Thumbnail: How to Integrate SEO Into Your Digital Strategy

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

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.

[00:00:00] Sarah Sennett: Hey, I’m your host Sarah Sennett. I’m a master’s qualified digital marketer. Together, we’re going to uplevel your marketing game. My aim for the Marketing Mindset Club is to give you clarity on how to create and communicate value, learn the latest marketing techniques, build your skill set, and develop the confidence you need to get the results you want.

Introducing Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) With His Impressive Bio and Experience in Digital Marketing

[00:00:24] Sarah Sennett: Hello, folks. Welcome back to the Marketing Mindset Club. Today, we are talking to Jason Barnard. So, 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 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. So, we’re going to cover that as well.

[00:01:01] Sarah Sennett: 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 him on stage at BrightonSEO, Pubcon, Search London, SMX London, and YoastCon. So, welcome to the show, Jason. It’s nice to have you here.

[00:01:23] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Thank you very much, Sarah. It’s absolutely delightful to be here. I’m terribly impressed by my own bio. 

[00:01:30] Sarah Sennett: Your own bio was very impressive. I was a little bit intimidated. I’ve got to be honest.

[00:01:34] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): All right. Well, don’t be intimidated. I was a blue dog in a TV series. And blue dogs, cartoon blue dogs and TV series should not intimidate anybody.

How Did Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) Created a Website Which Became One of the 10,000 Biggest Sites in 2007?

[00:01:43] Sarah Sennett: Cartoon blue dogs. Okay. Start there. Start me off. Tell me. 

[00:01:47] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): That’s actually somewhere in the middle of that entire thing. 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 there are so many cartoon or so many pairs of characters. There’s no point. It’s never going to work. There’s Tom and Jerry. There’s Custard and, what was he called, Roobarb and Custard.

[00:02:20] Sarah Sennett: Roobarb and Custard.

After Being Rejected by Book Publishers and Recording Companies, Jason Barnard Created the Website Using Macromedia Flash in 1998

[00:02:21] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yes. 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 copy of Flash, Macromedia Flash at the time in 1998, the 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.

[00:02:52] Sarah Sennett: Wow.

[00:02:53] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. A hundred million page views a month, every month in 2007 for a site for kids aged up to 10. And Alexa officially ranked us as the 10,000th biggest site in the world in terms of visit.

[00:03:09] Sarah Sennett: That’s a pretty impressive accolade to have. I think you should have that on a t-shirt, a red t-shirt for stage next time. 

[00:03:15] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. The red t-shirt, which nobody can see because this is sound, I’m actually wearing a red shirt. It’s to get away from the blue dog, I think.

The Sad Story of How Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) Got Separated With His Role as a Cartoon Blue Dog 

[00:03:22] Sarah Sennett: 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 what did Flash and the end of Flash do for that site or did you just decide to say, okay, we’ve done that next thing?

[00:03:38] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 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 blue dog. And he completely ripped me off. So, lesson for anybody who wants to become a cartoon blue dog is don’t sign up with a business partner.

[00:04:04] Sarah Sennett: That’s that.

[00:04:06] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I think that’s the thing as well is I talked to somebody in the industry, and they were saying the people who actually do these TV series, because I don’t want to generalise about an entire group of people. They’re saying a lot of it is that people who create that kind of content tend to be terribly naive. So, it’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.

The Reason Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) Started Being Interested in Search Engines 

[00:04:53] Sarah Sennett: Awesome. I guess that covers a lot of the background question 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.

[00:05:05] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. The blue dog and yellow koala in 1998 started when Google didn’t really have any market share. It was a Stanford University, I think it was, 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 3 months, I managed to get good enough. And we released the actual site in December. So, it took me 3 months to develop anything that I actually wanted to show anybody. And from there on, in fact, at the time, anybody who was in the internet at that time, you had Infoseek and Excite and Magellan or whatever it was called and HotBot and Lycos.

[00:05:51] Sarah Sennett: I remember Lycos.

[00:05:53] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. There were literally 40 different engines of which 10 were reasonably big, Infoseek, crumbs. And we would create one HTML page for each engine and each variant of each keyword including plurals. So if I had kid game, then I would also have to have kids games, and then 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 hit the entire market. And you ended up with tens of thousands 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.

Focusing on Google and Growing Alongside It While Trying to Balance Word Counting and Creating Decent Content for the Cartoons

[00:06:46] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And Google came along and brought links into the whole 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 counting links and counting words in pages sounds pretty stupid now. But in 1998 to 2000, it was just counting words, which is even more stupid. And today, we’re obviously onto something completely different, which is where I found it became incredibly interesting.

