TWIO-05: Google Direct Answers Looks Stupid – Again!

This is the fifth episode of our brand new weekly show, ‘This Week In Organic’, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news.

In this episode, among other things we talk about the DuckDuckGo search engine, when is the best time to tweet and why Google Direct Answers look stupid again. Our host, David Bain is joined by Josh Belland from Signet Interactive, Tony Passey from Pole Vault Agency and Tyler Barnes from Emfluence.

Sign up to watch the next show live over at and share your thoughts on what’s discussed using the hashtag #TWIO on Twitter.


DAVID BAIN: Do you DuckDuckGo? Apparently the best time to tweet is at two o’clock in the morning. And Google Direct Answers looks stupid. Again! All this and more in This Week in Organic. Episode Number Five.

Broadcasting live from London, welcome to This Week in Organic, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news. Sign up to watch the next show live at

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, dear viewer, get involved – we’d love to hear your opinion too. So just use the hashtag #TWIO on Twitter, and if you’re watching live your thoughts will magically appear in the chat box to my left-hand side.

So let’s find out today’s guests and where they’re from and what’s caught their attention this week. So starting off with Josh.

JOSH BELLAND: Hi guys. I’m Josh. I’ve been in the search industry for the last seven years, focusing mostly on organic SEO and also doing SEM. I’m pretty involved in the online community and I have a blog – that I update with tips and different strategies for organic SEO. I’m happy to be here.

DAVID BAIN: Great to have you, Josh. Is there any particular topic that has happened over the last seven days or so that maybe has caught your attention this week?

JOSH BELLAND: Yeah, quite a bit. I’ve been looking at some disruptions that have been going on in June that started in about mid-June with Google’s algorithm. Or actually just with the search rankings in general. In fact, increasingly I think Wikipedia switched over to https, and I’ve been reading some articles that were focused on that and talking about how that may have been an influence on some of the volatile rankings that were going on.

And I think that also the upcoming Panda, or the people foreseeing the Panda date, that’s been something I’ve been seeing going around quite a bit as well.

DAVID BAIN: Yes, the https is quite an interesting one because of course Reddit went https as well as Wikipedia, and that’s caused a higher percentage in general of https search results in Google and it’s quite hard to figure out whether or not it was Google’s algorithm that changed as well to change the percentage of https or if it was just because of those massive sites choosing to go https.

JOSH BELLAN: Yeah, exactly. That’s been the question in my mind as well because I’ve definitely noticed a fluctuation. In fact, just looking over MozCast not so long ago, you can even see the trends that they’ve been recording, there’s been a lot of up and down search rankings overall and I’m just kind of interested to see what they come back with or what comes out. We’re not as informed with Matt Cutts not really being around right now. There haven’t been as many updates coming directly from Google on the matter.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, that’s right. Google have fragmented, really, their source of communication on what’s happening and it’s more challenging to figure out what’s happening. So yeah, lots to talk about.

So also joining us today is Tony. Tony, would you like to introduce yourself and give us a feel of what’s caught your eye over the last week as well?

TONY PASSEY: Yeah, so my name is Tony Passey. I’m actually the CEO of a small agency in Salt Lake City, Utah. I also teach search marketing and various principles in organic and I teach that at the University of Utah that’s located just ten minutes’ away from our shop. So I have a little bit different views sometimes on the industry because I spend a lot of hours in the classroom teaching fundamentals a lot, like coaching, and when you teach something you tend to look at it a little differently, a little deeper sometimes, and so I have that perspective. And then we do a tremendous amount of client work around here, so trying to catch those together.

Interesting that Josh mentioned communication breakdown with Matt Cutts not being at Google and I’ve been kind of hunting around the web, as maybe some other people have. The word on the street is that they’ve replaced him, that somebody’s there, somebody’s running the search team but they’re not as public-facing and probably not as comfortable as where Matt is. But this is something that we’ve been looking into today, where there’s not a clear line of communication, it’s not defined. What kind of things do we believe from the various sources that are still there? And so not a lot of information coming out of Google right now. However, it doesn’t seem that the updates have slowed down any, and so it’s a little bit confusing in the last few months as to what’s going on.

DAVID BAIN: Mm. A lot of information and misinformation out there, I reckon, as well. So also joining us today is Tyler. Now Tyler, would you like to introduce yourself and perhaps give everyone your view of what’s happened over the last few days in terms of SEO and content marketing.

