This is the twenty sixth episode of, ‘This Week In Organic’, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news.
In this episode, originally broadcast live from the Digital Marketing Show in ExCel, London, we discuss the fact that Google’s natural language search is getting smarter, Google+ has been revamped and whether or not brands should be using emojis in their social media interaction. 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.
Here’s what we discussed:
=== Topic #1
Google’s natural language search is getting smarter – it’s apparently now more able to better understand superlatives and more complicated questions.
Chris – is this not just a gimmick or is interpreting natural language the future of SEO?
Do you need to optimize a page for natural language, or is it optimized naturally?
How do you optimize for voice search?
=== Topic #2
Google is now incentivising users to write reviews, offering early access to products and free storage. Users will apparently also be rewarded for uploading photos and fixing outdated information.
Are there incentives a good idea or could it lead to lower quality reviews?
Is it increasingly important for businesses to be getting reviews? What are the best ways to get reviews?
What local optimization strategies should businesses be utilizing in general?
=== Topic #3
Google plus isn’t dead! It’s been revamped to focus on communities & collections, trying to simplify the offering and get more people using it.
Was Google Plus ever dead? Will this revamp work?
Should businesses be considering building a community on Google+ instead of Facebook or any other social network?
=== Topic #4
Every so often Google hires people through a third-party agency to review the perceived quality and relevance of its search results. The latest version, from October 2015 has been leaked – and it appears that Google is still using it’s EAT acronym. Eat standing for “expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness”.
So what can content marketers and SEOs learn from this to do their jobs better?
What can businesses learn from this? Should businesses be running user testing campaigns on their own search results?
=== Topic #5
I’t just 1 week until Black Friday – so what can SEOs and content marketers do over the next week to take advantage of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales?
Are these sales periods really taking off in the UK?
Is there enough time for SEOs to take advantage of this? What are some of the things that can be done now?
=== Topic #6
It appears that Twitter are testing lots of different emojis. But this could be a big challenge for brands if it takes off.
Should brands be using emojis? Do marketers need to be deciding which emojis are relevant for their brand?
What is some best practice for brands to interact on Twitter successfully?
DAVID BAIN: Twitter are testing emojis, do SEOs still have enough time to take advantage of Black Friday and Google+ is dead. All that and more in This Week in Organic, Episode Number 26.
Broadcasting live from the Digital Marketing Show in London, 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, I’m David Bain and each week I’ll be joined by some knowledgeable, opinionated folks to discuss the latest happenings in anything that impacts organic traffic. And as for you in the live audience, get involved. Use the #TWIO on Twitter and anything you say, hopefully I’ll try and involve within the show itself. But let’s find out about today’s guests, where they’re from and what’s caught their attention this week. So starting off on the far side with Bridget.
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: Hi, I’m Bridget Randolph, I work at Distilled as a consultant and the things that I’m really interested to talk about today are around the natural language search which is something at Distilled we’ve been looking at for a while and also the search quality raters guide that we’ve seen from Google recently as that touches a lot on mobile which is an area that I specialise in a lot in my own work.
DAVID BAIN: Wonderful. Thanks Bridget and also with us today is Chris.
CHRIS GREEN: Hi there, I’m Chris and I’m from StrategiQ Marketing. One of the things I’m most interested to talk about today is the quality raters guide and what we can learn from that when optimising.
DAVID BAIN: And thirdly, but not least, with us today is Matt.
MATT HODKINSON: Hi, I’m Matt Hodkinson from Influence Agents and today I’m looking forward to talking about Google+ because everybody talks about its death, it’s died about seven or eight times I think, so, yes, I’m interested by that one.
DAVID BAIN: Excellent, okay, thanks Matt. Well topic number one is Google’s natural language search is getting smarter and apparently it’s now able to better understand superlatives and more complicated questions. So, Chris, is this just a gimmick or is interpreting natural language the future of SEO?
CHRIS GREEN: I think it kind of is along the line of the way optimisation has being going in terms of understanding the different ways that people actually search and the different kind of context for that. The intricacy of the queries and its understanding of where it’s actually going with it I think is what’s really interesting. Whether it illustrates the future of SEO is harder to say. I mean optimising for natural language use is the same as optimising for how people search naturally, so I guess from our side of things it’s learning to SEO more naturally.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, great. Well we’re getting a little bit of background noise there as well, so if you could possibly just be very close to the microphone that would really help. Thank you very much. Bridget, what are your thoughts on this one?
