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Industry Trends in Q2: Winners and Losers – Tyson Stockton // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: Although the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacted brands and companies throughout Q2, companies like Google maintained momentum. In just three months they released a new algorithm update and introduced web vitals, which take effect in early 2021. Join host Ben as he speaks with Searchmetrics’ VP of Client Services Tyson Stockton about some of the industry and Google-inspired trends that emerged in Q2.

Summary

  • Google made modifications to search intent behind gendered keywords such as “Women’s pajamas.” Searchmetrics’ Karl Kleinschmidt wrote a blog further exploring user intent and gendered keywords in SEO.
  • Mobile visibility softened among the top 10 ecommerce sites (Amazon, Walmart, etc.), with an average 3-6% week over week decline. Meanwhile, video integrations increased on SERPs.
  • Google’s transparency regarding updates and new developments increased, such as their web vitals announcement, providing ample time for webmasters to begin optimizing for web vitals before EOY.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and today we’re going to preview Searchmetrics’ upcoming Q2 in Review webinar. Joining us is Tyson Stockton, who is the vice president of client services at Searchmetrics. Tyson manages Searchmetrics’ SEO content and client success organizations. And outside of shepherding Searchmetrics’ largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, Tyson and I are going to discuss the Google update changes in Q2. So far this week, Tyson and I have talked about some of the updates that Google has made in Q2. We talked about some of the technical changes that you need to be aware of. And today we’re going to talk about the industry trends that have changed in Q2. Here’s the last installment of Q2 in Review with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ vice president of services. Tyson, welcome back to the final installment of Q2 in Review on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson:              Thank you Ben. The last day of Q2, and finally into Q3.

Ben:                  So let’s call it what it is.

Tyson:              Maybe not the first of Q3.

Ben:                  Let’s … I was just about to say, let’s call it what it is. Q2 was kind of a nightmare for everyone. Obviously there’s macro effects that are in place with the coronavirus. We’re all sick of talking about it, and hearing about it. But I’m imagining that that affected the SEO industry. Talk to me about some of the industry updates, what happened in the SEO world last quarter?

Tyson:              Yeah. So you hit it right on the head. Can’t avoid that, especially in the industry trend. I think there’s been a lot of change in the shared behavior as our lives have kind of been put into this squash machine in the quarter. And so there’s been a few changes in that regard. There’s been sort of shifts in the landscape. Again, tying back a little bit to some of the Google stuff.

Tyson:              And one of the interesting findings for our pieces that we have for some industry trends this quarter is a piece that a couple of our consultants actually worked on. Karl, in our SEO consulting team, did a study of actually how Google has been using gender in relation to different category terms. So that could be things like jeans, or pajamas, or different type of fashion categories, and how they’re interpreting basically what those keywords, or what the intent behind those are. So for example, if you searched for pajamas, every single top ranking URL for that is a women’s pajamas. Or if you go into jeans, it’s also going to default to a woman jeans page. And that’s interesting because it’s basically … It connects little bit back to the previous topics of how Google’s determining keyword intent. But also for websites they can be a very practical, tactical piece of either following kind of the gender preference that Google’s showing to it, or by also trying to take a different angle of it to differentiate yourself from the bulk of the other big box retailers.

Ben:                  I wonder if this is really a Google trend, or if they’re just reflecting what is happening in the retail industry. I know that big box retailers, generally when they’re assorting their store, put the women’s clothes upfront. Either because women are their core customers, or women have bigger carts than men. Whatever the reason … I’m sure that there’s a business reason behind it. It is not just purely based on gender. But is this a Google trend, or is this just a reflection of the retail industry?

Tyson:             It’s going to get a mixture of the two, but it’s like in a lot of these cases there could be three different versions of let’s take a jeans page. There’s definitely going to be a men’s jeans page, a women’s jeans page. Those both exist. Fair amount of cases you’re also going to have a general jeans page. And so Google is choosing if someone just searches jeans, there’s a greater chance or more likelihood that they need a specific version of the jeans page. So it’s having that ranking of a more general term on a slightly niche focus within that, because that’s where the identification of “They must want this.” And so it’s, I think, a little bit of both. I’m sure you’re going to have a skew of inventory volume quantities, but I think it’s also a bit of kind of a window into seeing what they’re determining is important for that query.

