Don’t Go Chasing Algorithms

“HELP! I’ve lost my rankings in Google! It must have been the new algorithm!”

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this from a panicked email or call….well, you know the story.

The reality is that 99.9% of the time, anytime someone believed that their website was a victim of the latest algorithm change – it wasn’t the algorithm.  It was a technical problem with their website.

In this episode, Matt and Ashley discuss Google’s latest major algorithm update, Algorithm Bert (Yes, Google updates have names – just like hurricanes!).  Here’s the interesting part: There is nothing that anyone performing search engine optimization can do to optimize for this algorithm.  However, if you have been regularly publishing information to educate your audience and provide helpful content that contributes to their experience, you’ll probably benefit.

Are you ready to get nerdy and talk about algorithms?  Grab your glasses, a cup of coffee and listen in as Matt and Ashley discuss how to approach the ever-changing search engine algorithms.

Transcript:

Matt: Google’s algorithm is all about replicating how humans think. Yeah. It’s all about that.

Ashley: Well, and that’s, what’s driving me crazy these days with the algorithm of say, I know, I know that’s actually what started us doing this podcast because I was complaining. So I don’t want to jump a, your algorithm updates, but that’s like, that’s the biggest thing is that everything that’s happening right now with AI being integrated into the algorithms. So you know, Rank Brain AI and then Burt understanding queries and it’s all about like, just understanding the meaning behind a search. Yeah.

Introduction: Welcome to endless coffee cup, a regular discussion of marketing news, culture and media for our complex digital lifestyle. Join Matt Bailey as he engages in conversation to find insights beyond the latest headlines and deeper understanding for those involved in marketing. Grab a cup of coffee, have a seat, and thanks for joining.

Matt: Hey, and it’s another episode of the endless coffee cup podcast everything’s working. Microphones are on. Thanks for joining us, Ashley. You’re here again. Thanks for joining us.

Ashley: Thank You for having me. I’m super excited about this topic.

Matt: Good. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Whenever a new algorithm comes out. It’s interesting to see how certain elements of, I would say the, the SEO world sort of explode in conversation articles, whatever, whenever there is a new Google algorithm.

Ashley: Yeah. They make it to be much bigger than what it is. If you understand the trends and what’s going on overall, you can predict what’s going to happen and why it’s happening and how to help yourself with that. Yeah. I think there’s only been one time in my past that I’ve seen an algorithm update, you know, really impact a lot of clients and that was the update with penguin.

Matt: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But that was one of the first, I mean we can go back. See, I remember there was an update called Florida, and this, I want to say, Oh my goodness, this was probably 2005, 2006, maybe. But I remember being at a conference shortly after that update and someone grabbing me saying, it’s not fair that I ranked number one for three years now I’m nowhere. It’s not fair. And it was hard to have sympathy because like, you don’t own those rankings.

Ashley: No, you join. If you think why the algorithm updates are happening. It’s so there’s quality contents, there’s quality websites that are going to be found by users. And that’s why Google Google’s all about, they really don’t want I mean, I guess you could say, do they want to, do they not want the SEOs to do well on it? I guess that’s another debate, another topic for another time, but I don’t think they really want people to manipulate their site to show up in search results. They want it to naturally show up. And that’s really what it’s all about there. If you’re doing a content distribution and content development on your site the right way, then you will show up and meet the requirements of the updates with those algorithms.

Matt: Yeah. Well tell you what, let’s hold people’s hands.

Ashley: Yes.

Matt: And let’s walk through what, you know, if they have heard about an algorithm change, if they keep up at all in SEO, how do you deal with it? What is there to do? And honestly, I, you know, I didn’t even know about this last one. And typically I usually don’t know there’s an algorithm update because I don’t keep up on it. And, and I guess through the podcast, I’ll explain why I don’t really pay much attention to the algorithm updates as opposed to the rest of the industry, which goes nuts every time.

Ashley: Oh they do. They do. It’s funny to me.

Matt: But you know, we’ll explain, you know, why you shouldn’t panic, I guess if you’ve ever, you ever read Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy or Know about it,

Ashley: Oh yeah it’s been a really long time,

Matt: But on the front of the book, it says don’t panic. And that’s, I would say for the guide to Google algorithm changes, don’t panic. If you’re doing everything, you know, you should be doing. Don’t panic.

Ashley: Exactly, exactly. I mean, with all the updates that have been out there, there really has been only one time that I’ve seen a lot of sites get hit and that was with penguin. And I want to say that that was back in, oh gosh, was that 2012 or maybe 13? I can’t even remember, but it was,

Matt: I’m looking at my notes. Everyday.

[05:00]

Ashley: I can’t even remember. But it was, I mean, it was a while ago, but there were a lot of sites that were updated. You know, that were hit hard because they had before it was all about getting a lot of backlinks and they had all these backlinks, but they were poor quality backlinks. So that’s when it got into really looking at, are you getting your links from directories, so black hat SEO, or are you getting them from like editorial? Are they from press releases? Are you relying on the wire and what are you doing to really get those links? And that’s that is a discussion. I love talking about is off page and everybody has a different approach. I actually try to take a very careful approach to off page. There’s a lot of debate too, in the SEO community about what is a good link back to your site now. But I mean, I have to say that spend the only time that I’ve seen a lot of debate and a lot of crazies out of the woodwork when it comes to algorithm updates.