[00:07:27] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I stuck with SEO because I wanted to, 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 thousands and thousands of pages. It’s a complete waste of time. And if we focus on Google, at least we know where we’re going, and we can not spend our entire life building these stupid pages with word counts in them. And we can actually spend some time making some decent content with blue dogs and yellow koalas, which we did.

[00:07:59] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I think 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 with Google. Google’s got no idea that I was growing along alongside them, but for me, it was this big important thing. And the more Google succeeded, the more we succeeded, which was a happy coincidence. And I’m incredibly happy I made that choice.

During the Old Times, One Would Have to Wait for Weeks Before Seeing the Changes They Made in Google

[00:08:31] Sarah Sennett: Yeah. 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 a six size, and it was titled Get into Bed with Google. And it had all of those horrendous tactics in it that we would now cringe about, where you would put keywords on the page in the same colour as the background and you would have exact match URLs and when keyword domains were a thing and all of that. And so, that was, for me, probably like 2006 or 2007-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 that’s what got me hooked. 

[00:09:23] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. 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 your site. But the other thing I remember is the whole, it’s 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 to sort through the lake. And so, you would have to wait 3 to 4 weeks every time you made a change before that change actually took effect, because you would have the first machine that would collect it and the second machine that would go through it and re-index it and push it all back into the actual live index. So, you didn’t know if what you had done would have any effect for several weeks.

[00:10:08] Sarah Sennett: Yeah.

[00:10:09] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And then data 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 a day, and we’re getting impatient that we’re not ranking.

The Evolution of Google’s Technology Through the Years and the Concept of Data Lakes and Data Rivers

[00:10:21] Sarah Sennett: 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. 

[00:10:30] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I went to a talk in France. I live in France. And I’m an English person who’s now become French. And I work within the French community. 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.

[00:11:06] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 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 it. Answer engine is one thing. Then 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. They were saying, we just don’t have the technology to do it.

Over the Last 20 Years, Google Developed Little by Little the Technology to Deal With Data Lakes and Data Rivers Through Gold Panning

[00:11:35] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 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 with this big sludge boat, whatever you would call it. And then they said, we want to make this faster. So, they developed a machine that could deal with data rivers as the data flew past it.

[00:11:59] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And my concept of that is that what they’ve got is this 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 of 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 my concept of how it works. But I think whether it’s true or not, it’s debatable. But it’s certainly an important way to look at it is saying, if you can convince the machine to trust you, you’ve nailed it.

Google’s Evolution as an Engine, the Three Problems It Needs to Understand, and Its Three Pillar Approach 

[00:12:43] Sarah Sennett: That trust is such an important thing. And the bit that I wanted to bring us onto next is the three pillar approach that you and I have been talking about and you’ve written about before: 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.

[00:13:12] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. I’m sorry for going on about data rivers and data lakes. 

[00:13:14] Sarah Sennett: No. I share the enjoyment of the geekery, but I also want to take it off a level to guys and girls who might not be so in the weeds with such.

[00:13:24] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Right. Well, if they stuck through that last boring bit, we can come back to what we were saying right at the beginning, which is they wanted 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 are really just suggesting things.

From Being a Search Engine, Google Developed Into an Answer Engine, an Assistive Engine, and a Predictive Engine

[00:13:54] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 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 or the Knowledge Panel on the right hand side. And they’re saying, our machines have determined 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 SERPs.

[00:14:19] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 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 speaking to Google, you are asking a question that you want an answer to or you are giving it a problem that you want the solution to. And its role is to get you to that solution as efficiently as.

[00:14:42] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And the last one is a predictive engine, which is where we’re going next, if 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 his stun gun, but the machine tells him to pick his stun gun up, because the machine knows that he’s going to need it in 10 minutes when the Klingons turn up. I’ve been watching too much Star Trek.

[00:15:15] Sarah Sennett: Definitely a Star Trek fan here.

Google Needs to Understand the Three Problems: Who You Are, What You Do, and Who Your Audience Is

[00:15:18] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. And so, we’re moving towards that, and I think that’s the really important aspect. And then we can come onto this three pillar approach, which takes the scalitude away from that. It makes it less. Because you’re going, how am I going to approach this? I can’t approach it because I can’t get my head around the entire concept and its global idea. And if you say right, Google has three basic problems. And if you can be empathetic, not empathetic 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.

[00:15:53] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And the three problems are it needs to understand who you are, what you do, and 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, i.e. it’s predicting what you want. It needs 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 at half speed if it was too fast for you, because I just realised it didn’t make sense to me. I’ve said it so many times.

