The Page 2 Podcast – Episode #63 – Jason Barnard, (The Brand SERP Guy) Founder & CEO of Kalicube
In this week’s episode, we welcome Jason Barnard (aka The Brand SERP Guy), Founder & CEO of Kalicube. Jason Barnard is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in Brand SERPs and Knowledge Panels. He also hosts The Kalicube Marketing Podcast in which he talks with the smartest people in digital marketing on topics they know inside and out.
We also spend time paying tribute to Hamlet Batista, the late CEO & Founder of Ranksense and a guest on our show earlier this season. We share our stories and talk about the outpouring of grief and support within the industry. We can’t promise that we’ll do his legacy justice, but we felt it appropriate to pay our respects. Rest in Peace Hamlet.
[00:00:00] Jacob Stoops: Hey, everybody. This is Jacob Stoops, director of SEO at Search Discovery. We are back for episode number 63 of The Page 2 Podcast. And I am joined by my co-host, Mr. Jeff Louella, senior technical SEO at the Wirecutter, a division of the New York Times. Jeff, how is it going?
[00:00:33] Jeff Louella: Hey, howdy, hey. It’s going great.
[00:00:36] Jacob Stoops: It’s going great. I wish I could say the same. I think that that’s just one of those things that you just say. And quite honestly, it’s not going great. This has been a really hard week. And we’ll certainly touch on that quite a bit this episode. Normally, we banter a little bit. We’re going to skip through that. And today, we’re going to bring on our guest early because we do have a lot to talk about.
[00:01:06] Jacob Stoops: I will say that for this episode it’s going to be a little bit different. If you are wanting to listen to something that’s a little more happy-go-lucky like our other episodes, where we joke around and talk shop, we’ll talk shop this episode, but I can’t promise that it is going to be happy-go-lucky. So, just know that going in. So if you want to skip this, we totally understand, but we do want you to listen to our guest story because it is an incredibly good story.
Presenting Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) and Talking About the Passing Away of Hamlet Batista, CEO and Founder of RankSense
[00:01:40] Jacob Stoops: And with that, let’s bring on our guest, Jason Barnard, The Brand SERP Guy at Kalicube. How’s it going, Jason?
[00:01:48] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): It’s going very well, but as you said, terribly sad last couple of days. But yeah, I’m personally doing well in Paris in France.
[00:02:01] Jacob Stoops: Yes. Absolutely. If you’ve been living under a rock in the SEO community, I’m sorry to let you know, but I’m pretty sure most people know already that Hamlet Batista, CEO and founder of RankSense, sadly passed away earlier this week. It sounds like from COVID from everything that I’ve read. And it has been, gosh, there’s been an outpouring of support from the SEO community, but, man, this one is I’m not going to lie. It’s hit me really, really, really hard.
[00:02:44] Jacob Stoops: And I’m not going to go out there and say that I knew Hamlet super well. And I’m pretty sure that a lot of folks in the industry are in the same boat. I don’t know if you guys have ever met Hamlet in person. If so, I’d love to share stories. And quite honestly, we’re going to talk about Hamlet a lot on this episode.
[00:03:05] Jacob Stoops: I’ll relate my own personal stories, having seen his work from afar and having met him virtually a couple of times, but I’ll just start it off by saying we interviewed Hamlet for the podcast in November. And it’s a great interview, if you want to go back and listen to his story. I don’t want to be promotional or anything like that. But if you just want to hear his voice, see him talk, it was just an incredibly lowkey interview. And he drops all kinds of knowledge almost from start to finish as he tells his story, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it.
[00:03:47] Jacob Stoops: And one of the things when you’re running a podcast and that podcast is heavily predicated on interviews, I can promise you that although you know as a human being everybody is going to die someday. You never anticipate that, either yourself or one of your guests, that that’s going to happen to them. As we book people and more people, my hope is that this doesn’t happen again.
[00:04:21] Jacob Stoops: It sucks to imagine, because we talked to him in November and I talked to him through our company in December right before the holidays and he was perfectly healthy, happy. And it’s just a mind bender to really think about how fleeting life can be and how like you can be here and healthy one day and be gone the next. Man, it’s just a mind bender.
Knowing Hamlet Batista as one of the Best Leaders in Automation and Technical SEO
[00:04:49] Jeff Louella: Yeah. And it’s over what we’ve all been battling for the last year with COVID, which is intense, because I’ve known a bunch of people who’ve gotten it and it didn’t affect them nearly that way. But that’s the issue with this disease is that it comes and 90% of the people will be fine, but those 10% were going to have some struggles. And that 1% from there is just can’t overtake it. And all the respirators and hospitals in the world are still trying to fight this and hospitals are filled to the max. So, I really feel bad in that aspect of things.
[00:05:29] Jeff Louella: I’ve known Hamlet for a little while. Again, I’m not going to say we’re best buds, but I’ve got to have dinner with him a few times and have some drinks with him at night, which was great, down at Raleigh SEO. When they would do their conferences, they would bring him in. And I’m lucky that I could drive up to there and it was always a great time. He was someone that I always looked at as inspiration.
[00:05:54] Jeff Louella: At first, I’ve been doing tech SEO for a long time. And I was just, at one point, I just thought there was no other tech SEOs. And then all of a sudden, it seemed like they all just, every tech SEO just all of a sudden got a mic and started talking. And Hamlet was one of those where I’m like, holy crap, I don’t even know anything that I thought I knew. I used to be a dev, but he’s building all these different things. JR Oakes is another one of those. And that’s actually having dinner with both of those I really felt like an outsider that I had no clue what I was talking about anymore.
[00:06:25] Jeff Louella: But at the same time, when we bring that up with them, they were very common. They’re there to share as much information as they have. So, it wasn’t like anyone was keeping secrets. They were just like, hey, get on board and here’s our GitHubs and you can practice. We’re putting all our code out there. Maybe not all the code, but they’re putting a lot of code out there. So, I took that as like I love the open-sourceness that they had and that they would build stuff and give it out to the community. And Hamlet was a leader in that and really taught me a lot on just automation and things like that.
[00:06:58] Jeff Louella: Because you get to, as a technical SEO, automation is one of those things that even if you’re helping the content side of stuff, you’re like there’s a technical solution for this. And I can run this through some sort of machine learning and we can help out and we can get nerdy with content also. And that’s what he’s taught me is that you don’t have to just be about canonical tags. You could still be a full fledged SEO on all sides and bring technical sides to the content. So, that was one of the things that I really learned from him.
Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) on Having Hamlet Batista on His Podcast and Associating Him With the Word Hug
[00:07:30] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I loved that what you just said, the idea. Now you’re saying it going through my little brain. Technical SEO, you just said a lot of this is really boring and we can do it loads better with machines. Let’s figure out how to do it with machines, genius.
[00:07:45] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I interviewed him for my podcast. I interviewed people who are terribly enthusiastic about what they want to talk about. And I say to him, you can talk about whatever you want. I will ask questions and I will get interested because you are enthusiastic. And he is the only guest where from the beginning, I’ve got no idea what he’s talking about. And I tried to sound interested and tried to sound intelligent and tried to ask the intelligent questions, but he was so far above my head that I got to the end and I felt quite embarrassed, but there were a couple of things. One of which he was very kind about it. And the other of which is I think he thought I understood. So he was giving me much more credit than I was due.
[00:08:27] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And then I met him a few times after that at conferences. I met him at SMX and we hang out and had a coffee. I didn’t hang out with him an awful amount, but such, such a delightful guy. The word that comes to my mind when I think of Hamlet is hug, somebody I wanted to hug. Unfortunately, I don’t think I ever did hug him properly. And somebody who inspires the thought hug has to be somebody incredibly valuable and wonderful and lovely to hang out with. They did really very, very sad news.
[00:09:08] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I actually knew he was in hospital because we had a webinar series organised. And he simply wrote and said, I’m in hospital with COVID and we are going to have to postpone the first one in the series. And now, I think I’m so stupid. I just didn’t think he’s in hospital, therefore it’s serious, therefore I need to worry. I was raised in a hospital. Get out sooner, we’ll be fine. And it simply didn’t occur to me. And I feel deeply, deeply foolish from that. I know two people have died from COVID, so I should have known better.
[00:09:49] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I’ve got now I’ve got tears in my eyes. I didn’t know, as like you guys, I didn’t know Hamlet that well, and yet it’s affected me more than I would have expected. And I think that’s partly because he was so active, partly because he was so generous, and partly because he’s got that hug thing.
The Impact Hamlet Batista Had on the Industry and Even on People Who Just Admired His Work From Afar
[00:10:09] Jacob Stoops: Yeah. I think I share a very similar sentiment, quite honestly, and nobody in my family has really understood for me the gravity. I’m sitting on my couch Wednesday night, trying to figure out what to eat, and you know how it goes. You pop open your phone. You scroll through Twitter. And once I saw that and saw more tweets coming across and realised, oh my god, this terrible thing has happened. This is true. I was, quite honestly, I was shook.
