Rank Ranger Blog

In Search [Episode 73]: What You Didn't Know About Google's SERP Features




Don't forget, you can keep up with the In Search SEO Podcast by subscribing on iTunes or by following the podcast on SoundCloud!






The State of Google's SERP Features: Summary of Episode #73




Rank Ranger with Kevin Indig: SEO Podcast Interview


Kevin Indig is here to work your brains with a SERP feature deep dive!

We’ll get into:

  • SERP features and the notion that they are organic
  • The topic layer, what is & why you should care
  • Google's targeting users via SERP features
Plus, we ask if the ranking signal is a thing of the past (relatively speaking)! 


Featuring:

Mordy Oberstein (Host)
Sapir Karabello (Co-Host)
Kevin Indig of G2 (Special Guest)

Resources:

Google: That’s No Search Engine… That’s an Authority Engine
What is the Market Share of Featured Snippet URLs?
Improving Search for the Next 20 Years
Google Figures Out What Users Want & Like Based On Comparing Your Content To Others?
How Google Knows Good Content From Bad Content

News:

Core Web Vitals Replaces Speed Report
AMP Soon Not to be Obligatory for Top Stories
Google Index Issues After Core Update
Google Testing Voice Match Payment Confirmation
Google Local Ranking Bug

Follow the podcast on Twitter




The Day When Machine Learning Will Kill the Ranking Signal as We Know It [00:07:07 - 00:18:46]

 

What if we told you the idea of ranking signals as we’ve come to know them will be irrelevant. Okay, while this might be a little hyperbolic, Mordy doesn’t think Google uses ranking signals the way we think they do and they will become less relevant as time goes on.

For those who don’t know, ranking factors are these signals we believe Google uses (and that Google has said they use) to determine if a page should rank for a query. There are hundreds of them and they include things like links, HTTPS, meta tags, page speed, etc. It "works” like this. You enter a keyword, Google looks at a page and checks if it has the right links, it’s secure, it’s fast, the topic is long, the URL is right, it has an image, etc. If it checks off the boxes, Google will rank it perhaps at #5 because another page has more images or a video or better use of H2s, etc.

This brings us to the old days when ranking factor studies were hip, cool, and the new rage. So what brought about the death of ranking factor studies? RankBrain. RankBrain would say that while these factors might be important for this intent, they aren’t important for this other intent.

Take a query like ‘what is diabetes.’ Having an image of diabetes is not so important for the user intent but for the intent behind a query like ‘how to make a chocolate pie if you have diabetes,’ it would be like any other recipe page and the image would be really important. We’re not saying these ranking factors aren’t important, rather that Google looks at it all far more intrinsically.

After RankBrain, when there aren’t any universal factors but rather it’s query dependent, Google then got better at machine learning and understanding the content on the page. The issue here with the recipe page is if having an image is enough for Google to know that it’s good content or is it just a general correlation? If Google is good at understanding things intrinsically with machine learning, once Google understands the content, do you think Google needs ranking signals the same way it used to? Probably not.

This is what Google’s machine learning has been doing. Even John Mueller said that Google looks at content for a particular topic or vertical from reputable sources and it learns that this is how content should be. Then Google compares the reputable content to other content from non-super authorities and profiles them accordingly. Is that a ranking factor signal? No. So it doesn’t impact rank, right? Wrong, John Mueller said it does because of course it does.

Google is analyzing or "profiling” content in all sorts of ways to build that understanding. It’s looking at word choice and content structure to get an understanding of what you wrote and this precedes "signals.”

This doesn’t just mean understanding content per se, but to understand your intentions and motivations which then means an understanding of your authority, safety, and all that E-A-T stuff. As Google gets better and uses more machine learning it will rely less and less on "signals” as time goes on.




What SERP Features Really Mean For SEO Now and Going Forward: A Conversation with Kevin Indig [00:18:46 - 01:04:39]



Mordy: Welcome to another In Search SEO podcast interview session. Joining us today is the Arnold Schwarzenegger of SEO. He's the weightlifting, data storytelling, mind-stretching VP of SEO and Content at G2. He's Kevin Indig.

