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Google +1 and Digital Relevance on Slingshot SEO TV – Episode #2

by Courtney Logel

And we’re back with the second episode of Slingshot SEO TV. In the first month’s episode, we covered some awesome material, but this month we went live again with Jim and Jesse to address all new issues floating in the realm of SEO.  The program started with an explanation of Digital Relevance, and then moved to topics such as Google +1 and exact match domains. Finally the show wound down with crawlability and another rant by Jessie focused on listening to your SEO provider.

At the end of the show, Jim announced some rather exciting news for the next show. On Thursday, May 5th, Slingshot SEO will open its doors for friends and community members to come in and be a part of the Slingshot SEO TV live audience. Additionally, it just so happens that the date of the next broadcast is on the festive Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo.  Jim mentioned to watch out for him to be wearing some festive head gear. Be sure to look for more information from our SlingshotSEO Twitter account. Hope to see you there!

Video Transcript

Jim:
Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back to our second edition of Slingshot
SEO TV. Thanks to the lawyers, we had to throw that SEO in there. Keeping
the hashtag the same, it’s still Slingshot TV, but I am Jim Brown,
Jim_Brown and I’m joined by . . .

Jesse:
I’m Jesse Laffen, @JLaffen.

Jim:
Very good. So, we’ve got a lot on the docket today: Google +1, semantic
search, crawlability factors, that kind of deal. One of the things I want
to do right away is give props to us, little shameless plug here.
SlingshotSEO.com, we just launched a new brand, a new website. Our
marketing department worked very hard. Big thanks to Kristian Anderson &
Associates for all their hard work. It looks great. I’m really excited
about it.

One of the things that you’ll find on the new site is we’re starting to
talk a lot about digital relevancy for deserving brands. As we get into
that, being our first topic, digital relevancy, what is digital relevancy?
Can you explain exactly what we’re talking about when we say that?

Jesse:
Yeah, absolutely. Well, maybe not absolutely, but hopefully. When we talk
about digital relevance, what we’re talking about is how does the search
engine see you? You may extremely relevant in your industry, but are you
providing a search engine the digital signals that tell it so.

The analogy that I like to use is everybody’s trying to get on the
rollercoaster, but there are only ten spots. Everybody wants to sit in
front, obviously. You have to be this tall to ride. You have to be this
much of a brand to get on. After that, we’re kind of sorting where people
sit. Really, when we’re talking about digital relevancy we’re dividing it
into two groups. Number one, working on being that relevant, being that
tall to ride. Then, after that, providing those signals that you are there
and you are better than your competitors in that space.

Jim:
Gotcha. So, one of the things that I’ve started talking about is for the
phrase “running shoes.” If you look at running shoes, you think about Nike,
Reebok, as the manufacturers. But then you’ve got Finish Line, Dick’s
Sporting Goods, you name it, Foot Locker. All of those deserve to rank. How
does that come into play then, at that point?

Jesse:
Well, at that point, you have multiple people that are relevant to that
search keyword phrase. Then it comes down to which of those entities is
providing the strongest signals to the search engine. It’s not about gaming
it or anything like that. It’s about just making sure that your relevancy,
your authority in that space can actually be found in digital media.

Jim:
That’s everything, I mean, that’s your content, that’s your videos, that’s
your tweets, your social engagement. I mean, talk about some of those
signals you’re talking about.

Jesse:
It would be based around how your site is built, your architecture, the
content on the site, the links around the Web that are pointing to you, and
those social signals that you just talked about. It may be traditional
media. It could be Twitter, could be Facebook, things like that.

Jim:
One of the things that is really important to me when I think about that is
it is those branches. We talked a little bit last about what a brand is and
what a brand does. You know, brands hire people, brands participate in
advertising and all that. But is that kind of where we’re going with that?

Jesse:
Absolutely. You have to be a brand both offline but also making sure that
you are providing those signals online. That shows up as well.

Jim:
Gotcha.

Jesse:
The next thing we’re going to talk about is a new product launch by Google.
It’s called Google +1. Do you want to go through what it is?