[00:10:47] Jacob Stoops: And my poor family and kids, I told my wife what happened, but I don’t feel she fully understood the gravity and my poor kids, because I was in a quite an awful mood. And I wasn’t like mean to them, but at the same time, I was like, guys, I know you want to play right now, but daddy is just not in a good place right now and I can’t play. And since that, the last couple of nights, I really have not been able to sleep well.
[00:11:20] Jacob Stoops: And it speaks, I think, to the impact that Hamlet had on the industry that I know he had a group of very close friends. I can imagine what they’re going through. But if somebody like me who just admired his work from afar and only really met him virtually a couple of times can feel this about him and be this shook up, it just speaks to the gravity of the impact that he had on people.
Having Hamlet Batista as a Guest on The Page 2 Podcast and Quickly Feeling at Ease With Him
[00:11:48] Jacob Stoops: And I want to share a little story behind the scenes that you don’t get often. When we talk about the podcast, it’s mostly focused on as SEO, the forward facing stuff. We rarely dive into the what it’s like to run a podcast behind the scenes, but we are now on episode 63, and I will say that there have only been a handful of guests that we’ve had on. And it’s not to demean the other guests. Every guest we’ve had on has been on for a reason and they’ve been great, but there have only been a handful I would say where I was like physically nervous and intimidated to speak to. And I would say definitely Hamlet falls into the category because from afar, you know that he’s a genius.
[00:12:42] Jacob Stoops: And I think that when I finally was able to interview him, he so quickly put me at ease. And he just started talking, which was awesome. In his episode, you’ll notice that there’s a lot less of us trying to pull things out of him from an interview standpoint. He just started talking and dropped knowledge from start to finish. And I was able to just sit back and he really, really, in my opinion, put me at ease and made me feel okay about not being at his level from a knowledge standpoint.
[00:13:21] Jacob Stoops: And I think that from what I’ve seen in the industry, that’s a pretty common thing. And quite honestly, for people that are that smart, it is a gift to be able to put other people at ease like that when you know you’re smarter than they are. And not only that, you know that they know that you’re smarter than they are. And he was one of those people that was just able to put other people at ease, that made other people around him feel good, feel smart, feel included, and feel like they mattered. And I can say that certainly in our short time. And I’m really sad that I won’t ever be able to meet him in person now that that did come through. He really put us at ease. And the parent in me now thinks about his family.
A Reminder to Take Precautions Against COVID and Just Wait for the Day People Can Start Hugging Other People Again
[00:14:18] Jacob Stoops: And one of my personal worst fears outside of the irrational things like shark attacks and drowning is passing away before my time and not giving my children and my family a chance to say goodbye to me. So, thinking of COVID and I certainly don’t know the circumstances of his passing, but I’ve heard stories where people aren’t even allowed to go in. So, that’s gut wrenching to imagine outside of just the fact that he was so young. And as someone that has kids, I just can’t even imagine what his family is going through right now. And it’s horrible. It really is horrible. And that is one of my worst fears. And gosh, I’m just really, really sorry that this happened to him. It sucks and it’s happening to a lot of people.
[00:15:14] Jacob Stoops: COVID is horrible. And, Jason, you’re right. We’ve all probably, at this point, known people that have gotten COVID. We’ve known probably some people that have passed away. I have one or two other people that I know that have passed away from within my, not my direct circle, but extended circle. But I’ve also known people close to me that have had it and been fine. So, it is a disease at this point that is still not under control and that we still as a country, as a global community, we don’t have control over this thing yet.
[00:15:56] Jacob Stoops: And I would implore people continue to take precautions. Wear masks please. Support people around you. For good god, stay away, stay away. There will be a day when we can all be together again like things used to be, but let’s take precautions now and maybe we can save a few lives.
[00:16:19] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. A hundred percent. One of the strange things talking about hugs is how limited our capacity or our allowance of hugs is at the moment. My heart truly goes out to people who are living on their own. My daughter, because I was traveling around the world. Last time I saw Hamlet, I was actually at SMX. I’m a digital nomad. I don’t have a home. My daughter allowed me to stay with her. She’s 23 and she’s the only person I can hug. And at least, I’ve got somebody. I can’t imagine what it’s like for people who live alone and don’t have, obviously, you can hug whoever you want. But within the given circumstances at the moment, the number of hugs we’re all getting is definitely not enough. Yeah. And I’m really looking forward to the day that I can start hugging people again just because I feel like it and they feel like it.
Realising That Life Is Fleeting So Live It Like It’s Your Last and Hug Your Loved Ones
[00:17:21] Jacob Stoops: I would consider myself lucky in that. I’ve got my wife and three kids that we’re together. We’ve been together throughout this whole thing. And I’ve got plenty of hugs from them that have gotten me through. And I hope that other people that are in a situation where they can’t see their loved ones often can live vicariously through the people, hopefully, that are able to get all the hugs that they need, but then things like this happen.
[00:17:54] Jacob Stoops: And it just makes me realise, again, I hate to sound like a broken record, but life even outside of COVID is so fleeting. You can walk out your front door and get hit by a car. So, the thing that I always, always try to live by, and I have to be honest, I don’t feel like I live up to it as much as I can, is the live every day like it could be your last, because it could be your last. Nobody knows when they’re going to pass. And hug your loved ones. Say I love you to your loved ones, me, especially my kids. You just never know when it’s going to be your last day.
[00:18:37] Jacob Stoops: And, Jason, you were saying scheduling a webinar with him and feeling foolish. As I think back to our time talking through my agency with Hamlet and trying to establish a partnership with his company in December, and even in November, the time he spent with us, gosh. If we had known what was coming, I would’ve said, no, let’s not do the, I want to talk to you, but no, go spend time with your family. But you just never know. I’m grateful to have gotten to speak to him before he passed, but I’m really, really sad that in his last couple of months that I wish he would’ve been able to take that time and reallocate it to somebody way more important than me or us.
Sharing the Fundraiser Started by Lily Ray to Soften the Financial Burden of Hamlet Batista’s Family
[00:19:30] Jacob Stoops: What I will say is Lily Ray has set up a fundraiser for Hamlet. And at the end of the episode, where we are going to, it’s going to be a different episode. We are just going to end the episode by reading tributes to Hamlet. That being said, if you have the resources to donate, anybody that has lost somebody unexpectedly knows that funeral expenses as well as the the cost of losing somebody and not necessarily having that person’s income coming into the family anymore, the cost is catastrophic.
[00:20:14] Jacob Stoops: So if there’s anything that we can do as a community, there is a GoFundMe page set up by Lily Ray. I’m going to read the address, but quite honestly, you can google Hamlet Batista GoFundMe and it’s right there at the top, but it is gofundme.com/f/in-memory-of-hamlet-batista. Please go there. The GoFundMe is at pretty close to 42,000. The goal is 100,000. Every little bit counts. I know that we would probably all want to donate more. There are people that are being very generous.
[00:20:56] Jacob Stoops: If you can donate, we would certainly implore you to do that to hopefully leave his family. They’re not going to be left in a great place, but to soften the financial burden is probably the best way that I can put it. So, please help reach that goal. The goal is 100,000. We’re about 42% of the way there. And Lily Ray, obviously, you’re his close friend and we do want to read your tribute at the end, if you’re listening. And of course, thank you for setting that up.
The Story of Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) Starting From the Countryside, Going to University, Playing in a Band, and Moving to Paris
[00:21:35] Jacob Stoops: Okay. So, let’s deviate. Let’s deviate just a little bit. And, Jason, let’s talk about your, now that we’ve made made you extremely sad, now we’re going to make you talk a lot. Let’s talk about your story. I’m really sorry, really sorry. How did you get started? Oh, go ahead.
[00:22:03] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): No. I was going to say, yes, luckily my story’s quite happy, so hopefully we can switch to. I come from a long way back, grew up in the countryside in Yorkshire in a reasonably well off intellectual family but in a tiny town of farmers. So, I was an outsider from the beginning, didn’t have any friends, terribly sad. My mother left when I was four, making it even worse. So it starts sad, but it gets better.
[00:22:39] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And then I went to university, went to Liverpool. And that changed my life, turning up in Liverpool, joined a band, played in the Cavern Club. So, Liverpool was a wonderful experience for me, became a musician. I did a degree in economics first then I became a musician, moved to Paris, played the double bass in a punk folk band, playing in the street, making decent amounts of money. We used to jump in the Metro trains and play music for people, and they passed the hat around, made a living doing that for a couple years, then toured Europe, playing music and festivals and clubs and pubs because I really wanted to be a musician.