After Google Understands, It Will Choose the Most Credible Solution and Expects You to Deliver It to Satisfy Its Users

[00:16:24] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And the next thing is once it’s understood who you are, what you offer, and who your audience is, then it can start saying, okay, this is a potential solution and it’s a decent solution, but I’ve understood you and I’ve understood your 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 most credible, the one that I think will best satisfy my user.

[00:16:51] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And remember, 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 their traffic. It’s not something that is yours by writing, in inverted commas. So, Google’s saying I need to understand, then 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 competitions, I will put you above the competition.

[00:17:16] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But then it asks itself a third question, can you actually deliver? And that can be deliver 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.

The Balance Between Google’s Ability to Understand the Technical Side of Things and the Content You Present to It

[00:17:41] Sarah Sennett: 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…

[00:17:49] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Sorry.

[00:17:49] Sarah Sennett: No. It’s great because I mostly want to ask you about the future of SEO as we think of it now and whether the mindset needs to change completely, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole just yet. I wanted to unpack the understanding bit. So if we’re thinking about Google and its ability to understand, there’s got to be a mix there between the technical side of it and the content, the impactful 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.

From a Technical Perspective, You Have to First Make Sure That Google Can Access Your Content Then You Have to Help It Understand That Content

[00:18:27] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I like the way you presented that. It’s rather good. I think the technical side, it’s lucky we talked about the historical stuff because tech was all it was about, tech and counting words. If you didn’t have a tech platform that delivered your HTML incredibly fast and you were relying on your developers for your SEO, that’s so much less the case today. To schematise, to make a gross generalisation, let’s say, SEO is 80% technical 6 years ago. It’s now 20% technical, which is a great news for everybody who’s in marketing. And I think it’s good. I’m happy. I think that’s a good thing.

[00:19:08] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 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, you’re then saying how can I help Google to understand? And there are actually multiple ways of doing so. One is traditionally inbound links. An inbound link from a relevant site to a page or one relevant page for another relevant page indicates to Google that your page talks about the same thing as the other page. So if it’s understood the other page, it will therefore understand your page. And that’s a little bit of help for it.

The Importance of Clear Copywriting for Your Content and the Use of Semantic Triples

[00:19:51] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 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 a typical example of something Google will simply not understand. And 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 there’s lots and lots and lots of examples of this.

[00:20:22] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But if you write what we call semantic triples and Bill Slawski calls tuples, which goes further than triples, but we’ll stick to triples for the moment, it sounds really complicated. Dawn Anderson talks about this, and it blew my mind when she talked 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.

An Example of How to Write Using Semantic Triples and How Google and Even Human Beings May Get Confused With Complex Sentences

[00:20:46] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So if I say Jason Barnard is a digital marketer, Google gets Jason Barnard, thing, is a, relationship, digital marketer. It’s got the two, the subject, verb, and the object. It’s understood. If I say Jason Barnard, the beautiful English, humorous, fun person, is an expert, super duper 18 year career, digital marketer, Jason Barnard and digital marketer are so far apart from each other that the machines completely lost the thread by the time it gets to the end of it.

[00:21:22] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And to be honest with you as a human being, you’ve probably lost the thread 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. It’s exactly the same thing, but that Jason Barnard, digital marketer, and the relationship, is a, is all together. And the machine can get it. 

[00:21:47] Sarah Sennett: That’s really interesting, because I absolutely love Dawn and her ability to think about things.

[00:21:54] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): She’s a genius.

[00:21:54] Sarah Sennett: Fantastic. Yeah. We’re both MSc alumnis from Manchester Metropolitan University.

[00:22:00] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Right. Okay.

You Don’t Have to Write Convoluted Sentences to Be Interesting; You Can Be Simple and Still Be Interesting and Convincing

[00:22:02] Sarah Sennett: But I think there’s a tendency to feel like Google is so sophisticated and so advanced in its ability to understand that we don’t really realise if we write long convoluted English that it just can’t get it.

[00:22:20] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I think 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 is a relatively small corpus of text. And we look at that and 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 massive information means that what it can theoretically do at a small scale is incredibly difficult to do at a large scale.

[00:22:51] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So, however good we think it is, and it potentially is on a small scale or that incredibly large scale, especially when you mix in technical problems, mix in loading problems, mix in data lakes and data river problems, all of that makes it just more and more complicated. So, you want to make it as simple as possible for the machine. One thing I do like about that entire thing is I don’t mean at no point do we need to be boring by being simple. You 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 to do.

Now That Technical SEO Is Less Important, Will Google Recognise Poorly Delivered Content or Is There Still a Barrier?

