more open to agencies like us saying, ‘Here’s the software we’re going to use. It’s not this ‘behind the scenes, background, you-can’t-know-about-it’. This is what we’re going to use. This is what we’re going to use. Here’s what we expect from you and here’s what we can bring to the table.’ And that can be a really fruitful relationship because you might only need to spend a day a month with someone versus two weeks’ a month, which is fantastic for everyone. So yeah, that would be my first thought on that.
DAVID BAIN: Well something else that Google’s been up to over the last year or so is providing direct answers to queries, rather than people browsing through search results. It’s been possibly more difficult to actually get traffic from search because of Google just providing that direct answer there, and now with Google now, they’re providing a lot of those direct answers within there as well. Is that going to be an issue for SEOs moving forward? Is it going to be a case of having to get the number one result for a very specific query that people ask for and further results down are just not going to matter so much now and number one is going to be more important in the future? Who’s got some thoughts on that?
ALAN MORTE: I think for really basic stuff – maths operations, definitions, acronyms, those types of thing – I think it’s fine. When they try to answer a touch problem, it’s like, ‘There’s no way you can answer that in a sentence!’ I’ve literally typed in a thirteen-keyword search query. That’s like a multi-process question to get the answer and they try to tell me the answer. I’m like, ‘No way!’ And then I click to the website and it has nothing to do with it. So I think that they need to understand what they can answer quickly and what they can’t answer quickly. I think that’s what matters in my opinion.
DAVID BAIN: And do you think they’re likely to do that or are they moving in the wrong direction?
ALAN MORTE: As close as we are to Google, I couldn’t tell you. Couldn’t tell you.
DAVID BAIN: Because obviously it’s down to user experience as well and if people start leaving Google or start getting dissatisfied with the results that are produced on Google, then I guess they may make decisions based on that. But based on the current usage of Google, you’re talking about 80% of people around the world roughly using Google for search. Not quite so high in the States. Bing have got about 12% in the States and 7% in the UK. So is it likely that people might move onto other search engines or do you think that Google are still delivering a vastly superior search experience compared to the alternatives out there?
ALAN MORTE: I think we touched on this one time, David, and that was on a podcast we did together. Google tests everything and what happens is when you test everything, sure, you can get statistically relevant results. But you can’t get how somebody feels. There’s no way you can ever get that. And so I think that’s one of the downfalls of Google is they like to test everything and this is a case in which they like to test the Knowledge Graph, implementing it, what metrics they’re using to determine whether or not this is relevant to the user, mobile user, desktop user, tablet user. If any of those are wrong, all their data is bad. So I think what Google sometimes leaves out is the experience and that’s what we’re talking about here today. It’s how really annoying it is. The question in my head is will we see a culture shift in Google in the way that they do things and I think no. And the people who don’t like that, you’re absolutely right – they’re going to go to a different platform.
MARK PACK: Google are a client of ours at work, so you might expect me to be praising them but I think one thing that’s worth bearing in mind about those Knowledge Graph search results is just the sheer cleanness of them. When it comes up right, it gives you the answer without any annoying ads, without any pop-ups, without any of the other things that you often get around the information that you’re after when you click through, and I think there’s a clear lesson there not just in terms of SEO but also in terms of web design, that giving the answer quickly, clearly and directly has so much going for it and too many sites, I think, still the style of their web design is messy, crowded, getting between you and the information.
MARK ASQUITH: Yeah, I totally pick up on that and agree with that completely, Mark. It’s certainly a trend that we’re seeing. So the clients that we tend to work with are people who tend to fall into one of two camps – people who love the crowded and still think that’s the way to go and people that understand that it’s perhaps not the way to go. And the former crowd, the people that do believe that crowded is fine, are really starting to come around to the idea that we don’t have to tell people everything. We just have to tell them what we believe they want to know, based on the analytics and so on and so forth. So I wholeheartedly agree with that.
And there’s also a big thing around the ‘near me’. We’re seeing a lot of people really enjoying that. It comes up in discussion with councils (we work with a lot of local authorities) and their particular information. You know, ‘When is my bin going to be emptied? and even little things like that are starting to crop up. And they love the idea of it. They love the idea but they just don’t know how to manage it and I think that’s a bit of a challenge for people as well.
DAVID BAIN: Adam – have you got any concerns about the direct answers you’re seeing in Google search results and them potentially taking traffic away from clients that you might service?
