This is the thirty-fourth 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!
=== Topic #1
Google have recently released an update to its travel search interface for mobile. If you search for a travel-related destination, you’re now much more likely to go down Google’s knowledge graph funnel.
What does this mean for businesses in the travel industry?
What might this mean for other industries in the future?
How does this impact the way that SEO is done in the travel industry?
=== Topic 2:
Google is now supporting JSON-LD for Reviews and Products structured data markup. This is a different way of structuring data compared with microdata. But is it better?
What is JSON-LD?
What is markup and why is it important?
What are the current markup mistakes currently being made?
=== Topic 3:
Charles Dearing has written an article on MarketingInsiderGroup.com called “COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SEO THAT JUST WON’T DIE”.
But what are these common misconceptions – and do we agree?
=== Topic 4:
Facebook have announced that it’s now 3.57 degrees of separation, not 6 degrees as previously thought. Apparently, if you pick any two Facebook users, it’s been calculated there’s an average of 3.57 “degrees of separation” between them.
What does this mean for social media and content marketing?
What are the good things and bad things about being closer to top influencers in your industry?
DAVID BAIN: Google updates its travel search interface for mobile, Google also now supports JSON-LD for reviews and products and is now 3.57 degrees of separation, no longer 6 degrees? All that and more in This Week in Organic Episode Number 34.
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. As for you in the live audience, get involved. Click on the tweet or the post buttons to your top left-hand side to share the show with your fellow listeners and let us know what you think of course about what’s being discussed in the comments to the right-hand side. But let’s meet our guests who’ve joined us today. Now, hopefully we might have a couple more guests joining us in a bit, but we’ve got a great guest to start off with who is Matt Treviss. Matt, how are you doing there?
MATT TREVISS: Very well, thank you. Very well indeed. How are you? Are you good?
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, good thank you. So you’ve taken a leisurely day at home to join us from your little home studio there, thank you very much for doing that. So we discussed a few topics beforehand, actually, what are the topics that we were talking about that particularly interest you?
MATT TREVISS: There were a couple really from the list that really stood out. One was the JSON-LD, the support that it’s now offering for production reviews which looks really cool but also the article that that chap wrote on some of the SEO myths that just won’t die! I thought that was quite interesting.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, are you a man that believes in SEO myths or are myths a thing of the past?
MATT TREVISS: Well it’s all a bit subjective, isn’t it? Everyone has got a different opinion and I think realistically the only way you can really tell is through experience and trial and error and coming from an agency background, it’s really interesting to see that what works for one client in one particular vertical might not work for another in a different market. So a lot of it is experience.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. So just before we get started completely, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about you in terms of where you’re from and maybe a little bit about what your background is in general, digital and SEO?
MATT TREVISS: No worries. So I’ve been in the marketing industry for about ten years, working both in-house, but also had a really nice opportunity to work agency-side as well. I would say I’m probably a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to digital marketing and two of the areas that I love would be SEO and I’m a bit of a self-confessed paid search geek actually. If I had to choose one it would probably be PPC, but you have to…
DAVID BAIN: Ooh…
MATT TREVISS: Yeah I know, controversial.
DAVID BAIN: I’ll have to kick you off here and have no guests! No. So we’re going to be talking about obviously mostly organic today, starting off with the fact that Google have recently released an update to its travel search interface for mobile. If you search for a travel related destination, you are now much more likely to go down Google’s Knowledge Graph funnel, so what does this mean, I guess, for businesses in the travel industry sector? Because that is going to be potentially the big impact here initially. Should someone like TripAdvisor be scared about this? What are your thoughts on that one Matt?
MATT TREVISS: Potentially, I did a couple of searches and it seems like it’s only really affecting broad terms stuff. So things to do in Thailand, for instance. And then it doesn’t seem to be affecting really long-tail stuff and so from the outset, from an SEO point of view, there is probably going to be more competition among advertisers that are trying to optimise for these longer-tail searches, I would have thought. So somebody like TripAdvisor, yes, they’ve probably got the in-house resource to be able to switch track and actually change their SEO strategy to be able to cope. But I suppose smaller travel operators with much more limited budgets might struggle to make that change quickly.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. For me you were cutting out just a little bit there. What we’re actually doing to record you is we’re using this little bit of software called Zencastr, which is a great thing that I’ve been trialling over the last couple of weeks. So that means that I’ve got your audio being recorded locally through your browser as well, so if anyone struggles to actually catch what either of us are saying, if I cut out or if you cut out, then that’s a great reason to listen to the replay, because we should have the perfect audio quality in the replay. But with live of course you never know quite how it’s going to go down. But it’s always interesting, certainly, when Google change the way that it’s SERP is displayed and it has been a long time since you tended to see results just in the top ten of search results and that’s it, with nothing else in there. You started with images with videos and other rich elements in there as well now. But I guess the scary thing is that because there are so many elements like the Knowledge Graph and Maps there initially now before you get to any organic search results and the fact that so many people are actually browsing the web on mobile devices now, it’s actually almost off the screen, if not off the screen, before they actually get to standard, if there are any standard search results nowadays. Do you think that means that SEOs just no longer think the terms of simply getting a good organic listening, they’ve got to think of actually what Google are doing with rich data and actually trying to get their website listed somehow in the Knowledge Graph or something like that?
