This is the twenty third episode of, ‘This Week In Organic’, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news.
In this episode, among other things we talk about why Yelp has suddenly become much more important, how an SEO can take advantage of Cyber Monday traffic and do you know what the 3rd most important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm is? Plus much more!
Sign up to watch the next show live over at www.thisweekinorganic.com and share your thoughts on what’s discussed using the hashtag #TWIO on Twitter.
DAVID BAIN: Why has Yelp suddenly become much more important? How can an SEO take advantage of Cyber Monday traffic? And do you know what the third most important ranking factor is in Google’s algorithm? Welcome to This Week in Organic, Episode Number 23.
Broadcasting live on Blab, you’re watching 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.
Hello and welcome.
MICHAEL KING: Do you practice this? this is amazing!
DAVID BAIN: I’ll be joined by some knowledgeable, opinionated folks to discuss the latest happenings on anything that impacts traffic. And Mike’s enjoying the intro, so that’s great! As for you in the live audience, get involved. So click on the ‘Tell a little bird’ button on your top left-hand side to share the show with your friends and tell us what you think of what’s being discussed in the comment section to your right-hand side as well. So I’ll try to read out as many comments as I can.
But let’s find out more about today’s guests, where they’re from and what’s caught their attention this week. So starting off with Mark.
MARK PACK: Hi. My name’s Mark Pack. I work over here at Blue Rubicon in London, specialising in reputation management, both digital and non-digital work.
I guess in terms of what’s caught my eye this week, it’s actually been a range of different online tools. I’ve been looking to fix a couple of problems for clients and I’ve just been really struck by how much a lot of even well-established SEO tools have come on by leaps and bounds in the last year. So I guess my top learning from this week is even if you think you know what tools like Moz et cetera do, if you’ve not looked at them for a while, it’s worth taking another look again.
DAVID BAIN: Interesting tip there, yeah. I saw just a couple of months ago they had ads out to recruit many more people so they’ve obviously got a lot that they’re focusing on there.
And also joining us today is Mike. Mike, hi.
MICHAEL KING: Hey. I’m Mike King. I run and agency called iPullRank. We’re a performance marketing agency. We do things like SEO, of course, content strategy, predictive analytics, marketing, animation, I could keep going. We do a lot of cool stuff, basically.
I’d say I haven’t really had time to check out what’s going on right now this week ‘cause I’ve been knee-deep in client work and just really hyper-focused on developing these content strategies and social strategies for some of our clients, like playing around with wireframes. And I can kind of see what Mark is saying as well because some of the tools that I hadn’t looked at for a while, that I was using for this project, I was like, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know they had that feature now.’ So yeah, just really diving in, doing the work, you’re finding more cool stuff. At least I’ve found a lot more cool stuff this week as well. But trending, not so much.
DAVID BAIN: I guess sometimes the harder you work, the less time you have to find new tools out there and what existing tools can do and you maybe are in danger of getting yourself caught and actually focusing on client work rather than actually improving your knowledge and what’s out there. Do you find that’s the case, Mike?
MICHAEL KING: Yes and no, because necessity is the mother of invention, right? You figure out new things through the course of doing stuff for your clients. But the thing is, when you’re finding about new tools and things like that, it’s the shiny object thing where you have to figure out, ‘How does this fit into the context of what I’m doing?’ And so when you’re actually doing the work is when you find those true use cases. So yeah, I think again to Mark’s point, I was like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realise Screaming Frog did that,’ that type of thing. So a lot of that has come up this week for me as well.
DAVID BAIN: Well also joining us today is Phillip. Now Phillip is having a little bit of a challenge with the webcam but the audio was coming through okay the last time we were discussing things just before we started recording. So Phillip, can you still hear me okay?
PHILLIP THUNE: I can hear you, yes. Sorry for the technical difficulties.
DAVID BAIN: No problem at all. Would you like to introduce yourself and just talk a little bit about what subject particularly is of interest to you today?
PHILLIP THUNE: Sure. So I’m Phillip Thune, CEO of TextBroker and I’m actually anxious to talk about the Yelp discussion. It’s a company that I’ve been following for a long time and it’s sort of interesting to see their growth and they just reported numbers for their third quarter recently, so I think some reaction was that it wasn’t great. They’re still growing pretty quickly but it’s definitely an aspect of local companies marketing that you have to pay attention to.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, Yelp in the news, a couple of different stories this week so that’ll be an interesting one.
But our first topic is, ‘Are you delivering the same message to your mobile users as you are to your desktop users?’ Google have announced that they may be taking action on sites that are redirecting mobile users to unexpected content. So is this going to be a big problem for a lot of businesses out there? What do webmasters really need to do to ensure that they actually comply with what Google are talking about here? Mike, what are your thoughts on this one here?
MICHAEL KING: I think that’s a smart move on the part of Google because there are still so many people out there that haven’t really kept up with what you need to be doing from a mobile perspective and you’re still getting people that you click on the result and you’re expecting to go to that result but because you’re in a mobile context you’re ending up on the homepage or something like that. And that’s just the user experience. So I’m loving that Google’s actually pushing towards that and making everyone a lot more mindful about what they need to look out for in mobile.
So yeah, there’s a lot of those companies that have just been really slow-moving as far as whether they want to be mobile-responsive or if they want to have a separate mobile site that has true parity with their desktop site. But I think that this is a good thing in that they’re going to get pushed to finally have to make some decisions and put some of those things in place.
