S3:E3 - How to integrate SEO into your digital strategy

Updated: May 18

In this guest episode, we talk to Jason Barnard, the brand SERP guy and search engine expert about SEO for marketers, how Google has changed from a data lake to a data river, why there's no point in having a separate SEO strategy any more and why chasing the algorithm is a fruitless approach.

SS: Hello folks, welcome back to the Marketing Mindset Club. Today, we're talking to Jason Barnard. Jason is the founder and CEO at Kalicube, a groundbreaking digital marketing agency that pioneered the concept of exact match brand SERPs, which is what your audience sees when they Google your brand's name, and I'm definitely going to ask more about that in our conversation.

He has over two decades of experience in digital marketing, starting in the year Google was incorporated with a site for kids that he built to become one of the 10,000 most visited sites in the world. He regularly writes for leading digital marketing publications such as Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, SEMRush and a whole host of other publications, and you have probably also seen on stage at Brighton SEO, PubCon or SMX London and YoastCon So, welcome to the show Jason, it's nice to have you here.

JB: Thank you very much Sarah it's absolutely delightful to be here. I'm terribly impressed by my own bio.

SS: Your bio was very impressive. I was a little bit intimidated, I've got to be honest.

JB: All right, well, don't be intimidated. I was a blue dog in a TV series, and cartoon Blue Dogs in TV series should not intimidate anybody.

SS: Cartoon blue dogs? Okay, start there. Start me off

JB: That was somewhere in the middle. In fact, the cartoon blue dog thing was, what was the 10,000th biggest site in the world. In 2007 with my ex wife we created two characters cartoon characters called Boowa and Kwala, and I tried to get book publishers to publish the book and record companies to release the record and they all said, well, there were so many cartoon goals - so many pairs of characters there's no point, It's never gonna work there's Tom and Jerry, there's Rhubarb and Custard.

And I'm the kind of person who thinks no I think this is a good idea. I think we've got something here and I'm going to make it happen whatever happens. So I actually bought a capital copy of flash Macromedia Flash from the time in 1998 a year Google was incorporated created the site created the animations made the songs made games, and it grew and grew and grew and grew over the 10 years. And we literally had 5 million visits a month. Yeah 100 million pageviews, a month, every month, then 2007 for a site for kids aged up to 10 and Alexa officially ranked us as 10,000 biggest site in the world in terms of visits.

SS: That's a pretty impressive accolade to have, I think you should have that on the t-shirt and red t-shirt for stage next time.

JB: Yeah, well the red t-shirt which nobody can see because this is sound - I'm actually wearing a red shirt is to get away from the blue dog, I think.

SS: Okay, yeah, I get it. So I just have a million questions about the Blue Dog scenario but the main one I'm thinking of is, did flash and the end of flash kind of do for that site or did you just decide to say, okay, we've done that, next thing.

JB: Well in fact it's a really sad story - I had a business partner who bought into the company, it was my company I allowed him into the company and it turns out I was a cartoon Blue Dog, and I began to believe I was a cartoon dog. And he completely ripped me off. So, my lesson for anybody who wants to become a cartoon blue dog is don't sign up with a business partner.

I think that's the thing, as well as is I talked to somebody in the industry and I was saying to people who actually do these TV series (because I don't want to generalise about an entire group) are they say a lot of it is that people who create that kind of content tend to be terribly naive.

That's a really easy target for a businessman or business person. It's a sad story, but in fact, I think we should always focus on - it was a phenomenal success. I'm incredibly proud of what we did, and the TV series was actually done by ITV International, and it was shown around the world, and it's still available online so you can actually still watch it so it's not like something that disappeared off the face of the universe. So it was really positive, And that's what got me into digital marketing.

SS: Awesome, well I guess that covers a lot of the kind of background questions we were going to start with, but tell me specifically what interests you about search and search engines on that part of the work that you do.

JB: Yeah, well in the blue dog and yellow kwala in the other corner in 1998, started when Google didn't really have any market share it was a Stanford University, I think it was kind of experiment that turned into a company so they incorporated in September 1998 and that was the month I built my first flash game, which was stunningly stunningly rubbish.

And then after three months I've managed to get good enough when we released the actual site in December so it took me three months to develop anything that I actually wanted to show anybody.

And from there on in, in fact at the time I mean anybody who was in the Internet at that time you had like Infoseek and Excite and Magdaleon or whatever it was called and Hotbot and Lycos and I remember like us young and literally like, 40, different engines of which 10 were reasonably big. And we would create one HTML page for each engine, and each variant of each current keyword including plural so if I had "kid game", then I would also have to have "kids games". And I would have to have "kid games", "kids game". So you'd have all these variants by letter, and then multiply that by 10 engines, minimum 40 engines potentially if you wanted to add the entire market. And you ended up with 10s of 1000s of pages for a very small keyword set to actually rank, and it became very quickly, very boring and it was all about counting words in pages. It was stunningly uninteresting.

And Google came along, brought links into the whole kind of game, and changed it from just counting words in pages to counting words in pages and counting inbound links. And that's what they did for 15 years. And if you look now you think, you know, counting links and counting words in pages sounds pretty stupid now.