[00:23:19] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And the nice thing about that is I can smile from the memory of when you are in a band like that and you’re touring. We had a tour, a little tour bus, tiny tour bus, and we would drive around. We were all convinced, fundamentally convinced that we would be playing stadiums in a few years time. And looking back, you realise that’s just so unrealistic. That’s such a pipe dream, but we were deeply, deeply convinced it was going to happen. And you just think, how naive do you have to be? But then if you weren’t, you wouldn’t do it, so did that for six years. That stopped.
Creating a Cartoon, a Blue Dog and a Yellow Koala, for Kids and Writing Songs for Children
[00:23:56] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And then my wife and I created characters for children. I decided I was going to write a kids’ music album and wrote some songs for kids and ended up writing 96 songs for children and had a website that was incredibly successful. I was a blue dog. This is the funnest part. I was a blue dog and she was a yellow koala. We created games and animations and songs online using Macromedia Flash at the time and lots of absolutely heartwarming stories. So I think if I may I’ll share some heartwarming stories because it is very…
[00:24:34] Jeff Louella: Yeah, definitely.
[00:24:35] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Because what we did is we created these characters and my ex-wife wasn’t a very good singer. She wasn’t a very good singer and she was a bit, how can I put it, she could be silly when she wanted to be, absolutely delightful lady. And she played the yellow koala who was the child who didn’t really know much about the world and was a bit annoying, sang out of tune, got the words wrong. And then the blue dog, which was my character, was a big brothery, not big brother in the nasty 1994 sense but in the being a nice big brother, elder brother, let’s say.
[00:25:11] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): The blue dog who teaches Kwala about the world without being condescending. So teaches a young child what the world is all about from the point of view of saying, it’s not that you’re stupid. It’s just you haven’t seen or you haven’t yet understood. So it’s presenting the world rather than teaching, which is a really nice. I really enjoyed doing that.
[00:25:32] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I’ve got this big, deep voice. So Boowa would talk like that. And that’s very reassuring for the children. And interesting enough, my voice changed actually over the years. And my character changed, my personality changed over the years from playing a really kindly blue dog. I wouldn’t say I became kinder, but it exaggerated or it brought out the kinder part of my personality that when I was a punk folk musician might not have been quite so visible. Also having a daughter helped a lot, as you know, Jacob.
Releasing Songs, Stories, Games, and Activities on the Site for Kids Every Month for 9 Years
[00:26:11] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): We made these games and we said, basically, we started the site and we promised the children and the parents on the first day of every month, there will be a song, a story, two games, and a manual activity the parents and the kids can do together offline. So it wasn’t just online. So we had this ideas and we would say, here are all your games. You’ve spent half an hour doing this or an hour doing this, now go offline and make a hat, for example.
[00:26:37] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And we did that for 9 years. 9 years, every single month on the first day of the month, we would deliver onto the site these games. And so every, basically, the last day of every month, if you wanted to know where I was going to be, it was in front of my desk, finalising the games because I built the games as well. And of course, kids, if you give them a game, multimedia game, they will click on exactly the button or the combinations of buttons they’re not supposed to. So I would test my own games for 6 or 7 hours all through the night and deliver them in the morning after not sleeping all night.
[00:27:17] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And what I appreciated about that is I really felt I’ve promised this. We’ve promised to deliver and we can’t not do it. And so we ended with a very, very enthusiastic and, what would you call it, consistent following. We ended up with 5 million visits a month.
[00:27:36] Jeff Louella: Wow. That’s great.
[00:27:36] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): 5 million visits a month and 100 million page views. So the kids would every visit would go through 20 pages. Obviously, some of that’s navigation, but that’s a pretty big number. And you would have sessions, kids playing for an hour. And we would have them, we would have an encouragement after an hour to say, now go and do something else please. And from a business perspective, that’s a really bad idea. But from a being a nice person perspective, it’s obviously a very good idea.
Writing Songs That Would Be Insertable Into Everyday Life and Affecting Lives of Children Who Watch the Show
[00:28:06] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I wrote the songs, and the idea for the songs was I would write songs that would be insertable into everyday life, naturally. So I wrote a song called We Love Snow. So when it’s snowing, you would sing We Love Snow. Another one about the windy day. Another one about a sunny day. Another one about, oh, without my glasses, I can’t see. I can’t see properly. Without my glasses, I can’t see, but I can sing this song.
[00:28:40] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I meet people who say my children watch that show and that those songs torture me because they would sing it over and over and over. So nice story is parents hated that particular song. I quite like it. I still quite like it all these years later. But I’ve had stories where people, I hate you for writing that song.
[00:29:05] Jacob Stoops: It’s like the baby shark song.
[00:29:07] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Oh, yeah. If I may defend myself, slightly better. I hope.
[00:29:14] Jacob Stoops: Definitely better, I hope. I got to be honest. I’m glad you just broke out into song. Literally, you almost just brought me to tears. That was good, man. That made me happy, man.
[00:29:26] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And the nice stories, in fact, the one I Love Snow, we got an email from a lady in Canada and she said, we walked out into the snow from the supermarket and my child just start singing. I love snow. I love it so. I love snow. That’s not the right melody but close enough.
[00:29:42] Jacob Stoops: Not the yellow snow though. Not the yellow snow.
[00:29:44] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Not the yellow snow. Definitely not the yellow snow. And another, a grandmother who looked after her autistic grandchild who was 25 years old. And she said, it’s the only thing I can get him to sit in front of for more than 3 seconds. And another grandma who said, thanks to your blue dog and yellow koala, my grandchild now says please and thank you. So I was really, really happy.
[00:30:13] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): The heartbreaking thing is I’d now no longer do it, but it brought me into the digital marketing world. Because when I then needed a job when that fell apart, I just said to people, I got a million visits a month from Google for this kids site. I can do the same thing for your company. Please give me a job. And they did.
Making the Cartoon Into a TV Series That Was Shown in 25 Countries and Still Earning a Little Bit From It
[00:30:31] Jeff Louella: That’s great. So the show, was it only on the internet or was it on television also?
[00:30:38] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): No. We made a TV series for ITV International. It was in 25 countries, Poland, Israel, New Zealand. In New Zealand, we were quite famous.
[00:30:47] Jeff Louella: That’s great.
[00:30:48] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): In America, it came out but only in Spanish for some reason. It’s on terrestrial TV in America in Spanish to this day. I’ve actually seen that it was playing a while back on some obscure cable channel in Spanish. We did a French and an English version. And we did the voices for both on bilingual French. My wife is French, not bilingual English but good enough to get by as a yellow koala, if you see what I mean. So, yeah, we made a TV series and it was a lot of fun and it was quite successful.
[00:31:23] Jacob Stoops: It reminds me it sounds a little bit like I think the modern version of something. Your show sounds a little bit like Peppa Pig is what I’m imagining. I was going to ask. Do you get residuals from any of this as they play it on TV all these years later?
[00:31:46] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I get tiny amounts of money.
[00:31:48] Jacob Stoops: Okay.
[00:31:49] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But in fact, I do say tiny amounts of money. The exact amounts aren’t actually very interesting, but I wrote all the songs so I get authors rights for the songs. We wrote all the episodes for the TV series so we get authors right for the TV series every time it shows. And we are supposed to get royalties as the creators of the entire concept, but the business person who took it over just doesn’t pay. And the company is Mauritius and taking them to court is a no hoper. And that’s a slightly sad side of it.
Life in Mauritius and a Funny Story of Choosing Their Own Address
[00:32:27] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But in fact, interesting enough, the entire episodes that I was talking, we built the site and ran it from Mauritius, which is just off the coast of Madagascar. So, basically, our life consisted of living on a desert island with the palm trees and sunshine all year round, building this wonderful world for children.
[00:32:48] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Another good story, I like this story. And if I may tell it, because it’s really silly. We moved into the first house when we got there in 2000. And the landlord just left us at the house and he went away. And he didn’t tell us what the address was. So the postman walked by and I said to him, could you please tell me what the address of this house is because I want people to be able to write to me? And he said, oh, you don’t have an address. This is Jean Dodman Deville Tamar. And I said, but that’s not my name. That’s the name of the guy who just left me at the house with the keys. And he said, but so there isn’t an address. And I said, oh, can I choose my own address? And he went, yeah. I said, oh, between the sea and the post office, yeah. And he went, okay. Oh, can I change it to between the cemetery and the post office? And he said, nope, you’ve chosen between the sea and the post office. That’s your choice and we’re not changing it.
[00:33:44] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And as it turns out, because I just thought that was so funny and so enjoyable, and what I liked about it is that I’d said one thing and it was the first thing that came into my head and he would not let me change it. It was, basically, it was the postman who decided and the postman wasn’t going to let me change. And then we would announce on the site to the kids, please send your drawings for the gallery, send your drawings of Boowa and Kwala to the gallery. The address is Boowa and Kwala, between the sea and the post office, Mauritius.