DAVID BAIN: So do you think as long as a business has a separate mobile site that provides a decent experience and parity, as you say, to their main desktop site, that that’s completely fine and just as good as having a responsive site then, Mike?
MICHAEL KING: Yeah, absolutely. Google has gone away from saying that you have to be responsive. They’re find with the two urls. They have a metatag to basically conntect those two pages now. So it’s not so much that they’re like, ‘You must be responsive’ at this point; they just want you to have a good experience, no matter which context you come from.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. So Mark, do you work with clients, see clients who have a very poor mobile site (without naming names, of course) that don’t really offer the user a great experience and deliver the same content as a main desktop site?
MARK PACK: Yeah. I think one of the main issues I find with a lot of our clients is that the digital side of things – SEO et cetera – is not their number one priority. They’re not, say, ecommerce firms. So it’s an important but second-tier issue and therefore very often just the levels of knowledge of what counts as good practice are relatively low and people are used to looking at their company website from a desktop computer in the office and the world beyond that they don’t necessarily instinctively get.
So one of the things that I actually really like each time Google adds something more into what it says you should do is it just makes it really easy when I’m having a conversation with a client to say, ‘Look, a bit of basic good practice – let’s make sure everything you do follows Google’s advice for standard good practice,’ and people can get, ‘Yeah, we should do what Google says. It’s good practice. That’s an obvious yardstick to me.’ So I think this extra thing they’ve added in is really good news ‘cause that’ll make it a lot easier to persuade people that yes, this is something to pay attention to and here’s a good route as to how to deal with it.
Of course there’ll always be the one or two special cases where you do really want very different mobile from desktop, but a lot of the time I think the problem is people have forgotten. They’re used to looking at it on desktop and they’ve almost forgotten that…yeah, in theory mobile matters but they’ve not really followed through on that thought.
DAVID BAIN: So Phillip, you obviously produce content for lots of different websites. Do you find that websites are not so focused on mobile sites and delivering an equal experience to mobile users?
PHILLIP THUNE: Yeah, it’s interesting. We have tens of thousands of clients, everybody from small, local businesses up to eBay and some of the largest online companies out there and so as a result we see a huge disparity in terms of technical knowhow, SEO knowhow, just even what Mark was saying about knowledge of best practices. And so because of that wide range, I’d say certainly the bigger companies we deal with, not only are they concerned about mobile and is it the right experience, there’s this question of an app versus the mobile web. And so for the folks that have the resources, it seems like they’re putting a lot more of their efforts into the app and then if somebody finds them on the mobile web, trying to drive them over to the app. And I know there’s some things that Google has said about that as well in terms of don’t promote the app for the mobile app.
But yeah, I think the trend and the speed at which people are moving to viewing the web on the phone versus on the desktop is pretty remarkable and that doesn’t mean that every company’s doing what they should or even knowing what they should do, but we feel like that’s going to change pretty quickly here. We’re seeing it with our client base and I’d expect that to continue.
DAVID BAIN: So Mike, one word that Google used when they actually published this blog post was ‘spammy’, so does that mean that there are a lot of problems out there with spammy redirects to ads or content that’s completely irrelevant for mobile users or is Google just trying to jolt people here?
DAVID BAIN: Okay. We’ve got some good chat going in the sidebar here. Some people are saying that it’s not easy for small businesses to get into the tech side of things and other people are saying, ‘Well small businesses should be able to get a mobile responsive theme for $50 or something like that.’ So I guess the key thing is to maybe upgrade your themes to something that actually works now, as opposed to something that could be three years old.
MICHAEL KING: I definitely agree with that. WordPress makes everything so easy these days. You can go in ThemeForest, even though some of the themes on ThemeForest are not well coded. But you can go on ThemeForest and get a responsive site for $50 or less. So there’s no reason why you guys as a small business can’t get up to scratch as far as what these specifications are. In fact, you should be able to do it pretty well because these bigger companies are able to do it reasonably fast and they have all the bureaucracy that they have to deal with.
DAVID BAIN: So Mike, do you think Google are saying that you absolutely have to have a mobile version of every page on your site that is targeted at the desktop as well?
MICHAEL KING: I mean it should be mobile-friendly. I’m not necessarily saying that it has to change for mobile but there’s certain things that make a design work well on mobile that don’t necessarily mean you have to have a completely new experience. Like maybe your font size just needs to be bigger in general so that it works well for the context of mobile. But I think ideally yeah, that’s what they want you to have – an experience that is mobile-specific.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. So either a responsive site or a mobile site for each of the main pages that you want indexed on your site. Don’t just have a mobile site that contains twenty pages when you’ve 400 pages on your desktop.
MICHAEL KING: Exactly. I think that a lot of people in the mobile context initially, they were like, ‘Oh, people don’t want to read that on their mobile phone.’ Yes they do! There are so many times that you’re using your phone in a context, like, let’s say you’re watching TV. You don’t feel like going to grab your laptop so you’re going to read the entire thing on your phone or you’re going to read on a train or on the toilet like everyone does now! So there’s no reason to not have all the content that’s available on the desktop version available for mobile too.
DAVID BAIN: Interesting. Andy’s saying in the chat that his site’s custom-built, so it’s a lot harder to get his IT team to make those changes. So it’s funny that it’s probably even easier for small businesses to make these upgrades, make these changes, and it’s more difficult for big enterprises to quickly change.
