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In Search [Episode 66]: Getting the Scoop on Covering the SEO Industry News






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What Covering the SEO News Is Like - A Behind the Scenes Look: Summary of Episode 66



In Search SEO Banner 66


[This is a general summary of the podcast and not a word for word transcript.]

Featuring:

Mordy Oberstein (Host)
Sapir Karabello (Co-Host)
George Nguyen of Search Engine Land (Special Guest)

Resources:

Rank Risk Index
TF-IDF Tool
In Search SEO Podcast [Episode 62]: Balancing SEO, Your Life, & Mental Health

News:

Google is Helping Health Organizations on Search
Google Updates its Ad Policy to Protect the Public
Google Is Adding New COVID-19 Schema
Google Posts are Back
Google Is Displaying More Takeout & Delivery Cards
Google Search Console Adds Email Preferences


George Nguyen joins the show to discuss what goes into covering the SEO news. 

  • Does Google frustrate the news reporting process?
  • How to see past the facade and find the SEO truth
  • How to balance reader intrigue while not sacrificing your soul - tips on staying SEO objective no matter what!

Plus, 15 days of insane rank fluctuations! We dissect one the weirdest and most bizarre algorithm update patterns we’ve ever seen… and of course… tie it all back to COVID-19.




Is COVID-19 Driving Google’s Algorithm Updates?



The SERP between March 17th and April 1st was "unstable” to say the least. Out of those 16 days, 11 have shown elevated levels of rank fluctuations! The last time this happened (discounting core updates) was over two years ago! Well, maybe once back in April 2018 but that was one long and very moderate update. The question that needs to be asked is if this is Corona related.

Per our Rank Risk Index, on March 17th, we recorded moderate levels of rank fluctuations. On March 19th, we reached high levels of fluctuations followed by one more day of moderate increases. Then, four days later we caught another update. From March 24th through the 28th, we caught a mix of elevated fluctuations (with the exception of March 26th). Then one day after that, another two days of very high-rank fluctuations followed by another day of moderate fluctuations.

That’s crazy. One update after the next update after the next and just when you thought they were done… another update!

So obviously Coronavirus is a factor. How do we know? Look at the timing. It all starts on March 17th just as this whole stupid stupid virus hit the Western world. But it’s not that simple. As we talked a bit about last week, Google is dealing with a whole new subject.

We talk in the SEO community about the 15% of queries that Google has not seen before, but now we’re talking about a much higher percentage of queries Google has just started to see. A set of queries on a topic Google has not dealt with or seen ever! So, of course, there are going to be updates.

Let’s qualify this. When Mordy looks at rank fluctuations and Google updates, you know what Mordy doesn’t look at? News queries. Mordy never looks at them. Why? They’re too new! They’re new topics that Google has not seen… constantly developing topical content… it’s a rank stability disaster.

Now, imagine the entire internet being this (we’re exaggerating a bit, of course).

So Google’s trying to figure this all out so let’s get into some of the patterns Mordy has seen to back this up.

  1. Not every keyword or every vertical or really sub-vertical saw significant flux, but every COVID-19 keyword Mordy looked at did. All of them from coronavirus symptoms to coronavirus cats to coronavirus athletics.
  2. With that, and here’s where it gets cool, the first update - circa March 15th for these corona keywords did something really interesting. It saw sites that were ranking among the top 20 just stop. They didn’t lose rankings, as in a few positions down or went off page 1. They were GONE.

That’s odd as usually, that happens to maybe one ranking page, but most top-ranking pages see a significant drop at a time but that’s 4-5 positions which up there is big time but not GONE.

And why were they gone? All thanks to COVID-19. All of a sudden Corona comes into the picture. It didn’t just become a news cycle topic, it became THE topic that we all search for all day long and Google is like…” we are not getting this… we thought Corona was a passing news story and we’re treating all wrong. Sundar, hit the update button!”

For example, take a look at the keyword Corona which up until this virus was just a beer, a very bad beer (according to Mordy). On March 17th, corona.com (the beer) dropped from ranking #1 to #3 (practically speaking, way further down since the Coronavirus SERP features now dominate the page). What went up from position #8 to #1? The WHO (the health organization, not the band)!