Welcome!

Kevin: That's probably the best intro ever.

M: Thank you. I get that a lot. How's the Corona lockdown going for you?

K: It's good, actually. I'm here in Germany right now with my family and we're okay. Nobody's sick so we're getting along with the crisis and doing our best.

M: How much do you bench?

K: My max is about 290 but it's honestly not that impressive.

M: That's impressive.

K: No, I have tons of gym bros out there who bench three plates easily and all that kind of stuff. For my journey, given my background, I'm honestly happy and grateful, but it's nothing out of the ordinary.

M: So today we're talking about SERP features because you love SERP features. To set this up for those listening at home, how do you define a SERP feature?

K: That's a great question. Before I answer the question, I want to say a big thank you to you, Mordy, because you gave me tons of amazing data from Rank Ranger to help me better understand where Google is going and what's happening.

A SERP feature is a result of the classic 10 blue links that Google provides in the search results. I think at this point, I would actually exclude Featured Snippets because Google has integrated the Featured Snippet algorithm with the organic search core algorithm. I would say anything that's not paid and that is outside of these 10 blue links as a direct answer from Google as a search feature.

M: That's a great answer, but I was really setting you up for this. A couple of weeks ago, Danny Sullivan and Dr. Pete were fighting (sorry, a disagreement) on Twitter. Dr. Pete did a whole study about how the SERP features are pushing organic results further down the page than they used to be four or five years ago. So to Danny, he considers some of those features as organic. What do you say about that?

K: It depends. My come-to-light moment at the beginning of this year was that this concept of ten blue links has pretty much died. Most SERPs developed this diversified number of results. We can dig deeper into the impact on traffic for all the ranking sites but I think we have to expand our definition of what an organic result is. That's where I do side with Danny Sullivan. However, that also means that we have to say goodbye to this classic app schema that we use to say this is where attention goes, that's definitely dead.

And just the notion of what SEO means in general. For example, if you want to rank on some of these SERP features, you need either news results, video results, and possibly in the future audio results. So we're saying goodbye to these classic formats and I think we're saying hello to a world where SEOs have to think about how to translate the written content into video, or how to create news in a situation where I'm actually not a news site or my blog doesn't have enough output.

This does raise all these questions and I do agree with Danny's answer, but I also agree with Dr. Pete's point. I don't think it's completely mutually exclusive but what we definitely see is that when a lot of searches are present, a single site even if it’s ranking on top doesn't get as much traffic.

M: Yeah. So I fall into a similar similar camp with that. Let's say it's a video carousel and your YouTube videos are linked in there, or it's a news box, but at the same time your average site can't get in. So yeah, it is organic, but it's exclusive organic. And then you have the video carousel which shows up everywhere which I call the universal search feature. So sure, you go to my YouTube channel, but I'm not in control of that platform. It's like my Twitter box. Fine, you went to my Twitter profile, but I much rather you go to my website.

K: Do you want to hear my crazy theory about that?

M: Sure. I love crazy theories.

K: It's actually not that crazy, but I think that Google really bangs on YouTube as a cash cow now. I looked at revenue numbers because last quarter, Google, for the first time ever, disclosed YouTube's revenue. What you actually see is that the revenue from Google Ads is going down in relative terms, not in absolute numbers as it’s still growing every year but the growth rate is going down a lot and YouTube's share of total revenue is actually going up. I think that Google is actually positioned where they need to find the next growth lever to keep performing the way they have. Google is actually the most successful startup in history. They've been raking in 20% revenue growth year over year for the last 20-25 years. Now, they had a really good opportunity when they leveraged the increase of smartphone usage because it gave them a second real estate for their ads.

M: What they did was way ahead of the curve.

K: Yes, that was super smart and a blunt business move. That's my reason for why they pushed mobile so much, not because everybody was using a mobile phone, but because it was another revenue stream for them. So how do they repeat that? I think they're trying to make YouTube better. The problem is that you can only show so many ads before the user experience gets really bad. I mean, you already see that.

M: Yeah, the double ad kills me.