TYLER BARNES: Sure thing, David. I’m Tyler Barnes. I’m with emfluence digital marketing, here in Kansas City, Missouri. I’m the Director of Search here at emfluence and we’re a full-service digital marketing agency, so what I do day-to-day, I come to search sites – originally I was a marketing research strategist, a company I was with for about seven years now, eight years – but now I also run an SEM site as well, so getting my hands a little more dirty on the paid side of things.

I think the most interesting things that I’ve seen this week are actually following on from what Josh was saying. It’s the kind of aftermath of the phantom update, as well as the upcoming Panda algorithm update. Those two pieces together have really shaken up things on the web and I’ve seen it for a few of our clients where it’s very interesting and we’re just now seeing how that’s bouncing back. In fact, this week and last week I had to see where some of the ranking shake-out from phantom had happened on May 2nd through 4th are starting to come back out – Google’s moving it back in a direction where they’re helping out some of the sites, I think. You know, algorithm updates, they hit really hard at first and then they kind of back off after a while. So that’s been the most interesting thing I’ve been looking at this week.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, great. I’m sure we’ll have a further conversation about that. Now I of course had some technical challenges before we actually started, so we didn’t have an opportunity to have a good conversation beforehand. Your microphone doesn’t seem to be coming through that clear, actually, so it might be worthwhile just having a little look to see if you can turn that up or see if it’s your main microphone that is being used there.

TYLER BARNES: Is that better?

DAVID BAIN: It sounds a little bit better. Not absolutely spot-on, but I can maybe mute you for a second if you want to take a little look at it and we can have a little discussion at this end. Okay.

Well let’s start off by having a look at a little search engine. So DuckDuckGo have just announced that they’ve just surpassed ten million searches per day, which seems fairly significant, actually. So does anyone here use DuckDuckGo? Josh, maybe starting off with you, have you tried and used DuckDuckGo?

JOSH BELLAND: I really can’t say that I have but I am aware of the announcement that it made and I’m not sure if it’s because people are becoming more privacy-conscious nowadays or if it’s just more and more people are going away from Google, but at the end of the day I’m not really that into DuckDuckGo. My whole life is pretty much Google!

DAVID BAIN: I know, yeah. You just have to follow what the general public does, don’t you? I haven’t worked in the States but I remember working in Australia and when I was working there, about 94% of searches online were done on Google and I know it’s a bit less in the states – what, it’s about 75% or something like that?

JOSH BELLAND: Yeah, it’s about 75% because I think Yahoo! and Bing collectively take about 25% of that.

DAVID BAIN: Okay. What about yourself, Tony? Have you used DuckDuckGo or do you use it on a regular basis at all?

TONY PASSEY: I use it quite a bit personally. So there’s a lot of things that are very interesting to me. So I spend a great deal of time working with students ages 19 to 30, and they seem to behave and they seem to view the internet slightly different than some of the older users, people that really got into search at the time that the internet was really born.

Privacy, tracking seem to be huge issues. There seem to be massive trust issues with that certain generation, that certain segment of the population, and so what I see quite a bit is people like the clean search results, they like that it’s an uncluttered search engine.

I personally have it set to my default search engine on Safari and I think DuckDuckGo getting marketing share is going to be the function of really two things. I think that if they do a better job putting buttons out there that will cause it to be the default browser on mobile devices, on tablets, on PCs, which is where a lot of the search engines make up, we tend to thing that a lot of Yahoo! search volume that we see, a lot of Bing search volume isn’t really coming from a conscientious choice by the user but it’s really that at some point their device got synched up and got set to default and they’ve just never figured out how to change that back, and so they just learn to live with the search engine that they’re on as their default search tool.

I think DuckDuckGo can do a good job at prying into the marketplace and I think once they’ve got a little more adoption, I think there might be a snowball effect there. I think the other thing is that trust issues are going to continue to be a really big issue. There’s got to be tremendous pressure on Google to perform for stock holders and most of the updates and tweaks that we’ve seen to search quality, as much as they claim that it’s not really about monetisation of the search engine, I truly believe that we’ve seen a lot of major changes and updates that have been really directly related to ad revenue.

And so DuckDuckGo, it’s in its infancy. They can take a lot of leeway with how they do it. We have seen success here internally as well with advertising, so as you probably know, DuckDuckGo’s ad network, their advertising, is all tied in with Yahoo’s network, so as you advertise on Bing ads, you can place pay-per-click ads on DuckDuckGo, and we’ve actually seen pretty good results through those mediums.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, well we’ve got Lewis Pugsley tweeting live, saying that DuckDuckGo finally getting the recognition it deserves. So what do you think, Tyler? Is DuckDuckGo a search engine we have to keep our eyes on? [no audio from Tyler] We’ve got silence there from you, Tyler. Okay, I’m afraid we can’t hear you at the moment.

