DAVID BAIN: What’s happening with the data available inside Google’s Keyword Planner? How might Amazon Echo impact search in the future? And is Twitter one of the most effective places now for online customer service? All that and more in This Week in Organic, Episode Number 49.
Broadcasting live on the Authoritas Facebook page, you’re watching This Week in Organic, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news. Sign up to watch our next show live at www.thisweekinorganic.com.
Hello and welcome. I’m David Bain and Content Marketing Director for Authoritas.com and in each show 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! So there’s a chat on Facebook and you can always use the good old-fashioned #TWIO hashtag on Twitter. And I’ve tried to include any comments as part of the live show.
But let’s get started with finding out more about today’s guests, where they’re from and what’s caught their attention this week. So starting off with Shelli.
SHELLI WALSH: Good afternoon everybody. My name’s Shelli Walsh. I’m the founder of ShellShock, which is a content marketing agency, and also Content 101, which is content training tips. I’m very much immersed in content and the topic that I’m quite interested in talking about today is the linking to illegal content, the copyright infringement ramifications of that. I think that will be a very interesting discussion.
DAVID BAIN: Great stuff. Well thanks for joining us, Shelli. And also with us today is Lee.
LEE WILSON: My name’s Lee Wilson and I’m the Head of SEO at UK search and digital marketing company, Vertical Leap. I’m also interested in the linking to illegal content copyright infringement piece, and also keen about the topic of what’s going on with Google images and ImageBox not being seen as much to.
DAVID BAIN: You’re also interested in linking to illegal content?! Or maybe finding out more about whether or not you should be doing that?!
LEE WILSON: Exactly right!
DAVID BAIN: Also with us today is Laura.
LAURA CRIMMONS: I’m Laura Crimmons. I’m Communications Director at Branded3. We’re a digital marketing agency. I’m particularly interested in the Amazon Echo launch and what that means for search. I think it’s a really interesting launch that’s coming to the UK and it will mean quite a lot for us as search marketers.
DAVID BAIN: Have you purchased one already, Laura, or is that on your potential purchase list?
LAURA CRIMMONS: I haven’t yet, no. I may do. I’m still in the creeped-out party of knowing someone’s listening to me all the time in my house. But I might do.
DAVID BAIN: You never know. Yes, everyone was probably not even thinking that they need all they absolutely currently have on their iPhones just a couple of years ago, I’m sure, so I’m sure everyone’s opinion will change about these kind of things over the next couple of years. But it’s interesting to see and will be interesting to discuss to see what kind of impact these technologies may or may not have on search and what we tend to do just now. But yeah, thanks for joining us, Laura. And also with us today is Julia. Hi Julia.
JULIA LOGAN: Hello. My name is Julia Logan, IrishWonder’s SEO Consulting. Basically that’s my agency and that’s just myself. I’m particularly interested in today’s topics about brands providing support through Twitter and the Keyword tool development.
DAVID BAIN: Great. Okay, well it’s wonderful to have a broad selection of interest and topics and we’ve certainly got this. I don’t think anyone mentioned the same topic twice. So let’s start off with the fact that Google have announced a month ago that it was going to throttle Keyword Planner data for low-spending AdWords accounts. They said that most users would be unaffected and that bots were their main target. So the question that I’d like to ask is, ‘How low can you actually spend to retain your data and how much can you use the platform before keyword estimates kick in?’ So obviously it’s still really early stages for this and I don’t think anyone knows the specific answer, but it would be good just to see if anyone’s got any direct experience about this. Lee, you’re staring at us on our screen at the moment, so why not go to Lee as the first person to talk to on this one?
LEE WILSON: Yeah, sure. So Google came out and mentioned about lower monthly spend, which is obviously very sort of traditional of Google being quite loose and open to interpretation. Obviously they mentioned advertisers with lower monthly spend, and again that leaves it very much open, which is pretty much how Google usually announce these type of things.
They’ve provided some information about it being targeted specifically to bots, which would imply a zero spend, an inactive campaign, or certainly a spend which would be very minimal, like $1 or something like that. So it could be a case that really it would be more to do with impacts for inactive accounts.
So a lot of people, especially in the SEO industry, have used Google Keyword Planner tool extensively as part of their keyword research and as part of the process of gathering data to make informed decisions. And so really I think the people that are likely to be impacted by the spend, whether it’s marginal being $1 or whether it’s based on inactive accounts in other areas, will be people that are trying to use it for its information value.
But in regards to the specific question of how much it will be, my own interpretation of it would be that it would be either zero-spend accounts or extremely small budgets, so $1 or something like that.
DAVID BAIN: Yes. I mean, we’ve done a little bit of experimenting and found that the numbers came back as long as you’re spending just a tiny amount, just £10 or that kind of amount. But of course it may still be impacted by the amount of use of that account as well, and if you were using it too much, not like, perhaps, a business that I guess would be spending just that minimal amount, then perhaps it might come back and throttle you a bit more.
LEE WILSON: I think that’s exactly right and I think what makes it slightly worse as well is that the initial sort of indications of the ranges of information they’ll give you is such limited value that actually it almost completely removes the value of the Keyword Planner tool, which is what people use effectively quite frequently for things like trying to make content relevant to their audience in other areas. And whilst larger companies and many businesses that use agencies have access to prescriptive marketing platforms or deep data platforms, those without – like small businesses – are going to be the ones that are going to really feel the impact of this.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. Julia, have you got any thoughts on this? Is this something that you’ve looked into?
JULIA LOGAN: Actually, I’m just not as fussed. Neither has my account been affected by this already. Let me tell you first of all that I don’t do any PPC at all. I stick purely to organic SEO. Apparently the only reason why I ever use a Google keyword tool is for keyword research. We’ve all known for quite some time now that the data that it used to show for the keywords, the search volumes and competitiveness, is just an approximate estimate, basically just a sample of whatever data they might have on those keywords. So you always have to take that with a huge pinch of salt, really.
But as of now, me not spending anything, me just doing keyword research for organic SEO purposes, does that make me a bot? I don’t know. Basically I’m forced to switch to PPC. I’m forced to start running any sort of campaign just for the sake of running that campaign. So what does that mean for the organic SEO practitioners out there who just do not do any PPC?