But in 1998 - 2000, it was just counting words, which is even more stupid. And today we're obviously on to something completely different, which is where I found it became incredibly interesting. What we did was focus on Google, and we were lucky or smart depending on how you want to look at it. I said to the people I was working with, we're just going to focus on Google, because we can't create 1000s and 1000s of pages - complete waste of time. And if we focus on Google at least kind of we know where we're going and we can, we can not spend our entire life building these stupid pages with word counts and we can actually spend some time making some decent content with blue dogs yellow koalas, which we did. And I think kind of it was a combination of the two it was a nice balance, and we were lucky to hit that balance. And, as Google grew, of course we grew with them because we were focusing on them.

So we grew up with Google. Google's got no idea but, you know, I was growing alongside them, but for me it was kind of this big important thing and the more they, the more Google succeeded, the more we succeeded, which was a happy coincidence and I'm incredibly happy I made that choice.

SS: Yeah, I mean there are, there is a danger of spending a lot of time reminiscing but I first got into the game with a little book that was less than A6 size and it was titled "get into bed with Google", and it had those horrendous tactics in it that we would now cringe about where you would put keywords on the page and the same colour as the background, and you would have exact match URLs, and when keyword domains were thing, and all of that. So that was for me probably like 2006/7 ish, something like that. And I just remember being fascinated by the power that you had to manipulate essentially, what was an engine then displaying your content to a user, and, and that's sort of what got me hooked.

JB: I completely get that and seeing the effect of what you were doing was having on the fact that you were being shown people going to decide. But the other thing I remember is the whole kind of its data lakes and data rivers, which said like that sounds a bit complicated but actually isn't. And what was happening at the time is Google would go and collect all the information, stick it in this big lake. And then another machine would come around sort through the like. And so you would have to wait three to four weeks, every time you made the change.

Before that change actually took effect because you'd have the first main machine that would collect it, and the second machine that would go through it and reindex it and push it all back into the actual live index. So you didn't know if what you were doing would have any effect for several weeks. Yeah, and then going to rivers is the idea that the data flows by the machine and it grabs the stuff as it goes by. So you've got this almost immediate effect and people get impatient after, you know, a day and we're getting impatient that we're not ranking.

SS: That's a really interesting concept - is that something that is your way of thinking about it because I've not heard the whole concept of lakes and rivers before.

JB: Oh, I went to, in France, I mean, I live in France and I'm an English person who has now become French, and I work within the French community and I knew some people at Google, a few years ago, and they invited me to one of their seminar thingies. And they explained the Google Cloud Platform, which I now use. So they did a very good, obviously a bit of a sales pitch, but even so, and they explained the evolution of the technology from 1998 to 2017 when I did the seminar course. And that's all part of it basically what we're seeing today is that they develop the technology to be able to do what they wanted to do in the first place. And in 1998 they were saying we want to be an assistive engine, we want to be the Star Trek machine that guesses what you want before you even said that, I mean, answer engine is one thing you've got search engine then answer engine then assistive engine and then predictive engine.

And right at the beginning, they knew they wanted to be a predictive engine and they said we just don't have the technology to do it. So over these last 20 years, they've just developed the technology, little by little, to be able to do what they wanted to do because the technology could not cope with the amount of data they were collecting so they had to do data lakes, and then sort through the data lake, through this big sludge boat, whatever you would call it. And then they said well we want to make this faster so they developed a machine that could deal with data rivers as the data flew past it. And my concept of that is that what they've got is this kind of gold panning thing, where the data flows past, and if the gold panning robot sees something that is a nugget, it will just fish it out in the water on the way past.

So, if you can convince that robot that your content tends to be full of nuggets, it will tend to pick your content out faster than your competition, which goes into the lake and waits a few weeks. That's kind of my concept of how it works but I think whether it's true or not is debatable, but it's certainly an important way to look at it it's saying if you can convince the machine to trust you. You've nailed it.

SS: That, that trust is such an important thing, and the bit that I wanted to bring us on to the next is the three pillar approach that, that you and I've been talking about, and you've written about before, You know understand understandability credibility and deliverability. Just talk me through that structure a bit because we've got marketers listening of all skill levels and all backgrounds so just give me the top level, what that means and why trust is important.

JB: Yeah, I'm sorry for going on about data rivers.

SS: Not at all, I share the enjoyment of the geekery but I also want to take it up a level to guys and gals who might not be so, so in the weeds with search

JB: Right well if they stuck through that last boring but we can come back to what we were saying right at the beginning which is they want it to be more than anything, if you look at search it's basically you search for something and they offer you up a list of possible solutions to your problem or answers to your question and you choose which one you want. And that was the 10 blue links when it would just say here's 10 blue links, you choose the one that you think is the best we've put them in order of what we think is the best but we're really just suggesting things. Answer engines which is the next step up is saying here's what we think is the answer and that's when you see the answer at the top of the knowledge panel on the right-hand side and they're saying, our machine to determine that this is the best answer for you. Then you get assistive engines, which is saying not only is it the best answer, but we're going to help you interact with that answer. For example, by putting a video in the search so you can just click on it and you can find the exact place in the video where you want it to go so they're assisting you on your journey to find the solution to the problem you have asked to Google. Because remember when you type into Google or speak into Google, you're asking a question that you want an answer to, or you're giving it a problem that you want the solution to and its role is to get you to that solution as efficiently as possible.