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: So I think this is very interesting because it’s something they’ve been working on for a long time, starting back with the release of the Humming Bird update which is something that people talked about at the time and people have mentioned less recently, but I absolutely think this is about looking at their ultimate end-game which they’ve said themselves in some regards is about becoming the ultimate personal assistant and being able to anticipate what people need before they even ask for it and this is a step in that process. It’s also just interesting because it comes down to the things that we’ll talk about later I guess when we look at search quality rating and that kind of thing. Is this the best result for the question that the person is asking? And so to answer that, what they care about is the intents of these or the context of these, are these things that they are getting better at establishing? And this natural language search improvement process is something which very strongly plays into that.
DAVID BAIN: Matt, would you like your intuitive personal system that knows what you want before you know what you want?
MATT HODKINSON: I’d pay a lot of money for that I think. Yes, I think this is a more towards obviously we know that devices, interfaces with users are changing, so this is a move to reflect the fact that we’re going to be encountering more and more wearable devices and we’re going to be taking away the screen effectively so there has got to be some way for us as users to encounter this natural language way of searching for things and being presented with results. I think you’re right, things have gone full circle, people used to search in this way with natural language. I think over the years we’ve been educated by Google to improve the quality of our searches by removing short words, connecting words and to effectively strip out a lot of the context and now we’re going straight back to where we began and it’s where a lot of users are going to have to be if they want to use a variety of different devices and interface with the internet in different ways.
DAVID BAIN: And voice search is probably quite closely related to this and also mobile search as well. How is that evolving at the moment, Bridget, and what’s going to happen that maybe is going to impact SEO?
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: So first of all I think voice search is very interesting in part because it’s how the new generation of searchers are learning to search. One of my colleagues has a, I think, three year old daughter and she can’t write, she can’t type, but she can ask Siri to show her pictures of unicorns which is one of the examples he used in a recent presentation. So first of all it will be interesting to see how very young people, even people who may be eleven years old now, growing up with this technology develop their way of searching that’s different to what, I’m saying we’ve been trained into, which is the stilted way of creating a search query for a machine. These younger people are learning to search in a conversational way. So that’s one element of it. The mobile question is something I think is fascinating because even in the last few years there’s been a shift. Your PC is no longer your primary means of accessing the internet and this has to change how we approach mobile versus desk top marketing in terms of splitting those out. The mobile device actually is now more powerful in a lot of ways because there are so many more things it can do. Therefore peoples’ behaviour is again being shaped in that now we often interact with our phone a lot more when using the internet than we do with a laptop or a desk top.
DAVID BAIN: You touched on real life phraseology rather than actually traditional keywords for SEO. Chris, is it possible to actually optimise a page for real life phrases, those long search queries that you may get from voice search?
CHRIS GREEN: I think the real difficulty around that is knowing which ones you need to go for. I think as soon as I saw it one of the places I thought about it would be really challenging is the different dialects and the phraseology that people use and how that varies from place to place. Obviously the UK uses a smorgasbord of different kinds of dialects and accents, but obviously if you go anywhere, it could be an extra dimension within local potentially. I don’t know whether going back to Suffolk where I was born whether I start using Suffolk terms within my local pages to try and catch up on some of that search. I think the difficulty around that is you know optimising for a keyword was simple, or relatively simply, because we knew that keyword people were looking for but when you’re talking about phrases that have modifications and variations and optimising for any given one can be challenging, it’s challenging just identifying it. So a lot of it, and the other development is that Google has made into the semantic index and how it’s kind of taking in all of its data is understanding what people mean when they use specific phrases. So you would hope that Google becomes almost agnostic of the phraseology around some of this. But how that plays in together we’ll have to wait and see.
DAVID BAIN: Something else that impacts optimisation and of course click through rates is reviews and that’s topic number two and Google is now incentivising users to write reviews offering early access to products and free storage. Users will apparently be rewarded for uploading photographs and fixing outdated information. So, Matt, are incentives a good idea, or could it actually lead to a lower quality of search result?
MATT HODKINSON: I think this kind of effort will self-police itself over time and may social networks do. They are kind of built on peoples’ experiences and reviews so I think the community itself will kind of police that and ensure that there is a lot of quality there, but Google are also going to back up this by ensuring that there is a quality development to their own appraisal of reviews. So it’s not going to be the case that any tom, dick or harry can jump on, create a large volume of reviews and really benefit in this way, I don’t think the incentives are going to be even that compelling for people to even want to go to those levels, but it is an interesting move towards a more community-led approach and it will be interesting to see just how Google goes about ensuring quality for the outset and therefore endears more people towards the programme.
DAVID BAIN: So, Chris, can you see it being increasingly important for businesses to actually obtain reviews in the future? And if so, how should they actually go about doing that?
