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In Search [Episode 21]: Pay to Play? Is Organic Search, Social Media, & Branding Dying?




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The In Search SEO Podcast 'Tip Share' of the Week!




Tip Share Episode 21




If you could offer the world one piece of keyword research advice in 2019, what would it be? 




Summary of Episode 21: The In Search SEO Podcast 



In Search SEO Banner 21


In this episode, we welcome the world-renowned Lukasz Zelezny who discusses all things "organic" with us: 

  • Why organic search is stronger than ever
  • Organic brand building
  • What still works on social media without having to pay for it

Plus, we delve into how machine learning has changed what keyword research should look like! 


Google's Machine Learning and Its Impact on Keyword Research [1:20 - 13:24]



From time immemorial keyword research has more or less been about finding the most advantageous keyword from a competitive perspective with the maximum search volume. Everyone was on the hunt for high search volume keywords. However, with the advent of search as a journey or with Google being a discovery engine, however you want to phrase it, playing the search volume game is like trying to catch a whale with a string. What we're focusing on is the idea of the 'topic layers' that Google has talked about (and all of the rest that goes into Google both understanding who and what an entity is on new qualitative levels).

We SEOs tend to look at search very monolithically…. That's starting to change but we’re not there yet. We see a user and a search. We see the same user and the next search. We look at search from a very utilitarian perspective. Google does not. Google says that users view search almost as a pastime in a way. As something to do… as something to become engrossed in. Have you ever just sat down with nothing better to do or perhaps to escape something you had to do and just searched from one thing to the next? We would say, and we very much believe that Google agrees, that "search” is more aligned to what we just described than it is about isolated search events.

If we go with that, then Google offering you what you want for a specific search without trying to guide you to the next logical search, or without offering a segue to continue would be totally unaligned to how a user operates, to what the user latently expects! So what does Google do? Search as a journey. They use all sorts of a bag of tricks sort to speak to push content avenues before the eyes of the user… and that makes SO much sense!

Now here you are and you’re basing your content generation off of looking for the next big high volume low competition keyword… but that’s monolithic. That is not how Google sees search, it’s not how Google goes about content placement on the SERP. Thus, the keyword research process should delve into the full spectrum of whatever topic you’re dealing with, much the way Google does when showing results on the SERP. In a recent blog post entitled What Should Keyword Research Look Like in 2019, the example Mordy used was for a keyword related to mutual funds. Now, you could find all of the high volume keywords related to mutual funds and create a super high volume list of super traffic drivers. Or, you could do research (by using a tool like our Keyword Research Suite) to pull in keywords from features like the PAA box and related searches in order to get a broader and more holistic view of the topic. In the case of mutual funds that meant subtopics related to mutual funds being a safe investment (or not), how lucrative are mutual funds, what are the taxation implications…. If you just go high search volume you may focus entirely on but one of those subtopics and miss out on any of the content exploration opportunities Google puts in front of the user. 



Pay to Play? Is Organic Dying? - A Conversation with Lukasz Zelezny [13:25 - 35:09]



Mordy: Joining us today, from China to England he is an international keynote speaker par excellence with 15 years experience as an SEO and digital consultant. He is the world-renowned Lukasz Zelezny. Lukasz is here today to talk about the health of all things organic on the web! Welcome! Before we get going, you literally travel all over the world and you speak at all sorts of events and the one common theme I see is your vest. How did that get started?

Lukasz: That’s right. No vest no fun. A waistcoat is a must.

M: Okay! Let’s get into the health of all thing organic. Let’s start with organic search. Let me ask you directly. Is organic search dying? Not that it’s dead... it’s not dead, but what’s your opinion on Google increasingly targeting users with SERP features?

L: You say it is dying but it’s actually fine. SEO is like The Rolling Stones. They always say that this is their last concert and they do another five which are also their last. We need to understand one important thing. The concept of search has existed way long before the internet with phone books and the like and so organic search will always be safe. If Google becomes too pushy then they’ll fly away to other search engines which is already happening.

M: You believe it’s already happening?