[00:34:17] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And the parents must have thought, this is like Santa Claus. You send it up and you know that they just send it to the north pole, but the letters got there. The parents would send these drawings in and then go, oh, I don’t believe it’s going to get there. And you would put the picture up and they would write to it and say, I can’t believe that I sent a picture, my child’s precious picture, Boowa and Kwala, between the sea and the post office, Mauritius, and it got to you.
[00:34:47] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And that’s one of the genius things about Mauritius is it’s such a lovely friendly place and terribly small, no postcodes, one of these countries that they just don’t have postcodes. So I couldn’t fill in forms on web forms. They would say you have to give a postcode. I don’t have one. So I will put 000, and they caught onto it so they wouldn’t let me put 000. So I just had to make one up.
[00:35:11] Jacob Stoops: I feel like a lot of sites these days, if you want to pay for something online, well, guess what, we need your zip code for your credit card or whatever your billing address. And you can’t get through without any of that. Oh my gosh.
The Story After Jason’s Band Split and How He Got Involved in SEO With Their Site for Kids
[00:35:27] Jeff Louella: I was going to say, when you were building the site and building all that, did you have SEO in your mind at all or were you just passionately building something for kids and not even thinking of SEO at the time?
[00:35:40] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): In fact, basically what happened is the group split up. That’s the classic rock group thing. The group split up. The group split and it’s that big moment. You know all about it. Jeff is going, yeah, I know about this. And you’re left standing on your own. You think, what am I going to do now?
[00:35:56] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And my wife and I decided to have a baby. And she had a really good job as a graphic designer. She was the, actually it’s more than a graphic designer. She was, hang on, what was it, creative director for one of the biggest advertising firms for employment in France. So she had a proper job and I was suddenly a) I didn’t have a proper job to start with and b) I didn’t have a job at all anymore. And so she, obviously, I was going to say she had the baby and then just handed Leonor, my baby, my daughter, my baby daughter, oh, she’s 23 now, handed her over to me and I looked after her for the first three years, which I really loved. And my ex-wife went off to work, made the money, and that was a really beautiful time.
[00:36:44] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But, obviously, looking after one child, one baby doesn’t occupy you 24 hours a day. And so I thought, oh, what can I do? Oh, I’ll write some songs for kids. So I wrote some songs for kids, recorded them, tried to get the record companies to release. And they said, you can’t release because you’re a punk. And so all the people I knew in the music industry just said, nope, don’t want to know anything about you, off you go. You’re a punk. We can’t release a children’s song album from you. So then I thought, right.
[00:37:16] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): My wife suggested she would write a story. So she wrote a story called Around the World in 12 songs with Boowa and Kwala. So we built the 12 songs into this around the world story, made a book, got Sir Tony Robinson to narrate the book, very famous Sir Tony Robinson, delightful chap, and took it to the book publishing companies who then said, nope, we’ve had pairs of Tom and Jerry, pairs of characters all over the place. No reason this would work better than any other one. We’re not interested.
Building the Site With His Own Hands Using Macromedia Flash Because There Weren’t Any Qualified Developer in Mauritius
[00:37:48] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I said, I’m going to make this work. So I bought a copy of Macromedia Flash when it was Flash 3 and it still didn’t even have ActionScripts. It was in 1998 and just built the site, learned how to do it and built the site. And we started to attract people. I have figured out Google. At the time, it was AltaVista and Lycos and Magellan and Excite, Yahoo, the old Yahoo, HotBot. Sorry, I’m just listing them now. I had a competition with Bill Slawski of trying to name them. And he won, of course. He would.
[00:38:24] Jeff Louella: Of course. Yeah. He would do all the patents too.
[00:38:26] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And then we moved to Mauritius. And I was looking around for, basically, my idea was I’ll move to Mauritius, get somebody to do all the code. I’ll just do the blue dog and I’ll have a really good time. And I didn’t realise until I got to Mauritius very stupidly that there weren’t any qualified developers there. And anybody who’s actually any good at developing wouldn’t stay in Mauritius. They go somewhere else because Mauritius pays very little. Pay in Mauritius for most people is very low.
[00:38:56] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So, I then had to learn to code. And what I would do is advertise a job very vaguely. Basically, I’d make up a job and then just see who applied. And whoever I like best, whoever I thought I would be able to get on with, I gave them a job and then we sat down and said, what can you actually do? And we built the job around what the people could do rather than the other way around.
Working With a Guy Who Built a Formula for Keyword Density and Helped Rank Their Pages
[00:39:18] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And one of the guys is absolutely nuts, a lovely chap, absolutely delightful. And he said, this was halfway through 2000, he said, with Excel, I can work out what the waiting density for the words needs to be in any given page. And I said, off you go. And he locked himself in his office for a month. He had this Microsoft spreadsheet, phenomenally complicated, and he worked it all out by hand, complete opposite of Hamlet Batista. Whereas Hamlet would do it properly, like using a computer to do it, he would do it by hand using Excel. And it was like this bear appearing out of his office when he opened the door and he say, I have it in my hand, the formula. And he applied it, and it was perfect.
[00:40:22] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Basically, we started doing them all. And I just said, let’s just focus on Google because you don’t have the time to do this and write the pages. And so we just focused on Google and that was a lucky decision or a good decision, depending on how you want to see it. And so he had a formula for keyword density that was phenomenally powerful and very successful, done with his own little hands in a spreadsheet.
[00:40:48] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And one of the pages that he ranked, it was for the term kids games. And he built it in 2001 and it was still ranking number one for kids games two years ago. And that’s just stunning. Obviously, his formula was no longer playing such a big role or even a role at all, probably, but it had got so much history, so many links, so much going on that the page actually ended up staying there for well beyond its natural life.
Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) on Saying His Best Skill in SEO Was Finding People Who Can Do SEO
[00:41:19] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So, I didn’t intend to do SEO. And then we built a team to do the SEO and we ended up with a million visits a month from Google, a lot of it based on that and a lot of it based on a wider range of keywords, because we had a thousand games and songs and we then had a title for the kids and another title for Google, which would be classic SEO.
[00:41:40] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And we had somebody, just somebody else who turned up at the company. And I said, find the keywords, rewrite the title so they correspond to what Google’s looking for. And it worked incredibly well. So, I suppose my best skill in SEO, oh dear, I’ve just done myself out. My best skill in SEO was actually just finding people, who could do these very specific things, and I didn’t do anything. So, I’m a cheat and a fraud, and I do apologise.
[00:42:06] Jacob Stoops: We read a tweet from a couple of weeks ago that was something to the effect of those who can’t do SEO podcasts. So, here we are. We’re cheats and frauds too.
[00:42:17] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Wonderful. Well, I hope our stories cheered everybody up.
[00:42:23] Jacob Stoops: Oh my gosh.
[00:42:25] Jeff Louella: Steve Jobs didn’t do any of the code at Apple.
[00:42:29] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): No. True, true, true.
[00:42:30] Jacob Stoops: There is something to be said for people that are able to find talent in other people. That is a special skill as well for sure.
Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) on Specialising in Optimising Brand SERPs and Knowledge Panels
[00:42:42] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Actually, interesting enough, literally, I was talking to Bibi the Link Builder. Do you know her? She’s a Dutch link builder, she’s delightful, she’s a great singer, and she’s really good at her job. And I think she’s wonderful. So I’m going to be, somebody I would like to hug as well. And she suggested to me to, basically, the Kalicube tool, which is my company. Basically, what I now do is specialise in optimising Brand SERPs. What I’ve done is now specialise in SEO that isn’t really SEO. So, it’s optimising what appears when somebody searches your brand name, when your audience searches your brand name.
[00:43:19] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So it’s all bottom-of-the-funnel stuff, people are about to convert. The most important people for your business could be a prospect, clients search your brand name to navigate to your site, journalists, potential hires, all of these people, incredibly important to your business. So what they see is very important.
[00:43:34] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And SEOs tend to say to me, oh, that’s really simple. I could do that in a week and even in a day. And what I’ve discovered is it’s actually much more interesting than it at first appears. So it seems very boring, it seems very simple, but it’s actually very intricate. It goes a long way beyond what you might imagine and is actually very interesting. And also Knowledge Panels, which are on the right-hand side. When you search brands, you’ll often see a Knowledge Panel, not the Google My Business, which is local SEO stuff, but the Knowledge Panel, which is Google’s understanding about who you are and what you do.
[00:44:08] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I have figured out or I’m working on that, figuring out how to trigger and optimise those, so how to get them for your brand and how to optimise them. And the problem is it’s really, really boring to do. It’s phenomenally uninteresting work. And so what I’ve done is I’ve built the machine that does a lot of the work for you. And I’m now building up a team of people to help me train the machine, because we obviously need data, human curated data. So I’ve actually employed a team to start curating the data to make sure that I can get a machine that will actually do this right so that we don’t have to do this boring work. And it’s going really, really well.
