User experience is constantly talked about as a progressive part of an SEO strategy – but how exactly does user experience impact SEO? That’s the topic for episode 20 of the Knowledge Panel. Joining Dixon are Aiala Icaza González from Reflect Digital, Chris Green from Torque Partnership and Hellen Benavides from giffgaff.
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Dixon: Hello, welcome to “The Knowledge Panel,” episode 20. And today, we’re talking about UX and SEO and how the two go hand-in-hand, or do they go hand-in-hand? And with me today, I’ve got a fantastic panel again, with Hellen, Chris, and Aiala. Welcome to “The Knowledge Panel.” Thanks very much for coming in, guys. I really do appreciate it. Why don’t we start by getting everyone to introduce themselves?
Aiala with a cat, bring the cat in, say hello to the cat and that’s brilliant timing, Aiala, every single time you come on the show. Take yourself off mic and tell us who you are.
Aiala: Hi, my name is Aiala, I’m the Search Partnerships Director at Reflect, and I’ve been doing SEO for the last 12 years, and this is my cat, as expected, she’s showing up now.
Dixon: Brilliant, thank you very much for coming along. And, Chris, tell us about yourself, who are you and where do you come from?
Chris: Hi, I’m Chris Green, I’m the Senior SEO Consultant at Torque Partners and I’m also a Technical Director at Footprint Digital. But it’s just a tinkerer, SEO tinkerer by trade.
Dixon: Oh, you silly little liar. Tinkerer. Terrible. Okay. Hellen, how are you? Tell us about yourself and where do you come from.
Hellen: Hello, I’m Hellen, I am SEO and Commerce Experience Lead at Giffgaff.
Dixon: So, and I’d mixed you two up as well because I’m writing down the wrong way around so, just before the show, I apologize, Hellen, for saying you’re from Reflect and Aiala is from… You know, the wrong way around. But anyway, thank you very much for coming on the show. Just leaves me to talk about my pointless friend, David. Sorry, David.
David: Thank you.
Dixon: My favorite show, every 5:00 o’clock as soon as I get out of at work I go and see “Pointless.” My producer, David, thank you very much for coming on. So David, what have I done, what have I messed up, apart from that introduction?
David: Referred to random cats for audio listeners, which is particularly random for audio listeners, but that’s okay.
Dixon: I’m having the best the best day so far, I do apologize. Okay. Right. So guys, let’s just jump straight into it. And UX and SEO, if we don’t have anybody, if people don’t have time to be here for the whole, you know, whole show and there’s one thing that you think people should take away about UX and SEO, what kind of nugget should they take away?
Chris, why don’t I start with you? Give us a nugget for everybody.
Chris: Yeah, so my nugget there is thinking about the intent and the action that someone’s trying to complete, and the journey starts from the search, it doesn’t just begin on the website. And when we talk about user experience and how do we fix that, very often, you know, journey mapping, design, typically UX starts on the website, whereas actually most people’s journey and their need starts way beyond that, so it’s actually getting the mindset of the user and even trying to think of them, where are they, almost pre-search engine, if you can.
And then you’ll understand what they’re trying to do and what they’ll need to achieve it, and then all the other things you can put around it.
Dixon: I’ll come back to journey mapping at some point, I think that’s an interesting thing to challenge you on, and it’s easier said than done, I reckon, so.
Chris: Oh, absolutely.
Dixon: So, we’ll come back into that one. Aiala, what about your tip, golden nugget?
Aiala: This is not my phrase, so let me be clear, but I’ve loved it when it’s said and it’s very much thinking, don’t put something out there unless it matters to you and your audience. So pretty much think about your audience, and it does link with what Chris is saying is, think about what they’re looking for, think about what they want, don’t just do things for the sake of doing things and because Google wants content and ABCD. Do it because it really matters, don’t just put waste there.
Dixon: Okay. I like that one. Don’t put out waste. That’s useful. Hellen, what would your take away, your nugget?
Hellen: What I will say links completely with Aiala and Chris. I would say to understand your user pings, do a lot of research and this will improve your website health, improve conversion rates and improve your rankings. So understand what the user wants, where they want to go, what they want to buy from your website.
Dixon: Okay, so let’s… Thanks very much, so these are ideas, so you’re all kind of sort of moving in the same direction, I guess, that would be obvious from UX experts like yourselves, and intent being the whole idea. It’s interesting, just last week or a couple of days ago, Google came out with a new video on BERT and how important it was for Google to understand the little words, as they put in the video, you know, the OBS and the on and these kind of things because it changes the meaning of the content on the page.
So they were very much talking about how the little words can make a big difference, and I guess that can make a big difference to understanding the user intent as well. So how do you see things like BERT and MUM and those kind of algorithms playing into the history of how Google has been trying to move from just sort of text and engrams and just understanding, you know, words to understanding meaning. I don’t know who to bring in first on that one, who wants to jump in?
