TWiO-44: Google’s Clamping Down on Links Obtained from Free Product Reviews

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

In this episode of TWiO we discuss what Google’s quality raters guidelines update means for SEOs, what the impact of Google clamping down on links obtained from free product reviews might be and what might Facebook’s bots mean for content marketers. All of that and more onThis Week in Organic, Episode Number 44.”

Our host David Bain is joined by Andrea Warner from WhichTestWon and Nichola Stott from theMediaFlow.

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: What does Google’s quality raters guidelines update mean for SEOs? Google’s clamping down on links obtained from free product reviews, and what might Facebook’s bots mean for content marketers? All that and more in This Week in Organic, Episode Number 44.

Hello, and welcome. I’m David Bain, and each week I’ll be joined by some knowledgeable opinionated folks to discuss the latest happenings in anything that impacts organic traffic. As for you in the live audience, get involved. So if you can, click on the tweet or post buttons to share the show with your own followers, and tell us what you think of what’s being discussed in the comment section on the right hand side, and I’ll try to read out any comments there as well, and we’ll try to answer any questions that you’ve got. But let’s find out about today’s guests, where they’re from, and what’s caught their attention this week. So Nichola, should we start off with you?

NICHOLA STOTT: Hi everybody, yeah, sure. My name’s Nichola. I’m the Managing Director at The Media Flow. We’re a UK-based search agency specialising in organic search specifically. I work across a number of different sections, from food and beverage to travel, leisure, lifestyle, and that sort of thing.

DAVID BAIN: Great stuff, okay. And is there anything that’s happened in the news over the last week or so that’s maybe caught your eye, and you think that content marketers and SEOs should be having a little think about with regards to how it might impact their businesses?

NICHOLA STOTT: For me, I think one of the most interesting developments lately has been the focus performance, and what you might consider to be organic or search user experience, and the impact of that. Well, we see it in the quality raters guideline update. We saw that in a Google engineer presentation at SMX recently. But speech and performance is going to get him a huge amount of precedence, and a huge amount of focus or emphasis in terms of everything that’s happening really.

DAVID BAIN: It’ll be intriguing to see how Google manages to integrate those kind of signals into its algorithm in the future certainly because I mean it has been mentioned recently that links are still very, very important, but it wants to move away from that, and things like UX are obviously talked about as being very, very important in the new SEO. So I look forward to that discussion. Thanks, yeah. And also with us today is Andrea.

ANDREA WARNER: Hi, how are you?

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, keeping really good thanks. So where are you joining us from? And anything in particular caught your eye over the last week or so?

ANDREA WARNER: Yeah, sure. I’m the president and publisher of, and we are journalists for the conversion and testing industry. So we report on that. So anything that has to do with UX I’m really interested in. Something that was kind of funny in the news this week – well, a little bit of back story. I have a friend that’s the president of a big growing company, and she’s really busy all the time. She was saying the other day that she wishes she would have learned how to type faster, and she was thinking of enrolling in a typing class. I’m like don’t, just get better at talking to your devices. And I hadn’t actually had that conscious thought until now that typing, like cursive, is going to be a thing of the past. And Facebook bots I feel like is just one step closer to that.

DAVID BAIN: Wow. Something strange has happened to my background there, but that doesn’t matter to audio listeners anyway. But we’ll try and resolve that as the episode goes on. So yeah, thanks for sharing that, and it’s interesting that you talked about user experience as well. So lots of user experience focused discussion today probably. But topic number one is what does Google’s quality raters guidelines update mean for SEOs and content marketers? So Google updated their quality raters guidelines once again at the beginning of April, removing supplementary content from the equation, and putting emphasis on eat, but what does this mean for SEOs? So Nichola, I think you mentioned that as part of your things that you were looking at as well.

NICHOLA STOTT: We look at it from a kind of performance perspective. So in terms of the way that we approach SEO, we really do put the user first. So at the point of which I launched the business five years ago, our emphasis was never on kind of deconstructing algorithms or trying to change algorithms. Our emphasis has always been trying to understand how a page can get the best user experience, or the best answer to a question from the user perspective, or the best experience in terms of how does it feel to interact with that content on that device that you’re using at that particular time.

So I might be a little bit controversial here, but from our perspective personally, the quality raters guidelines are not that interesting in terms of how they determine quality because I feel that we should know that as human beings and marketers. That should be pretty obvious. It is interesting in so far as how are they using that human filtered data to inform queries that are machine-learned algorithms. I find that quite interesting from the technical perspective, but I certainly wouldn’t be dissecting those and trying to understand how can we use that to our advantage? I’d be dissecting them, and thinking, ‘Are my clients a hundred times ahead of what they consider to be quality?’

