TWiO-42: Links are still one of Google’s top 2 ranking factors

This is the forty-second episode of ‘This Week In Organic’, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news.

In this special episode of TWiO we discuss the fact that links are still one of Google’s top 2 ranking factors, whether or not it will it be necessary for paid and organic teams to work more closely together in the future, and we wish Periscope happy first birthday! All of that and more onThis Week in Organic, Episode Number 42.”

Our hosts David Bain and Lauren Adie are joined by Judith Lewis from, Bas van den Beld from and Hannah Butcher from

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

Topics discussed:

=== Topic #1

A Google engineer has confirmed that links, and content are Google’s 2 most important ranking factors – so linking isn’t dead yet! But what are some of the more effective link building strategies in 2016?

=== Topic 2:

Google have updated its knowledge graph to include a “share functionality” – however, the share button just links to the same search result. However, this surely shows that Google is serious about its knowledge graph. So what other knowledge graph changes might we see over the coming months and how should businesses optimize their knowledge graph results in the SERP?

=== Topic 3:

More and more organic search results are moving below the fold thanks to Google removing the right-hand ads and adding 4 top ads for many commercial queries. We’ve had a few weeks of this now – so how is this impacting SEO and does this mean that paid and organic search will have to work more closely together in the future?

=== Topic 4:

Search Engine Journal have reported that SEO jobs are going to decline this year – and that’s for the first time in 4 years. So why is this? Does this reflect a major change in the digital marketing requirements of a business and what should SEOs do about it?

=== Topic 5:

Periscope’s celebrated its 1-year anniversary this week with the announcement that 200 million broadcasts have now been made on the platform. So how the live online broadcasting trend impacted content production, and does this impact SEO?

=== Topic 6:

Finally – blink and you missed it – Google added a “Send and Drop Mic” button to Gmail this morning. But its April fool’s joke backfired a little when a few users inadvertently sent out unintended “drop mic” memes. Have you tried to incorporate April fool’s into customer interaction?


DAVID BAIN: Links are still one of Google’s top two ranking factors. Will it be necessary for paid and organic teams to work more closely together in the future? And happy first birthday, Periscope. All that and more in This Week in Organic, Episode 42.

Hello and welcome. I’m David Bain, and each week I’ll be joined by some knowledgeable, opinionated folks to discuss the latest happenings in anything that impacts organic traffic. And as for you in the live audience, get involved. Click on the share for 30 seconds button at the top left-hand side, and share the show with your own followers, add some comments to the right-hand side, it’d be great to hear from you. And hello to Bastian in the comments there, and hello to everyone else joining. So it’s a great time to have everyone participating. So let’s find out more about today’s guests, where they’re from, and what’s caught their attention this week. So starting off with Hannah.

HANNAH BUTCHER: Yep. My name is Hannah Butcher. I work for in Oxford, and my particular interests are PR and content, which is where I work. I’m the head of content and PR and
DAVID BAIN: Great, okay. Thanks for joining us today, Hannah. And any particular topic that caught your eye this week that you think needs to be discussed?

HANNAH BUTCHER: I think talking about effective link building in 2016 is really interesting, and I was also particularly interested by the fact that SEO drops are reported to be decreasing this year, so that’s something to look into really, and just figuring out why there might be a drop in SEO jobs, or whether that really is the case.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, absolutely that’s intriguing. So much to talk about. Also joining us today is Bas.

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Hi, I’m Bas Van Den Beld. I’m a consultant, self-employed, speaker and trainer on digital marketing strategies and SEO. I’m the founder of State of Digital. That’s it basically. There are tons of things that I saw, of course that it’s April Fools’ Day, so we saw some stuff come around there. I think the SEO jobs one that Hannah mentioned is interesting. It says something about the way we should look at SEO, I think, more than the actual jobs. We’ll talk about that probably later on. And I’m always interested in the Google knowledge graphs, so we saw some stuff on that as well.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, absolutely. A little share icon magically appearing overnight, so your thoughts on that. And also going to be joining us today is Judith. Judith is trying to get in; I’m now sure if it’s a challenge with the internet connection there at all. Judith, what you can do is you can refresh your browser, and then try clicking to come in again. So I’ll close you just now, and if you refresh your browser first then try to come in again, and then hopefully that will be all resolved, and we’ll be able to see you there. So we were seeing Judith a second ago, hopefully we’ll see her again. I’m sure she’ll be back just now.

As you can also see, to my left hand side, someone else joining us today. Would you like to introduce yourself?

LAUREN ADIE: Hello everyone. My name is Lauren, and I’m the campaign and outreach manager here at Authoritas. Usually behind the scenes with TWIO, but I managed to grab a spot on today’s episode. Very excited about that. I am relatively new to the SEO industry; my background is mainly in PPC. But yeah, I’m happy to learn, and excited about the episode.

DAVID BAIN: So Lauren would like all your tough questions. So yeah, thanks for joining us, Lauren.

LAUREN ADIE: Good to be here.

DAVID BAIN: Great to have you here. So Lauren will also be telling us about the various topics that we’re going to be discussing today, so what’s the first topic?