Matt: Well like, so I would say the basic divisions within search engine optimization are your content people and your link people that you, you know, you’re going to weigh in, you’re going to be on one of those sides where it’s my content. That’s going to make me rankings or you’re going to be linking first that it’s my links that are going to get me rankings. Now, granted. It takes a combination, but what I find is on the industry, you’re typically on one side or the other,

Ashley: Yeah. Because you either think one way or the other. And I will say, I’m I come from the background where I’m more content, right?

Matt: I love the content as well.

Ashley: Yeah. But I’m doing a lot of competitive analyses. I have seen that if you do have good off page optimization, you will outrank your competitors.

Matt: Well, and that’s an interesting thing. So when we start talking about off page and links, there’s been, you know, so now let’s, let’s focus on that.

Ashley: I know this is a, this is a monster topic

Matt: Because, so I remember, I did an analysis of about a hundred websites, everything from e-commerce to blogs and everything like that. And, and this was probably around ‘06, ‘07 looking at. Okay, where do visitors come from and what links produce the most visitors, but then also what links produced the most conversions or what we would call engaged visitors now. And it was very interesting to find that, you know, the, the social media back then around the 2005, 2006 you know, Twitter, I’m trying to think what else was going on there, but people would put out articles, they would do all these things. It would get a lot of social attention. And on average, yeah, probably 70%, 80% of your attention from the article where people following links to get to your site. However, it only resulted in a single page view. And the average time on the page was less than 20 seconds. So even though I’m getting thousands of people from that link from a social site, they weren’t doing anything

Ashley: Well. And that goes into the buyer’s journey and like really thinking about you know, how your website is organized. And that’s say, you can have somebody’s marketing today is so different than what it used to be like. You can’t just have some guy that’s coming in and that’s doing a, you know, a bunch of link building. If he doesn’t understand how your website is organized and how every page fits a certain stage in the buyer’s journey. And really like what you’re saying what kind of a quality link is going to drive a conversion and where am I going to drive them to the site to get that conversion? It doesn’t make sense.

Matt: So, and, and I guess it’s led me to one conclusion that like what’s a valuable link in what’s the purpose of link. So number one would be traffic. Yeah. I want to get visitors off that. However, what these links from social media showed me, okay, I’ll get a lot of visitors, but I’m not getting business.

Ashley: Right.

Matt: And maybe in a way I’m getting branding out of it, but not in a single page view for less than 20 seconds on average, you know, so I can’t even put that under branding. So I would say a good link gives you braiding exposure based on where it is. So even if people don’t follow the link, they see you there in that link,

Ashley: It’s that subliminal messaging.

Matt: So you’re getting some branding benefits. So, so visitors, branding, and business. What we found when we did this analysis is if I have a link on a blog and, or the most valuable was on a news website. So if there’s a news article about you, let’s say this manufacturing process, and there’s a link in the article that goes to my client when we measured that anyone who followed that link, it was like a 30 to 40% chance that they would convert on the website.

[10:00]

Ashley: Yeah. And I just think, I mean, you’re looking at how Google views, different sites and the quality of that link and how they’re going to rank that. You get into, I hate saying this turn on, do about link juice. And like the value of that LinkedIn is coming from an editorial pub is going to be a lot higher than something else. But, you know, I think that you bring up a really good discussion because back in the day, a lot of people used to do link-building with press releases and that so getting an editorial link from a press release, isn’t as good as getting an editorial link from a byline article, which is what you’re talking about.

Matt: Yeah. There we go. Big difference. Right? Yeah. We can knock out a thousand of those a day. However, it, you know, it took getting into the PR system, you know, and there were, there was a, a PR service that we used where writers, journalists would be looking for someone to interview or someone to quote

Ashley: Like the wire like that, like Cession or something.

Matt: And so keeping up on all that gave us all kinds of exposure to get our clients into a lot of these articles. And that’s where,

Ashley: Yeah. The way it out, like what’s going to be good. And what’s not.

Matt: Fourth element, not just visitors, branding, and business, but rankings and getting those links. And what I kind of learned is getting one link in a good publication, you know, that, that,

Ashley: You’re done for the year. Yeah. You’re done.

Matt: Those links was worth hundreds of low quality directory, social, whatever, anything, because, and there’s a, there’s a, a relationship how much work did it take you to get that link, to get a byline, to get quoted and linked that a significant amount of work. And it takes, you know, a legitimate company, legitimate PR effort. It takes having the content to do that.

Ashley: And PR right. And PR is not,

Matt: And its move is high.

Ashley: You know it is high. And that’s the thing like PR is not just, you know, going out and writing. Like this is something that I I’m very passionate about. Cause I, I, well, I go into the content side. That’s like, my background is definitely in PR. And it was probably about a couple of years ago. I did a competitive analysis on a company that they had. I mean, Matt, I’m not even joking, no SEO on a site. There was like nothing going on. Maybe like the, say I had a poor quality content maybe a hundred words on one page and Google does have it to where anything less than 300 words on a page is considered a low quality page. So it, you know, words. Yeah. They can. I mean, I know that there’s a debate there too.

Ashley: How many words should you have on a page? Yeah. So there’s that, but you know, I will say this particular site had nothing on didn’t even have a blog and, but the P R was phenomenal. This guy he would actually, they had all these different I don’t want to like give out who it was, but they had all these different programs and these different cities. And they would actually they had it software that they would reach out to the different cities and that they would send out press releases to. So they didn’t just from a national standpoint go after like the New York Times Washington post, which they definitely did, but they also went down as small as the cities and these editorial links. And I was doing like an off page audit were fantastic. I mean, they had a couple like spammy links in there and that will that will hurt you. But for the most part, because of those editorial links, they were outranking a lot of competitors and they were just showing up for everything.