K: Right, it’s not a good experience at all. So that opens the space for competitors to come in with a better experience. But at the same time, the revenue from YouTube Premium and YouTube Music is actually growing and of course the ads from YouTube. To wrap up my theory, the reason they show so many video carousels is because YouTube is important revenue.

M: That makes a lot of sense. By the way, I'm sure you've noticed that YouTube now has similar SERP features. These Knowledge Graph elements are now showing up on YouTube.

K: Yeah, and they have these stories now.

M: I've only clicked on one by accident.

K: It makes sense. It's like a video platform.

M: Yeah, but have you seen those image posts?

K: To me it’s a hybrid of a social network and a search engine. I'm curious to see where they take it. As you said, they have SERP-like features, they have query refinement where they basically show you the topics that you looked for last. You see a lot of development on the YouTube side. Also, hashtags were major for YouTube. It's another proof for why it's also a social network. I think that for a long time they just let it grow and now they pay a lot of attention to it and develop it forward.

M: I wonder if after this whole COVID-19 thing if Google sees this as a goldmine because you have to imagine that YouTube ads have gone up tremendously because everyone's on YouTube. They might be thinking about how to leverage this crap and then going forward, users will see tons of video stuff on the SERP that will segue them to YouTube.

K: Yes, I expect the same thing. I also expect, by the way, to come back to SERP features, I do expect most Featured Snippets and direct answers to be replaced with videos.

M: Why do you think that?

K: It’s a much better answer than a written text. If you Google something like ‘how to bake a cake’ or ‘how to change a tire,’ you can watch maybe 10 seconds and you got the answer. With text, you need to read and you may not understand everything but if you see something that's much easier to comprehend. It's another entry point to draw people into YouTube, but also to get people used to video and more rich media instead of texts. I think text still works. It's still valid, don't get me wrong, but it's on a declining path.

M: Do you think audio is up and coming? I know you have the podcast carousels. The problem I have with audio is that it is really intriguing, it’s something you can multitask with, but at the same time it's not as easy to find what you're looking for within the audio file itself.

K: I agree. I think Google is going to do the same thing as they do with YouTube where they search through your transcript as they can automatically transcript your stuff pretty well so that helps them create another search corpus or index. Then they can show you the specific section of the video that answers your question and show you smaller thumbnails for different sections depending on how ambiguous your query is.

I think they're going to do the same with audio since they also recently revamped their Google podcast. The big race in podcasting is who is going to create a viable ad model first. It's basically a race between Apple, Google, and Spotify. The big problem is how do you insert ads and build a bidding marketplace? That's going to be really interesting to watch. As soon as that's figured out, I think they're going to push even further. But again, audio and video results are usually superior.

M: Yeah, for sure. You really feel like you're learning something from the actual person who's giving it over as opposed to figuring the text out yourself.

We're talking about SERP feature domination, and I know it's sort of a hot topic that SERP features are dominating everything but at the same time, there are two problems with this. One is the rhetoric. What do you mean by that? Isn't it vertical-specific? How does it play itself out? And don't you have the opposite problem in many industries that we don't focus on? For example, let's take health. There are very few health SERP features. You have the health panel, and that's pretty much it. Maybe you'll get a video, maybe you'll get a news box, but for those top-level high search volume health queries it's impossible to rank. Forget getting into SERP features because you have Harvard, Hopkins, Healthline, VeryWellHealth, WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, and I can go on and on. It’s not the SERP features killing you, it’s the authority sites that Google loves so much that’s killing you. So when we speak about superior domination, it’s a lot more nuanced than that, isn't it?

K: Yes, I totally agree and I also agree with your sentiment on authority. There are certain verticals where it just doesn't make sense to build an affiliate project or a blog unless you're a researcher, a lawyer, or an actual expert in the industry. Again, it makes sense from Google's perspective. To me, it comes back to a couple of things. One of them is this unwritten contract Google had for a long time between webmasters and between users. It used to be this symbiosis between three parties. Users get great search results, Google gets a lot of users to show ads to, and webmasters get a lot of traffic. Now Google rewrote that contract and singled out webmasters. They don't care anymore if you want to make money or want to get traffic. That doesn’t matter to them. The only thing that really matters is to show highly authoritative results. I agree that it's really hard to rank if you're not an expert in the field. What you could do is hire experts to write for you.