Chris: Yeah, I don’t mind jumping in. I mean, I think the importance of it, and we’ve learned this for a while, is that search is difficult, understanding what someone’s trying to do and trying to achieve is really tough. And I think the nuance in any piece of content in any query, suddenly becomes really super important to getting someone, you know, the fullness of where they’re trying to go.
You know, engrams or just kind of taking apart a piece of text and saying, “Well, it has this many words.” Based on the words and where they are, we think this piece is slanting towards X. That might be correct. But being able to then match that to a user in a way that will fulfill their journey is really, really challenging.
And I think that, you know, from an SEO point of view, it’s quite easy to rank for content, even if you didn’t know an awful lot about the subject because you just had to fill a word with pages that overlapped with the queries that people might be searching for. And I mean, now that’s where we’re seeing, we’re not always there yet but what we’re seeing is, you know, content is being recognized for being authoritative for the people writing it to being experts in the subject, but that it actually makes sense.
And also it matches with the broad consensus of knowledge anyway, drawing a knowledge vault and that kind of thing. So I think that factual accuracy, they’re far better at judging just how complete, how well written is that topic, is getting easy to judge. But are you really an expert? Or are you an outsourced content resource that’s just being fed kind of keywords to put onto a page?
And I think being able to identify those differences are key points in the cycle, that’s absolutely key. But if you’re the user, like consuming that content, that absolutely is better for you because you’re actually reading stuff that is, you know, actually informative and useful.
Dixon: So, and, Aiala, Chris just sort of talked there about how, you know, just taking the words that used that, you know, sort of in order doesn’t work so much anymore, you know, why is that? How do you think Google has made that leap from, you know, just understanding words to understanding meaning?
Aiala: I think it all comes down to what we’ve been saying, so in the end, Google, their objective is to… I’ll say the word, to provide the most useful content to the users. So Google’s end is actually to say like, “Okay, I have a user with a need and I have a lot of companies that can solve that need, which one can solve that need the best?”
So I think it all comes down to that. So before it was quite hard for us to find our solution to the need that we had, and Google was trying to find that gap and this is how they’re doing it, by trying to understand the intent.
Because when we’re looking for “How to get a Visa for the US?” If you’re from Spain, for instance, that would be the sentence you’re looking for. So a lot of times, Google would come back saying, “How to find Visas for Spain when you’re from the US,” when you’re actually on the opposite. So like now they’re trying to understand exactly what you want and instead of sending you to the Spanish government website, they’re sending you to the Visa center in the US.
So that’s why it’s so important for Google, they’re finally closing that gap that they had before with the user needs, in the end, to find a solution.
Dixon: Which, I guess, is why we have to spend so much time, and Google is spending so much time understanding what the user is typing in before they’ve even decided what kind of sites to go to. So, does that mean that UX SEO is all about understanding questions, what questions people are asking now? Yeah, is that what we’re looking for? We are no longer looking for, “I want a rank for this keyword,” it’s, “I want to answer this question.” Is that what we’re saying?
Chris: Well, it depends where you are, where the user is in their journey. You know, working in some really heavy transactional commercial intense space, you know, people aren’t really… Well, at the part of the funnel we’re optimizing for at the moment, people aren’t asking questions, people know exactly what they’re looking for, they want a particular item in a particular color and they’re just literally browsing or refining sort of on that final kind of stage.
So they’ve already asked those questions. Now, those pages, those money pages that are optimizing for the people are going to finish their journey on, hopefully. They’re not full of questions. You know, they are demonstrating that we have the product, it’s in the right size, it’s in the right color, it has fast shipping, that the user satisfaction’s guaranteed, all of those kind of buying signals.
Whereas, you know, there is a space for those questions, the what is, the why can Is, or the comparative or the top ten of said item, but I think they fulfill very different parts of that funnel. And I think the difference now, relative to say five years ago, is you wouldn’t be putting questions if that landing page was at the end of the journey, you’d probably be doing it towards the start and you would actually provision for that.
Dixon: So, Aiala, how do you find that user intent in the first place? How do you define the start of that journey, whatever the start is, how do you know when you’ve got to start mapping things out for a user?
Aiala: I would say here we have to go to the keyword research and not just doing keyword research for the sake of it but like trying to understand its keyword, what is happening when you google that keyword. Like, a lot of times, when I’m doing a keyword research, I will actually Google that keyword and understand what is being answered and trying to understand as well what is really that the user is trying to get out of it.
And obviously, this should influence the site structure as well. So like this, what Chris was saying, you’re already answering the questions at the top of the funnel but then they’re written to the product pages through the right keywords. So this would be my suggestion, but obviously, there’s probably more out there that we can do.