And the last one is a predictive engine which is where we going next, that wasn't enough for you already with Discover where it's predicting what you're going to want, so it will push content towards you that it thinks you will be interested in. And that's where it gets a bit mad but they wanted to do that that's the Star Trek machine Captain Kirk. Doesn't know he needs a stun gun, but the machine tells him to pick a stun gun up because the machine knows that he's gonna need in 10 minutes when the Klingons turn up. I've been watching too much Star Trek.

Yeah, and so we're moving towards that and I think that's kind of the really important aspect and then we come up with this three-pillar approach, which kind of takes the scarytude away from that, it makes it less, because you're gonna, how am I going to approach this, I can't approach it because I don't, I can't get my head around the entire concept and its global idea, if you say Right. Google has three basic problems and if you can be empathetic not unfriendly to Google as a machine but empathetic to what it's trying to do and the problems it's facing, you can definitely start to provide help to Google, and the three problems aren't needed to understand who you are, what you're doing, who your audience is. If it can't understand that it can't possibly offer you up as a solution to its users, especially in a predictive sense, it is predicting what you want these to understand what you are offering to its users.

In order to offer you as a solution to their problems, and you can listen back to that half speed if it was too fast for you because I just realised that made sense to me. I've said it so many times. And the next thing is once it's understood who you are what you offer, and who your audiences, then it can start saying okay this is a potential solution and it's a decent solution, but I've understood you and others to be a competitor competitors. So I've got three possible solutions, all of which seem about the same I've understood them all. And I'm going to pick the one that's the most credible, the one that I think will best satisfy my user remember Google's users. So your audience, who are coming through Google are actually Google's users they're Google's clients, Google's recommending you Google's giving you that traffic. It's not something that is yours by right in inverted commas. So Google saying I need to understand that I need to be confident you can supply and provide that solution and if I'm confident that your solution is going to be better than your competition I will then ask itself a third question.

Can you actually deliver. And that can be delivered the video deliver the text content, deliver the product. Are you going to satisfy my user.

And if you've got those three nailed. You're the recommended answer, you're the recommended solution, Google will put you number one.

SS: So, yeah, there's an awful lot to take in there and I have about a million different tangents that we could go off on but I think we should probably no no it's great because I mostly want to ask you about, you know the future of SEO as we think of it now and whether, whether the mindset needs to change completely, but, you know, let's not go down that rabbit hole just yet.

I wanted to unpack the, the understanding bit so we're thinking about Google and its ability to understand that there's got to be a mix there between the technical side of it and the content words and the media so tell me a little bit more about where you think the balance lies between what is displayed on page and how it's technically delivered.

JB: Well, I liked the way you presented that it's rather good. I think the technical side when we, it's lucky we talked about the historical stuff because Tech was all it was about tacking counting words, if you didn't have a tech platform delivered your HTML incredibly fast and you were relying on your developers for your SEO and that's so much schematized to make a gross generalisation let's say SEO is 80% technical, six years ago is now 20% Technical which is great news for everybody who's in marketing, I think it's good. I'm happy I think that's a good thing. So, but from a technical perspective, you really need to make sure that Google can access and index all your content.

Once you've got that you've got the platform to start trying to get Google to understand.

So I think the technical aspect once Google can access your content, your lead saying how can I help Google to understand and the Russian multiple ways of doing so. one is traditionally inbound links, an inbound link from a relevant site to a page on one relevant page for another realm, rather than page indicates to Google that your page talks about the same thing as the other page.

But how, if it's understood the other page it will therefore understand your, your page and that's a little bit of help for it. Secondly is clear copywriting.

I think we all forget how unclear, we are, we write lots of guff around stuff, and we think it's great and poetry is typical example of something Google's simply not understand, and it isn't, you know, it's not a bad thing but remember machines have no imagination, no sense of humour, and no sense of irony, and it will take everything you write firsthand and lots and lots and lots of examples of this, but if you write what we call semantic triples and build slides, he goes, which goes further drills we'll stick to troublesome environment sounds really complicated Don Anderson talks about this and it's blew blew my mind when she talks about it, it's actually just subject verb object it's really simple. And if you can avoid separating them too much the machine can get a grip of it. So if I say, Jason Barnard is a digital marketer, Google gasps Jason Barnard thing is a relationship. Digital Marketer it's got the to the subject-verb and the object is understood. If I say Jason Barnard the beautiful English humorous fun person is expert superduper 18-year career, Digital Marketer, Jason Barnard and Digital Marketer so far apart from each other. The machines completely lost the thread by beget by the time it gets to the end of it and to be honest with you as a human being, you've probably lost at the front of it by the time you get to the end of it, but I feel good because I've just stroked my ego rather nicely.

And we tend to do that but in fact, you can just turn it all around and say, the most wonderful human being in the entire world Jason Barnard is a digital marketer and he has 18 years of experience exactly the same thing, but that JSON file and our digital marker and relationship is it all together on a machine can get it. That's really interesting because I, I absolutely loved on her ability to think about things.

SS: Yeah, we were, we're both MSc alumni in Manchester Metropolitan.

JB: But I think there's a tendency to feel like Google is so sophisticated and so advanced in its ability to understand that we kind of don't really realise if we write, you know long convoluted English that it just can't get it.

