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For episode 182 of The Search Engine Journal Show, I had the opportunity to interview Peter Leshaw, a seasoned digital marketing consultant and speaker with over 20 years of experience.
Leshaw talks about Google SERPs, how much they’re changing, what you need to pay attention to, and what you can have an impact on.
Why are things constantly changing with Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs)?
Peter Leshaw (PL): Google is doing things consistently to their algorithm, which benefits SEOs. It keeps us in business.
And why does it do that? It does that because the landscape of the search engine result page is ever-changing. Let’s keep in mind two things.
Google has a mission to provide all the world’s information in one universal area, unique, fast, and all that.
The second mission is to make money. Their search engine result page is their real estate. That’s where they’re trying to monetize the front area.
Every time they make changes to the SERPs – what information is displayed and when – it sort of eats up some of the real estate on your display and pushes down organic results.
So, what’s changing? It’s the landscape of the search engine result page for different queries over different industries.
What are some of the changes in the SERPs today that individuals can actually go in and have an impact?
PL: What’s important to lean on regarding that is the fact that we have to always focus on creating unique and good content.
Last summer, Google rolled out an update related to a concept called E-A-T. And that’s expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.
And later on in the year, they did a major core update and are calling it BERT, which is Bi-directional Encoder Representation from Transformers.
Most businesses probably think they’re an expert, they have authority, and they’re trustworthy. What does E-A-T actually mean?
PL: It’s basically how your content is published. Not only do you need to have good, unique content, but the authority of that content needs to be backed up.
The author of the content needs to be disclosed.
- Who this person is.
- What their experience is.
- Where they got their experience to talk about the subject.
They need to back that up with some social media profiles that support their involvement in a community and in discussions.
Lastly, it’s about pruning, or cleaning up, our content that somebody from authority had once published but never really added all the authority.
So that goes back to your question of Google making a change that doesn’t seem like you can put something hands-on to tweak something immediately to get some ranking changes, it’s just about understanding what Google wants from an authority standpoint with content and outlining that appropriately.
Brent Csutoras (BC): So consolidating content, and even going in and de-indexing content and taking content out and removing authors. These are kind of going backward and removing, but yet these are extremely important things to do when it comes to E-A-T. Would you agree?
PL: Absolutely. I call that concept “content pruning.”
So, let’s think about the billions upon billions of pages that Google is indexing regularly and all the thousands and millions of pages that are being added to the web every day.
Google has a tremendous index to go through… Unique, great and authoritative content is what Google wants.
We need to take the time to go back to our old content, if we feel that it is worthy of the web and it’s still current as far as the concepts that we’re discussing in the article and improve it.
Either add to it, maybe consolidate a couple articles, redirect an old article to a newer version of it.
It’s about shaping Google’s index to trim the fat, basically. One of Google’s other missions is to have a very, very fast result from when you’re searching.
And the only way to do that is to either speed up the servers or optimize the content. And that’s really what they’re asking you to do, is optimize your content, trim the fat, keep what’s good, keep stuff that’s evergreen and build off of it.
How do you approach content pruning?
PL: That’s where I lean on my tools – Google Search Console and Google Analytics.
When we write content, it’s all about the metrics and the data of how the visitors respond to that content.
I’ve always said that I could virtually live in China, not speak the language, and I could probably still be a good strategist just by analyzing the analytics.
We look at:
- Bounce rates.
- Traction as far as impressions.
- Some social signals including likes and engagements.
I would start to look at the content to see what has lower bounce rates. Lower bounce rates, you’re going to want to keep that content.
Stuff with higher bounce rates, well, we obviously realize that there are some things on there that you’re attracting to visitors that they’re not wanting.
I would start there, look at content with very high bounce rates and not a lot of engagement as far as quick, easy stuff that you can trim.
Now when you’re starting to drill down into your list and you’re getting to content that has good bounce rates, but maybe low engagement, that could be an idea of maybe an article that you’d want to consolidate into something else, if not add to it.
The other thing that I would look at is Search Console to see what the content is ranking for.
If you’re in this process and you’re going to attempt to do what I’m telling you to do, you probably have had a site for a while and you have a lot of content.
And so it’s about drilling down into that content to see where two articles may be competing for the exact same keyword market.
On the SERPs and paid search ads…
PL: I just wanted to make a quick point about paid. Something that I think your audience needs to just pay attention to is local service ads.
Local service ads are done through Google Ads, so it’s a paid mechanism. But it’s Google’s latest product for getting professionals to be ranked above everything else and they’re just rolling it out to other industries and in other markets.
But it’s going to work like searching for immigration attorney in San Diego, and at the very top, you’re going to have recommended by Google this person. It’s something else is going is that’s coming out there that’s going to push our organic results.
BC: That’s interesting… I didn’t know that there were a lot of changes to it. I know that there’s also a change on how the ads actually visually look. They’re starting to look more and more like natural results.
PL: That goes into the landscape of the search engine result page. I think Google has been accused of blurring the sort of lines between what’s a sponsored ad and what’s not.
Google now just has a little icon that says, “Ad,” next to the top four results. And the colors of the ad, the background colors of the ad, are displayed like organic search results. And so that’s part of what we’re trying to do.
Snippets is something that, again, goes towards Google’s mission to provide the information in a concise format, relatively easy to find. It makes you organize your content properly in order for your result to be included in a featured snippet.
How do you do schema right today?
PL: So schema is a markup language that is added around certain sets of data.
So for instance, if you are a dating site and you have a page of local events, and the event has:
- Registration link.
- And so forth.
So what you would do is you would mark up your event information for the event-related schema.
And so what that means is when somebody is searching for an event in your area and Google has that information in their index, instead of Google listing you on the first, second or third result, Google will put you at the very top of everything in an area that says events near me in a very nice table displayed with your event, your time, your date, as well as others that are in that area.
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