Managing Knowledge Panels by Educating Google and Without Using Wikipedia
[00:44:51] Jeff Louella: It’s work that’s tough, right? I was actually just in a chat last night on the new Clubhouse app. I just got invited two days ago.
[00:44:59] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Everyone’s talking about that.
[00:45:01] Jeff Louella: Yeah. There was a whole conversation about optimising for Knowledge Graph and besides Wikipedia, that was the kind of the question, besides Wikipedia, what are some other things we can do? But then we all went through our stories about our Wikipedia nightmares, and half of the panel was banned from Wikipedia. So, it’s one of those, but the Knowledge Panel is one of those where I’ve given it structured data. Before I got banned from Wikipedia, I’ve updated that. How can I get this? I’ve had some companies actually have the wrong company show up for their name, that was similarly showed up. And it was just, why, why?
[00:45:40] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): This is exactly the kind of thing I can fix. I can trigger them and I can fix them and I can deduplicate them when you’ve got multiple ones around, when the wrong one appears in the wrong country, if the wrong telephone number is appearing. All of this is stuff that you can, I like to say, educate Google. You’re basically just explaining to Google. And Wikipedia, as you rightly said, is the easy option, but it actually isn’t the easy option because you’ve got the editors and rightly so, stopping you from putting on this stuff that isn’t interesting for humans.
[00:46:10] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Wikipedia is an encyclopedia for humans. And I messed around with it. They deleted all my pages, so I’ve got nothing to be superior about here. But the fact that they deleted them taught me how to do it properly without Wikipedia or even Wikidata for that matter. And the blue dog and yellow koala are now coming back in their glory. I’ve spent the last 7 months with WordLift, building an entity based content model for my podcast on one side but also the family tree for Google. And I’ve fed Google the family tree of the blue dog and the yellow koala.
Being Successful in Building the Family Tree of Boowa and Kwala Because Google Trusts the Information Provided by Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy)
[00:46:45] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And now if you search for Daddy Koala, instead of just seeing a koala, you see the yellow character, who’s Kwala’s father. And it’s got a picture of him. Daddy Koala, fictional character, part of series Boowa and Kwala, fictional universe, significant other Mummy Koala, genius, love it. I just love the fact that Google’s saying significant other of Daddy Koala is Mummy Koala. And who’s the significant other of Grandma Koala? Grandpa Koala. And so what I’ve done with WordLift and the tool that they have for WordPress is build a family tree for Google.
[00:47:27] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And it goes beyond that idea. You’re saying structured data and yes, structured data is the foundation, but there are a couple of things. One, give your entity a home. Google needs to know what the source of information it should be looking at. So it comes to me for information about these characters despite the fact that I don’t actually own them. I just created them. They belong to a business. So, the home should really be there.
[00:47:49] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But Google has seen that I’ve provided reliable information over a period of time, so it now trusts me. So I’ve fed it the family tree on pages and using Schema. And then I’ve gone out and I’ve corroborated that information on multiple other sites that it trusts, including Fandom, including MusicBrainz because they were musical artists too, and managed to create this family tree in Google’s brain. So, Wikipedia or Wikidata, obviously very important, obviously very influential, but absolutely not necessary anymore.
Transitioning Into the World of SEO After Devastatingly Losing His Company
[00:48:24] Jacob Stoops: So, let me back the discussion out because I want to complete your arc. So, you went from, I guess I would say working on the blue dog, yellow koala, and it sounds like you’re still working on it into a more traditional SEO existence, right? How did you progress into more of the traditional SEO side of things? And then what ended up leading you to found Kalicube?
[00:49:01] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Right. Well, disaster, basically. The group split. The yellow dog and blue koala, no, the blue dog and yellow koala, I’m getting it wrong now, crumbs. My business partner at the time, let’s say he wasn’t the nicest chap. He was a businessman, pure businessman. And I think honestly I went a little bit mad. I became in my mind to some extent the blue dog, and he took advantage of that. I became this naive, elderly, older brother, very, very, very bizarre. You don’t want to dig into my psyche. You really don’t. And so, he basically took the company from me. It was a partnership. He managed to get the company from me. Mauritian law isn’t terribly reliable to say the very least.
[00:49:58] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So I found myself, destitute wouldn’t be the word, but certainly no company, no income on a desert island in the middle of nowhere with a wife and young daughter. I was basically pooped. I was seriously in trouble. And that was when I reached out to people on PeoplePerHour, a British company, the equivalent of Fiverr but not quite as cheap, luckily for me, and just said, I can do SEO, look what I did, which is what I said earlier on. And I got jobs doing SEO remotely because I couldn’t get off the island. So I was doing work remotely for 3 years and I never met one of my clients. I was already doing what we’re doing today and managed to make a living, managed to make enough money to get off the island, come back to France.
Optimising His Own Personal Brand SERP After Realising Its Importance
[00:50:50] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And when I got back to France, I could start going and seeing the clients. And I would go into these meetings. And I’ve got lots of energy and I’m terribly enthusiastic and people, oh yeah, let’s go and do this. And I would end the meeting and go, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that, I’m going to lead you through it, and I’m going to show you exactly what needs to be done to make your company dominate your market on Google, woo hoo.
[00:51:15] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I would walk out thinking that’s a sale. And 50% of the time I lost the sale. And I was going, oh, that’s strange. And then some of the clients who did sign up with me said, do you know what we did as soon as you walked out of the room? We googled your name and, oh, you were a blue dog. And it occurred to me that people wouldn’t trust me if they thought I was just this cartoon blue dog voiceover actor person. And it’s true. And they’re just going, yeah, he’s very convincing but he’s just an actor. He’s a blue dog actor. We don’t want to work with a blue dog actor. We want somebody who actually knows what they’re doing.
[00:51:54] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So I just set about then optimising my own personal Brand SERP so that the digital marketing stuff came up and that they would look at it and things like Search Engine Journal would appear or SEMrush or my Twitter boxes, where I can tweet about digital marketing. And what they then saw was something much more convincing in the current environment. And the blue dog was relegated to the Knowledge Panel where it still says Jason Barnard, blue dog, no problem, but it’s a little bit. So it’s a fun part that people think is nice.
[00:52:29] Jeff Louella: Blue dog, punk rocker.
[00:52:31] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Exactly. Thank you very much. And what then happened, I don’t have exact figures, but basically rather than signing 50%, I started signing 80%. And then the other interesting thing is people stopped arguing about my prices. People before would always say, oh, do it half price, it’ll be alright. And they stopped because I looked so convincing as a digital marketer. Whereas before, they looked at it and said, he’s a blue dog, he’s going to give us a 50% discount.
Starting Working for Clients and Focusing on Brand SERPs and Knowledge Panels
[00:53:00] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And that made me realise how incredibly important it was. And I started working for clients doing that. And it’s been an awful lot of fun. Seven years of doing this, I’ve seen more different, weird Brand SERPs than you can possibly shake a stick out, more Knowledge Panels. I’ve probably triggered 500 Knowledge Panels in the last seven years, most of it without Wikipedia, some of it with Wikipedia.
[00:53:30] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And it’s been an incredibly interesting journey, because what I actually had to do was because very few companies would pay for that service over the last seven years, I only did it about half the time. And the other half, I was doing more traditional SEO, which actually makes a lot more money because it’s got more immediate value for the boss. So, I segued through that. And literally two years ago, my financial situation became stable after the disaster that was Mauritius from a financial standpoint. Mauritius is absolutely lovely and we had a great time there, all good memories, just that period of time.
[00:54:11] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I was talking to Joost de Valk and Jono Alderson. I went and did an academy episode for them. And basically, they said, where have you come from? You’ve completely come out of left field. We never heard of you before and all of a sudden, we see you all over the place. And the answer is that I never had the time to do anything except work. And now I can actually do some nice things like this, which is talk to people.
[00:54:33] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I could afford myself the time to say, I don’t want to take all these SEO clients. I’m just going to focus on Brand SERPs and Knowledge Panels. And it’s finally, finally hitting the, I don’t know what you’d call it, the takeoff point.
[00:54:49] Jacob Stoops: Tipping point.
[00:54:50] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Thank you very much. You’re very good at this. I honestly think in 2021 we’re hitting the tipping point. John Mueller from Google was saying that we should be looking for pool queries. And what he means by pool queries is actually brand queries and specifically, exact match brand queries because that’s a strong signal to Google, obviously, that people are interested in your brand. And once they do search your brand, you want it to look really good, so Bob’s your uncle. I’m in the right place at the right time.