MATT TREVISS: I think so. I think anything that Google can do to prevent people from trying to manipulate its algorithm. But it’s also interesting, I’m just going to pop in a little paid search query there; obviously its rich feed is appearing above the ads, right? So I looked at that and thought, ‘Well hang on a minute, that’s an advertiser, should I be paying top whack for these keywords, when Google is ranking itself above my ad?’ So I don’t know, just a question I would throw in there really. But, yes, in terms of the rich content, I guess Google has been moving towards microdata for a while now, getting webmasters to start enriching their pages with higher quality data. I don’t know just yet in terms of what an advertiser could do in order or put them in that space, above the fold, as regards to their rich data. Hello?
DAVID BAIN: Okay. I’m still experiencing you cutting out a little bit there actually, but we can certainly have a good conversation about this as well though and if anyone else watching actually fancies jumping in a being part of the conversation, feel free to jump in there as well. It would be good to have you in as well. But you mentioned paid search there as well. So do you find personally that even if you actually rank very highly for or organic term that in general it is worthwhile actually bidding and appearing high in paid search for that particular same term as well?
MATT TREVISS: Could you just say that again, David, it just cut out.
DAVID BAIN: Sure. So if you rank for number one for a certain term in organic, would you also want to pay for that term and rank in paid search as well?
MATT TREVISS: That’s a really good question. I often look at it the other way round. So if I can see that a keyword is converting really well for paid, then yes, I would definitely want to be ranking well for that in organic, but looking at it your way round, so if you’re ranking well for something organically, then with paid search you don’t just get the ability to be on the front page of Google SERPs, obviously they’ve now got their search departments and they’ve been broadening the search network as it were, so actually you can think, ‘Is it worth bidding for that keyword and appearing on something like getting you ads on YouTube for instance? The display network?’ So, yes, potentially I think it could be. Obviously each scenario you’d need to look at from an individual basis.
DAVID BAIN: If you’re going to test it then, how would you go about doing it? Would you try and turn pay per click on for one day and off the other day? Or is there a better way of actually testing to see whether it’s worthwhile running both PPC and SEO for the same search term?
MATT TREVISS: Well, we’ve done some experiments with brand, recently, and it’s interesting to see that running branded search queries is actually, it essentially steals traffic from your organic SERPs, which is something that, at the end of the day, you could argue, well why are you paying for that click when you could essentially get it for free. But like I say, if you were just A/B split testing purely on Google SERPs, in terms of testing that, it’s not a bad way, maybe one day on/one day off. You might want a slightly longer timeframe, potentially and especially with the cycling trade, it’s very, very seasonal, so you have to take that into account. Let’s say for instance you want to do an A/B split test. For us, December is an incredibly busy time of the year, whereas January isn’t. So I think you’d have to set that criteria so that you’re comparing like for like.
DAVID BAIN: So in the split testing, or the testing that you’ve been doing, you said that you have seen a reduction in your organic traffic when you’re bidding for that brand term. But have you found that the search traffic combined between organic traffic and paid traffic is still more than organic traffic when you have them both on together?
MATT TREVISS: Yes, absolutely, especially when you start looking at assisted conversions as well. So some high value items, they’re unlikely to be a direct or last interaction, generally they might come through on a paid search add, go away, think about the purchase, they might then come back and click through in organic. Maybe if they come back again, we might send them an email and that would be the final push to get them over the edge and they pull the trigger on buying that item. So I think it’s difficult to give an exact stat, but broad brush I would probably say it amounts to around about the same, yes.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, so it’s not significantly better. So by and large it’s one visitor who is either going to click on your paid search or your organic listing, it’s not someone whose, as maybe Google would argue, someone with a certain paid advertising mindset and only looking at them will click on that and you’ll get more traffic because of it. Keep on testing, of course, and there is no cookie cutter approach and based on your experience it’s not necessarily the same for every industry. But it is interesting to receive individual feedback like that, certainly. So one other thing that came to mind, actually, when you were saying that is attribution. So testing, trying to increase the quantity of people purchasing by driving people to email and maybe telling a different story by email as well, are you actually attempting to offer some kind of percentage of overall purchase value to each step in the process? To attribute value?
MATT TREVISS: There are lots of people theorising and obviously you’ve got different attribution models that you can apply. For us at the moment, given the marketing budget that we’ve got, we are purely just looking at it in terms of pounds and pence ROI, i.e. okay this month we spend this amount of money, okay how much revenue has that brought in? At the moment, for us to be able to attribute a value to that kind of interaction I think that would be quite tricky and it might be a little bit dangerous as well. Because we may start looking at a particular channel just because it might have a significant effect on that transaction or vice versa, applying that model, giving each pass in that goal process, we might end up discounting a channel that has actually contributed. Like, for instance, social, social isn’t necessarily a massive revenue driver, but we know it’s a key part in the process. We know that it is very good in terms of brand reputation and also in terms of actually building trust with our audience. But if we were to look at it in terms of assisted conversions, it’s probably very weak, but it definitely has a role to play. Does that make sense?
