The Voices of Search podcast helped SEOs navigate the tumultuous sea of SEO this year – providing expert insights on Google Algorithm updates, interviewing unique figures in the greater SEO community and holding strategic planning episodes to arm SEOs with the knowledge they needed to succeed in an intense year.
This year we’re celebrating reaching a new milestone of 100,000 downloads in 2019 with a top 10 episode list of our most popular, downloaded episodes throughout the year. Here’s a selection of our top episodes selected by you, our listeners!
Jordan Koene, CEO, Searchmetrics Inc. and VOS host Benjamin Shapiro kicked off the first week of the year sharing their predictions regarding what Google algorithm updates would go live throughout 2019. The No. 1 big change from Google both Jordan and Ben agreed to expect was a higher prevalence of integrated search and extended search experiences in mobile, along with investing in different ways to highlight content for mobile experiences. Users would get more options and develop a better understanding of what should rank higher in search from data used in universal and extended search experiences.
Jordan also predicted Google would focus on understanding the key external signals to rank content more aggressively in the latter half of 2019 and his prediction proved correct with the fall updates, specifically the BERT update. Jordan’s initial prediction:
“They may be even looking at what will likely happen … and this is the more likely outcome, is they may start looking at different machine learning and AI technologies that can help them determine the mention or the presence of certain brands within content and content sources that are non-traditional. Like, say, video or, hey, how about this, podcasts.”
Hear more from Jordan about his initial thoughts on what other integrated search experiences could impact rankings in 2019 here.
Google’s BERT Algorithm update caught SEO experts by surprise this year, causing a flurry of speculation from industry leaders on what the potential impact it would have coming after the initial October update. Many concluded it would affect 10% of all search queries.
All of Google’s updates this year prioritized improving the user experience and BERT is no exception. The update specifically focused on modifying Google’s search engine language processor to better contextualize written and spoken long-tail user search queries. In Jordan’s words:
“It’s allowing Google consumers, their users, their searchers to identify the problem, the solution, the expectation, the anxiety that they have behind that search query … They didn’t even use the word keyword. They just said sentence. And then using the word sentence is its total clue and giveaway that when they’re looking at search behavior at a voice level. Because nobody searches in full sentences when they’re typing. They only do that when they’re doing voice search.”
Learn more about BERT’s nuances and its initial ambiguous impact on the greater SEO industry here.
SEO is finally taking a seat at the table in earnings calls as it’s quickly becoming a leading indicator for investors to evaluate when considering a company’s success. Presenting SEO successes to investors isn’t easy but Jordan broke the process down into easier steps, beginning with listening to other earnings calls to determine what your company is trying to communicate to investors, which includes analyzing investor Q&A sessions.
When it comes to explaining a drop in business due to SEO it’s best to keep the explanation at a surface level as Jordan describes:
“So, if Google did in fact make an algorithmic change that impacted the brand, make the clear statement that Google has made a policy change or has made an algorithmic change that’s impacted the business. But avoid going any further than that. You don’t need to get into the minutiae of ‘What kind of a change is this?’ No person on the street cares about Panda or Penguin or any of these other algorithm changes. All they need to understand is that there was a change in Google and that had an impact on our business.”
Learn more about the different ways you can present and effectively emphasize the importance of SEO to company decision makers and leadership here.
Ben’s interview With Mike King, founder and managing director of the digital marketing studio iPullRank, about his career move from hip-hop producer to SEO entrepreneur is one story you can’t miss.
King moved to Connecticut from Philadelphia early in his life where he developed his rap skills to stay in touch with his Philly roots while simultaneously developing his preternatural skills in programming. He prioritized his career in rap and toured the world until a bike accident forced King to find a job that could pay his medical bills. His life changed when an SEO agency hired him, and he discovered he could combine his two passions:
“I didn’t really take it seriously at first. It was just like, okay, I’m going to keep this job until it’s time to go back on tour. But what happened was, my boss at the time, I was really hesitant to tell him because I actually liked my job. My days were just flying by so fast. I was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to have to quit because I’m going to go back on tour.’ He’s like, ‘Wait, what do you mean you got to quit? You can work from the road.’ I was like, ‘What?’ That just changed my whole life right there. Because it’s like, ‘Wait, I can work from home while I’m on tour? That sounds amazing.’”
King’s rap career stalled and he eventually put down the mic, going on to work at Razorfish where he further sharpened his SEO skills. Learn more about King’s journey throughout his SEO career and how a negative experience with SEO leadership at companies he worked for inspired him to found and develop iPullRank here.
