This is the thirty-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 we discuss whether or not Google is judging you based on a template, whether LinkedIn is starting to be a significant traffic driver again, and whether or not Twitter’s outage affected you. And much more!
Transcript of the show
DAVID BAIN: Are SEOs focusing on the wrong areas? Can paid advertising impact SEO and how will Facebook new emoticons impact content marketing?
All that and more in This Week in Organic Episode Number 33.
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. Click on the tweet or the post buttons to the top left-hand side to share your thoughts on this show with other people, with your followers and tell us what you think in the comments to the right-hand side. 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 James.
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: Sure. Thank you very much for having me on the show. My name is James Loomstein, I’m Managing Partner of Rogue Marketing. We are located in Dallas, Texas and we’re a digital strategy agency. We work mostly with high growth business oriented mid-size brands.
DAVID BAIN: Wonderful. Okay. And any particular topic that’s caught your eye over the last week or so that warrants discussion today, do you think James?
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: One of the things that you talked about and sent out is around targeting for SEOs and where we’re spending a lot of our time and attention. So I think attention is probably one of the biggest things where we need to focus our effort and I think the other thing we need to talk about is AI, voice search, I think is a big thing for 2016 and then one of the things that you also talked about was the new guidelines of Google webmaster tools.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, wonderful. Yes, there are different types of SEOs out there, but I guess the question is whether technical SEOs need to understand business strategy a little bit more in the future or whether they can get away with just being technical SEOs?
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: Exactly, and I don’t want to take away from everybody else’s time, and I think that we are coming to a fundamental shift between technical SEOs and how data and developers used to just do data and development and now it’s becoming about marketing and there’s a big difference between being a developer and being a marketer. That line in the sand is becoming incredibly evident.
DAVID BAIN: Yes, absolutely. And I think that particular topic actually, we could probably discuss for an hour by itself. But we’ll try to cover it in ten minutes or so, but we’ll see how we do. And also joining us today is Marcin.
MARCIN CHIROWSKI: Hello. Thanks for inviting me, it’s great to be here. I always like [unclear – 0:03:09.4] for this job in the past ten years, involved in different projects, mostly in-house so at the moment I’m an in-house marketer, SEO for about nine years I would say moving on to content [unclear – 0:03:28.4] here I am, it’s nice to be here.
DAVID BAIN: Wonderful and what particular topic over the last week or so that has happened has caught your eye, Marcin?
MARCIN CHIROWSKI: There was an interesting article, actually on Search Engine Land [unclear –0:03:45.3] and that article actually was going through all the major Google updates, like Panda, Penguin, all the crazy animals, mobile update and all the other ones and basically it was how they impacted the search landscape. The conclusion really was if you want to stay ahead you should focus on quality and user experience. That’s what we’re going to hear over and over again, because that’s kind of what it’s going through and you just clearly see what the updates are just doing to us as an industry, it’s just shifting them [unclear – 0:04:25.4] so that’s kind of got my attention this week and actually quite like that one also.
DAVID BAIN: Great, okay. Well more topics to discuss there. And some more people joining us, nice to see Bill Hunt joining us as well, so welcome Bill. And also with us today is Gary. Hi Gary.
GARY TAYLOR: Hi everybody. Thanks for having me today. My name’s Gary Taylor, I’m the Digital Director of an agency called TMWI and we’re based in Stratford-upon-Avon in the UK and we’ve got offices in London. The majority of my time is spent consulting to large FMCG groups search as Nestlé, Purina and Heineken at a UK and European level and a major part of that is organic search and SEO which is actually my background. I think a couple of things that I’m interested in that have been going on recently are the Search Engine Watch article around are SEOs focusing on the wrong areas? And I love how artificial intelligence is going to impact on SEO and the recent BBC article on that. I’ve got a few opinions of my own there, but particularly with focusing on the wrong areas, I think SEOs do get very carried away with the technical SEO side of it and being very textbook and abiding to Google’s guidelines, yet miss some of the very fundamentals of marketing. And we pair that with traditional marketing. A lot of the methodologies used to find audiences and where their interests lie and how you can create great content to those audiences, almost ignoring all SEO best practices, which actually do benefit the SEO process as part of it. So there are two things I want to particularly talk on today.
DAVID BAIN: Lovely. You mentioned strong opinions, strong opinions are certainly encouraged and hopefully opposing opinions are encouraged. It’s always interesting to have opposing opinions on here. But moving on with the first topic today, and that’s an article published yesterday by Dave Lloyd on Search Engine Watch explored whether SEOs were focusing too much time on technical issues instead of helping to build business strategy that works from an SEO perspective. So, James, are the large part of SEOs focusing a little bit too much on the technical side of things these days?
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: I think the technical SEOs, they have a role to play. They have an opinion and they understand something that marketers don’t get and how websites work, how the IT side works and that’s important. But one thing they don’t get and don’t understand is attention. And the consumer behaviour side and so they are a part of the solution, not the solution overall. And how they can interact together and work with that side of the equation, I think is probably more important now than it was before. So when SEOs were coming into the equation five years ago, ten years ago, they would walk up to a business owner or a brand and say, ‘Hey, I can get you to the top of search results’ and I would go in and I would add some keywords and I would add some links and that would happen. But now we live in an attention world and we live in a [unclear – 0:07:51.4] economy and that’s not necessarily the case. And what’s more important is being the right [unclear – 0:07:57.1] and what’s more important is solving consumers’ [unclear – 0:08:01.5] and so just ranking number one isn’t going to solve that problem and just ranking number one isn’t going to get someone over the edge and I think technical SEOs don’t necessarily always understand that.