TYLER BARNES: Can you hear me now?

DAVID BAIN: We can hear you now, yes.

TYLER BARNES: Okay. I’m going to get rid of the mic. We’re going to go straight up.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, that seems better than it was, anyway, so that’s great.

TYLER BARNES: Alright. Sorry about that.

DAVID BAIN: You could hear my question, couldn’t you?

TYLER BARNES: Yes. Just had some mic issues there. I think DuckDuckGo is something we have to look at but not as a major competitor to Google. I believe that DuckDuckGo’s going to gain in popularity and it could become maybe a kind of competitor to a Bing or Yahoo! situation but I really don’t see it over the long-term taking out the Google dominance in the field. I don’t see the snowball effect happening. What I see happening is that people that are extremely privacy-conscious and want to completely stay anonymous, which is still a small fact – everyone says they really want privacy but they want the bigger companies to give it to them. They want Google, Apple, Microsoft to provide that privacy. They don’t want to go out of their way to get that privacy.

DAVID BAIN: Right, okay. Well at least they can put some pressure on big companies like that to hopefully do things better for consumers and think about consumers’ privacy, as you say.

So talking about Google, Google have said themselves that they’ll be dropping emoji characters from search results. They started supporting this about two months’ ago and it’s been really one of the first companies to add emojis to their page titles. So are Google removing emoji spam or are they stopping organic results from getting more interesting and a little bit different? So Josh, what’s your opinion on that one?

JOSH BELLAND: I honestly think that emojis are a spam indicator. I think that Google is just doing their best to keep the search results clean and to give their users the best experience in this case. When I heard about that, just envisioning search results or a bunch full of emojis, it didn’t sound that great! I think about it when I get emails and I have little hearts and stuff all in the emails and just ‘delete’. I hit ‘delete’ immediately because usually it’s spam.

DAVID BAIN: It depends on where you are. Maybe on Periscope or something like that. But I guess the challenge is Google can’t really control it and if, as someone else suggested on another webinar a few days ago, someone put five stars next to a result, it could make the website visitor think that it was five stars in a review as well.

JOSH BELLAND: Right. There’s also the fact that I know some people maybe are viewing, and click-through rate is something that we’re going to try to manipulate with the emojis. A lot of people believe that click-through rate is a top organic ranking factor, even though Google hasn’t directly said it’s an organic ranking factor. They’ve kind of indirectly implied it in the past.

But I think that, like authorship, now that right there I think would probably be more correlated with Google trying to capitalise more on their ads. Maybe they’re losing a little ad revenue due to authorship and that’s why they get rid of that. In fact, their revenue ended up going up after they got rid of it.

So I thin that that was, but emojis, I honestly believe that’s just more correlated with them wanting to keep the web clean and not wanting people to stop using the search engine because they see a bunch of hearts and stars and things like that throughout the web.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, yeah, absolutely. In relation to the first topic actually, DuckDuckGo, Stephanie Katcher’s just tweeted with the #TWIO hashtag the link to the DuckDuckGo blog article on them surpassing ten million searches a day, so if anyone wants to read that one, just go to the #TWIO hashtag and you can find Stephanie’s post through that.

But what about you, Tony? Are you an emoji man?

TONY PASSEY: So first and foremost, I don’t care!


I just don’t care whether it’s in the search engine or not. It doesn’t make a difference to me. But that being said, Josh painted this picture that Google’s cleaning up the search engine and I think you have to take a step back and say, okay, for my generation, for people older than me, yes, it looks like you’re cleaning up the search engine, but what about the person who’s thirteen years old now and becomes a major consumer in six to ten years? What does the world of digital look like to that person? It’s full of those icons, it’s full of all kinds of crap that doesn’t look right to me, and so I don’t know if it gets revisited down the road. I definitely think it’s a distraction.

But I also think that, you mentioned emoji in the email subject lines and so the first time you were able to send an email and put that icon in the subject line, click-through rates in email went through the roof. It was like this revival and everyone thought that this was going to be the new thing with email. And then about five minutes’ later it was over. So I think these things are going to pop up and they’re going to disappear real quick. I really think that that’s all that was, is that a couple of people jumped on, they saw a little bit of increased click-through rate, but I don’t think anybody’s going to be able to point to their business and say, ‘I’ve been successful because of these emoticons or these emoji items in my text.’