Matt: Yeah. Yeah. The funny thing is what we’re describing in terms of links content.

Ashley: Oh, its true. You are Right, right. At the end of the day it’s context. Right.

Matt: Contextual links our content. And that’s where, so all this research looking over a hundred sites, contextual links, links in context. And the thing is, is there’s a human element that if I’m reading about this manufacturing process, and I see this link to a vendor. I’m automatically more engaged because I am engaged with the content. I was looking for that content. I’m like, you know, obviously I’m here for a reason. So to see a link that’s contextually relevant to what I’m reading. And we saw this people that clicked that link stayed longer, did more converted at a higher rate. And you could create this hierarchy of what are people’s behaviors based on where they are when they click the link. And there’s a distinct difference between blogs and news articles to websites to even YouTube, YouTube was in there that had it was right up, their search results were in the middle. It very interesting.

[15:00]

Ashley: I would love to know your opinion. So this Oh, so I remember talking about this is probably a couple of years ago, but social media, where that plays with off page. And this is, there’s a lot of debate in the SEO community about how Google really doesn’t view links from social media as being high quality, because they know they’re from social channels, but there is an algorithm that is based off of trust. And I do believe that that’s releasing trust signals, and it makes you look like a quality brand. And if you have a lot of engagement on your social channel, so if you look at every social channel as almost being like a website on a platform and you have a ton of engagement is going to raise the value and the trust of that link versus just having a social channel to have it, I just wondering, like,

Matt: It could, I know it’s one of those things where it’s like, I’m not going to dismiss it, but I’m not going to be on board with it either. I am firmly on the fence.

Ashley: I just, I don’t know. I just, I find it it’s a fascinating topic for me, especially with like tweets, tweets are indexed. So a lot of companies will just have a Twitter account for off page optimization and I’m not against it. I think it’s not a bad idea.

Matt: The other side though. And here’s, here’s why like pecking away at some of this stuff. Anything social is something that I control. I can control the amount of content I can, you know, and then we get into the, you know, three blog posts a week or six tweets a day or something and does volume makeup content. And it’s easy to fill your social profiles with volume. And to me, there’s this quality there’s this line. Yeah. You can fill it all up. You can, you can reinforce everything, but is it good? And so the algorithm, if it’s going to take that into account, similar to what it does on websites, it’s I cut for some quality.

Ashley: Yeah. I agree with you on that. Is interesting. Cause it probably about like a little over a year ago, there was somebody that was debating with me about they wanted to do 20 blog posts a month and I’m thinking you’re going to run out of content ideas. Like, I mean really like this doesn’t even make any sense to me, like why you would want to spend that much time writing articles when there’s, I mean, don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of value there. And I definitely think I don’t want to get in the numbers game, but you know, I will say my, my personal site is not you know, being, but you’re on an agency side or a freelancer side, like your work is spent on clients, not your own site, but I will say I have a blog and I barely spent any time in it.

Ashley: I will say I have good traffic that comes to my site and it is because of my blog. And I know that for a fact. So I do think that there is value with having a blog on your site with developing content there. But I think that you have to look at it holistically if you’re using the blog for internal linking. Do you have enough ideas for content because blogs are also dated and Google has priority on current content? So that’s why if you’re getting a blog added to your site, just a little tip, don’t have it dated, but usually like WordPress and those kind of platforms, date their blog posts, those templates have them dated. So that’s why HubSpot has gotten into pillar pages and those pillar pages, which were essentially like online eBooks 5,000 words on one web page. So they’re using that as basically a way around what’s happening with blogs. Like a lot of people think blogs are dying and that’s why they’re going into a pillar pages and things like that.

Matt: That’s funny. Blogs are not dying.

Ashley: No, they’re really not. You just, it’s a different approach now.

Matt: Well, it it’s a little, it’s still a way for publishing. It’s a publishing mechanism. It’s not good or bad. It’s just, it is. What’s bad is 20, you know, 20 blogs in a month.

Ashley: I about Died. And I, and I was looking at some of the posts that were coming out, thinking these are all promotional. Yeah. Like you don’t want that. I’d rather not have something.

Matt: Yeah. Because you’re, you’re looking at volume and, and associating causality that volume causes what, or visitors, better rankings. Because if you were to actually, if you were actually to investigate that causal factor, it doesn’t exist that, that are you answering people’s questions?

Ashley: Well, And the right traffic. Like I remember like five years ago I was working on a site that I was taking over for somebody and they got a lot of traffic over a search term that they wrote a blog post on that had very little to do with their brand. I mean, it was definitely relevant. It was relevant, but it was not a topic that was going to get them conversions.

[20:00]

So it was like they were getting traffic, but it was poor quality. So what do you think Google did? They were looking at the site as not having quality content.

Matt: Yeah. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting to see the, the associations that people make and you usually people default to volume.

Ashley: Yeah. They always do. It’s very content.

Matt: And so that’s what, let, let’s kind of go back through some of the rank, the algorithm changes.

Ashley: Oh yeah. We’re going on a rampage here.

Matt: Let’s take a step back because it’s, it’s really important, the vast majority. So I think I forget where I read this. I think they were saying the Google’s updates, its algorithm close to 500 times a year. That literally everyday things are being changed. So right there, calm down.

Ashley: Yeah. Right.

Matt: But going back into the history of Google, very rarely have the major updates had to do with content. Most let’s go up run like 80, 90% of the algorithm changes, updates are to combat spam.

Ashley: Yeah. And that gets into if we are going to go into content that, I mean, duplicate content is essentially spam.