M: That's a long term plan that's going to take years for you to pull that off.

K: Oh, yeah, it can take you a really long time unless you have a niche where expert freelancers are ready to give their content away or you find a very creative way to display their content and leverage their authority. I think this idea of authority hacking is something that we're going to see more.

M: That's the next thing. I'll sell you 10 experts for $5. I’m going to start getting LinkedIn messages about that now.

K: I think the whole idea of authorities is also being applied to SERP features where they really want to show the best result and the best result is the one with the highest E-A-T, technically. It depends on the niche. We also see other verticals or categories where that's not the case where you still have very non-authoritative sites ranked because there is no real authority. E-commerce, for example. We have to distinguish between those Your Money or Your Life verticals.

M: By the way, it's really interesting that you mentioned authority in terms of SERP features because I have this wacky theory. We always think Google's trying to keep you in their own ecosystem, Google's trying to direct where you're going, search as a journey, that kind of thing. But I have this theory that that's part of it but what they really want to do is they want to be an authority engine. What's to keep me from going to Bing versus Google? Well, Google is authoritative. The SERP features are a way to become authoritative. Even schemas are a way to become authoritative. You scroll down the results and you get authoritative answers right there. It's all about authority for me.

K: Yes, I agree with you, that helps Google to just provide a better product. What's also interesting to note is that people by nature don't necessarily choose the most authoritative results. They would have expected the most authoritative result wins in the search results but then Google made this big push and changed their quality rater guidelines to a version that included E-A-T. So there was a distinct point where they started to pay attention to authority, expertise, and trustworthiness so you expect that to occur naturally, but it did not. So Google kind of gave extra weight to those authoritative results so that they rank on top. It's really interesting when you think about it.

M: By the way, I think it is funny when people talk about if Google has a brand bias. No, I don't think Google has a brand bias. I think Google has an authority bias and those brands are the super authorities and that's why they're ranking. You're looking at from the wrong angle.

K: I agree. I even think you could probably fake a highly authoritative result with a lot of work. I think you could try to reverse engineer all the factors and signals that they look at and just pretend to be some sort of a hospital that doesn't exist.

M: I know you've done a ton of work on SERP feature trends and I'm wondering what you've seen out there.

K: Yes, and again, I got so many great insights because of you. What I saw is a couple of things. So first of all, Featured Snippets are growing across the board, specifically in three countries, the US, Germany, and the UK, and they're growing well in the US and very strongly in Germany. I think I saw 2x growth in 2019 on mobile devices. And then in the UK, it's a bit ambiguous. I think they increased slightly on mobile but decreased on desktop. And that brings me to the first surprise that I saw in the data that mobile and desktop are very different. You would expect them to run in parallel because wouldn't the same queries deserve a Featured Snippet on mobile and desktop?

M: 100%. And they don't even show the same URLs 10% of the time.

K: So we’re seeing different URLs, different keywords, and different amounts of search results that show Featured Snippets. I was specifically interested in the relative share of search results that show a Featured Snippet and it's not only different from mobile to desktop, it's also different from country to country. That's also something I find very interesting that even English speaking countries show a different amount of SERP features. The same query in the US and UK could trigger four different versions. I think Google tests a lot where there are Featured Snippets for specific queries then they roll them back. So that's why you don't just see this gradual decline. It's pretty much stepwise where it doesn't always go up it sometimes goes down.

M: This can be for every feature. Image boxes, for example, are always being tested. We sometimes have to check if they’re testing again or if we’re not tracking it right. For example, for the Explore Panels or the right-hand side Featured Snippets, we first noticed they were gone but later noticed that they were moved. We had to recalibrate the HTML there because Google readjusted it.

We're currently debating what to do with these things. Beforehand, we called them Explore Panels. They were on the right-hand side of the page and were Knowledge Panels combined with a Featured Snippet look and feel. Now they're in the middle of the page. Are they Featured Snippets or are they a variation of a Featured Snippet? There are a couple of things that we're debating. One is, visually, they're just different. They have the character of the image carousel and the People Also Search For carousel underneath it and they don't necessarily rank number one.