Being Referenced by John Mueller and Receiving Validation for His Work
[00:55:18] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And somebody actually asked John Mueller how can I influence what’s in a Knowledge Panel? And he replied, I actually don’t know how that works, but if you look at Jason Barnard’s work, he’s probably got a good idea, which is my giggly school girl moment.
[00:55:32] Jacob Stoops: That’s got to feel really good.
[00:55:34] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. I giggled like a school girl and didn’t sleep for a night or two because John Mueller said I was cool.
[00:55:42] Jacob Stoops: Yeah. That’s funny. Certainly, I’ve never been publicly referenced by John, but I will say getting the Twitter follow and seeing him like some of my tweets and The Page 2 Podcast tweets every now and then. I don’t know if those Google people have an idea of how giddy us, regular SEO people get. It’s almost like they’re, to use the band, like they’re rock stars and we are just like their fan club. And the rockstar tosses their guitar pick into the crowd and you happen to catch it or whatever. It’s pretty cool.
[00:56:24] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah. I think we are giggly school girls, but the point, I think, the important point is it’s validation that we’re talking sense.
[00:56:35] Jeff Louella: Yes.
[00:56:35] Jacob Stoops: That’s true.
[00:56:36] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And from a purely business point of view, of course that’s incredibly important because my credibility goes up as soon as I get that. It’s not approval, but it’s reference to. I’m one of the people you could talk to about this. And I think it’s definitely important.
[00:56:55] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I’m also working for Yoast on their Brand SERPs and Knowledge Panels, not because they need it in the sense that it’s bad, but they realise how important it is. And when you get Joost de Valk saying, I think this is important and I’m willing to work with Jason Barnard on this. That’s another big piece of validation that isn’t from Google but is from I think somebody who knows what they’re talking about.
Finding Balance Between Working and Growing Your Personal Brand
[00:57:20] Jacob Stoops: One thing I’ve always, and this is I think a good segue and then I do want to get to the end of episode stuff that section that we’re planning on doing. I personally struggle with the balance between the day to day work and you just referenced it and having enough time to spend on brand building as it relates to my personal brand, which then I see as a way to extend that to the company I work for, which is Search Discovery, but I see other SEOs who are maybe they’re really good at scheduling or maybe they really are spending a lot of time on Twitter or writing content for these publications.
[00:58:10] Jacob Stoops: And I’ve often asked myself, how do they do that? How do they do that? Is it just that they go that far, way farther above and beyond than I’m willing to go? Or is it that their company says, hey, we’re going to say that we want you to spend 80% of your time on billable work and the other 20% of your time on growing your personal brand so that you can by proxy grow our brand within the industry? And that’s something that I’ve personally always struggled with that balance. And it seems like you’ve been able to figure out what that balance looks like for yourself enough to get recognition within the industry.
[00:58:52] Jacob Stoops: So I would just ask you from your perspective for somebody like myself or other people in the industry that are looking to grow their personal brand, what has worked for you? What does that balance look like for you?
[00:59:07] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I think it’s an interesting point because I look at other people and I think, where do you find the time? Andrea Volpini from Wordlift is one. Aleyda Solis is another. Where do they find the time to all this stuff? And from my perspective, I think I’m never doing enough, but obviously I’m doing a decent amount, but I think the balance is very different for everybody.
[00:59:35] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I think, for example, Bill Slawski spends pretty much all of his time for Go Fish Digital, doing the research and talking to people and getting the word out. And they see it as a way for them to learn, to get better at their craft, and to get the word out there. And he’s a great ambassador. He’s an amazing person. And get well soon, Bill, as well by the way. And somebody like Aleyda Solis, who’s an independent, she has her own company. Heaven knows where she finds her time. She manages it. Lily Ray, we mentioned earlier on, she writes loads of articles, brilliant stuff. She’s director of an agency.
[01:00:13] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So, the answer is I actually don’t know. What I do know from myself from my own perspective is I left the UK to join the punk folk band, took a big risk, went to Mauritius to do this blue dog and yellow koala, took a big risk. And for me, it’s really been saying I’m willing to take the risk to cut off, last year, I cut off 50% of my clients. I just stopped.
[01:00:40] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And my accountant rang me up last week and shouted at me for half an hour. She’s absolutely lovely. She shouted at me because she cares, which I think is delightful. I don’t particularly like being shouted at. And she just said, your revenue has just completely gone down the pan, what are you doing? And she knows that it’s not because of the COVID problem. It’s because I chose to do that. And I’m saying, hang on, I know this is going to work. The idea of Brand SERPs and Knowledge Panels and managing them and optimising is going to catch on. People are going to believe in it. And Kalicube platform is going to take off. You’ve just got to hold your breath a little bit.
[01:01:24] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And part of that has been getting out there and doing lots of interviews and getting my podcast and spending an awful lot of time promoting the idea that Brand SERPs and Knowledge Panels are important. And it’s taken me the entire year and literally 50% of my daily working life.
Talking About Jason’s Podcast and the Complications of Getting People to Listen to Your Podcast
[01:01:47] Jacob Stoops: So, you referenced a podcast.
[01:01:50] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I hope I got it right or I’m in trouble.
[01:01:56] Jacob Stoops: Oh my goodness.
[01:01:57] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Excuse me. I do apologise. I interrupted.
[01:01:59] Jacob Stoops: No. What is the name of your podcast in case some of our listeners want to pop over there and listen to yours?
[01:02:08] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Kalicube Digital Marketing With Jason Barnard…
[01:02:12] Jacob Stoops: Excellent. And I’m going to assume it’s on all of the platforms, so on and so forth. Syndication and distribution is actually really, really easy these days as long as you’re on one of the podcasting platforms. We use Simplecast. Anchor is a great free platform. We used to be on Libsyn. I believe that’s more of an old school platform, but it does the syndication parts actually really easy. So, actually, that was probably a stupid question on my part.
[01:02:49] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Interesting enough, the syndication is actually very simple. Getting people who actually know about your podcast is the complications about the lasting part.
[01:02:57] Jacob Stoops: Yes. Yes.
Doing the Podcast in the Present and Hoping That It Will Pay in the Future
[01:02:58] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And what I’m hoping, and this is once again building for the future, wasting my time in the present, not wasting my time in the present, doing things for the present that will pay in the future, I hope. And it’s the idea that Google Discover is one of the ways forward. And Google Discover is basically, it understands its users and it’s trying to understand the world and what the world can offer its users. And if it can understand my podcast, what I have on my podcast, what it has to offer, it can potentially push that towards somebody who’s interested in marketing or digital marketing.
[01:03:33] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): So the idea from my perspective is like I built the family tree for the blue dog and the yellow koala is build the family tree for the podcast, which is the podcast with an episode, which is an entity. Within the entity of the episode, we have the person, who is the guest, who’s an entity, the topic, who’s an entity part of the topic layer. And we build all this out so that Google has these enormous opportunities once it has understood what the podcast is about, which episodes are in it, who appears, what they’re talking about, to be able to use that in the push technology they’re building.
[01:04:05] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And I would assume, and this is where WordLift comes in. I’ve built an internal Knowledge Graph that I can now feed to all the different machines, be it Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and so on and so forth. And it’s, once again, incredibly boring intricate work, but it’s building up this understanding for Google with the corroboration that the understanding that I’m feeding it is true. So I’m educating it.
Using Schema Markup and Building the Internal Knowledge Graph
[01:04:34] Jeff Louella: So is this all being done in something like JSON, like Schema work?
[01:04:39] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Yeah.
[01:04:39] Jeff Louella: Okay.
[01:04:40] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But WordLift is a Schema Markup plugin for WordPress. And in fact, they now work on other things than WordPress, but whereas something like Schema App, who’s a great Canadian company you probably know. They do Schema for Schema’s sake. They do the Schema and it’s brilliant. It’s really, really well done. Yoast do Schema as well very well.
[01:05:00] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): But WordLift, for me, take it a step further is they say, okay, we’re going to build the Schema, but actually what we are building is the internal Knowledge Graph. And we drive the Schema from the internal Knowledge Graph, but it’s the internal Knowledge Graph that’s the important part, not the Schema in it and of itself. Then we can push that out to the open graph, which is where all these machines are getting all their information from. So, for me, schema is the vehicle as opposed to the, what is it, no, I don’t know what it is. I can’t get an analogy there. It’s the vehicle that carries the message rather than the message itself.
[01:05:37] Jeff Louella: I always worried about Schema for Schema’s sake. I’m an internal company now. But when I was at agency world, I was always worried that I’m just doing Schema work for work’s sake just so I can show something. I gave organisation Schema. I gave different location Schema. But it was like what was the Schema that actually worked to give me a benefit, what enhanced my listings. And that’s really what I was going after. So, I love that idea that this is Schema for a direct purpose and not just to have some Schema on there just to have Schema on there.