DAVID BAIN: Wonderful. We are getting a bit of an echo from you there, James. Just a thought actually, that can sometimes happen if you have two Blab windows open. Do you want to just check, just in case you’ve got two windows open on your browser, that could be…
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: Is that better?
DAVID BAIN: Yes, it is, yes. I was just trying to troubleshoot it in my head there and resolve that. So a wonderful point there. Gary, what’s your answer on this particular topic.
GARY TAYLOR: I’m completely in agreement with James there, don’t get me wrong, technical SEO is a massive part of what we do and it’s a very important part of SEO, and it’s that kind of bedrock towards any good rankings, but SEOs in general get very caught up with rankings themselves and with Google extending its products far beyond just listing rankings, I think people who focus on being number one are going to experience a downfall in the coming months or years. I think their content certainly needs to be planned better. People spend a very, very short period of time on Google during their general day to day browsing day or week and a good SEO should be looking at, if we go back to how the basics of what SEO stands for, it’s search engine optimisation and Google, Yahoo, Bing they invent traditional search engines and don’t actually command the attention span of consumers. There are a lot of social platforms where people are still searching that also need to be considered. And then you’ve got things like Amazon and e-commerce search – the vast majority, there was a statistic in The Wall Street Journal in the US, 46% of all users will go to Amazon first before going to Google when searching for a product. And I question how many brands, particularly in the UK, have considered how their e-commerce search should look and tying that up with paid efforts and their overall media efforts as well. So I think people can get very, very caught up on Google and what Google says and Google’s guidelines, but actually there are lot of common sense approaches and Andy Halliday actually notes in the feed a minute ago and said, ‘SEO is simple – as long as your website is technically set up, it’s about offering great user experience and great useful content to meet their needs’. That’s absolutely right, but on what platforms do you do that? And how is your consumer searching for your content? They may not be thinking of your brand when they wake up in the morning, they may not be thinking of your keywords when they wake up in the morning, yet you’ve still got to engender that process and create the need to search.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely.
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: [unclear – 0:11:17.5] it might have been that five, ten, fifteen years ago, right, there are thousands of channels. People are making hundreds of decisions, people are hit with 5,000 different messages every single day. They have two or three different devices upon them, they have four or five different influence areas between Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and YouTube, so they are everywhere and if you’re a brand, you have to decide which one is the right one for you to be on. If you’re going after teenagers, is Google the right platform and channel for you to be on? Versus if you’re totally e-commerce, Amazon is probably you best bet to be on.
DAVID BAIN: And of course you can SEO on third party platforms as well.
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: Optimising [unclear – 0:12:02.9] is way more important than optimising for Google.
GARY TAYLOR: I think in the UK, Google’s search share is 88% / 89% or something like that, so it’s quite skewed, whereas in the US it’s probably not so much, maybe 60% / 70% market share. So I think certainly the UK can lead by where the US is at the moment in terms of e-commerce search, but I think you’re absolutely right, James, brands need to understand where their place is and know if it’s more of an e-commerce play, then Google may not necessarily be that initial playground to go after. I’m not dismissing it all together, because it still makes up a huge amount of search volume each month, depending on the search terms, but I don’t think SEO needs to be the be all and end all of keyword rankings.
DAVID BAIN: I’m always a little bit wary of Google’s advice as a whole when it comes to digital marketing. I really love their phrase moments that matter. I think that’s a lovely phrase actually creating moments that matter that are relevant to that particular moment in time for that particular user. Marcin, are SEOs in general focusing on the wrong areas at the moment?
MARCIN CHIROWSKI: I think [unclear – 0:13:20.4] chasing the wrong things [unclear – 0:13:38.6] trick us into thinking that’s actually what’s going on in search [unclear – 0:13:46.9] strategy thinking [unclear – 0:13:52.7] and also looking at [unclear – 0:13:57.0] For me SEO is always like a process, it’s not like an event, this is very true for marketing as well in general. It’s not a single action [unclear – 0:14:17.3] and that’s very true also in what Gary was saying earlier [unclear – 0:14.22.8] move on and [unclear – 0:14:30.2] and look at the big picture.
DAVID BAIN: Yes, absolutely. I like that phrase SEO as a process. But do you think, though, Marcin, that too many conventional marketers, perhaps, still think that SEO is a case of you do SEO and then it’s done and then you can actually go and focus on other things after that?
MARCIN CHIROWSKI: Absolutely. I’ve seen this all the time, so basically you’ve got marketing teams that are going, ‘Oh this SEO stuff, we’re just going to put some keywords and links [unclear – 0:14:59.2] What’s really scary is basically we know all this stuff, as SEO people we all know this stuff, but what about the stakeholders [unclear – 0:15:13.2] They are still thinking in 2009 where it was links, links, links, that’s what SEO should be doing. Pretty much like we should [unclear – 0:15:31.5] pay our bills [unclear – 0:15:41.6]
DAVID BAIN: Okay. Well let’s move on to topic number two, which is…
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: Can I just say one last thing on that before we move on?