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, brilliant point there. I think that SEOs were certainly guilty in the past of maybe trying to cheat the system, and seeing what they could do technically to get number one. But your point of does everything that you’re doing resonate with the right way to do things inside you, as opposed to trying to follow someone else’s recommendations as a great way to go. Andrea, I’m sure you’ll agree with that as well.

ANDREA WARNER: Yeah, I mean a very wise person, Dan Thies, you know him, David, once said – he said this to me anyways – that Google is an advertising company with a search engine as a lost leader. And that makes so much sense to me. And so I mean they want to be all about the user experience and stuff, but it’s to their filter of needing to get more advertisers.

So when I read through those guidelines, I read through them with my filter, which is I’m thinking about the things that pertain to me. So like we do a lot of product reviews. We’re not compensated; we do it as a service to our members and our subscribers. And now I’m just like okay, so now I’ve got to go think about should we or shouldn’t we have no follow links because we’re not being compensated, but at the same time how does Google know that? I don’t like thinking about that kind of stuff. I just want to promote a good user experience.

DAVID BAIN: What do you think about the fact that they removed a section of this quality raters guidelines? I’m just looking at my notes here to see what part of it was actually. It was the supplementary content from the equation, so essentially it looks as if Google are going to be asking people to judge pages rather than follow on experiences as part of the same website. So does that mean that it’s actually perhaps going to be easier for smaller websites to compete with bigger brands in the future?

ANDREA WARNER: I don’t know. Again, I think it should be about the user, and it shouldn’t be about the size of your website. I don’t know, to me that was really strange.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, and they haven’t officially obviously published this document until quite recently. Was actually publishing the document strange to you, Nichola?

NICHOLA STOTT: No, no. Well, I mean we’ve always managed to get our hands on previous documents like that as an industry. I guess what they can do by publishing a document is control the flow and the timing. We all know that that’s never an accident when it comes to Google. Things like this tend to be warning shots or helpful hints prior to large algorithm updates, and is it coincidence? I try not to obsess and overthink things too much, but we’ve also seen the start of some speed warnings coming through search consoles as well. So when users start to see hints like this, you tend to find with time and experience that we see release of information prior to a big shake up of some sort. So some people are saying that we’re up for a big Penguin, or is it something else? My gut feel is that something else is heading out way fairly soon.

DAVID BAIN: Something mobile related, or not necessarily that?

NICHOLA STOTT: Oh, I think everything is mobile related nowadays. I don’t know whether we’re talking about a mobile specific algorithm, although we’re probably due for an update, and I think that has been spoken about. But I think we’re about to see a user experience related update, whether it is mobile device specific, or whether it’s performance, or across device, device diagnostic. I’m not going to pinpoint that, but I would say that we’re going to see some sort of strong update to the algorithm fairly soon.

DAVID BAIN: So if you were Mr or Mrs Google, what aspects of user experience would you try and incorporate as part of the algorithm?

NICHOLA STOTT: The difficult part of that question, David, is that I don’t know exactly what already is incorporated. Google would be lying if they’re trained to know that; if they weren’t lying then there’d be a massive security risk. But in terms of what I would deem to be really smart signals would be more engagement metrics. We know there are metrics like return to SERP are incorporated, but in terms of what happens after that can be Google Analytics data that’s collected already by Google. Is that robust enough to extrapolate to the rest of the web that Google cannot accurately measure performance against. I’m pretty sure it is robust enough to extrapolate that statistically meaningful, to say okay, people interact in this way with X type of page characteristics, can we extrapolate where those page characteristics lay on a site we don’t have data access to, and use that to inform an algorithm change?

So what I’m talking about is the way that Google responds to number of images, the speed of delivery, the speed of delivery of external resources, the latency effect, that sort of thing. I think that’s where we’re going to see more changes in the future.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, it goes to speed integral to it by the sound of things as well.

ANDREA WARNER: David, I’m going to point out something. Do you remember years ago when this guideline was first leaked? I think Google accidentally published it or something like that. It’s interesting to jump forward all these years later and see them actually publish it. It’s an interesting change of thinking, I think, on their part. Why would they keep that secret from us? Why wouldn’t they want us to know what we should do to be ranking better?

DAVID BAIN: Maybe they didn’t think it would be of interest to people, but perhaps they were wrong.

ANDREA WARNER: They were very wrong. Although Nichola’s right, this document is really boring to read.

DAVID BAIN: So it’s nice to have bloggers that distil things down into different aspects that have been updated. But I mean Andrew, with regards to user experience, and it being incorporated more into the algorithm, are there any elements that you would pinpoint yourself as being something important to look at within a website, a business, to ensure that you’re sending the right signals to hopefully future proof what you’re doing from an SEO perspective?