Dixon: But it’s hard, isn’t it? To map that journey, I mean, are there very many…?
Chris: Oh, absolutely.
Dixon: It’s not just about getting a tool to map that journey, it’s that every individual, and not necessarily every individual, if you want to buy tickets to see Queen, you want to buy tickets to see Queen and that’s what you want to do. But you can still, you know, one person wants them for a wedding present, one wants for up in London, one wants some in New York, whatever, they’re still… Everybody’s different, and their journeys are going to be different.
So mapping that journey intent, I suppose, or that journey, it’s not an easy thing to do. Is it something that, you know, have you got tools to do that with or do you have to use brain 2.0?
Chris: Well, I mean, if you’re an empiricist and you like data and things to be neat and consigned into buckets, user journeys, and that research bit is not going to be the most comfortable experience. I haven’t always gotten on well with that as a process, you know, working with UX agency, “Right here are our six users and here’s what they do,” and it’s like, “Hmm.”
Dixon: [inaudible 00:13:06].
Chris: There’s far more than six people in GA, but I’ve come to… You have to generalize to a point. And there are more sophisticated ways in doing this. I think that if you’re not got massive scale, so you say you’re an SME, you say you’ve only got 10 to 20 distinct different products or offerings, actually really understanding who is the ideal customer in each one of those, or customers, there might be two or three, and then mapping those out.
And I think it does come back to brain 2.0, but a lot of tools now do give intent or estimations of intent. And I would always say, you know, the tools can help scale it, but look at the search, what are you looking at? If you can see a product above the fold, that’s obviously people, let’s buy intent that. If you see a map, where people might want to travel to a local premises or speak to a local tradesperson.
And I think before you even reach for the tools, actually do that, do that on your key sort of products and your key journeys and then, you know, get in the shoes of that searcher. The example I’ve always given is like if you’ve got a block drain in the UK, what’s the first thing you’re going to do? Well, most people would go, “Well, is it my responsibility or not?” So actually, who has to fix the water leak? And it’s kind of… And actually…
Dixon: Are you saying that the brits are not prepared to take responsibility for that?
Chris: A hundred percent, well, then, I mean, the amount of people searching…
Dixon: [inaudible 00:14:22], you know.
Chris: The amount of people searching for, “Is this fence panel mine? Because the winds have knocked them down.” I mean, it’s… But again, if you sell fences or you fix fences, really that query, that’s your top funnel for that distressed, you know, purchase after a storm, for example, so. But, yeah, it’s doing that extensive research, it’s not putting those keywords on a page because it’s got a lot of search volume, it’s because it answers the query and you’re in a position to answer that.
Dixon: Help the user out, help the user out, yeah.
Chris: Yeah. Which is fluffy and challenging.
Dixon: It is hard.
Aiala: Wouldn’t we say that so instead of doing the classic personas here, instead of saying like, “Oh, we have this, man, 25 to 35 broken fence living in the suburbs of… I don’t know which town in the UK. Then we would have to…”
Chris: Sounds funny so far.
Aiala: So wouldn’t we say that we would generalize them as instead of people, man, woman, whatever, we would say problems. So we would make the personas based on problems, like this, I think, we could get to this point much better, where we’re actually solving the problems instead of just generalizing people.
Dixon: That’s probably a good way of looking at it. What I don’t like is when SEOs talk about user intent as just four types transactional, informational… I don’t know… Whatever, you know, four different types.
Chris: [crosstalk 00:15:50]
Dixon: Yeah, and you can look at user intent. I did it the other day, typed “user intent” into Google. And all of the top results, which is all of the brands we know, and I’m sure some of the brands we love, and including Wikipedia, talk about those four or five different sort of things as the be-all and end-all of user intent. And I don’t see any of that, when I start to type something in a search, all of us see entities coming up and objects and as you type in horseshoes and you start seeing horseshoe falls and horseshoe in and horseshoe, you know, pass or whatever, so there’s all sorts of things coming in there that are totally about Google trying to get to a much more granular idea of intent than what SEOs have in the traditional literature, I think, so.
But it still makes it very difficult to map out a journey as you asked the start, you know, I can’t see how it is easy to map a journey through, and all through my life of SEO, in fact, before the internet came along, you know, there was this, you know, product awareness, product acceptance, product buying and then product advocacy kind of funnel that comes straight out of a sort of MBA kind of stuff. But is that true or is that not really a thing to look at when you’re in the world of SEO?