The Part of Schema That Is Interesting Is Discovering Oneself
[01:06:17] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I think you said that really well. And I think this is really a nice place to end it, because Schema for Schema’s sake is all well and good. And you can get your rich snippets and all that and it’s lovely. And your boss is terribly pleased because he or she can see it. But the fundamental reason for writing your Schema is to organise your content. And the content model, the content is driving that Schema.
[01:06:39] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): And what I did find when I was writing the Schema for the podcast and for the family is I hadn’t understood myself what entities I was talking about, what attributes they had, and what the relationships were between them. And writing the Schema helped me to understand that. And I think that’s an interesting part of Schema. The part of Schema that actually can be quite interesting is discovering oneself, what one has. So lovely, lovely way to when to educate Google using Schema and corroboration. And Schema is fun.
[01:07:13] Jacob Stoops: Schema is fun. I will say some of my favourite days as an SEO. There’s a lot of things that go into SEO is when I can sit and write structured data and just block everything else. Those are some of my more enjoyable days. So that was great.
Reading Tweets in the Memory of Hamlet Batista
[01:07:32] Jacob Stoops: I think I want to move in to the last part of the episode. Normally, this is the part of the episode where we’ve asked Twitter questions to the community. We award some merchandise. Today, it’s going to be a little bit different in light of the passing of Hamlet Batista. And I thought that it could be a fitting tribute to him to just read off some of the tweets. We certainly haven’t captured everything. I picked a handful that I thought were really good and spoke to his impact on the industry, as well as us, personally. And I thought it would be nice to just end the episode like that. Cool.
[01:08:18] Jacob Stoops: So, I think we can alternate. So, I think this all kicked off. And I’m going to apologise if I butcher this person’s name, William Galan. This is how I personally found out, seeing people retweet this particular tweet. So he says: My boss, a great man, a teacher, a great coder, a father, and an entrepreneur. Rest in peace, Hamlet Batista. May God bless your soul and your family.
[01:08:51] Jeff Louella: Shall I do the next one?
[01:08:55] Jacob Stoops: Yeah.
[01:08:56] Jeff Louella: Yeah. Maura Loew, she or he, I’m not sure, operations manager at RankSense, wrote: it’s immeasurable grief that we share that our founder and CEO, Hamlet Batista, has passed away. To me, that’s like the other aspect of this is his whole company is going through that. So, I really read a lot of that anyone who’s posted from there.
[01:09:19] Jacob Stoops: Yeah.
[01:09:19] Jeff Louella: Hamlet was an incredible gifted individual. A US Genius visa holder, he migrated from the Dominican Republic and co-inveted Altruik’s Page Priority, an enterprise level SEO software. He’s automated resolutions of site architecture issues. He later founded RankSense, our agile SEO platform that accelerates the typical SEO process. He was a visionary, a thought leader, an inventor, a renowned SEO expert, and respected speaker and author. No words can express our sorrow over Hamlet’s passing, or our gratitude for having walked with him. We’ve lost a humble, generous, brilliant soul, a mentor, a friend, but his legacy of service and excellence lives on in our team, our dedication to you as our customers and as part of the tech and SEO ecosystem that he loved so much. Let’s remember his light and keep his family and loved ones in our hearts as we navigate these difficult days.
Reading More Tweets in the Memory of Hamlet Batista
[01:10:20] Jacob Stoops: Jason, you want to jump in and read the next? I just figured we could alternate.
[01:10:25] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Sure. Lily Ray: Mi hermano. I prayed all day and night for 20 days but I guess it wasn’t enough. There’s nothing short and sweet I can say, because I could write entire books about you. I love you more than anything, Hamlet Batista. I will never forget you as long as I live.
[01:10:45] Jacob Stoops: Daniel K Cheung: I never met you Hamlet Batista. And I’m not into Python, yet you have impacted so many. I both teared up and smiled reading this beautiful tribute by Lily.
[01:11:07] Jeff Louella: Gianluca wrote: Today is one of the saddest days of our industry. Hamlet left us. He was a strong, good person who I was lucky enough to know. My thoughts cannot go out to his family and his dearest friends. Nos veremos para hablar de Python juntos a Los Angeles. I’m not very good at Spanish.
[01:11:32] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Mic King: Yo. Hamlet Batista was literally the best of us. Genuine dude. Smart as hell. Always cool, calm, and collected. This is so bad.
[01:11:46] Jacob Stoops: Dawn Anderson: This is devastating news. Kind, thoughtful, wonderful mind, innovative, disruptive genius. Our favourite SEO. Rest in peace.
[01:11:56] Jeff Louella: Rand Fishkin wrote: Awful news. Hamlet was always so kind to us and contributed such wonderful work to the field. Please, if you have details to share about a memorial or charities he’d want to see supported, do let us know.
Sharing the GoFundMe Organised by Lily Ray for Hamlet Batista
[01:12:11] Jacob Stoops: Again, I’ll quickly point out. He’s got a GoFundMe. Now I’m not necessarily sure about any charities that he might have wanted people to donate to, but there is a GoFundMe in memory. We pointed to that at the beginning of the episode. Again, if you just go to Google, search Hamlet Batista GoFundMe. It’s being organised by Lily Ray. Again, please go and donate.
[01:12:35] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Brilliant. Matt Nguyen: I really don’t know what to say right now. Hamlet Batista did so much for the SEO and digital marketing industry. Had the pleasure of meeting about TechSEO Boost. Such a genuine, smart, and giving soul. He will be incredibly missed. Much love to his family.
[01:12:53] Jacob Stoops: David Sottimano: Hamlet Batista leaving us doesn’t feel real. He was just getting started. In his honor, I promise to help as many people as I can, especially with programming which is his passion. My DMs are open. RIP, amigo. Te extranare… I can’t do the Spanish so I’m not even going to try.
[01:13:13] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Te extranaremos mucho. That’s the best I can do.
[01:13:16] Jacob Stoops: Mucho. Thank you. There we go.
[01:13:17] Jeff Louella: Yes. Aleyda Solis wrote: As many of you, I’ve been thinking a lot about Hamlet, an inspiring colleague, mentor, leader, friend. I was fortunate to get to know him and call him a friend after being to share many times. The words come to my mind when I think of him, warmth, passion, and innovation.
Adding Hugs as One of the Words That Reminds of Hamlet Batista
[01:13:41] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): I will add to that hugs too, please.
[01:13:44] Jeff Louella: Hugs.
[01:13:45] Jacob Stoops: Hugs.
[01:13:45] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Ashley Berman Hale: Maybe today is a bad day to nitpick numbers because we are reeling from the not insignificant loss of Hamlet Batista. I’m not good at processing grief. Numbers give me comfort. Raising hell gives me energy. And Hamlet loved it when I went on my feisty rants on Twitter. Lovely.
[01:14:03] Jacob Stoops: I thought that was a good one. Britney Muller: How lucky we were to have Hamlet Batista, an absolute gift to our industry. Hamlet, one of the brightest minds our industry has ever seen had a way of leaving others feeling that they are the gifted ones. And that was a thread, so there was certainly more there if you want to go read it.
[01:14:26] Jeff Louella: Jeannie Hill: Like you, I guess this is Gary’s Twitter, Hamlet opened up my eyes to how important learning Python is. I can hardly measure all that he contributed to my evergreen passion for learning more about search.
[01:14:41] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): Brilliant. Niki Mosier: I’ve struggled with what to post because I didn’t know Hamlet Batista well, but the two brief interactions I had with him definitely left an impression. It speaks volumes to his character and who he was as a human to see the obvious impact he had on our industry based on the volume of tweets.
[01:15:01] Jacob Stoops: Yeah. And I will say that that tweet in particular, I think, most personifies my personal feelings. It’s been, again, a little bit weird for me because it’s not like we were close friends. I had only met him twice just like Niki. But to see the impact he had on others and just the way that this happened, it’s impacted me tremendously. And I know that it’s impacted a lot of other people.
Lily Ray’s Tribute to Hamlet Batista on Search Engine Journal
[01:15:36] Jacob Stoops: So I felt like probably the most appropriate way, and I’m going to struggle with this one, to end the episode was to read Lily Ray’s, and I may not even be able to get through it, but to read Lily Ray’s tribute on Search Engine Journal about Hamlet. I think maybe she was one of the people that were more close to him within the industry. So, I thought it was a really touching tribute. So I’m going to do my best to read it. If I can’t get through it, just go to Search Engine Journal and read it. It will both make you sad and hopefully brighten your day as a beautiful tribute.
[01:16:20] Jacob Stoops: Hamlet, mi hermano. Where do I begin? There was always something special about you. I can see from the outpouring of messages from our community that I’m most certainly not the only one who felt this way. You radiated kindness, compassion, and positivity at all times. You couldn’t hurt a fly. All you knew was love.