ANDREA WARNER: Well, here’s the thing. I don’t approach it from an SEO perspective ever. I start with who is the target audience that I’m trying to reach, and what will be meaningful to them, and how do I present it in a way that is meaningful to them? So for example, I mean everybody, we just automatically put buttons on things now. We published a test – was it yesterday or next week? I think it’s next week. I can’t remember. But we’re posing a test at a higher ed institute, they tested a button link against just a plain blue underline link, and I mean everybody thinks the button’s going to win of course because there’s more attention getting to it and stuff. But in this particular case – I hope I’m not giving away next week’s test. I might be. Anyway, in this particular case people that are interested enough to scroll down to the bottom of the document where the button or the link is, they’re reading, and so they click on the link, whereas the button is more for people that are kind of scanning. And so the actual customer value ended up being higher for people that click on the link rather than the button.

And so it’s just about understanding your visitors, and what they want, what they need, and how it will make sense to them. You know, is your target audience grannies that will respond to one thing, or are they millennials that will respond to something else? And then we’ll just take it from there – do a quick scan, and just pop in for a second. If it’s a topic that we really need to know about, and we’re more interested in then fine, longer content. Just make it about the users always. The machine part comes second.

NICHOLA STOTT: That was super interesting, can I ask a question on that?

DAVID BAIN: Go for it.

NICHOLA STOTT: Andrea, with that test you just described, and again, I understand that you don’t want to reveal next week’s test.

ANDREA WARNER: It might have been this week’s, I can’t remember.

NICHOLA STOTT: Did the button convey the same meaning as the anchor text? When you talk about there was a text link, obviously there’s meaning and context that’s conveyed there. The button has words into the anchor.

ANDREA WARNER: It’s the same words. The one that changes is a button around the words.

NICHOLA STOTT: Okay, so there’s a slight difference in context. I want to see that as well. Will you share the link to the test after with the interview?

ANDREA WARNER: Definitely.


DAVID BAIN: If you’re able to share with me afterwards, Andrea, I can incorporate it into the show notes if you like as well.

ANDREA WARNER: Oh gladly, you bet.

DAVID BAIN: Great. So feel free to jump in either of you to the conversation at any point, and agree or disagree, or ask your own questions. The table is yours as well, so no problem with that. But let’s move on to the second topic, and that was Google seems to be clamping down on links obtained from free product reviews. So what is a really unnatural outbound link, and does this actually potentially impact bloggers or any existing strategy at all? I’m trying to look to see who is particularly in the throw to kick this off. Andrea, I mean do you think that this is something that anyone should be concerned about at all? Is Google doing the right thing here?

ANDREA WARNER: I don’t know. I really don’t know. I know that some blogger friends of mine several years ago started no following links, and when other bloggers kind of caught wind of that, and grew to understand what that meant, they were like come on, why would you do this? And then everybody started doing it, and so then everything was no follow. And I don’t know if it makes sense or not. If you think of it from a user perspective, do users care if a link is followed or no followed? Probably not. Probably a lot of them aren’t even aware of it. I like it when people post that they’ve been compensated, or provided a product, or whatever. I just think that’s fair of them to say that because whether they think it does or not, it will impact their review. I mean, don’t you agree with that? It’s going to impact their review if they’re being compensated or provided a free product.

NICHOLA STOTT: I completely agree with that.

ANDREA WARNER: It could not be, you know, if you find something organically that’s one thing, but for somebody to give you a free product, that will influence your review.

NICHOLA STOTT: It’s the principle of informed consent really, isn’t it? I as a reader understand that this is sponsored content. I know that I’ve got to bring other judgements into it, so I’m thinking I’m being sold to here to a certain extent. If I am not made aware of that, it’s unfair. And honestly, nothing I’m about to say constitutes legal advice, but certainly in the UK marketplace, we’re supposedly bound towards standard society ASA, the Advertising Standards Authority. And I can’t quote chapter and verse of a particular code of practice like that governance list, but essentially if you have a commercial interest in a product, or a cause, or whatever it is, you are supposed to declare it. I mean that can be extrapolated to a couple of things like re-tweeting your client’s work, for example. But in terms of reviews, to follow that to the letter of the law, you are supposed to indicate if a post is an advertorial or a sponsored post, or any kind of fair disclosure within that. Obviously the ASA aren’t interested in everybody. They’re only going to take the most high profile cases to court, but certainly Google’s got to align with that kind of thing within each market, or otherwise they can’t do it. You know, difficulties that they don’t want to just to hear the reports.

But I also think it’s fair from a marketing perspective as well because then we’re marketing fairly and openly, which, bringing us onto the point of one of the original questions, is is it fair for Google to kind of make this discrimination or to make this judgement around what is a quality link, and what is a natural link? Well, I think it’s fair, and they have a right to do that because essentially otherwise we’re manipulating the readers, as Andrea said.

DAVID BAIN: Do you think there’s a grey line though in some places?