L: Of course. Otherwise, DuckDuckGo wouldn’t be growing as fast and even Bing I don’t consider is that bad. I believe they’re doing great stuff and I recommend people to use Bing Webmaster Tools.

M: DuckDuckGo over the past two-three months has been all over the news with data of their search numbers jumping up. In the meantime, what can search marketers do to stay afloat with Google using so many SERP features?

L: Well I think there’s a lot of opportunities still. For example, Featured Snippets. I’m a big fan and when I noticed it while working at Uswitch I wanted to figure out how to scale it and I started hiring someone to only optimize for Featured Snippets. I found out there was only one other competitor that was trying to put their pages into the Featured Snippet.

M: I have this theory that in one or two years from now Featured Snippets won’t feel like the big win like they are now. It seems like Google is starting to use direct answer headings in the Featured Snippet and that as time goes on that large snippet we get will become smaller and smaller. They will still come from a website but would be much more aligned to the original query and there’s no reason for a user to click the URL. Do you see that happening? Do you not see it? What are your thoughts?

L: I think it’s an element of a bigger problem. It’s the usage of third-party content, often without consent, in the SERP. The whole concept of AMPs, for example, that they are serving content from Google cache. We will see. If Featured Snippets disappear then they’ll do something new. We don’t know yet. If you go back to 2009 and compare that to nowadays you’ll see that a lot of things didn’t exist but, fundamentally, was the SERP really that different? I think it didn’t change that much.

M: Right. I only ask because of Cindy Krum’s theory on fraggles where they’re able to pull out your info and jump down to that snippet of content on the page. But yeah, you’re probably right. Featured Snippets have been here for a long time. Let me jump now to brands. So brand reputation/authority is more important than ever. That’s not just a cliche. We see as Google works towards a more entity-centered approach that being "authoritative” is of greater relevance. That said, how can a brand build awareness and authority organically these days or can it not do so?

L: I think brand is very important and my short answer is an absolute yes. Google My Business is a wonderful tool and this is part of my everyday strategy. I’m also using "brand trackers”. My name, I understand, is hard for people to spell and isn’t common in the UK which is a plus for me. I can use brand trackers to track my name to see where I’m being mentioned and I recommend this as well to my customers. So we try to pivot brand awareness into our little SEO world and I would never say that brand isn’t important.

M: Do you think it’s still possible to develop relationships with influencers organically or have we reached the point where paid connections are the only ones that exist? Does that mean the grassroots connections that brands used to make are fading away?

L: I think it’s a gray area. We still need to remember about Google’s Terms of Service and they say clearly what you can or can’t do. Nowadays it’s more can’t than can because everything is being considered money-related topics. And any money-related situation can be risky where people will ask for specific links and be picky about it. I’m always trying to pivot brand into my world, but sometimes I can be a big fan of exact match domain. Three years ago, I acquired https://seo.london/ and https://socialmedia.pl/ and I can see that it’s not like the theory that says that it doesn’t make any difference anymore. Practically speaking, I think a domain like cheapholidays.com and seo.com are names that are easy to remember which gives them a lot of potential and value.

M: To take your example of cheaphotels.com. If that’s your URL name it carries this authoritativeness that you are the authority in cheap hotels which then builds brand association and brand authority. Let’s hop now to social media. Obviously, having an organic presence on Facebook is much harder now than in the past. Facebook aside, more reliable platforms, such as Twitter, are becoming increasingly harder to gain momentum on. There’s such an influx of content that it naturally makes standing out on Twitter that much harder as its the channel where this content is being shared. How can a marketer stay afloat on Twitter (and the like) in such a content-filled environment?