ADAM VOWLES: No, I just think that it’s such a minimalist kind of, ‘What is 1 + 1?’ answers, rather than, you’re not going to ask it, ‘What is the theory of relativity?’ and get a decent answer out of it, so there’s always going to be places for the longer, more detailed posts and I can only see them increasing it more as they want to keep people in Google. But I’m not too bothered by it, really. From a user experience point of view, from their perspective it’s great because people stay in Google, but people want a bit more information these days than just a kind of one sentence, two sentence aspect of it. I think they want something meatier and they want to find out more about stuff so I’m not really too fussed about them implementing that a bit more.
DAVID BAIN: So some interesting things to think about there. You’ve obviously got a commercial interest there in Google as well and more recently the tested things like the ‘Buy Now’ buttons within the paid search results or intending on doing so. Is anyone concerned about commercial terms staying within the Google tent, as it were? Not getting out there and other companies having an opportunity to actually drive traffic towards purchasing certain products? Or do you think that Google will still stay independent enough not to retain that commercial, purchase-type traffic just for its own?
ADAM VOWLES: I think it’s going to try and retain all the purchase traffic for itself. It is an advertising agency at heart, really. Its purpose is to sell ads. It does that by providing users with the best search experience but primarily it’s just trying to sell ads, so I would think that the push on local advertising is just going to get more and more, especially with the smaller screens on phones. This is going to swamp up that main band and try and keep all that traffic for itself.
DAVID BAIN: It’s interesting with mobile phones. Obviously certainly industries have more traffic through mobile users, be it mobile phones or tablets. I mean, here at Analytics SEO, about 90% or something like that of our traffic is still through desktop computer, but obviously it’s the type of user who’s a professional during the day that’s using our website. But the majority of users from other sites are perhaps on a mobile or perhaps if they’re buying a gift personally maybe they’re browsing their tablet or their mobile device on the way home as well. Is anyone seeing definitely the first couple of results, the ones that are clicked on, in terms of purchase behaviour now or is there still a willingness to scroll a lot and actually view the rest of the content out there?
ALAN MORTE: I’m looking at my phone here and all the data that we have across all sites and apps that we work with (and we do a lot of analytics that we’re consulting on), not a lot of people get past the initial screen load. I mean, not many people are scrolling down. I’m talking about B2B, B2C, ecommerce, ecommerce clients. We don’t do a lot in the publishing, so I don’t know too much in publishing – that could be definitely a different story. But it’s a lot of the trends like you’re seeing, David. I think if it has anything to do with business-to-business, I think it’s going to be incredibly slow in the shift of really making mobile work, have mobile be the conversion device. Mobile has to the, ‘Get the information I’m looking for device because I’m a working professional. I need it quickly and I need it quickly to contact you.’ The hard sell and the final sell still is done primarily on desktop and even, realistically, over the phone. Especially for businesses.
Ecommerce is slightly different. Ecommerce for us, mobile does well in terms of the conversion rate if you really slim down the content. And again, not a lot of people are going beyond that initially screen load. So I think Amazon is a prime example here. When you buy something on Amazon, you buy it on your card, they ask you to check out. They give it to you. You can ‘one-step purchase’ through the Amazon app. Those are the type of big wins for ecommerce that we see but again, I don’t do too much on the publishing side. So that’s my two cents’.
DAVID BAIN: So does that mean that apps are going to become more important in the future?
ALAN MORTE: Oh, I definitely think apps are already important. It’s just we’re not like an über-creative agency. We’re an analytics and an advertising agency. For us, the biggest thing is how do we leverage mobile to really help the business goals that are leading to whatever the core of the business objectives or yearly business objectives are. I think that’s the biggest thing, is mobile is not a win solution. You really have to put a lot of thought and effort into mobile and what your users are really looking for when they’re interacting with your brand online and then making sure that’s what’s really important is in that app and they can easily access it.
DAVID BAIN: Well coming up we’re going to be talking more about things like the Twitter-Google deal and also Facebook. Although they’re serving four billion video views every day, Google has recently questioned the quality of those videos. So what do you think about them? But first I’d like to mention two people. Firstly Manish Kareer [0:26:47.4] from www.shaadi.com. I hope that’s the right pronunciation. Shaadi’s actually Hindi for the translation of ‘wedding marriage’ and also David Hassle [0:26:56.2] from www.dlhmarketing.co.uk. Both of them shared what we do on social and if you’d like a mention next time as well then just follow instructions after you sign up for the live show this week on www.thisweekinorganic.com and you’ll get a mention during the show.