Chris: I mean, if you’re to map out everyone’s unique journeys, you just have a bowl of spaghetti. I think it’s, you know, because we’re all unique, I think that when I’m talking about journeys, we’re trying to map as many as we can or overlay or at least catch the points where people’s journeys intersects with your site and you’re hoping that you’re providing for the most number of those intersects, I guess. I mean, so rather than necessarily having your website completely covering the whole process, usually where I then pass off to paid media to say, “Well, okay, we’ve got them at the top funnel, now let’s cookie them, have Instagram harass them for a week,” and then they’ll come back to the site and pick up off a certain call to action or a brand based search.
And I think that’s where the, you know, looking a bit more holistic to use a word, that makes me cringe. That’s when the channel can work really well in, you know, together, which is sort of showing…
Dixon: Is that where SEO and then PPC based on cookie tracking comes into play then? You’ve got somebody into the website at the start and then you trace around the internet to finish the journey three weeks later?
Chris: Potentially, yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t just limit it to paid media, I’d say CRM, you know, mailing lists, downloads. And I think, for me, SEO is still the best medium to get someone who doesn’t know about you to the website, if you’ve got the right kind of content. You’re picking someone that’s called, the only thing you know about them is they’re searching for the thing that you have the content for, everything else you’ve made assumptions on what that might be, but that’s kind of a unifying factor, I mean, once they know your brand and they know you’re good for it, the SEO job becomes really super simple then, just don’t mess it up.
But the, you know, the creative from paid media, that has to do really hard work of getting people back out again. And I’ve become particularly susceptible to like Instagram or similar marketing, once they’ve got me. I’m pretty much guaranteed, once I start seeing the ads around a specific kind of need, give me a couple of weeks, it will soften me up and I’ll have probably gone in and purchase at some point. And I kind of, I’m growing, I’m less resentful of that than I used to be but it can be effective if you have the right message. But it all starts at the top for me, that first interaction, you know, has SEO brought that right person and given them what they needed?
Dixon: I had Louis Theroux [SP] advertising to me on my phone whilst I was watching Louis Theroux yesterday, so that’s…
Chris: That’s very meta, isn’t it?
Dixon: Yeah, yeah. So, Aiala, you talked about, just before we came on air, about SEO sustainability. And I get it now, I get now when you said, “Write, don’t let anybody write, don’t write anything if it’s not important,” is that what you were meaning by SEO sustainability?
Aiala: No, what I mean by SEO sustainability in digital, let’s call it, it’s actually that recently I came to learn how much carbon footprint we leave with all of our campaigns, the content we create, the websites we create, the emails we send, and all of this. And yeah, I just became more into it. So that’s what it actually mean.
Dixon: Give us an inkling of how that is then, because I, you know, I don’t think that too many people are aware that, you know, SEO is a, you know, a carbon footprint heavy industry.
Aiala: Okay, I cannot tell you right now because I…
Dixon: I don’t want the actual numbers, honestly. If you tell me a million cubic feet of CO2, I don’t understand what that is anyway, so no. But, you know…
Aiala: Yeah, no, I had it actually in how many cars driving a year in the UK pollutes the digital marketing in general, but actually, let me tell you something, Google by 2030, they want to be zero carbon something…
Dixon: Carbon zero, yeah.
Aiala: I lost it.
Dixon: Carbon neutral, carbon neutral.
Aiala: That’s the word, exactly. So if Google is actually making that commitment, you can imagine how much they’re wasting or how much they’re polluting and how much it actually happens in the internet, but if you think about it, everything we do online, even this call or watching this video after podcast, anything that we do online, it means that it’s been stored somewhere, it has data centers, it has all these things that consume energy, and it actually sends carbon footprint out to the world. So obviously, we need to take care of these data centers, we need to power everything we’re doing. So all of this, we need to start being aware of all of it. And for me, when Google said this commitment, I was like, “Oh, this is a big thing.” They’re going for this.
Dixon: I guess we’re going to all learn about that when our hosting costs are about to go through the roof with the energy increases that are happening around the world, and we’re going to suddenly get a little bit of a shock about that. But I still maintain that, you know, doing this webinar now and however many people listen to this, you know, compared to those people coming to a conference, surely, the internet has got to be a net improvement on, you know, marketing, you know, face-to-face, although I do recommend marketing face-to-face if you get the opportunity at every opportunity. But is it really doing that much harm to the environment, do you think?
Aiala: Well, if you think about it, right now we’re just the three of us, but the internet actually reaches the whole world, is everyone sending one little thank-you email, with their signature, with an attachment, with pictures, with links, with I don’t know what else. So that tiny little thing that is for you, just imagine billions and billions and billions of them, that you think, like every day you might sound like, “Oh, noted, thank you.” That email already is consuming a lot so, it’s again, obviously, we don’t have to go crazy and be like, “Oh, my gosh, I need to stop sending emails and all of this,” no, but we need to be aware that this is happening, that we’re actually consuming a lot of these and that there’s actually really easy ways to decrease that consumption.