Matt: Well, we’ll get to that in the content side.

Ashley: Okay. Okay. Okay. I don’t want to rush,

Matt: I would say the bulk of the updates over the past 20 years of Google have been focused on eliminating spam. Most of that spam can be caught through linking and in the code.

Ashley: Yeah. That’s actually, that’s a good topic. How, like you can hide duplicates and spammy type of content and code and not even know it’s there.

Matt: Yeah. Well, like the, the old trick was okay, I have to have this keyword on the page 20 times, or there was like this magic density formula that if you have this word on the page for it, with like a keyword density of 7.5%,

Ashley: It’s still there. Like anybody that uses SEO Yoast or something like that, like in WordPress, formulas are there. Oh, I know. Well, the thing is like, as someone like me who is like super like OCD, you get in there and it’s started, it’s not green it’s orange. So basically that color will tell you if you’re SEO for your target keyword,

Matt: I love Yoast. Yeah but this performance thing.

Ashley: It drives me nuts because I know it’s going to rank, back off Yoast.

Matt: And then I’ve got three synonyms in there and it’s not picking that up. So yeah, it’s just, there’s this magic density that you know, it’s followed along, but the problem is Google’s not wired for that. And we’ll get into these later updates that deal with things like synonyms and, and equivalents and things like that. But the, the first and the majority of algorithm updates are, are just screen out spam all for the user experience. Because if you find spam in a search engine, if you find a site trying to install malware on your site or on your browser, you know, these are things that don’t create good user experiences and could damage Google’s brand. So those algorithm updates are looking for that. The easy things to spot, you remember this trick in order to increase my density or my keywords, I would put paragraphs of text. And if I had a white background on my site, I would color the text white. So users wouldn’t see it. And I could keep an aesthetically pleasing page,

Ashley: Oh yeah, you still have the SEO there

Matt: But, I still have hidden gobs of words that will make my, my page. Now, the funny thing is, is I told people this, if you hide it in programming, you’re hiding it in HTML and Google reads your HTML, and they can match your background color to your text color. It’s not hard.

Ashley: And it actually makes you look worse. If you have it hidden in your HTML versus pairing your page. Like, I just think.

Matt: That shows you are distinctly,

Ashley: Yeah. That you’re being shady.

Matt: You’re going out of your way to fool the algorithm.

Ashley: Right. They don’t want that.

Matt: So those were like some of the early, then you got your doorway pages and all kinds of early things that were done to kind of get that edge up. And, and so it’s funny, cause like that first major update that Florida update, people would not admit that they used any of those tactics.

Ashley: Oh, come on. Everyone Did it, Everyone Did it,

[25:00]

Matt: You know, when we were like, no, this, this is, this is a major update. It’s hitting content. It’s hitting you, you know, optimization if you’re using any of these poor practices, that’s what that is. No, you know, very few would admit it. But that was when people are like, it’s not fair. So yeah. And then we come to the, you know, the, the next big one was Panda and it was big because this was one of the first ones that dealt with content.

Ashley: Yes. And, you know, I was excited about that. Personally,

Matt: Google hadn’t dealt with content, dealing with technical, with spam. They were going after linking practices you know, which, which were made to inflate algorithm or the inflate, your rankings, but to go after content was a big, big change.

Ashley: I mean, I just got to thank Google with their Panda because that’s honestly what got me into the SEO community, well because I’m a traditional PR person that’s, you know, my background and then got into marketing. But what got me into SEO was Panda, people needed help with Panda they needed, Yeah. That’s what got me in there.

Matt: They needed new content.

Ashley: They needed new content. So before I remember battling it with other SEOs and developers at new SEO, because they believe that technical and off page, that was the way to go. And here now Google is starting to look at content. So I was definitely like the black sheep, if you will.

Matt: Wow. Well, and so this update specifically went after what they called duplicate content, which is pages or websites that just basically mirror each other. An example of that, we actually worked on one of these sites, my agency days someone who offered service in a hundred different cities. And so they would have a website set up for each city and the content was exactly the same, except for the city name.

Ashley: A lot of companies do that, like travel agencies and things like that.

Matt: Yeah and then in the footer, they have links to every city which would link. So they had a hundred websites, all interlinked, but contents, basically it was same except for a few words here and there. And that is considered a highly duplicate content, low quality website.

Ashley: Oh, yeah.

Matt: And so sites like that and you see it even today, like for home improvements you, you see a lot of these kinds of network things where it’s for this area or something like that.

Ashley: Yeah. If it’s like a manufacturer that says has a bunch of distributors and they’re trying to you know, get a distributor to buy a part of their service, or like here, I’ll give you your own site and then you’ll see it a lot with that kind of thing. And you know, I mean, I think that’s okay if the site is like maybe a micro-site and it’s not indexed. Okay, I fine. Go ahead and do it. And you’re not going to get hurt, but usually people don’t think that way.

Matt: You see it a lot in these, these multi-level marketing websites, they’re like, we’ll give you your own site and it’s on your domain. And it’s exactly the same as hers.

Ashley: No, I know. I mean, you really, it’s still in existence, still a problem today.

Matt: So with, with, with Panda, Google went all out on against those websites, that low quality content, duplicate content, and yeah, that changed. I hate to say it changed SEO,

Ashley: I think it did,

Matt: But it did because it focused people on writing quality content, which prior to that, I will say there was very little emphasis on quality content, which stunk.

Ashley: It was almost like SEOs are more viewed as like coders. They were like more like computer programmer type people.