DAVID BAIN: Okay, so we saw Expedia just trying it out a little bit and it was quite fun to see little icons like an aeroplane seat beside the flights page and you can maybe guess that that resulted in higher click-through rates to that page, but possibly only short-term and you can understand that not being in page titles in Google search results for the long-term. Are those your thoughts, Tyler? Do you think that it has any future at all in search results?

TYLER BARNES: I just don’t see it having a future because Google’s got to walk this fine line where if they keep allowing it to happen it’s going to get spammy and it’s going to kind of deter from the search experience, which is what people want. They want people to quickly click on the ads or click on organic and find something immediately. So once it came around I thought everyone had a lot of fun with it. There was a lot of talk in the search sphere about, ‘How can you use this to improve your click-through rate?’ But I think it was always a short-lived little game that Google was going to pull away because I think we all agree – nobody really sees a major use for it and there is some danger that people can abuse it. I think the five star example is a great example of that.

DAVID BAIN: So staying with Google, Matt Cutts has now extended his Google leave until the end of 2015 and he’s not getting paid. However, he’s considering his future. So what will he do in the future and does it really matter now? Because he has been away from SEO influence for quite a while now, really. Maybe Tyler again. Are you concerned or do you not really care what Matt Cutts is up to now?

TYLER BARNES: You know, having Matt around was great and Matt Cutts is a great guy. But it seems like he’s really enjoying his life taking this extended vacation and honestly, I’m jealous of him! I wouldn’t mind a year and a half vacation myself!

DAVID BAIN: Not getting paid?

TYLER BARNES: Not getting paid? That’s the thing! If I could do that, I would, but I kind of need that income! But I think that overall, Google’s done a good job of filling the job of Matt Cutts. We don’t have that centralised kind of search presence like we used to have, but we’ve got guys like Gary Illyes stepping up and sharing a lot more from the Google Webmaster Tools side, and we’re seeing Google Webmaster Tools offer a lot more connection to things like Google Analytics and the search console that they just put in.

So overall, I think we’re going to be okay without Matt Cutts, but I am sad to see him go. There was a lot of fun around Matt Cutts and his persona at Google.

DAVID BAIN: And all the little cartoons and avatars that started popping up. I guess they couldn’t last forever. Josh, are you going to miss Matt Cutts at all, if he does actually decide he’s not coming back?

JOSH BELLAND: I’d say so. Yeah. Probably I feel the same way. Matt Cutts, he was sort of the go-to guy in the search industry. I mean, who actually worked at Google! And there were times when everybody would be yelling at Matt Cutts about algorithm updates or you’d see 100 tweets fly at him in a second because all of a sudden there was some disruption in the rankings, and his responses were always pretty…sometimes amusing and sometimes… There was always a lot of discussion around Matt Cutts. A lot was centred around him.

But I think that since he’s been gone, on the flip side, more people have been focusing less on Matt Cutts and been focusing more on just the industry itself, right? And the search industry has always been one of those that is extremely community-involved and we share a knowledge with each other on the web. So I don’t know. I guess yes I will because it’s been sort of like a mascot or something! But at the end of the day, I think that Google will be fine. I think that Matt will be fine. If he doesn’t return, I’m sure it’s probably the best decision for him.

DAVID BAIN: You’re not worried about Google yet. That’s nice of you!


DAVID BAIN: Tony, did you follow Matt quite closely in terms of what he said or were you not that concerned, really?

TONY PASSEY: Do you mean, like, was I the car behind his car at every conference?


And I followed him to the hotel, to the restaurant?

DAVID BAIN: It was you!

TONY PASSEY: That’s always one of my favourite parts of the conference is that he would attend. There would be that mad rush to figure out what bar he was going to that night. Everybody in the hope that they’re going to catch some tip at two in the morning. That’s always a lot of fun.

But in reality, I think here’s a pretty cool guy that started as a software engineer and turned into sort of this micro-celebrity inside of an industry, and I can’t imagine that back in 1995 when he’s doing his PhD and heavily into software engineering that this is what he thought he would be doing. So I’ve got to feel like that’s pretty stressful. I want to go on record as saying that I’m not worried that he’s not been paid the last year.


Okay, with that, I think he’s going to do just fine! I think everyone can stop lamenting that he’s got no pay cheque. He’s got healthcare, so that’s good. I think he did okay. I think if he never comes back to work, he’ll probably live out his life just fine.