Dixon: Do you want to throw a few out?
Chris: [inaudible 00:23:36].
Aiala: [inaudible 00:23:38].
Dixon: I’ll let you in, Chris, in a second. I promise.
Aiala: Another one would be, pretty much that is the easiest one, is actually when you reply to an email remove your signature. That’s the easiest thing you can do. If you remove your signature, that’s already a big chunk of weight, let’s call it, that the server doesn’t have to go through it.
Dixon: It’s less zeros.
Aiala: Yeah, so it’s super simple, just remove your signature, you only need it on the first one so that they know you, after that, remove it, no need. Easy peasy.
Dixon: Chris, you got any sustainability tips here?
Chris: Well, I mean, the key one I think is sustain… So the carbon cost of a website directly correlates with its performance from a speed perspective. And I’ve done a bit in sustainability as well, and I think that most people go into the sustainability route from a CSR point of view and, does our budget align with our need to do CSR in this space? I’m being kind of cynical, but that is roughly how it pans out. But the thing we’ve found is actually a really good way into it, is actually you come in more of the page speed and the improvements to overheads on hosting or even conversion rate and the user experience point, and I think that’s such a key part.
So if you’re improving a website, from a carbon footprint perspective, is highly likely you’re improving the speed and you’re probably improving the user’s experience. too. And this comes down to like technologies of how sites are being built, so that you don’t rely on client side to do all the work.
Dixon: So, do you reckon it’s as simple as, and not simple, and I’m not saying it’s simple at all any of this, but it’s simple to think about, you know, if half the speed of the website or double the speed of the website, you halve your carbon footprint. Is it that linear?
Chris: Not quite, but… So I was one of the…an audit I did a while back, I can’t tell you who it was for, sadly, but one of the top 10 sites ranking in the UK, if they switched to sustainable hosting, would have saved about 10 or 15 tons of CO2 a year. Now, it’s not a linear. It doesn’t correlate linearly, you know, half doesn’t equal half because there are, you know, you’ve got your big kind of wins and then you’ve got your incremental gains. But they are very closely related. And any kind of performance optimization, all of the easy wins, it’s almost [inaudible 00:26:02] kind of principles that you know, the first 80% is the easy bit, that one with 20% is the really challenging part.
Dixon: I know, I think we’re about to go headlong into CDNs, you know, because I know this, you know, that’s one of your pet areas, Chris, you know what I mean, talk are big onto really using SEO in the cloud, and presumably, apart from…we can come on to some of the great UX performances, the things that you can do with Edge workers and stuff, but just generally, are CDNs reducing the carbon footprint or are they increasing the carbon footprint?
Chris: You know, that’s a really good question because there’s not a lot of transparency in this space at the moment, in the sense of… It comes down to the data centers and how much they cost to run and, you know, the old days before you’d have CDNs, you’d build in two or three servers, like failover servers. So if one server died, it would load balance, you’d distribute to another, and those kind of redundancies are typically always been very expensive from an energy point of view.
So I think five years ago, I would have said actually no, if the CDN’s giving you an uptime guarantee, even if the server fails, that’s probably not good. But all of the CDNs are moving more progressively into that, and their own distributed networks are becoming far more eco-friendly, I guess, to use this sort of [inaudible 00:27:54] term, so they’re getting better. I think the main benefits of the gains are where it’s… The origin servers are having to work less hard, so actually the users are getting their data from the CDN or that point that’s closest to them that, you know, you’re not having loads of round trips so the users’ being bounced between CDN, origin servers and, you know, all of the various assets are being loaded from one of these different locations.
So I think net improvement will be far greater. But, I mean, it’s just you’ve got to be careful though, because again, you know, anything that’s on AWS, for example, we don’t really know the cost or the intensity behind it all. So I think if you’re looking on a pure what’s the cost of this data being sent, that isn’t the solution yet. But if it’s the, “Oh, can we use the CDN to make what we do more efficient? So less data is being transferred or only the data that’s needed for the shortest possible journey,” that’s where the CDNs really benefit, and then obviously we get into Edge.
Dixon: Aiala, did you want to jump in there or shall I just jump in with Jon’s question there?
Aiala: Both, actually.
Aiala: No, I just wanted to add, not only that, it’s also whatever they’re located, that also impacts a lot the carbon footprint. So it’s not the same something located in the US as something located somewhere in southeast Asia, for instance. Like a lot of the servers and so on in the US, they’re starting to move more into the eco-friendly or wind or water solution energy, whilst in third world countries they’re still using… I can’t remember the word, but I think it was carbon related ones. So there’s…
Dixon: Fossil fuels.
Aiala: Fossil fuel, yeah, fossil fuels. Thanks for giving me my words today.