I think there is a time it's I mean, there is a tendency within the industry to look at what Google can potentially do through its patents and through the work that they're doing, and they can do on a small corpus of text for example Wikipedia a relatively small corpus of text, and we look at that we think, okay, they can do that if we give them one page, but we fail to think about what does it do when it's billions of these things, the sheer mass of information means that what it can theoretically do at a small scale is incredibly difficult to do a large scale so however good, we think it is, it potentially is on a small scale on that incredibly large scale, especially when you mix in technical problems, mixing loading problems mixing data lakes and data river problems all that makes it just more and more complicated so you want to make it as simple as possible for the machine. Yeah, one thing I do like about that kind of entire thing is I don't mean a no point do we need to be boring by being simple, don't have to write convoluted sentences to be interesting, you can actually be simple and incredibly interesting and incredibly convincing. It's just really difficult.

So, do you think now that technical SEO is is less important than it was. 20, you know 15-20 years ago that if you've got a piece of content that is exceptional and valuable, but poorly delivered it will Google will still be able to figure it out or do you think there is still a barrier there. There is still a barrier because you can't just throw kind of Google still relies on structure. And what's interesting is structure is not necessarily technical.

You don't need to develop to write a title, a paragraph, a subtitle, another paragraph, a sub subtitle, another paragraph, then another subtitle than another paragraph.

That's headings, subheadings, it's how we should be writing as human beings, it's how we understand as human beings, Google relies on the headings and the subheadings and the paragraphs below them to understand how the page is chunked I mean Google Talk about WordPress talk about blocks. Yeah. Yost, talk about blocks Gutenberg talks about blocks, Microsoft talks about chunks. And I talked to Mr Bean box who is called Fabrice canal and explained how Bing bot works which was really awesome. He's a really cool guy.

And when you understand kind of the process, it goes through, it's looking for patterns, and if it can find patterns, it can find. it can actually start trying to analyse those words, but if it can't find the patterns to identify where the chunks of content are, it can never even get started trying to understand so all of the stuff that Dawn talks about just can't kick in, and he said something really interesting that I, I, I was quite pleased with is John Mueller from Google said we don't really care about html5 And we don't care about the details of how the page is actually structured we can figure it out, and Fabrice can say yes we can figure it out he's been bought. I'm sorry you know he's the guy who actually builds the thing you say yes we can figure it out. But if you have something that's structured in the same way as absolutely everybody else, we're more confident we figured it out.

Oh that's interesting I didn't realise that there was a confidence element there, right, sorry right so if you're using WordPress. WordPress is 30% of the web, whether WordPress is good or right is actually not the question. But if you use WordPress being broken Googlebot have already seen this one in every three pages they visited. So there's a pattern that's going to kind of fit in and unless you're Amazon you can't build your own system expect these machines to understand how you built it, because my logic is not the same as yours is not the same as somebody else's as an example number two with WordPress. If you start installing things like FlexGrid rich as an example, I absolutely hate this I've got a client who's got it.

Once you move away from that core you're taking away the patterns the machine recognises and the further away from the core you get the less patterns it sees and the less confident it becomes in what is understood, and what we fail to realise is the bot isn't simply this machine that comes around and collects information.

It annotates everything it finds before putting it in the database, and all the other algorithms use that annotation to access the information. So if the machine cannot annotate correctly, the algorithms can never get hold of your content to even begin to think about ranking.

So your immediate need is to make sure you've done them going on but every carrier is to make sure that the machine is comfortable with what you're presenting. Yeah, yeah, I, I hadn't thought about it like that at all and you know the the structure that WordPress offers you has, you know, well, like you said for 30% of the sites out there been exactly what they need, so it makes sense that their pattern there. Do you think that by being in a known CMS like Wordpress that you are already ahead of the game. Yeah, I don't know Allison from Yoast says, you know, why would No, Why would people not use WordPress, why would anyone want to reinvent anything WordPress does it all. And the only thing you need to remember with WordPress, is it won't do it exactly the way you wanted it you have to accept some compromises. If you want exactly what you wanted, then you can do that and you pay a fortune for developing you rely on developers with WordPress, you don't rely on developers half as much as he would if he built it yourself, perfection in your own mind, is a great disadvantage, both in terms of future development in the advertising and your forward you have to redevelop everything. WordPress is actually packaged so it actually moves forward, and it provides you with lots of things that you would not have, if you just have to look at the number of Gutenberg blocks that have come up in the last three years, as standard to see how fast that can move forward.

But you're also putting yourself at a disadvantage in the machine, and I'll come back to that idea, it's not that it can't get your content.

And it's not that it can't understand your content, it's less confident in that understanding.

So, let's talk about credibility and trust for a minute there, so we we've got the understanding we have one thing about understanding big before we move on to Credibility One thing about understanding is, people talk a lot about schema markup and I think that's very technical, it's very tech, tech, tech, and people get really scared of it and I understand that I can relate to that because when you dig into it is really complicated but if you look at something like Yoast it does your basic schema markup for you. You don't need to be a technician, you just need to fill in the fields and it really isn't complicated so don't be scared by it. And if you want to move to the next level, you look at something like word left to an Italian company who do an astonishing platform that takes it to another level. And what I would advise people is don't try to understand schema markup.

Use it through one of these tools, it's like WordPress. Don't reinvent the wheel. Don't try to be an expert in something you're not really an expert because when you talk to general Allison is the guy who does all the skin market but he has no he doesn't sleep at night because he's trying to figure out how we should present it so what are the decisions we make are philosophical.

How do we use this to express the information to a machine.