But I mean, I’ve said in my classes at the university a couple of times that I felt like Matt Cutts walked out of the situation at a time that he can look back and say, ‘You know what? We built a search engine algorithm that is substantially complete.’ And I know there’s going to continue to be updates and I would never ignore that as search engine optimisation professionals we’re going to fight these updates all the time and we’ve got the walk that we need to do for our clients, but it’s substantially completed. I mean, Google wanted to come up with a digital way to catalogue and rank pages and you just don’t see the same types of massive spam and hacking attacks that you saw just three or four years ago. So I feel like he accomplished what he was going to do, put a pin in it, and now it’s onto the next thing. So maybe he goes back and works on Microsoft Kinect and gets the whole Xbox thing to work the way he wants. I don’t know!

DAVID BAIN: No, well said. He has accomplished a lot. He will certainly be remembered, ten, twenty years from now as someone made a significant difference in the involvement of the internet, I reckon. So who knows what he’s going to do. It was interesting while he was here but I’m sure the future’s going to be interesting with or without him..

Well coming up, we’re going to be talking about the best time to tweet, why Google want to pay money to Moz, and the perceived reliability of Google’s Direct Answers takes another hit.

But first of all, we’ve got a shout-out. Now when you sign up to watch This Week in Organic live, you’re encouraged to socially share the show and in return, we give you a shout-out, so shout-outs this week to Vince Martinez. Thanks for sharing This Week in Organic on Twitter. Vince had a website designed by Tony. Tony, you can pay Vince later for this!


So you can find Vince’s website over at

But moving onto the next topic, which is Buffer. Now Buffer have released a study saying that the best time to get more clicks on your tweets is between two and three o’clock in the morning, but of course the most popular time to tweet is during the day? So when is the best time to tweet? Should we all be getting up at two and three o’clock in the morning to tweet? Who’s an avid tweeter here? Tyler, are you an avid tweeter?

TYLER PASSEY: Yeah, that’s kind of my social media platform of choice nowadays. I spend a lot more time in Twitter than I would on, say, LinkedIn or Facebook. Facebook nowadays is basically just to tell people ‘Happy birthday’. But I found that article very, very interesting in the fact that I really don’t see you getting the true engagement that you want out of a 2am tweet. So they’re saying, ‘Hey, it’s a great time to tweet, 2am, you’re going to be able to get to the other side of the world.’ Probably could be getting to a lovely little click farm as well, while you’re at it, which I think might be playing into the factor, I don’t know – I’m not Buffer. But that’s what raised some red flags for me right away, was saying, ‘That’s a little strange, ‘cause I just don’t see a lot of people up and around at that time, so if you’re visiting Kansas City at 2am, the people that are going to be reading it don’t tweet at 2am on a Tuesday. I’m basically going to be preaching to the Shanghai Choir and the Indian markets. Maybe Australia, maybe a little bit of Europe.’

DAVID BAIN: It’s probably not the right thing to take away from the study that it’s a higher click-through rate to any urls in there. It’s probably not the right thing to focus on there. Obviously the majority of people were clicking during the daytime, so that’s probably the right time to do it for the majority of target markets. Josh, are you someone that is really into Twitter and did this peak your interest at all?

JOSH BELLAND: Yeah, a tweet a bit but honestly, I’m kind of more on the same page. I’m not sure how tweeting at 2am is going to reach my target audience. Unless they’re in a different country. And in this case, sometimes they are. And it’s funny that you actually mentioned going on Facebook to wish ‘Happy birthday’. I just started automating my ‘Happy birthdays’…

TYLER BARNES: Oh, that is brilliant!


I’m seriously going to do that today!

JOSH BELLAND: Yeah, every time it’s somebody’s birthday, they get a ‘Happy birthday’ that is automatically created!

So as far as what Buffer stated about the highest number of clicks, is it the highest click-through rate has been announced or is it the actual highest number of clicks? Maybe it’s the highest rate.

DAVID BAIN: It’s the highest click-through rate. I mean, by far the highest of Twitter is during the day.

JOSH BELLAND: Now you may have had two impressions in one click, so I don’t know. I mean, you have a 50% click-through rate. So I mean, it’s just hard to understand…it’s hard to really validate that claim.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, it’s a strange piece of data to look at and take anything from, really. I don’t think many people will be letting that change the way they conduct business. Unless Tony’s got another opinion at all?

TONY PASSEY: Well it depends on your industry. We’ve got a couple of clients where 2am is really where their users engage.

DAVID BAIN: And you want to talk about them? That’s fine!