MARK PARK: I think it depends a lot on how much knowledge the small business has had to start with. I think, for example, a local café near me at home where I was trying to find them online the other day to work out what time they opened on a Sunday morning, and their website was just a walking disaster in all sorts of ways. But I’m sure with the best of intentions. I didn’t ask the café owner about it – I thought it’d be a bit rude to interrogate them about the website along with my coffee order that morning! But I guess they just don’t really know much about the online world and they probably didn’t hit lucky with the friend of the friend who gave some advice et cetera and they didn’t end up with the nice, simple, straightforward, easy to maintain and update WordPress-type site. And I think a lot of small businesses suffer from that.
But the points made in the sidebar are absolutely spot-on, that if you do go down a route such as a WordPress site, it does make an awful lot of these things easy for you, and increasingly the importance is not just to get a site that’s right for SEO and other purposes for today but to have something that is likely to be sustainable in the long run because as we know, Google love their new announcements and whatever works today may well not be exactly what works in a year’s time. So you don’t want to find yourself locked in the past.
DAVID BAIN: Maybe the café’s signed up with Wickes and made a website with them![laughter]
That was a topic from last week, actually.
Well let’s move onto the second topic, which is Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant now has its local business listing results powered by Yelp. So does this mean that Yelp has suddenly got a lot more important for local businesses themselves? Mark, seeing your local experience, what are your thoughts on this one?
MARK PACK: I guess it matters. I’m not too excited by it in a way ‘cause I think the thing that strikes me is there may be a regional or perhaps even a country by country difference here. Certainly in London and more generally in the UK, if you look at the stickers that are up in restaurant, café et cetera windows, it’s TripAdvisor that is the dominant market share if you judge it by that, much more so than Yelp or any of the other review sites, and I think that’s reflected in traffic and other stats as well, at least in the UK. So in itself I think the announcement is not likely to be that important, other than it is a helpful reminder that in general, providing a really good service and encouraging happy customers to in some way comment on and reflect on that online continues to be increasingly important for businesses and I think it’s that more basic business point about focus on the good service and a bit of encouragement to happy customers to mention the fact they’re happy with what they’ve had that is more important than the particularly nuanced technical details of one review site versus another.
DAVID BAIN: Do you have any thoughts on this one, Phillip? Are you involved with looking to see what local directories are doing? I suppose your business focus really isn’t on that area?
PHILLIP THUNE: We just have so many local businesses who are clients of ours looking for content for their website to sort of keep them relevant, both for SEO purposes and more and more for true content marketing purposes, trying to display to people in the community that they are experts in their field or they know what they’re talking about or they’re publishing about the latest trends. A lot of times a small business owner doesn’t have the time or isn’t a very good writer so we end up being a pretty good solution there.
But I think with the Amazon announcement, it kind of depends on how many people buy that product from Amazon as to how much of an incremental help that is to Yelp or to the people who are focused on Yelp.
What I found interesting about Yelp’s recent announcement kind of goes back to the conversation we were just having about mobile, that 70% of their page views weren’t just mobile. 70% of their page views were on their mobile app.
MARK PACK: Really? That’s interesting.
PHILLIP THUNE: So I think it speaks to what we were just talking about in terms of the importance for any kind of company. Obviously Yelp is one of the biggest out there. But understanding that shift of where people are looking for information, as Mike said, it could be in different rooms of your house or certainly on the train outside your house.
So I think the other number that was interesting was that Yelp had a twenty million…they called it ‘app unique devices’, so twenty million people checking out Yelp on their mobile phones during the third quarter of the year. So in some respects if you compare that to how many people have Twitter or other apps maybe that seems small, but I think if you’re a local business that means, at least in the US, probably somewhere around one in ten or one in fifteen folks have it and they’re certainly using it on their phones. And Yelp to me, because of those dynamics, seems to get more and more almost outdoor advertising.
So my history is I started out as an investment banker working with what are now termed ‘old media companies’, so television and radio and billboard, and if you think about the online equivalents, people loved billboard because they felt it’s where somebody’s out and they’re on their way to something, so if you can influence where they’re going or what restaurant they’re going to eat at or what they might buy, it seemed to have more immediacy than television when you’re typically in your home and you’re not necessarily thinking about running out to a store. I think the mobile app or the mobile experience goes in that same direction. If you can get in front of somebody when they’re out thinking about where to go, what to do, I think that’s maybe even more critical. So mobile becoming more critical for desktop, I think, for locally minded sites, certainly local service industries.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, Evron UK saying that they’ve got loads of clients come to them saying they need to be on Yelp because of the constant phone calls and I haven’t really focused on Yelp much recently but we can obviously see they’re growing quite significantly. So is the case, Mike, that Yelp are more prominent in the States than the UK, do you think?
MICHAEL KING: Yeah, I definitely think so. Was it Mark that said TripAdvisor was more the thing in the UK? I would say it’s the reverse here. Yelp is kind of part of our behaviour. Let’s say you’re in a neighbourhood and you have no idea what to eat, say, ‘Why don’t you Yelp that?’ We don’t say, ‘Why don’t you go on TripAdvisor and say, “Where do we eat here?”’ So yeah, I definitely think it’s a much bigger thing here. I wouldn’t say it’s something that brands need to focus on just because of the thing that they’re doing with Amazon. I think it’s more of a discovery in general type of thing that brands should be thinking about from a perspective of, ‘This is how people find where to eat, so let’s make sure that we’re there so people can find us.’