Jim:
The way I kind of understood it, the way I was reading it was, Google +1
has become a personal tour guide of Google. I, Jim Brown, have a Google
account, and if I’m logged in, I can see a new +1 signal or button. I can
click on that and tell everybody that I find that site relevant. That’s
also in your search results for your ads and for the regular listings.

Then I guess the next step is to put it on individual pages. Then as you
log in, as Jesse, and you come and do a search that I may have done
already. I +1′d site, you’re going to see my social recommendation there.

Jesse:
Assuming Google thinks I like you.

Jim:
Absolutely. But, they have all the data.

Jesse:
Of course.

Jim:
One of the things that I’m confused about is, for one thing, people do not
like ads in general. Facebook has kind of seen that as well, because you
can like an ad on Facebook and people don’t like ads. So, where’s the B2B
play for you and is there one?

Jesse:
I guess, really, when I’m thinking about +1 and when I’m thinking about
social signals, Google always is trying to figure out not only what is
authoritative but also what’s popular. This +1 button to me is Google,
again, trying to gauge what is popular, what are people talking about, what
are people liking. Also, Google has over the past few years very
aggressively gone after trying to personalize your search. In the sense of
trying to include things like, if you had tweeted something, they kind of
played around with maybe like showing that to me. They’re constantly trying
to refine that specialized, localized, personalized, all their search
results. I think that this is kind one more way that they’re looking to get
into that.

Jim:
That makes sense in a B2C space. I like the Cubs. As you pointed out last
week, I like Nickelback, but I’m not going to like a company that provides
my home security. I’m not going to like Guardian advertising.

Jesse:
No, but maybe people like home security.

Jim:
I don’t know. I’m not sold on it. Moving on from that, we’re going to talk
more about social signals. We did talk about that last month, but with the
Google +1, comparing that to retweets, comparing that to Facebook likes,
and really starting to gauge that social recommendation of the Web. Again,
I’m going to lean back on what I just said. I don’t like, I’m not going to
like certain brands. I’m not going to +1 brands that aren’t consumer
centric. Do you know what I mean?

Jesse:
That does make sense to a certain degree, but at the same time, if you are
in the B2B space and there’s an article about what you do or what you
provide, a lot of people have said like yeah, I like that, I want to show
that to my friends. You’re being talked about in that space, maybe that’s a
stronger social signal at that point.

Jim:
Okay. Would say though that because it is tied to an individual is it going
to provide for cleaner results? Is the social graph going to clean up the
SERPs at all?

Jesse:
Yeah, I mean, that’s been a topic that’s been pretty popular in the SEO
blog space lately. Really, in a way it could clean up that space. When you
start to think about it, like, I guess if I were executing some sort of
black or gray hat technique, I could go to a site. I could leave a link.
Nobody ever knows who I am. I came there, I spammed a link, and I left.
Nobody knows.

Jim:
Sure, sure.

Jesse:
But if you’re asking me on Twitter, hey, I’m looking for new running shoes,
and I answer back you need to go to Finish Line or whatever it is, I’m
actually staking my personal identity on that answer. So maybe that is a
stronger signal.

Jim:
There’s a great article I read from Media Post that actually talks about
Google is demand fulfillment. Someone goes there, they type in a query, and
Google fulfills what they’re talking about.

Jesse:
Sure.

Jim:
Whereas on Facebook, it’s demand generation. I go there, exactly what you
just said. I say, “Hey, I want some new running shoes.” I let Facebook, I
let the users on Facebook tell me about those. Is that, I mean can we tie
that back into the social signal that we’re getting into?

Jesse:
That does make a lot of sense. For me, I just keep getting back to the fact
that Google’s trying to get pure signals for the way that they rank pages,
and links are still very, very important and popular. But these social
signals, they’re just kind of entering into the space and getting their
feet wet and trying to figure that out. We’ll see.

Jim:
Sure. Good deal.