First of all, does that mean that Google doesn’t really understand the user intent of their tool users? It may or it may not. We have seen previously in many cases that different parts of Google do not really talk to each other. Does the AdWords team not know what is happening in the Organic Search team? It may be the case.
But I think there’s also this intent to push users into running paid campaigns as much as possible, because that’s one thing that actually makes Google money and Google wants to monetise everything it does, basically, so it only makes sense. From their actual business’s point of view, that was one thing that wasn’t being monetised, by letting users like me use it for free without paying anything, without doing anything.
My concern is, if you run an agency where multiple people use different accounts for different purposes and somebody’s responsible for PPC and they have an account attached maybe to their email or some specific designated email that the agency only uses for PPC and nothing else, and then there are other people working on organic SEO in the same company and they need to use the keyword tool to do some keyword research for clients of theirs for organic purposes, what happens? Are they forced to share the account with the person running the ad campaigns? Are they forced to start spending in their own accounts? I mean, Google doesn’t give you a chance to run... I mean, I’m not really on the PPC side of things, but as somebody who’s more informed about this, please tell me. Is there an option for a company to create a company account with multiple logins for different members of the team?
DAVID BAIN: I’m not a pay-per-click expert either. You can obviously download an adverts management tool, which I think obviously multiple people can log into that there as well. But you mentioned earlier on there, Julia, that your account was affected by this. Does this mean that you’re intending to start to pay a little bit of money to test a campaign to see if your account is freed up with the figures again?
JULIA LOGAN: Not really. It doesn’t really make much sense to me. I do get a few research projects every now and then but it only happens a couple of times per month at the most. And in most cases it’s just checking the keywords search volume data for some running projects. Luckily some of my clients are on paid campaigns and they collate that information for me from their prospective projects that I run for them, where I need this data regularly updated on a monthly basis. But as for myself, it just doesn’t make sense. I don’t think so, no.
DAVID BAIN: Well thanks for that perspective. I think we’d better go to Laura now because Branded3 are tweeting about us.
LAURA CRIMMONS: Yeah, I kind of agree with Julia. I think the main people that are going to be impacted from this aren’t necessarily going to be advertisers. It’s probably going to be more the organic side of things that’ll be impacted by the lack of data, which is kind of similar to when Google decided it would lovely for us all to have. I think if they do anything that hits too many of their advertisers too hard they’ll just be forced to scale it back because they need the advertisers to be on their side and still wanting to spend money with them. So I think they know that they’re kind of hitting organic.
I mean, the main thing that it’s going to impact on is forecasting, I would think, especially from an organic point of view, understanding keyword volumes. We’re just going to see more of those ranges, those kind of ‘less than 100 searches a month’, which is actually not that useful.
So I think it is just kind of encouraging people to use the accounts a bit more, tie up accounts. The only way to really get around it by using test and learn campaigns. So, you know, if you are hit by it, rather than kind of pulling all your PPC accounts into one, if you’re not able to do that, just creating some more test accounts for the keywords, so while you’re not going to spend too much money but what you will still get is the impression share meter, so you will still be able to get some learning from that in terms of keywords, in terms of search volume. If you do that enough, it might be that Google then decides to reinstate and give you all the access back within Keyword Planner, but if not at the very least you’re kind of getting some data in there so you’re not left with nothing at all.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. Google were aware that they could only push advertisers so far, but it certainly will be intriguing to see how this one pans out. And someone else who perhaps uses the keyword data for content marketing is Shelli. Shelli, are you actually in the Keyword Planner tool much or is there not really sort of data for you?
SHELLI WALSH: Well I do actually manage a couple of PPC accounts on a small level for a charity client I have, and interestingly enough I actually have one of the Google grants, charity accounts, and then also a standard Google account. So I had a really quick look just to compare before we came on and I’m still seeing all the data on the charity account, where I’m running about $1,500, $2,000 a month. And then on the other account it’s between about £400 and £500 a month. Still getting the data. And then I checked one of my dormant accounts and it was buckets. Obviously I’ve not tested and gone, like you said, just £10 or something. I mean, obviously for myself I’ve got the option of access to accounts where I am spending money.
Obviously Google are starting to strangle usage on data and, you know, this is only one line in a succession of things that are not provided. And ranking’s also starting to be strangled as well. You know, it’s things like this, targeting every area of data which is useful, and as everyone else has said, driving us all towards paid accounts, which is what they clearly want. Are they going to shoot themselves in the foot in the long-run? You know, are people going to turn against... You can’t turn against Google obviously because they’ve got such dominance in the search market and particularly organic.
I was checking out some of the conversations online. Some people suggested Bing and everybody just laughed at that and said, ‘Bing’s an absolute... [unclear – 0:16:51.8] and Bing just aren’t very good.’
But I think probably a big part of why they’re doing this as well is to actually hit all the other tools that are taking their data from Google.
DAVID BAIN: Yes.
SHELLI WALSH: I think SEMrush and people like that, you know, everyone’s relying on this data. So once we shut it down, nobody has access. And I think actually that’s probably more of their motivation. And I think there’s been a lot with rankings as well. It’s stopping third parties making money off the back of it now. So they’re trying to force people back into Google, force people into the paid accounts.
DAVID BAIN: Yes, well watch this space. Thanks for the specific feedback as well. It does look as if as long as you spend a little bit, you’re fine. If you’re using some sort of bot to crawl your account, perhaps you won’t be fine unless you spend a whole lot of money, seems to be the scenario at the moment. But I guess we will see how this space evolves.
Quick thanks to Heather Stobbart commenting on Facebook. ‘Thanks guys. Great conversation.’ She was actually asking about the software we’re using to produce this. I’m actually using vMix and the guys are joining me using Google Hangouts. But I’m putting that through vMix to do that. So hopefully that answers that query there.
But let’s move onto question number two, which is Barry Schwartz has reported in Search Engine Land that you’re now 50% less likely to see the image bot show up in your Google search results page. So why might this be and might this impact search marketing at all? Shall we go back to Julia for this one? Have you got thoughts on this one?