ANDREA WARNER: Yes, my gosh. How are they going to go through and figure out which is natural and unnatural? I mean when it comes to compensation for reviews like that. I have another friend that did a really great – his site is dedicated to comparing two different pieces of software, and it’s a great in depth piece, and he was not compensated for either one of them. And so where do you draw the line? How does Google draw the line, I guess is what I’m really thinking.

DAVID BAIN: And is it fair to give someone free access to software, for example, and they like the software, and they end up writing their own review about it, and linking to you without using a no follow link? Is that still an influenced review? Should that link have actually been no follow, do you think?

NICHOLA STOTT: Isn’t that just journalism? That’s just happened since we could write words on a paper and distribute it to the masses. That’s the way it’s always been. And you know, traditional media is always understood. Okay, so they’re not faultless, and there have been many scandalous examples of when that hasn’t been followed, but generally the practice is there’s not an expectation, or there shouldn’t be an expectation of review where the press are concerned. Just because you offer a product doesn’t mean that anyone will a. write about it, or b. do so positively. And I think if we can extrapolate that kind of mode of practice to digital communications then essentially Google wouldn’t have such a difficult job. Now nobody’s perfect. People aren’t always particularly moral, and you know, the world would be a boring place if we were all exactly the same. So that’s where the grey area occurs – how do you determine? How do you define? How do you work out what is morally ambiguous.

ANDREA WARNER: What this has clarified in my mind is that when we do product reviews – I’m going to put very clearly on there that we were not compensated.

DAVID BAIN: Andrew, did you think that Google should be clever enough to be able to distinguish whether something was asked for or influenced by a third party without the use of a no follow link? Or do you think it’s understandable that they require that in order to make that distinction?

ANDREA WARNER: I’m sorry – don’t know, don’t care. Honestly, I don’t care. I mean, Google’s gotten pretty good at reading mind, but at the same time they would have to be a mind reader. Like if somebody just goes out in the world, and finds everybody a microphone, and they just decide that they love it, and want to write a review about it, Google would have to go inside of my mind to truly know whether or not I’m getting reimbursed for that, or compensating me in some way for that. So unless they can truly get inside of my mind and read it, which I know in some cases they can, it just seems like too much detail.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, well let’s move on to a topic that definitely affects every website out there.

ANDREA WARNER: I do care about that last topic, by the way.

DAVID BAIN: No, that’s good. I know you do. It’s at what level, I guess, you focus on. If you’re looking in the minutia of what Google does, or if you’re simply focusing on the quality experience for users, the people who are actually observing the content themselves, and making sure that you’re delivering an ethical experience, and that’s obviously notifications for page speed tips. So what in general do you think are the main things with regards to page speed that webmasters, SEOs should be aware of, and focusing on, and tracking on a regular basis in order to make sure that they are delivering as good a user experience as possible from a page speed perspective? Nichola, what are your thoughts on this one?

NICHOLA STOTT: Actually, it’s quite a complex area. Well, it’s not quite. It’s technical in the various aspects that we can look at. So we can look at service side optimisations, for example Nginx and Apache have page speed modules that you can load onto the server, which will automatically optimise. And these are Google modules, and the page speed tool. Rather than just using a simple critical path analysis, you can install the Nginx module, which will also automatically optimise your images, and parallelise requests and that sort of thing for you.

But actually if you really dig deep into page speed, and there is a fantastic presentation which I will send you the link afterwards and you can share it because I can’t regurgitate it, and remember the link to the URL from a Google engineer guy called Igor. But essentially the biggest problem when it comes to page speed isn’t always the request side, it’s actually the latency. Sometimes your first bite isn’t the problem, it’s delivery of all the different external resources. Nowadays, you know, we’re calling in so many different external third party scripts, content’s open here, we’ve got a CGN, we’ve got images elsewhere, we’ve got AWS. We’ve got all of these different resources, and that’s where the actual real time, so your time to the first page is okay, but it’s the latency between that and full resource loading. So those are the areas where I think we can make the most difference. One way that we’re looking at it, or one of the most interesting places to look I think is in the smarter browsers, so the Chrome project, and Safari as well as far as using HTML5 to make more predictive suggestions about what is loaded in the background. So you’re kind of pre-empting, based on behavioural feedback, what resources might be demanded prior to the actual client demanding it, if you know what I mean, and by client I mean the UI, using attributes like pre-render and pre-fetch, which is the most interesting area for me at the moment.

DAVID BAIN: So you think that because browsers could get more intelligent, that it would actually take some of the responsibility off the website developers themselves, or the people that put the script on the website because the browser is intelligent enough to know whether or not that piece of script requires to be loaded prior to actually delivering the experience of the whole website.