So that was a quick interlude there but back to the discussion. So I mentioned just a second ago there that the Google-Twitter has gone live and we’re starting to see things like Twitter results within Google there as well. So what kind of implication is that going to have for Google search results? Are we more likely to use Google and perhaps the optimisation of tweets? Is that going to exist? Are we going to do things like adding more hashtags or even including a keyword phrase within a tweet to try and actually appear high in a Google search result? Anyone got any thoughts about that?
MARK ASQUITH: I’ll sort of dive in on just personal opinion – this is not backed by any data. But I really hope that we don’t start optimising tweets because then Twitter just becomes a pointless tool. I think it’s an interesting one. I think it’s an interesting one for Twitter because theoretically you would guess that they would benefit a bit more just from the increased traffic. I’m not sure what the benefits are for Google. That’s not too much my domain. I’m sure the other guys will have some thoughts on that one. But I think from a user’s perspective it’ll be very interesting because it will allow opinion to flow through the search results for certain things and I think that’s going to be quite interesting because again in theory I would assume that you’re going to get a bit of a cross-section of tweets. You’re not going to get ‘left’ or ‘right’ tweets. You’re going to get a relative cross-section so you should be able to gauge, again theoretically, the world’s reaction to something from the search results. So that’s a pretty subjective, opinionated answer but that’s my take on it.
DAVID BAIN: Can you imagine doing some keywords research before writing a tweet?
MARK ASQUITH: No, I will never do that. I will stop using Twitter ‘cause I’m lazy!
ALAN MORTE: I’m right there with you. I think Twitter’s got to remain what Twitter is and it’s not built to optimise a search result! I think initially it’ll probably start like that and then I think if Google values the relationship or finds some sort of value in it I think they’ll continue to tap into Twitter data, you know, with the world of ‘big data’ (and I hate that quantifier of big – it’s just so much data, how do we make sense of it?). You know, if there’s any value in this to Google, I think they’ll start taking a look at who follows you, what are the following for those people, how many people do they follow? They’ll probably look into accounts and ratios. They’ll probably take into account how long the profiles have been around, what they tweet about. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of SocialBro, but social pro is…I want to say it’s getting towards a big data-esque platform for Twitter. And I think that if Google finds any value in Twitter, I think they’ll start taking those data points into your account. But I think initially we are going to see a lot of people trying to game their tweets and it could devalue the platform. On the flip side, maybe Twitter cans the deal.
MARK PACK: I think it’s a good move for both of them because if you think about how often these days, particularly news stories, something that happened on Twitter, they may be a story about a politician resigning from a post because of something they said on Twitter or a company running into trouble because an intern supposedly was let loose with their Twitter account password. So quite often when you’re searching for information, you do want to be able to pull in information from Twitter, so I think it’s good news for Google.
It’s also good news for Twitter because Twitter has a search box at the moment and it does an okay job, but if you’re really wanting to delve in again beyond just finding something that is very distinctive in terms of a language you can search for, does Twitter really want to have to completely replicate all of the skill and expertise that Google has built up?
So I think it’s good for both of them. When it comes to optimising tweets, actually what some people do already, and I’m sure more people will do in the future, will still very much apply to optimising tweets for the Twitter platform because if you get more retweets, you get more responses, you get more engagement on your tweets, that gets you to a bigger audience on Twitter and I’ve no doubt that’s one of the signals Google will also look at for what to promote in its search results.
So I’m afraid optimisation is here to stay, I think, in tweets. I don’t know if we’re going to have to have some culling of who’s on Twitter as a result!
DAVID BAIN: Is anyone here already using it actively?
VOICES: Yeah. We are.
DAVID BAIN: What about Google+, for example? Is anyone using that as much as they are using Twitter?
ALAN MORTE: I switched to out Google+. I went to Quora!
ADAM VOWLES: Yeah, I did exactly the same thing as well.
ALAN MORTE: Yeah, Quora’s cool but Twitter’s awesome. We’re tech people – don’t we judge our self-worth based off Twitter only?!
MARK PACK: It’s almost embarrassing to have a large number of Google+ followers, I’m tempted to say, but I shouldn’t really.