DAVID BAIN: Obviously we were talking originally about the fact that Alexa by Amazon announced this week that Yelp are going to power their local results, so I guess their voice results there. But Alexa itself, is that something that anyone here in the discussion has actually tried?
MARK PACK: Oh, the Alexa web rankings, ah!
DAVID BAIN: Oh no, no, no, Alexa by Amazon, it’s the name of the voice assistant!
MARK PACK: I was going back about fifteen years!
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. It doesn’t sound so. You haven’t found it, have you Mike?
MICHAEL KING: No I haven’t. I mean, like Mark just thought, I was like, we’re talking about Alexa in 2015?! But I haven’t seen the platform. I imagine it’s just another Siri-type thing.
PHILLIP THUNE: I’ve sort of read about it but I’ll admit that I haven’t seen it in actual use either.
DAVID BAIN: I mean, Amazon’s got a lot of power obviously. It tried to do a lot with the smartphone. I don’t think it had too much traction with its smartphone. Mike, do you know what the impact of that in the States has been? Has there been a significant percentage of people actually bought the smartphone through Amazon?
MICHAEL KING: I don’t know a single person who owns it. I haven’t seen the data so I can’t really answer that question.
DAVID BAIN: Well that probably answers the question to a certain degree as well. So maybe they’re trying another device to provide search results and maybe the original intention was the Kindle and maybe their smartphone. Obviously they’ve got a lot of traffic with Amazon and they’re a player, they’re a brand to look out for in the future, obviously.
PHILLIP THUNE: I was going to say that Alexa is part of the Echo. So Echo is kind of this device that I think is meant to sit in your living room or somewhere in your house and you can just shout out to it and ask it a question. So Amazon has actually made some pretty good strides in trying to make that device more useful. Alexa, for those of us in the online marketing space, certainly is a funny name to use as the Siri or Cortana of Echo.
But I think in the US it’s gotten some good press. It’s meant to just sort of sit there and be your virtual assistant so you can say, ‘Hey Echo (or Alexa), play me this song,’ or ‘Remind me in two hours I’ve got to check on the turkey,’ that kind of thing. So it’s interesting that we’ve got some major, major companies thinking that this is something they need to be good at, in terms of Apple or Microsoft and Google and now Amazon in terms of giving you a virtual assistant. But I haven’t seen the numbers either. I haven’t actually seen somebody with an Echo in their home. But I think a cool concept.
MICHAEL KING: So speaking about names, I think actually Cortana’s a really weird name there for a personal assistant as well ‘cause the name comes from a video game called Halo and that AI actually goes crazy and kills everyone.[laughter]
DAVID BAIN: Phillip, one other thing you mentioned at the beginning is that Yelp have announced earnings. They announced it was $143.6 million for the third quarter of 2015, so 40% increase on the same period last year. So it certainly seems that they’re doing very well indeed. But you mentioned that some people were disappointed by that?
PHILLIP THUNE: Yeah. With Wall Street it’s all about expectations and so they’ve struggled a bit with their sales force. So they’ve got a locally minded sales force. I think they went to a different kind of sales strategy in terms of how they set up that sales force. It didn’t work that well. They kind of shifted back. They’ve had some turnover. Wall Street’s a funny place where 40% growth’s a bit disappointing!
DAVID BAIN: Well let’s move onto the next topic which is, ‘Do you know that the third most important ranking signal in Google’s algorithm is actually artificial intelligence?’ Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist with RankBrain says that their AI was the third most important signal for Google, actually, in its algorithm. So what does this mean for the future of search and how should businesses try and remain ahead of the curve? Mike, what are your thoughts on this one?
MICHAEL KING: I think it’s smart. I think that’s where I expected them to go ‘cause they’ve had this Google Brain project kind of floating out there for a time anyway. So I completely expected them to make their algorithm assistant become on steroids. And the reality of it is there’s so many factors to judge what a good piece of content is, and links isn’t necessarily the right thing. So I think it’s good that they’re trying to solve this in other ways. As far as what brands should do, I hate to say it – make good content. Make the things that should rank. And ultimately Google is always going to try to solve that problem in the smartest way that they can do it and this is just a new iteration of that.
DAVID BAIN: If we could see Phillip at the moment, I’m sure he’d be nodding away with the ‘make good content’ thing.
PHILLIP THUNE: Absolutely.
DAVID BAIN: So Phillip, what are your thoughts on this one here?
PHILLIP THUNE: Yeah, I would echo Mike. As I’ve spoken at conferences over the past couple of years, I still have trouble getting away from keywords. I still think keywords are pretty critical. But no, the advice is exactly what Matt Cutts said and what people at Google have been saying, which is, ‘Don’t think about us.’ It’s kind of a ridiculous thing to say ‘cause they have so much power in terms of driving traffic and revenue to businesses but their goal is, ‘Don’t think about Google when you think about your website or your mobile experience. Just think about what’s best for your customer and trust us that if you do the right thing, we will recognise it and move you up the rankings.’ And as Mike said, there are still tricks that can work and we still see some of our clients who are holding onto some techniques that may be considered more black hat. But the general trend is definitely away from that and as a result, you want to think long-term. We saw with Penguin, not only did you not get a benefit from some of the sneaky things you might have done but you were getting penalised. And then you had these companies…one case I heard there was a million links. Some huge company had done some pretty crazy SEO practices and they had a million spammy links that they had to show Google they were trying to get rid of or ask to be put down or something. So at this point, and artificial intelligence, I think, only confirms it, which is Google’s only going to get smarter and smarter and so stop trying to think about how you can… And I know this is going to come up in a couple of minutes here when we talk about Cyber Monday traffic, but if you’ve got a month to go and you’re trying to think about fast-acting SEO techniques, I would say probably not a good idea. Put in the work, think about the long term, do it in the best interests of your users, present yourself as kind of an expert. Content is obviously a great way to do that but I think as a trend, artificial intelligence maybe accelerates the trend, but it’s been a pretty steady trend going on for over five years.