[01:16:42] Jacob Stoops: The first time I saw you speak, I remember thinking to myself: how is it possible that there’s an SEO from the Tri-State area dropping this much knowledge, and we aren’t friends yet? Well, we quickly fixed that. But what I didn’t know that day was how close of friends we would one day become, and how special of a bond it would be. Our nerdy obsession with SEO was surely what built the foundation of our friendship, but it evolved into so much more than that as we got to know each other better.
[01:17:11] Jacob Stoops: Your story is just astounding. We sat on my rooftop on a very hot and sticky New York City summer day, and you told me your full history of what it was like for you to bring your family here from the Dominican Republic. You would become a super successful digital marketer way back in the very early days of SEO, and it was a surreal and almost frightening experience for you to become that successful while living in the Dominican Republic. And all just from working on computer. Perhaps it was this experience that started your ongoing, parentheses, bad habit of never fully believing how brilliant and talented you were.
Hamlet Batista on Bringing His Family From the Dominican Republic to the United States
[01:17:48] Jacob Stoops: You got your US Genius Visa because you were labeled an Alien of Extraordinary Ability, and that ability was SEO. It reads as somewhat of a bizarre title to me, but at the same time, it’s absolutely fitting for you. I always said you were from another planet, after all. So, you brought your family from the Dominican Republic to New York City and lived on the West Side for a while. It was Hell’s Kitchen, if I remember correctly. I remember you saying you didn’t like living there. But I don’t blame you. Who likes living in Hell’s Kitchen as a family of four?
[01:18:20] Jacob Stoops: So the next step was to bring the family out to New Jersey, where you bought a home in a lovely suburban area that you referred to as the forest. It was most definitely not a forest. I enjoyed that you were able to give me a brief tour of the Batista household last year. We had just finished lunch. You let me buy you a vegan lunch, and you were excited and mildly perplexed about eating so many vegetables. And we’re actually supposed to be working on a project. But you insisted 1) that you drive my new car around and 2) that we go drive to your house in the forest for a tour. And the you know rule when someone offers you a tour of their house: you can never say no.
[01:19:06] Jacob Stoops: I feel so lucky that I got to see your house and meet your wife, your kids, and your dog. You were especially excited to show me your new workstation that you had set up with a ring lamp, a professional microphone, a nice big leather chair, and a perfectly positioned piece of art hanging in the background. It was just what you needed, given that you were so busy doing a superhuman number of virtual speaking engagements, webinars, podcast, keynotes, and more, all while running your own business, leading the Python SEO community, and being an amazing father and husband at the same time. I still don’t understand how you physically did it all at once. Again, I think you were from another planet.
[01:19:44] Jacob Stoops: And I love the way we used to text all the time about our crazy schedules and always not understand how the other person did it. You would send me gifs of Wonder Woman and call me La Mujer Maravilla. I don’t think I’m pronouncing that right. And I would reply, well, hermano, I bet you’re just automating your way out of every task and that’s how you’re able to do so many things at the same time.
Hamlet Batista on Being a Caring and Supportive Friend
[01:20:07] Jacob Stoops: Hamlet, I’ll never forget what a caring and supportive friend you were to me. You never even thought twice about showing up for me. I had the biggest DJ gig of my life in November of 2019, and you drove all the way from suburban New Jersey to the depths of a dark and sketchy industrial corner of Bushwick, Brooklyn to come see me play. I didn’t believe you when you said you were going to come, but you did.
[01:20:31] Jacob Stoops: You showed up to a Brooklyn nightclub wearing your signature cardigan sweater and button-up collar combination, in a room full of hipsters scantily clad in black leather clothing and dancing to dark, blasting techno music. There were lasers, there was fog, the dance floor was sticky, and there was a lot of sweat. I remember the astounded look on your face. We stood on the mezzanine overlooking the dance floor, and you kept telling me you had never seen anything like this place in your life. You said you felt like you were in Blade Runner. I will never forget it. My friends all loved you. To this day, I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you came.
[01:21:05] Jacob Stoops: And that wasn’t the only time you came to see me play either. I would be DJing in a Manhattan bar and would be so pleasantly surprised to see my friend Hamlet appear there, again wearing his cardigan with the button-up collar. I would try to explain to my bar-hopping nightlife friends who Hamlet was and what a legend he was within our nerdy tech community. You don’t get it, he’s like the guy who runs things in the Python SEO world. They had no idea what I was talking about, but they always loved him regardless.
Everyone Always Loved Hamlet Batista
[01:21:35] Jacob Stoops: Everyone always loved Hamlet. You didn’t stop supporting my DJ career during COVID. Nope. You tuned into every single one of my DJ livestreams even if just to send me screenshots of how many people were streaming at the same time. Sometimes, when numbers were lower than usual, you would even give me shit about it. But when the number of viewers was high, I could feel your vicarious excitement that so many people were tuned in all at once. You never had to do any of that for me. But you always did.
[01:22:06] Jacob Stoops: Even until the day you were lying in bed at the ICU. You still made a point to tune in and watch my Search Engine Journal eSummit keynote and you stuck around for my virtual DJ set. You insisted on doing all of that from your hospital bed. I will never, ever forget that.
[01:22:23] Jacob Stoops: I loved the way you were such a solid friend and so consistently caring even when I was having a hard time. I would get stressed out and sometimes even lash out at you when I didn’t have time to talk, or I was feeling overwhelmed with all the 2020 doomscrolling articles you so loved to send me. I would tell you, hermano, don’t send me anything about politics after 6 p.m. please. Instructions that you very obediently adhered to. But you never stopped checking in on me. I didn’t even realise at the time how much I needed a friend like you, someone who never thought twice about calling me, texting me, and Facetiming me just to talk and make sure I was okay.
[01:22:59] Jacob Stoops: Hamlet, we had the most special face Facetime exchange last month in December, just a few nights before you got sick. We both looked like crap, lying around in our pajamas, but we shared so many things on that call. I remember thinking, wow, our friendship has evolved so much that we are even able to talk to each other this way. You were so excited about 2021 and so proud of how well RankSense was doing. You were so excited about your business’ success in 2020, the new hires you had made, and all the incredible things on the horizon for you and the company in 2021.
[01:23:31] Jacob Stoops: I just remember telling you so many personal things during that call. I remember telling you so much, I was sort of kicking myself, thinking, I should probably not be sharing this much with him, but I did because that’s how much I trusted you. I have no regrets about sharing any of it with you. All you ever did was just be there, and just listen as a friend.
Hamlet Batista on Outdoing Himself With His New Python Innovations and New Features for RankSense
[01:23:49] Jacob Stoops: Hamlet, last year, you just kept outdoing yourself with your new Python innovations and new features for RankSense. You were so incredibly excited about it all. You used to tell me, you won’t believe the next article I’m writing for Search Engine Journal, I’m going to blow people’s minds.
[01:24:03] Jacob Stoops: Actually, that did, I’m going to stop, that did happen as we were interviewing him before we jumped on. And when we talked to him again in December, that did happen to us as well.
[01:24:16] Jacob Stoops: And then, when it blew people’s minds, you couldn’t believe it was happening. You would send me screenshots of how many people read it, or the fact that John Mueller shared it. I was always like, well duh. You are brilliant. What else would you expect? You were constantly in disbelief about how incredibly talented and smart you were.
[01:24:33] Jacob Stoops: You couldn’t believe how fortunate you were. You had a beautiful family, a wife you love very much for decades, two wonderful sons, I still love that you would send me pics from your biking journeys with them, a prospering business, and so much stardom and respect in our community. I kept reminding you, Hamlet, you have all these things because you earned them. You earned them with your compassion, with your genius, and with your unrelenting ambition, creativity, and dedication. You deserved everything you have and more.
Parting Words for Hamlet Batista
[01:25:02] Jacob Stoops: Hamlet, there’s so much more I could say, and I won’t stop writing about you. I won’t stop telling the world about you. I won’t stop advocating for your tool, RankSense. I feel so blessed that we had this friendship and I am so immensely sad that it has come to a sudden and unexpected end. And I know it’s not just me. There are thousands of stories like mine. You touched the lives of so many people for so many years. This loss will be immense and your presence will never be forgotten.
[01:25:31] Jacob Stoops: I’m not going to be able to do the Spanish, but I’m going to try. Siempre te voy a querer, hermano. Que descanses en paz. I’m not sure what that means, but I’m sure that it’s beautiful. And Lily Ray, that was a beautiful article. And I think that that’s a very fitting way to end the episode. Any parting words, guys, before we jump off?
[01:26:04] Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy): For me, there’s nothing to add to that story.
[01:26:06] Jeff Louella: Exactly.
[01:26:08] Jacob Stoops: All right. Let’s end there. We’ll see everybody next week.