DAVID BAIN: Because Google is one of your clients.
MARK PACK: Exactly. But it is quite a good example of, you know, we’re using Google Hangouts. There are some bits that are really good and quite often when new platforms launch, they try to tailor to a wide range of behaviours but then find their real specialism in one or two particular areas.
ALAN MORTE: So that’s an interesting question that you bring up there, Mark. And I would bring a comparison here to LinkedIn. I think LinkedIn’s gone to garbage, especially with their groups if they’re not extremely locked down. I really like the communities in Google+, especially the Google communities. I think those are very well put-together and very well managed. I think that’s one of the jams of Google+ is their communities, because we have a lot of subject matter experts coming into those. I’m curious to hear you guys’ slants on that.
ADAM VOWLES: I just don’t think it was different enough from what was out there already. It seemed to be just a mish-mash of all the other ones put together. I think it was made really well but it just didn’t entice enough people to it, and without enough people, as a social network, it just dies.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, I struggle to use any other community. I tend to be mostly on Twitter. I try to like Facebook and use Facebook but I don’t particularly like doing that and Google+ I’ve probably used even less.
MARK ASQUITH: It’s an interesting comparison to LinkedIn because I think LinkedIn are certainly trying to push down the publishing platform route and just doing that really, really badly. So if you take Google+ out of the mix, where do you publish your content and how do you do it well and I think Quora is a really, really cracking example of a place to migrate to and I think we’ll see more people doing that kind of thing.
We’ve seen quite a lot of people wanting to position themselves as experts. You know, the idea that you can be a small business and move into being an expert in whatever field you want. And it seems that LinkedIn’s trying to back onto that and people were using Google+, certainly around me, for that kind of thing. And then as you said, Mark, they just stopped doing it. So where do people go? It’s an interesting problem.
MARK PACK: Yeah. The LinkedIn question’s a really good one because LinkedIn used to do a relatively boring job really well, of being a great way of looking up contacts and finding who works where, who do you know who can ask somebody else et cetera. And did it brilliantly but it was a clear niche and I can quite understand their longer-term thinking that, ‘We don’t want to be stuck in a small niche like this. We want to do something bigger and more exciting,’ and all of that. But you look at how LinkedIn has developed over the last year and the real danger is they end up being so diluted and they’re no longer really good at anything and you’ve got so much mush in there that it undermines what used to be a great selling point.
ALAN MORTE: Yeah, and I think that Mark, you have a great point. About six months’ ago a pretty confidential document was leaked from LinkedIn and that was their roadmap for their product development and one of the biggest things that they were really leveraging was they wanted to build in this massive B2B retargeting, advertising platform and essentially what they needed was a bunch of data points. And I think Publisher is that data point. Or is one of their main data points where hey, if somebody’s interested in viewing your profile they go to your website, you drop the cookie on, they’ve contacted you. Who’s content are they reading? What profiles are they looking at? Are they leaving comments? Are they ‘liking’? Those types of things. Are they sharing? And I think that they were trying to use those as additional data points, in collusion with other data providers, to be able to build out that platform. So I wouldn’t be surprised if that comes out in the future too but like you said, if you’ve got bad inputs you’re definitely going to have bad outputs.
MARK PACK: Yeah.
DAVID BAIN: So can you see any other similar partnerships in the future that Google makes? Because obviously we’re looking at this Google-Twitter one. Would something like a Google-LinkedIn one be even possible at some point in the future?
ALAN MORTE: I doubt it. You know, those are all business people. Twitter is mainly consumers, for people who get consumers that are in business. I mean, does Google want LinkedIn having any sort of input in their search results or does Google want to control all of the business on Google? And I think that that’s the question we have to ask, is do they want to let another business provider, or so to speak, be able to control some content on Google? I don’t think that happens.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. It’s intriguing, this particular deal that’s going on. You try and figure out whether it’s more beneficial for Google or more beneficial for Twitter and you obviously never know Google’s long-term strategy or plans as well because in the past they even talked about Twitter about some kind of purchase deal but that didn’t happen. And there was talk about perhaps Google having a look at how it worked and trying to replicate a similar kind of service within Google+, which didn’t kind of really happen. What are Google’s intentions for the future? Do you think Google wants to embrace social networking itself, moving forward?