Coronausa.com went down from position #2 to #4. Up from way beyond page 2 to #18 and then to position #8 (and eventually higher than that), came worldometers.info which offers stats on COVID-19!

The next two updates saw further refinement, but not totally new sites, or as many totally new sites ranking on page 1 or even page 2. It was less a novel reconstruction and more of a refinement.

So why are so many keywords unrelated to COVID-19 seeing changes? Tons and tons of SERPs had tons and tons of reversals, even the COVID-19 SERPs, with most pages undergoing a series of reversals with these updates.

Think of it like this, what’s the one truth you hold dear? Like this HAS to be true. Now imagine you find out it’s all a lie! Wouldn’t you start reevaluating everything?

It’s the same here with our search behavior. It’s not an update (as in Google making a specific adjustment in a vacuum), but Google responding to us. Our search behavior has called a lot into question and Google or its machine learning rather is trying to figure out the extent of it. Mordy predicts that more updates will constantly come as Google tries to figure us out!




What Covering the SEO News Is Actually Like: A Conversation with George Nguyen



Mordy: Welcome to another In Search SEO podcast interview session. Today, we have who should be a very familiar face for you. In fact, you may be reading his content each and every day. He's the associate editor of Third Door Media, which you may know better as Search Engine Land. And we are recording live from one of his events, SMX West. He is George Nguyen.

George: Thank you so much, Mordy. It's great to be here. Do they know my face? I hope they don't. Because that profile photo is so smug and embarrassing.

M: You do not come off that way in your picture because you're super nice. By the way, you're the life of this party here.

So this entire interview is about you and your experience writing and covering the wonderfully uncomplicated and "unnuanced” search engine industry. First off, how do you find stories? How do you know what to cover? What's the trade secret?

G: When I was starting out, I was first in content marketing. Then when I started covering SEO, I just aggregated feeds, looked towards publications that I thought were interesting or doing it well, or just main sources like Google tends to publish things on their Keyword blog, their Webmaster Central blog, or their Chrome Developers blog. So you look those up on your refresher feeds almost constantly to find that content, but eventually, you gain enough traction that PR representatives will start contacting you to see if you're interested in the story. This actually snowballs because for the most part you write about one thing once and they will attach that to you forever. So if that's not your beat that can be a double-edged sword because you end up getting a lot of spam. But then you develop your name in the industry and you can actually get comments from Microsoft, Google, etc. It's not out of reach, they're not always going to respond, but it's not so out of reach once you've established your name a little bit. Also, coming to the conferences means that you get to be in contact with people from these companies. Chances are the people that are speaking here are not going to be the people you're in touch with in terms of getting a response, but they can pass your name along or they can tell you who to get in contact with. And that bridge definitely separates coverage from somebody who's just copying a press release and from somebody who's actually looking into if something is going to happen. That's the difference between the generic coverage and the coverage that I try to strive for.

M: And not to necessarily plug SMX West, but coming to the conference is a major win. We're not standoffish. You can come over, we can talk, get some inside scoop, make new networking connections, whatever it is, so you should definitely do that.

I have to ask you, if you can answer this or not, who is your Google source?

G: They are real people, but I don't know if the response actually comes from them because they are the liaison between the press and whatever their given department is. So every time I talk to somebody about a feature, depending on if it's local, or if it's a main SERP feature, or if it's Google News, I will be in touch with somebody different. I highly doubt that the actual answer originates from them. I think that they clean up the language, but ultimately, it's always, "You can cite a Google representative or Google spokesperson” and that's what you have to do when somebody's kind enough to give you an answer. You can't just throw them under the bus and say, "Oh, this person said this to me.” You have to honor that they are speaking on behalf of the company and that's that.

M: On that line, have you ever gotten an answer back where you don’t really know if that actually answered your question.

G: Tons of times where it’s a non-answer.

M: And they're your source, right? You need them. And this is not just for you and Google, but it's really for any journalist, you have to be careful not to burn them. At the same time, you have to be careful that you write what's accurate. How do you balance that?

G: There's rarely a case where an answer isn't usable because even a non-answer tells you something about the position of the company. So you can say, "When asked about this subject, a Google spokesperson, stated whatever.” That's what you have to do. I think it's very telling either way. There's rarely a situation where I'm not going to get something that I can use. The only time that really happens is when I don't get a response at all and that more depends on the size of the company. For example, I have never gotten a response from Apple.