K: I'd like to address that question because it comes back to how we define a Featured Snippet. That has changed on January 24, when Google confirmed that they stopped deduplicating URLs. So that's why this whole notion of the Featured Snippet algorithm is not part of the core organic algorithm. I think that's not the case for the Explore Panel because it doesn't replace a result per se. It might push certain results down, especially organic results. But that's why I would still consider it outside of that and it seems to focus much more on entities. I would separate this whole Knowledge Graph topic layer from the organic results, at least for now. It could change so we have to be careful about that. But that's why I would still not call it a Featured Snippet.

M: I agree with you, especially because of the entity thing. Currently, we had them separate and I think we're going to leave them that way for now and by the time this airs, we'll already have an answer for you. But yeah, they are sort of slivers of entities. You have ‘Facebook ads’ that will get an explore panel. It's a subcategory or sliver of the entity that is Facebook. So it is very entity-centric. So yeah, sorry, I didn’t want to put you on the spot like that.

K: I don't mind this at all. I love these questions that make me think a bit.

Coming back to two more findings. Another thing that I found is that Local Packs are actually decreasing, at least in the US. That's something that absolutely stunned me. It did not correlate with my impression of Local Packs and it also does not correlate with most people out there. So I started this Twitter poll which, of course, was a small sample, but I asked my followers if you think the number of Local Packs has increased in the last 12 months. That was towards the end of 2019 and two-thirds of the voters said yes. They saw more Local Packs in the SERPs and then the data showed that's actually not the case in the US. I found this to be very interesting because there's this weird situation where I searched for ‘SEO’ in the Bay Area and I saw a Local Pack. This intuitively at least is wrong. Because if I were to search for SEO services or SEO agency, then it makes a lot of sense. But just SEO in itself, why would that trigger a Local Pack? Then, a couple of months ago, we had Gary Ilyes, from Google, over at the San Francisco Bay Area meetup. I took a lot of notes. One thing that he said very specifically was that they decide which universal search features to show in the search results based on the tab clicks. So if you search for something and you click on maps, or video, or images, that is a signal for Google to say, we need to show an image pack here or a video pack. But I highly doubt that people search for SEO and then click on maps so that was one where I was very skeptical.

M: That is a bit weird. It was surprising to me also, because I always thought they’re casting a wide net. They'll show a Local Pack or something that won't be at the top of the page but rather on the bottom of the page because maybe there's a local intent. It is very interesting.

K: Yes, and then the last time that I ever saw a bigger Local Pack study or analysis was in 2015 when the triple packs replaced the seven packs. So maybe there's a study that’s missing or our perception is just not aligned with the data.

M: It's hard because the data set that I gave you is very normalized. So it could be that Google scaled back in this area of the world or in this area of keywords. So when we're searching for things that we expect to see in a Local Pack they're always there even more than we think they should be there. That doesn't mean that these periphery areas Google didn't pull it back.

K: Very true. You always have to question the data.

M: I don't trust data, even our own. The worst thing in life for me aside from this coronavirus is when I do a study and I ask myself if I did it right, was I biased, what am I missing here? I'm going to put this out there. Someone's going to call me out. It's very anxiety-ridden because you never know if you’re missing something or not.

K: Yes, I feel the same way. I recently gave a keynote here in Germany at an important conference that I was very proud to speak at and I had the same feelings because Germans are very deliberate, very thorough, very skeptical, and critical. Am I going to stand in front of 500 people and present all this data? In the end, it was very well received but the anxiety that you mentioned drove me to spend hundreds of hours on the data.

M: So you spent hundreds of hours that you don't need to do it all but it makes you feel so much better afterward.

K: But it is important. On a serious note, we need to hold ourselves to the highest standards when we evaluate those things because data is so hard to find. It is relatively rare and everything is so complex. So if people can poke holes into this, we get on the wrong trajectory and we just live too much off of assumptions.