TONY PASSEY: You know, entertainment, local bars, 2am’s a great time. If I was somebody like Uber, trying to drive people home from the bars, 2am’s a great time to be tweeting. But no, you’re exactly right. I mean, I think the reason why Buffer came up with these numbers, again, I don’t think they mean crap, I don’t think there’s any weight in it. It’s just there’s no competition at two o’clock in the morning. If you look back at Rand Fishkin’s presentation that he carried around with, maybe about three or four years ago – it was ‘Choose Short Men and Tall Women’. I don’t know if you guys saw that, but Rand Fishkin talked about how 6.5% of your followers is the most you’ll ever find online at any time. And social media to me has become a competition. I would never post on behalf of a client at 2am, as opposed to posting multiple times during the day. It just doesn’t make any sense.

DAVID BAIN: Well you mentioned Rand Fishkin then. So talking about him, he recently received an email from Google, claiming that Moz could make $2.5million a year by partnering with Google to display CPM ads. So are we seeing Google turn into a global media house? Should we be thinking that advertising agencies, maybe, should be concerned about that? Tyler, have you got any thoughts about that?

TYLER BARNES: I thought that was quite interesting. It’s basically like ads since 2.0 saying, ‘Let’s get these big players on our side,’ basically trying to compete with the Facebook competition going on. I thought it was quite interesting that they reached out to Moz for that, since that’s kind of strange choice for who to target specifically. Of course they’re going to talk about it, but I’m sure they’re doing this across the board. And I do think it’s a good opportunity for Google. They’re always trying to expand their AdSense network and expand their CPM network and be able to kind of become a publishing house, that’s the goal for every major in the space right now.

So it’s interesting to see where this goes and who’s going to jump on it in the future. It doesn’t look like Moz is very interested but it could be that this individual sales method for this strategy works out as well, but I don’t know. Time will tell.

DAVID BAIN: Sorry, there was a bit of interference. I’m not sure if it was your microphone or something else happening there. But yeah, advertising agencies could potentially be concerned or scared about this. You’ve got global massive organisations like WPP. Tony, do you think that big groups like that need to be very concerned about Google perhaps going directly to organisations and getting revenue and bypassing the traditional media model?

TONY PASSEY: I don’t know. I mean, to be honest I was just more excited that Moz gets a little extra revenue, right?


I think it was more exciting that they could use $2.5million. But as I look at the digital display landscape, something like this where Google starts moving into this, to me is such a small player in the global aspect. I don’t know who is doing display seriously that isn’t doing programmatic and isn’t leveraging networks and exchanges and honestly, Google Display Network and most of what Google’s doing, what we call around here ‘front door activity’, so I’ll place an ad space on Google but I’m going to do it through exchanges and demand site platforms so I can get it for the right price. I’m never going to walk through the front door and say, ‘Here’s my ads. Charge me what you will.’ They’re making moves like this. Unless they’re going to tie up about 400 major companies, I’m not super-concerned. If Google’s strategy was to start buying companies and absorbing media companies, then that’s a whole different story, but just opening up their ad buys and making some changes, to me it’s just a non-issue.

DAVID BAIN: Right, okay. I was just going to ask Josh. Josh, do you think it’s perhaps someone junior within Google, or fairly junior, reaching out and not really knowing what Moz represents? Or do you think…


JOSH BELLAND: That was actually one of my initial thoughts was wondering, who was the guy who actually reached out to them? They must have some people out there that are pulling these numbers together and presenting them in some sort of system, some sort of sales process they’d be going through, and it’s just funny, ‘cause Moz represents the exact opposite of what they’re trying to do. And it’s quite ironic.

But think that as far as the reason why Google reached out to them, it’s probably that or they just haven’t figured out a way to programmatically do it! Build lists and send this information out. But yeah, I don’t think it’s that big of an issue. $2.5million to Google is nothing. Well I guess that’d be going to Moz, but at the same time, that’s just such a small piece of what they’re trying to do, as Tony was saying, globally. So I think that it’s something that was sent off without thinking about it.

DAVID BAIN: So Tyler, if you were Rand Fishkin, would you happily let Google swipe your palm with $2.5million?

TYLER BARNES: You know, if I was Moz, I don’t think I would take money. I don’t think I would do it. I believe that one of the things that makes Moz great is they don’t inundate with ads and they don’t really push that level. So I like it that they published it out and didn’t just take what seemed like a pretty nice offer. So no, if I was Rand, I wouldn’t do it.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah. I mean, you can understand if they’re a media house and just producing content all the time and their core business wasn’t advertising. But they’ve got a different revenue model and most businesses that have their own revenue model would be better off focusing on that and driving people through their own funnel, rather than accepting advertising, so it’s not necessarily logical.