DAVID BAIN: Of course you can.
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: Well I think links are important and I think putting time, energy, effort and resources are important to SEO, but backing that up with some sort of paid media effort is incredibly important and one thing I think is important for brands and companies to understand is that if you’re out there and you’re a mid-size company or you’re a mid-size brand and you are trying to rank for term, and you want to be number three out of 18 million, that is really, really hard now. That is more difficult than probably ever before. So if you’re Procter & Gamble or Coca-Cola or Honda or Pepsi, it’s not really that hard. In fact if all those companies gave up on marketing tomorrow, they would still sell Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, people would still buy Pampers and Tide and the world would still go on. But if you’re not those companies, like everyone not in the Fortune 500, you still have marketing that you have to do. And so those companies, when they just sit there and say, ‘We’re just going to not do paid media and we’re just going to put on links and put up content and we’re going to rank number one in organic’ that is not going to happen. It is definitely becoming a pay to play platform everywhere. The last time I checked all these companies are publically traded and so the amount of space that is happening for organic inside Google is shrinking. And so when you’re trying to be number three out of 18 million versus ranking for the paid listing, you have to start really understanding how much paid is impacting, which I know is one of our topics, but how much paid is impacting [unclear – 0:17:38.3] and how much that you have to have a paid placement strategy to go along with the organic.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. As you mentioned, we’re going to be exploring the topic can it actually be possible to impact organic results using paid media? So that will be an interesting question just to explore just in a little bit, but first of all I’d like to go into the fact that Google have achieved an AI breakthrough. They’ve used an artificial intelligence programme to beat the European champion at the Chinese game Go. If you saw our 2016 predictions show, Michael Fleischner said to watch out for AI over the coming year. So how is AI going to impact SEO? Well we know that RankBrain is already a significant part of Google’s algorithm. I see you’re nodding you head away there, Gary, have you got initial thoughts on this?
GARY TAYLOR: Yeah. I don’t think we’re going to see any initial changes to the SERPs, I don’t think visually they’ll look any different. I think it’s going to be some time before Google changes its traditional listings page. However RankBrain to me seems like a natural extension or a natural development of the ye olde page rank metrics, which, you look at page rank metrics of ten years ago it was, ‘Oh look, we’ve got a number of variables that we look at to ascertain how authoritative your site is and if you tick most of those boxes, then we’re going to reward you with some good rankings.’ And, yes, in some cases that was skewed to the amount of links that you had or the amount of whatever and the keywords that you had in your copy and stuff like that. And it was a very raw way of doing it, whereas RankBrain is essentially taking on some sort of machine learning. I don’t know what level Google have got that to yet, to be able to understand semantic search a lot better, understand the queries that people are actually putting into Google and I think where it’s going to benefit is probably more informational sites to begin with. So for example we deal with Purina Pet Care where ranking for best cat good is actually right at the bottom of their priority, because they distribute via retailers in the UK, Amazon, specialist pet food suppliers and stuff like that. However, when you’re searching for health related terms, like a trigger moment where your dog might go into the vet and he’s got a skin condition or something really random like that – that’s probably a really bad example – but you’re actually asking Google, you’re searching to find out, ‘Why is my dog ill? Why has my dog got dry skin?’ or whatever then it’s having Google understand that and the query you’re actually asking and then returning results that are relevant to your search query and that’s not something you can do with a manual list of page rank attributes and that’s where machine learning, things like latent dirichlet allocation or LDA as other people may know from five or six years ago, were the fundamentals of where Google is taking that now. I saw some crazy infographic in the middle of last year and, I don’t know whether it was the amount of server farms, I can’t remember the metric that it was, but it was the amount of data that Facebook has versus Amazon versus Google. Facebook was in second, with 150,000 data centres, something like that. Google was miles ahead with over a million. I’d love to have had it to be able to share it with you guys, but it just showed the vast knowledge base that Google has. It’s far beyond any competitor’s and they are absolutely going to use that in their algorithm and that’s why I think the initial stages of RankBrain, that’s where it will go. At some point I think it will end up involving the SERPs to show a very, very different layout to what we’re used to now. This top ten is almost a waste of time. You could probably argue being in fifth position or lower on paid search is a waste of time and being in the bottom half of the first page and certainly on the second page is a waste of time. So why have, like James was saying, 18 million results when really you’re only actually competing against ten. You know, if you’re…
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: If you’re a small brand, less [unclear – 0:22:02.8]
GARY TAYLOR: Yes, and if you get Knowledge Graph as an answer on a mobile device, that takes…
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: Oh, you just stole my thunder!
GARY TAYLOR: Sorry.
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: That was my response. Knowledge Graph was my answer.
GARY TAYLOR: Yeah and it’s that kind of real estate, Google are a business, they want to own that real estate, they want to get you into that and they want to sell you advertising space. That’s why they’re there, that’s why search exists. And it’s still, what 98%
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: [unclear – 0:22:27.6]
GARY TAYLOR: 98% of their revenue, right. And until that dynamic shifts, changes from if they start monetising something else, search is still going to be a huge part of their business and therefore delivering better results and integrating things like machine learning into their algorithm is absolutely where they’re going to go and SEOs are going to have to get with that or lose out, essentially.