NICHOLA STOTT: We still need the developers to put the right link attribute, the right ‘rel’ attribute in the right place for the right kind of external resource. So working like a canonical tag for example, the link well would be pre-render, but is it the right resource? It’s a suggestion, again, like economical time, so it doesn’t mean that the browser is going to automatically deliver on your well suggestion, but it’s using learned data, should we say, behavioural input and feedback to understand is it worth my rendering this at this time?

ANDREA WARNER: You’re so knowledgeable about this. What does this look like on mobile?

NICHOLA STOTT: Oh, mobile is the ideal place for this. I mean HTML5 is a mobile world really, and Safari’s the mobile browser, and Chrome. So really this is the perfect place.

DAVID BAIN: So I mean, in relation to what you were saying there in external scripts, certainly if you work for a big enterprise, and you’re working on a website that has been around for a while, there’s probably tens of scripts that are in there that are redundant, and perhaps they used to track something – some old advertising network, or something like that. So I would assume that what you should do is on a quarterly basis or so actually review all the scripts that are going on in your website, and try and make sure that only the scripts that are required for the operation of the website at that time are actually in there, and take out everything else.

NICHOLA STOTT: Or in twenty seconds, make an accelerated mobile pages version, and then properly record this script exercise.

DAVID BAIN: So it’s mostly from a mobile perspective then you’re – yeah.

NICHOLA STOTT: Yeah, mobile perspective. Go AMP.

DAVID BAIN: Is AMP something that you’ve spent much time, Andrea, looking at?


DAVID BAIN: It’s obviously fairly early stages from a Google perspective, but I mean Facebook have just announced that they’re doing a similar kind of thing as well, and they’ve released their service just over the last few days to the general public as well certainly. Is there anything specifically with regards to AMP, Nichola, that a business should be doing? I mean should it be as simple a matter of using a WordPress plugin, for example, if you’re on WordPress, to ensure that your content is made in that format as well as whatever format is on your website?

NICHOLA STOTT: Definitely, yeah. If you’re a content publisher, and you’re on WordPress, there are wonderful plugins that you can use for that. There’s the accelerated mobile pages plugin, which will automatically do that for you on the site. Yoast has got a great plugin as well to glue to the two together, so that will understand the Yoast meta data element. So it’s quite a simple process now, yeah. You don’t even have to be a large news organisation publishing content; you could be a small WordPress blog, and take advantage of this. Pretty much every client we have now is getting at least 55% upwards of their traffic from a mobile device, whether it’s a tablet or a smartphone. Wow, you don’t need a stronger case really, do you, if you’re a content publisher? But certainly there is extended functionality that you see in commerce than those other ways of packing up knots, but…AMP all the way for me.

ANDREA WARNER: That’s interesting.

DAVID BAIN: And I guess it’s maybe even an advantage for smaller businesses as well because it’s quite easy to add a plugin to a WordPress site, but if perhaps you’ve got a more ancient CMS that hasn’t been updated for a while, then you’ve got a bigger challenge, and there are a few big companies out there with those kind of things.

ANDREA WARNER: We haven’t paid as much attention to mobile because our audience is enterprise level, and I’m still shocked about this number, but 90% of our traffic is on desktop.

NICHOLA STOTT: I completely understand that, and I know that Majestic SEO, for example, they probably won’t mind me saying, I don’t know the exact figures, but I know that their traffic is very, very high desktop because as you say, the enterprise or those B2B areas, sectors like that, we’re doing it all at work, and most people are still on desktops. It’s perfectly natural.

ANDREA WARNER: Exactly, and they’re not sneaking on their phone to peak at stuff. I mean they’re looking during their work hours.

NICHOLA STOTT: Yeah. Data, a big spreadsheet, it’s just not going to work on a mobile phone for now, until we can freely project it.

DAVID BAIN: Yeah, we’re the same actually. We’re about 90% on the desktop, but I guess if the average is more than 50% on mobile now then that means that certain industry sectors are going to be 70%, 80%, 90% on mobile, and that’s scary if you’re not publishing content that’s right for those kind of devices.

NICHOLA STOTT: Certainly retail, fashion, all those kind of sectors, any of the sort of sectors where peak traffic is evening, at home, sofa, glass of wine, there you go, you should really be thinking about that.

DAVID BAIN: Good tips. Well coming up we’re going to be talking about the fact that Google Analytics is rolling out another aspect to what it’s doing, so their user explorer report. Facebook’s instant article is a bit as well, and also whether or not you’re happy to converse with a bot. That’s in relation to Facebook’s recent announcement of course. But we’ve got a few comments. We’ve got Mustafa Ellis talking about your recommendations for speed, I think, Nichola, and whether there are any specific client side recommendations as well. So you did touch on that a bit as well afterwards. So it’s good to receive some comments, and any more questions in relation to what’s being said, you know, fire them away, and we’ll try and answer them there.