MARK ASQUITH: I’ll jump into that one, ‘cause that’s an interesting question and I don’t know Google closely, shall we say, but it strikes me as something they’ve tried and it feels like it’s a bit of a crowded space. And Google being Google, as you say, being an advertising company, data is going to be king (and I hate that phrase, by the way!), but data is going to be king. And I think it must just really annoy them that Facebook holds all of that data, Twitter holds all of that data. And I think we’ll see more fledgling partnerships. Perhaps not with the LinkedIns of the world, but I think there will be some kind of cross-stream of data from somewhere because in my mind Google needs to move forward or at least diversify. Having said that, it already holds a heck of a lot of data, so does it need that? And that’s perhaps a question for Alan and Adam, really. I don’t know – does Google need that kind of data?
ALAN MORTE: Yes. Google definitely needs that type of data. I use cross-devices, right? So I’ve got my iPhone and my tablet and my computer. How does anyone know I’m Alan Morte on those? Well the only way you know is if I log in. Well who forces everybody to log in? That’s the 900lb gorilla on Facebook. Sure, they Google me but I have to log into Google on my devices, on every single one of my devices, which a lot of people don’t like to do. A lot of people don’t know how much Facebook tracks. Google already has bad PR for how much stuff they track. I mean, we could talk for an hour on the things that I know that Facebook tracks but you all still get on Facebook. The advertising is insane, if I told you what we can target.
And so that’s really the point. Google needs something that they can identify users with. The easiest thing to do that with is some sort of social platform. Now whether they do that with Chrome will be a different story. I think if Google’s going to do anything, there’s going to be a social aspect on Chrome because Chrome’s really used on desktop. I don’t know the statistics behind it. I don’t degrade on mobile phones. I know they own Android. I mean, if Google’s going to do anything, I think they’ve got to make a play with social – something social on Chrome.
DAVID BAIN: I was having a look at the stats actually earlier today on StatCounter and Google Chrome is now used as a browser by 50% of users. So that’s quite incredible. Obviously it used to be, years ago, Internet Explorer that had that much control, but Google Chrome has certainly taken over that and probably aggressively targeting even more users there as well, so it must have some future plans for that.
MARK PACK: I mean, I think the big unknown – ‘cause social networking hasn’t been around for that long – is just how well-established are the big companies? We’ve seen people like MySpace come and go and things like Friendster and so on, but when you look at the grip that Google has on search, Facebook has on social networking, Twitter has on its more instant sharing, there are some very fast-growing new social networks but they’re all doing new things. So Instagram really fast-growing; they’re doing something different. Snapchat really fast-growing but doing something different. And maybe it’s just me not having quite enough imagination but I suspect that the people who are now really big have got such a huge advantage. You know, your friends are already on there. They’ve already got data to help serve you the best results and so on. I suspect that the people who are big now are going to be big for an awfully long time to come.
ADAM VOWLES: Yeah, I’d probably go with that as well. There’s always going to be something different that takes over but I think they’re quite cemented into the fabric of it now, so as more and more people come, it’s more to do with where your friends are. You’re not going to be on a social network on your own, really. I think Google’s desperate for that social data. I think that’s what it’s absolutely hammering after just because… It wasn’t that long ago when there were people with clipboards standing on the roads getting your personal data off you and now people just sign up for it and give it all away and that stuff is worth an absolute fortune to an advertising company like Google. So I think it’s absolutely desperate to get that information out of people.
MARK PACK: But wouldn’t that make a great start-up social network where you’re not allowed to interact with anyone else. It’s just for the lonely introvert, the shy, lonely introvert. No distracts, nobody else, just yourself?!
MARK ASQUITH: That’s an antisocial network!
ALAN MORTE: That brings up a really interesting question. So much like we have the webinar here basically segmented into three sections, right? You have the right side, you have the bottom side, you have where I can see your face. And think about this as a search result, if where you’re at here was a Google search and the bottom part wasn’t there but the right part was integrated with Twitter and we could tweet about news or we could tweet about something on Chrome, in our browser, about something we’re seeing. Or maybe this is an overlay on our website. I mean, that would give Google a social piece, something that could interact with Chrome, and would make Twitter possibly something to seriously consider in terms of an acquisition.
That would be really interesting because I’m trying to think that if you were to integrate something with Chrome or something that was quick or real-time, it’d have to be something similar to 140 characters.