DAVID BAIN: Yes, absolutely. It’s just challenging to actually define the financial value of these touch points in the middle, because traditionally it is either first click or most commonly last click is the model that businesses look at and it’s so easy to look at perhaps brand pay per click and think, ‘Let’s pump as much as possible into that, because people are coming through our site last click and ten to twenty people, a percentage of people are actually purchasing immediately from that, so it must be a great thing to do’. But had people actually made up their minds to do that already and it’s really, really challenging, especially because perhaps paid advertising networks tend to be last click orientated, they don’t want to assist you too much with the general analytics of actually helping you what really is impacting that purchase decision beforehand as well. So it needs to be an independent company that comes in there, but they’ll have to charge significant amounts of money to do that, so not many smaller businesses are going to want to do that.
MATT TREVISS: Absolutely, and I think as well obviously AdWords accounts for revenue slightly differently. It puts it in the month in which the click was obtained, rather than when the purchase actually happened which is what Analytics does. So all of a sudden, when you’re looking at month on month, ‘Alright, okay, I spent this much, so how much shall I spend the month after?’ You do have to look at them in combination and what you can find is that you’ve got so much data, you just think, ‘Where do I begin? Where do I start?’ And I guess that’s where potentially third party analytics, plug-ins, are always potentially good to use as well, don’t just rely on using Google Analytics. There are other analytics platforms out there that you can get a slightly different take on the data.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, so are there any other third party analytics tools that you can recommend that actually don’t rely on Google Analytics to feed its data?
MATT TREVISS: Yes, for instance we’ve been trying a little bit with, not necessarily analytics, but obviously bringing social media back into it. Obviously Facebook tracking pixels, so you can actually look at which conversions are being driven through your social platforms and that’s really quite interesting, because obviously that’s not using necessarily Google Analytics data, that’s using their own tracking pixel. Still early days though with that.
DAVID BAIN: So does that mean that you’re investing quite a bit in Facebook paid advertising at the moment?
MATT TREVISS: In terms of the actual budgets, difficult for me to disclose, but it’s definitely an area where we’ve seen quite a lot of traction. Obviously with all your messaging on Facebook, it needs to be different. We find things like competitions work incredibly well in terms of generating following, and I think it’s that monetising social media. If you’re looking at it on pure ROI, so if you’re spending x amount of budget, it’s not necessarily going to pull its weight in terms of revenue gained, I don’t think, yet. But we do find that the thing with Facebook is that you can really target people to the nth degree. We can say, right, target everybody who follows our page who is interested in cycling, and we’ll also follow them, we’ll also target their friends as well. The GM targeting aspect of Facebook is incredibly powerful, so especially where we’ve got multiple stores across the country, it means that we can support our offline presence as well, much better. So, yes, definitely a platform and it’s interesting. I mean we’ll probably get on to talking about Facebook a little bit later with regard to their birthday that’s just come up and their marketing campaign around that. But it’s really interesting.
DAVID BAIN: Twelve today! It’s getting on a bit now, it’s not a child anymore, just about.
MATT TREVISS: I think that means that Facebook advertising will only go one way and that is more expensive.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. It’s all about whether or not it can get more targeted and you can generate more ROI and justify paying more money for doing that. But of course it all depends on whether or not you as a business can be most effective at using Facebook advertising, because it’s easy to spend a lot of money on an advertising service without actually knowing how to optimise exactly what you’re doing as well. So you need to become a specialist almost actually at advertising on that platform in order to actually really make that ROI that’s required from it.
MATT TREVISS: Yes. It’s almost too easy to spend money with Facebook. It’s literally as easy as putting your credit card in and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but on a mobile device as well, so for us, especially when we’re at an event, if a post is getting some really good traction, then we can just bring our mobile devices, boost our phones for a fiver and all of a sudden you’re quadrupled the traction and I think that is perhaps something that AdWords needs to move towards, potentially. They’ve just brought out their app and they were talking about, know I’m talking about paid search again, really sorry!
DAVID BAIN: It’s easy to spend more money on Twitter as well, actually. I don’t know if you’ve done a lot of Twitter advertising?
MATT TREVISS: I’ll be honest with you, it’s on the list, but…
DAVID BAIN: It’s on the Twitter list. We were talking about Knowledge Graphs there as well and obviously your focus, you work as Digital Marketing Manager for Hargroves Cycles, so can you see Knowledge Graphs actually impacting what you do? Because it’s affecting travel and the travel industry quite a bit at the moment. You’re semi related to that as well. Do you have any concerns that your organic listings are going to be eaten up and…
MATT TREVISS: Maybe, maybe. I mean a lot of what we do is product based rather than that lifestyle, holiday type thing, holidays are not something that we offer. And I’d like to think that if somebody searched for things to do in Hampshire, we would pop up as visit one of our shops. But I don’t think that would necessarily have the popularity, in an ideal world, yes. Potentially from an event side of things, that would be quite cool. Obviously we hold a lot of events throughout the year and not just for hard core cyclists, they are very family friendly as well. So potentially what’s more interesting in terms of Knowledge Graph is the how to stuff. And obviously about six months ago, there was a lot of hype in the industry with, if you search, for instance, how to unblock a sink, Google would crawl that information directly from, say, Wikipedia or an authority and it would display it directly in SERPs and how to content as well as buying content is something that there is a phenomenal hunger for in our industry and that’s probably an area that we could capitalise on. How to change a bike tyre, how to change a cassette, for instance.