JULIA CRIMMONS: Well first of all I did see already on some of the queries images...not disappearing completely but moving to the second page. But as we all know, the best way to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google results. So they have lost a great deal of visibility.
I suppose it’s just a matter of relevance. I haven’t tested this yet and I don’t know what principle they are using, why they may or may not move the images to the second page or remove them altogether, but in any case if nobody has been clicking on those images I would expect them to reduce the visibility for them.
Images have been seen since the days of old AdSense publishers as something that would attract clicks. If that doesn’t happen, then probably it doesn’t make sense to place them on the first page.
DAVID BAIN: Lee, is it all about revenue? Can Google just not drive any revenue from image searches?
LEE WILSON: No. Definitely not. It’s not all about revenue, it’s not all about paid search, and image search is very much still alive at Google. It’s really interesting actually because this post that came out talking about the drop of image boxes in Google also coincided with Google adding more thumbnails to organic search result listings. And so the two literally came out at the same time. One was broken with SEM posts, so Google adding more thumbnails to Google search result listings. So for me, I think it’s just part of the phase of Google doing more testing, looking at the right way of incorporating images, and just looking at the best way in which it adds value to the user. I mean, the key part with Google’s relationship with SEO specifically is about the validity and credibility of the search results. I mean, that’s what made Google the success it is in the first place and why people go to Google primarily for their search queries is based on relevancy to them and speed of results.
I guarantee within the next three months we’ll be seeing even more images appearing within Google in one form or another, but I think probably the thumbnail image which we used to associate with authorship and stuff like that will be very, very much incorporated for areas like ecommerce websites and things like that. I think literally there are a couple of stories breaking at the same time, both relating to images, one with removing images from one area of search results, one with incorporating them more into another, and I think all that’s happening really is we’re just seeing Google testing, as it always does. And I think it will settle down within the next few weeks and we’ll probably see one form or another, an increase of images in the search results completely contrary to the initial breaking story about the drop of 35 to 20%. I think that’s literally where we’re seeing images removed from one area of Google search and then seeing them incorporated in another.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. I think they’re trying to make images related to the content that is actually published and so they’re clickable and the user actually feels that they’re a relevant user experience rather than perhaps just images by themselves.
LEE WILSON: I think that’s exactly right.
DAVID BAIN: There was a tweet actually by Barry Schwartz just about an hour ago, saying that he was driving at that moment in time about 5,500 people live on Search Engine Roundtable through AMP, and I searched for ‘Search Engine Roundtable’ and there was an image associated with that. So the image that they used obviously helped to drive more click-through rates, make their story the top of the news and more likely to get clicked on in the future.
LEE WILSON: Absolutely. That makes perfect sense.
DAVID BAIN: And Laura, do you find that talking about images with clients is something increasingly important for agencies to be doing at the moment?
LAURA CRIMMONS: Yeah, I think definitely. My primary area is PR and PR has always been about your image as important as your story. The image is what grabs someone’s attention, it’s what sells it. So yeah, image and having good photography has always been important to what we do for clients.
I think the thing with images disappearing is Google’s all about intent and it knows that people’s intent isn’t necessarily to see images for the majority of searches, and if someone wants to do an image search, they do an actual image search. They don’t expect it in the majority of their results. So I think that’s the main reason that we’re seeing that disappearing and that’s why we’re seeing the thumbnails coming back into...mainly being seen on mobile on the larger-screen mobile devices, the tablet devices.
But I think that’s a big part of it, is it’s all about intent and what people want to see, and often when they see an image they want to see the context of that and a thumbnail will make more sense to rank, rather than images in isolation for the majority of queries.
DAVID BAIN: Got you. Yeah. That’s great. It’s all about the context and you can’t just be buying stock images now. You see everywhere it’s going to be specialised, directly related to what you’re talking about.
LAURA CRIMMONS: Yeah.
DAVID BAIN: And Shelli, do you have much involvement with images at all within your content as well?
SHELLI WALSH: Yeah, I do. Obviously I do content creation so I’ve got to say, of all the subjects today, this was kind of the one that I really had the least to add to, just purely because I only just found out about it. But what I found interesting, the same as what Lee said really, I think this is just down to Google doing a lot of testing. There’s been a lot of testing in the search recently. A few people have seen results with cards. Not everybody’s seen them. I’ve not seen them but I know people have been commenting that they’ve been seeing them and actually putting the results in cards. You know, there have been lots of changes going on and I just think it’s kind of part of that, really.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah.
SHELLI WALSH: So I don’t actually use image search as a tactic in what I do, but then obviously as Laura said, image is very important. You’ve got to have a really strong concept and you’ve got to put a nice gloss and spin on that with some good imagery.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, and including images, I guess, in your social media cards as well, so that when people do share your content then you get the imagery actually shared, yeah.
SHELLI WALSH: It’s definitely been massively important, particularly on Twitter, when Twitter introduced images. You know, for anybody who’s using images in their tweets, it’s got a massive uplift in click-through. And it grabs attention. To the point actually where I do feel that Twitter has just become completely overloaded, visually. It’s a bit like Facebook, really. It’s a visual assault when you’re looking at it and it can be really hard now, when you’re just flicking through, quickly trying to grab bits of information, which was what Twitter was always great at, now you’re just totally overwhelmed. So unless you do have a strong image in there, you disappear in between the images.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah.
SHELLI WALSH: You’ve got to be in it to win it, really.
DAVID BAIN: You used to be able to stand out by having an image. Maybe now you stand out by not having an images and being in between all the images.
DAVID BAIN: Well no, I think you get lost. I think if you don’t have an image you just get lost, to be honest. I think the best way to approach using Twitter is using really strong blocks of colour.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. That’s a great tip. Well we had a few good things to say about that particular topic, but you also mentioned that you’re particularly interested in the next one, which is the European Court says that linking to illegal content is copyright infringement. So should this only be a concern for a small subsection of unscrupulous publishers or is it something many businesses should be aware of? What are you thoughts on this one, Shelli?