[00:23:32] Sarah Sennett: So, do you think now that technical SEO is less important than it was 15 or 20 years ago that if you’ve got a piece of content that is exceptional and valuable but poorly delivered, Google will still be able to figure it out or do you think there is still a barrier there?

[00:23:53] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): There is still a barrier because you can’t just throw, Google still relies on structure. And what’s interesting is structure is not necessarily technical. You don’t need a developer to write a title, a paragraph, a subtitle, another paragraph, a sub subtitle, another paragraph, then another subtitle, then another paragraph. That’s headings and 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. WordPress talks about blocks. Yoast talks about blocks. Gutenberg talks about blocks. Microsoft talks about chunks.

According to Fabrice Canel, If You Have a Page That’s Structured Like Everybody Else’s, the Machine Will Be More Confident in Figuring It Out

[00:24:40] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I talked to Mr. Bingbot, who is called Fabrice Canel, who explained how Bingbot works, which was really awesome. He’s a really cool guy. And when you understand the process it goes through, it’s looking for patterns and if it can find patterns, 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.

[00:25:09] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And he said something really interesting that I was quite pleased with. John Mueller from Google said, we don’t really care about HTML5, we don’t care about the details of how the page is actually structured, we can figure it out. And Fabrice Canel said, yes, we can figure it out. He’s Bingbot. He’s the guy who actually builds the thing. And he was saying, yes, we can figure it out, but if you have something that’s structured in the same way as absolutely everybody else, we are more confident we can figure it out. 

[00:25:44] Sarah Sennett: That’s interesting. I didn’t realise that there was a confidence element there.

[00:25:50] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Right.

[00:25:50] Sarah Sennett: Go for it.

When You Are Using WordPress, Bingbot and Googlebot Can Recognise the Pattern and Be Confident in Its Understanding

[00:25:52] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): If you are using WordPress, WordPress is 30% of the web. Whether WordPress is good or not is actually not the question. But if you use WordPress, Bingbot and Googlebot have already seen this 1 in every 3 pages they visited. So, there’s a pattern that’s going to fit in. And unless you’re Amazon, you can’t build your own system and expect these machines to understand how you’ve built it, because my logic is not the same as yours, it’s not the same as somebody else’s, and so on and so forth.

[00:26:19] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Number two, with WordPress, if you started installing things like Flex Grid, which is an example I absolutely hate because I’ve got client who’s got it and it’s complicated, 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 it’s 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 it. So, your immediate need is to make sure. Sorry, I’m going on.

[00:27:07] Sarah Sennett: Go for it. Carry on.

[00:27:09] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Is to make sure that the machine is comfortable with what you’re presenting.

Using WordPress Is Convenient, But It Doesn’t Always Do Exactly the Way You Wanted It

[00:27:13] Sarah Sennett: Yeah. I hadn’t thought about it like that at all. The structure that WordPress offers you has, like you said, for 30% of the sites out there have been exactly what they need. So, it makes sense that they’re in a pattern there. Do you think that by being in a known CMS, like WordPress, that you are already ahead of the game?

[00:27:36] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. Jono Alderson from Yoast says, why would people not use WordPress? Why would anyone want to reinvent anything? WordPress does it all. 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 from compromises. And if you want exactly what you wanted, then you can do that and you can pay a fortune for a developer and you can rely on developers. With WordPress, you don’t rely on developers half as much as you would if you built it yourself.

[00:28:03] Sarah Sennett: Yeah.

[00:28:03] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But the price you will pay for that perfection in your own mind is a great disadvantage, both in terms of future development and that every time you move 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 didn’t do it yourself. 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 it is less confident in that understanding.

When Dealing With Something Technical Like Schema Markup, You Can Just Use Tools Like Yoast 

[00:28:44] Sarah Sennett: So, let’s talk about credibility and trust for a minute there. So, we’ve got the understanding.

[00:28:51] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Sorry, just one thing about understanding 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, it’s 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.

[00:29:16] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And if you want to move to the next level, you look at something like WordLift, who are 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 going to be an expert in.

[00:29:38] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Because when you talk to Jono Alderson, who’s the guy who does all the Schema Markup at Yoast, he doesn’t sleep at night because he’s trying to figure out how he should present it. He said a lot of the decisions we make are philosophical. How do we use this to express the information to a machine? So, it isn’t like John Alderson is right, Jason Barnard is wrong. It’s Jono Alderson is approaching it from one point of view. I’m approaching it from another. The fact is Yoast is on 40% of all WordPress sites. So, Google and Bingbot see Yoast on 13-14% of every single page they ever see. They see Yoast. So, that’s going to be the standard, whether we like it or not.

You Can Just Use the Available Tools Online Rather Than Developing Your Own Schema App

[00:30:22] Sarah Sennett: 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 it to do.