CHRIS GREEN: I mean reviews are critical as much as word of mouth is critical for any business really, I think. It ties well into that in terms of the reviews, but in terms of how to acquire them, essentially it has always been a line thin line between incentivising reviews and soliciting them and obviously Google has always made itself reasonably, it’s never been that clear, it always changes its mind, but basically what Google wants now and the way that need to go about it is by attracting reviews naturally. Now from an optimisation standpoint that’s going to make a lot of people itchy, because if you’re doing it naturally and you’re leaving people to their own volition, reviews can go either way so from the outset businesses and those looking for these reviews need to ensure that what they are getting is quality because there is no way of safeguarding yourself if you’re not doing the best you can for your customers. But in terms of getting people on there, getting more reviews going, you’ve got to do it in a kind of sustainable and natural looking way and as I said work out where that line between incentivisation and soliciting starts and ends. The fact that Google are effectively getting people on to the platform to do reviews with their own kind of incentives shows that that end of the spectrum is slightly safer, but it’s where we get into a conflict of interests as a business trying to get that review. How it’s policed and how people can get on top of that and ensure that it does stay natural will always be the biggest challenge as is any other part of optimisation. But it doesn’t diminish the importance of reviews and fundamentally that comes back to being good at what you do. And the second part is making sure people tell others.
DAVID BAIN: So, I mean, Bridget, have you seen reviews positively impacting click through rates from SERP, is that something that you can actually track and positively attribute to really helping with SEO or is that quite tricky to do?
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: So it’s definitely something that there will have been studies on. I don’t have a case study off the top of my head for any of our clients, but it’s been proven through various studies that any sort of rich snippet by which I mean a search result that has something other than just that link and the description but might have star reviews, star ratings or a video or something like that, those do positively impact click through rate. I mean the other thing that’s interesting from a review point of view as we see the web move increasingly converging with apps, reviews are even bigger in terms of apps or optimisation in some ways. I suppose for local search it’s always been a big thing. So, yes, I think it is and will continue to be quite important. One way that I see businesses go about the acquisition of positive reviews is through, essentially, bucketing their users who have previously given positive or negative feedback into different email lists etc. and then reaching out in that way going ‘We notice you weren’t happy, what can we fix? versus ‘We notice you gave us positive feedback, would you mind leaving a review?’ So there are ways that you can encourage people to do that type of thing without, I think, falling foul of any guidelines.
DAVID BAIN: I like the fact that you talk about bucketing different users, because it shows that SEO has to be integrated with other marketing methods and a few years ago it was considered to be a silo focus for businesses for people, but now you really need to actually integrate it with other marketing activities as well and hopefully other marketing activities need to understand SEO as well. But with regard to local optimisation, Matt, are there any other areas that businesses should be focusing on or are missing tricks on at the moment?
MATT HODKINSON: I think so, yes. This trend of personalisation, especially on their own web properties is going to be key going forward. We’re seeing more and more CMS platforms allowing personalisation based on people’s location, based on the information that a business holds about them. So if you’ve visited a website before, you revisit, you get hailed by name, it recognises the industry that you operate in. If it’s a B2B business, for example, and can present you with industry specific data, but also on a location basis, there are local businesses that can present different kinds of vouchers, coupons and opportunities to people in the vicinity based on their IP location. So definitely, I think personalisation is a big thing at the moment, 123-reg have just launched a website builder which has it out of the box at £10 a month or something ridiculous, it’s really making it more accessible for local businesses.
DAVID BAIN: Great, okay. Well let’s move on to the third topic which is Google+ isn’t dead. It’s been revamped to focus on communities and collections, trying to simplify the offering and get more people using it. So, Chris, was Google+ ever dead?
CHRIS GREEN: I think there are a lot of people who would argue that it was a very vivid an thriving community at one point, funnily enough most of those people were SEOs or digital marketers who were being told almost to think that and I was certainly on that bandwagon for a short period of time. I think you just need to go on there, almost do a show of hands here now of who actually have an active Google+ account who uses it or even anyone who even knows what it is. I think that kind of gives you the answer in terms of how many people use it. A show of hands – who uses Google+? Okay, disproportionate amount. Proved me wrong.
DAVID BAIN: So that was about, 10%?
CHRIS GREEN: But I mean you know I think the way that Google+ has been pulling out different products, there have been all of the moves in terms of the staff a little while ago, I think. They don’t really know where they’re going with it and with this message they’ve said they’ve listened to feedback from people and have made changes. Realistically they have moved their offering to cater for those who are still there. Realistically they want to be bigger and better than that. They’ve got to, but I think it’s kind of a, it’s almost a shame to see it that way, because it had the making of it, but I think it just over complicated things and in that sense simplifying it now is a really good sign, because they are listening to people, it’s just a shame it’s probably two years too late.