So it isn't like John oh this is right, Jason banners wrong. It's Jonah Aldous was approaching it from one point of view, I'm approaching from another. The fact is, Yoast is on 40% of a WordPress site. So, Google and Bing bot see Yoast on 1413 14% of every single page that we see they see Yoast. So that's going to be the standard whether we like it or not. Yeah, so there's no point in trying to develop your own custom schema app because you might as well use what is out there because it will do the job that you are asking you to do. That's what I would do, but I mean obviously if somebody wants to go and develop a schema for themselves, they're quite welcome to do so.

Somebody does it and it's a new version of WordPress, let me know because I am always curious. Yeah, I mean I think kind of the, the, we come up with ideas and saying, Oh I want to do this really specific thing. Yeah, and you have to just ask yourself, is it worth the pain, or can I spend that time doing something more useful like creating a great video or doing a great podcast like this one.

I mean that is a huge issue that sits above all of this is that commercial awareness of what do I do and what do I put my time into that is going to get me the most return. And I think, let's work our way through the three pillars, and then we might come back to that it's a bigger commercial with the same. So, in credibility and trust more credibility when I would say rather than writing that tiny piece of schema markup that you think is going to make yourself look really clever which I do all the time so I'm gonna say for myself, go and go make sure your clients are satisfied and they've given you great reviews.

Yeah, interact with them spend some time with them, talk to them, send them emails asking for reviews get those reviews because reviews are not only a sign of credibility that you will satisfy Google user when Google recommends you as a solution to that user for that problem, but also give us just about platforms do you think there is a bias for Google reviews, or are we safe on any platform, they're all open to spelling.

Google's got partnerships with loads of platforms including Trustpilot, they've got lots and lots of having very few in France, I can't remember off the top of my head.

So Google isn't just relying on itself, it can't do that because it's, it's a walled garden it's housed part of the internet, and it can't ignore all the stuff all the people who don't actually hang out and Google the time you know, as digital marketers or marketers, we tend to obsess about Google and we forget that. My grandma doesn't even know what to do the latest she instals You know she opened up a Windows PC and she's got Microsoft Edge, and she's got no idea of anything outside Bing. And one thing that probably came out from being pointed out to me that I hadn't thought about was that because of security issues, and network management, a lot of large corporations, impose Microsoft Edge on their employees so if you're a b2b business. Google might have 95% of the market, but that 5% A lot of it is going to be grandmas and, and, employees at corporations. That is a top tip for b2b marketers if you are struggling with your Google PPC activity or any of your ads, try Microsoft ads, because there's a strong possibility if your audiences in a highly regulated market, they're probably on edge. Yeah, they're on edge in both hands.

Yeah. And then credibility, obviously you've got the reviews that's incredibly important and you've got to be online either looking at it or expertise or as word of mouth. I talked about accessibility because it's the usual format. What expertise authority and trust to does is break it down into the three areas so you have to prove to Google that you're an expert in your field that you're authoritative and that your theories, And that goes by the committee reviews help with trusts, but also writing through and helpful information on your website, or authority with these people within your industry, Google recognises as expert and interact with your content.

Influence marketing basically yeah but influencer marketing within a field where that person is seen as an expert not just some big mouth on Twitter. So it's a little bit like and that's quite interesting for that. It's like the sun. I can't think of a British paper but the sun will have absolutely boatloads of inbound links.

That means populating it doesn't mean it's, yeah, Google desperately looking forward to YT links and weight information according to the trustworthiness and authority of fitness and expertise, as opposed to popularity. So there's another top shit is the links, great, but you want it to be expert authority in your niche market, Just come back to the platform. If it was a deep dive on reviews.com might potentially be much more powerful for you. And Google reviews.

SS: I think that's an interesting thing that you can extrapolate into local search as well when you're thinking about links if you've got a link from, you know Joe Bloggs cafe in some tiny village somewhere and you're trying to get exposure there, then that's going to be way more valuable than your yellow pages, if that is even still a thing, probably, it's probably not. I think they do still have some dwindling digital presence but do you know I actually got a phone book through the door, the other day and I thought, what's the point I want doorstop.

It's a good fire lighter blue.

And in fact you can take sort of all of that another step further, I mean if we're talking about Google and Android Funnels is really interesting kind of point online the credibility states and local search which is what they can think about is Google measures how long you stay in a shop. It measures. If you go back to that shop. So you don't just need reviews you need repeat visits and if it knows I live in the 12,000 litre mine Paris, and I go into the cafe next door, and I never go back.

That's like a one star review. If I've got an Android phone, obviously if I'm at home and I will never know. But if I just keep going back to the same restaurant or the same cafe day after that today it's gonna be pretty good. So that idea of credibility and trustworthiness is not just the explicit stuff that people are saying about you is the implicit actions of people, both with their Android phone but also visiting your site going back to your site bouncing off the sign all the user behaviour, and that we come back to the the idea of the masses of data that this company can handle.

I don't think most of us can even begin to imagine that, I mean I certainly can't. And they manage the state and they can extrapolate understand so much more than we actually think on such a macro level, and I interviewed the thing called the Home Page algorithm which we can talk about today because it will freak everybody out, but also in lights and channels from being who runs the home page algorithm and he, in an interview only holds him just chatting with him.

And he was so I said to him, but how can you possibly know for a search query, because I'm obsessed by brand says what depends on you search by the brand name or that person, like I said me possibly no with my name with the search form is so small.