SHELLI WALSH: Well this is obviously fascinating. You know, copyright is a huge, contentious issue of mine and actually controlling copyright is very, very difficult. Particularly somebody like myself who’s twenty years been in a creative industry, being an illustrator – so copyright and IP rights have always been very much on my mind – now that we have the web, you’ve just got to let things go. You can’t control them anymore. And once something’s out there online, your copyright’s gone.
But what is really interesting with this European Court ruling is that they’re actually putting the responsibility into the hands of the user. So it’s a bit like people are handling stolen goods. Obviously you can’t necessarily control the counterfeiters, but what you can control is the people who are buying and selling and handling these kind of stolen goods. So it’s kind of trying to put moral responsibility on people to police themselves.
I mean, when it comes to actually checking every page in terms of checking every page that you link to, to see if they’re valid and they are copyrighted, that’s a pretty intense task.
I think what will happen is, what came to mind first of all when I read this was it’s a bit almost like the Interflora scandal that happened and everybody freaked out about links. I was doing a lot of infographic work at the time and all of a sudden clients were demanding to see prequalified outreach lists. So before you could even outreach to somebody, they wanted to see the list of how you outreached to, whereas before that it was just free for whatever you could get.
And I think it’s going to have the same implications so that brands are going to demand more and more control. And then obviously link-building is going to become much more difficult and much more time-consuming and much more expensive, if we’re going to have to start prequalifying who we’re linking to and trying to validate those sites in copyright terms. I mean, how do you validate copyright anyway? It’s throwing yourself down the rabbit-hole, really.
DAVID BAIN: Link-building’s going to become a lot harder. Maybe the European Union’s on the same side as Google!
SHELLI WALSH: I don’t think so actually, given what Google makes! But yeah, my general opinion is I think the ramifications will be that people who don’t understand this will just freak out and they will just start panicking, as they did when the Interflora thing happened. It’s like, ‘Oh my God. Where am I going to get a link from? Who am I going to link to?’ And I think it’s just going to become much more time-consuming and a much more difficult thing to do. But then doesn’t it always?!
DAVID BAIN: Lee, do you think it’s unfair putting the responsibility on whoever’s actually doing the linking?
LEE WILSON: Yeah, I think this whole kind of area sort of rings a bell with when the cookie policies first came out and everybody was unsure about what it meant, how you would police it, how severe penalties would be and what the impact would be, and I think that ultimately it comes down to intent, really. I mean, if you knowingly are linking to, citing, promoting content that you know is factually incorrect, it’s illegal content in other areas, then obviously it comes down to intent as opposed to the action of unwittingly linking to content. I think the whole point of the internet is free access to information, the universal access to information, regardless of the device you use, the speed of your internet connection, your geographic location and everything else. And I think as soon as you start putting in place barriers preventing people to access, share and see information for free, you completely undermine the whole intent of what the internet was created for in the first place.
And I think when we start to think about the fundamentals of Google – and it certainly does come back to things like free access to information and things like that – these sort of areas are completely in contrast to that, and actually, while a lot of it comes from good intentions (so obviously you don’t want people to share and fuel illegal information), at the same time you can’t punish anybody that’s just simply sharing information they believe to be true.
So for me it’s how can you prove intent? How can you prove that somebody deliberately links to something that they know is untrue? And I think that’s where the difficulty lies and that’s where the difficulty is with any enforcement aspects of it. And so with this I think there’ll be the odd big media case, which will fuel the intention of trying to make people think twice before they link to content and link to statistical information and link to quotes and sources of data, which I think is quite valid. I think when you publish content on the internet you should be aware that you’ve got some degree of accountability of, ‘I’m putting my name to these words and I’m publishing it for people to be able to access,’ and so part of that should be some degree of due diligence in regards to what you put out there.
But at the same time, you can’t just punish people based on making mistakes or with best intentions. So for me it’s one of those nonsensical rulings which is almost impossible to enforce based on intent. Unless someone really clearly shows they’ve got an intent to share something which is incorrect or illegal.
DAVID BAIN: Julia, should the majority of link-builders be aware and concerned about this or is this something that really isn’t going to impact the vast majority of businesses?
JULIA LOGAN: I wouldn’t think about this in the context of link-building, really. It’s first of all whether it’s fair to put the responsibility on the linking party. Think of this. A bank robber comes into the bank, robs the bank, runs out, fetches a cab and goes somewhere else. Is the cab driver responsible for the bank robbery?
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. I think that’s a great analogy. That’s probably the best summing-up of the situation, I guess.
JULIA LOGAN: Also whether or not the European Court is on the side of Google, in terms of copyright infringement, let’s start with just saying that Google has never been particularly good at attributing the content to its source. And I still don’t think it’s particularly good at this today.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. I think that’s...
JULIA LOGAN: Good luck in enforcing this decision with Reddit and other large user-generated content-sharing platforms. And it’s not just about users playing by the rules of the platform and posting the links, whatever copyright-infringing content they can be linking to.
But also, I don’t know if anybody on this hangout is aware of how much, say, Reddit gets spammed by people creating whole pages exploiting, basically, the vulnerabilities in their platform and creating whole pages linking to illegal films, downloads and the like. I get to see that quite a lot because that’s something I’m interested in. All the different spamming, vulnerabilities, security side of things. I get to see that quite a lot. It’s happening on a daily basis. Basically, if Reddit were forced to do something about this, they would have to employ a whole team of people simply for cleaning up whatever spam they get in like that, whatever pages people have created with links to that sort of content.
And then again, how do you prove that the owners of Reddit are responsible for these links?
DAVID BAIN: Laura, is PR responsible if it ends up building lots of links to a page which has got a copyright infringement on it?
LAURA CRIMMONS: I think this is less of the worry for anyone that works in link-building or in PR or content marketing from the side of the outreach thing, ‘cause what you’re doing there is you’re building links to a page that you have created. So you wouldn’t create a page – if you were doing things for the right reason – that has illegal content on there or has a copyright infringement. So I think it’s less of a worry for people working in PR and people working in link-building, and more of a worry, to be honest, for people working in publishing or people that are looking after companies where they might be then linking out to external sources.