DAVID BAIN: And can that traffic still come from regular organic listings? Because Google had a big clamp down a couple of years ago on big directory websites that just had 400/500 word articles that were generic how to do this particular thing as well. Would you do a different type of optimisation or a different type of content to actually try and rank for those kind of keyword phrases?
MATT TREVISS: I think we would. I think a lot of retailers, not just in the cycling industry, but we’ve seen it in retail broadly speaking. It’s about creating knowledge hubs, so it is essentially blogs on steroids, isn’t it? Where you’ve got really rich content and it’s not just text articles, it’s things like image galleries, it’s things like video content, for instance. Things like podcasts, actually pulling that stuff in and it’s more if you’re writing a blog page, you think, ‘Well how can I make this different? What can we add in there?’ So completely, I think, when we create content we want to create a piece of content that’s useful to somebody in our industry. I suppose the tricky thing is, especially with me, I’m an enthusiast, so I might naturally write content that’s perhaps of a more expert level, whereas really we want to be writing stuff for beginners. So it’s looking at those different levels of customer and writing content that is going to appeal to them and we’ve got, say, five or six different types of customer, all with different levels of knowledge and the key thing is they are going to want to consume content in a different way. One person might prefer a video, another person might prefer an infographic. So it’s difficult isn’t it, to please everyone? But you want to cover as many bases as possible. But also making sure that it’s marked up correctly for Google to come and crawl.
DAVID BAIN: So when you’re thinking of actually producing these content hubs as you describe them, would you be trying to get all this content on the one URL? Or would you actually be wanting to create what’s, in effect, an internal link wheel or a wheel between different content within your own site, so you’re getting people to visit more pages on your own site as well and get Google to crawl more pages in relation to the same content from your own site?
MATT TREVISS: We’ve opted for the sub-directory, so /hub and I know there are lots of other people that have gone down the sub-domain route, so for instance hub.cycleshop.com or whatever it might be. But we’ve decided just to go on that and keep it all on the same domain and also making sure that you’ve got cross sales between your content hub but also the retail arm of your business. You want users to be able to flow easily from one to the other. I think that’s a key thing that sometimes gets missed, as people just think, ‘Oh, I need blogs, because I want to rank really, really well’ and you’ve got a great piece of content, somebody’s landed on it, but where’s the call-to-action? What’s the next step after they’ve read that article and you think sometimes that’s the bit where a lot of sites fall down?
DAVID BAIN: There are so many people blogging nowadays, millions of people are blogging and probably even tens of thousands within your own industry so you’ve got to find a way to actually differentiate what you do and the way you produce content, the quality of the content, the quantity. The whole process behind who you actually reach out to hopefully before publishing that content and how that content is marketed afterwards as well. I don’t think it’s possible or likely for a blog to actually start off now and just keep on publishing articles and not thinking about marketing what they do and be a success doing that. Are those your thoughts as well?
MATT TREVISS: I agree. I actually think a lot of bloggers that I speak to have been scared by Google. We talk to them about doing some guest posting, editorial, advertorial and they’re really, really insistent on marking it up as a sponsored post, there are no follow links, putting sponsored post in the post title, even on the meta descriptions, really sort of laying on the fact that it’s a sponsored post. And I think people want to advertise, that’s just a fact of life, and I think bloggers have been a bit scared really about getting content from other people and to be fair even content that we don’t necessarily, I’m not looking to pay to place, just content from a third party, they just want Google to know that it’s not theirs and I think how is that different to a new site, for instance. Content gets recycled all the time, it gets reused, it gets repurposed so I’d like to see maybe a bit of a change to that and for the industry to be less scared about having guest posts, guest editorial. Obviously on a wide scale, paying peanuts to have really crap content posted on every site out there, that’s a bad approach, I’m not saying that that’s what people want to be doing with their SEO at all.
DAVID BAIN: The traditional way of doing blogger outreach has been to simply contact people and say, ‘We can write some content for you. Can we publish an article, a free article on your website? All we want are two links back’. And that is an old, horrible approach that shouldn’t be continued really. But everyone wants to consume decent content online and everyone understands that most businesses try to make a profit and consumers aren’t daft as well. So they are quite good at seeing through bloggers that are just writing something to promote something and bloggers who actually talk about something that they actually believe in as well. So you need to just build a wonderful product or service and build relationships with people and reach out to them for their opinion of what you do and make them feel that their opinion is really valued as well and slowly but surely they will start talking about you. It’s unfortunately not really a short term thing.
MATT TREVISS: No, no I agree. I’m a massive advocate for being controversial. So if you can say something that is going to generate controversy, then that tends to gets lots and lots of traction.
DAVID BAIN: So what’s an example of something controversial that you’ve done?
MATT TREVISS: Well not necessarily me, but in cycling industry – someone at a world cup race had an electric motor in their bike and it’s called motor doping and that sort of stuff doesn’t come along every day and everyone is retweeting it and talking about it.