Matt: And if you can get away with low quality content, you’re going to Cause it’s low effort right now. You’ve got to put some effort into it. So yeah. I, I, I hesitate to say it changed SEO. It, it changed the value of actually putting work into your content is what I think it did.

Ashley: Yeah. I agree. I don’t know. I have to think about that a little bit bad because I really feel like it changed. I, I just, I don’t know if it was just because my view of it changed like my personal website,

Matt: I mean, I was always of the, I was always of the mindset that the website needs to serve the visitor first and the content should be focused on the visitor. You shouldn’t be writing content for the search engine, right. For this, for the, you know, and, and yeah, many times that was not a popular opinion, but I saw at work time and time and time again, that when you publish content that people want, they come and you rank well. And that’s it. So, yeah, I was always a content guy and it just, I don’t know.

[30:00]

I, I didn’t feel like, you know, I wanted to be able to optimize a site in a way that if I did it for a client, I could stand behind it and say, it’s done right. It’s done right. I didn’t cut corners. You know, even though I think I could get away with this, I’m not going to do that.

Ashley: Yeah. The whole thing’s right. From top to bottom. Yeah.

Matt: You know, after a couple of major updates, my client sites are still doing well.

Ashley: Yeah. You know, I will say you will see a difference in sites if they don’t have blogs, if they don’t have content on the site. But if you’re having like a website, that’s more like a brochure. I mean, it’s like five pages. I mean, you could still do well. You know, you just have to be a little bit more,

Matt: A little more investment into your presence is what you’re. Yeah. So after that, after Panda then was the penguin update. I love these, these animal names. They’re cute and cuddly,

Ashley: Then there’s like the recent one, Bert. I mean,

Matt: What would have happened? We had Google, We had penguin and Panda. I remember, you know, friend of ours. Well, Brian, he’s been on the podcast. You know, I love Brian and, Oh my goodness. The amount of times that guy would say and teach about Panda and penguin, Panda and penguin, you know, and just Panda and penguin. When I, I, we were on sort of like this tour through Scotland, teaching different companies and the amount he talked about, Panda and penguin the whole time. Okay. Let’s talk about design or something, let’s move on, But that’s what he hammered to people because it was about good content. And penguin was all about links. Like you were talking about. It’s all that, the link structures of buying links, link networks, all set up to really fool the search engines, into thinking you’re more popular.

Ashley: It’s interesting. Like I remember when a lot of, I mean, actually you’ll still see it when you like look at, I mean, you should be keeping track of your Google analytics every month and just can’t idea. If you see anything abnormal, that’s, you know, you need to start checking or Google search console and see what kind of links are getting coming back to your sites. Cause there are link farms. There are companies out there that will definitely, I don’t know what enjoyment they get out of it, but they will link and it will hurt your site.

Matt: Absolutely. Yeah. There’s an understanding of how to handle your links, I think is good, but it’s become less and less, I think link management has become much less of the algorithm and part of SEO. Right?

Ashley: I haven’t really, haven’t had to do a list in a while.

Matt: No, I think Google has done so much better in screening out these networks, screening out, you know, why is it on me to disavow something that I didn’t do? Or, you know, someone links to you, they’re trying to make themselves look better. You know, I, I would, I’ve always kind of looked at Google suspiciously that why are you making a, SEO’s do this when the vast majority of small businesses around the world have no clue what SEO is, have less of a clue about how to handle links. And you’re penalizing millions of businesses don’t understand this, who don’t watch it, who,

Ashley: I used to be really bad there when it first came out, because do you remember whenever, I mean, this isn’t like off page links, but the links in a footer, like if you had a lot of links in your footer and they were the same as like the links in your NAV and you have those same links in your body copy, like having all those same links can hurt you.

Matt: Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. There’s a whole, like the way to profile a page and like different zones of how much the links are worth in different zones. So like here’s your block level navigation or block level analysis. So you’re navigation links are here, your side links here, your footer links and then your editorial and the search engines perform. I remember this theory that there’s a block level. That, and it makes perfect sense because all of those links and those areas of your page, you’re going to be in different areas of the code. So it makes sense that yeah, search and/or the footer links is useless almost. You’re not going to get any benefit out of it.

Ashley: No. You are Not, but I, I remember when penguin, like, you know, when that update happened and everybody was up in arms that the footer links like were causing some problems because I remember trying to figure out a website that was going down in traffic and we were, we knew it had something to do with penguin because it happened right around that time. We did the disavow list. Still didn’t see like an improvement. So then we started looking at the internal linking and what was going on there, there, and that’s whenever I started discovering that having multiple links on one page, wasn’t good Now, that isn’t the case Now. You can get away with it on an issue. I mean, I’m not saying that you should have like a bunch of the same links. Like you shouldn’t have like 10 links on your page going to the same page. I mean, it’s just, doesn’t even make any sense. I mean, you want to use some common sense, have the first reference and then your footers. Okay. Having the link in the year now is okay. But I do remember looking at the footer and having to remove some lengths. Yeah.

Matt: And that gets to, again, how’s the business to know, allow this stuff. And now I, I will say this, I spoke at a conference once on SEO and I asked there’s hundreds of people there. How many of you have read the Google guidelines for building and optimizing a website to maybe out of hundreds of people? No one.

[35:00]

And I’m asking them like, do you even know where to find them? And, and have you ever Googled the Google design? You know, they tell you right there, the best practices for design, for optimization and for linking it’s all right there. And it’s been there for years. So it blows my mind because if anyone is trying to sell you SEO, it should line up with what the Google guidelines say is good SEO.