But let’s move along to topic number four, which is Google Analytics is rolling out their user explorer report. The user explorer promises to give us more insight into returning users, and their site movements over repeat visits. Now, might this benefit SEOs and content marketers? So Andrea, delving into your Google Analytics, can you imagine being able to see this path of specific users that are coming back quite a few times, and might that actually change the way you approach the production of different content on your site, or the structure of menus and things like that?

ANDREA WARNER: Definitely. It’d be crazy not to use that data, right? It’ll be really interesting. We have a lot of insight into our membership, and what they’re doing, and what they’re looking at, and the path that they’re taking. But our subscribers, it’ll be great to have more insight into what they’re doing too.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, great. So you obviously think that most businesses should be looking into that, and if they get enough data through that, seriously considering the redesign of different aspects of their sites according to that.

ANDREA WARNER: Oh, it’d be crazy not to. And I mean, you can do this with other tools to some extent now. It’ll be really nice to have it in Google Analytics all in one place, and I expect it to be a lot richer of an experience.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, and I see you nodding away there, Nichola, as well. It’s something you’ll be diving into once you can experience it basically.

NICHOLA STOTT: Yeah, I’ve got nothing to add. I mean Andrea’s completely covered that really.

DAVID BAIN: Okay, great. Let’s just move straight on to the fact that Facebook instant articles is now open to all publishers. So I’m beginning to find out if you’re actually wanting to use that, or have clients who want to use that, and you think it’s an integral part of potentially publishing in the future because a lot of publishing in the past has probably been on someone’s own blog, or their own website. Is it better now to leverage third party services like Facebook to publish content on, and just drive them back to your website as being the main source of information about your products and services? Or is there still a space for a standard blog in the future? Should you be, as you suggested, Nichola, maybe just having your blog, and creating AMP pages in relation to that? So I mean, Nichola, Facebook instant articles, is that something you’ve explored much?

NICHOLA STOTT: I’ve read. It’s currently on my R&D list of things to hack around with next actually, so I’ve not actually implemented any yet, or really gone through tech specs. But conceptually I love it. I think it’s a great idea. I think the whole model is changing in terms of publishing because user expectation and user habits are changing very much with the younger millennials, and generations like that. All the expectation is I want what I want, like my object, and I don’t care where I get it. I don’t care if I get the answer in the SERP, I don’t care if I get it on Facebook, I don’t care if I get it in Snapchat, but you know, I’m on a website, I want the product, I want the content. I read a really interesting stat about Buzzfeed. 70%, I think it could even be higher, but I’ll just say 70% to be on the safe side, apparently 70% of Buzzfeed’s traffic, or content interactions occurs off Buzzfeed. Now that’s massive – absolutely massive. So where is that? That’s Facebook. That’s already in places like that, and I think everyone’s opening that out. You’ve got publishing platforms like Medium, which is pretty awesome, Contently. You’ve got LinkedIn now, which is where I’m reading a lot of stuff – some of it great, some of it not so great. But I think the whole model is changing. The origin of the content itself is almost immaterial, or it certainly will be in a year or so. It’s the brand rather than anything else.

DAVID BAIN: It’s not so beneficial to be publishing a blog on your own website to be increasing the authority of that, or is that not so relevant a consideration for the future?

NICHOLA STOTT: I think there’s always got to be a home, a home base if you like, but I think the concept of authority has shifted so much. It’s not just kind of a single link. The single directional links, we’ve got a sort of social entity matrix, which constitutes authority, or is a consideration of an authority metric nowadays as well. So it’s not just as simple as here’s my ten links to my page of content, therefor it has authority to it. It’s a much more complex matrix.

DAVID BAIN: I guess that links also back to Google removing the supplementary content from the raters guidelines, because then you could argue that actually Google understand that that’s the case – that content could be published in lots of different places, and it could be by the same person. So you have to follow the trail around the internet, rather than actually assuming it’s going to be a certain domain going to be producing it.

NICHOLA STOTT: Well it makes you wonder why did they do away with authorship?

DAVID BAIN: Yes, well only SEOs were using it.

ANDREA WARNER: It wasn’t so long ago that a number one ranking in Google was everything, but now you can not even have a presence on Google, and have 500,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook, and have more authority than you know what to do with. That shows an interesting shift.

NICHOLA STOTT: Yeah, I love it. I’m obsessed with Instagram. I think that’s really interesting watching how people are so famous, but only on Instagram, and if you’re not on that particular platform you wouldn’t have a clue. There are people shifting a million a month on their Instagram revenue. It’s incredible.

ANDREA WARNER: Facebook advertising first became very popular, there weren’t as many people doing it, and it didn’t cost that much, and it was wild, Wild West of Facebook advertising. And it’s been kind of fun to see that happen on Instagram too, and I’m just like guys, enjoy it while it lasts because it will level out after a little while.