How can you possibly know what's going to be appropriate because he basically says he wants to build a perfect page. He said that we don't look at the search volume for your name, and the user behaviour on that search, we look at the massive data, we aggregate it and we figure out what the person who would search your name would most like, given the entirety all the data we've got. So that same meeting people and saying, overall behaviour within the market of this person Jason bar we have understood is going to be this, therefore we can propose that, and we don't need anything like 20,000 searches a month that we can do with tensor station which actually doesn't matter because we're not even looking at that.

That is just absolutely mind-blowing, isn't it is stunning, isn't it.

I think what it does for me is just reassure me that, and hopefully ratio of our audience that there is no point in chasing the algorithm, you just need to focus on your content and what you will delivering to your audience, and making sure that your footprint is in the place that's going to be most relevant for the people that you're trying to reach it for me, my marketing doesn't it. That's exactly what it sounds like we should just be doing marketing.

No, it's, it's exactly where I was going with it because I ruined your punchline, you were saying, so I was just sitting there, or just thinking, aren't you saying that incredibly well and I thought, just as a marketing. So I ruined it for exactly where I was going because I think, I think maybe even as not as long ago as five or three years ish maybe I would have thought of SEO as a separate strategy, it would have leaked into content marketing and, you know brands and all that but it would have been right what is our SEO strategy, what are our outbound, what was our outreach going to be to get links. What content do we need to produce for the SERPs, you know, and it feels like the the more sophisticated the algorithms get, the less we should be chasing them, which is kind of obvious to say but I feel like there are still a lot of people who build their strategies around chasing the algorithm, and I think if that's one of the takeaways from today that I want people to get is, is let's not do that because it's not going to be effective. Right. And if we can add another layer on top of that is when you understand how machine learning works, you realise that chasing our will is a totally pointless exercise, because if you ask somebody being over Google, how does the algorithm work, they don't know. And it's, it's, you kind of sell hahaha isn't that funny right you're personally obviously a robot tends to think at some point, but machine learning is basically, they label lots of data they get human beings to sort data information into boxes that have labels on them, they give that to the machine. They give the machine a mathematical formula and they give it a goal, something it needs to achieve, and the machine then sits down with a mathematical formula and all this data says. With this data, I can see this information. Now, with this new data I've never seen before. I'm going to find the same solution that you humans have found and sorted out for me in this example set, it gets to the solution.

There is no point in chasing the algorithm, you just need to focus on your content and what you're delivering for your audience, and making sure that your footprint is in the place that's going to be most relevant for the people that you're trying to reach it for me, my marketing doesn't it.

That's exactly right. It sounds like we should just be doing marketing.

Though it's, it's exactly where I was going with it because I ruined your punchline, you were saying so, I was just sitting there, or just thinking, aren't you saying that incredibly well and I thought, just as a marketing, sorry I ruined it fine.

It's fine, it's exactly where I was going, because I think, I think maybe even as not as long ago as five or three years ish maybe I would have thought of SEO as a separate strategy, it would have leaked into content marketing and, you know brands and all that but it would have been right what is our SEO strategy, what are our outbound, what is our outreach going to be to get links. What content do we need to produce for the SERPs, you know, and it feels like the the more sophisticated the algorithms get, the less we should be chasing them, which is kind of obvious to say but I feel like there are still a lot of people who build their strategies around chasing the algorithm, and I think if that's one of the takeaways from today that I want people to get is, is let's not do that because it's not going to be effective.

Right. And if we can add another layer on top of that is when you understand how machine learning works, you realise that chasing the algorithm is a totally pointless exercise, because if you ask somebody, Bing or Google, the algorithm work, they don't know. And it's, it's, you can sell hahaha isn't that funny, not you personally obviously won't tends to think, and at some point, but machine learning is basically, they label lots of data they get human beings to sort data, information into boxes that have labels on them, they give that to the machine. They give the machine a mathematical formula and they give it a goal, something it needs to achieve, and the machine then sits down with a mathematical formula and all this data says. With this data, I can see this information. Now, with this new data I've never seen before. I'm going to find the same solution that you humans have found and sorted out for me in this example set, it gets to the solution. And then, what Google and Bing do is they collect all that information and get some human beings to sort through it all again to say well this was right this was wrong. This was good, this was bad and they feed it back into the machine as additional data that either supports what it's doing, or contradicts where it's there and so it's corrective data or supportive data or as after native data as you like. And they feed it back in the machine goes okay that was wrong. Oh I'll adjust myself a little bit then. And then obviously they also kind of the human being say well we got the mathematical formula a little bit wrong but you know we'll change that a little bit but what, what the mike. Frederick W from Bing was saying is you shouldn't focus on ranking factors you should focus on the metrics we're using to measure the success of the machine.

I think that's really interesting and really key to what I want people to take away from this episode which is to just focus on what your users are doing, and the content that they want, because everything else is secondary. And if you're delivering the content they want users will stay on site, they will share it, you will get links you will get people walking through your door, and staying there. And the I mean the other thing is whether Google and Bing have yet got to the point where they can achieve their goal of giving the perfect solution to their users problem is kind of a moot point because they're going to get there or they're going that way. So if you're playing in that same direction at all times with the fact that they're not there yet. It doesn't mean you're you're not going to rank at all today, it just means you won't rank as well as in inverted commas, you should, but in the future you're going to progressively rank better and better and better we've proposed suggested, more and more as a solution. And so what you should be looking at is what is their goal, what goal are they setting for that machine or what metrics are they using to measure it. Yeah.