The biggest issue is the lack of control after you post something. You could be linking to a page that’s completely legit and doesn’t have an illegal information, but you have no control over what happens to that page once you’ve linked to it. The site owner that you’ve linked to could potentially place illegal content on that page which you haven’t intentionally linked to, but may then be there if someone was to follow the link from your website. So I think that’s the biggest issue here that people have to be wary of, is just making sure that anything that you’re linked to already you would have made sure it’s a trustworthy source. But it’s potentially a case of trying to revisit any external links that are on your site that are quite prominent – make sure that the content on the pages you’re linking to hasn’t changed and become something that you wouldn’t actually want to link to, if that makes sense.
DAVID BAIN: Got you, yes. Laura, the audio that’s coming through from you has gone a little bit choppy. I’m not sure why that is. It could be because you’re using a battery and maybe the battery’s running down or something like that. So you could perhaps try either refreshing the hangout or maybe switching to a different audio device, if you could possibly do that. While you just have a little think about that, I’ll just tell everyone about the next topic.
SHELLI WALSH: David, can I just interject very quickly?
DAVID BAIN: Sure, yeah.
SHELLI WALSH: Sorry, I just wanted to make a quick comment. I don’t think I was really clear in what I was saying before and I think I got a bit confused when I was saying about the link-building becoming more difficult. The point that I was trying to make was that I felt that it’s the publishers are not going to react and freak out, as in terms of they’re not going to be as willing to link out when this comes in. I think I got a bit confused when I was talking about linking out and linking in. So I think the smaller websites, I think people will see this ruling and then think, ‘Oh, I’m just not going to link out to anybody,’ and that was the point that I was trying to make. And I think that’s where we’ll see some impact.
DAVID BAIN: It will be interesting to see what kind of impact this has. I would certainly be concerned if smaller websites were concerned about linking to legitimate resources and doing the traditional thing.
SHELLI WALSH: Yeah, but I think some people will just see this as a general ruling and just think, ‘Well I’m not going to link to anybody because I don’t want to risk anything.’ This is where we’re talking about uninformed, general people who don’t really understand digital, of which there are a lot. I think sometimes we forget we’re in an enclosed digital world where...well I know I do, how much you understand, you forget that normal people out there don’t have the same knowledge and so for a lot of people, they might see something like this, a sensationalist headline about linking out is copyright infringement and then just completely misread it and think, ‘Well I’m not going to link to anybody.’
DAVID BAIN: It’s going to help Google!
JULIA LOGAN: I’m sorry. I think the main part of this is actually touring sites and the like.
DAVID BAIN: Okay. So it’s not written content, it’s audio and video content that they’re trying to target?
JULIA LOGAN: More likely.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah. Interesting thought. Okay. Well let’s move onto the next topic ‘cause that relates to audio, certainly, and that is Amazon Echo has launched in Germany and the UK. So that’s after being launched in the USA for quite some time now. It’s a voice-controlled speaker personal assistant. But is it the next generation of online search or is it just maybe a very early stage production product that isn’t really worthwhile paying close attention to from a search perspective at the moment? Shall we get Lee back on for this? Lee, what are your thoughts on this one?
LEE WILSON: I think for me the most exciting aspect of it is the bit that hasn’t really been covered that much in the media, and that’s the machine learning aspect of it. So it’s not just a personal assistant that replies to pre-programmed answers based on the questions it’s anticipating; it also learns from what you say to it, how you interact with it, and basically performs much more of a role based on machine learning. And it ties into so many areas that are really exciting at the moment in the industry, so things like RankBrain and Hummingbird previously a few years ago, and really the whole topic of machine learning and what that means, because obviously Google is a machine learning entity itself. Items like RankBrain are very much tied around understanding search behaviour, understanding what people are looking for, and all of this is tied down to machine learning and basically using information, repurposing information, re-combining information with the mission of being able to provide a better end result of the back of that.
And so the exciting part of this is that absolutely, if you’ve got a few pounds in your pocket and you want to invest in something that’s going to be likely an industry leader in the field, then I would certainly say that when you start going down Amazon Echo route, it probably is a good example of something to invest your money in. And I think even from the point of view of finding out how effective it is in regards to anticipating your needs, adapting to your needs, and actually interacting with you based on learning your spoken patterns, your regionalities and all sorts of other areas tied to language and interpretation. I think it’s a really exciting thing and I think it’s certainly going to be a real challenge to items like Siri, Cortana, Google Now and all these other existing areas.
DAVID BAIN: So Lee, can you actually see Amazon moving more into mainstream search in the future and perhaps actually becoming more of a direct competitor of Google, then?
LEE WILSON: Absolutely. I think Amazon could be a direct competitor to almost any business entity and I don’t think Google’s excluded from that, to be honest with you. I think there are very few companies that could really challenge Google, but I think when you talk about Google, really you’re looking at one of the biggest global – or the biggest global – data-based business and Amazon is very much of that same kind of pitch and certainly they’ve got a lot of experience and expertise in regards to gathering data, using data and now understanding data much more.
And I don’t think you need much more. When you talk about search engines, really all you’re looking at doing is matching user intent with a really seamless and expedient end result, and I think Amazon do that every day with delivering things and Amazon Prime and obviously they’ve moved into main media and other areas as well, through TV channels and programming and everything else. So I think Amazon search would be very much an obvious step for them and I think it plays to their strengths and certainly offers a real, tangible challenger to Google, as opposed to the traditional search engines which, if anything, are probably impeded by their experience in search because it restricts them to what they know as opposed to what they can potentially do with the experience and skillsets they have. And Amazon’s experience and skillsets is about data and it’s about end results and it’s about expedient delivery, and I think that ties in great with an opportunity of moving into search.
DAVID BAIN: And Laura, you were particularly looking forward to speaking about this particular topic. What are your thoughts on this?
LAURA CRIMMONS: Yes, I think in terms of voice search generally, and the world of personal assistants, I think interest in it is increasing, but I think take-up’s still pretty low. People still do a lot more text-based search than voice searches. I don’t think that’s necessarily going to change any time soon.