DAVID BAIN: I love your point about the top ten results, number ten being arbitrary really, because it’s just the fact that it’s a nice round number, but it doesn’t make any sense really. James, what are your thoughts in terms of how AI is likely to impact how the SERPs are actually displayed over the next few months, year or so?
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: Well the follow-up I had was Knowledge Graph and impact on SERPs and so if you take peoples’ search behaviour and the way they look for information and you compare static information to search terms where they might be looking to solve a particular problem or answer a particular question, so if you take, ‘What’s best for my pet?’ or, ‘My child is sick’ or, ‘What’s the spread on the Denver Broncos v. Carolina Panthers super bowl game?’ right, those are knowledge based answers. And so when people are asking those questions, they’re going to Google. It’s great for Google, because they’re on the Google platform. It’s bad for the websites that they would have ultimately gone to, so NFL.com, the WebMD, the Petco.com, the PetSmart; all those other ancillary websites that would have either made money from advertisers or made money by buying products are almost not necessarily needed any more, because all their answers or all their consumers’ questions are being answered right there. And so if you’re a brand or a company, you don’t [unclear – 0:24:40.1] If you’re Google you love it, because everything is happening inside of your platform.
GARY TAYLOR: But do you think that that would mean that people are going to measure, or that SEOs should start measuring, success based on impressions the same way that media would be traded? Like display advertising, maybe PPC, but certainly TV, radio and press, rather than, ‘I’m driving x amount of clicks through to the website from this keyword’. A new measurement of this is surely going to be, ‘Well look, you’re getting scale on x amount of impressions or x amount of reach within Google’ almost the same as you would measure reach within Facebook or reach on Twitter?
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: True, but scale impressions are only relative to the fact that they create engagement.
GARY TAYLOR: Yes, absolutely.
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: If the Knowledge Graph response of, ‘My child is sick’ and, ‘What medicine shall I give them?’ is, and I know it’s a horrible thing on Knowledge Graph, but if that answer is given on Google and that creates a response and an answer and a click and an engagement, then that’s a success and I would take that over I saw a banner ad and that’s an impression. That is engagement [unclear – 0:25:56.6] that’s a win to me.
DAVID BAIN: If you look at the Twitter results at the moment, obviously you can keep on scrolling, never ending results there and the same might happen to Google in the future, so it’s quite likely that obviously the results at the bottom will have an impression, but not have much chance of a click at all.
GARY TAYLOR: Absolutely. And I don’t think you can put a price on getting impressions and if you’re constantly seen within a certain area, let’s take child health care for example and you’re constantly coming up answering questions and even if people aren’t clicking on your actual listing, people are making that association with your brand, then it’s almost the same as advertising on TV or general advertising principles are get out there in front of a number of eyeballs, get brand awareness and that could be driving people into store, getting your brand recognition out there. So I think there is also a play for those smaller companies and I know, James, you were saying it is actually becoming harder for companies to get into the top results, which I absolutely agree on. I was having a conversation with a colleague earlier about the exact same thing. But if smaller companies can be seen as an authority in a particular niche and are getting, through good technical SEO, through good content, they are getting Knowledge Graph visibility, which a lot of big brands aren’t actually getting and you’ll find that Knowledge Graph can pick someone who is in third or fourth position because it has got a much more relevant answer, regardless of it being the number one listing. And I think there is an opportunity there for smaller brands to get on board with that and use it as almost like a way of advertising. I would bet my bottom Dollar that in a few years Google doesn’t try and monetise Knowledge Graph with some sort of banner advertising or some sort of sponsored Knowledge Graph.
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: And the smaller companies can probably move further faster with optimising for Knowledge Graph, because the bigger companies, it takes them six weeks to get a link changed on their big CMS system of 5 million pages, whereas a small company can go in and impact their Wikipedia listings and impact their listings that they have on large authoritative domains and impact things that impact Knowledge Graph. And so they should. WebMD and if you can impact those things that impact Knowledge Graph, that is what small, mid-size companies should be doing.
DAVID BAIN: Again, we’re having a conversation that could go on for half an hour or so, but let’s try and cover all the topics that we were going to cover and topic number three is Dawn Anderson, a great guest on TWIO a couple of weeks ago, informed me this morning that Google had just updated their webmaster guidelines again. But what’s changed and is this something that most SEOs should be paying attention to? Let’s go to Marcin first this time. Marcin, when was the last time that you actually went and had a look at the Google webmaster guidelines?
MARCIN CHIROWSKI: Good question, good question. I might be wrong here, but I don’t think there is anything they have changed and the same thing that [unclear – 0:29:15.2] paying attention to, but also [unclear – 0:29:17.9] we should be looking at like the findings and the [unclear – 0:29:25.4] that we actually have ourselves and not necessarily listening to what Google are selling us, because what they are [unclear – 0:29:33.6] general obvious things that [unclear – 0:29:38.0] not much information it’s more [unclear – 0:29:43.6] here is the stuff that we would consider [unclear – 0:29:46.2] because the guidelines they’ve given us are just so vague [unclear – 0:30:08.7]
DAVID BAIN: Essentially it’s build a technically sound site and focus on your users.