JOSH BELLAND: Moz probably got more PR value out of posting that than they would have with the revenue.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, I agree. Absolutely, yeah. Well sticking with Google, just finally, last week we talked about what killed the dinosaur, so if you haven’t heard about that or don’t know what I’m talking about, go and watch last week’s episode of This Week in Organic, but this week when you asked Google, ‘Who will be the next president?’ it came back with the answer, ‘Hilary Clinton is the next president of the United States.’ So surely Google can’t continue like this – that’s just ridiculous search results! Tony, would you like to start us off on this one?

TONY PASSEY: I love that they just save this country so much money!


I mean, we don’t even have to hold an election right now! And it’s not my political view but I don’t know if I actually disagree. I think that she’s going to be the next president whether we like it or not, so I think it all fits perfect together, honestly.

DAVID BAIN: It’s like Back to the Future. It’s like you’ve got a magazine, you’ve got an almanac now, haven’t you, that has the result for the next election, yeah?

TONY PASSEY: Meet me in Vegas. Let’s place some bets!


DAVID BAIN: Do you want to place some bets, Josh?

JOSH BELLAND: Oh, well I don’t know! I think that’s interesting. I’m wondering if that could possibly have been some sort of issue with the algorithm, maybe. Maybe a bug! Quite possibly if somebody was asking, ‘Who is running for president?’ but outside of that, I’m not sure. It’s just one of those weird things that Google does.

DAVID BAIN: I think it’s completely acceptable if it was a normal, number one organic search result, but of course this was a Direct Answer, so it’s something that Google tend to indicate that this is the actual answer to something.

JOSH BELLAND: That’s one of those things that… Actually, I’m glad you said that because Google are constantly trying to update and advance their conversational search. That’s a huge issue. There’s been talk from Larry Page about taking it to the next level, so they could be doing tests, experience, who knows? But I think that Google, being who they are, in the spotlight, I highly doubt that they would intentionally make that response. They don’t purposely make that response, you know?

DAVID BAIN: No, no, I’m sure of that. But even if they made it by mistake, if they do that too many times to Direct Answers, then they’re making themselves look a little bit foolish, though.

JOSH BELLAND: They are. It does look foolish. That’s exactly what they’re trying to avoid is bad user experience and that’s exactly what that is. You keep giving those responses, people are going to stop having faith in the information that they’re providing.

DAVID BAIN: And then DuckDuckGo will become more popular!

JOSH BELLAND: There you go!

DAVID BAIN: What about you, Tyler? Are you a fan of Direct Answers or do you not like them at all?

TYLER BARNES: I’m not a fan of Direct Answers. I think it’s going to be a while before they truly catch where everything you could say, you could safely trust a direct answer. It just kind of reminds me of that old episode of the American version of The Office where Michael Scott decides to just drive into a lake, ‘cause he’s going to trust his technology so much and Google says, ‘You need to drive this way,’ and he drives it right into a lake. Or GPS or whatever the time of this was. Did this hurt the Hilary Clinton campaign? Did this hurt or help the campaign? Are there going to be any ramifications from this or not?

DAVID BAIN: That’s a good point. I haven’t looked at the discussions on social media. Does anyone know if it’s generally positive or negative about Hilary Clinton regarding this?

TONY PASSEY: I think pretty unanimously it’s not something that any of us would spend our time looking for!


DAVID BAIN: Yeah, absolutely. Sorry, I just asked you one of those questions that is a bad question to ask in this scenario. I always like saying the person’s name and asking a question directly to that person, but if I ask a general question there’s either silence or everyone answers! It’s not a good thing to do!

But it’s intriguing to see what will happen with Google Direct Answers because we were talking about that a little bit last week as well and people were disagreeing about whether or not it’s a good thing and whether or not it’ll continue. We got Ann Smarty on and she was saying that she didn’t like it and she didn’t think it would continue at all. And then we had Jeff from Jeffalytics disagreeing with her on that as well. So who knows what the future will involve. I mean, certainly if it is to continue, they’ll have to do a better job with delivering better quality results.

JOSH BELLAND: Well it’s not only that but if you think about it, those Direct Results decrease the amount of traffic you actually get to your site, so getting that instant response reduces the amount of people that are going to click on your site to get that information. So that was one of the things that I think Rand Fishkin posted a slide deck. I’m not sure which forum he used – probably MozCon or something like that – but he uses those examples. No traffic for me, no traffic for me because Moz will be pulling out quite a few of those direct, instant responses.