DAVID BAIN: So, Matt, can you actually see any businesses deciding to build a community on Google+ instead of Facebook for instance now?
MATT HODKINSON: It depends on the business type, I think, first and foremost. You’ve got to fish where the fish are, well we have as marketers. So if you’ve got a business that doesn’t deal with people, because let’s face it they are all on Facebook, then maybe Google+ is an option. I don’t think it will be at the expense of Facebook, certainly not for the time being, because if you want to scale a community it’s going to be very difficult to do that on Google+ and speaking as somebody who has done it, we’ve got a B2B marketing community on Google+ that has had organic growth, but is still very, very small and very tricky to recruit people into. And yet there are communities that have referred real business, there is a revenue opportunity and a good marketing opportunity for anybody who can grow a strong community presence on Google+. It comes down to whether you’ve got the time to really curate that and build it to something that reaches sufficient scale to be useful to your business.
DAVID BAIN: Bridget, do you have any clients who are successfully using Google+ at the moment and maybe even more embracing the platform moving forward because of Google’s announcement that they have updated the platform of it?
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: No is the short answer.
DAVID BAIN: And what’s the long one? Not at all.
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: I mean I think, as Matt says, Google+ has always been the sort of place that is very niche in terms of who it appeals to and those people use it a lot. And in particular in our industry I find it quite useful for keeping up with industry developments and that kind of thing because a lot the people in our industry are using it for that. In terms of how this change impacts our social media marketing, I don’t think it does.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, so the general feeling is watch what’s happening, just keep half an eye on it, but certainly don’t focus on it as your main platform, but perhaps you can actually build a sub-community there and if it starts to be fairly successful then perhaps you can focus more resources on it in the future?
CHRIS GREEN: And just to sort of jump in there I think the real nervousness I’d have about starting anything new on there now off the back of this is the propensity for change with Google+ and the fact that, and actually the way that Google are with their products that they deem they don’t want to support or they want to migrate or move for whatever reason. You’re building your house on someone else’s land effectively and if you do invest a lot of time and effort into a community on Google+ I would be extremely concerned about the longevity of that, just because of the platform. Obviously Facebook wanes and ultimately will be there for longer just because of where it’s come from and where it’s going, but you know if you are going to foster and build a community from scratch now, I’d seriously consider about whether you can do it on your own platform. It would be just as easy as it would be on Google+, I’d say.
MATT HODKINSON: I think also the justification for Google placing emphasis on communities in the Google+ environment was based on quite a low usership. It was one of the more popular areas but it certainly wasn’t a huge number. I think as I read it, it was either 1.2 or 12, is was an 1 and a 2, it was 1.2 or 12 million, but when we’re talking about a platform that grew to 20 million users in the space of 28 days when it launched and now has gone on to, well, depending on who you believe, many hundreds of millions active users then it’s a drop in the ocean really, there’s no justification for this move, but whether it will reignite the platform, who knows?
DAVID BAIN: Well coming up we’re going to be talking about what SEOs and content marketers can do over the next week to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, what the leaking of Google’s latest search quality raters guide means and whether Twitter emojis should be used by brands. But first of all I need to announce our competition winner actually. We’ve had a draw, authoritas.com are in the process of launching a market share product and there was a prize draw for £2,000 worth of analysis for a domain, so in front of you actually we’ve got entries here. Now I can only choose one, so Bridget, ladies should get to do it, so either in front of yours, Chris’s or Matt’s microphones you can select any one you want and that person will be the winner of this competition. And it is…
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: James Wilson Fish
DAVID BAIN: Okay, James, we’ve got him in the audience have we? No. Okay, so that’s great, we’ll get in touch with that person. But moving on to the next topic, which is every so often Google hires people through a third party agency to review the perceived quality and relevance of its search results. Its latest version, from October, just last month, has been leaked and it appears that Google still are using its EAT acronym, standing for expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness, so what can content marketers and SEO learn from this to do their jobs better? So Bridget, what do you think SEOs and content marketers can learn from this?
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: Well one of the most striking things I thought in the report was about the fact that now any website which is not mobile-friendly cannot receive a fully meets requirements basically rating. So you can’t get a top rating for that.
DAVID BAIN: So how many, off the top of your head, how many websites are failing, do you think, to actually deliver a decent mobile experience?