L: Let me be very cheeky and say marketers can survive on Twitter by moving into LinkedIn. I’m afraid that if in 10 years from now you will invite me then there would be no Twitter. The whole concept is dying. I have a massive problem with Facebook’s advertising where I get bombarded with these super low-quality adverts. I don’t want to see another automated webinar ad that claims it will increase my business ten-fold. By the way, there is no intent on Facebook. All of these adverts are being posted on Messenger. I have no problem with Instagram. But when I go into LinkedIn I have peace of mind. I have my leads, meeting people, having a professional conversation. I still get people who come to spam me and that is the downside, but I love LinkedIn. And if you really want to have fun you should upgrade your account. It’s the best 20 pounds I spend every month. It’s only 4 pints (of beer) and I don’t care to have 4 pints sacrificed for a LinkedIn account.

M: Yeah, I totally agree as I also hate the ads on Facebook. By the way, how do you leverage LinkedIn content wise?

L: I’m trying to be quite open not just posting about my SEO things. And I’m targeting business owners who aren’t really keen on reading things like, "how to crawl a website.” Business owners would rather see solutions so instead, I would write, "Look how I optimized this website. Would you like to talk about this?” When I became a British citizen in 2017, which I’m very proud of, I posted a picture on my Facebook and on LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, I have 25,000 followers and the amount of response, engagement, and comments was overwhelming. It was kind of encouraging to see this platform is still alive.

M: Yeah, I created an SEO video series and I link to it on Twitter but it does much better on LinkedIn.

L: Right, and video is a great media right now on LinkedIn. Also, the fact they are monetizing on Pro accounts and can make cost per click relatively high to filter out everyone who has only a 10-pound budget then I’m very grateful. I feel at the end of the day they can be the Google of social media. People want to do things for a purpose. Everything now has a very short lifespan. Snapchat was very big and now no one is talking about it. Now we have TikTok and I bet in a year no one will be talking about it. I believe LinkedIn said that they are currently 600 million accounts on LinkedIn and estimated there are around 3 billion professionally active people in the world today. And that probably includes fishermen or even rickshaw drivers in the middle of nowhere. And LinkedIn wants EVERYONE to have a LinkedIn account. But why? And the answer is that they care. Your career is important and is what gives bread and butter to your family.


Optimize It or Disavow It



M: Organic SEO or PPC you can do one or the other but not both… which do you do?!

L: Of course, organic SEO. If I did PPC I would be bored and after three days I would die. I’ve had this discussion in the past with my friends and I would tell you why SEO is more exciting than PPC. And that’s because SEO was never fully transparent. There is no handbook. It’s kind of like an RPG or a marathon. When I was first working for myself I realized for the first time after 17 years how it is to do something because you like it and that it helps support your family. And don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved my full-time jobs. But right now it’s this moment of a "reconsideration request." I feel very lucky that I’m in the right place at the right time and I wish for everyone to be at the right place at the right time with the right skills.

M: Wow. We really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us. Thank you so much for coming on.


L: Thank you very much for having me and lots of love to everyone who’s listening to us.



SEO News [35:10 - 38:01]



Code Editing Support Added to AMP Tool: Google has made it possible to use the AMP & mobile-friendly test tools to see how changes to the code will impact the page. Meaning, you can make a change to the code within the tool and see what the effects will be.

Google Kills 'Info' Command: The "info” command that let you see the canonical URLs for a URL has been shuttered. Instead, you will have to use the URL inspection tool. This means, to see a URLs canonical URLs you will have to have verified access to it via Search Console.

Google Adds Rentals to Hotel Listings: Google has added a feature that lets you see vacation rentals when looking for a hotel. The feature can be seen on mobile and is soon heading to desktop as well. This feature is not entirely new as Google has tested showing vacation rentals in multiple markets to varying degrees. 

Changes to Google Ads Attribution Reports & Editor: Google will be getting some more consistent conversion data. As of May 1, Google Ads will offer cross-conversion for all attribution reports! Also, Google Ads editor has replaced AdWords editor!



Fun SEO Send-Off Question [38:02 -42:20]




What sport does Google prefer? 


Kim things Google likes soccer/football since its an international sport and Google is all about international search results. Mordy, on the other hand, says Google prefers curling since it's "full of grace and hidden glory" (and Google has all sorts of hidden gems) - his words, not ours! 


Thank you for joining us for this episode of The In Search SEO Podcast. Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode!





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