MICHAEL KING: The algorithm as it stood anyway was artificial intelligence; it was just very narrow artificial intelligence. It just sounds like the scope of what they’re using and how they’re thinking about the decisions that the algorithm can make has just gotten bigger.
DAVID BAIN: Evron UK is saying, ‘SEO is like Batman. Mysterious, usually wears a black hat and has an enemy called the Penguin!’[laughter]
MICHAEL KING: That’s funny!
DAVID BAIN: Mark. AI, allegedly number three at the moment in terms of the importance in Google’s algorithm. Can you see it going to number one in the next year or so?
MARK PACK: Yeah, I guess if you’re really interested in AI and algorithms and so on, this is big news. It’s quite a significant breakthrough in terms of AI becoming core to sort of mainstream deployment of a service to consumers. I think if you look at it from an SEO and digital perspective, in a way this is the world we have been living in for quite a while already. You may remember there was the news that seeped out about a year ago about how Google tests its algorithm against humans, getting humans to look at a website and judge whether or not that website looks trustworthy and comparing those scores with the scores its algorithms churn and finding the scores are pretty much in-line. So we’re already in a situation where that sort of skilled, informed but slightly gut human response to looking at a website and the judgements you form from that is what Google’s algorithms are trying to emulate and yeah, with some success.
So I think absolutely. Thinking about your keywords, your content and what looks good to a human reader is already a sensible approach and in a way this is reinforcing that. But undoubtedly if you’re really into AI, this is big news for that industry in particular.
DAVID BAIN: In relation to this there was also a blog post on Bruce Clay saying that there were two things – changing SEO forever with machine learning algorithms (see effectively AI) and predictive search. So Mike, how would you explain predictive search and would you agree with that?
MICHAEL KING: I think predictive search is the future. I think we’re seeing the first iteration of what that is going to be from a user experience perspective in Google Now, and I think that’s going to be a lot more about Google figuring out which audience you fit into and then what content’s going to be most interesting to you. It’s also using implicit user signals as informal queries as well. So I’ve never told Google I’m a Philadelphia Phillies fan but they showed me al the games that they’d lost in Google Now. So I think that what we’re going to see is before you even ask Google for the thing, they’re going to surface it for you because they know that you’re likely to be interested in it, based on what they know about you, where you are, and all the other features and behaviours that they can measure.
So what this RankBrain thing is ultimately going to do is use all those factors and produce those results for users before you explicitly type in the search box. You heard Larry Page say a number of times that, ‘I don’t even want you to use a query. I want to give you what you want before you even know about it.’ So I think this is the beginning of that.
DAVID BAIN: It was only the games they lost it showed you, was it Mike?[laughter]
MICHAEL KING: What I’m saying is that the team’s not good this year!
DAVID BAIN: So Phillip, is predictive search changing the way that content is produced at all?
PHILLIP THUNE: You know, it’s a good question. It’s not something I could say definitively looking over all our clients and what they’re doing. Predictive search is still about providing information to users. It’s just figuring out what the user wants before they actually have to say it or type it in. So I think from a content perspective your goals remain the same, right? Having that information. So especially like Mark was using the example before, having the hours that your store is open or when you close or if there’s a special or a coupon. All that, in a sense, is content too, right? So no, I think just making sure you’re up to date and the information you have is relevant and good, I think in a predictive search query versus a regular search query, I don’t know that it matters too much for the content.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. Well coming up we’re going to be talking about the fact that Facebook are testing something called reactions and how that might impact analytics. Plus how can SEO take advantage of Cyber Monday traffic, which is allegedly going to be worth about three million dollars? But first of all, just keep on telling the little bird. Stephanie’s done that, so that’s appreciated. Keep the comments coming in. I’ll try and read whatever people type in there. It’s great to see great conversation going on there as well.
But moving onto the next topic which is Adobe are predicting that Cyber Monday sales will hit a record sales figure of three billion dollars this year. But as we’re exactly one month away, there’s not a lot of time for SEOs to help their sites take advantage of this.
So Mike, is SEO still a long-term game or are there still things that can be done from an SEO perspective to really take advantage of that?
MICHAEL KING: Yeah, it’s definitely still a long-term game. I get clients that’ll reach out to us now and it’ll be like, ‘We have our biggest season coming up. What can you do?’ I’m like, ‘Nothing! You needed to be thinking about this two months’ ago at least.’ But one of the tactics that does still work in that kind of case is if you can buy a domain that has a lot of links to it and 301 it then yeah, you can potentially compete at the last minute. And obviously there’s other things you can do that are more black hat, but that’s one of the only things that I can say, ‘Okay, we can do this and nothing will happen to you.’ Buy a domain that has a lot of links going into it, redirect it to your target pages and yeah, you will see a pop in the time before and leading up to Cyber Monday.