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: It’s a lot better than it used to be, especially from April this year they rolled out the mobile-friendliness update with much fanfare and the impact from that was less than a lot of people expected. I believe because there is so much advance warning and a lot of people got themselves together before they were negatively affected. That said, I think a lot of people can still go a long way in terms of becoming better at mobile-friendliness. The sort of factors that they take into account at the moment are fairly basic, and it’s is it usable on a mobile? Can you click the buttons? Can you achieve the basic processes, but creating a good mobile-friendly experience is not as simple as just taking a responsive design out of the box. So there is always more that we can be doing especially as I said before when the mobile devise becomes the primary way people use the web.
DAVID BAIN: Last month we learned that machine learning was the number three most important aspect of Google was algorithm. So it’s nice to see that Google are using users to actually enhance what it delivers as well as actually just relying on machines. Chris, do you think businesses can take anything from this approach and perhaps use users to actually test Google search results and see what they look like in Google search results?
CHRIS GREEN: I think the kind of key thing that came out of this guide that was leaked was the needs meets section and a whole part of that rating system is how well that search result and those websites within it meet the needs of that user and of the query that they’re searching for. Now obviously it’s a highly subjective thing to try and rate, which is obviously why it’s being texted like this, I think it’s hard to get a right or a wrong answer which is why they’ve built a spectrum into it. But I think from what we can take away from those who are making the websites and making the content that constant form of validation, where would you fall on that needs meets spectrum? Now obviously for a business owner or a website maker or copywriter, that would be hard to know exactly, but you’d test it with your audience, ask them. Now how you do that will depend on the scale of your website, your audience base, that kind of thing, but it’s coming full circle again in a way – are you just doing a good job? Is your website fulfilling the function it needs to do? And obviously Google introducing it into these guidelines is just showing that their confidence and their ability to rank that is rising. Or at least that’s where they’re going. It’s no surprise that that is the kind of criteria we’re looking for. Google have been very vocal about the fact that we just have to make good websites for a while but it now seems as if they’re getting closer to being able to actually rank and determine it. And this just backs that one up.
DAVID BAIN: Yes, it’ll certainly be interesting to see what Google does as a result of actually receiving this information from users. Because obviously Google want to make as much money as possible, naturally, it’s a commercial business but it’s got to deliver an experience which gives people relevant results and hopefully organic results and not just paid results. Matt, are any of your clients actually using user testing models and actually seeing how that impacts their businesses at all, or is that not the primary focus of the majority of people that are your clients?
MATT HODKINSON: It’s certainly not the primary focus, although we talk a lot about co-creation, especially in content marketing, because we assume too much when we create content for our audience, we don’t even ask them quite often as businesses, certainly the clients before we go to them don’t even ask their own audience why they engaged with them as a business, what the triggers were, the marketing triggers before they engaged with the business. So I think we’ve got a long way to go before they use user testing. But I think Bridget’s right, one of the things around mobile, and just to go back to your question about our clients, because we’ve done research in the IT industry, we’d estimate that around about 40% of IT businesses don’t have any sort of mobile-friendly element to their website at all. Which is still staggering to see at this point in time. So I think this move towards meet is quite an interesting one.
DAVID BAIN: MEAT, I like that.
MATT HODKINSON: MEAT not EAT.
DAVID BAIN: MEAT not EAT.
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: Can I jump in?
DAVID BAIN: Sure, go for it.
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: On that EAT acronym because going all the way back to the beginning of what we were taking about with this idea of smart research, and the way that Google is experimenting more and more with bringing direct answers into search results, so through the knowledge box, through these carousels, that sort of thing, anticipating what it is that you are actually looking for. So if I type in ‘chicken recipe’ do you actually want to know how to make that and then they present the full recipe in the search result. And I think that this is a key, it’s still looking at expertise, still looking at authoritativeness, trustworthiness. I was talking to my colleague, Tommy Anthony, the other day and he mentioned that they have recently got a new patent for basically something around this idea of is the content accurate when you mark it up as structured data? Is this an accurate answer to my question? So I think even as we’re moving to broaden out what’s important, we’re looking at mobile, we’re looking at these other areas, it’s still crucial to make sure that you are presenting yourself as trustworthy and an expert and having that authority to have the right answer.
DAVID BAIN: I think what you mentioned there, structured data, is obviously very important as well. Although Google stopped looking at authorship, there are still other elements of microdata that are almost essential for certain businesses to actually demonstrate to Google what they’re talking about. Chris, I would imagine you would certainly advise websites to mark-up their content with as much structured data as possible?