Dixon: So, but there’s a cynical side of that that Jon Muranko puts out in the audience. So thanks, Jon. He said, “So would you agree then that that’s why Google is pushing to get everybody on board with speed, is basically what they’re trying to do is reduce Google’s bill?” What are your thoughts, Aiala?
Aiala: So actually, I’ve been reading a lot about what Google is doing, and it could be, yeah, but, no, actually I do believe that Google are trying to reduce the overall footprint because if you see what they’re doing in California, for instance, where they have so many problems with water, they’re trying to reuse the water to cool down their servers and all of that. So I don’t think it’s to reduce their bill.
Dixon: I’m sure it’s included. I’m sure it’s included.
Aiala: It’s a benefit for all of us.
Dixon: I mean, Google also has this sort of 10 times kind of attitude, and I always kind of feel that Google, whenever they’re arguing a point, is this something we should do? They kind of try and have three different verticals that they’re trying to say, so if they’re trying to make it good for the customer and good for Google’s bottom line and good for the environment, then they count that as a triple whammy and take it to the bank.
Aiala: That’s sustainability, in the end. If you think about it, this is another way you can see it, because in the end, whenever I look at sustainability, I’m like, “Okay, might be a little bit costly at the beginning, it might be a little bit more effort at the beginning. Long run it’s always cost efficient, always.” Like, back when I lived in Dubai, I changed from plastic bottles to filter water. The first year was a big investment, second year I was actually saving money. So, yeah, sustainability is a good thing about it.
Dixon: I just bought my wife a soda string because she was getting… There’s one bottle of these, one of these with single plastic fizzy bottles every night, that’s… Easy Christmas present, really. Sorry, Chris, you were just about to jump in with something and I interrupted.
Chris: Yeah, I just I think a lot of what Google are trying to do sort of in the tech SEO point in the market, they’re trying to optimize the crawl, they’re trying to reduce their costs of processing how much, you know, it takes to understand what’s happening and, you know, I guess in some respects, Schema JSON-LD, potentially, does it make Google make it easier for people to understand what’s in a page to process it? It has to guess less, it has to take less time, so I think a lot of it is, you know, bill reduction.
But again, I think there’s the benefits of both, I mean, again, we’re coming back to the same point, you know, where we’re reducing speed, you know, you’re getting efficiencies elsewhere because the scale that Google does anything, anything that takes, you know, even half a second longer than it should do, I mean, probably costs astronomical sums over a given year, so. But if you see…
Dixon: Do you see…? Sorry, Chris, for interrupting you, sorry.
Chris: I was just going to say.
Dixon: I was going to…?
Chris: You go.
Dixon: Go on.
Chris: No, I was just going to say…
Dixon: I’m a rubbish, I’m a rubbish presenter. What a rubbish presenter. You can never finish. [crosstalk 00:32:27].
Chris: All I’d say is just, if it wasn’t benefiting users too and reducing your own costs in the process, then we could take this cynically, I think, you know, you touched upon it, they’re just very good at dovetailing efficiencies into very public messaging.
Dixon: I think there is some cynicism in there though, because, you know, because Bing have come out with their new thing called IndexNow, I don’t know if you’ve seen it. I don’t know, I’m quite old and I remember Pinomatic, which seems to be exactly the same thing as IndexNow, but, you know, the idea is that instead of all of the crawlers then having to come and crawl the website and stuff and, you know, you tell the search engine when you’ve updated your information, so they don’t have to come and see you on the off chance every single time. And that potentially has a massive saving for search engines and carbon offsets.
And Bing have gone in, Yandex has said that they’re joining in on it, and I think that’s it at the moment. And Google have not said they’re not gonna go and do it, but I think that they’re… I suspect that they may have some other reservations because it doesn’t fulfill all their other objectives in life, and it’s somebody else’s idea and they don’t like somebody else’s idea. But it’s a good idea, isn’t it? Surely, if your website doesn’t change, why would you want bots and search engines to continually, you know, use all that energy to re-index the same information.
Chris: Yeah. Well, that’s where a lot of the CDN providers are getting in on that as well because, again, if you’re CloudFlare or Akamai or Fastly, and everyone’s rooting through you, you’ll know when stuff’s changing as it’s changing. And the, you know, IndexNow and those services but also Akamai and CloudFlare, they have the ability to notify Google, “Google, come back, actually this site on our network has had these pages change,” you know, and I think that kind of on demand crawl rather than always searching. Imagine, you know, leafing through, you know, an Amazon or an eBay or similar for something that may have changed, that’s phenomenally costly for everybody involved.