M: Okay, and how often does that happen with Google?

G: Google is actually really good. If you're not a journalist, I would say that Google is surprisingly on the ball because I feel their reputation really matters to them and they don't want to step on toes more than they have to. Things like doing things in the name of the user. Sometimes I don't understand why they couldn't have done this in the name of the user but in a different way. Like local map spam is still a huge deal, but local brands, small businesses, one way to get on top of that is to advertise. So Google's making out like a bandit anyway. So is it really in the name of the user all the things that you're doing? It's a huge company and there are difficulties, but yeah, that's just how it is.

M: Yeah, so speaking of getting things right. You don't have to fess up to this, I won't judge you, but how often are you worried that you're going to get something wrong?

G: I'm constantly worried. It haunts me. I love the community and I want to serve the community in a way that is truthful and that people respect, but I don't let that be the be-all and end-all. I recognize that I can always go back and add something to the end of an article to recognize the mistake I made and I've done that before fast enough where very few people noticed it, but it is a very primary concern for me.

M: Yeah, well, that's really hard. I mean, there's so many times things are just changing rapidly and that's not on you, it’s just the way it goes.

G: When nine times out of 10, the answer is, "It depends,” then, yeah, you're going to get it wrong a few times. You just have to do what you can do. You can make sure that if you get it wrong, you make it right. I believe I reached out to you once.

M: Yeah, we got it wrong. It was the Featured Snippet deduplication and originally, what was happening was that the second URL that was being put as the top result on page two and we put out a tweet based upon that linking to the Search Engine Land article that you wrote saying here's what's happening and our data shows what’s happening. And then Google updated it, you updated the article, we didn't reread the article, and then as the nice person that you are you reached out to us and said, "Hey, you know, you might want to alter that tweet” which of course we did and we appreciate that as that’s what makes you so knowledgeable and so awesome.

G: Yeah, you tend to change things when Danny Sullivan reaches out through your DMs to say, "Hey, you were wrong here” and you're like, "Oh, nice to meet you too, Danny.” He absolutely did the right thing and I totally appreciate him for that because I don't want to be going around spreading the wrong idea especially if this top of page two thing is not by design. At first, it seemed that way because it was 100 percent.

M: Yes, we looked at it as 100% across the board.

G: Yeah, and that's how it ended up, but we got it cleaned up before it got out of hand and I made sure to reach out to everybody. So yeah, I really go into damage control mode and it does ruin some evenings.

M: Yeah, it sucks. I've been there.

G: But when you get it wrong. You pay the price.

M: At the end of the day, we're sitting here saying how awesome you are that you went the extra mile to make sure other people got it right. So it works out in your favor in the end.

But it's really annoying that let's say someone from Google DMs you and says, "Hey, you got this wrong.” It's nice that they were responsible enough on their end to make sure that you got it right. But wouldn't it be nice if they planned this out a month in advance? They can tell you what’s going to happen, here's a press release, here's the information, there's going to be a roll-out, you might see the URL shown on page two for a while, but that’s not what will happen ultimately. As opposed to how it is now where we’re running around and patching things up as they go along. It's kind of annoying.

G: Yeah, I would say that for the number of times something similar to this occurs it's rather startling. So many people, businesses, and users rely on Google as their primary source of literally everything in their life. People don't even remember URLs anymore. But it does happen. And when you're such a big company I try to be reasonable because, honestly, who's really looking on page two? We are because that's what we do but maybe an engineer at Google was like, "Alright, cool, we duplicated it. It's not on page one anymore” and they didn't think to look. Now it’s something that everyone is noticing and wondering if Google planned this. So things slip through the cracks, but I do believe they got to it before anyone was building their campaigns around ranking on page two.

M: Let's talk from Google to Search Engine Land itself. You, the audience, should read Search Engine Land, which I recommend you do every day because, in my honest opinion, you will not find articles like "Five ways to build backlinks,” you'll just find an article about "How to actually do what you're supposed to be doing,” as opposed to a little bit of a clickbait title there.

G: Yeah, where they're trying to get you. There's an ulterior motive to a lot of content out there especially content published by agencies in the space. I mean, that's what you have to do, though, because that's what they preach: Build the content. And their content is worthwhile, but it does have a heavy commerce slant.