CHRIS GREEN: Yes, most certainly. I think that feeds into around the natural language search as well and the way that the SERPs are evolving. I think the simple way of putting it is make it as easy for Google to extract the data from your site as possible. They’ll pretty much try it anyway, but we always say it’s far better to tell Google something explicitly rather than let it work it out for itself, because it is still learning, albeit getting better at quite an alarming pace. But it is a case of you want to provide the data that people are looking for. I still see a reluctance in people saying ‘If Google use our data in this way and it presents it within the search, that’s traffic that won’t be making it to our site.’ But the way I see it is if you make Google’s life easier, you present an authoritative, factual piece of information that is useful and they present it in the search before even clicking, you’ve got a spot that no one else can get to or it’s harder for other people to get to and I think that’s a premium position rather than something that people should be fearful of.
DAVID BAIN: Great advice, make Google’s life easy so that it has that initial trust with your domain before it even has any association with other domains in your market place. But let’s move on to topic number five, which is just one week until Black Friday, so what can SEOs and content marketers do over the next week to take advantage of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales? Bridget, any of your clients focusing on Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: So the thing about this that I think is an interesting question, it is only one week, so we don’t want to be just looking at strategy starting now, and hopefully all of you are not in that position, you already have a sense of what you’re doing. I think the way I look at this though is that it’s important to think of it more as an acquisition plan than the end goal of converting lots of people, because Black Friday/Cyber Monday traditionally this is a date for massive sales, and so in that sense you’re bringing lots of traffic to your site, they are not actually making you as much money as they would be if they came on any other day, potentially. But what you are getting this way is new eyes on your site, new people in that funnel that you can then reactivate later, hopefully. So I would encourage you to think about this as that sort of thing. How can you get the most new people onto your site, but have a plan for afterwards.
DAVID BAIN: So focus on conversion rates. Chris, what about your thoughts on whether or not SEOs can actually have enough time to take advantage of this and do something with their sites?
CHRIS GREEN: I think the way that you could, if you were going to, I kind of agree with Bridget, one week doesn’t leave a lot of time, but it is monitor what is going on, monitor the social, monitor the chatter, what is going out there. And if you’re going to get on top of any news or any events or anything that is particularly special around it, i.e. what other brands are doing and you want to piggy back off of, is be first to market on that kind of thing. Make use of the fact that Google will index certain tweets if you’re a high enough authority. Make use of the fact that people are watching the hashtags. The other thing to bear in mind from a content perspective most of what people consume is just videos of everyone losing their minds at supermarkets, or that’s a large part of it. I don’t know whether there is anything in that in there, but from the SEO side you’ve got to be able to be reactive and actually you’re probably going to warrant more attention on your social than anything traditionally on page because you’re doing to struggle.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. So sites may have existing content that may be ranking for related keyword phrases that could be amended slightly and perhaps you can amend that and take advantage of that and use that content optimised for Black Friday. But Chris also mentioned social there as well saying that social was probably the primary area of focus actually at the moment.
MATT HODKINSON: I think it’s got to be for this year. I think from a traditional SEO perspective, you’re looking at Black Friday 2016 now, but from a social perspective, if you get the right content, the right visual content around Black Friday in a promotional, but not promotional, way there’s got to be a creative angle, you’ve got to tie it in to something, there’s got to be real hook. So you’re going to have to get your best marketing brains on this to really draw people in. It’s not going to be about repositioning old content for sure, because that’s just not going to have the right impact. But if you’ve got strong visual content and if you can start to immerse people in what’s happening around Black Friday through visual content and video content like live streaming, apps like Periscope and Meerkat, Facebook are now rolling out live streaming as well, look at ways of reaching people in the here and now in real time, because that’s the only real way to engage people at this late stage, I think.
DAVID BAIN: And you mentioned other platforms there as well, Bridget mentioned the word integration earlier on. So it’s essential that SEOs start emphasising the importance of planning way ahead to other people in other departments within the business. Bridget, I mean, is it actually happening at the moment, where SEOs are listened to a little bit more in organisations and what can SEOs actually do to make themselves more heard?
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: I think that’s a great question. It’s something, I mean even, I’ve been at Distilled three years now, in that time when I first joined we were called SEO consultants and actually now the emphasis is on the consultant part of that and not on the SEO because more companies are recognising the importance of having the SEO knowledge and expertise as part of their broader strategy. And you can’t really do without that. In terms of how you get other teams and other people in your team on board with that, I think it’s about demonstrating the value to them and so something we talk about quite a lot is trying to sort of take the initiative and test stuff a lot. As SEOs we have a proud history of testing so is there something you can test on a small scale to sort of demonstrate to people that this project that you want to put through has value for them as well? But I would say it is already a shift that we’re seeing with my clients, with my colleagues’ clients, increasingly they are looking for us to help them with things like social, paid social promotion, email marketing, content creation, all of these things which are now part of understanding how Google works, understanding how these other technologies play into that.