MARCIN CHIROWSKI: Pretty much. And they don’t give up much and they never did, so I don’t expect them to [unclear – 0:3018.8]
DAVID BAIN: Gary, do Google webmaster guidelines actually offer value to SEOs starting out?
GARY TAYLOR: Yes, I think so, to some extent. I think if you have a very 101 knowledge of SEO then yes, it absolutely does. I don’t know if any of you have been in the same position where you’re trying to find an answer and you trawl through their webmaster guidelines and you can’t find it and then you end up on the Google forum and it’s people asking the same question over and over again and you end up just not finding the answer via Google, you end up going to another SEO blog or another agency’s blog or another authoritative blog where someone has been through that, done some sort of a test, shown some sort of result or that they’ve had that situation before. I don’t feel they add a huge amount of value, because a lot of it is, ‘Yes, so what – we’ve got to create nice content’. Well everybody knowns that, but how do you go about that? What does really work? Yes I need a technically sound site, but what does that actually mean?’ Because it means a lot, lot more than just what’s in Google’s standard guidelines. And I think the nuances that you find, particularly with new development methods and things like that, it doesn’t go into enough detail.
DAVID BAIN: Yes, I think there was an article in Search Engine Journal to say that it had been updated and that effectively all it said was one of the things that Google are doing on the page, using an accordion style to actually display content…
GARY TAYLOR: Which they recommend against!
DAVID BAIN: James, any thoughts on this one?
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: Just to echo pretty much I guess what we’ve been talking about already. The only thing I would say is Google is a part of the strategy, it’s an ongoing process. It’s not like when people went to medical school or became a CPA. When you’re 18 you go to medical school and you go through it, you go to college, go to medical school, at the end they’re like, ‘You’re a doctor and here you go’ and you always go back to this one resource and you look up and everything you know is in this book and Google is just this ongoing [unclear – 0:32:46.9] it just always keeps iterating and they just keep, they’re not making up the rules as they go along, they just keep making up new things and they are always innovating and finding new ways of doing things and they keep building and we keep building and they’re just trying to make information accessible and they’re trying to outwit and outlast their competitors, their Facebook, their Microsoft, their Yahoo etc. So I think they put guidelines out and we should follow those guidelines and we should cooperate and I also think that it’s the wisdom of crowds. Of everybody else here trying to find out what works best, but sitting here trying to rely on Google and what’s in their piece of paper to help your clients’ rank is probably a recipe for disaster.
DAVID BAIN: Well talking about Google’s SERP and the way it displays, coming up we’re going to be talking about whether or not Google should be playing politics with its search results, whether paid advertising can impact SEO and how, if at all, Facebook’s emoticons might impact content marketing. But first of all good to see a few comments out there. We’ve got a comment from Stephanie there saying, ‘Being able to narrow your focus for stronger conversations is an effective strategy. Roll that success into a larger market.’ So keep the comments coming in relation to the conversation that’s going in and I’ll try and read out as much as I can there. But moving on to topic number four, which is US presidential candidates will have an opportunity to publish directly to Google search results as a special content card. But is this what Google users really want? Should Google actually be playing politics with its search results? I feel that I have to come to James…
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: Please don’t let me speak for all Americans! [unclear – 0:34:35.1] of the people who are running for the Republican ticket, let’s just get that out of the way. I am not representative of some members who are running on the Republican ticket, number one. Number two for Google to be involved, they’ve been involved in politics dating back to, Obama was the first, well that was the first election that really involved the internet, really because iPhone came out in ’07, ’08 was the first presidential election that really connected the economy, iPhone, Facebook etc. So if you remember back then, YouTube was involved a little bit in ’08, mostly in ’12 and now again in 2016. So Google is a media company, much the same as Fox and CNN and MSNBC, they are all media companies. And if this is an opportunity for Google to be in front and sell more advertising and help placement, that’s what everyone else does and they are influencing decisions no more the same than CNN is influencing or Fox is influencing.
GARY TAYLOR: Do you think Google though can play a truly politically agnostic role? Whereas someone, I mean I don’t know the kind of political stance of media owners in the US. In the UK, for example, a newspaper like The Daily Telegraph would be a very Conservative newspaper, whereas The Sun maybe very Labour, and they’re the two biggest parties out there. Whereas, would Fox News be more Republican or Democrat? And would their reporting be more biased? So where does Google sit? I’m a big believer than every media owner has their own agenda and yes, okay, they want to please the people, but as you said, they are a media company at the end of the day and it would be interesting to understand where their bias actually lies.
DAVID BAIN: Marcin, would you feel that there’s danger here of Google being perceived as becoming less impartial and perhaps that endangering the trust that they may have as this big search conglomerate?
MARCIN CHIROWSKI: Politics is a weird game, this is not the territory that I’m into, but certainly Google is, like James mentioned, a media company [unclear – 0:37:34.0] biased to any of those candidates, but it’s also not surprising for Google to actually come up with this, because we’ve seen it happening all the time with the universal search, with Google answers, we have Google [unclear – 0:38:01.8] information. I think James mentioned this earlier, they just want the users to stay in the search engine so basically it’s just to show that we playing in [unclear – 0:38:13.6] it’s not surprising for me. So probably they will keep doing this far and beyond the different [unclear – 0:38:31.0]
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: If Goole isn’t doing this Republican debate last night, then Yahoo is and if Yahoo isn’t doing it then Facebook is. Somebody is stepping in and sponsoring or participating or whatever it is you want to call it as a media outlet or as an on-line media outlet within this presidential election.