DAVID BAIN: It’s a good hashtag anyway.
MATT TREVISS: Exactly that. I’ve lost count of the amount of emails that I’ve had saying, ‘Automation is the future of marketing’ and it’s like, well, yes, it might be but…
DAVID BAIN: Automation is also the past of marketing as well. You just have to make sure you automate the right things and are doing it in the right manner.
MATT TREVISS: Yes, exactly. I think as marketers we sometimes get too focused on trying to make everything as easy as possible and actually just thinking well I’m just going to, it’s going to be hard work if we do it, we’ll get some good results.
DAVID BAIN: I don’t like the sound of using Google’s Highlighter tool. I think it came out about three years ago or so and it looks interesting, but I don’t like doing something that’s tendered at just one search engine. Is it possible for other search engines to actually see that data as well? You want to make sure that other search engines in the future can actually view that information as well and in the future a lot of people acknowledge that perhaps people are going to be using search on their phones more often, that’s not necessarily going to involve Google and maybe Siri or other search engines like that may require the mark-up in a manner that they will understand and support as well.
MATT TREVISS: Is JSON universal in that respect then? Would it cover off the other search engines do you think or is that going to be for the future?
DAVID BAIN: It’s certainly intended to do that. I believe schema.org is probably the one that is support by most at the moment, certainly. But it certainly looks like JSON-LD is potentially one for the future, because it seems easier to implement on existing content that actually hasn’t been marked up completely across the whole site.
MATT TREVISS: It’s interesting with the Data Highlighter tool one thing that I’ve learned just through trial and error really is that it loads the page dynamically in the tool, but if you’ve got reviews or you’ve got drop down options on a product page, it can’t physically interact with the drop down. So if you’ve got SKUs hidden in the drop down, then you can’t mark-up that SKU as a product identifier on the page, so I think to be honest the Data Highlighter works with very simply structured pages where you haven’t got any dynamic, if you’ve got accordions or if you’ve got tabs, then you’ve got no chance.
DAVID BAIN: You mentioned BrightonSEO there, I need to give an exclusive here, we, as in Authoritas.com, which is our new brand for big data-powered content marketing, we’re actually going to be the broadcast sponsor for BrightonSEO, so we’re going to be broadcasting at BrightonSEO in April completely live free of charge on our own website, so the whole main stage, the whole day. So just go to Authoritas.com/BrightonSEO and you can actually sign-up to watch BrightonSEO live if you can’t make it to Brighton. Obviously it’s better to make it in person, but if you can’t then that’s a good way to see it.
MATT TREVISS: I can highly recommend it.
DAVID BAIN: But you’re from the South Coast, you’ve been along there in person a few times, haven’t you, Matt?
MATT TREVISS: Yes, yes I have and the guy that organises it, Kelvin, absolute top chap and I’ve never had a bad experience at Brighton, always come away, similar to this show really, knowing a little bit more about digital marketing, which is what I think it’s all about, isn’t it?
DAVID BAIN: It’s all about that incremental learning.
MATT TREVISS: Incremental gains.
DAVID BAIN: Bit by bit. Yes. Absolutely. So do you know much about schema.org? Have you used that mark-up in the past as well?
MATT TREVISS: Yeah, just kind of dabbled with it. I’m not a hard core coder by any stretch, I’ve always had the luxury of being able to work closely with a developer that knows more about coding that I do. But it’s one of those things actually that I wish I used more, especially because you see other competitors using it so well. Which is a position I wouldn’t mind being in. It’s always good to strive to be better. So in terms of real world application, like I said, this JSON-LD thing is something that we’re going to exploring. So hopefully, in a month or so, I’ll be able to report back and say, ‘Yes, this is the way forward’. So that’s where I’m at with Schema.
DAVID BAIN: Well you’ll have to come back on here in a month’s time, that’s a date and you’ll have to tell us exactly how it’s gone. No pressure.
MATT TREVISS: No pressure. Yes. I’m up for that, that sounds good.
DAVID BAIN: Well you mentioned you’ve seen some competitors doing it well, but I’m sure there are some competitors not doing it well at all. And you’ve got to give Google and other search engines the best chance of understanding exactly what you website is about. So if you’re not using any kind of mark-up at all and you’re in a fairly competitive industry, tell Google what industry you’re in and what your products are about by mark-up and surely that’ll give you a better opportunity for Google to be more confident at consuming your data, really.
MATT TREVISS: Yes, I agree. And I think as well a lot of webmasters out there, anyone using WordPress obviously gets the luxury of having some of that scheme already built in, so they don’t even know they’ve got it on their site, it’s just there by default.
DAVID BAIN: Yes, absolutely. If you’ve got everything up-do-date it’s a really effective CMS certainly as well. But we’ve got a couple more topics here. One of them was a guy called Charles Dearing has written an article on marketinginsidergroup.com. That article was called Common Misconceptions about SEO that Won’t Die. But what are those misconceptions and do we both agree? So the first one was metatags and descriptions are important for search engines. Now I’ve got a bit of a gripe with this one because although most SEOs are comfortable in the fact that the meta description isn’t thought to be within Google’s algorithm, it can significantly impact click through rate from a search result and that will, the click through is thought to be a signal and also the user experience after that when people land on your site obviously is thought to be as well, so your meta description is highly unlikely to be part of Google’s core algorithm, but it can impact Google’s ranking from what a user does. So I don’t like to say it’s not part of Google’s algorithm because of that. What are your thoughts on that one, Matt?