LAUREN ADIE: Alright. Topic number one: a Google engineer has confirmed that links and content are Google’s two most important ranking factors. So linking isn’t dead yet. But what are some of the more effective link building strategies in 2016? Bas, how about we start with you. What are you opinions?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Yeah, well that was a big surprise – linking is a big factor. Wow. Big surprise. There was a Google Hangout last week, and there was a problem with it where the Google guy just blatantly said okay, well this is a ranking factor. I think we overreacted like we usually do in the industry, because it’s not something that’s really new. And he basically just mentioned two of the several ranking factors there are. He also mentioned Rank Brain, and it’s like if you look at the changes Google’s been making over the years, it’s actually a gradual process of change going from the previous way that Google works with page rank to where we are now with RankBrain. It’s not like they switched a button and all of a sudden everything’s different. They’ve been making changes for years, and if you look at those changes, you’ll see a gradual step, but you’ll also see that the basics are still the same. It’s still SEO that we’re talking about. It’s still the fact that you need to create great content. That’s not changed in all those years. It’s not surprising that content’s in there, because content has been a traditional part of SEO, the original SEO. Because that’s where it starts – with the contents, and links is where Google started. So I think the most interesting part of this is that you can see a process in which Google is constantly developing itself based on what people are doing, and I think that’s what RankBrain is about as well. We have to look at the people more than we have to look at just the ranking factors.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, yeah. I mean every decent SEO certainly knows that links are very, very important. It’s good to see Judith joining us again there. Judith, you were having challenges joining us. I’m glad you were persistent in that, so thank you for that. Actually, would you like to just introduce yourself to everyone?

JUDITH LEWIS: Sure. I’m Judith Lewis. I have my consultancy called the Cabot Consultancy, and I guess I’ve been doing this for around twenty years. So thank you for thinking I don’t look that old.

DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. But twenty years, I’m just trying to imagine what was happening in the world of SEO twenty years ago, because obviously at that time we had just seen the launch of Yahoo and eBay really, in a world probably using AltaVista for online, or another search engine like that. Were you actually doing SEO for AltaVista? Has Judith frozen?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: She’s thinking about it.

DAVID BAIN: She is, it’s just thrown her. AltaVista?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: But basically SEO’s have been around even before there were search engines because we’ve always been searching.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah that’s a great point, absolutely. Even before online, before the internet, people were still looking for things, be it in directories or something like that, so there’s that thought process certainly that you need to serve in people. Hannah, you’re one that doesn’t seem to be struggling with your internet connection.

HANNAH BUTCHER: Yes, that’s me. I mean my opinion is Google’s probably not so scared to be talking about links anymore because they know that SEOs as a whole are quite scared of links. We know that links are important, but we’re so scared of them – that they’re going to cause problems down the long term, like is it a negative link? How do we know what a good link is? And this is something that people really struggle with, so if they’re so scared of links they’re almost not scared of telling us about them because they know that we’re still struggling to get those good links that we actually want as an industry.

DAVID BAIN: Absolutely. And I was talking to Rand Fishkin recently, and actually he was saying that he thinks that links are possibly even more important now than they were something like five years ago because there’s so much spam about now, now it’s about authority. And if you can get those authoritative links from people in your industry then it probably rises the ranking of whatever you’re looking for even faster.

HANNAH BUTCHER: Yeah, I don’t know if anyone saw the whiteboard Friday from a couple weeks ago. It was about 10X content, and I think that really hits home to me. You know, what are you doing versus your competitors? Are you doing things that really are ten times better, and if you are doing that, is it going to give you the results that you’re actually looking for in the first place. So many people are investing in content, but are they investing in the strategy behind the content, and actually doing it for the right reasons? And so I think these are all issues that we face as an industry, and are things that we’re all trying to achieve and say that we do, but actually getting them is quite difficult in practice.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, great point. I mean certainly if you do manage to deliver that high quality of content compared with other people in your industry, people are going to naturally want to link to you anyway. So hopefully that will exist with things. But can you rely on links being completely natural? Judith, do you think it still has to be manual a little bit now, and you have to be proactive about focusing on links for most websites nowadays?

JUDITH LEWIS: I really think that you have to be manual and proactive with links. I’d love to believe that links were natural, but they weren’t natural twenty years ago, and they’re not natural now. There is always going to be an occasion when you get a link that you just are given because of the pure pleasure of giving it to you, but most of the time it’s about introducing yourself, your site to people, to get them to like you or your site, get that link off of them, not necessarily in a manipulative or paid way, but you still have to do that outreach. You still have to make those connections, and it’s still a manual process; it’s not just a miracle of some sort of happenstance that somebody stumbles upon you in the search results, and sees your stuff, and it’s awesome, they link to you. How are they going to find you unless there’s somebody pointing to you in the first place? So it’s about relationships.

DAVID BAIN: It’s about relationships, and still asking for links, or because you’re building relationships so well, then links will naturally evolve because of that?

JUDITH LEWIS: There is an ambient awareness that links are an important part of the algorithm, and they’re an important part of life. So I think making that connection and introducing your business to another person, you are always going to have an undercurrent of, ‘I need a link, mate,’ going through every conversation that you have nowadays. I don’t think it was that way five years ago. I think it’s that way now. I think that there’s an inherent kind of undercurrent of, ‘We all need links. This is what the game is about. We need you to give us links. Please give us links.’ It’s just the way the world works now.

DAVID BAIN: I received a link recently from a fairly decent website and then I looked in the source code and it said no-follow and I was thinking, ‘What’s that all about?’ Do you think it’s worth no-following nowadays, Judith?

JUDITH LEWIS: Please don’t think badly of me! I do a lot of link-building and I do a lot of link-buying and I will buy a citation, I will buy a no-follow link, I will buy a follow link, I will do a lot of work around making sure that it looks ‘organic’, which is completely artificial, but I will work on getting no-follow as well as follow links, because nowadays with bloggers being terrified of the big, bad Google beast coming down on them, they will no-follow links, even if they’re legitimately, editorially given. And so in order to look natural nowadays, you do no-follow as well as follow links.