DAVID BAIN: You don’t have any slight concerns that Google has so much power, James, that it could perhaps subtly favour one candidate over the other and perhaps even influence the result at the end of the day because of that?
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: They have an amazing amount of power, but the same amount of power that Facebook has and Fox News has. I mean media companies in America are incredibly influential. Rupert Murdoch and CNN, I mean American media is run by four companies only, they own everything. And Google is a media company. Every brand is a media company, every company is a media company. Suffice to say that it would be somebody, if it’s not them, it’s somebody.
GARY TAYLOR: Don’t you love, though, the functionality…[unclear – 0:39:51.1]
DAVID BAIN: We’re having a bit of an issue with your sound there James, would you mind refreshing your screen and coming back in again.
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: Is that better?
DAVID BAIN: Yes, I think that is better. Now I can hear an echo of myself actually. Everyone’s wearing their headphones as well? Let’s move on to the next topic which is Facebook will be turning 12 next week and it’s just posted revenues of US$5.8 million in its last quarter. But can paid advertising impact SEO? Gary, what are your thoughts on this one?
GARY TAYLOR: This is such a debatable subject. This comes back to Google as a media owner. A couple of years ago Interflora, a big flower company in the UK, got banned for buying links across a number of news publication websites, 180 odd paid links or whatever it was for next day flower delivery of exact match text link or whatever it happened to be. And Google penalised them between February and March, so essentially between Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day – which of course for a flower company are massive periods. It was probably one of the quickest retractions of a penalty of that size that I’ve ever seen and I’ve got no doubt in my mind that there will have been conversations high up in both organisations to say, ‘Hey, we’re spending a whole load of money with you guys, this needs to be sorted’. Now of course Google is never going to come out and say that in their webmaster guidelines, it’s never going to say, ‘Spend loads of money with us and we’re going to give you some preference’. However, by definition of a brand being a brand and having large budgets, would mean that you are seen more often, particularly with media coverage or stuff like that, which by definition you’re going to get more social shares, you’re going to get more links naturally and therefore you would benefit from that organically. If you had a few million Dollars to spend on PPC and did nothing else and that was the only thing you did to build your brand, I’m sure that your organic rankings would increase as long as your website was technically sound. I don’t think there is any particular bias on it, but I just think the definition of being able to spend a lot on paid search defines you as being a decent size brand and therefore you’re going to have relatively good rankings anyway. I suppose there is also, if you look at the softer metrics as well, if more people are visiting your site and there is a lower bounce rate, greater time on sites and all those soft metrics in analytics, again although Google doesn’t say, ‘Oh, if you’ve got better engagement in Google Analytics then we’re going to reward you more’ but I’m sure all of that is a contributing factor. It’s a common sense approach.
DAVID BAIN: It was an interesting train of thought that you actually took us down initially with the Interflora conversation about whether or not brands that have bigger purchasing troughs could actually, perhaps, through relationships and conversations at higher levels impact things. But I was thinking initially more down where you went secondly with the amount of traffic that you drive to a website, improved user signals and the result that has on social shares and potentially links after that as well. What about yourself, James, do you think that paid can, in the long run, have a decent impact on SEO?
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: I think to Gary’s point, if you’re spending a lot of money on paid media on a continual basis, not just a one off like you did a campaign and then you stopped, but if you have a continual paid media effort, ongoing, of substantial size, then you are probably a large company, which means you have a large website with lots of pages, lots of traffic, lots of referral sources, and then inherently you have a large pool of pages that Google can see versus a small company, 500,000 pages, no real authority, compared to the large brands and their space that’s trying to rank number three out of 18 million. I just think it’s a tougher hill to climb. Everybody thinks that the small, little company and the small, little website is going to compete against the big global company and just like in life and just like everything else, it’s really, really hard and everybody wants to have the 30 second spot in the super bowl and not everybody can. And everybody wants to be at the top of Google’s organic listings and not everybody can. Everybody wants to have the prime time television spot on TV and you can’t. Only a couple of people can and why would it be any different on NBC or Fox or CBS which are outlets that people go to for information? Why would that be any different than showing up on Google? How are those two, they’re the same. I’m going for information, I’m going for access, why would people think it’s free to rank on Google and to be number three for information, why do they not expect the same thing if they want to be on the super bowl for people to see their information?
DAVID BAIN: Talking about the super bowl, I also was reading this week that a lot of big brands are advertising on Snapchat during the super bowl as well and it could be quite interesting to see how that pans out. Because that is certainly a social platform that’s hockey sticking at the moment.
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: If you’re listening to Gary Vaynerchuk [unclear – 0:46:07.2]
GARY TAYLOR: He must have shares in Snapchat.
DAVID BAIN: Marcin, what are your thoughts on this particular topic? Paid advertising, can that potentially have any significant impact on SEO?