I think there’s probably going to be a better take-up in the UK than Germany, purely because of the privacy issues. Generally take-up in anything privacy-related is lower in Germany. So for example, Twitter take-up is lower in Germany, purely because it’s more of a public platform and they’re very cautious around who has access to their data. So I think the UK would definitely be the market that it would take off in a lot more than Germany, or a lot quicker than in Germany.
I think the interesting thing, particularly from a search point of view, is the number of new searches that we’ll be seeing. So I think there was a figure that Google released before around 500 million or 500 billion new searches that it sees every day. I think that’s only set to increase with this because there are all sorts of new things that you’ll be asking a personal assistant that you wouldn’t necessarily have typed into the search bar. So I think that’s definitely interesting and that’ll lead to a lot more long-tail opportunities and us being able to discover a lot more, especially when...I mean, this isn’t just Amazon Echo, we’ve also got Google Home that’ll be released later in the year towards next year, and I think that will be the one for me that I’ll be more excited about, ‘cause I think with Google’s data and matching that, that will be a lot more interesting for me.
On the machine learning thing, I think that’s a big part of what we’ll get from this and that is the exciting bit. So things like sentiment have always been very difficult to distinguish from text-based searches. It’s very difficult to understand someone’s tone of voice and the sentiment of what they’re saying. However, with voice searches and with using virtual personal assistants, that actually is something that we can start to learn and can start to act on.
So for example, there was an incident in America where the police used sentiment to disseminate police forces to the right areas on New Year. So I think there’s a lot from a social good point of view that we can do once we can understand sentiment and searches and that kind of thing a lot better. I think that machine learning and understanding more is something that is exciting with the launch of more products like Amazon Echo.
DAVID BAIN: A lot of great points there. Thank you. And Julia, do you think Amazon have done the right thing here launching a physical product outside the smart phone, instead of just launching an app? Is it significant that they’ve done that and they’ve, to a certain degree, designed something for the home? I mean, Laura was saying obviously she can’t see a great deal or a massive amount of voice search perhaps being done, obviously, walking down the street, but maybe voice search is going to be the norm in the home. What are your thoughts on that one?
JULIA LOGAN: Well, would people on this hangout who actually use voice search raise their hands? Just out of curiosity.
DAVID BAIN: Use it at the moment? No.
JULIA LOGAN: Not at the moment, just generally? Ever?
DAVID BAIN: One hand? We’ve got Lee, I think, raising his hand. That was it.
JULIA LOGAN: One out of five, yeah. That pretty much sums it up. I’ve never used voice search, just because it feels weird to talk to the phone. I don’t know. I don’t even know much about this product, apart from the fact that [unclear – 0:48:36.6]. Amazon has launched a physical product before which is directly connected to their main offer, which is a book reader. So that certainly makes sense to them. Why they decided to launch this one, I’m not quite sure. The purpose of search for Amazon as a company, I think is completely from that for Google. Google is the information source. Amazon is the product source, the shopping destination. So for them, search would be apparently more connected to the users’ purchasing intent and as such, they might be able to nail it better than anyone else because they already know that if a person is searching for Product X, maybe that person intends to buy it. Or maybe they intend to research it a bit, read the reviews before they buy it. But whether or not this will be a competitor to Google, I’m not sure. I’m not persuaded.
We’ve been talking about Facebook once it has launched its Knowledge Graph. We’ve been talking about Facebook becoming a competitor and the next search platform that’s out to kick Google out of the search market. It has not happened just because Facebook search has a different purpose.
I think it’s pretty much the same story here but I just can’t say more because I’m just not aware of what’s going on that much.
DAVID BAIN: Shelli, are you confused why Amazon have chosen to do this or does it make complete sense that they’re doing this?
SHELLI WALSH: Oh, not at all. I think it’s a very natural progression. I’ve got to say, I don’t know a massive amount about the Echo product, obviously having not used it, so I can’t talk on it from a first-hand experience, but I did see a fantastic talk by Tom Anthony at the [unclear – 0:50:58.0] event a few months ago. Obviously, as you’ll know, Tom Anthony is a huge ambassador for apps and APIs and things like that, and what he really believes is that the future of search is going to be based much more in your apps. So for example, using things like Siri and Cortana, so you’ll speak your query into the phone and then there’ll be a personal assistant API. So say, for example, ‘I want to send flowers to my mother,’ and then the app will actually organise that and directly send the flowers – it will directly link you to, say, Interflora, and then send the flowers. So keeping you out of Google. I think this is the interesting potential I see.
I was just glancing through an article and it was saying about Google wants to create this world of frictionless knowledge and it’s quite interesting how... I think search is going to much more integrated into apps, and it’s not necessarily going to based on, say, for example, how it used to be, you’d go to your desktop and you’d search Google and get links. I think it’s going to become much more integrated into life.
I think we are going to move towards that frictionless experience. I think we are going to have more apps in cars, for example. And around the home as well. And we’ll end up speaking to appliances more.
What really fascinated me recently is my dad’s quite old – he’s 87. And I pay for his mobile phone bill for him and I organise his mobile phone. And what really amazed me was he’s just got a smartphone. Against all my better judgement and telling him not to, he’s got a smartphone! And what he does – and this is someone who only got a laptop a year ago; he’s not technically savvy at all, didn’t grow up in that world, doesn’t understand it at all – but what he does, he speaks to his phone and he says, ‘I just speak to it and it tells me.’ He said, ‘If I need to know something...’ And it absolutely blew me away!
And I suddenly thought, ‘This is really interesting.’ Because this is a guy who we would all intuitively turn to a keyboard but this is someone who’s never used a keyboard, and his natural, intuitive nature was to actually speak to the phone, because he finds it easier, rather than trying to navigate through the interface of the phone to find what he needs. And I found that quite incredible.
But coming back to Echo, obviously what really worries me is that whole situation of, ‘Is it going to be listening into you in everyday life?’ We’re going to have all these appliances around our home. Who’s to say they’re not going to be listening to us? I mean, obviously we’re all fools if we believe that the FBI doesn’t have access to our phones and laptops anyway and can listen and watch us at any time they want to. Come on! That’s the world we live in.