Lastly, Image Boxes and Image Thumbnails are also very interesting. Part of this whole journey that I put myself on where I created this huge presentation and research on lots of data was because in September 2018, Ben Gomes, the SVP of Search, News and Google Assistant, wrote a long blog post on Google's blog for the 20th millennia of Google search. He wrote about the next 20 years in search and he made three predictions that actually shaped everything that we see in search today that a lot of people missed. One of those three predictions was that they go from text to visual results. And they kept their promise. So in March 2019, the Image Boxes globally exploded. Overnight, they increased by 2x and they've been stable since then.

This was less a test where Google will slowly roll it out if it’s good and more a situation where Google wanted more images, or better said, Image Boxes , in the search results. So we're going to turn them up and we're going to leave them there.

What I also did was I also got a lot of traffic data and then I correlated Image Boxes with traffic data and I saw that whenever an image box is present your traffic is going down. And it's a very steep correlation of minus point seven, which is really high, both on mobile and desktop. The way that I interpret this is that Image Boxes give less traffic to all the ranking sites because so many people click on the actual Image Boxes . And then you often or sometimes you get into Google Images, where you see another query refinement at the top and then continue your search that way.

M: That’s really fascinating to me. I always thought the Image Boxes were just thrown in there because I never use them. Because even when it's there, I’ll just click on the image tab.

K: Same here. First of all, I think the same thing happens with People Also Ask boxes, but I don't have the data to support that. And the second thing is I had this funny epiphany where I watched my mother browse search results a couple of days ago. Honestly, if you want to ground yourself and sniff some coffee beans to be able to be receptive to perfume again, just watch your parents browse the search results and it will tell you everything that you thought was wrong.

M: I have this idea. What I want to do is I want to ask my siblings. I want to do keyword research on something and I'm going to find the most prolific set of keywords for every possible facet of a topic that I can possibly come up with. And then I want to ask my siblings to pick a real issue that they're facing. My stepbrother’s mother passed away from MS years ago. I would love to do keyword research on MS and then see what questions he would actually ask and see if they line up or not.

K: Yeah, I agree. I think there's a business play where you would provide user testing from real people where you ask them to perform queries and get the best result. It's like SEO user testing in a way and I think that's something that we should do much more. I see people browse completely differently from me so that's how it makes sense.

M: By the way, on images, if you go back to 2017 or 2016, you can clearly see these enormous increases of images on almost every vertical. I feel like they wanted to make the SERP visually entertaining.

K: Absolutely. Again, people work better from a visual standpoint of view and it shapes your user journey. I don't have the scientific experiment to back this up but my personal opinion is that people change their user behavior based on results that they see. For example, when people realize they can type in a whole question in Google search and they get a very good answer, they will do this more often. The same thing happens with visual elements. As soon as something is available and they can search this way, then they will make use of that much more. From Google's perspective, it becomes the question of how do we tease that to people to see how they react to it? And then the second point is that Google seems to have made huge increments in their understanding of visual search by adding the topic layer.

M: Yeah, I love the topic layer. I'm so glad you brought that up.

K: We'll talk about that in a second. That’s another part of Ben Gomes' article in 2018. The topic layer is like an extension to the Knowledge Graph. It sits on top of the Knowledge Graph. Where the Knowledge Graph looks at entities as names, places, books, events, and all that stuff, the topic layer looks at topics, as it says. So trends, evergreen ideas, and opinions, which is in itself fascinating that Google can map that on a graph and understand the relationships. In combination, the two are very powerful and one of the results that we already see is Google Discover. Google Discover sits on the topic layer and provides stunning results without looking at backlinks, just by understanding the content and how you react to it. In this blog article, Ben Gomes also wrote about how they use hundreds of millions of fine relationships between videos and images. So that gives us an understanding of how far they already were in 2018. And with their own machine learning, the super technology that they have, they're much further now. So I expect Google to have at least a good understanding of images and videos as well.

M: We’re running out of time, but I do want to jump on to the topic layer for a second as it's one of my favorite topics, no pun intended. When it came out in October 2018, it was super cool and super interesting but now no one talks about it at all anymore. Just talk about the topic layer, go for whatever you want to say.