DAVID BAIN: So Nichola, you mentioned Snapchat as well there. Is that a network that you’re exploring quite a bit as being potentially great for content marketers for certain industries?

NICHOLA STOTT: Yeah, I’m in lurking phase at the moment on Snapchat. I’m seeing some people that are using it really well. Aleyda Solis is killing it on Snapchat in our community at the moment. There are different ways of using some different platforms. I’m in lurk mode at the moment for Snapchat, but I think there are fantastic applications for it in business as well as personal comms as well.

ANDREA WARNER: Here’s a personal example. My son is running for a class office at his high school, and he begged for a GO filter, and so when people walk into the zone or whatever that he sets up, they’ll get a filter that comes up that hey, he’s on Snapchat. And my mind’s just racing thinking about okay, when I need to target a younger crowd, you can do this at events, and I mean there are so many things that you could do with that. I’ll let you know if he wins or not.

NICHOLA STOTT: He sounds very, very smart. I think what’s interesting there as well is the younger generation are more inclined – so when I say younger generation I’m talking about generation Z – are more inclined to use messaging apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp, and more private networking sites than Facebook, than Twitter. There is a real shift in user behaviour between the millennials to generation Z. And your son, you know, your sample of one there has totally proved that.

ANDREA WARNER: Actually, I have five teenagers.


ANDREA WARNER: I know. Crazy, right? They keep me up to date. I know what’s going on. And those kids, I mean they don’t even really text that much anymore. It’s all about Snapchat. They snap a picture of themselves, write a little something on it, and send it. And they do that all day long. It’s so weird.

NICHOLA STOTT: It’s different worlds. What’s natural in the way that they communicate, what’s inherent in the way that they communicate is so alien to me, you know, a couple generations away from that. It’s like wow – it’s so fascinating to watch.

ANDREA WARNER: Yeah, they’ll text me to tell me that they sent me a Snapchat.

DAVID BAIN: I’m going to have to check out Aleyda Solis because I’m interviewing her next week on another project on the future of SEO, so she’s going to have a lot to say, I would imagine, in relation to how apps like that may impact things certainly, so that’s intriguing.

ANDREA WARNER: Yeah, it’s so important to watch, and again this is where it just pays to know who you’re talking to – who is your audience? Are they in this younger crowd that is using Snapchat? You would think that more middle-aged people wouldn’t be on Instagram, but all the moms I know are on Instagram so they can follow their kids.

DAVID BAIN: That’s what happened with Facebook, isn’t it?

ANDREA WARNER: Yeah, and then the kids left.

DAVID BAIN: So that’s what’s going to happen with Instagram and Snapchat possibly. We will see. But in relation to Facebook, they had a big announcement obviously over the last week or so, and that was they’ve launched their next big thing they call it, the bots for messenger. So will this give consumers an opportunity to chat, and actually interact directly with people selling products and services? Is it perhaps going to compete with other apps out there, other communication networks, websites possibly as well? Could this be a big game changer? Andrea, is this something that you’ve checked out at all?

ANDREA WARNER: No, I hadn’t read anything about it until you sent me the link, and oh my gosh, that is so interesting – I can’t wait. I’m trying to get back to you here. Yeah, like I was saying in the beginning, I’m really excited to get past typing in a search what I want. I love where this is going. It’s the future. I mean it was going to happen, and I’m excited that it’s happening now.

DAVID BAIN: Are you comfortable with chatting with a bot, and buying things off artificial intelligence basically?

ANDREA WARNER: Yes and very.

DAVID BAIN: Okay. And Nichola, you’re excited about this as the future?

NICHOLA STOTT: Oh god yeah, I completely agree. Again, the news is quite fresh, isn’t it? So I’ll have a look again; I’ve not had much time to really look into this, but as I understand it, I mean there is a threat in terms of how the bot for messenger may take a kind of agent out of the loop in terms of coming to the client’s site, or a popup – can I help you with X, can I help you with Y? But looking forward to, from my perspective, as a user, looking forward to a time when I can actually create agents or instruct agents to certain parameters to act on my behalf. I think that sounds awesome. So while I’m sleeping my agent, my proxy, is looking for the best cheapest flight to wherever I’m going for me, and then there’s a particular dress that I really want to buy, so I’m not wasting my time trawling through whatever sites I’m searching through. If my agent can constantly be searching for a black dress in size X, with this hem, that sort of thing, I can have like twenty personal assistants constantly working on my behalf, which makes me more efficient, and takes a lot of boring admin out of life.

ANDREA WARNER: Yeah, when you think about the personalisation, and maybe even invasion of privacy, unless you’re there paying cash since like 1980, that ship has sailed. They know everything about us anyways, so why not just make my life easier? Use what you have to make my life better.