DAVID BAIN: The thing I’m thinking of is looking at old content that may rank already for related keyword phrases but aren’t particularly relevant, so repurposing older content and then linking directly to those urls from your homepage to give it a bit more power.
MICHAEL KING: Yeah, that. And if you had a Cyber Monday page last year there’s no reason for you to make a new one. Leverage that, put the new content there, it probably has links to it anyway. I think especially with regard to how brand people think about it, they are very much like, ‘Oh yeah, we just use this asset once and throw it away,’ but if you can convince them, ‘No, why we don’t just make this more of an evergreen asset?’ then you’re going to be in a better position when Cyber Monday comes around every year.
DAVID BAIN: Well that’s a great point because there are so many brands out there – even agencies possibly – that do some special promotion, have the page up there and then just delete it once it’s done, not take advantage.
MICHAEL KING: Yeah, and I’m happy that at least the trend has gone away from microsites, ‘cause that was always a bad idea. It’s more like people like, ‘Oh yeah, we have our experience in the Cyber Monday 2014 directory,’ or something like that. ‘No, just make it Cyber Monday and update it every year.’
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, absolutely. You’re nodding your head there, Mark. Are you seeing people going away from microsites as well?
MARK PACK: Definitely, and I think this applies much more widely than simply one-off events, but there has been such a fashion for microsites and seeing them as a disposable commodity, which can be advantageous in a way, particularly if you’re dealing with larger clients where there might be quite big bureaucratic and IT and procurement issues, where just setting up a quick microsite can get something done nice and quickly under the radar. But there definitely is this important element, as Mike was saying, about the need to understand your long-term SEO gain and you don’t want to be doing lots of short-term things and effectively throwing away the work each time.
I guess the one other tip I would add in terms of Cyber Monday is go back, have a look at your stats and rack your memories and your emails from last time, and what where the things that came up? Maybe there was a customer support issue that suddenly became a big thing unexpectedly. Be prepared in terms of knowing what were the bits of content that suddenly became more important last time.
And also, of course, double check with your IT and your hosting that the one thing to really kill your SEO is if your website’s dead. No matter how well optimised it is, if it’s not running it’s not going to appear, it’s not going to be garnering lots of traffic, and so making sure the IT team and so on are all geared up to deal with what could be a very unpredictable spike in traffic.
DAVID BAIN: So Phillip, do you actually get many requests for content for one-off events like this or is it mainly general content that you tend to focus on?
PHILLIP THUNE: It’s both and it’s interesting in terms of we will get some clients who are very clear that this needs to be evergreen. For example, travel. If it’s holiday travel, you’re going after a destination guide or hotel guides or things like that, it can make a big difference actually to some of the travel sites in terms of their SEO performance. But they tend to…something like that, they’re very focused on being evergreen. So great example, instead of saying the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas was updated last year, which six months from now or twelve months from now certainly is going to be an out-of-date comment, say the Bellagio Casino Hotel was updated in 2014. That statement is never going to seem dated. So that’s definitely a focus for a lot of our clients, but yeah, if there’s an event or a series of events, they definitely will come to us and we can handle that.
One of the things that we recommend and we see this (I don’t want to say it’s a trend because it’s been pretty consistent) but one of our recommendations in terms of just thinking about content marketing is focusing on the calendar. So first of all planning ahead, but second, we’ve got clients who sell some fairly niche things and they might have great content about their product or their service or their expertise but the question becomes, ‘But people aren’t necessarily searching for that,’ and so we always recommend thinking about the calendar and somehow trying to tie in what you do with what people care about at that moment in time. So as the holidays come up, obviously it’s the holidays, but the start of the NFL season or back to school or Valentine’s Day. If you look at the calendar, you’re only typically a few weeks away from something that happens every year that you can predict, or maybe every four years like the Olympics, something like that. But something that’s coming up that people are going to care about, that people are going to be searching for, and the real trick is going to be how to kind of insert yourself into that conversation in a somewhat relevant way. And so we do get a lot of requests for that kind of content.
DAVID BAIN: Trying to insert yourself into the conversation in a relevant way that seems as if you’ve just come up with the content but the content’s pre-planned and hopefully you’ve produced it before, yes?
PHILLIP THUNE: Exactly, yeah. I don’t if Mike and Mark… I’d be curious there ‘cause I think they’ve probably got more expertise on the short-term SEO stuff but maybe Google News ‘cause we’ve done some stuff there and it’s pretty hard for smaller size to crack that, but Google News is something that if you have something newsworthy or something that people are interested in and you talk about – and again, this would have to be planned that you’d have that feed and everything – but that seems to me a faster-acting way. It’s not the Google search results but there is a Google News element to the search results if it’s somewhat of a current event.
MARK PACK: Definitely, and I think the Google News example is a really good one because it nicely illustrates how moving quickly and successfully in the short run is often the result of long-term planning and preparation. So often one of the things we’re working on with client websites is, ‘Is this a site that might qualify for inclusion in Google News?’ and if so then trying to get it included. And that’s not something that brings immediate benefits but what it does mean is at some point – it might even be six months, a year down the road – there is something that is a fast-moving story and they’re really keen to get their version of events out quickly and prominently and then, ‘Oh hoorah, that was really fantastic. We put in all that effort to get into Google News.’ So I think it’s like what quite a lot of successful sportspeople say – it’s remarkable how many years of practice go into becoming an overnight success.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely.