[00:30:31] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): That’s what I would do. But obviously, if somebody wants to go and develop a Schema app for themselves, they are quite welcome to do so.

[00:30:38] Sarah Sennett: If somebody does it and it’s a new version for WordPress, let me know because I am always curious.

[00:30:43] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. I think we come back to the idea of saying, oh, I want to do this really specific thing. 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?

Credibility: Make Sure Your Clients Are Satisfied and Are Giving You Great Reviews

[00:31:02] Sarah Sennett: Aw. 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 sort of bigger commercial decision. So, credibility and trust, let’s go down that. 

[00:31:23] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Well, credibility, 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 insulting myself, go and make sure your clients are satisfied and they’re giving you great reviews. Interact with them. Spend some time with them. Talk to them. Send them emails. Ask them for reviews. Get those reviews. Because reviews are not only a sign of credibility that you will satisfy Google’s user when Google recommends you as a solution to that user for that problem, but also Google…

Is There a Bias With Google Reviews and Other Review Platforms?

[00:31:54] Sarah Sennett: I was just going to ask about platforms. Do you think there is a bias for Google Reviews or are we safe on any platform?

[00:32:03] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): They’re all open to spamming. Google’s got partnerships with loads of platforms, including Trustpilot and I can’t remember lots and lots of it, Avis Verifies in France. I can’t remember any them off the top of my head. So, Google isn’t just relying on itself. It can’t do that, because it’s a walled garden, it’s a closed part of the internet. And it can’t ignore all the stuff, all the people who don’t actually hang out in Google all the time. As digital marketers or marketers, we tend to obsess about Google. And we forget that my grandma doesn’t even know what Google is. She opened up her Windows PC, and she’s got Microsoft Edge, and she’s got no idea of anything outside Bing.

[00:32:44] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And one thing that Fabrice Canel from Bing 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 are a B2B business, Google might have 95% of the market, but that 5%, a lot of it is going to be grandmas and employees at corporations.

[00:33:15] Sarah Sennett: 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 audience is in a highly regulated market, they’re probably on Edge. 

[00:33:30] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. They’re on edge in both sense of the market.

[00:33:33] Sarah Sennett: Both sense of the word. Yeah.

The Idea of Expertise, Authority, and Trust: Google Looks at the E-A-T of Links and Information as Opposed to Popularity

[00:33:35] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And then credibility, obviously you’ve got the reviews. That’s incredibly important. And you go beyond that, and you’re looking at E-A-T or expertise, authority, and trust, which is a bit of a buzzword at the moment. I talk about credibility because it’s simpler. What expertise, authority, and trust does is break it down into the three areas is saying, you have to prove to Google that you’re an expert in your field, that you’re authoritative and that you’re trustworthy.

[00:33:58] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And that all goes by, obviously reviews help with trust, but also writing true and helpful information on your website proves expertise. Authority would be that people within your industry, who Google recognises as experts, share and interact with your content, influencer marketing, basically, but influencer marketing within a field where that person is seen as an expert, not just some big mouth on Twitter.

[00:34:28] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So, it’s a little bit like, and that’s quite interesting, I hadn’t thought of that, it’s like The Sun. I can’t think of a British paper. The Sun will have absolutely boatloads of inbound links. That means it’s popular. It doesn’t mean it’s trustworthy. Yeah. And Google are desperately looking to weight links and weight information according to trustworthiness, authoritativeness, and expertise as opposed to popularity.

Links Are Great, But You Want It to Be Expert, Authoritative, and Trustworthy Within Your Niche Market

[00:35:01] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So, there’s another top tip is links are great, but you want it to be expert, authoritative, and trustworthy within your niche market. And that’s when we come back to does Google favour any particular platform. If it was a pet food shop, might potentially be much more powerful for you than Google Reviews.

[00:35:25] Sarah Sennett: 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 Joe Blog’s Cafe in some tiny village somewhere, and you are 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.

[00:35:44] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): It’s probably not.

[00:35:46] Sarah Sennett: It’s probably not. I think they do still have some dwindling digital presence. Do you know I actually got a phone book through the door the other day and I thought what’s the point? 

[00:35:54] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): As the door stop.

[00:35:56] Sarah Sennett: It’s a good firelighter.

Credibility and Trustworthiness Include Not Just What People Are Explicitly Saying But Also Their Implicit Actions

[00:35:57] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Brilliant. And in fact, you can take all of that another step further. If we’re talking about Google and Android phones is a really interesting point on that in the credibility stakes and local search, which is what made me think of it. 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 12th arrondissement in 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 Apple, then it would never know. But if I just keep going back to the same restaurant or the same cafe day after day after day, it’s going, well, that’s obviously pretty good.