MATT TREVISS: I still think they have a place. Absolutely. I don’t know if you can class the microdata as metadata, but if you’ve got that all marked-up correctly then you will start to see that populate just above or below.
DAVID BAIN: You can start to see things like where Google sees appropriate, Google adding little icons of images beside your search result there as well and tiny little bits of, the classic example is recipes and cooking and you can see cooking times, but depending on what industry you’re in there are so many different elements of microdata that you can add to you site and give Google a chance to actually list it there as well. The more interesting information in relation to your site result will surely make it more likely for people to click through, so meta description, describing what your site is about and microdata probably go hand in hand there.
MATT TREVISS: Yes, I think so. I think the worst thing that people can do is to try and maximise the amount of characters in a meta description just because they’re there. That’s something that I saw a lot and actually it’s kind of flipping on its head, especially with mobile devices as well. Because obviously those character and pixel limits, they change. And to be fair, when we’re writing our metadata, and I still think page titles have a massive bearing on ranking, we’re really mindful of those character limits. We generally write them around 50 characters now, generally speaking, because mobile is such a massive player, you want it to look good. You want people to be able to read exactly what that page is about.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely brilliant tip there. In 2014 Google increased the pixel size of its font that it used in its search results, it’s the same pixel width that those search results are appearing in, if you’re looking at it on a desktop, but where it meant that previously the width or the number of characters within a search result title could be up to about 66 or even 67 characters, now only about 50 characters is likely to guarantee you that every character is going to be listed in there as well. So 50 is a great number to aim for with that as well. Meta descriptions are thought to be about 155 or maybe just over that in terms of maximum amount as well and a good tip that can go slightly less than that as well, because if you want to fill up the whole meta description, you’re probably not getting the best call-to-action in there as well. So if you can say it in 140 characters or something like that and say it more succinctly and make it more likely for people to click on that result because of it, that’s a better description. So a great tip there as well. I’d be a little bit concerned about going too short, maybe shorter than 100 or so characters meta description, because maybe Google might think it’s not enough as a description and they might want to take text from the rest of a page instead of actually displaying your desired meta description. Have you got any thoughts on is it possible to go too short in terms of meta description?
MATT TREVISS: It’s not something I’ve tried, but I might have a project that I might be able to test something on, which would be quite interesting. I’d like to A/B split test that, maybe create two similar pages. If anyone has got a situation where, cannibalisation it’s a terrible thing to happen, and I’d hate for a site to have mass cannibalisation, but if anyone out there has got two pages that are competing for the same turf, I’d be quite interested to maybe see, and they’re not too worried about if those pages fall off page one, I don’t want anyone to go out of business overnight, but it would be interesting to see what sort of change that might have on ranking if you were to maybe have one really short meta description and one slightly longer one.
DAVID BAIN: That would certainly be very interesting.
MATT TREVISS: Yeah, but in terms of the length of the meta description, I did do a couple of trials where I put the call-to-action first and that was quite interesting. I did actually see a slightly higher click through rate, but noting conclusive, I couldn’t empirically say, yes, short descriptions are a good or a bad thing as of yet. But I’m going to have a look, I’m quite interested.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, yes, that would be a lovely study. I haven’t looked into it in terms of carrying out proper research, but my thinking is that perhaps in between 120 and 155 characters is a good length, but if it gets too short then Google may be less likely to want to actually use that meta description and just take some text from the rest of your site. So it would be good to actually do some research into that to see if that’s likely to be the case.
MATT TREVISS: Absolutely. It would probably need to be tested on a page that’s got a fair amount of authority – would you agree? Because I guess you’d need something that Google’s crawling regularly.
DAVID BAIN: Yes. I mean you’d need a decent amount of data certainly as well. A decent amount of traffic to that, but it would be possible to do that. Obviously you’d want to try and make it examples that were fairly similar, apart from the meta description and not have anything else that could impact the actual click through as well. And it’s tough to do that.
MATT TREVISS: Cool, well if there’s anyone out there that fancies having a little trial, let us know.
DAVID BAIN: Sounds good. Another mention in this article was, it’s focusing on high search volume keywords will help achieve success. So it used to be in the past, seven/ten years ago that you would pick high volume keyword phrases because there wasn’t that much competition out there and you could fairly easily, through submitting articles, getting links and author bios or whatever, get links that would actually give you that ranking for that competitive keyword phrase. Now it’s certainly very, very difficult to target competitive keyword phrases, say keyword phrases with more than a thousand searches per month because you’ve got so many competitors out there that have already defined those keywords. I agree with this point, I think the opportunity is in the long-tail, there are a lot of keywords that are opportunities and aren’t even highlighted by Google’s keyword research tool, because people aren’t using them commercially at the moment, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not necessarily good terms to bring valuable traffic. I see you nodding away, Matt. What are your thoughts on that one?