Google’s June 2019 update left the SEO industry reeling, causing widespread volatility, which significantly affected large websites like Wikipedia. The update saw Google reshape video and news carousels in the SERP and set new quality guidelines for news sites to reduce spam and low-quality content, affecting sites like the Daily Mail which suffered a 50% drop in traffic. The SERP manipulations indicated that Google may have made the modifications to prioritize Google Maps and YouTube.
Jordan offered some key advice to SEOs during the algorithm’s rollout:
“The first thing is that don’t freak out. Cool heads through these transitions with Google are the top priority. These issues can be solved, and you can fix any downturn from an algorithm update. It requires clear thinking. I think that that’s some encouragement as I start to read more and more publications come out with the Daily Mail scenario and talk about the challenges that they’re having there. The other thing, folks, to recognize here is the fact that this was a pre-announcement. We’ll see if that happens again and, if Google continues that trend, and this is pretty a unique time of year for a pretty broad core update. Typically, we see one in the spring and the fall, but here we’re seeing one in the summer. It will be interesting to see if Google becomes a little more consistent in the volume of updates that they have throughout the year.”
Learn more about which sites benefitted from the update and its unique effect on directory sites like Yelp, Rotten Tomatoes and more, here.
Google’s first algorithm update of the year leveled the search field, causing as much as 74% declines in visibility for some notable companies while others escaped unscathed, seeing an average 20% growth in search visibility. After the dust settled, Ben and Tyson Stockton, Director of Services, examined the first big winners and losers post-update.
Ecommerce giants like Target maintained its upward trajectory throughout the update, experiencing substantial gains. The update significantly impacted the auto industry as well, with Carfax and Cars.com experiencing strong growth while CarGurus experienced a 37% drop in visibility a week after the update went live. The healthcare industry collectively experienced widespread losses with some rare exceptions.
Tyson offered sage advice for SEOs finding their footing after the update, and how to prepare themselves for future updates:
“What you want to be doing, at least what I would be advocating, is to revisit your strategies and your initiatives, staying the course, and continue to get things live to the site and continue to improve, and then you want to just rebuild those elements back. And if you’re constantly rebuilding and improving the site, let’s call it a white hat SEO friendly manner, that’s ultimately whether it’s an algorithm catching up for you or just continuing to collect these incremental wins, I think that’s going to be more of the sound strategy coming out of these updates that I’d like to see from websites, rather than just hoping for a rollback or a bounce back in the industry level, more of focusing on, ‘What can you control?’”
Learn more about the volatility the update caused and how it impacted industry giants like Walmart here.
Another powerful Google algorithm update in September continued focusing on and enhancing E-A-T and Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) principles, indicating a grander algorithm trend geared toward improving the user experience. Ben and Jordan hosted a special episode of Voices of Search to dissect Google’s algorithm update trend throughout 2019 and its impact on large companies.
Amazon and Walmart’s complex, well-organized website structures were heavily rewarded after the update, as their functionality allows users to refine product selections, easily locate deal sections and select competitive delivery options, separating them from the rest of their pack of competitors. Spotify also experienced significant gains as its unique ecosystem of assets, content and informational features is built upon a robust user experience.
Jordan’s initial advice for SEOs looking to make adjustments to their strategies:
“Something that a lot of people start to overlook, they start to really try to get deep into the content optimizations, or the speed optimizations, and that’s great. But many times after these major core updates, Google’s started to make a decision on where they want to go on your site, what degree of depth they want to crawl, especially for the big sites out there. And I think that’s one of the fundamentals to go back and visit. A lot of this data and information can be found in search counts. Going back into search counts, if you haven’t done that in a while, that’s probably also a good idea.”
“Lastly, one of the most important things that webmasters, content owners, and really just the SEOs that are out there can prioritize right now is revisiting how they’re looking at their analytics. Right now, in these big updates, there can be major shifts, and sometimes you’ll want to start charting a new path in terms of how you’re measuring your performance. Whether that’s looking at how you measure your performance on a category level, on a full domain level.”
The update also uniquely affected recipe sites like the Food Network, decreasing their visibility. Learn more about why a trusted source in the food industry lost valuable traffic here.
Ben’s conversation with Ryan Purtill, senior director at Healthline Media, struck a chord with our listeners who developed a natural passion for SEO and shared a mutual experience of working with agencies in flux.