Ashley: You know what I used to do, I’ll ask somebody else. So, you know, what’s your favorite algorithm? You know, which one gets you going? You know, everybody, I mean, you just talk about Brian loves Panda and penguin. Right. You can always tell us, somebody knows what they’re doing. If they know an algorithm very well, because there are, how many of them, if they can’t list one algorithm, I mean, there’s clearly a problem. And you know that there’s probably a lot of SEO companies out there that can’t,

Matt: Yeah. It’s funny. We were just talking about that in there. That, and that’s a thing I don’t think, you know, we, we kind of debated, are they lying when they say they know to do SEO and they don’t do it. Right. And I’m of the mind that it’s not lying. I don’t think they know any better. I think I said sometimes I, I feel like a programmer read an article on SEO back in 2006 and they know how to do.

Ashley: Yeah. They’re like, I know how to put in some metadata so I can do SEO.

Matt: Yeah. And it’s like, no, that’s not SEO. That’s I, to your point. Yeah. If they know an algorithm name, then

Ashley: That will tell you,

Matt: It tells you, you know, if they’re staying up on things but there gets to a point of how do you go about it? There are people that do things that, you know, as part, you know, I noticed there are companies that do this, they do things that are expressly forbidden in the Google guidelines for SEO. They still do, you know, doorway pages, keyword, stuffing. So are they lying? Or they just incompetent. I, I, you know, it just, it blows my mind. So, you know, someone’s trying to sell us, you, you educate yourself by looking at Google’s guidelines, as far as what SEO is and how it should be done.

Ashley: Well, keyword stuffing, that’s a big one. So Google, so I, you wouldn’t know, they said this, some of this stuff you’ll find out just from trial and error, like when you’re working on an agency side, you get so many sites, you just figure it out sometimes. And I remember when pipes were a thing and title takes, they’re still a thing and everybody uses pipes. Well, if you remove pipes and say, put a dash or something, and if it’s like done, I’m not talking about like keyword stuffing, like you know, you have, you know, hot yoga pants, the newest, the newest pink stylers out, I’m making this up. And, but you seem like that’s more natural versus like having, you know, pipes between keywords or something. But I remember removing pipes and putting in dashes instead, and Google recognized the dash as being more of a natural use. And the pipe was viewed as being keyword stuffing. And it’s still like that today. And I will have people argue with me all the time about using that pipe. And I know from experience that that pipe, get rid of it.

Matt: So, great example. So keyword stuffing, like you’re talking about is like in the title tag or in the search result where you see keyword, comma, keyword, comma, or keyword pipe, keyword pipe, like you, started playing around with different things. But I realized as a human, what is the easiest thing to process and the fastest, a sentence, a phrase, or a sentence like you gave a phrase.

[40:00]

Ashley: Yes, you really shouldn’t like use the dash unless it’s more of a phrase,

Matt: But you give an example of the phrase of the hot yoga pants. I don’t know why, but that’s what you used. Now I can read that. Yeah,

Ashley: Yoga’s on my mind, man, I need to get in the Zen, all this talk about links.

Matt: As a searcher. I can read that instantly because it is in a format that my brain is used to processing, especially if I’m looking for that. Now, if I see another website and their title tag is, you know, yoga dash pants dash, you know it, and it’s like six, five, seven keywords there. It’s harder to read because it’s not in a contextual format.

Ashley: Or the keywords are descriptors on what the brand does versus actually being about the brand. I was actually getting into an argument with a friend over having fun, having family fun. That is not what your brand is about. That does not describe your brand. That should not be in here at all. Get rid of that. And your title tag. Yeah,

Matt: But I found entitles short phrases, descriptive phrases are better than keyword, comma keyword or keyword dash keyword dash more because it’s better for the it’s. It’s what our human brains process fastest just happens to be what works best. Google’s algorithm is all about replicating how humans think. Yeah. It’s all about that.

Ashley: Well, and that’s, what’s driving me crazy these days with the algorithm of say, Hey, I know, I know that’s actually what started us doing this podcast because I was complaining. So I don’t want to jump a, your algorithm updates, but that’s like, that’s the biggest thing is that everything that’s happening right now with AI being integrated into the algorithm. So you know, rank brain AI, and then Burt understanding queries, and it’s all about like, just understanding the meaning behind, behind a search and why I’m a user is doing that search intent. So I feel, and I don’t know if you’re feeling this way, but I’m having a hard time finding things online.

Matt: It’s getting weird. Isn’t it? So now yeah, my favorite update is hummingbird update. Yeah. Because it started integrating recognition of synonyms. And so, yeah, like we were talking about, you can’t have the same word 25 times on the page. You shouldn’t. A good writer won’t do that. A good writer uses synonyms. They, they use different. You know, it’s more conversational to use other words. And like, as an example, you know, with the hummingbird update, I could about catcher’s outfielder’s pitchers basis and never use the word baseball, but Google would figure out that the context of the page is baseball because of the words I’m using around it. It was more contextually, which lends itself to better writing lends itself to higher quality writing and, and a better quality site and a better experience for the user because otherwise people were just trying to get the word in as much as possible. And,

Ashley: I think it’s getting into line with voice search voice to search and, you know, people are talking conversationally. So Google wants to meet that. Not a lot of people are using, you know, keyboards these days

Matt: No, and yeah, well that gets to Bert. Bert. And honestly, Bert shouldn’t affect anything, but I have noticed, and here’s my, I’m going to rant a little bit.

Ashley: Oh, I’ve been ranting this whole time. I have a lot of opinions about SEO, Matt.