MICHAEL KING: Yeah, I mean the only difficulty there is because of the fact it’s so long-term it can be difficult to get a client to prioritise that.
MARK PACK: That’s very true, yeah.
MICHAEL KING: Those situations where it can be effective. But yeah, it’s definitely an option.
DAVID BAIN: Mike, in relation to Cyber Monday and content from the previous year, so if you’ve had content up there, is it okay to take away old, existing links to that content and have that url as an orphan page until it comes around again or should you actually keep a few links or at least the page to be crawlable from your homepage somehow to give you a better chance of getting it ranked again this year?
MICHAEL KING: So maybe not the homepage but definitely the internal links throughout your site should remain there. ‘Cause you definitely want that link equity to be flowing to that page so it’s not this last-minute, ‘We’ve got to get links to it.’ You definitely don’t want it to be an orphan thing but I definitely get your point because you don’t want people being driven to your Cyber Monday page when it’s not Cyber Monday. So in that case you can just really scale back that content or you can say, ‘Here are the deals that you missed out on,’ for that time when it’s gone. Or you can make that page be more about capturing emails or when the Cyber Monday stuff is coming up. But just having it being an orphan page is not a good idea.
DAVID BAIN: You don’t think having the link in an XML sitemap is enough? You think there’s got to be some HTML link somewhere in the site to the page?
MICHAEL KING: Yeah, because we don’t want it to be this big shock to Google that they have to catch up with as far as the internal linking structure pointing to that page. So of course you want it to be hard to find for the user when it’s not Cyber Monday but Google should still know that this is a page that’s worthwhile so that when it comes the time for that… They’re going to see more links from other sites and things like that, but they still want to know that this is a valuable page for you, so when it’s time for people to be looking for these specials, they’re already thinking, ‘This is an authoritative page. We should be considering this for the top ranks.’
DAVID BAIN: Okay, good tips there. Well that takes us to the last topic actually, which is Facebook are testing reactions, a new feature that could even enhance the ‘like’ button, perhaps even replace it over time. But is this to encourage user engagement or offer better content performance metrics for marketers? So let’s start with Phillip for this one. Phillip, what are your thoughts on this one?
PHILLIP THUNE: It’s going to be interesting to see. I can’t remember if it was two months ago, three months ago, Facebook sort of did a trial balloon of the ‘dislike’ button, sort of saying, ‘We think ‘like’ is a limited way to express yourself and maybe we need to provide some more choices.’ So reaction is obviously going in that direction. Some of the comments on the sidebar when we were talking about Yelp were some frustration with how Yelp might treat certain businesses and there’s a lot of rumours about what Yelp does or doesn’t do in terms of tying your advertising to where you show up if you don’t advertise.
But yeah, I think as a business, as a website, Facebook… It really depends on what kind of audience you have. It’s interesting with TextBroker in that we have really two different groups of folk we need to serve and they’re very different in where they go for information and how they act. One are the clients who need content and the other are the authors. We have tens of thousands of authors who are writing for our clients. So we can post something on Facebook but if we do it’s pretty much about the authors – that’s where authors like to congregate. LinkedIn seems to have a much better response rate and reaction for us if we’re trying to reach our clients or the clients who are interested in what we’re saying.
So I think it really depends on the business. If Facebook is important to the business – certainly if it’s a consumer-oriented business – I think we’ll have to see what happens with the reactions test and where Facebook goes, so it’s hard to give anybody advice in terms of what to do right now. But yeah, I think it’s interesting.
One of the frustrations that businesses have with Yelp is sort of controlling what customers are saying about them and is it fair. The same with TripAdvisor that Mark was talking about. Is it fair? Is it reasonable? Has it been put there by a competitor with nefarious purposes? So I think while the ‘like’ button is certainly limited in that that’s the only emotion you can do, I think Facebook needs to think carefully about the ramifications of giving people more choices, and especially if they give them the ability to cite something negative.
DAVID BAIN: So Mark, with your clients have you seen over the last couple of years big brands move away from Facebook pages and can you see perhaps these addition metrics, Facebook pages becoming more attractive again for brands to use?
MARK PACK: I’d say the opposite almost, that Facebook pages have become even more important, and I would say that even if Facebook weren’t a client of ours. But I think because Facebook has become so dominant in terms of its share of the audience and for big brands in particular, that’s a very simple calculation – you need to go where your audience is and if your audience is on Facebook, that’s where you need to go.
There obviously has been quite a significant shift from reliance on organic reach to needing more and more to have paid-for plans to support your Facebook activity but Facebook I think is quite rightly very central to those activities.
In terms of these latest changes I think there are probably two motivations, one which is very much for the ordinary Facebook user, and that is you see a bit of content – maybe it’s somebody’s bereavement, maybe it’s divorce, maybe it’s illness – and ‘like’ is just saying not the right sentiment. And so part of it is about giving people in those circumstances a better, broader range of easy, emotional reactions.
And then the other is this potential that if you give people a wider range of reactions so that they can respond to an advert by saying they’re frustrated, they’re angry, whatever, that actually teases out much richer information.
Whether that will really take off, I think as with a lot of these things, Facebook tries out 101 different things. Four or five of them flop, a lot are sort of okay, a few of them work well and one or two really take off. Much too early, I think, to tell as to whether this one becomes really successful but I think that idea of trying to allow people to have a more nuanced set of understanding what people are saying, rather than simply positive/negative, it’s where Facebook will go, partly ‘cause it’s the work that we see with our clients with digital listening and analysis. More and more it’s not the simple sentiment score that’s of interest; it’s understanding the drivers behind those emotions that are useful.