[00:36:41] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So that idea of credibility and trustworthiness is not just the explicit stuff that people are saying about you. It’s the implicit actions of people, both with their Android phone but also visiting your site, coming back to your site, bouncing off the site, and all the user behaviour. And then we come back to the idea of these masses of data that this company can handle. I don’t think most of us can even begin to imagine it. I certainly can’t. And they can manage a statement. They extrapolate and understand so much more than we actually think on such a macro level.

For a Name Search Query, the Machine Looks at the Massive Data Instead of the Search Volume and User Behaviour

[00:37:18] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): There’s a thing called the whole page algorithm, which we can’t talk about today because it will freak everybody out, but I was talking to Nathan Chalmers from Bing who runs the whole page algorithm in an interview. I wasn’t just chatting with him in the pub. I’m not his best mate. I said to him, but how can you possibly know for a search query? Because I’m obsessed by Brand SERPs, what appears when you search somebody’s brand name or their personal name. I said, how can you possibly know with my name, where the search on you is so small? How can you possibly know what’s going to be appropriate? Because he basically says he wants to build the perfect page.

[00:37:56] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): He said, but we don’t look at the search volume for your name and the user behaviour on that SERP. 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 of all the data we’ve got. So, they’re segmenting people and saying overall behaviour within the market of this person, Jason Barnard, 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. We can do with 10 searches a month because it actually doesn’t matter, because we’re not even looking at that.

There Is No Point in Chasing the Algorithm; You Just Need to Focus on Your Content 

[00:38:33] Sarah Sennett: That is just absolutely mind blowing, isn’t it?

[00:38:36] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): It is stunning, isn’t it?

[00:38:38] Sarah Sennett: It’s stunning. I think what it does for me is just reassure me and hopefully reassure all of our audience that there is no point in chasing the algorithm. You just need to focus on your content and what you are 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. 

[00:39:00] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Sounds like marketing, doesn’t it?

[00:39:03] Sarah Sennett: That’s exactly where I was getting with this. It sounds like we should just be doing marketing rather than…

[00:39:09] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Sorry.

[00:39:09] Sarah Sennett: No. It’s exactly where I was going with it.

[00:39:12] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I ruined your punchline. You were saying it. So, I was just sitting there or just thinking aren’t you saying that incredibly well. And I thought it just sounds like marketing. Sorry, I ruined it for you.

When You Understand How Machine Learning Works, You Realise That Chasing the Algorithm Is Totally Pointless 

[00:39:22] Sarah Sennett: No, it’s fine. It’s exactly where I was going. Because I think maybe even as not as long ago as 5 or 3 years-ish maybe, I would’ve thought of SEO as a separate strategy. It would’ve linked into content marketing and brand and all of that, but it would’ve 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 these SERPs? And it feels like the more sophisticated the algorithms get, the less we should be chasing them, which is 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 let’s not do that because it’s not going to be effective. 

[00:40:09] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 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 at Bing or at Google how does the algorithm work, they don’t know. And you say, oh, ha ha ha, isn’t that funny? Not you personally, obviously, one tends to think.

[00:40:30] Sarah Sennett: We could have at some point.

Frederic Dubut Said to Not Focus on Ranking Factors But on the Metrics Used to Measure the Success of the Machine

[00:40:31] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 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 the mathematical formula and all this data and 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.

[00:41:08] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And then what Google and Bing do is then collect all that information and get some human beings to sort through it all again and 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 what it’s doing. So, it’s corrective data or supportive data or affirmative data, if you like. And they feed it back in and the machine goes, okay, that was wrong, I’ll adjust myself a little bit then. And then obviously, they also, the human beings say, we got the mathematical formula a little bit wrong, we’ll change that a little bit. What Frederic Dubut 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.

You Should Look at the Goal of Google and Bing to Be Able to Rank Better and Be Suggested More as a Solution 

[00:41:58] Sarah Sennett: 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 are 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. 

[00:42:20] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And 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 a moot point, because they’re going to get there or they’re going that way. So if you are playing in that same direction at all times with them, the fact that they’re not there yet doesn’t mean 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 be 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, and what metrics are they using to measure it.

After Understanding and Credibility, the Last of the Three Pillars Is Deliverability 

[00:43:01] Sarah Sennett: Yeah. Let’s move on to deliverability, the last of our pillars. 

[00:43:08] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): If we’ve got any listeners left after all that.