But I do think that we’ll see more and more of these appliances. And it’s obviously going to take time and right now in the next few years it’s not going to impact on organic search. Certainly not in the job that I do it’s not going to have an impact. But I think in the wider world it’s going to start to have huge impact. And probably in about ten years’ time I think we’re going to see a massive leap forward in technology and we’re just going to see a massive change with more and more apps, where we’ll speak to them, we will interact with them, we will speak to them and they will do functions for us. I think there’s fascinating potentially, actually. Incredible potential. It amazes me, actually. As somebody who grew up before mobile phones and somebody who grew up before the computer, how the world has changed in the past 30 years is just absolutely mind-blowing.
DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. And what it will do in the next 30 years.
SHELLI WALSH: It really is like Star Trek, you know? Speak to a phone on your wrist, an appliance on your wrist. We really are just starting to see technology that when I was a kid, you couldn’t even imagine.
DAVID BAIN: It was in your dreams or didn’t exist in your dreams, yeah.
SHELLI WALSH: Yeah, yeah completely.
DAVID BAIN: Well we could keep this strand of the conversation I’m sure going for another hour but we’ve got one more topic to cover, and that is Twitter now lets brands display their availability to answer tweets, so it’s encouraging more customer service interactions to take place on the platform. And apparently there are more features on the way. So will this change the way brands use Twitter as part of their online presence? So shall we stay with Shelli at the moment? Is this something that you’ve had a think about and think that it’s likely to drive brands to using Twitter a bit more?
SHELLI WALSH: Well I’ve always actually believed that Twitter is just an amazing channel for customer service. I think it’s just perfectly made for it, and I think if brands embrace that and use it, this real-time, live customer service, you can’t beat it. I would recommend any business that has the resource to be able to do that, to do so, to have somebody dedicated monitoring customer service all the time. I think the quicker you can pick up something and the quicker you can engage with somebody the better.
In terms of what would I recommend? Well obviously my recommendation is that brands should be doing that anyway. How will they actually display in real times? Change things and that’s it. It will focus the users, knowing when a brand might be available. But I think the big lifestyle brands, this should be on almost 24/7 anyway. Not 24/7 but I think they should be on through extensive hours anyway. So limiting yourself to nine to five for a big brand, I don’t think they should be doing that anyway.
DAVID BAIN: So Julia, are Twitter doing the right thing here to focus on customer service as one of the core uses of the platform?
JULIA LOGAN: Well you can’t force brands to use it. But if you’re the brand who thinks they can handle it, by all means do that. I know some great brands out there who have been making the most out of Twitter in terms of customer support, interaction with their current users. We can show users so far, even without this recent launch.
On the other hand, a while ago I ran a little bit of research in terms of how responsive some brands are on Twitter, and I’ve conducted a few rounds and I was very disappointed by the response in some cases, meaning that I got no response at all, even though they do have Twitter presence. So if that’s the case, these brands probably will not just jump on this opportunity because what’s stopped them from doing so until this was launched?
It’s just a matter of enabling those who already do this. Let’s use this functionality, which is great. But it doesn’t mean that brands will be more motivated to do this. It’s not like they couldn’t do this at all before.
DAVID BAIN: Right. It might help existing brands that were using it. A great example was KLM, of course, and they update their top image every five minutes to actually say the average response time. So live at the moment it’s 26 minutes. So I think that’s a wonderful use of Twitter and I think they’ve been particularly progressive at things. Is that Lee wanting to jump in on that one there as well?
LEE WILSON: Yeah, I just think that there are two elements to this, really. I think one is that one of the big barriers preventing businesses getting involved with social media, especially Twitter, is that expectation that they need to be able to reply very quickly to things, they need to be online 24/7. And actually...
JULIA LOGAN: They have to have a dedicated person for that, yeah.
LEE WILSON: Yeah, I think that’s right, and I think because there’s so much customer service attached to microblogging platforms like Twitter especially, there is that real need that it’s difficult for a small business or medium-sized business to toe-dip into social media because they fear that actually there’s going to be a lot of negativity and they’re not going to be able to respond to it. So I think that could help on that aspect of it.
I think the other aspect of it is the opportunity to be on there 24/7. So for example, with the use of things like chatbots and things like that, the idea is there is some degree of opportunity for businesses to maybe invest more into technology and to kind of be a bit more at the cutting edge of things. And I think chatbots and those kind of opportunities have been there for some time. But if you can remember back in the day with Ask Jeeves, they had a chatbot on Twitter which would respond to initial queries, it would use basic machine learning and artificial intelligence and it would just kind of match a person’s query or expectation and point them to a link on the website with that answer and with that information. And I think now chatbots offer so much more than that, that actually businesses could look at this as a way of saying, ‘Okay, I can to-dip into the water, I can find out a bit more, I can set the customer expectations, but I can also fully immerse ourselves in it,’ and then take it to the next level if they want to.
DAVID BAIN: And just finishing up thoughts on this one, Laura, is this something that you’re likely to be discussing with any clients at all?
LAURA CRIMMONS: Yeah, I think it’s a useful thing. This for me is just Twitter’s response to Facebook implementation of average response time. It’s just giving you the control over what you say. You’re responding rather than Facebook kind of auto-generating for you. That’s kind of what it screamed to me when I heard about it.
In terms of recommending it, I think absolutely. If your channel’s set up to do customer service and then using Twitter for that, then absolutely they should put in the response times on there. It’s a great thing to implement. But I think in terms of Twitter customer service we’ve still got a long way to go. So many brands are ‘doing’ customer service and actually all they’re doing is directing people to their traditional customer services means, and that’s actually more frustrating for a person than anything else. I’m sure most of us have experienced it where you tweet a company on social media and they’ll say, ‘Oh, follow us and we’ll DM you,’ and then all their DM is, ‘Can you send a message to this form?’ or, ‘Can you call this number?’ And that’s actually not Twitter customer service at all. You’re not solving anyone’s query on Twitter, you’re just directing them to another frustrating channel that they may well have already tried.
So I think in general Twitter customer service has got a long way to go. I think there are some brands that have invested in it and they’re doing it well, but I think there are a lot that are still very slow to catch up. And actually, my opinion is either do it well or don’t do it at all. So there’s no point adding those times if actually you don’t do Twitter customer service well. If all you’re doing is the same thing I’ve just said, pointing someone to a phone number or an online form to fill in and not actually resolving their question on Twitter, then no, probably don’t input that on there because it’s just going to frustrate people more than anything if you say you’re responsive and you’re not.