DAVID BAIN: One of the things that Facebook mentioned last week was that it’s going to start indexing its public posts. So Mike, do you think that these additional sentiments are going to assist it with its being able to rank the results of these posts in its search results more effectively?
MICHAEL KING: Yeah, absolutely. I think that Mark is spot-on with his assessment. I think it’s interesting that this is happening at the same time as Twitter is trying to figure this out. So they’re moving the tweet count entirely. They no longer will have that API endpoint and they’re actually rolling out richer analytics on how people are engaging with content on Twitter. So I think it’s interesting that they’re both trying to solve the same problem.
I also think it’s interesting that so many people have built tools on top of ‘like’ and ‘share’ counts and number of tweets and such, when these are undocumented endpoints in the API. So everyone’s building something off something that Twitter and Facebook didn’t want you to have anyway. So I think it’s interesting that they’re realising, ‘Okay, this is a great opportunity for us to potentially harness some richer analytics and also more features that we can leverage in sorting out this content problem.’ I think that’s one of the biggest things that Twitter and Facebook have to solve and Facebook has done it by killing organic to some degree and also making that something that you pay for. But I think it’s really interesting that these different signals that they’re building can then be put back into the product. Like you said, rank content for different audience segments and such. Again, solving that problem that Google is trying to solve as well, with regards to highlighting content for someone based on who they are and what they show interest in, rather than just explicit queries.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, a lot of wonderful points made there by all our guests so thank you so much for that. But that just about takes us the end of this week’s show so just time for a single takeaway and some sharing of ‘find out more’ details. So starting with Mark again.
MARK PACK: So really interesting discussion. Thank you very much for that. I guess a key takeaway that’s come out from our discussions has been the need to balance the short-term versus the long-term and that if you’re always focusing in on the short-term, you do end up in a much weaker position than if you can occasionally invest in that long-term, whether that’s about making sure you’ve got a responsive site or getting into Google News or any of the other issues that we’ve talked about.
DAVID BAIN: Wonderful and thank you Mark. And also Phillip.
PHILLIP THUNE: Right so yeah, thank you. This is my first time and again apologise for some of the technical difficulties and if you can’t see my smiling face and nodding head…
DAVID BAIN: And your Halloween costume![laughter]
PHILLIP THUNE: Exactly. No, I think a key takeaway for me is in something of a similar vein, but I think between the artificial intelligence that we talked about with Google and between Facebook testing out the reactions, there’s been a constant – and I know this is a cliché – but a sort of changing constant. So huge companies are continually trying to get better at what they do. In a lot of cases, what they think is better just significantly changes the game for everyone who’s trying to use those platforms, especially for marketers. And we see that all the time with Google. I think we’re seeing it with Facebook. I think Facebook is only going to get better at making businesses have to pay to get their message out. That’s certainly been a trend and that I can only see continuing. But yeah, I think it’s shows like this and trying to stay on top of what’s new and what’s changing…and it is changing every week. And I think that’s a constant. And it’s frustrating ‘cause you might find something that works and then one day it doesn’t but it’s kind of the world we live in.
In terms of contact info, you can tweet us at @textbrokerUS. The website is www.textbroker.com. That’s our site for US English, so we have only US writers there but from there you can get to our nine other websites for all the other languages that we offer.
DAVID BAIN: Wonderful. Okay, thanks then Phillip. We’ll hopefully have you on again at some point and we’ll even be able to see your face![laughter]
And also joining us today was Mike.
MICHAEL KING: Yeah, it’s my second time of being here. Really excited. I think this new format is cool. Not sure what the numbers mean but I think that means that I won, so that’s cool![laughter]
DAVID BAIN: Okay, well we’ll put you off now before the contact details![laughing]
MICHAEL KING: But the other thing is I think the common thread here is not much different from before and I think this woman is now trying to make it so you won, but it’s all good.
MARK PACK: I might just give a little bit of a helping hand![laughter]
MICHAEL KING: I think the common thread here is we also need to be thinking about solving for the user and I think that’s what all these platforms are doing, I think that’s what Google is really focused on. Yelp is trying to do it, Facebook is trying to do it as well. So really thinking about, ‘How can we make things people want and then give this ability to them?’ That’s going to solve every problem that we have, no matter what week it is, what new feature comes out, what AI rolls out. They’re all trying to solve it for the user. So as long as we’re doing that, the tactics are more or less going to fall into place.
And as far as how you can find me, I’m at iPullRank, www.ipullrank.com. Yeah, that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for having me.
DAVID BAIN: That’s wonderful. Thanks Mike. I’m David Bain, Head of Growth here at www.authoritas.com, an agency and enterprise platform with big insights. You can also find me interviewing online marketing gurus over at www.digitalmarketingradio.com. Now if you’re watching the show as a recording, remember to watch the next show live, so head over to www.thisweekinorganic.com and be part of the live audience for the next live show. Great discussion going on in the chat and I’m sure you’ll enjoy that.
But for those of you watching live, we also have an audio podcast of previous shows, so again sign up to the email updates at www.thisweekinorganic.com. So until we see you again, have a fantabulous weekend and thank you all for joining us. Adios and thank you again to Mike, Mark and Phillip. Wonderful to have you on.
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.