So, the on-demand service is going to be key. I think the reservation behind that is always trust, isn’t it? I mean, you know, whether it’s those old pinging services of old, we’ve put a new page up or I’ve built 10,000 new links, let’s ping them all to get them indexed really quickly. That is conversely a horrible use of Google’s time, so I think it’s just getting that QA back involved and saying, “Well, if we’re going to let people start, you know, pinging pages again, let’s make sure that we only listen to it when we feel it’s valid, which is.”
Dixon: Yeah, there’s going to be a bit of a responsibility on the website owner not to spam with [inaudible 00:35:17].
Chris: If you give them tools to spam, spam will be done.
Dixon: I mean, I suspect if you tell it an IndexNow every three minutes that your website’s changed and then it hasn’t, the IndexNow will presumably sit there and say, “No, it hasn’t,” and just wait longer and longer and longer each time before it goes and checks for you.
Chris: When you make it, soft ban or something like that.
Dixon: Yeah, soft ban, yeah. Do you think, you know, this idea of only indexing on demand is the future and something good for sustainability? Aiala?
Aiala: I mean, as we’re saying, I think… Someone said it, recently when… As yours are given something, we tend to exploit it too much. So it could be too dangerous, like we still have a lot of gray black-hats out there that could be like, “Oh.” So I’m not sure. I mean, I think people would still, as usual, try to hack the system and try to use it in their favor. And in the end, what we’re trying to do here is provide the best solution.
Dixon: Improve the planet. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Aiala: And improve the planet, of course, yeah. We’re all about the planet.
Dixon: Okay, well, let’s get back to… I mean, honestly, that was a fascinating… It wasn’t a diversion, I think it’s very pertinent to SEO and to usability and how sustainability and usability dovetails, I think that’s not something I’ve heard talked about in any SEO podcast, so that for me is definitely a win for the podcast. But let’s head back to UX and CDNs in particular, not from a sustainability point of view but from a performance and a UX point of view. Chris, I know that Torque Partnership are very big into, you know, doing SEO on the edge. So yeah, just to listeners, you know, what is SEO on the edge?
Chris: I mean, it’s kind of like common or garden SEO, except it takes place on the layer between the user and the server. You know, it’s taking place on the infrastructure of an Akamai or a CloudFlare or a Fastly, it’s applying changes…
Dixon: At the DNS level?
Chris: Yeah. So it’s kind of, I mean, some people termed it meta CMS, it’s sort of almost another way of controlling your content above the content. I think the key benefits from an SEO kind of point of view is all of the changes, everything that’s done is as if it’s coming from the server, so as Google requests it, they’re getting fed that straight away, rather than, you know, any reliance on things happening at the client.
Obviously, the other point of view and why from an SEO standpoint we find it really, really useful is you can circumvent most technical issues that might have stopped it getting put in place, so CMS, platform issues or when you go in your systems that don’t talk to each other. It’s like the Edge is the best place to have oversight of redirects of, you know, requesting different resources, of logging, of all of these other kinds of issues that most people building a website would not really care about or choose to really think about that often. It’s just because we’re super obsessed with how Google is experiencing a website. The Edge is the best place. There are certain SEO tasks that, realistically, should take place that there’s no point to… [crosstalk 00:38:43].
Dixon: So, a quick advert for Torque, if anybody wants their in-links code injected through the edge, the Torque Partnership are the people to go and approach, and they’ll speed up everything that the index does so, which is the advert for in-links as well because they’re sponsoring the show, so, you know.
Aiala, do you guys do much on the Edge, on CDNs? Is that a big part of your SEO world or is it kind of, you know, something that you don’t have to go to too often?
Aiala: You put me on the spot here because I don’t have the answer for this.
Dixon: Okay, sorry.
Aiala: I would have to go to the team and ask them. They’re the experts in that.
Dixon: That’s fine. But, I mean, I do think that all around though, you know, CDNs have become much more accessible for all of us really, you know, probably, you know, Akamai was quite expensive, really, if you’re a small SEO, Akamai was a little bit of a luxury, you know, but CloudFlare and AWS’ have made sort of a lot of those things really, really straightforward, so, you know, I think it is getting easier to use those kind of ideas but it’s still a big leap, I guess, from a an SEO on their first week, is probably not going to get into CDNs, but, you know, we’ll get them on content first.
So let’s get on to content then. And do that as a very last thing before we go. You know, as we’re talking about UX and we’ve talked about intent and trying to get somebody to answer… Trying to answer a problem, as you put it, Aiala, you know, what we’re trying to do is try and answer a problem for a user.
One of the downsides of that philosophy for an SEO, surely, is that if the problem is something that can be answered quite quickly, does it mean that the SEO can no longer make any money, or rather the website owner, cannot make money because, you know, it’s answered? In fact, it could even be answered before the user comes to the website, we’ve seen so many knowledge panels that answer the question to the point at which you’ve done all the work, you’ve answered all the questions, Google said, “Tick, thank you very much, we’ll just give that to the user.” And talking about sustainability, how’s the sustainability of your content if it’s going to get put straight into the search results? Aiala, I’ll put that one to you.