So that’s an interesting way to look at it and from that perspective I wouldn’t like it. But at the same time, I don’t know if that’s going to go away any time soon. I think that’s the direction Google’s really trying to go.

DAVID BAIN: I mean, it’s new technology. We’ve got Stephanie Katcher on Twitter again saying, ‘Not just Google. Siri answers with unexpected results based on strategic programming!’ So all these voice-activated searches are experimental really, and Google Direct Answers is kind of related to that.

Tony, I don’t think I asked you. Are you a fan of Direct Answers? Do you like what it offers?

TONY PASSEY: No, I like it quite a bit. I do agree with what Josh said that it’s going to reduce traffic to a website but I think that Google’s mission is not to reward those that organically rank. I think their mission is to deliver quality answers to the user and in some areas they completely nail it and in other areas we have these mishaps, like who the next president’s going to be. I think, like anything that they do, they’re going to iron it out, and I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon.

I think that where I struggle with the whole programme is where they pull those answers from, really the information that’s being given. And if I had to make a guess, I would say that they’re looking at click-through rate and tracking where that user’s finding the information that they engage with and that they love, and so right now they’re pulling what they feel is the best result, but I think you’re going to see dramatic changes in how that technology works. But I don’t think it’s going to go anywhere.

DAVID BAIN: Watch this space. Well that takes us just about to the end of the show. So there’s enough time probably for a single take-away from everyone, so if everyone can have a little think about one take-away that you think the listeners should be taking away from our discussion, and then we’ll finish off with just confirming your contact details if anyone would like to get in touch with you.

So let’s start off with Tyler. Tyler, what would you say is one take-away for the viewers from our conversation and if you can share contact details, how people can get in touch with you, please?

TYLER BARNES: Yeah. I think one take-away from our conversation today would be I think all of us should attempt for the next week to only tweet at 2am and see what happens!


See how our click-through rate goes, how our engagement, you know, get some good tools, be able to check out what our social media is doing. I think I actually am. I think I’m going to spend a week… ‘Cause I have the time on Twitter. I’m doing scheduled experiments ‘cause I just really want to see what works and what doesn’t. I like to tinker, so I think it’s something that people could test out. I’d take everything with a grain of salt – I really don’t think this is going to change the way we use Twitter, change any of our brands, but personally that’s our plan and I think it’s a fun takeaway for today. And you can get hold of me via Twitter probably, is the best place. My username is @thetylerbarnes or you can check out my company’s website at Thanks.

DAVID BAIN: Great stuff. Josh, are you going to be joining us at two o’clock in the morning?

JOSH BELLAND: I might just schedule Buffer to do that for me! I think the biggest take-away to take from this is obviously right now, just more than ever, we see that the search industry is…we’re constantly keeping up. It’s very active, more now than ever, and I think it’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the future. And you can get in touch with me either by tweeting me at @JoshBelland or you can visit our company website, which is

DAVID BAIN: Lovely. And Tony’s just stopping his printer going there.

TONY PASSEY: Sorry! It tends to happen!

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, no problem. What’s your take-away and contact details?

TONY PASSEY: Well I think that the news, the press for the ten million searches on DuckDuckGo has really given them a bump. I do agree that they’re a long way from putting Google out of business but I think every little bump is going to help and I would be tremendously excited to see a really serious competitor in the marketplace. Google is so dominant in so many areas of the world, I just think it would be a lot of fun. I just love the economics of seeing a real strong competitor with a really different business model. So that’s my main hope, that DuckDuckGo really doesn’t just follow in the steps of Google and eventually end up being Google Part Two, that they really follow their business model.

If you want to get hold of me, @TonyPassey is my Twitter and our agency is

DAVID BAIN: Okay, great. Interesting thoughts there. Yeah, it’ll certainly be interesting to see what happens with DuckDuckGo. Maybe if Google continues to give some dumb answers to their Direct Answers, then that may just happen! So we’ll see.

I’m David Bain, Head of Growth at and you catch me interviewing online marketing gurus over at

Now, if you’re watching this show as a recording, remember to watch the next show live. Head over to and sign up to watch the next show in real-time.

But for those who are watching live, thank you for participating and tweeting – it was really, really appreciated. So keep on doing that next time, and remember to keep sharing your thoughts using the hashtag #TWIO on Twitter. Until next time, have a fabulous weekend and thank you all for joining us. Cheers everyone. Thanks for being part of it, Tyler, Josh and Tony. Really appreciate it.


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