NICHOLA STOTT: Yeah, completely.

DAVID BAIN: I’m looking forward to reading about the first PR disaster in relation to perhaps the wrong thing being delivered, or a brand trying to go too far in this. It’s probably going to happen at some point. It’s about the original conversation, delivering great customer experience, and if you can do that then that will probably help with your social positive vibes that are going on from your customers and your prospects as well. So it will link back to content marketing, and I guess user experience, and ultimately SEO as well. So it’s the future, it’s intriguing, and there’s so much happening at the moment with live broadcasting, with bots within messengers, and different apps. You almost wonder if the whole core area of websites and the online SERP result is getting less significant, and the whole interaction and search experience is becoming more completely personalised based on artificial intelligence, and your interaction with where you want to be as opposed to playing on Google’s terms, or another big search engine’s terms.

ANDREA WARNER: Well said, well said. I think that’s exactly what’s happening. In the article that you sent us, I thought one of the most interesting facts was that it said that on average most people use just five apps on their smartphones. And I was like is that true? I might use maybe seven or eight, but it is true. I don’t go to that many apps anymore. And so I think Facebook is really smart. I mean if we’re only going to use five apps, they’re doing everything they can to be one of them. It’s really smart.

DAVID BAIN: Great, great. Well, I reckon that just about takes us to the end of the discussion today, but we’ve got time maybe for a single takeaway in terms of out of what we’ve discussed today, what in particular do you think viewers, listeners should think about as something that they should either implement in their businesses, or think in relation to something that they’re doing? So Andrea, out of what we’ve discussed today is there anything that’s particularly resonated with you that you think people should be thinking about?

ANDREA WARNER: I always think people should be thinking about this – audience first, machine second. Optimise first for your customers – your customers, not what anybody else tells you might work for their customers. Optimise for your customers first, machine second.

DAVID BAIN: It’s so easy to follow the technology, but unless you follow the heart, and follow the mind-set of who you’re trying to appeal to, then I guess you’re always going to be second to your competitor out there that’s doing it better. And Nichola, what are your closing thoughts on things?

NICHOLA STOTT: So we’ve agreed all the way along here, Andrea, and at the final point I’m going to disagree slightly.

ANDREA WARNER: We see in our filters.

NICHOLA STOTT: So I would say actually optimise for both, to be honest. We need to be optimising for both, the reason being we’re looking at a future quite soon where a machine’s going to be acting on our behalf. So I would say we need to be thinking about things like making sure you’re using semantic mark up, making sure you’re using structured data because very soon the people accessing your site are really going to be bots acting on a human’s behalf. So how you’re working it if they’re going to understand what you’re selling, the data needs to be marked up correctly, and as semantically – if that is a word – as possible. So I would say both need to happen in tandem from now on.

DAVID BAIN: That’s quite amusing. So in the future the Google bot is going to be analysing other bots’ behaviour basically.

NICHOLA STOTT: Yeah, and not just Google. Well Amazon, Alexa, whatever your personal agent is that’s acting on your behalf, there’s still going to be what’s the data source that they’re using? It’s going to be a website, or as far as I can see anyway, but that site for the bot to understand it, and interpret it, and act on it, needs to be marked up in a way that is efficiently understandable. So you’ll need to be looking at, well HTML5 is a minimum, and we need to be looking at structured data mark up.

DAVID BAIN: Okay. Great points. Well, it was wonderful having you both on. Andrea, can you remind the viewers how they can get a hold of you? What’s your website, and things like that?

ANDREA WARNER: Yeah. I’m at I’m the president and publisher there. You’re welcome to email me if you want – And we publish a free real live case study every week so people run convergent tests on mobile, email, landing pages, marketing funnels, all kinds of things like that. And we publish a free split test every week. Oh, and both of you two, I’m going to be in London next month to present at the Adobe Summit and SMX London, so if you want to go to lunch or something, let me know.

NICHOLA STOTT: I’d love to.


ANDREA WARNER: Okay, cool.

DAVID BAIN: And Nichola, it was great having you on as well. Where can people get a hold of you?

NICHOLA STOTT: Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed it. Thank you for having me. So I’m Nichola Stott, search for me, you’ll find me. The company is The Media Flow. I’m on Twitter, or via our company website, or again you’re welcome to email me as well –

DAVID BAIN: And I’m David Bain, head of growth at Authoritas, actionable big data for enterprise content marketing. 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 or listening 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. For those of you watching live, we also have an audio podcast of previous shows, and if you’re watching on Blab now you can see that there’s a link to that directly, so that’s where you can all the previous shows. You can also go to for that as well. But until we see you again, have a fantabulous weekend, and thank you all for joining us. So adios, cheers everyone.




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