Purtill joined his first agency role out of college, Zer0 to 5ive, where he developed his passion for SEO but left for another agency his roommate worked with. He ended up returning to Zer0 to 5ive but found himself unhappy with his work life and went on to pursue a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology. The soft skills he developed there intertwined with his SEO skills, playing a critical role in reformatting his marketing foundation skillset:
“Actually, for me SEO and psychology are … I’ve had so many interviewers who go, ‘This is an odd pairing. It seems like it’s a departure.’ To me, it’s not a departure at all. It’s kind of like input/output systems. It’s like what new element can you introduce to a dynamic that you can’t really see how it works, and it’s going to be super complex like the human brain or Google’s algorithm, both very complex. Then, how can you get a result from that? From that result, how do you do it again? What would you change in the input to get an output?”
Learn more about his career at Healthline Media where he put his new SEO foundation skills to work, expanding the company’s reach to 300 million people a month, here.
Google’s move to mobile first crawling proved to be another hot topic with our listeners as host Ben and special guest Cindy Krum from MobileMoxie discussed how Google has prioritized mobile crawls, clarifying the shift is more than just a response to more search queries performed on mobile devices and actually about how they changed their mobile indexing methods to consider relationships between search terms users input, whether it’s a typed or voice searched query.
“So, at MobileMoxie, we think of mobile first indexing as entity first indexing and that means fitting in content from the web around the knowledge graph. And that’s important, because it allows Google to do their machine learning faster. And it also allows Google to be better in languages where they have less machine learning, because entities are language agnostic.
“So, when we talk about entity first indexing, it’s basically fitting things into existing or new entities in the knowledge graph. So, if you think about the knowledge graph as a graph, as a series of things that are related to other things in kind of a fabric, right? This … and the relationships can be lateral, right? Taco is related to hamburger, but then taco is also related to lettuce and tomato or it’s related to food, right? These are multidimensional relationships and those are things that Google knows and that Google can graph, right? They can meet these relationships and those relationships stay static regardless of what language or keyword you’re searching in. So, taco is always … Has the same relationship to lettuce and to food in every language.
“…that’s because the relationships are critical when you don’t have a screen to help sort out or to help make it easy for someone to pick what the right answer is. Google has to get the answer right on the first try and they have to be able to drill down in a relational way when there’s voice only, right? You don’t get 10 options. In voice, they have to get just the one.”
Learn more from Krum about Google’s reasoning for shifting toward mobile first crawls and its impact on SEO performance here.
Walking a fine line between white and black hat SEO is tricky for even the most experienced SEO experts, and oftentimes they find themselves accidentally stumbling into gray hat territory.
A story that heavily resonated with our listeners was our episode with Dan Petrovic, director and owner of Dejan Marketing, whose extensive career spans the early days of SEO before Google cemented itself as an authoritative policy maker in search to the present.
Petrovic reflected on the common mistakes people in the industry made during those early days and continue to make today:
“Things have changed over time, and I see a lot of momentum in the industry and still clinging to older practices. So, in fact, as far as great Gray Hat SEO practices, let’s label them that way for the sake of simplicity for the moment, they kind of linger on and people take unnecessary risks for the sake of the old days, and the memory of things working. So, you take a risk but you don’t get any benefit out of it. And that’s probably one of the biggest mistakes that people in SEO make today. Just making unnecessary risks for things that don’t even benefit you.”
Petrovic once landed himself in hot water with Google, who slapped one of his blogs with a manual penalty. Unsure of what he did wrong after extensively researching the issue, Petrovic took an unorthodox approach to finding a solution – deleting his entire website. Learn more about what he discovered using this drastic move here.
A 20/20 Retrospective on 2019
Before we enter a new decade, join Jordan and Sebastien Edgar, Team Lead, Enterprise SEO Consulting as they review and discuss 2019’s landmark moments in SEO with Searchmetrics’ 2019 Year End Review Webinar on Dec. 12.
Core topics to be discussed include:
- A complete analysis of Google’s algorithm updates and an in-depth discussion on how they’ve impacted and changed the SEO industry in 2019.
- Making predictions on potential developments, changes and updates in 2020.
About Voices of Search
The Voices of Search is a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and content marketing podcast launched in 2018. Host Benjamin Shapiro and SEO industry guests, including Searchmetrics CEO Jordan Koene, take deep dives into the ever-changing world of content and search engine marketing, discussing breaking news and the latest developments in the industry.
Listeners discover actionable strategies and insights provided in each episode to navigate the topsy-turvy world created by search giant Google, Apple and other tech leaders.