Let's move on to deliverability. The last of our pillars, if we've got any listeners left after our single listening is probably still out there is my sister in law because she's a wonderful champion and cheerleader for me. So, thanks. Thanks Emily, I know you still know let's talk about deliverability for a minute. And as this is the, the third crucial part of our strategy and what we want people to take away from it.

Yeah, I mean, I, I actually focused on understanding the credibility for a couple of years and I was thinking there has to be something else. It can't just be that a friend of mine is a teacher and a level. So everything has to be in threes, with A level students if you tell them something twos. It doesn't seem important, if you tell them before they forget the fourth one, so it always has to be in threes and it works every time. And he was right. So now I do everything in threes if I've got four, he said just shoehorn the fourth one into the third one, you're away. And if you've only got to invent a new one, it doesn't actually matter but it will get people to kind of stay on board. And in fact that that idea of threes comes back to a lot of things including semantic triples that I talked about earlier on, it's subject-verb object it's three things that's how our brains function. So threes is logical so deliverability is the one I came up with. And it isn't the third one I invented just to make up numbers, I promise. And a lot of this is technical. It's making sure your site is mobile friendly but it delivers quickly that the user has a great user experience that the delivery of the content is up to the promise that you've made by the understanding and the credibility. And if Google is doing user stuff which people complain about and I understand. If they want to deliver the video on the, on the SERP and it's a choice between your video and your competitors video, they will deliver the one that's the most deliverable, the most suitable for their audience. Remember, I mean, you can complain about unsurpassed SEO the fact that Google is showing results, more and more in the SERP, but they're doing what you're doing, which is trying to satisfy their user as quickly and as efficiently as possible, and if it's on the server that's all they do because they're trying to satisfy a client much in the same way that you are, So it's a bit, kind of to face to be complaining at them for doing what in fact you're trying to do at the same time, you're just saying, I want the traffic, but use it as a branding opportunity you're not going to, you're not going to change the situation it's bit confusion. You can't change it, you need to learn to live with it. And that means creating the content that Google can deliver in an adequate manner, and make sure it's branded, so your brand gets across, that's the least you can get free advertising look at it that way. Obviously what you had before is not as good as what you had. Sorry, no way, now is not as good as what you had before, but it's not going to go back to that so there's no point in crying over spilt milk because we say. So deliverability is that idea of saying, when the user comes to the site. Google has to be convinced that the user will have a great experience. If it wants to deliver the content of a survey needs to know that it can do so. And if it's sending a client to you buy something, it wants to be sure that you will deliver the product on the day you said you would deliver it you will deliver the service the solution when they actually pay for it because once again, these people are Google's clients.

Yeah, I don't think that's quite easy to forget when you're coming from the perspective of I just want the traffic. Yeah, I was thinking about how a marketer, would approach a search strategy today. You know, if you, if you are on, you know the beginning of your career and you're coming into a brand, and you know you have to start from scratch on a search strategy. I'm feeling like, as a result of our conversation you would prioritise the stuff that you would do for brand, you would prioritise your content marketing activities, and then your, your technical delivery is not nearly 50% of your focus anymore it's maybe like 20% or something.

Yeah, I make sure the Google can get out the content, so you can actually see what you're offering. Make sure you can't even but obviously I'd say 20% on that you've got 40% on your content, which all has to be branded you have to make sure you've got a brand message, systematically, and that that brand message is consistent across the board, and the other 40% is on satisfying the client once you get them. Yeah because Google's looking over your shoulder all the time. And it's looking over your shoulder, not only on your site, but on your social channels on your audience's social channels on their Gmail account. It's looking over your shoulder in places you can't even see or think about looking over your shoulder on their Android machine when they walk in and out your shop. Yeah, I mean it's maybe even if they run out the shops, stomping their feet and shouting really loud rude words, maybe, maybe, it can get louder obviously I'm exaggerating but that hole. Isn't there but it's not far out of the realms visibility.

Now, so yeah I think kind of and that's the thing is if you overtime at least if you, if you attract people with this great content let's let's say that the 20% technical you can deliver the content in a practical sense, online is done. If your content is amazing, you've got that 40% You've put all your money in there, but then you never deliver the product at the end of it either the content isn't satisfactory so the Google, the user bounces and goes to your competitors Google sees that, obviously it's a very bad signal. But then if you use a complain about your review site all the time. Google will just end up saying well actually it's really rubbish selling there because even if they seem to be satisfied in the first instance when I sent them. They just come back and complained about it. So I'll send them to the competitor next time so you actually really do need that kind of balanced marketing strategy and you can't approach and say I'm just doing SEO, you have to go and talk to the sales staff you have to talk to the after sales stuff you have to talk to the support staff, you have to make sure that that the message is getting through to everybody. And that you're satisfying your client. And just one last point about that is when you start talking to these people within your organisation. The sales after sales support staff, they start to tell you what the clients actually want the need, which allows you to better focus your content to attract the right people who will be satisfied with what you're offering. And then you've got this virtuous circle and you're winning the game all the way around, you're getting less traffic you're not going for the volume with the traffic that does come is incredible with traffic, excuse me, the people who do come a satisfied Google sees it, and Google just keep sending you people.