And Google is looking at those. It’s not discounting them completely. I have plenty of examples where I’ve moved rankings and the only things that have increased are no-follow links and citations. So things that aren’t follow links are still making a big difference in the life of a website.

DAVID BAIN: That’s intriguing. Bas, have you done any research at all into no-follow links potentially increasing ranking on websites?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Not as such, but I have seen what Judith says. It’s about the complete package. It’s not about the number of follow links you get. It’s about how your profile looks to Google and how it looks to Bing as well, actually. ‘Cause that is slowly growing. But still it matters, and it matters the fact that you have a ‘normal’ profile, if you know what I mean. So what search engines want to see is that your website is something that is natural and the most natural thing is that sometimes you get a no-follow, sometimes you get a follow. So it needs to be balanced.

I don’t know if there’s any research specifically on that. I know Rand has been testing some stuff on it and he’s been testing but that’s not link-related. Recently some of the stuff that – the click-through rate within Google itself, so as soon as you click on a link, will it go up or not? And his tests show that that actually works, so probably he will have some tests on the links as well.

HANNAH BUTCHER: It’s hard to define what is actually natural these days, ‘cause I think it depends on an industry-by-industry basis. Some industries, where there’s high competition, obviously there are going to be sites that have potentially a bit more negative links in them, as opposed to some of the smaller industries, more organic ones, where you would get those natural, good links anyway. So it’s really hard to say. But if your competitors all have a link profile that looks a certain way and yours is completely different then obviously you’re going to stand out, so I think you can probably get away with more in certain industries, whether it is, as Judith was saying, doing a bit of link-buying and that kind of thing. You can definitely get away with it; just pick your battles.

DAVID BAIN: Great point. And also get away with things in certain countries as well, rather than certain industries. But I’ll tell you what, we could be talking about this for hours by itself but we’ve got loads of topics here. I’m sorry – what is topic number two?

LAUREN ADIE: Alright. Google have updated its Knowledge Graph to include share functionality. However, the share button just links to the same search result. So this does show that Google is serious about its Knowledge Graph. So what other Knowledge Graph changes might we see over the coming months and how should businesses optimise their Knowledge Graph results? Judith, would you like to go?

DAVID BAIN: So Judith, what are your thoughts on what Google have done with the Knowledge Graph and just this little share update here, and do you have any thoughts with regards to how the organic search might change and have more Knowledge Graph features in there?

JUDITH LEWIS: I’ve always been a big proponent of schema and I love working with businesses to get more information out there. I would love to see the Knowledge Graph return many more results for chocolate! I’d love to see a chocolate-rich Knowledge Graph and a relationship of chocolate to all the other things in the world. So chocolate and wine, chocolate and beer, chocolate and…I don’t know, IBM!

DAVID BAIN: That’s superb! I’m just wondering if Dixon-Jones could maybe produce a 3D model of chocolate, possibly.

JUDITH LEWIS: A 3D model out of chocolate! But seriously, I think that one of the things that the increase in Knowledge Graph is showing us is just that schema’s always been important, schema will continue to be important, and we really need to be feeding the Google beast with enough information that nobody ever has to leave it again, which is not their initial goal, but it’s sure looking like the way they want to be going.

HANNAH BUTCHER: Yeah, in terms of the share function, I’m finding any chance for then to push Google+, great, but in terms of them pointing different bits of the Knowledge Graph to Twitter and Facebook, I’m not entirely sure how relevant that would be for a lot of people’s followers. I certainly wouldn’t start sharing things myself. To email, great, if you’ve found something really interesting and you want to save it for later then that’s pretty helpful, but in terms of sharing it with people, some of the things might not be too interesting. Especially if it was just sharing a company’s information, people are going to be like, ‘I don’t need to see that.’

But we have been seeing a lot of changes recently with the Knowledge Graph, and especially in industries such as travel, with new features coming out there. So I think it’s definitely something to watch. How long the functions stay there, I don’t know whether they’re just testing them and seeing how they perform and that kind of thing. So it’s just one to watch, but I think yeah, more and more businesses are going to need to watch that space and try and get involved.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, we’ve seen a lot of changes recently with the reduction of pay-per-click ads or the removal of them from the right-hand side there. What I’m thinking as well, does Google have a long-term plan in terms of actually adding many more elements of the Knowledge Graph to the right-hand side of search and perhaps even incorporating more images and maybe even videos? Bas, have you got any thoughts regarding the future of the Knowledge Graph and maybe how businesses can take advantage of things like this?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Yeah, I think Knowledge Graph is a very interesting one because it shows the intent of the user. So why has Google started doing the Knowledge Graph? Because it saw a lot of people doing searches for simple questions that they could give the answers back in the search result. So people have less time, less patience. What Google is doing is playing on that, and saying, ‘Okay, people are searching for best actors or people who are nominated for Oscars or whatever. We’re going to give them the results straight into the search results.’ And I think continuing what Hannah said, that’s industry-based where people are going to share that. So they’re not going to share a business maybe, but they might share a list of results of the Oscar nominees because they like it, or the politicians in the US at the moment. There’s tonnes of stuff you can share on that.

So to me it shows how Google’s looking at the user. Besides the schema stuff which it has to implement so that you can be part of it, so you can get some traffic from it, it also shows that you have to choose your battles again. Are you going to go for results that are full of Knowledge Graph stuff or are you going to try something else? And it shows how you need to get closer to who you’re actually targeting. So you don’t just create landing pages anymore, you don’t just create content anymore. You need to be very specific about what you’re creating. And I think the Knowledge Graph is showing that we should do that because Google’s doing that and if we don’t do it like that then we’re going to be lost.