M: Yeah. I personally recommend not doing that. We try very much not to do that. We just released a tool, the TF-IDF tool, where we analyze the SERP for you from a TF-IDF analysis. And when we sat down to promote this, there was a big argument with myself pushing the TF-IDF is a little bit yesteryear with NLP, right? So we sat down and said if we're going to promote this then we have to think of real ways you can actually use it. And there's a post out there now where I go through here's how you should not use this tool because that's not how you do TF-IDF analysis and here are some ways you might be able to get some signals about what's going on. You're not going to get anything directly from it because you can't do the TF-IDF analysis, but it can put you on the right path. So, in the long term, if you don’t put on a commerce spin, if you'll be honest, if you put information out there for the sake of putting information out there, then that really pays off for you.

G: Yeah, I think that the way we do it at Search Engine Land is there's a pretty big church and state separation in terms of editorial content and the sponsors of the show. We've had a few sponsors that want to push for some more content and we do put out some sponsored content that's clearly labeled and that really has only to do with Search Engine Land the website and not the SMX conference. I think that not constantly plugging SMX, I mean, we do pre-coverage to let people know what we're going to be talking about at a certain session, but those articles stand on their own.

M: Yeah, the overview or the summary articles are very much not slanted towards promotion at all.

G: That's just something that we're trying to look to get the most value out of our own conferences. But also think about our audience. We're marketers. You’ll smell this a mile away if we said, "Hey, come to our conference.” That's just a bad look. So I'm really proud of the way we handle that.

M: I definitely agree. One of the things I noticed about Search Engine Land over the years is maybe a year and a half ago you guys switched your format around a little bit. Now you have the news and its implications. The ‘Why we care’ section. What was behind that? Why make the switch?

G: That switch came up maybe six months before I came on board and that I believe was the brainchild of Henry Powderly, our VP of content. I just think it works so well. It's actually one of the main reasons why I came to work here. I was reading Search Engine Land before that came about. I thought the content was great, but I was doing different jobs. I was just on the content marketing side and I wanted to learn more about SEO. Then when I actually interviewed for the job and I saw that the format had changed, I thought it was so much of a breath of fresh air. There are a few publications out there that are our competitors and they make it hard to know when a page ends or they make it hard to skim through as you have to read the whole thing and view all the ads and stuff. I like for us that within the first paragraph if you stopped reading you know the news, but if you continue reading and you get to the ‘Why we care,’ which is maybe two paragraphs later, not only do you have the exact news, but you also know how it might impact what you're doing. I think that's why people come to our website.”

M: I like it and I'll tell you why I use it. I have about 50,000 tabs open every single day and I have about 50 articles I want to read so maybe I'll read four or five because I just don't have time and I say to myself that I'll get to it tomorrow and never do. One of the things I like about the format is I can go read the news and I could decide if I want to read the ‘Why we care’ because maybe I have my own opinions on why we care and don't care why you care, no offense.

G: No, I respect everybody coming from a different background and coming from a different job.

M: Right, or I read the title, I see the sub-headers you have there, I know the story already, but now I can skip that and just go to ‘Why I care’ and read that part instead.

G: Exactly. And sometimes the story is as brief as a tweet. Google tends to do that with their Search Console updates. They like to tell people via Twitter and you already have seen it via Twitter before you get to our coverage and then you see it you guess you understand. But if I'm working for an agency, I’m thinking how might this affect my diverse range of clients and the ‘Why we care’ section is great because you can see how that fits into a certain client.

M: Yeah, it's very efficient for me, personally speaking.

G: It also makes our coverage way simpler to do.

M: Yes, as a fellow content writer I think that's amazing.

What was the hardest story you ever had to cover?

G: You know, there are some stories that just take a life of their own and you don't see them coming. I think I wrote our angle on the Wall Street Journal's fake maps listings. Obviously, when you're reading it, you can see why this matters to marketers because small locations can't compete with this, but when you talk to agencies, people doing this day-to-day and they have all these interesting takes about how they're competing and how other SEO agencies are doing the black hat thing of stuffing keywords and whatnot. That took a long time because I had to wrap my head around all the ways things are happening.