MATT TREVISS: I totally agree, especially where you work in an industry such as retail where you know a product is coming out, but obviously there’s no demand for it yet. The manufacturer hasn’t released it, so therefore people aren’t really searching for that, so if you were to put that keyword into Google’s keyword planner, it’s going to tell you it’s a rubbish keyword based on search volume, but obviously you know that this incredible product is going to be hitting the market soon, so actually why don’t you start optimising for it now?
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. So we agree on that one there.
MATT TREVISS: I think so, I do. Although I would say one thing, I think it’s really important to look at the sales funnel and that’s something as marketers we should be always looking at. You could just focus on the words that drive traffic, but you could run the risk of just fishing in the same pond all the time, and obviously each keyword is going to top out at some point and to keep the longevity of your rankings, but also you should always be looking for new customers and so sometimes it’s about putting a little bit more in the top of the funnel and you might have to look further afield, you might have to go to slightly different industries, is there differentiation? Having a look and just trying to sort of broaden, and with paid search as well, a lot of the time I don’t focus on exact match keywords, I use Broad Match Modifier because when you actually look at data for the last month, if I was to target all of those long-tail keywords, I would there forever. There is no way you could cover those off. So I totally agree with what you’re saying.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. And another point is having a good amount of links will boost your rankings. Links are fairly integral to Google’s algorithm, but obviously it depends on the quality of the link, how it has come about, the positioning of it, what kind of neighbourhoods your links are lying in – what are your thoughts on links, Matt?
MATT TREVISS: It’s got to be quality over quantity and that’s probably a phrase that gets used far too much but I think links are still the lifeblood of Google and the majority of search engines out there, when I was working agency side, we worked on one project where the only thing we changed was the anchor text in the back links and we changed the anchor text of about 40 sites linking to this particular site and I kid you not, within about ten days, maybe a little bit more, we started seeing the website rank for terms that they used to be on the first page for a couple of years ago, lost the rankings and just by changing that anchor text on those back links to, some of it was long-tail, some of it was broad match shorter-tail stuff, we didn’t change anything else and for me that was an interesting experiment because it demonstrated the importance of anchor texts in back links, but also just the power that back links can have. But obviously the sites that were linking to this particular site were really, really authoritative and I think that’s a massive part of it as well and if you were to change the anchor text of a load of sites that had not authority whatsoever, I don’t think it would have got the same traction, you could argue. But I do still think links are the, because I think if you had a site that had no links but had great content, why would Google want to rank that? It’s got no votes, it’s got no votes from any other websites out there, so content, yes, has a part to play as well, has a massive part to play. But I don’t think you can have one without the other. I think you have to have a combination of the two.
DAVID BAIN: Yes, absolutely. And you’re talking about anchor text on third party sites that you had control of – you’re not talking about changing anchor text within your own site there?
MATT TREVISS: Correct, yes, sorry, it was the anchor text on other sites linking to this particular site.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. Intriguing. Some may think that changing anchor text on existing links, on existing pages that Google already know about, maybe alerting Google to the fact that you’re actively doing SEO, so Google may be more likely to scrutinise what you do closer. Would you have any concerns about doing that too much?
MATT TREVISS: I think it needs a bit of a spam check. I think Google expects sites to change and it also depends on are you changing, obviously it’s going to look isn’t it, it’s going to look at the link, it’s going to look at the text from the anchor link versus what your page is about. So if there’s a good correlation between the two, then even if you’ve changed it, I think that’s fine, because there is still a strong relationship. I think you might get into trouble if you’ve changed the anchor text and it’s pointing to a page that’s talking about something completely different and you’re just trying to influence the rankings for a particular keyword, then, yes, that would probably shout out and I would expect Google to frown upon that. But let’s say for instance you’ve got a load of bloggers that are linking to a page that’s no longer there, you might want to say to them, ‘Hey can you update your back link, because this article is no longer there, can we update it to this new page oh and by the way, whilst you’re there, can we just change this anchor text so it’s still relevant but you might want to change the wording of it, you might want to make it slightly longer-tail’. So far I’ve not seen any problems with doing that. But this is Google, it could throw it’s toys out of the pram any time.
DAVID BAIN: I guess we should move on to our last subject actually and that’s Facebook have announced that it’s now 3.57° of separation, not 6° of separation as previously thought. Apparently if you pick any two Facebook users, it has been calculated that there is an average of 3.57° of separation between them. I’m not sure if this is bringing people closer together, or if this is simply a matter of fact of people are adding thousands of friends that they actually don’t know personally, so in theory your friends are more likely to know friends of other people, but are they real friends? Or am I being too cynical here about the way that people maybe add friends crazily on Facebook.
MATT TREVISS: Well, potentially. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think it’s always good to have a slightly cynical bit there. I looked at that and thought, wow actually that’s quite a cool Facebook campaign in terms of a marketing campaign, because it’s their birthday, they could have just said, ‘Hey it’s our birthday, we make loads of money’ but actually I think we as marketers can learn quite a bit from that because it’s got that piece of content, it’s got global appeal, it’s interesting and it kind of applies to most people that use Facebook. I think good content is something that should tell somebody something that they don’t already know. And I thought wow. I did wonder how I could be linked to Mark Zuckerberg in just two people. I’m still trying to work that one out.