DAVID BAIN: So are there certain types of schema or places that you need to submit your website in order to most likely take advantage of the Knowledge Graph

BAS VAN DEN BELD: There are, yes. Well it’s not as if you go to Google and say, ‘Listen, my website can offer you information about this and this result.’ But there’s plenty of schema stuff – I don’t know the urls are anything – explained in different articles where you just build up your page. And if you’re in the travel industry, for example, like Hannah mentioned as an example, that’s a good example where you can start looking into lists of travel times and that kind of stuff. So that can help. Maybe even go for what kind of weather it is somewhere. Google’s answering that as well. But playing on that.

So yes, there’s the technical part of it. There’s tonnes of explanation on that. I think if you Google it then you’ll probably find tonnes of information on it. To me it’s more important that you look into the ‘why’ of it instead of the ‘how’.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, the ‘why’ behind what your business is about?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Yeah. So to me, when I talk to businesses and when I do training sessions, it often occurs to me that still many businesses don’t even know what they’re doing themselves. So it took me a day just recently to have a business figure out what is it that they’re actually doing themselves. And they were the business. I came into the business doing a publishing job and talking to them and it took them a day to actually figure out five lines, ‘Oh wait a minute, this is what we’re actually doing.’ Businesses still don’t seem to have that under control. So that’s what starts first.

And then they have to look at, ‘Okay, so who are we actually talking to and how are they behaving when it comes to search or in social in general?’ That’s the next step after that.

And after that comes the implementation of stuff like, which now becomes first for many businesses. They’re like, ‘Oh, we heard something on Search Engine Land that we need to implement this and this, so we’ll do that.’ But they don’t know why, so they spend a lot of time on doing it and they forget the first few steps. And I think we’ll go into the role of SEO in a minute – that’s one of the biggest parts of being an SEO these days as well, explaining to those people that it’s not just the little tricks that you can do, not just the implementation of stuff that you can do, but you have to think about stuff before you actually implement that.

DAVID BAIN: Absolutely, yeah. It’s getting SEO involved in business strategy and within the boardroom really because too many SEOs are given broken websites to fix after they’ve just been designed and they haven’t been involved in things at the very beginning.

Judith, I saw you nodding away at a lot of things that Bas was saying.

BAS VAN DEN BELD: She always does that!

DAVID BAIN: Anything in particular resonated with you most?

JUDITH LEWIS: I think not just involving SEOS in the design of the websites but also looking at SEO as a UX plug-in. So one of the things I’m doing right now is looking at SEO as a user journey, so talking to UXs and talking to people who are designing and building websites and looking at SEO as a UX experience. It’s not just about somebody coming and buying. It’s not just about optimising to get you to the top of the search results. As Bas was saying, first of all you have to understand what your business priorities are and then you have to look at SEO in a different way. It’s not just about gaining search engines or anything like that. It’s about understanding user needs and business needs and bringing them together and helping a business be successful. So I think that’s why we’re seeing a change in the way that SEO is being described and being advertised for as well, as far as the industry goes and the job market goes.

DAVID BAIN: And Hannah, do you have any clients that are actively gaining from appearing in the Knowledge Graph results at the moment?

HANNAH BUTCHER: Mm, well I don’t want to give too much away but obviously we want to take advantage of some of the strategies like that, and certainly in terms of answers and things like that, that is something that we’re working on at the moment, just trying to make sure that especially with the travel industry, that’s looking quite important for us at the moment, just trying to make the most out of that. So yes!

DAVID BAIN: Okay, we’ll read between the lines, then! And let’s move onto topic number three.

LAUREN ADIE: More and more organic search results are moving below the fold thanks to Google removing the ranking ads and adding four top ads for many commercial queries. We’ve had a few weeks of this now. So how is this impacting SEO and does this mean that paid and organic search will have to work more closely together in the future? Hannah, let’s start with you this time.

HANNAH BUTCHER: Well, I think they should already be working together, if I’m honest. I was having a good think about this earlier and I think it’s maybe going to be more damaging for SEO for the more competitive terms. But then if we think about how SEO is used anyway, in terms of looking at attribution and things like that, a lot of the time it is for the awareness stage. So in my opinion at the moment, I’m not too nervous, ‘cause I’m thinking that a lot of the longer-tail terms, you might still have quite a lot of visibility there. The problem would be that some businesses who are using PPC as their main function were then having to go for some of the longer-tail terms instead and they get more competitive, then that’s maybe when SEO is more in danger and we get less visits to the site because there is more real estate at the top of the page. So it is something that we’re going to have to look at going forward, but we already work really closely with PPC in our business.

DAVID BAIN: Judith, is this something that we’re going to be able to re-educate consumers about, the fact that actually you’re not clicking on organic results here, you’re clicking on paid results at the top here that perhaps you thought were natural search results?

JUDITH LEWIS: I think that outside of our industry – so not just the SEO industry but I think marketing and digital industries – that people often are not aware of the fact that ads or ads or even might not care. If I look at friends, my family, people that aren’t in this industry, it’s not necessarily something that occurs to them unless they are specifically aware of the fact that it is an ad and they don’t want to click it.

So I think that PPC is probably going to get more expensive and obviously as Hannah has already said, SEO and PPC should already be working together hand-in-hand. But it’s going to get more expensive and I think SEO is absolutely going to become that race for the top in certain competitive verticals. In other ones, I have seen across a few clients, especially in publishing, where the amount of traffic coming from organic has not been necessarily as strong. But to caveat that, it has been Easter, and we always see a dip at Easter. So not sure, but there might actually be an impact on SEO as far as click-throughs from organic search.