Also, the sub-domain leasing that I talked about last year, some of my colleagues said, "Hey, this is quite biased, George. Did you mean for it to come off that way?” And I said, "I want to present the facts, but I also want people to know that this tactic, unless Google or Bing eventually comes out and says, "Hey, we can deal with this. Do it if you want.” Instead of saying, "Do this at your own risk.” That's the line when the search engine tells you to do this at your own risk you're doing it at your own risk. And I want our readers to know that if this is an alternative revenue that you're going to pursue, there are implications.

M: On this very podcast, I literally called it whoring your website.

G: That's some really strong words. I'm not going to use those words, but I would say that you really have to evaluate your user base and judge whether you're providing them a service or not and how they would view this service in the grand scheme of what you're offering. I mean, do CNN users really need coupons? What about that makes sense to you as an entity or your users?

M: I want to know who at CNN approved that because I understand that the revenue team really likes that, but how was the editorial or content team okay with that? Unless they didn't know about it.

G: They publish other commerce-related stuff that is independent of their editorial team as well. It's a bleak outlook of where revenue is in the news publishing space where everyone's just chilling out for coupons.

I spoke to somebody at one of the companies that run many of these coupon websites, these third-party websites, and they were very forthcoming. They had their own defense for it.

M: But the coupon company makes sense.

G: Yeah, but the analogy doesn't because nobody in a regular periodical, a regular paper newspaper, is getting indexed. Google indexes everything. So when you have a coupon website, someone's looking for a coupon for Nike or whatever, and you're up there beating entrenched competitors like Groupon who only do that, that hurts that brand that's invested all that time. But when you're buying ad space inside a newspaper, you're not really hurting anyone else except for the people who can't afford it, but that's just how it goes. So I thought that analogy was quite poor, but I also feel conflicted because news publishing is not that lucrative but we need it so until we find a way to support it this is what we have to do. We have to find new ways. We don't have to do this, but we have to find new ways.

M: Yes, I agree with that. 100%. That's a big problem.

G: Yeah, there's also been a lot of other stories. Anytime the Quality Raters Guidelines get updated and I find out about it, you just pretty much know that whatever plans you had you're going to cancel them.

M: That's for me with an algorithm update.

G: Yeah, I think at that point, if you really want your day you just have to delegate and I hope you're in a position to do that. Sometimes there's breaking news and whatever you're doing it's not as important. But you make that choice.

M: How do you handle that? I think people in the SEO industry don't do a good job with this. I spoke to Kelly Stanze about work-life balance in the SEO industry. I think we do a very poor job sometimes. I do a poor job. How do you balance it off because at certain points it's not worth it?

G: Yeah, I would say that the team is so great, but you're never going to outwork Barry Schwartz.

M: Yeah, I'm seven hours ahead of Barry. I will email him thinking he's not going to get back to me for hours because it's literally two o'clock in the morning and ping, he replied back.

G: That's exactly it. Having a team that is so talented across so many areas of search really lightens the load because I'm not covering local or tools as much. I will cover those things and I'm happy to but when you have as much experience in the sector as Greg or as Ginny, especially with advertising, why would you want me to do the coverage because why I care isn’t as informed as why they care and that really is the spectrum right there.

M: That's a good point and something I really want to touch on. No one's an expert in everything except one or two people, whoever they are. You're covering so much and I don't mean this in a bad way, I will freely admit there are barriers or there are limits to whatever area I'm in. I know everything about this, but there are certain areas where I have a limit and that's it. But I don't have to cover the news as you do. So how do you deal with it when you feel you've reached your limit of understanding, but you need to know more?

G: It's easy to just ask questions, but it's hard to get the answers in a format that you're looking for. You're really looking for a teacher. So I just try to get on phone calls with people who know more who can walk me through the subject. If it's really advanced and I have to cover it, then I'm just going to have to hunker down and do the research, come up with my questions, and then ask somebody who knows a little bit better. I try to make it as easy for them as possible. What I find is that almost 80% of the time you are just going to be covering something where the amount of time it takes you to research is double the amount of time it takes you to write, but I would rather have that where I can just bang out things in 15 or 30 minutes (that'll come with time), but I don't want to get to a point where I understand this news and it's just straightforward and there's nothing more to it. I feel like I'm not learning at that point and that is counter to what SEO really is.