MARCIN CHIROWSKI: Absolutely, yes. I would definitely agree with what you guys said earlier [unclear – 0:46:29.3] day to day operation, we had a site that actually would be supported by the paid channels. You can actually see there a nice correlation between the actual [unclear – 0:46:52.0] any other content media you put it out there and you try [unclear – 0:46:50.4] it’s kind of you can actually see the page showing up higher and higher as more money is being thrown at it. Because of course first of all you’ve got more visitors to that particular site who you potentially would not get organically straight away and also you’re getting more signals and potentially could be getting more links so of course it’s absolutely [unclear – 0:47:19.3] like James previously mentioned which [unclear – 0:47:26.5] practically yes and I’ve seen it actually in [unclear – 0:47:34.6] recently we started promoting much more on Facebook and driving people to the site and we were seeing a good correlation between actual social signals and how that plays in the actual rankings.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, it’s great to see lots of SEOs joining us here on this live Blab, Andreas is on, Chris Young is on there as well. Matthew Courts and Lee Sodden are one, Stephanie Ketcher is on there as well. And of course we’ve got a few regular visitors like Andrew Halliday joining us as well. So thanks for coming on, we’re live here every Friday at 4 o’clock UK time and also 11 o’clock east coast USA time. But we’re just about on to the last topic today, which actually is it’s official, Facebook are replacing its like button with a set of several emoticons, including love, wow, sad and angry. But is playing with their special like recipe for success going to actually be a recipe for the future? I’m trying to have a look to see who seems to be excited about this particular topic. We’ll go for Marcin first on this one. What are your thoughts on this one?
MARCIN CHIROWSKI: It’s interesting change for Facebook but the like button itself, there is just no match and it’s like if you don’t like something there is just so much that is not likeable at all. So if they are going to introduce a whole lot of different type of engagement you can have, what’s it going to give us as a marketer overall? It’s better understanding what that [unclear – 0:49:18.8] engaging with and that’s going to give us more insights. So as part of the Google insights as well, well Facebook insights, you can actually check what sort of engagement people are having and what type of engagement they’re having. So we’re going to potentially have going forward to the next step is more meaningful interaction [unclear – 0:49:43.1] so that’s going to influence the [unclear – 0:49:50.6] which is what we should be gaining and that would probably give us nice interesting insights. So I’ll probably look at it this way, from my point of view, from a user point of view, it’s for them to decide.
DAVID BAIN: So Gary is this for an improved user experience, or is it for advertisers?
GARY TAYLOR: I think it’s both. You can’t have it good for advertisers if it’s not good for user experience. I always find it frustratingly easy, if something bad happens and you put a Facebook status, I don’t know, if you’ve had a death in the family for example, sounds really morbid, but you have a death in the family and you put a Facebook message on there, the only thing you can do is like it. That’s not a great thing and I think a like button, yes, is a sign of approval, it can be a sign of sympathy, it can be a sign of whatever, but it doesn’t really determine exactly what you’re thinking about that article or piece of content or that status or that brand and I think that being able to split that out into other expressions is very valuable. It will be really interesting to see the split then of how many people actually like something or what emotion they are actually conveying when they read something, or see a brand. I think you’d get some very, very rich data sets and that could even be, let me target people who don’t like Coca Cola and have actively said they don’t like them rather than proactively liking them or something like that. So I’m all for it. It would be a shame to see the like button disappear if that is the case, but it’s almost like the evolution of emojis over the last few years. Who doesn’t write a WhatsApp message or a text message or a Twitter thing without a thumbs up or a smiley face or a piece of poo? There is all sorts. I don’t know if you saw The Dark Pool, the film that’s coming out and they had actually done an advertising sign with, I can’t even remember what the emoticons were, but it had then the little poo face and an L and they had done it out of emojis and I love that kind of thing. But I think this is a good play by Facebook. I think the more data they can get about how people are interacting with brands the better and I don’t think they’re messing with their secret sauce at all.
DAVID BAIN: You don’t think by getting rid of the thumb if that’s what they’re going to do, that that’s too closely associated with them as a brand at all and that has the potential of being negative?
GARY TAYLOR: Have they actually confirmed they’re going to be getting rid of it or is it a consideration to say they’re just going to add further options?
DAVID BAIN: I believe I’ve seen icons of what the new set will look like and it begins with like but it doesn’t appear to…
GARY TAYLOR: But not the thumb?
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, yeah. Well we’ll see how it evolves.
GARY TAYLOR: I’m just trying to think now, what does Facebook actually have for the like button now? In your feed? It does have the thumb, doesn’t it? I think it is synonymous with the Facebook brand, is it the be all and end all? I don’t know. There was a period when everyone was saying, ‘Why don’t we have a dislike button. I wish there was a dislike button, a thumbs down’. I don’t think it would be the be all and end all for them at all.
DAVID BAIN: Well Stephanie’s got a good point in the chat [unclear – 0:53.44.7] ‘Well a thumb doesn’t translate worldwide necessarily’. So that’s a good point. It may work well in a lot of countries, but not necessarily every country so perhaps they’re trying to think of what does work on a global basis. James, I don’t think we’ve come to you on this one here. Would you get excited by analytics that you could actually see behind these buttons?