DAVID BAIN: Okay. We’ll be intrigued to see what the long-term effects are to see whether it’s the same across different industries. Bas, do you find that generally paid search and SEO are actually working effectively together? Because obviously we know that they should but, but generally, the companies that you speak to, do you think they’re doing it effectively?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: That depends on where you are looking. So I think there’s a difference here country-wise as well. So I think in the UK it’s more advanced than elsewhere in Europe. I think in the US they’re even more getting it better together. If you look at the Netherlands, I’m not so sure. I still think there’s a lot of ground to win, at least, ‘cause they still see it as two separate things to do, whereas it should be on the table from the start together. So I think there’s still a long way to go but we are getting there. I think the good agencies and the good SEOs and PPC people, they understand that they need to work together and it’s not their issue, I think. It’s the issue of the people above them that don’t understand. They just think, ‘Well that’s advertising. Yeah, we’ll do some SEO as well.’ So I think agency-wise, you’ll probably find it’s the CEOs inside bigger businesses who don’t understand the difference.

DAVID BAIN: Okay. And the ones who are doing it well, are they simply not bidding on terms that they’re already ranking for on organic results

BAS VAN DEN BELD: No, that depends on the strategy because you could easily bid on stuff that you rank on pretty well. Actually, you see the big brands do that anyway just to make sure that a competitor doesn’t interfere or go and start advertising on their terms or because they want to make sure that the branding is there. So there are reasons for doing both for the same terms. It’s not necessarily saying, ‘Okay, you stay away from that part and I’ll do that part.’ Again, I keep saying it, but it’s about understanding how your audience works and how your audience searches. And if their intent is to find a certain brand then it’s okay to be there both PPC-wise and SEO-wise. Absolutely not a problem. It’s even better, I think.

DAVID BAIN: Let’s get Lauren’s opinion on this one as well because Lauren’s fairly new to the world of SEO but she’s got a bit of a background in pay-per-click, so I’d be interested to hear your opinion.

LAUREN ADIE: Well I was reading an article today and it was saying that especially for the travel, I think it was the top twenty non-branded travel keywords and it had gone up by 10%. But what the article failed to see, or mention, rather – and I was actually chatting to my colleague about this – was they didn’t take into consideration any historical data or trends that may have come into play. Especially seasonality at this time, after the December period. We’re all travel and retail keywords especially. I don’t know.

DAVID BAIN: That’s kind of what Judith was saying, isn’t it? It’s a very short-term data set to be looking at and it’s important not to jump to any conclusion about things and make big decisions based upon something that might not necessarily reflect everything you do.

LAUREN ADIE: Succinct!


BAS VAN DEN BELD: I think I’m there, Lauren.

LAUREN ADIE: Thank you! Yay!

DAVID BAIN: Okay, well let’s move on from there a little bit. You know, I was going to say actually, to encourage people making a few comments here, we’ve a few people starting to join here now, so hopefully we’re going to get some interaction there. If you’re watching, it’d be good to get a few comments from you to reflect or maybe debate with opinions that have been shared by the group here. But we’re going to be talking about lots of things. After this we’re going to be talking about Periscope.

LAUREN ADIE: So Topic Number Four, Search Engine Journal has reported that SEO jobs are going to decline this year and that’s the first time in four years. So why is this? Does this reflect a major change in the visual marketing requirements of a business and what should SEOs do about it? Bas, shall we go to you?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Sure. Actually it’s a follow-on on what we were talking about earlier on, I think. To be honest, it’s in the lines of the stories that Google is this, SEO’s that or whatever. Something something is that. It’s not exactly that but it goes in that direction because declining SEO jobs, it’s a matter of, ‘What is an SEO job?’ So it used to be a lot simpler just to say, so there are tonnes of jobs in SEO. But the role of SEO has changed, so if you search for SEO, yes, of course there are less jobs. That’s obvious. So I think we should define what is an SEO first before we can say there are less jobs in this field. So I’m not a fan of the article, to be honest, because it says something about how the industry looks at themselves and it’s cheap news. It’s more click bait than actual content. I don’t think that we’re losing jobs in SEO. I think the jobs have changed.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah. There are so many different job titles that you can give people now who work in similar kinds of fields. I think Judith mentioned UX and you could even argue that every content marketing job is related to SEO as well, and if that’s the case then things are certainly growing.

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Yeah, and if you tie it back to the ranking factor stuff, the overall arching ranking factor is UX, user experience – How much time do they spend on-site? What are they seeing in the search results? How does the search result look? It could be UX but it could also be SEO, so it’s a matter of saying what is the title. Or the titles are changing – maybe that should be the thing.

DAVID BAIN: So Judith shouldn’t worry. There are another twenty years in front of you, Judith, working in the field of SEO.

JUDITH LEWIS: Oh my God! I should be retired by then! [laughing] I don’t want to be buying links at 60! I think that what we’re seeing is that natural progression. We don’t have standalone email marketing jobs as you look anymore. We often see email marketing rolled into the marketing manager job. And it’s the same with SEO and PPC. They are specialist tasks but they’re being rolled more and more into a marketing manager role, and the marketing manager is either managing an agency but expected to understand what it is, how it works, and therefore whether the agency is doing a good job or not, or for a smaller business they’re expected to actually do it. So I don’t think that we’re necessarily seeing fewer SEO jobs or that SEO is dead or declining. I teach SEO courses and I’m seeing an increasing number of people wanting to take them. So it’s not dead but I think what’s happening is that people are being made responsible for it that have other job titles, and so as a task, a role, as a discipline, rolled into other job titles, and that’s what we’re seeing.