M: That’s true and there's nothing wrong with not knowing, it's just a matter needing to learn it. By the way, as a former teacher, you’re also a former teacher, aren't you?

G: Yes, I am.

M: Yeah, we were bound to talk about this at some point. You need to find a medium that works for you. If sitting down and reading a million articles is what works for you then great. If sitting down and reading a million articles is fine, but a phone call is a much easier way for you to learn then do that.

G: Yeah, exactly. It's whatever works for you. Sometimes it's webinars. I try to do an array of things and I have to take breaks, I go out, I walk my dogs, and I come back to it. It makes it take a long time, but when you really care about it, it doesn't feel that long to you. But the problem is you're still on a deadline.

M: Yeah, but if you push yourself too far it's going to become strenuous. You might get the article out, but it's not going to be what you really want it to be. You won't be happy with it.

G: I've had plenty of times where I've been aggressively edited and I thought I could have spent a third of the time doing this and it would have been just as good as the ultimately finished piece. We cut out so much. So you can't have that tunnel vision.

M: I have to ask you this as we talk a lot about Barry Schwartz and that makes a lot of sense. I look at a lot of research, a lot of SERPs, and stuff and I see something which I believe is new and I send it to Barry. Sometimes it is new and I get my props in SERoundtable, but more often than not, and I've gotten many cold streaks, I send it to Barry, and all I get back is a one word answer, "Old.” And then a link from an article from 2006. Has that happened to you?

G: His memories are encyclopedic.

M: It's insane. There's been a time by the way where I sent him something and he told me that I was the one who found this and I just totally forgot.

G: It doesn't happen to me because I don't bring it up in the context that this is new. I will ask Barry, "Is this new?” which is less crushing when it's not new.

M: Yeah, I do that now. I’ll say, "Has anybody seen this?”

G: I'll tell you what, when you're on the email chains for editors, every once in a while, not every day, but pretty often, you get an email contact from somebody and then Barry's response just saying, "Not new,” and then a link to our coverage or the Search Engine Roundtable coverage.

M: But do you feel bad about yourself? Like I can't believe it’s that old?

G: I don't because I think about where I was 10 years ago. You have to be forgiving of yourself because there are a lot of voices in the community that are very passionate. I'm not saying that you shouldn't be passionate because your reputation, your client's reputation, everything is on the line here. However, the way you interact with people, some people are just not forgiving. I'm a journalist so I'm not asking for forgiveness. That's why I have to be nice on myself,

M: I want to ask you about that actually. There's a lot of people reading your stuff, which is great. But what will inevitably happen, and this happened to me when I did a research study about something and some other publication, not Search Engine Land, did a piece showing why what I said was stupid and wrong when no one even bothered to email me asking what I meant by this. But the coverage was totally inaccurate, it wasn’t what I was saying at all. I just realized that as awesome as the SEO industry is, there are certain voices that are just negative and I'm sure you see this way more often than I do. Does it bother you?

G: Fundamentally, yes, it bothers me a lot because it's so different than when you come up to a conference and everybody just seems pretty jazzed or when they're walking out the rooms and they are really walking away better at their jobs. That is so different from a lot of the toxicity that happens on social media. Google I/O is coming up soon (Editor's Note: the conference was canceled) and they're going to be making announcements so get ready for the memes. I don't really like that, but that's part of the internet itself and we as SEOs are all about the internet. We kind of embrace it because memes and things like it are easy to latch on to and easy to connect with people over. It's not as easy to have that hit of instant gratification or satisfaction when you say something supportive or when you successfully articulate a counterpoint. I try not to interact with people who just go on tirades about how terrible the new schema is because that's not useful. Also, you don't want to create a space that's not welcoming to beginners. I was talking to an attendee and they didn't ask a question. It was a very beginner level question, but the resilience towards asking questions? How did we get here?

M: I don't like that at all. I walked into the SEO industry with a very limited background in SEO and the way I got to where I am now was by asking a million freaking questions. It's okay for us to have a disagreement. It certainly doesn't have to be personal.

G: Yeah, it shouldn't be that way. You talk to people about your career, you share with them, and you want to bring up the positives which there are plenty of, but then there's also that time when the people around your family members ask, "Hey, why are you so stressed out?” and you say, "Oh, because Google did this thing.” You can see the reflection inside yourself of wanting to be bitter about something, but you have to be better than that because guess what, these companies are making these changes regardless of how you feel.