DAVID BAIN: The other thing that I like about the campaign is the fact that they refer back to something which is a previous known and people can relate to. Most people know of 6° of separation there as well. So the fact that it has changed is maybe a big announcement for most people as well. If they pick a story or picked a story that was interesting but not relatable to something else in someone’s head, then maybe it’s less likely to get that passionate response on social media and that sharing. So I think that has been done very well and I think that is a good point he made that the thing to learn here is not the actual result that Facebook are talking about, it’s actually the way they went about things and what can we learn in terms of doing PR and integrating it with marketing and SEO from Facebook.
MATT TREVISS: Yes, absolutely. And I think we already touched on the fact that I think it’s a given that Facebook advertising – I mean if you’re an advertiser you look at that and think, ‘Oh, great! So my reach as an advertiser is going to take a positive step forward’, but Facebook advertising is going to get more expensive and they’ve already started doing clever little things like you set a campaign and it’ll say the minimum budget is £7, you have to spend at least this. Which I think is a little bit cheeky, but I suppose they’re in it to make money, aren’t they?
DAVID BAIN: Yes, absolutely. It certainly doesn’t get away from the fact that you still have to build personal relationships in order to actually really move your business forward as well, just because you’ve got thousands of friends or followers or contacts you can’t necessarily just message them in a general message sense and expect them to give you same kind of reaction that that one-to-one relationship would do as well. And I just didn’t want people to start thinking that, ‘Okay we’re so close to that person now, that means I can actually reach out to them. Let’s just send a blanket email to a few people like that.’ Which I didn’t like the feeling of doing, because it’s a bit spammy and I think some marketers could actually take the wrong approach from hearing that and thinking, ‘Well, I can quite easily reach out to so many different people as well’ but if you do as you suggest and actually just learn from it as a good piece of PR, then that’s probably the best take away to take from it.
MATT TREVISS: I think so, especially with a lot of small businesses as well. I spoke to a couple just recently, just friends of mine who own businesses and they read stuff on line, like Twitter. Okay, Twitter must be the next best thing for me to promote my business and in order to be good at Twitter you’ve got to be writing, you’ve got to be doing ten posts a day, you’ve got to be following x amount of people and you’ve got to follow your competitors, followers. And I just thought, ‘Well, yes, potentially, but there might be other and more effective channels that you can use that are going to give you more of an impact and it’s going to require less resource’. Because I think that’s the ultimate denominating factor for a lot of businesses, is that there is so much stuff you could be doing, sometimes you have to just prioritise and think, right, ‘Okay, where is my effort going to be best spent?’ And it doesn’t help really, because a lot of these social channels, they’re sort of marketing really heavily to these smaller businesses that don’t necessarily know better. They haven’t have the experience of agencies being able to work with lots and lots of different clients, trying lots of different strategies and sometimes it’s easy, isn’t it, to kind of just get pulled along with this massive wave of, ‘Let’s jump on the social media bandwagon’. Just a bit of a rant there…
DAVID BAIN: I think I had one just before as well, so that’s alright. So I reckon that takes just to about to the end of today’s show. So maybe just time for a single take away in terms of actually what we’ve discussed today, what do you think people should particularly go away and think about?
MATT TREVISS: Well there have been so many different things we’ve touched on today. I think the standout thing for me would be if you’re not using the Schema, then give it a go. I’m certainly going to be doing it over the next couple of weeks and definitely in terms of SEO benefit, I think you could potentially reap quite a lot of rewards with that.
DAVID BAIN: Good advice. In terms of my thoughts on the discussion, the meta description focus is probably what a lot of businesses don’t do well. Perhaps businesses do their home page well, but of course you need to have that distinct meta description for every single page on your site. So I think it’s worthwhile to take some time to really think about actually what your SERP listing really looks like in terms of that description underneath the title. Is it too long? Do you see these ellipses after it and does it actually make a call-to-action sense for users that you want to drive to your website? So meta descriptions revisited is probably where I’ll go. So Matt it was wonderful having you on today. Where is the best place for people to find out more about you and what you do?
MATT TREVISS: Either Twitter or LinkedIn, @matthewtreviss.
DAVID BAIN: Great, okay, well I’ll make sure there are links to that from the show notes as well, in case there any people who can’t spell then there’s no excuse but to go and find out more about you from there. And of course if you want to watch the replay, for me as part of the live show, you’re cutting out just a little bit there, so we still understood the context of everything that you were saying there, but in terms of the replay version, we will have perfect audio. We can do that through the Zencastr software that we’re using on your computer there as well. So as long as I stop that and edit it okay afterwards, then we’ll have great audio for the replay. So check out that as well afterwards. But I’m David Bain, Head of Growth at Authoritas, providing big data solutions that give your enterprise that 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. So if you’re watching this show as a replay, remember to watch the next show live, head over to www.thisweekinorganic.com to be part of the live audience for the next show. And of course if you want to go and check out the previous episodes, you can do that as well, www.thisweekinorganic.com is the best place to do that, you’ll receive a link to the podcast from there. Until we see you again, have a fantabulous weekend and thank you all for joining us. Thanks again, Matt.
MATT TREVISS: Cheers, thank you for having me.
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.