Ben:                It’s interesting to me that Google, in some capacities, is a data company. Right? They have more information than anybody, maybe other than Facebook, on who their consumers are. What their behaviors are. And when I search for the keyword jeans, obviously there’s a sample size of one. The top result is PacSun.com. Jeans for women. The second result is H&M. Jeans on sale, shop women’s jeans. The third result, women’s jeans from AE.com. All of the results are female. And Google has to know at this point that I am male, based on my search behaviors. Why are they not including gender as a way to filter their search results to be more relevant?

Tyson:           I mean, that’s a great question. And I can only speculate on what the actual reason would be on that. I think this is also, in some regards, a sensitive topic. You know? Google may not want to bring that in as a piece that they’re taking from the users from your Google account. So I’m really not sure why. In theory, yeah you could definitely go that path, but it seems to be something that they’re not tapping into user accounts. But it’s more of using this larger algorithm of just how it’s associating the most relevant content. And so that’s why I think it’s a very interesting angle, because it’s something also that we didn’t necessarily see at the same volume in previous years. Definitely I’d recommend everyone to check out the blog article by Karl on this, because he really illustrates some great examples and goes into some good detail here.

Ben:                So outside of gender and how Google thinks about targeting men, women and other genders. What are some of the industry changes that you’ve recognized this quarter?

Tyson:           Another one which was a little bit on the ecommerce front. So we touched on it in the past, there were definitely some clear winners from the big 10 ecommerce sites with the algorithm update. But then it was also brought up that a little bit later there was a softening or bleaching across the board in most large ecommerce sites. And what we’re detecting is there was a softening of mobile visibility that was not present on desktops. So in a lot of the top 10 ecommerce … So that’s your Amazons, your Walmarts, your eBays, Home Depot, et cetera. All of those had between 3 to 6% week over week decline in mobile visibility despite an increasing desktop. And as we dug in more to that, it’s really what we found was it was a shifting SERP results on those queries. And if we looked across our entire research database, we did see that there were more video integrations on the SERPs. But we also found specifically within the ecommerce area, there was an increase on mobile ads, as well as videos on the mobile SERPs. And so this had kind of been taken away some more real estate from ecommerce on mobile queries, particularly.

Ben:                So Tyson, as you look back on the quarter and we talk about the industry trends and what happened with Google and some of the technical trends, what’s your big takeaway for the quarter?

Tyson:            I think my big takeaway of the quarter is it’s business as usual from Google’s standpoint. They’re continuing to roll out the changes, to no surprise, and follows a lot of the historical elements. I think it’s also worth noting that this trend that we’ve seen in, let’s say, the last 12 months … And we saw it last year kind of increasing from Google’s side of the communication and notification of changes. And when we look back, of whether it’s web or vitals, they’re giving more notice. They’re also giving more tools to basically measure those things. So that I would say is actually really positive for the industry. And one thing to that I would really recommend to people though, is to take that opportunity and to not be caught flat footed next year when those elements that have been announced this quarter come to light. And so I think that’s something. We got a great opportunity to take advantage of it. The time is now though, let’s not wait until next year to complain about it going into effect.

Ben:                Okay. Well, we’re going to have a Q2 in Review webinar with Tyson and Kathy Brown, where we’re going to continue this conversation. We’d love for you to join us. So if you’re interested in hearing more of Tyson and Kathy Brown, senior SEO specialist at Searchmetrics, thoughts on what happened in Q2, go to searchmetrics.com/webinar. The event’s going to be happening July 22nd at 11 AM, Pacific Standard Time. Again, to register go to searchmetrics.com/webinar. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, who’s the vice president of client services at Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, where his handle is Tyson_Stockton. Or you can visit his company’s website, which is Searchmetrics.com.

Ben:               Just one more link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, just head over to voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic, suggestions, your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is voicesofsearch on Twitter. And my personal handle is benjshap. B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the workweek. So hit that subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right, that’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.