K: Again, I think it's the next step that we really have to understand. It also fits into the second and third points that Ben Gomes mentioned in this article. The first one was that they're moving from text to visuals. The second one was that they moved from answers to journeys, and the third one is that they moved from a query-based search to a query-less search which is Google Discover. The answers to journeys are also related to the topic layer that happens in the search results because now Google wants to customize the journey that people have in search by using the Knowledge Graph integration that is also built on the topic layer. So you see that in a way that when you, for example, look for NBA, NHL, or NFL in the US, you will see a whole sports magazine in the search results built on the topic layer. It’s so awesome that nobody needs websites anymore.

M: Yeah, it is awesome. Yes, if I want to look at a deep analysis on whatever team I go to ESPN but if I just want to find a score on the schedule I never go to ESPN. The fact that it breaks it down to so many subtopics or sub-layers that you can understand an entity from so many points by not just going wide, but by going vertical and going deep at the same time. That's amazing to me.

K: Absolutely. The topic layer to me is something that SEOs need to pay much more attention to because it impacts us in the SERPs and outside of the SERPs. And again, it also opened this whole notion of Google Discover which is Google's push channel. Google Discover is not based on search, it’s based on suggestions. They don't wait until a user has a certain need or intent. They want to stimulate more search and more ideas. What do you think about the topic layer outside of what you said already?

M: You're looking at Google's future. You're looking at Google's ability to better transverse the entity. Two years ago, if you looked up, for example, John Travolta, you'd get a very interesting and deep view but it’s a one-dimensional view. With the topic layer, you're almost understanding the entity qualitatively. It’s not just what is this entity, but what does it mean to be this entity which is a totally different type of understanding.

K: And how does it change over time? Let me bring this all the way home. Coronavirus is actually the family of viruses and not necessarily what we deal with right now. The disease is COVID-19. But Google was very well able to understand how people use Coronavirus in a different sense or in a different context. For a long time, the WHO page for Coronavirus was ranking for the keyword Coronavirus and then in early January, Google added more pages about COVID-19 to that rank index. So they immediately understood that Coronavirus has a different context right now, a different relationship, and they understand that with the topic layer.


Optimize It or Disavow It

M: You can have one or the other… a URL in a SERP feature (news box, video carousel, social profile, etc.) or an organic result that appears underneath that SERP feature that’s above the fold. Which would you choose?

K: I’d always take the SERP feature, without a doubt. I’m more into not bringing people to my page but still being in the top result. At G2, we have cases where our clients won’t rank for a keyword, but they can rank on our site, but the good thing is that they get much higher quality traffic. The same for a YouTube profile or social profile, you know that people come there specifically for that so I’ll rather satisfy that intent than the other one.

M: Thanks, Kevin. I really appreciate you taking the time to come on. Stay healthy and safe.

K: Thanks, same to you. It was an absolute treat and pleasure.




SEO News [01:05:31 - 01:10:39]

 

Core Web Vitals tReplaces Speed Report: Get ready! At some point in 2021, Google will update its algorithm to consider the user’s page experience. What does that mean? It means the new Core Web Vitals in Search Console will count towards your rankings!

AMP Soon Not to be Obligatory for Top Stories: As part of the change to the algorithm in 2021, AMP will no longer be required for the Top Stories news carousel on mobile!

Google Index Issues After Core Update: There may be an issue related to the way in which Google indexes content. Many are complaining that indexing has slowed and there is speculation that it’s tied to May’s Core update. Google says, "Nothing is wrong.”

Google Testing Voice Match Payment Confirmation: The future is now. Google is officially testing using voice confirmation for certain purchases made within Google Assistant!

Google Local Ranking Bug: There has been a lot of chatter of a local update to the algorithm since the start of May. Over the past few weeks, local SEOs have been complaining that a change to the algorithm has made local results worse. It turns out that it was not a change to the algorithm, but a bug.


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


About The Author
In Search is a weekly SEO podcast featuring some of the biggest names in the search marketing industry.

Tune in to hear pure SEO insights with a ton of personality!

New episodes are released each Tuesday!


Start your free trial


Get the ultimate SEO tools with Rank Ranger
Start Free Trial
No Credit Card Required