DAVID BAIN: Well Alan, actually it’s funny you say that because on the left-hand side of our screen at the moment, kind of within the live webinar experience there is the Twitter widget with the #TWIO hashtag and David Hassle has just tweeted that Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest work well for his clients and Google+ doesn’t figure at all at the moment. So Google+ appears to have been a fad for many businesses to actually create pages on maybe a couple of years’ ago but businesses are more concerned about perhaps image social networks and video social networks now moving forward. Is Pinterest and Instagram something that you guys are looking into as well?
MARK ASQUITH: I think the visual side of things, certainly working much more on the design and content side of things, that is becoming massive. And it’s been huge for a long time generally but even the people that would have never thought about Instagram marketing, we’re starting to see an uptake of that.
And you’ve only got to look at some of the tools that are coming out to react to that. So you’ve got a guy putting things out like Canva, and even Canva for Business now. And things like Word Swag on an iPhone or an iPad. These little tools that democratise design and allow people to create things that will just generate interest and generate attention across Pinterest, across Instagram, Snapchat and so on, I think if you can give the tools to the people, the platform will just boom and people on the other side of the consumers – certainly the B2C side of things – that is just completely there for the taking. And the guys that are doing it well are doing it well. But for everyone else, that’s just a nascent, nascent marketing ground for people. So I think we’re going to see a big boost in that kind of thing. Absolutely.
MARK PACK: And I’ve been really impressed how quickly image recognition software is moving on. There’s been all that fun and games in Britain recently with lots of people sharing the app that tries to work out how old you are from looking at a photo of you, but that’s the sort of fun, gimmicky end of it. But the sort of technology that social media monitoring and digital monitoring services are beginning to roll out initially in terms of being able to sift through millions of photos to find examples of brand logos appearing in them in really quite impressive, so I suspect in a few years’ time we’ll be worrying about how to optimise the actual content of the images and the photos that pertain to those things.
And the big advantage of images is when you’re trying to get over an emotion or a feeling, there’s a reason images are so popular in other environments, so being able to use those successfully online without feeling, ‘Oh, I might somehow be hobbling myself from an SEO perspective,’ I think will be a really big boon for everyone.
ALAN MORTE: Yeah, and I’ve got a little sales meeting on Monday next week and it’s with a company that literally does this. They build what they call ‘companion apps’ and they’re tools that augment social platforms. And I’ve seen some of the stuff that they do and I can’t wait to see some of the data that they’re going to send over today. But from what I’ve heard just talking to then, they’ve got a bunch of users. They’ve got twelve apps that augment the use of social platforms and I mean, they’re good apps. I’m thinking, ‘Why don’t we use this?’
So I definitely agree with both of you, Mark. That’s serious business coming up.
MARK PACK: Exciting stuff.
DAVID BAIN: So talking about images and videos, Facebook have said recently that they were serving four billion video views every day and the Google ad chief, he questioned how many of Facebook’s video views were really engaged. Do you think that’s a fair criticism? Are Facebook video views not as good a commercial opportunity for people looking to advertise or should Google and YouTube be really concerned about the amount of video views on Facebook now?
MARK ASQUITH: Just to dive in again on the content side of things, I think where Facebook struggles as a legitimate B2B platform is the breadth of its audience, the breadth of its users because I’m on there, I’m on LinkedIn and I use things differently. But I think where Facebook does well for me certainly, in the businesses that we run, if you can take a very segmented portion of friends or followers or whatever and stick them into a nice, private, closed group, the video within that certainly feels valuable. And any engagement within that certainly feels valuable. And I think that’s a different issue to the generic Facebook, news stream videos and so on and so forth. So I think that question’s actually… We need to look at the different types of people that are using and looking and engaging with those videos. I don’t think that’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ answer, to be honest.
DAVID BAIN: Has anyone experimented with trying to deliver Facebook video on behalf of clients?
ALAN MORTE: Okay, so video works really well on Facebook. The lowest cost we’re literally talking fractions of a cent that we got from a view standpoint with videos. One of the big things we’ve noticed, especially from an advertising performance in terms of ROI or getting people to a site, do not take people off Facebook. They do not like you to take people off Facebook. We don’t have any data behind it but go click on an ad and see how fast they load that ad’s site. Get that same url, go and load it in your mobile browser and see how much faster it loads. I don’t have any data ‘cause I can’t tap into Facebook’s app but it’s noticeably slower. So one of the things that we’ve noticed is that any sort of branded engagement retention that videos work great and I think that’s because 1) it’s very engaging and 2) it doesn’t take anybody off Facebook’s platform and they also have the network to be able to serve videos.