Jesse:
The next thing we want to talk about are our exact match domains, switching
gears just a little bit. One of the things that we’ve been seeing that’s
been a very, very strong ranking factor for the past several years, but
especially strong in the past several months, has been exact match domains.
What I mean by that is we’re just going to stick with running shoes today,
I guess.

Jim:
Let’s do it.

Jesse:
I’m looking for running shoes, and maybe instead of getting Nike or Reebok
or Finish Line, I’m getting runningshoes.com or bestrunningshoes.com or
some variation thereof. A few weeks ago, Matt Cutts released video
basically saying that Google was aware that some of those results may have
started to appear a little spammy and that they may be turning down the
dial on those results a little bit. So, I guess, what does that kind of
mean for businesses that are trying to compete, that are trying to prove
their digital relevancy?

Jim:
To me, what I’m hearing is very consistent with everything else that Google
is doing. It’s saying we are going to give the nod toward brands, brands
that deserve to rank for these terms. Again, we are going to stay with
running shoes. If you have runningshoes.com, bestrunningshoes.com,
toprunningshoes.com, runningshoesreviews.com, etc., you’re not going to
have the ability anymore to simply outrank Nike or Reebok or Asics just
because you have that exact match domain.

Another thing that you talked about, the spamminess of it, but it’s also, I
mean, that’s kind of what the Google farmer algorithm update kind of pushed
down was the content farmers, because a lot of times these exact match
domains simply were just full of content for users or for the site owner to
put ads on there and get revenue.

Jesse:
It’s like exact match domain farming?

Jim:
Exact match domain farming, right, exactly.

Jesse:
I still think that it’ll always be kind of an important signal though,
because if I type in running shoes, maybe I am looking for
runningshoes.com. Who knows? I think that the search engine is always going
to be sensitive to that to a certain extent. But I think for us and our
clients, especially being large brands in their spaces, this is really good
news. That means that Google actually does care about the popularity, the
authority, the digital relevancy of those brands.

Jim:
Right. So not only are we going to talk about running shoes all day, we’re
going to talk about Google all day. Larry Page came back in charge of
Google. He took the helm back as CEO displacing Eric Schmidt. Eric
Schmidt’s still on board but no longer “the” man. In your opinion, why is
this happening? Why is this happening now? Why is Larry stepping back up to
the top?

Jesse:
There are so many things it could mean, and it’s difficult to speculate on
just one. Let me just run down a couple of thoughts of publications and
people that have actually covered this.

Jim:
Sure.

Jesse:
One is that one that maybe Eric wanted to go take a job somewhere else. You
know, Secretary of Commerce perhaps.

Jim:
If the government doesn’t shut down tomorrow.

Jesse:
Yeah, we’ll see. Another one could be that Google wanted to get back to its
core values, and Larry Page obviously being one of the founders, one of the
brightest minds in the company could maybe steer them back towards that.
What it does kind of signal, overall, whether they intended to or not, is a
return back to their core product development instead of maybe
profitability.

Jim:
That’s what I’m getting out of it. Even when you read the releases that
talk about him coming back in charge, it is saying that he will focus on
product development, internal product development. One of the things to me
is getting back to their original mantra, “Don’t be evil.” Right? In this
quest for profitability, there have been a lot of privacy issues with Buzz
and things like that.

One thing that you said to me was that they’ve quit solving problems.
Right? So, Gmail solved a problem. Web mail was terrible, sorry Yahoo!,
sorry Hotmail. Web mail was terrible before Gmail came around.

Jesse:
Gmail solved a problem. Search solved a problem. Also, one of Google’s core
values is, “We are going to be great at one thing and that one thing will
be search.”

Jim:
Right.

Jesse:
Now, we have things like Buzz and Wave, and it’s easy for us to sit here
and rattle them off. I know those are all pretty good products that may
have done well, but they didn’t. Now we have +1 on top of that. It could’ve
just been Google saying, “You know what? We’re going to get back to solving
problems and that’s who we’re going to be.”

Jim:
Sure. No, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, I think that Eric Schmidt is
still sticking around. At the time, he is looking for other jobs, but he’s
going to be the outward facing person while Larry gets back to the core
products.