Matt: What’s the average Google programmer developer? They’re in their twenties, twenties, maybe thirties, they live in Silicon Valley. So there’s a bubble of, you know, they, they are not middle class, they’re higher class live in the bubble of Northern California. I’m in California. You know, they’re paying 3 million for a house that’s 1800 square feet. They’re in this bubble. And they’re trying to think about what people want and they don’t know what people want. They, that I, this is where I see Google going and why it’s such a problem. They don’t understand like, real people. They’re trying to figure out these problems. And part of you has to sit back and say, well, does that problem even exist?

Ashley: So I have actually started getting into other search engines when I’m looking for things personally,

Matt: I’m doing it more from a privacy standpoint.

[45:00]

Ashley: I know, I give up, they know too much about me now and I’m really not that exciting.

Matt: Yeah. It’s I I’ve noticed Google’s index is just not as, not as good lately. And I almost feel like they’re trained to solve problems that exist for them, but doesn’t exist for the world at large, the world at large, just once answers to things. They’re trying like, like I think it was you know, one example someone gave is like, what’s the name of the big guy or the in princess bride? Andre the giant.

Ashley: Yeah. I was like, why can’t I think of that,

Matt: But that’s a typical query that Bert is meant to answer is if I can’t identify what it is that I want to know, then that will help. The problem is all the examples that I’ve seen about how good Bert is. They’re all trivial, they’re all knowledge questions, trivia questions.

Ashley: I didn’t read that much into Bert, it’s gotten like really weird.

Matt: They’re not business oriented or no, if I need insurance, I know I need insurance. I don’t, you know, what’s the thing in my driveway that I need insurance for? That’s a Bert question, but I don’t need a Bert question for most of the stuff that I do.

Ashley: And so we have people writing that, that don’t understand,

Matt: You can’t possibly optimize for this because, and that’s the recommendation is don’t optimize for Bert. Okay. If you’re writing contextually, you’re writing well, Google will make these associations Bert’s all about making the association that if you talk about princess bride and the word big, what’s big in princess bride, Andre the giant. So it’s, it’s making that connection. But the problem is most, like I said, most examples are all trivia questions. They’re not real life questions, things that, and so if Google is turning more into this trivia engine, rather than a problem solving engine, or not even that it’s just basically a location engine, where do I buy? How do I compare what I want? I, I know the words to help me function through the day. Very rarely do I come up with you know, if anything, it’s a thesaurus question, what’s another word for, you know, this, or what’s a word that means this. And I still don’t get good answers for that.

Ashley: I just, I, I feel like I can’t find anything anymore. It’s a real struggle. It’s a real struggle. Cause I read a lot of white papers and things like that for clients. And so I do more than SEO, and I can’t find a lot of the stuff that I that I need. It used to be a lot easier to find that information.

Matt: Yeah. I, I, that’s why I feel like you’ve got a lot of engineers at Google kind of like running with what they want to do and what the problems they see. But in a way, I think they’re running ahead too far and they’re trying to solve problems that don’t exist and it’s suffering. It’s suffering.

Ashley: Yeah. I agree with that. Yeah.

Matt: So, no I’ve been using, I, Hey, I’ve been using all, I’ve been using Bing. I’ve been using duck duck go, but I know it uses Google’s, but it doesn’t have your search history and location. So you tend to get a more generalized, but yet it seems to be better. There there’s, there’s a couple of options out there that are, that are really doing.

Ashley: Yeah. I started using Bing recently. Yeah. Yep. I just, I, I’ve had it. Like if I can’t find what I need, I’m done, I’m done.

Matt: We’ll have to, we’ll have to have a show about maybe some Google options. Because I think,

Ashley: I think that’s one,

Matt: I think more and more People are looking for some.

Ashley: It’s a shame too, because I used to be a Bing, Google fan Chrome. Everything I have is Google, but not anymore.

Matt: No, I never, I never was a Chrome fan. I knew what it was.

Ashley: Oh. Wow. Yeah. I started to, I just, I can’t do it anymore. I can’t have something. Take that long to find information.

Matt: No, no. Well, and that’s kind of where we are now with all the algorithms that they’re going to happen, they’re going to continue to happen. They’re going to continue whether or not it improves the actual relevance of the results you get. You know, I think I’ve heard this from more than you that people have complained that lately. It just doesn’t seem, you know, with all the data they’re gathering the results, start that personalized.

[50:00]

Ashley: No, they’re not. And I will say it is different. Like your mobile queries are different than your, you know, your own desktop. So sometimes I’ll like play around. I’ll just get on my phone and look for something and I’ll find, Yeah. You know, that’s not good.

Matt: No, no. Yeah. I’ve, I’ve found myself. Yeah. Even while driving, I’ll do more mapping and doing through Apple on my iPhone than doing it through, you know, with Siri rather than using Google or anything like that. So,

Ashley: I did write something down that I would love to know your opinion on, because I have a feeling that this is still a thing. You know, sub-domains and blogs. I think it’s still a thing. When we were talking about you know, with the updates and stuff like that you know, back with penguin, and I remember like, you know, like when, when you were playing around and I was thinking, Oh, maybe I can like, kind of play around with getting some good off page links. If I opened up like a blog on a sub domain and have all of that like link. And I remember thinking like once I started looking into it, you can have imbalance, you have an imbalanced link profile because the sub domain is still like looked at as a separate Website.

Matt: Yeah, that.