But if you are responding on Twitter and you’re solving people’s problems on Twitter then absolutely it’s something to implement and it’s definitely very useful.
DAVID BAIN: Great points. Well that just about takes us up to the end of today’s show, so just about time for a single takeaway and some sharing of find-out-more details from our guests. So let’s start off with Julia.
JULIA LOGAN: Well what can I say? That’s been a week with plenty of new developments, just like about any week in our industry. It’s a fact-based industry, so it’s important to stay abreast of all the developments, but it certainly takes quite a bit of effort to just look through the hype and get to the actual core of what’s really going on.
DAVID BAIN: Okay, yeah, there was lots to discuss. Lots of other things that have happened this week that obviously we didn’t even get to, but hopefully it gives viewers quite a few things to go away and think about. Is there anything in particular that was discussed today, Julia, that you think the viewers should find out more about and they have to actually perhaps even know more about to implement in their business quite soon?
JULIA LOGAN: Well I definitely want to find an alternative to the Google Keyword tool now.
DAVID BAIN: Yeah, that’s a good...
JULIA LOGAN: That’s one thing for sure. And also it’s quite interesting where this whole development with images is going, and that’s something I will definitely be looking into more as well.
DAVID BAIN: Great thoughts. Where can our viewers find out more about you and what you do?
JULIA LOGAN: So I run a consulting site at www.irishwonder.com. It has a blog which is updated very infrequently. I do about a couple of posts a month...a year, more like! And I have a more active Twitter account at @IrishWonder, so that’s where I’m more likely to be found posting something more frequently.
DAVID BAIN: Superb. Well thanks for joining us, Julia.
JULIA LOGAN: Thanks for having me.
DAVID BAIN: Thank you, yeah. And also with us today was Laura.
LAURA CRIMMONS: Yeah, I think the biggest thing, like I said at the start, the most interesting thing for me was Amazon Echo. I think just kind of the way voice search and conversational search is going is very interesting for us to think about as search marketers, and I also think just on that point the kind of things that people are searching is also really interesting. Bing brought out its stats earlier this year about how many people are using Bing now and if you think about all the different ways you’ve got search – you can search on your Xbox now, you can now search on Amazon Echo – whatever’s next, I think it’s important that we bear that in mind and don’t just think about Google all the time. Because it was the same with video. Everyone thought no one would overtake YouTube and then Facebook did a pretty good job. So I think it’s important to keep abreast of these new products and other people that are offering searches.
DAVID BAIN: Great thoughts. Yeah, we’re broadcasting live on Facebook and actually YouTube at the moment. However, last week’s episode I found that more people watched on Facebook, so that’s why the emphasis is on Facebook this week, even though we’re broadcasting on YouTube. So great point. So thanks for joining us Laura. And where can people get hold of you as well?
LAURA CRIMMONS: Oh. So I’m www.branded3.com. I blog on there, again not as frequently as I should do. I am active on Twitter as well, so it’s just my name, @lauracrimmons.
DAVID BAIN: Great. Okay, thank you Laura. And also with us today is Lee.
LEE WILSON: Hiya. Yeah, I think my main takeaway from today is obviously people need to get more involved with things like image search. It is here to stay. It’s going to be tested all the time. There are lots of variations of it. And it’s one of the biggest underused tool and it’s only going to get bigger with mobile search, m-commerce and all these other areas.
And obviously also machine learning. The idea of being able to search, understanding content and context of search queries, and actually being able to chat to a personal assistant, have them interpret your needs and then provide a better end result through search engines and also through app search and more integration with app and search engines. I think it’s an exciting time to be in the industry.
DAVID BAIN: It is indeed! And it was great to have you on here, Lee. Can you remind our viewers where they can find you as well, please?
LEE WILSON: Yeah, sure. So I’m Head of SEO at Vertical Leap. You can see me online blogging on www.vertiacl-leap.uk. You can also catch me socially, mainly on Twitter, on @LWilson1980.
DAVID BAIN: Superb. Well thank you again for joining us. And last but not least was Shelli. Thanks for joining us, Shelli.
SHELLI WALSH: I’m always last! With a surname that begins with W I was always last in the class! So I actually found all the topics really interesting today. I think a really hot topic at the moment is obviously Keyword Planner and what’s going to happen to our keyword data, volume data. Who knows? Who knows where that’s going? But we all desperately want an alternative but if Google shut this down we ain’t going to get one.
What I would recommend is the Amazon Echo obviously really fascinating discussion going on there. I would highly recommend that if you can search ‘Tom Anthony’ on the next trillion searches, that was really fascinating. I’m just looking here. If you Google it I think there is an article. There might even be a video of his speech. There is, is there? As much as I’m loathed to recommend any competition (No, I’m kidding, Laura!) I highly recommend... It was an excellent event, actually, the Search Leeds – there were some really good speakers. But the Tom Anthony was one of the most interesting speeches I’ve seen in a really long time. So if you can see that, I highly recommend the next trillion searches on the branded3 site.
So yeah, you can find me on Twitter @shelliwalsh. You can also find me on Content 101. You can sign up. I’ve got a content newsletter, so training and tips on there. Obviously my site is www.shellshockuk.com. That’s just a company site. But all my blogging and stuff is on Content 101, so check that out.
DAVID BAIN: Superb, yeah. Well thank you again, Shelli. I’ll also include the Twitter handles and the website of everyone who took part in the show notes and that’ll be www.authoritas.com when we publish the replay.
I’m David Bain, Content Marketing Director here at Authoritas.com, a data site- driven, SEO and content marketing platform for agency and enterprises.
So if you’re watching this show as a recording, remember to watch the next episode live. Head over to www.thisweekinorganic.com and hopefully 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, if you sign up to the email updates at www.thisweekinorganic.com you’ll receive podcast links from there too.
So until we see you again, have a fantabulous weekend and thank you all for joining us. Cheers. Adios.