Aiala: That’s such an easy question. Oh, my gosh. Actually, it’s something that I haven’t encountered, so this is amazing because this is what I really want to happen, that we start these conversations in how we can deal with this. To be honest, I don’t have an answer right now, because this is something I haven’t encountered yet, obviously. I would say it does give you authority in the matter.
So for instance, if we’re looking for… I’m just going to make it up, amicable divorces, what does it mean? And I’m actually looking at how can I manage an amicable divorce and the Knowledge Panel already gives me the answer, I’d probably will register that name. And the day that I’m like, “Okay, I really need help with my amicable divorce,” because maybe it’s not that amicable.
Dixon: Yeah, yeah, eventually you’re not going to look at that on Google, are you? Actually you’re going to have to try and find somebody that knows about amicable divorces. Yeah.
Aiala: So actually, I might go to that brand because that brand already gave me the solution once and I may be like, “Oh, maybe they have more information on that.” So because Google already provided that as the authority on that, so you might remember them as… Sorry, now my cat is up there.
Dixon: Brilliant. We’re on a podcast, you can’t mention the cat, don’t mention the cat.
Aiala: Sorry, there’s no cat. So, yeah. So I do believe that that would be linked to authority and providing given authority. But I bet Chris has an answer to that, I can’t…
Chris: Yeah, so it’s an interesting one. I think the way that I’d suggest, because there’s certain queries that you can ask the question and the answer is exactly enough. So I don’t know, what’s the time now in New York? And Google absolutely will always dominate that kind of instant answer type response. But I would say that the vast majority of website owners probably aren’t losing out there, there may have been someone who provided that time that did have some ad units that are rightly very grumpy.
But most questions… I don’t know, let me come back to the drain’s example, who’s responsible for unblocking the strain? And they go, “You are.” I’ve instantly got five new questions. And I think it’s almost it’s understanding what’s beyond that instant answer and trying to cover as much as it can do, and I think that takes skills in your content writing, how the page is laid out, the experience of consuming that content because most people would say, “Well, if that’s all the queries, just answer that question, be done with it, because that’s a better user experience.”
And that’s true, if, me as a person, I answer that question, I go, “Oh, that’s fine, I put my phone down and I never search for that ever again,” and I think there’s, you know, you kind of got to get upstream a little bit and ahead of that and kind of think, “Well, what could the person be doing with that information?” And you’ve got to pick, you know, the couple of the most likely ones. And I think those are going to be ones that Google is… I mean, actually Google’s getting there, you say, you know, “Who’s the president of the United States? Joe Biden. How old is he?”
And Google knows who he is, and it’s been able to do that kind of conversational search for a while, so it’s getting there. But I still think that the, you know, website owners or content providers need to factor that in when they’re actually structuring their content and saying, “Well, actually what makes this really good, you know, a decent research piece, a decent long-form piece of content?” I mean, it may fundamentally answer one question, but it will give so much else within that, and that’s probably what Google can’t give just yet.
Dixon: Guys, it’s been a fascinating 45 minutes and I’ve really enjoyed it. It didn’t go where I expected it but that’s what I love about “The Knowledge Panel” because we go down rabbit holes of thought, which aren’t always the obvious ones. So I really do appreciate it. Thank you for coming on. I’m sorry we lost Hellen along the way.
David, before I ask everybody, you know, how we can get hold of them, what have we got coming up next week? And hopefully everything worked out for you, you can edit out my bits. We might have to leave the cat references.
Dixon: I know, yeah, and they’ll probably have winter saving time at the same time, but better make sure Nick Ranger gets it right, although she will because she runs webinars herself and podcasts herself. Thank you very much, guys. Tell us how can people get hold of you, guys, and if they want to know more. Aiala?
Aiala: Yeah, I’m on LinkedIn. If you manage to get my name and surname right, you can find me there.
Dixon: Okay, so I’m gonna have to do this again then, okay. So it’s Aiala, it’s spelled A-I-A-L-A, and then Icaza is I-C-A-Z-A, and my pronunciation is really not ideal. So, brilliant. And so if you want to Aiala or Reflect Digital, please look her up. And Chris, how do we find you?
Chris: Yes, I mean, Twitter’s my place of residency, so @ChrisGreenSEO, a bit self-explanatory. Or find me at torquepartnership.com, torque spell as in applying torque not talking.
Dixon: And if you don’t want it for SEO, he’s very good at skipping as well. I’ve just realized as well, so. Guys, thank you very much for coming on. I really appreciate it. Thanks for coming onto “The Knowledge Panel.” And see you again in cyberspace.