Ashley: So I know that companies are still doing it and they still have, and I think it’s a really good conversation for the, you know, this podcast because we have a lot of you know, business owners that, you know, want to get into blogging and they got a WordPress and,

Matt: We could have a whole show about technical issues. I looked at a site last year, someone brought it to me, all their major navigational categories went to a sub domain and somehow they were still ranking like third on the page for their first, like their major keyword. And I’m like, okay, first thing you got to do is stop using these sub-directories and put everything on one domain. But their SEO had told them every major navigation should be its own sub directory. Like how, how in 2018?

Ashley: I know that’s not, I know it’s still a thing. So a big manufacturer that I work with that you’d be surprised. They have all these acquisitions and they moved them all to their sites to sub domains on like they’re basically micro-sites and they had redirects, but the, the sub domains to optimize, it’s like a new site. It’s not that link juice isn’t going to do much.

Matt: Yeah. I’ve always thought sub-domains were good. Especially if you have a, a country based, you know, if you have, if you have to have a part of your site, that’s in a different language and it’s country specific, it’s a good use of a subdomain.

Ashley: Well, you also have to think too, like where you know, a lot of these micro-sites even like a lot of companies will, and that’s what this one day. So they all these like different micro-sites that they’re doing for their acquisitions, but, you know, that’s through like, you know, a content management system and there’s poor code. Exactly go. So, we’ve had that too. So even if you are redirecting a page that was linking, I think not having that clean code on that page is going to impact you and you can, and we could actually see it. They wouldn’t really, all their traffic was coming from paid.

Matt: Yeah. I very sparingly do I recommend sub-domains.

Ashley: I don’t really recommend like microsites from, you know, content management systems. I mean, it really just depends unless it’s like, almost does not index.

Matt: Yeah. More from a, uh, like a campaign standpoint. You’re, you’re running a QR code. And it’s more of a landing page, but a landing site that the purpose of it, the purpose is not to be found in search. The purpose is for a specific campaign, that I’m running and maybe, and yeah, if you’re going to do that, you, you exclude that from the search engines, because I want to know how will this QR code work.

Ashley: And I think that with all these content management systems that are coming out, it’s becoming more popular to do these microsites. And yeah. So I think that it’s something you really have to look at. And if you are like buying a site through a popular CMS. Yeah. Got it really well.

Matt: Be Careful, be careful.

Ashley: That that code I’ve just seen as so many times, you see duplicate H one is, I actually had a developer argue with me over the duplicate. H1 said, well, you can, you’re allowed to have HTML five. So as you can, okay. You know I should wear five shirts right now, but I’m not so, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Matt: And if you look at the Google guidelines, it’s pretty clear HTML five says, it’s great. What does the Google guidelines say? It’s kind of go back and double check.

[55:00]

Ashley: Sure. Well, it’s like common sense. What is a header tag for? It tells the search. It tells the robot what that page is about. So if you have five H1 tags or whatever, that all say different things, that robot is obviously going to be confused on what your webpage is about.

Matt: Well, I I’ve always equated a webpage to a newspaper. And how many headlines do you see on a newspaper? You say one major headline, the rest are subheadings to the same thing that, that headline is the H1, your subheadings, your H2 H3 H4. Design the page, like a newspaper. It keeps everything straight.

Ashley: Right. And you’re getting into a really good topic where it’s like, you know, you want to take a user experience into consideration, but I do think user experience needs to have SEO.

Matt: Oh, absolutely.

Ashley: And sometimes they are divided. In fact, a lot of times they’re divided.

Matt: I I’ve always been of the thought that SEO would have been discovered by user experience People. That had it not become its own thing, you know, and, and the whole industry surrounding SEO. I think those that studied customer experience and, and that whole area of usability what’s best for the user, they would have discovered SEO, right. Because you’re pointing people to their destination. Oh, that means I should use a keyword in the, and explain what it’s about. You, you know, it’s, it’s why you’re doing what you’re doing. And if what you’re doing is to improve the user experience or help people find the content or answer people’s questions in order to guide them to convert by so whatever, that’s the purpose of it. And if you can answer that, then you’re doing something that could run afoul of an algorithm.

Ashley: Yeah. This, I think it’s more than just having a good design on your web page.

Matt: Yep. Absolutely.

Ashley: It’s a lot more than that.

Matt: Absolutely. And with that, we’ve gotten into a lot of technical stuff. Yeah. I think we’re, we’re, and we’ve reached, not the end of the subject at the end of the show, and Ashley, what’s the big piece of advice for people with algorithms?

Ashley: Don’t panic!

Matt: Yes, Don’t panic, don’t worry about it. Like you said, watch your analytics, analytics are going to be the best key you know, visitors doing okay. But not visitors, sales, conversions. Good solid KPIs. And by that I don’t mean engagement. I mean,

Ashley: Yeah Right. I know, say all.

Matt: It’s so Much more relevant to your business. How many visits before conversion, things like that that let you know how people use your site and what they’re doing.

Ashley: And I think too of, you’re starting to see that you’re dropping, like there’s a tool called, I want to say, called Barracuda. Yeah. I don’t have to use all the time, so I would know it more, but you can put your URL in there and it will tell you what algorithm your site’s been affected by.

Matt: Interesting. Well, we’ll throw some links on the show notes on this one, and that can help you navigate around to the Google guidelines, to Barracuda, and some of these other resources. Yep. All right. Hey, thanks Ashley.

Ashley: No, thank you.

Matt: All right. Hey listener. Thank you so much for hanging with us on another episode of the endless coffee cup. And we look forward to talking with you again soon.

[End of transcription 00:58:31]

matt and ashley in the studio

Matt & Ashley in the
Endless Coffee Cup studio