That's so relevant to an episode I did recently about the convergence of marketing and customer experience, wanting to are inevitably going to become closer bedfellows than they ever have been because for exactly the reason we were just saying, you can't as a marketer, develop a successful SEO strategy when you're getting a bunch of rubbish reviews saying your products crap it's not delivered on time, and I can't get through to your customer services, because anything that you do in search is going to be negated by the power of those negative reviews. So, you have to have that, that ability to connect with your ops department with your sales department to say, This is really bad and I as a marketer cannot overcome this on my own. So you have to come at it from that customer experience that holistic perspective. So it's all interconnected and you once again. Even if you can get away with it today because Google's set the goal and we know where that goal is it's getting closer and closer and closer and closer. So even if you can get away with it today, you probably won't be getting away with it tomorrow or the day after, or the day after or whatever it might be. Look at what Google is trying to achieve, be empathetic to its problems, so help it solve its problems, solving its users problems when you're away. seems to me to be incredibly simple obviously the the actual implementation is incredibly complicated but I'm a big fan of having a philosophical overview of it so you don't just focus on the little details that have I got the exact right sentence in my paragraph. Obviously you need to deal with the details but if you don't have an overview of everything, you're just doing lots of details and they never fit together. And that jigsaw puzzle never makes sense to Google doesn't make sense to you probably either.

Oh, I did have one final question to finish on because we're almost out of time, is how do you address that age-old question of justifying the investment in a search strategy

depends on the client, or the boss or the person, where people are where, where a company is willing to put its money or people are willing to put their money to tender greater than what their goals are. Some companies need to sell directly so they're desperately trying to sell I mean if a company is in survival state and they're about to go and you want to justify it by saying we're going to make sales straight away, which probably means you've got forgettable ads because that's immediate paid back, and you can measure it. If a company's looking for brand awareness, then you can look at your, your brand, the number of brand searches and the quality of your brand so what appears when somebody Google's your brand name. That would be a realistic goal, then you say well, that's what we do. We measure it, and we say this is a good one this is a bad one, this is getting better. This isn't getting better. So you've got multiple points of view is one is I want brand awareness, another is I want traffic. In order to build the top of the funnel so I can lead to fill the bottom of the funnel otherwise I need immediate bottom of funnel satisfaction as it were. But overall, maybe the best way is to break the whole process down into top middle bottom and after funnel and never forget the after funnel. That's the after sales stuff that's the stuff that Google CMA in the in the loop back from the reviews and the noise on Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and all that stuff, which it does watch, and also repeat visits and not repeat visits in much the same way with drop Mandroid and divided into those that say we need to fill up all of these different chunks of our funnel. What we need to do is set which is the priority today, and your boss will probably always say, which is the bottom of the funnel busy now if we never fill up the top of the funnel once you've emptied the bottom of the funnel we've got nothing coming in, so we can't just do that doesn't really answer your question, but I'm not a very pragmatic person from that perspective.

No, I think, I think it does because you have to, you know, choose the right tool for the job that you're trying to achieve, which makes total sense. But I think what might actually be better for some people is rather than a top of funnel strategy if you already have great coverage and great awareness is to focus on, particularly the after sales and the aftermarket piece, especially if you're not getting really any engagement from repeat customers if you've got high churn rate, then your investment might be better spent in that part of your operation, and it's not going to be a search strategy for that it's going to be a loyalty strategy or it's going to be an upsell or cross sell or whatever. So I think that is where the power of a strategic marketer really comes into its own should be able to say, well actually that's not a priority right now commercially, it would be better for us to spend the money here.

Yeah, no I really like that's a really lovely insight is saying you know if I'm just signing off on a one-cent digital strategy I would never see an SEO strategy anymore, although you'd probably find examples in saying a song. Now we look very foolish, but you look at what you've already got, and you consolidate that and you ensure that that is your satisfied customers your existing client base, and you make sure that that feeds back into the wider world that Google can see that other people see and you know it's not just Google, if your existing customer base is actually tweeting about you, LinkedIn about you and Facebooking about you, similar audiences will immediately will see that. So you're getting that ripple effect. So that's possibly the most powerful thing is to feed the bottom of the funnel, or the post funnel or the after funnel when we want to go back into the top of the funnel. Yeah. Oh, that's, that's really nice idea isn't it and then you focus on the middle of the funnel. Once you've got that sorted out and the middle of the funnel is going to be Google. Yeah, absolutely. Um, well I think that sort of brings us to the end of our, our time. So do you want to tell us where people can find you where they can ask questions of you, and where they should go to find more information.

Yeah, well I'm the Brand SERP guy. I'm obsessed by one person somebody goes Rene's search my name, and you will find me. Basically that's the idea. You'll find my Twitter account, you'll find the knowledge panel you'll find my site or find my company site you'll find my LinkedIn profile my CrunchBase profile, my WordPress profile. So you take your pick, you can you can connect with me on any one of those different platforms, and you're more than welcome.

SS: Awesome. If you had to leave our marketers with one piece of advice for what they should do in 2021, what would that be?

JB: Focus on your brand - focus on making sure that your brand message is going out there in a consistent and positive and accurate manner and that Google understands your brand and is representing your brand in a positive accurate and convincing manner. When people search your brand name because when they search your brand name, somebody is either doing business with you already. For back to do business with you so that the most important people in your entire content marketing strategy.

SS: So awesome. Thank you so much, folks. I hope you have enjoyed the episode, and I will see you next time.

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