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: As a digital agency that works with brands and creates paid media campaigns, I would. Because it creates another layer of behaviour and it creates another targeting opportunity. For Facebook if I sat [unclear – 0:54:26.7] I’m happy because it creates another engagement. And instead of just showing impressions, ‘Hey look how many people came through our site and didn’t do anything’ versus ‘Look how people have the opportunity to now click a button’ and then within the button choose from five different things, I’m happy there, because then they can show their advertisers these people did something on our site, they clicked like, didn’t like etc. etc. and then the third thing is this is our reality of how people communicate. You can’t find between a 6 year old and a 65 year old who haven’t started communicating through emojis, this is the world that everyone seems to live it. I have the most technologically un-advanced wife ever, not even on Facebook and she goes through and has this little emoji thing and sits there and talks with her friends and all they do is spit emoji texts back and forth with each other. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I also have a 14 year old cousin and that’s the world they live in. I also saw a sports centre ESPN sports centre ad on television with Coach K and a former Duke player who were sitting there communicating by emoji and so this is 2016 and so if we talking about marketing in the year that you live in, this is a good play by Facebook for targeting opportunities, engaging people in brands, the ability to segment and giving people a platform to be able to talk to and communicate with their friends on Facebook how they talk to and communicate outside of Facebook.
DAVID BAIN: So maybe it’s Facebook reflecting how people are communicating outside Facebook…
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: They are giving them the choices that they use outside of Facebook on other platforms of texting etc.
DAVID BAIN: Great, well wonderful conversation today. I reckon that just about takes us to the end of this week’s show though. Just about time for a single take away and some sharing find out more details from our guests. So shall we start off with Gary?
GARY TAYLOR: Caught me off guard there. I think a good take away would be in terms of content for your brands is understanding more about your consumers, particularly in the UK, understanding more about your consumers’ media consumption patterns. You can do that using Experian Mosaic profiles and then overlying with target group index data from Kantar Media, it’s called TGI and you can get lists of websites that people browse and their propensity to purchase certain types of products and I think there is a lot more rich data you can get. I think technical SEO is a given and you should have a technically sound site, because if you don’t Google won’t look after you anyway. I think people need to put more effort into content and addressing the intent of their audience and the interests of their audience.
DAVID BAIN: Wonderful resources, thanks for sharing that Gary. Where is the best place for people to get hold of you?
DAVID BAIN: Wonderful. And also Marcin, what would you say is the biggest take away that you would leave people with today?
MARCIN CHIROWSKI: Well the biggest take away [unclear – 0:57:59.0] for 2016, because the game is changing so fast and essentially you need to be more [unclear – 0:58:11.9] so many things are changing so much stuff and that actually Google is coming up with, you need to be much more agile in the way you approach marketing and also [unclear – 0:58:32.3] as an SEO person and it’s going back to where we were earlier in terms of being [unclear – 0:58:39.0] be more all-rounded and also be more agile as an SEO.
DAVID BAIN: Good advice to be agile, because any advice specifically that may give people now in January 2016 might not be applicable in December 2016. So you need to be adaptable. And where can people get hold of you, Marcin?
MARCIN CHIROWSKI: I think the best place would be Twitter and also I’m pretty easy to find so you can just Google my name. I’m on LinkedIn as well so you can find me there also. It was great to join today, thank you for having me.
DAVID BAIN: It was great to have you here, thanks for joining us. And also with us today was James. James, what are your final thoughts for today?
JAMES LOOMSTEIN: My final thoughts are around attention. And understanding that companies and brands are fighting for attention probably more so now than ever and will continue to do so. So we’re always fighting for attention, and understanding the harsh reality of being the number three, four, five result out of 18 million and just because Google is an option, it doesn’t always mean it’s the best option for us. And so there are a thousand different channels out there and we need to, as SEOs and marketers, learn that there are a thousand things out there we can do, but we really need to concentrate on the top three to five, if that makes sense. From an SEO standpoint, I think it’s really important that we start to understand our voice is starting to impact our world. Things like Cortana and Siri and Google Voice, how people are searching and search habits really are starting to make an impact. I look at my six-year old son, fourteen-year old cousin and talk with eighteen-year olds and twenty-year olds and look at their search habits because these are the people who are going to have the purchasing power in the next four, eight, ten years. What they’re doing and how they interact and how they engage is completely different to how we on this video chat engage and the world that we live in. And these are the things that we need to be prepared for and to start planning for.
DAVID BAIN: Wonderful advice and where can people get hold of you, James?
DAVID BAIN: Superb. Okay, I’ll make sure those links to all your profiles, Twitter profiles and websites are on the show notes of the podcast when we get that published over the next week or so. And I’m David Bain, Head of Growth at Authoritas, providing big data solutions that give your enterprise the content marketing edge. Sign up for a demo of our platform at www.authoritas.com and you can also find me interviewing online marketing gurus over at www.digitalmarketingradio.com. Now, if you’re watching this 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 show. But for those of you watching live, we also have an audio podcast of previous shows. So again, just sign up to email updates at www.thisweekinorganic.com and you’ll receive the podcast links from there too. Until we see you again, have a fantabulous weekend and thank you all for joining us. Adios. Thank you James, thank you Marcin, thank you Gary.
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.