[00:43:11] Sarah Sennett: Our single listener, who’s probably still out there, is my sister-in-law because she’s a wonderful champion and cheerleader for me. So, thanks, Emily. I know you’re still there. Now, let’s talk deliverability for a minute, as this is the third crucial part of our strategy, and what we want people to take away from it.

The Concept of Doing Everything in Threes, Like the Semantic Triples, for People to Better Remember the Ideas 

[00:43:32] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. I actually focused on understanding and 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, who is a teacher in A-level, said everything has to be in threes with A-level students. If you tell them something in twos, it doesn’t seem important. If you tell them in fours, 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.

[00:43:59] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 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 two, invent a new one that doesn’t actually matter, but it will get people to stay on board. And in fact, the 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 the numbers, I promise.

[00:44:28] Sarah Sennett: Just to be clear, this is not made up.

Deliverability Includes Being Mobile Friendly, Quick Responses, Great User Experience, and Delivering the Promise by the Understanding and Credibility

[00:44:31] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And a lot of this is technical. It’s making sure your site is mobile friendly, that 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 on SERP stuff, which people complain about, and I understand. If they want to deliver the video on the SERP, and it’s a choice between your video and your competitor’s video, they will deliver the one that’s the most deliverable, the most suitable for their audience.

[00:45:03] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And remember, you can complain about on SERP SEO, the fact that Google is showing results more and more in the SERP, but they’re doing what you are doing, which is trying to satisfy their user as quickly and as efficiently as possible. And if it’s on the SERP, that’s what they’ll do because they’re trying to satisfy a client much in the same way that you are. So, it’s a bit two-faced to be complaining at them for doing what in fact you are trying to do at the same time. You’re just saying, I want the traffic.

Deliverability Is Convincing Google That Their User Will Have a Great Experience When They Visit the Site

[00:45:29] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But use it as a branding opportunity. You’re not going to change the situation. It’s a bit Confucian. You can’t change it. You need to learn to live with it. And that means create 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. It’s free advertising. Look at it that way. Obviously, what you have 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 spilled milk, as we say.

[00:46:00] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So, deliverability is that idea of saying when the user comes to the site, Google has to be convinced that their user will have great experience. If it wants to deliver the content on the SERP, it needs to know that it can do so. And if it’s sending a client to you to 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. 

[00:46:29] Sarah Sennett: Yeah. And I think that’s quite easy to forget when you’re coming from the perspective of I just want the traffic.

[00:46:35] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah.

Make Sure You Got a Consistent Brand Message Across the Web Because Google Is Always Looking Over Your Shoulder

[00:46:36] Sarah Sennett: I was thinking about how a marketer would approach a search strategy today. If you are on the beginning of your career and you’re coming into a brand and 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 technical delivery is not nearly 50% of your focus anymore. It’s maybe 20%, like we were saying. 

[00:47:13] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. Make sure that Google can get at the content, so it can actually see what you’re offering. But obviously, let’s 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, because Google is looking over your shoulder all the time.

[00:47:42] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 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 accounts. It’s looking over your shoulder in places you can’t even see or think about. It’s looking over your shoulder on their Android machine when they walk in and out of your shop. Maybe even if they run out of the shop stomping their feet and shouting really loud, rude words, maybe it can get that. Obviously, I’m exaggerating.

The Importance of a Balanced Marketing Strategy for Google to Not Send Its Users to Your Competitors 

[00:48:12] Sarah Sennett: It’s quite a thought, isn’t it? But it’s not far out of the realm of feasibility. 

[00:48:16] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): No. And that’s the thing is if you are over time at least, if you attract people with this great content, 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 user bounces and goes to your competitors. Google sees that. Obviously, it’s a very bad signal.

[00:48:49] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But then if your users complain about you on review sites all the time, Google will just end up saying actually it’s really rubbish sending them there. Because even if they seem to be satisfied in the first instance when I sent them, they just come back and complain about it, so I’ll send them to the competitor next time. So, you actually really do need that balanced marketing strategy. And you can’t approach it 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 staff. You have to talk to the support staff. You have to make sure that the message is getting through to everybody and that you are satisfying your client.

[00:49:23] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And just one last point about that is when you start talking to these people within your organisation, the sales, after sales, and support staff, they start to tell you what the clients actually want and 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, but the traffic that does come is incredible traffic, the people who do come are satisfied. Google sees it. And Google just keeps sending you people.

The Interconnected Effect of Your SEO Strategy, Reviews, and Customer Experience

[00:49:57] Sarah Sennett: That’s so relevant to an episode I did recently about the convergence of marketing and customer experience to our 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 product is crap, it’s not delivered on time, and I can’t get through to your customer services.

[00:50:24] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yep.

[00:50:24] Sarah Sennett: 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 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, yeah.