A lot of times the biggest failing in native advertisers right now is you don’t see people using mobile video. And it takes terribly long to load. I think Facebook will eventually get into being better with video but as far as Google’s remarks go, of course Google’s going to say that their video metrics could be a little off, ‘cause they just hit the thing with viewability on display. And they have YouTube. So I think there’s always going to be the battle between Facebook and Google and I think his response was quantified. Facebook’s still really young. Facebook’s a 2005 Google. We could game search, we could game advertising, you could do really well with display and I think a lot of the same things that exploited that 2005 Google are the same issues that Facebook has, and they’re not really able to control the quality yet. I think that’s going to be a bit thing in the next decade with Facebook.
DAVID BAIN: But it still mainly about just consumer videos and fun videos on Facebook or is there really a commercial opportunity there as well?
ALAN MORTE: With omni-general marketing I couldn’t tell you. I’m not interested in business on Facebook but that’s my opinion. Consumer brands, products that we’ve seen do very well on Facebook. This is not so hot. But I don’t know if that’s going to change in the future. I don’t know. But I know I go on Facebook to be in my group of friends that I travel around the country with. That’s the only thing I use Facebook for. So I’m not a huge Facebook user.
DAVID BAIN: Well I think that just about takes us to the end of this week’s show. We’re coming up to the eight minutes’ to the hour mark, so I’d like to give everyone the opportunity to think about maybe one takeaway for our watchers or our listeners to actually think about, perhaps over the weekend. So I’ll go around all four of you just now. So just time for a single takeaway and some sharing and ‘find out more’ details from all of you. So starting off with Adam.
ADAM VOWLES: Well I guess the most important thing is focus on mobile for me. I think that’s the area that’s going to grow the most, so make sure your site is purely optimised for mobile, the best user experience, and just focus on local and mobile.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, great stuff. And how about Alan?
ALAN MORTE: Tacking onto that, it all starts with your website or application first. So understanding what users want, getting that into your website, getting that into your application, making sure the experience is flawless. Just to tack on. That’s very important.
DAVID BAIN: And where can we find you as well? What’s your website address?
ALAN MORTE: It’s www.threeventures.com.
DAVID BAIN: I don’t think we covered that with you, Adam. What’s your site? [pause] Adam, would you like to share your website address?
ALAN MORTE: I think he did. I think he’s silent.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, no problem, okay.
ADAM VOWLES: I can indeed, yeah sorry. I think the connection…you froze for a second. It’s www.susodigital.com.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, great stuff. Mark Asquith, what’s your final thought for the day and what’s your website address?
MARK ASQUITH: Again, just what the other chaps have said really and that’s don’t rush it. Everyone dives onto new tactics. They don’t really think about it sometimes. Don’t feel like you’ve got to be telling your mates down the pub that you’re doing SEO, you’re doing whatever you’re doing, work with mobile. Plan it, strategise it, get some objectives, that’s got to be the biggest one. And make sure you plan and you think and you measure. Really obvious but people forget to do that.
And you can catch up with me at www.dmsqd.com.
DAVID BAIN: Great stuff. And last but not least, Mr Pack.
MARK PACK: I guess the takeaway I would add is to remember the importance not just of optimising but optimising for the right audience. It’s very tempting to think more equals better but actually if you’ve got loads of teenage Americans coming to your site and you’re actually an Edinburgh-based chemical industry supplier business, it might look nice on the graphs but doesn’t really help the business.
DAVID BAIN: Great stuff. Okay, well I’m David Bain. I’m Head of Growth for Analytics SEO and you can also catch me interviewing online marketing gurus over at www.digitalmarketingradio.com. So if you’re watching this show as a recording, remember to watch the next episode live as we head over to www.thisweekinorganic.com and sign up to watch the next show in real-time. But for those of you watching live, thank you so much and it was great to get some tweets from you as well, and remember to continue sharing your thoughts using the hashtag #TWIO on Twitter. So until next time, have a fantabulous weekend. Thank you all for joining us and adios.
Working as Content Marketing Director for Authoritas since March 2015, David also hosts our own weekly show – “This Week In Organic”, commonly referred to as #TWiO.