DAVID BAIN: So in terms of what you’re teaching, Judith, how has that changed over the last year and how do you think it’s going to change over the next year?

JUDITH LEWIS: The only thing that’s changed over the last year about what I teach is the slides related to the Google algorithm updates. Because I teach not just core fundamentals but also how to implement those within your business and much more strategic approaches to things like optimising your business for visibility. And those core fundamental practices, they’re not what’s been changing over the past year or five years or ten years. Definitely over the last twenty years, yes, we’ve changed a lot. But over the last ten years at least, the core fundamentals, the core principles of SEO, of website design, good content, focused thematic pages not going all over the place, and ease of use, haven’t really changed that much. So part UX, part SEO, part build, front-end dev, back-end dev, it’s all been the same but we’ve tried to make it sexy by every time something changes saying, ‘Oh my God, the sky is falling – our world has changed!’ And it’s not like that. The core fundamentals remain.

DAVID BAIN: And so Hannah, do you think that to be a successful SEO in the next few years you’re going to have to actually drill down and become even more focused and have a specialism like UX, rather than just SEO in general?

HANNAH BUTCHER: Yeah, certainly that’s the way that we’ve done it as a business. We’re looking at specialisms more now than ever. I’ve sort of naturally progressed into the digital PR and content role just because that’s where I have the most experience. It comes back to what I did at university, which was journalism, and then just moving into copywriting and it just makes sense, the natural progression. Put people where their skills are and where they’re going to make most impact into your strategy.

But I think another way to look at it is people who were involved with SEO four years ago and started to get into it, the knowledge that you accumulate in SEO is really quick and especially in-house, if you have some SEO knowledge, you’ve done keyword research, you understand your audience effectively and SEO knows so much more about the business than a lot of the senior stakeholders. And actually you see that SEOs are moving into the board of directors now as well, so potentially they’re not in the job that they were but they’re having more impact on the business overall, rather than just being stuck in their little marketing department.

DAVID BAIN: And Bas, what are your thoughts on the way that SEO jobs are evolving at the moment?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Well I agree with both Judith and Hannah on this. The SEO job itself, depending on how you see SEO, hasn’t changed that much, as in if you just look at the ranking and the SEO part. I think when it comes to the part where the SEO starts understanding the audience and starts understanding the customer, they’ve taken that outside of SEO where it’s still inside SEO, so for us it’s normal SEO stuff, for other people it’s like, ‘We try to understand our audience.’ Yeah, we always did that. So I think the SEO’s job is evolving in a way that it’s gone bigger and wider. It has different titles. The essence is still the same.

DAVID BAIN: Will you still be able to be a successful SEO in the future by just being very technical and maybe not wanting to get involved with business strategy as a whole?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Yeah, because I think with the business being wider with what people want to see and what people want to do, being broader, it asks for more experts. So you’ve got the technical experts who can do that. They might not be called SEO in the way that we used to call them SEO, but for technical SEO, there’s definitely a role for them.

And the same goes for other parts of SEO – link builders or just understanding the audience part, strategists – they’re all different roles now. It used to be all in one, so there used to be an SEO that did everything. Now it’s more separate in different roles.

DAVID BAIN: Topic Number Five is, I believe, someone’s birthday!

LAUREN ADIE: Yes, it is. Periscope’s. They’ve just celebrated their first anniversary with 200 million broadcasts since they launched their platform. So how has the live online broadcasting trend impacting content production and does this impact SEO?

DAVID BAIN: Okay, well we’re live broadcasting at the moment on Blab. Are any of you regular periscopers or live broadcasters in other forms at all? I don’t see too many hands going up there!

HANNAH BUTCHER: No. I think most of the videos that I watch online are pre-recorded anyway but obviously these things are good to bring people together in a live situation. It’s just the right timings for people, especially when people are spread globally. I think if you’ve got a really good local community then it works really well but it’s just getting the right timings across the world, really.

DAVID BAIN: I guess it depends on the industry. I would imagine – I mean, Hannah, you work in travel quite a bit. If that’s the case, I imagine live streaming impacting certain travel sectors, maybe tour guides or something like that. Have we seen clients or businesses out there actually being successful and doing that?

HANNAH BUTCHER: To be honest, there’s a lot of money spent on travel tech. Trying to get a lot of travel clients to do things in a more modern way is actually quite difficult because they do have a lot of legacy behind the business. So they might sign onto certain things but even trying to promote video has been quite difficult with some of the clients that I’ve worked with in the past, so trying to get them onto live video is one step too far at the moment! But obviously there is a need for it going forward and certainly in terms of short, snappy messages that you can use for your video works really well. Obviously visual can be more effective than a lot of copy in certain situations.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, I mean, it depends on your personality as well as your industry. If you’re not that comfortable with it, then surely whoever’s watching isn’t going to be turned on by the content that you share or the style that you actually share it in. Periscope’s a little bit strange, isn’t it? It’s very much one-to-many broadcasting. It’s not that interactive. I know you get loads of comments and you can read the comments. But it’s not actually interacting with other people who are also on video as well. We’re on Blab at the moment and that tends to be a little bit more interactive and maybe it’s a platform that I’m a little bit more comfortable with. But Judith, you look a natural live broadcaster. Is it not something you want to explore a little bit more in the future?

JUDITH LEWIS: I’m too sweary! I swear too much! All my broadcasts would be bleeps!