Look at What Google is Trying to Achieve, Be Empathetic to Its Problems, and Help It Solve Its Problems

[00:50:49] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): It’s all interconnected. Once again, even if you can get away with it today, because Google 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. Help it solve its problems solving its users problems. And you’re away.

[00:51:19] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Seems to me to be incredibly simple. Obviously, 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. 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. It doesn’t make sense to you probably either for that matter.

How Does Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) Addressed That Age Old Question of Justifying the Investment in a Search Strategy? 

[00:51:52] Sarah Sennett: I did have one final question to finish on because we’re almost out of time. How do you address that age old question of justifying the investment in a search strategy?

[00:52:09] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): It depends on the client or the boss or the person. Where a company is willing to put its money or people are willing to put their money depends a great deal on what their goals are. Some companies need to sell directly, so they’re desperately trying to sell. If a company is in survival state and they’re about to go under, you want to justify it by saying we’re going to make sales straight away, which probably means you go for Google Ads because that’s immediate payback and you can measure it.

[00:52:39] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): If a company is looking for brand awareness, then you can look at your brand, the number of brand searches, and the quality of your Brand SERP, what appears when somebody googles your brand name. That would be a realistic goal. That’s what we do at Kalicube. 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.

Multiple Points of Views for Search Strategy Investment: Brand Awareness, Traffic, Immediate Bottom-of-Funnel Satisfaction, and Filling up the Different Chunks of Your Funnel

[00:53:00] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So, you’ve got multiple points of views. One is I want brand awareness. Another is I want traffic in order to build the top-of-the-funnel, so I can later fill the bottom-of-the-funnel. Another is 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. Never forget the after-funnel. That’s the after sales stuff. That’s the stuff that Google see 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 way we’re talking about Android.

[00:53:43] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And divide it into those and 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 would probably always say it’s the bottom-of-the-funnel. But you say, if we never fill up the top-of-the-funnel, once we’ve emptied the bottom-of-the-funnel, we’ve got nothing coming in. So, we can’t just do that. It doesn’t really answer your question, but I’m not a very pragmatic person from that perspective.

More Insights About What Strategies to Implement for Your Target Customers and Existing Clients 

[00:54:09] Sarah Sennett: No, I think it does, because you have to 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 after market piece, especially if you are 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.

[00:54:41] Sarah Sennett: 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 a cross sell or whatever. So, I think that is where the power of a strategic marketer really comes into its own, because you should be able to say actually that’s not a priority right now. Commercially, it would be better for us to spend the money here.

Look at What You Got, Consolidate That, Ensure Your Customers and Clients, and Make Sure It Feeds Back Into the Wider World That Google Can See

[00:55:02] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. No. I really like that. It’s a really lovely insight. It’s saying if I’m just starting off on a, I would say digital strategy, I would never say an SEO strategy anymore. Although you probably find examples of me saying it, so I’m now going to 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 feeds back into the wider world that Google can see, that other people see.

[00:55:34] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And it’s not just Google. If your existing customer base is actually tweeting about you, LinkedIn-ing about you, and Facebooking about you, similar audiences will immediately 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, whatever you want to call it, back into the top-of-the-funnel.

[00:55:59] Sarah Sennett: Yeah.

[00:56:00] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): That’s a really nice idea, isn’t it? And then you can focus in the middle-of-the-funnel once you’ve got that sorted out. And the middle-of-the-funnel is going to be Google.

Where Can People Ask Questions and Find More Information About Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy)?

[00:56:07] Sarah Sennett: Yeah. Absolutely. I think that sort of brings us to the end of our time. Jason, 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?

[00:56:22] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. Well, I’m The Brand SERP Guy. I’m obsessed by what appears when somebody googles your brand name. So, 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. You’ll find my company site. You’ll find my LinkedIn profile, my Crunchbase profile, my WordLift profile. So, you take your pick. You can connect with me on any one of those different platforms. And you are more than welcome.

Jason Barnard’s Piece of Advice for Marketers 

[00:56:50] Sarah Sennett: Awesome. If you had to leave our marketers with one piece of advice for what they should do in 2021, what would that be?

Focus on making sure that your brand message is going out there in a consistent and positive and accurate manner.

Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) 

[00:56:57] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 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 or about to do business with you. So, they’re the most important people in your entire content or your marketing strategy.

[00:57:28] Sarah Sennett: That’s awesome. Thank you so much, folks. I hope you have enjoyed the episode. And I will see you next time.

Listen here >>

Published by Marketing Mindset Club May 18, 2021. Host: Sarah Sennett. Guest: Jason Barnard, founder and CEO at Kalicube.

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