Jesse:
You got it. Something that Jim and I started talking about lately was the
idea of semantic search. Semantic search basically means if I’m typing in
any sort of keyword phrase, what is my intent behind that search?

Jim:
Chicago Cubs.

Jesse:
There we go, could mean anything. I could be looking for scores. I could be
looking for merchandise. I could be looking for history, maybe a Wikipedia
article. There are so many things that Chicago Cubs could mean.

Google has tried and tried and tried to understand what the thought behind
that search is, and they really attempt to serve up results that match
that. But really, at the end of the day, all ten results seem to be
gravitating either towards e-commerce or information or how to or something
like that. So it’s almost like we’re chasing Google semantic application of
our search when we’re trying to look at keyword phrases and things like
that.

Jim:
Right. It’s one of the things too that if I do that search for Chicago
Cubs, it’s everything you just said. Am I looking for tickets? Am I looking
for the score of the recent game? Am I looking for the last time they won a
World Series? I don’t think that’s even in the index. It’s been so long.

Telling Google how to do it. It’s just a hodgepodge of results that come
back, and there are those content farms as well that just say want
information about the Chicago Cubs?

One of the things, you’ve been showing me Blekko a lot and really trying to
get me to understand that. Blekko has a slashtag. I can go there and I can
type Chicago Cubs slashtag players, and it’s only going to send me back
information. I’m telling the search engine what the frame of context is
that I want.

Jesse:
I guess what Blekko has said is Google doesn’t understand semantic search,
Bing doesn’t, we don’t either. What they’re asking for is a keyword query
plus your feelings or your thoughts or whatever direction you want to apply
to that on top of it. I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily better. They’re
just kind of basically, I guess, telling you that they don’t get it, please
tell us.

Jim:
Could this be one of the areas though where Larry Page coming back to the
helm of Google maybe he could start to focus that in and take us to that
next level of search?

Jesse:
It really could, because when you talk about personalizing search and
actually getting a personal search result, maybe that does come down to
what is Jim Brown thinking when he types in Chicago Cubs?

Jim:
That would be scary. Moving on to acquiring domains. This is an issue that
a lot of companies have when they get big, when they start to acquire
companies, things like that. They have multiple domains. They have a lot of
digital properties out there. If they buy a company, they’re now taking all
of those. Those sites could have individual rankings. Those sites have
their own content. Or even a name change. How do you bring all of that back
together? How do you architect that so that you retain as much as possible?

Jesse:
I think you have to start by asking yourself, “What’s relevant to my
space?” If I am a large company, say Jesse’s Blue Widgets acquires Jim’s
Red Widgets, and my brand is huge in that space. It doesn’t really make
sense for me to operate JimsRedWidgets.com when people are going to start
associating your company and my company as one entity.

Jim:
Right.

Jesse:
Because, really, those two web properties are serving the same audience and
they’re asking that audience to perform the same action, effectively come
to my site and buy widgets, red or blue. It doesn’t really matter to me.

I guess there are instances where maybe if you’re serving a completely
different audience, maybe a B2C or a B2B, there are still ways to do that
within the same domain. But really, what we’re looking at here is asking
yourself how am I relevant to my target audience and then making one web
property that encompasses all of those different things around that.

Jim:
So, does it ever make sense though to have multiple web properties? When
does that actually come into play?

Jesse:
When you’re serving a completely different audience, or when both of those
have extreme relevance to the industry. It would be rare.

Jim:
Okay. So, that’s the case. So, let’s say that we have a merger and
acquisition and we have ten new properties. What’s the best way, I mean 301
redirects, obviously, is going to be one of the technical factors at the
end. But how are we going to correlate all those new sites or old sites, I
guess, into a new one and let it still make sense and still get the Google
rankings?

Jesse:
It’s really the exact same way that you would do it in the brick and mortar
world. Whereas I may have a store. Right? I’m going to put up a new sign.
I’m going to have my employees wearing new logos on their shirts and things
like that. Really you want your web property to operate the same way.
They’re still entering through the same door. They’re just getting a
different experience.