DAVID BAIN: I’m sure you’ve heard Gary Vaynerchuk!

JUDITH LEWIS: I need somebody to come and just put a little x over my mouth every so often! But for conferencing, I’ll be at a conference somewhere, like Turkey, and if I want somebody like a client or someone like that to be able to see what’s going on, they can’t unless there is an element of live broadcast and one of the conferences that’s out there right now has actually gone to that format where there’s no physical location. It’s a conference all on live broadcast. Is there a corner that you can – obviously, because you’ve got to monetise – purchase later, which is really useful, but from the point of view of getting together and networking, it’s a little bit of a drawback. So I think live broadcasting is fantastic. I don’t see it massively impacting SEO but it creates content and anything that helps us create content that is engaging, that will bring people to the site, get them interested, get them excited and passionate about something and go off and do a desired result (maybe not eat all of the world’s chocolate supply – that would be bad), but do something positive, buy a product, engage in charitable giving, whatever it is, that’s a good thing.

DAVID BAIN: So Bas, Judith doesn’t see live broadcasting massively impacting SEO. Is that something that you would agree with or can you see some situations where it could potentially drive quite a few links as well as social?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Well not at the moment but it might come. I think if you look at Periscope and even live video itself, there is an interesting thing going on with new generations. If I look at my children and the way they interact with their smartphones and their tablets and how they’re online, video plays a huge part in that. They’re constantly watching videos, they’re watching other people play games. I would never do that when I was young but this generation does that. And I think if you look at the live broadcasting

HANNAH BUTCHER: I’ll just carry on with a different chain of thought. So I think the technology’s really great but potentially the community is not potentially there yet. So looking at solutions where you could bring better technology to already existing communities, so for example on YouTube, a lot of YouTubers already have huge audiences already built up from the videos that they play, they pre-record, they put them live. So bringing that technology live to a YouTube channel, for example, would be potentially a lot more impactful than using something like Periscope, I think. And personally, I would tend to use that a bit more, if it was bringing the technology to the people, rather than the other way around. I think Google+, not many people really like that, but they had the technology there but again not the community to support it.

DAVID BAIN: I also can see Google potentially moving towards wanting to rank live events as well, because there’s a potential to drive quite a bit of traffic through something like Google News, if you can get listed as an authoritative source of news content for your industry. You would think that the next logical step after that would actually be to get listed as a live broadcaster of events in relation to your industry.

HANNAH BUTCHER: Yeah, definitely. You see citizen journalists coming about anyway, obviously with everything happening, like recently within Brussels and Paris, more people picking up their own camera phones to share content that they’re taking live from scenes. So obviously search engines are going to want to deliver those faster to users just to show people what is really going on and the latest news that it can find without actually having to go to the broadcasters themselves.

DAVID BAIN: Bastian is saying in the comments, Periscope’s very much used in France by the different news medias. I’ve seen a few in the UK as well, probably breaking news before traditional news stations. And it’s nice to see that, but it would be nicer to see that used by lots of different industries out there. Perhaps it’s going to come, once people get more comfortable how to use the media, how to produce high-quality sound and a decent video as well. But it’s certainly coming very, very quickly. The iPhone and other smartphones are certainly capable of producing incredible quality media just from your pocket, really. It’s incredible.

JUDITH LEWIS: Yeah, when I was in Paris and there were about fifteen large police vans that went screaming past me after the EU Search Awards judging, I actually looked to Twitter and other live systems (not Periscope, unfortunately – sorry, Periscope) to see what was going on. Because I knew that people with their smartphones were more likely to have the news and what was going on than anyone else. Google wouldn’t tell me. Anybody else wouldn’t. But anything with a live broadcast, a live interaction, would be able to tell me what was going on. So I needed to know if I was in trouble or not and that’s where I went.

DAVID BAIN: Bas has exited for a second but hopefully he’ll be coming back in. In the meantime, let’s move on to the next topic…

LAUREN ADIE: So Google added a ‘drop mic’ button to Gmail this morning. I don’t know if anyone saw it. But its April Fools’ joke backfired. Have you tried to incorporate April Fools into customer interaction? Hannah?

HANNAH BUTCHER: No, we haven’t! I’ve been pretty out of the picture today because we’ve been moving office, so luckily I’ve missed most of the April Fools things that have been going on. People thought that we were playing an April Fools in people when we said that we were moving office this morning. They were like, ‘Ha ha, April Fools!’ But no, we did actually move. But no, we don’t try and confuse people just ‘cause the clients that we have, we want to try and be good. But we did a little one on social media. You can have a look at’s Twitter feed if you want to see our own one that we did this morning.

DAVID BAIN: I think Bas is wanting to comment on this as well. He’s been locked out. We’re trying to get you in again, Bas. Probably the best thing to do is actually refresh your browser. So I’ll kick you out and try to come in there. Refresh the Blab and then try to come in again. I hope we will have you for the last couple of minutes there. Judith, have you been pranking this morning?

JUDITH LEWIS: Because I’m also a blogger and I’m a food blogger, I have had a stream of the stupidest April Fools’ jokes. However, I got one that I thought was an April Fools’ joke and wasn’t, saying that my company had been shortlisted for a design award and I was like, ‘Ha ha, that’s so stupid!’ Just a case of mistaken identity! So no. Because of things like that, I would never incorporate April Fools’ jokes into clients’ stuff. Especially like a ‘mic drop’. Imagine all the link-building I’m doing. ‘Thanks for the link!’