DAVID BAIN: Matt, do you have any thoughts on how SEOs can go about demonstrating to social departments and other people within the marketing departments and organisations why it’s important that they think of SEO as part of what they do as well?
MATT HODKINSON: Yes. I think a CFO is probably the best person to start with. If you show the cost benefit over an inbound marketing methodology that incorporates SEO, that incorporates content, that incorporates social and the massive cost reductions in owning your traffic rather than renting it constantly from paid sources, that’s got to be the best place to start, surely? There’s quite a strong justification for this method of doing things.
DAVID BAIN: Try and focus on ROI?
MATT HODKINSON: I think so.
DAVID BAIN: Chris, is SEO dead?
CHRIS GREEN: Oh you had to ask me that one! No, short answer. I think the long answer is much more complex. Certainly it isn’t what it was and that is ultimately for the better. I think we are optimising for people searching and I think one of the biggest objects to that is our unhealthy fixation with Google. I think if we consider that everyone searching digitally for something or even offline and online and I think the search engine part, we just need to get a little bit looser with what we mean by the words search engine and actually maybe start to abandon that notion. But from the core SEO skills, so the technical on page or maybe link acquisition and how to best use those inbound linking signals. SEO will never die. I think the key for an SEO these days is a thick skin and an ability to make other people see your stand point. I think you still get a lot of friction, especially if you’re coming at it from the old SEO standpoint. I think you need to be aware that stomping your feet and demanding your way, that isn’t the way, it is integrated.
DAVID BAIN: There are obviously a few challenges. Number one some people perceive SEO as being something dark hat that you build thousands of links to a site and it may work, it may not work, it may actually get a site a penalty and then SEOs themselves, as Bridget mentioned, are generally quite data-orientated, so perhaps actually they find it challenging to justify what they do and why it’s important to the business. But SEOs are evolving and it’s nice to see them intermingling with other departments and organisations and hopefully that will happen a little bit more in the future. But let’s move on to our final topic, which is it appears that Twitter are testing lots of different emojis, but this could be a big challenge for brands if it takes off, because brands, of course, may not interact in the most appropriate manner online if they use too many emojis, or even any emojis at all. Emojis and brands, Bridget, do they actually go together at all?
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: I have very strong feelings about this.
DAVID BAIN: Good.
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: So I think the thing is I dislike strong should/should not statements when it comes to, especially social media. I think too much we try to find best practice guidelines that we’re all going to follow and that just doesn’t work. It has to be unique to your brand and your brand’s personality and your brand’s tone of voice and dependent on the idea that you have somebody working on this who understands what that personality and tone of voice is, and so the problem is a lot of brands simply see something like emoji and other memes or whatever it is, and effectively they are like me when I was three years old trying to understanding a knock knock joke. I used to make my own up, I’d go ‘Hey knock knock. Who’s there’re? Giraffe. Giraffe who? Panda. Ha ha ha’ No, that’s not what that is. And I heard someone the other day talking about the doge meme, which isn’t such a big thing anymore, but it was for a while. And they described is as all people putting random words on a picture of a dog and for some reason that’s funny. And the thing is that’s not what that is. There is a way that people use it, it’s very specific, it’s an inside joke. If you don’t understand it and you try to make a joke, it’s not funny, it’s awkward. So you don’t want to be the little kid trying to make a joke he doesn’t understand the structure of. You don’t want to be parent trying to be the cool dad and trying to make the kid references. But if it fits with your brand personality, with the tone of voice and if you have someone who actually knows how to speak in that way, as a normal person would, then it can be very effective.
DAVID BAIN: But no to brand, big brand guidelines?
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: Sorry?
DAVID BAIN: No to big brand guidelines? Basically no to big documents actually stipulating exactly the phraseology that’s appropriate and the emojis that are appropriate for a brand to use online?
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: That’s a tricky one because the bigger the company the more need there is for some sort of structure like that. I think, what I’m thinking of is when we have articles that go out and there’s a big headline that says ‘New study finds that the best time to tweet is between 4 and 8 pm on a weeknight’ and so often my clients come and they say we want you to give us some social media guidelines for when we should tweet, what we should tweet, what we should say. That’s not best practice guidelines. That is a strategy. And there is a difference. So the best practice guidelines might be something like ‘Our tone of voice is this, try not to be negative, try not to insult people, we do use swearing lightly or we don’t or things like that’ like the hard rules, but I don’t like the idea of going in a saying ‘Okay, we never use emoji or we always use emoji’ because unless the person knows what they’re doing, it just comes up as forced and strange and people don’t engage with it.