M: I'm a big complainer and it’s just part of my nature. I'm a cynic. I'm a complainer, but just be humorous about it. When you critique Google you need to pull out the people from the company. John Mueller or Danny Sullivan are amazing people who do an amazing service to the industry. If you don't like something that Google did that negatively impacts you and you want to go on social media and say this sucks, that’s fine, but you need to know your limits and don't go after the people per se.

G: Yeah, because part of their job, unfortunately, is being the whipping boy or whatever for all these press releases.

M: Their hands are tied, what are they going to do? They can't change it.

G: Right, do you think that they're holding back? If they could tell you legally, they would, but if you were in their position, I doubt that anybody could do a better job than John or Danny. I feel like when I interact with them in person, they're very pleasant.

M: Yeah, I've only had good interactions with them and I'm a pain in the ass.


Optimize It or Disavow It

M: Would you report about a major overhaul to the Bing SERP or some stupid non-important meaningless small change to the Google SERP?

G: I would report over the more meaningful thing because we just talked about BERT in one of the sessions I attended and Bing has been doing BERT for months. Their AI is very advanced and much more than people give them credit for and they've done a lot in the AI space just to push the whole thing forward and not necessarily for the benefit of Microsoft, but I'm sure there's a business case for it. But when you think about it, had they really put their PR muscle into promoting that they had BERT first this whole thing would be viewed differently.

M: Yeah, and there are some things I like about Bing that Google does not have. For example, Bing’s Featured Snippet is a multiple perspective feature and I'm surprised Google hasn't stolen that yet. Actually, I'm not surprised as I think Google's not doing that because they like having the one true answer because it’s more authoritative.

G: When you think about how people are viewing the SERP people on mobile, they want scalability. When you have multiple perspectives, that's harder to achieve.

At the end of the day, I would definitely choose to report on whatever search engine that's doing something very different and meaningful in the space than a minor tweak on the Google SERP.

M: Even Yahoo?

G: Yeah. If they're doing something interesting, I would definitely do that because it's getting people to think differently about the entrenched powers. I mean, why would you continue to be so fixated on a small search feature? If it's really a nothing feature, then it’s not going to impact anybody. Your clients aren't going to be asking about it.

Now, as we move up the degree, things start actually changing. Your visibility changes or deduplication is a huge deal. I would definitely do that but I would probably get to the other thing later. There are all these search engines that don't all have the same business model so you should have a choice. I mean, it doesn't feel like that when you actually are trying not to use Google Maps or your Gmail is here and it's already added things to my Google Calendar. It doesn't feel like you have a choice, but you do and that begins with the information that you're given. I want to give people that information so they know that I value different views on information. I value two sides of the argument and Bing is better for that right now.

M: You took that to a philosophical place that I did not expect and that's why I love you. That was amazing.

Yeah. Thanks for coming on, man. Really appreciate it.

G: Absolutely. It was a pleasure.




SEO News



Google is Helping Health Organizations on Search: Google is going all-in on giving advice these days. The search engine has offered advice to both health sites and small businesses.

In specific, Google has told health sites to make sure their content is not too technical while telling small businesses to ensure they keep their consumers updated.

Google Updates its Ad Policy to Protect the Public: Google has updated its ad policy to prevent people from selling crucial health supplies at crazy prices. It also limits selling crucial supplies during a time such as now when said supplies are on short supply.

Google Is Adding New COVID-19 Schema: Though not yet visible in the search results, Google has added a new COVID-19 schema to its help page. The new format will allow schools, medical facilities and the like to show urgent content related to Coronavirus on the SERP.

Google Posts are back: Google announced that they should now be available for all to see on the SERP.

Google Is Displaying More Takeout & Delivery Cards: Google is catering to the new reality by showing more takeout and delivery info on the SERP. To this, the Discover More Places carousel for eateries are now showing Delivery and Takeout as the first two cards across the board. Also, within the Local Panel, Google is listing attributes related to… delivery and takeout!

Google Search Console Adds Email Preferences: Search Console is now giving you more options as to the emails you receive from them.


Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.


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