DAVID BAIN: That’s quite incredible that Google obviously did something like this, but backtracked fairly quickly. I tried my Gmail this morning. I didn’t see it at all.

LAUREN AIDE: No, neither did I, sadly. I did actually have a very interesting experience of an April Fools’ joke this morning as a client. I have an app called Cheerz and basically it’s a little photo development app and you can use them as presents as they package them really nicely for you and all of that. And on my notification it said, ‘Congratulations, your 50 boxes of photos have been ordered and you’ll receive them by 8th April or whatever the date was.’ And I was like, ‘Oh dear. I have not ordered this. How much is it going to cost me? I don’t want them. What are you doing?’ And so I go into the app and the first thing I see is, ‘April Fools! We got you!’ And I thought it was actually quite clever because then I started looking in the app again. I haven’t been in for a long time and it’s a friend of mine’s birthday coming up and I was like, ‘Well maybe I should do that for her birthday present.’ So I think that was quite a good use of an April Fools’ joke.

DAVID BAIN: We’ve got Bas back! So thank you so much for persisting and trying to get back in again. Do you think in general, Bas, businesses get it wrong when trying to be funny with April Fools?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Doesn’t everybody get it wrong in general when it comes to April Fools? I didn’t catch all that you said, Lauren, but that sounds like a good way of actually using April Fools. I think businesses probably make the same mistake they always do, as in thinking from their own perspective, thinking, ‘Oh yeah, we just need to be funny,’ without actually thinking about the next step. I think that happens all over the world, especially on April Fools’, unfortunately. Even Google screwed up. But they also had some good stuff, by the way. I’m not sure if you saw the self-driving bike in the Netherlands.

DAVID BAIN: Yes. You did a post on that, didn’t you, Bas?

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Yeah, we put it in one of the articles. We have an overview of all the different things that Google does and we added that to it. And I thought that was a nice one because it’s making fun of yourself a little bit as well. So it’s not just saying, ‘Oh, look at us!’ but it’s like, ‘We know we can be dicks sometimes!’

DAVID BAIN: No, that’s a good point. You need to relate it to something else, but not make it a random joke that people won’t necessarily get.

BAS VAN DEN BELD: Yes, exactly. So it has to make sense.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, absolutely. Well I reckon that just about takes us to the end of this week’s show. So just about time for a single take-away and a sharing of find-out-more details from our guests. So starting off with Judith.

JUDITH LEWIS: You want a single take-away from me?

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, if you can just remind our guests…

JUDITH LEWIS: Like a side order of chips or just…


My single take-away would be SEO is always changing but the core fundamentals stay the same. So it’s sexy but make sure you get it right. Understanding business needs is more important than trying to get people to the top of the Google search rankings. So keep it fun but keep it sexy and linky!

DAVID BAIN: Great point and thought there. And where can people get hold of you?

JUDITH LEWIS: You can find me on, @JudithLewis or @deCabbit on Twitter. You can find me on Instagram, you can find me walking the streets looking for chocolate. You know, all over. Conferences. And judging. I’m being very judgemental all the time!

DAVID BAIN: And judging. So maybe you might have better chance if you can feed chocolate!

JUDITH LEWIS: Yeah, well you know the US Search Awards are open and you know, I love chocolate!

DAVID BAIN: Thanks a bunch for joining us, Judith. It was great having you on.

JUDITH LEWIS: Thank you for having me.

DAVID BAIN: And also with us today was Hannah.

HANNAH BUTCHER: Yes, so I’d say the biggest take-away is if you’re thinking about the SEO jobs, as we spoke about before, think about what your skills are, what you can specialise in, and how to make the biggest impact wherever you work with those skills, just to make sure you don’t lose your job – which you won’t! But yeah, you can find me on Twitter. So I tweet for and I also tweet at @HannahFButcher. And on Instagram and various places too. I’ll be at BrightonSEO later in April.

DAVID BAIN: Wonderful stuff. And we will see you there. And we’re going to be broadcasting BrightonSEO live actually, on So that’s going to be really cool. So if you’re in the States or if you’re somewhere else and you can’t get to the event, you can watch it free of charge at Thanks for the link, Hannah! And also with us today was Bas.

BAS VAN DEN BELD: I think my take-away would be understand the user and the rest will follow. If you understand who you’re targeting, then the rest is a piece of cake. Well, sort of! So I think that’s my take-away. You can find me online in many places. Twitter,, StateOfDigital. And I’ve been playing around with Snapchat lately, which is fun.

DAVID BAIN: Great, okay. Your audio just tapered away there, Bas. But obviously we’ve got ‘find you on Snapchat’. So that’s intriguing that you’re trying out that platform. So would be interested to see what you’re doing with that. But let’s get Lauren’s final thoughts. What did you think of your first TWIO?

LAUREN ADIE: Yeah, it was good! No, I mean, a take-away for me is that I think I’ve still got quite a bit to learn but it is interesting and I’m excited to learn about it, and thank you for sharing your knowledge with me. And thank you for having me on, David.

DAVID BAIN: Well thank you for coming on. It was great to have you here. Hopefully I haven’t scared you off and you’ll be back again at some point. So I’m David Bain, Head of Growth here at, home of big data for enterprise content marketing. You can sign up for a demo of our platform at and you can also find me interviewing online marketing gurus over at Now if you’re watching this show as a recording, remember to watch the next show live. So head over to and be part of the live audience for the next show. But for those of you who are watching live, we also have an audio podcast of previous shows, so again, if you sign up to email updates at, you’ll receive the links for that. But until we see you again, have a fantabulous weekend and thank you all for joining us. Adios. It was great having you on. Thank you.

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