DAVID BAIN: Matt, I can see you shaking your head there. Is that because you disagree with what Bridget was saying?
MATT HODKINSON: No, not at all, I agree wholeheartedly. But I’ve had this thing about brand guidelines when it comes to social, social media guidelines within organisations. Why do they feel the need one for social media but not for the telephone or for a conversation around the water cooler? It’s as if this is some magic r that isn’t just people talking to each other or talking on a mass scale and I realise the difference between private conversations and broadcast, and there is an inherent risk, but if you have to implement those kind of guidelines, you’ve got a much, much bigger problem and that’s in the HR department. It turns out you’re recruiting stupid people! If you recruit people on the basis of common sense and attitude, then you shouldn’t really have these issues. I can’t talk about emojis, I sat down here with nothing to say on this topic. I’m too old and I can use a winky face on Twitter and get an injunction against me, so its….
DAVID BAIN: Chris, have you got nothing to say about this subject as well?
CHRIS GREEN: Slightly more to say. I think the difficulty with the emoji is it’s how ubiquitous it would become with brands is how ubiquitous it would be among the brands’ audiences. I don’t use them and they confuse me. I don’t get them and I don’t want to risk being the one that tells the joke and just gets it blatantly wrong. I struggle to think of any accountant who will find the right emoji for them that their audience are going to chime in on, certainly not at the moment. Where emojis evolve to and where that goes may change things, but by that point we will probably have moved on to something else. There will be brands that can use it, and there will be brands that use it successfully at the moment, but I think unless you’re McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or someone really, really big I think you’re going to struggle to find a place for it. And I think you might risk looking really disingenuous if you try because failing is going to be so easy at that kind of thing.
DAVID BAIN: Well, I reckon that just about takes us to the end of this week’s show. So just time for a single take away from our guests, so if you could just think about something actionable that people could take away and implement in their businesses for what we’ve discussed and then after just finish with confirming who you are and where you’re from. So shall we start off with Bridget?
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: Sure, so I guess the thing that strikes me as a common theme with all of these topics that we’ve been talking about. It’s one that keeps coming up more, for me anyway in my work, and it’s around just really understand your audience. So not just the general market research, but actually like do you understand who these people are? And why they come to you? And what they’re hoping to get from that? Because everything else comes out of that. What you optimise for for search, how you, for instance with Black Friday, how you are going to reactivate them when the land on your site and you want to bring them back or how you interact with them on social media, it all comes down to do you actually understand who these people are? How they communicate and what they want to hear from you?
DAVID BAIN: Lovely thanks. And just confirming where you’re from.
BRIDGET RANDOLPH: Oh, sorry. I’m Bridget Randolph. I’m a consultant at Distilled.
DAVID BAIN: Thank you. And also with us today was Chris.
CHRIS GREEN: So I think the greatest take away from me is the whole are you meeting the need side? So it feeds into your need to know what those needs are, but I think not enough people focus or are honest enough with themselves about whether what they’re doing and what they’re building meets the needs of the people using it. And I think if that underpins everything that you do, it’s ultimately something that it’s so much easier to say that it is to do in practice and that’s why many people do fall short, but not enough people still aren’t thinking at that level. And coming from the, I’ve done SEO for years and that’s taken a change in me to getting myself thinking that way as well, but I think it is so crucial and if you are a stickler for the algorithm and playing to Google’s game, well this is evidence enough that that is coming for you as well, so you do need to get on-board. I’m Chris Green and I’m from StrategiQ Marketing. It has been great to be here.
DAVID BAIN: Thanks, Chris. And also with us was Matt.
MATT HODKINSON: So I would say building on a couple of the things we’ve discussed today, especially the natural language search and just content marketing in general and SEO. It’s all around, for me, providing informative educational content, non-promotional, that attracts people to you in an inbound way and when you do that the natural language is to question, is to query and that way you’ll attract more people. Thank you very much. I’ve been Matt Hodkinson, CEO Influence Agents.
DAVID BAIN: And I’m David Bain, head of growth at Analytics SEO, the agency and enterprise SEO platform with big insights. Sign up for a free demo of our platform at www.authoritas.com. Now, if you’re watching or listening to the show as a recording, remember to watch the next episode live, so head over to thisweekinorganic.com and be part of the next live audience. But for those of you watching live and in the live audience, we also have the audio podcast of previous shows, so again sign up to email updates at www.thisweekinorganic.com and you’ll receive the podcast info from there. But until we see you again, have a fantabulous rest of Thursday and thank you all for joining us. Thank you Bridget, thanks Chris and thank you Matt. It’s been a great show.
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.