Jim:
Okay.

Jesse:
Yeah, we’re going to switch gears again a little bit. We’re going to talk
about what makes a good link, because this is a question that we get a lot.
So really, in the simplest of terms, the best link is one that a lot of
people want to click. All of the metrics that we use to measure clicks are
always coming back to that. Do a lot of people come to the site? Is it
popular? That’s probably a good place to get a link. Is it relevant to you.
I mean, these are all things that would increase the number of people that
actually want to click on you. Like being a thought leader, being in a
space that is relevant to your industry, talking about things that people
want to listen to.

Jim:
Taking it the next step further, though, obviously, we want to get that
link out there on a place or in a place where somebody wants to click on.
So relevancy and all that comes into play. But if we look at the actual
architecture or not architecture, but I guess, I’m at a lack for words, the
anatomy – there we go – of what a link is or what it contains, so you’ve
got the anchor text. You’ve got the relevance. You’ve got where it’s
placed. You’ve got the other outbound links that are on the page where you
placed that link. How do you measure all those and determine what is a good
link? One of the things that I’ve heard you say to some clients recently
is, “Don’t look for everything to be in every link.”

Jesse:
Right. So, when you talk about like placement on a page, we tend to see
that the higher a link is placed on the page, the more value it passes.
Well, that kind of is also because the higher a link is on a page, the more
likely it is to get clicked.

What were some of the other ones that you just mentioned?

Jim:
You talked about I’m not going to get perfect anchor text on a PR8 site
that has a lot of traffic every time. Take what you can get when you can
get it and move on. Right?

Jesse:
Yeah. So basically, the idea is that say I pick up the phone and I call the
industry association that oversees my widget company. I ask them, “Hey, I
really appreciate the listing there that says that I’m a member. Can I get
a link?” They say yeah. If they come back and they just put
www.jessesbluewidgets and that’s the anchor text, still a great link.
Right?

Jim:
Sure.

Jesse:
Just don’t dwell on every single thing. Basically, say thank you and move
on.

Jim:
Take your link and do it. All right. Let’s talk about engaging audiences.
This goes a little bit with what we were just talking about. Getting a link
out there where someone would actually click on it, making that a valuable
link. But at the same time, as a brand, you are going to engage your
audience. But you may not do it in a way that’s always going to get SEO
relevance.

This is a matter of a brand being a brand rather than just trying to game
Google or game a search engine for rankings. One example that we talked
about, Jesse, is Ning. The Ning communities, you can set up your own social
community. A lot of those links, the majority of them, if I’m not mistaken,
are no follow links, but there may be an engagement. You may find a niche
of people who are talking about your brand, your product, your service,
etc. You post a message and you get 20 or 30 responses, and there’s a
conversation around your brand. But none of those links that they put in
are going to matter. Yet, you’re still saying that they’re engaging with
their brand, so there’s value there. Talk about that.

Jesse:
This kind of is a broader umbrella of the conversation about links we just
had. Basically, Google is always trying to figure out what brands are
engaging their visitors, what brands are engaging people out on the Web.
When you start to get hung up on all these technicalities, like oh, well
it’s a no follow link, you just entered a Ning community where people are
talking about exactly what you do. They get really fired up about it.
They’re commenting back and forth. If you enter that space and engage with
them, not only is that always going to be a good thing to a search engine.
It’s never going to be bad thing as long as you’re doing it as a thought
leader. But also, you just got involved and put your brand in front of a
bunch of people online. Even if you’re not necessarily getting all of the
perfect, pure SEO value from that interaction, there’s still something to
be said for going out and finding people who might be future customers.

Jim:
One thing too that you can throw in there is if I have this conversation on
a community and people are talking about me, people are engaging with it,
and I come and engage with them and show that I’m a human, show that I have
a personality, they may go out on their own site and blog about it, or they
might go on to a place that has a follow link or something like that. So
you’re going to get organic things out of a Twitter conversation, out of a
Facebook conversation, that kind of deal.

Jesse:
It’s entirely possible that the next time they search and you show up and
maybe you are fifth, sixth, seventh, people see your brand and they might
be just a little more inclined to click on you.

Jim:
There we go. It’s you.

Jesse:
We’re going to talk about crawlability now. That’s an issue that has come
up in several conversations over the past month. When we talk about
crawlability, we’re talking about the way that a search engine spider
actually looks at your page. This can be the same or it can be different
than a human interacts with your page. It should be the same in that a
search engine should always, always sees the exact same content that a user
is seeing and nothing different.

That can be a problem if you’re using like say Flash or you’re trying to
get people to enter your site through a portal and cookie them and do
different things. Obviously, certainly not malicious intent, but Google has
said recently that there is no such thing as white hat cloaking. Cloaking
is showing different content to a search engine than you would a user.

Really, always make sure that both of those entities are seeing the exact
same thing. The other thing with crawlability is that when you make it
easier for a search engine spider to index all of your pages, that’s every
single page is another opportunity to rank for a keyword.

Jim:
One of the things that you were talking to me about this week was one, the
flat architecture of a site, but also the site map, because that is that
guiding post and not everything needs to go into the site map. Right?

Jesse:
That’s right.

Jim:
Your privacy policy does not need to go into your site map. You want to put
the things in the site map that you actually want to be found. That could
be your video, your media elements, your infographics, and your most high
priority pages.

Jesse:
Yeah, I would still advocate putting everything in a site map that you
would not mind . . .

Jim:
Just order of priority.

Jesse:
It’s just that, obviously, a spider needs to see the same thing as a user,
but it does do things a little differently. It doesn’t necessarily click
through your website like a user does. There are a lot of reasons why a
user might click here or there and a lot of science behind that actually.
But a spider is kind of random in the way that it’s looking for things.
Really, your site’s trust and authority is always going to be the end of
the day determinant of how many pages get indexed.

Jim:
Right.

Jesse:
Really it’s about using that very smartly and trying to make sure that
really important content is at the top of the site map so that the spiders
are getting to it every single time.

Jim:
Right. We end this show every time with a final rant, and we had talked
about switching that back and forth. But, Jesse, you’re going to take the
final rant again this time with “Take our Advice or Leave It”. Right?

Jesse:
I tend to go off on rants. SEO as an industry is very, very new relative to
say TV or radio. I think that every new marketing medium kind of goes
through some growing pains. I’m sure at the advent of TV there were some
things that got brought over from radio that just didn’t translate very
well. Richard Nixon may have been one of them.

As we enter into this new space, it’s really important to understand the
expertise that really goes into SEO and to trust your service provider to
make recommendations that are going to help you. For example, when we were
talking about having all those different domains, it may make sense in a
print ad to have maybe multiple different brands or different calls to
action and things like that. But when it comes to your web property, that’s
not always a good thing.

Really, I guess, my rant, take our advice or leave it, does not really take
our advice. Listen to your SEO provider. They know what they’re doing.
They’re trying to help you and really, in this brand new medium, the old
school mentality of taking print and applying it to the Web just doesn’t
translate. There’s so much more to it, and really you’re going to see
success faster when you do those things. Clients always ask me, “What can I
do to make this happen faster?” The answer is take our advice.

Jim:
And actually do it right. Very good. So I want to thank everybody again. We
want to thank 12 Stars Media for doing the video production for us here
today. Again, we want to thank Kristian Anderson & Associates for the new
brand. We love it. You guys are making us look really good. Lastly,
Twitter, if you’re out there using the hashtag SlingshotTV, let us know
your feedback. Give us thoughts. Give us questions, topics that you want to
have answered.

Starting next month, we’re going to start bringing in some audience
questions, hopefully live. We’re still working on that a little bit. You’ll
be able to ask us questions. Very similar to PTI. It will mail time, but it
will be Twitter time, and we’re also thinking about bringing some guests in
and having them on the show.

Jesse:
Awesome.

Jim:
Our next event, Cinco de Mayo, May 5th. Until then, so long.

(transcribed by speechpad.com)

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