What’s Going On With SEO with Bernard Huang of Clearscope

Bernard Huang

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SEO is constantly changing, and it can be tough to keep up. But what if you could get insights straight from one of the leading experts in the field?

Bernard shared his insights on the latest SEO trends and what he believes is in store for the future.

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About Bernard Huang:

Bernard is the co-founder of Clearscope, the leading SEO optimization software for high-quality content teams. Before Clearscope, Bernard started an SEO consulting agency, was a growth advisor in residence at 500 Startups, and led growth at a YC startup called 42Floors.

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Bernard: Thanks so much, Travis. Well, yes, like Travis has been saying, there has been a lot, a lot, a lot of stuff that's been going on with SEO. I've been looking in all kinds of different places, talking like Black Hat World Forum, Webmaster World Forum, you know, kind of trading some notes with some SEO influencers on all of the things and.

I do have a lot of awesome stuff to share. So again, this is meant to be interactive, a dialogue, really, there's a lot to unpack. And I'm sure y'all are seeing, you know, a lot of turbulence, potentially on your sites. And Please drop comments, questions as they pop up. We will answer them as they pop up and discuss them in relation to, you know, everything that we've been seeing happen within the SEO ecosystem.

First, a quick shout-out to ClearScope. We help with the entire SEO content life cycle, starting with content auditing, moving to then topic research and drafting the piece of content finally with performance reporting. Our newest feature is the content inventory. If you have not had a chance to check it out, I wanted to do a very quick walk-through to show you what we've been up to, really just kind of give you a quick tour of the ClearScope ecosystem.

So content inventory is going to be ClearScope's latest and greatest. And the overall idea is our, our like sales guy, Andrew gave me this, this phrase, so and say it here. Evergreen content is not forever green content. That's the new, that's the new line, or I'll usually say SEO content is not set it and forget it.

But it's this case that Google wants to be serving evergreen content, useful content, helpful content to their, their users. And so ClearScope's content inventory allows you to assess. The overall topical relevancy or content grade of the content that you've published over time. We give you this nice, easy-to-view interface where you can see when content is degrading, thus indicating that your content needs to be refreshed or updated to better meet SERP intent.

Or the user's journey will then integrate with Google search console, giving you then insights into impressions and clicks. And you can very quickly see, you know, how many inventory links links in and out of these pages are happening. You can also get a semblance of what we're calling SEO value, which is how much.

You would spend PPC wise if you were to bid on these keywords in Google search. Other cool parts of ClearScope's content inventory include a position tracking that is Derived from your Google search console insights. So this is going to be really different than other rank trackers in the sense that rank trackers are more of an outside in scrape, where, you know, Google, they'll be like href semrush will be scraping Google for keywords were specifically looking at.

You know, your, your search console giving you then insights into how your average position is trending for the different keywords. Again, this is important because Google does a lot of personalization these days. And just because, you know, something might be looking like it's ranking number six for you could be ranking number two or three for somebody else.

And you're not going to be able to get that data unless you're looking at. Average position within Google search console. The last report that I'll pull out here is going to be content decay. We'll quickly show you which pieces of content are decaying from peak traffic. So you can see here that we had a piece of content on AI content generation.

We peaked in terms of traffic. About a thousand clicks December and January happened to coincide with probably some of the peak hype of AI content, GPT, LLMs, all that good stuff. And we're kind of seeing the growth of that particular page. be stifled, declining, and we've been going through refreshing it and changing it as the topic has rapidly changed over the last year.

So if you haven't checked this out, this is going to be, you know, one of the main features of ClearScope moving forward. And really it's designed to help you really complete the SEO content lifecycle because evergreen content is not for evergreen content. Cool. So going back into then what's going on with SEO, there's a lot that's been happening with SEO.

I'll just, I like broke it out in this particular manner, but we've seen a lot of Google algo updates, you know, more specifically helpful content update version two, Google spam and October core updates that have been released over the last week Google saying that, you know, links are not a top ranking factor.

There is the. Continued role of manual search evaluators and how that relates to the helpful content updates. We have Google being on trial for their search antitrust, and a variety of interesting documents and comments that have come out of. Such you know, the, the uncoverings of that trial, and then you have BARD, SGE, LLMs, AI.

I just insert the buzzwords here because there's a lot of stuff that has been floating on related to just artificial intelligence. Also, we're hiring for a lot of different front-of-the-house roles, including SEO, marketing, and sales. So, if you're interested, you want to join an awesome team that's making a huge impact in SEO.

Please email Bernard at ClearScope. io, and I can send over some job descriptions. So some caveats before we get into the meat and substance of this talk. I've been saying for a really long time that SEOs are like doctors. And I like that analogy because doctors don't necessarily really know what's going on.

They send you to do blood work, you do your annual physicals, and you could imagine this would be like running a technical audit. Or having, you know, an SEO kind of come in and and look at some of the content and UX that your website has from their doctors and SEOs will make prescriptions based off of the data or science of what we're saying, but oftentimes we don't necessarily 100 percent know what's right.

And what's wrong? So take what you will with the overall industry of SEO and the different influencers out there, and know that their opinions are more like hypotheses that are backed through experience and data. But ultimately, you know, we are just guessing. And oftentimes, you know, we may be wrong, but I would say most of the time, you know, you can expect that we're probably directionally correct.

Also, another caveat through all of these updates that are happening is that Google propaganda, it does not equal Google search rankings and traffic. I think Google itself has taken a very, you know, much more public stance on broadcasting their updates, their algorithm, you know, all of these different things they've given them these flavorful names, like helpful content and spam.

Update where there was a period of time where I think, you know, like Gary Elias was, was jokingly calling things, Fred updates or whatever, because people just wanted a name to the update. And then I think internally, Google started to realize that that didn't look so good. And so they started calling them things that.

acted as, you know, the overall mission that they wanted to shape for us as SEO and content practitioners. The last bit that I want to call out is that you need to understand which stage in the SEO content game you're playing. Different stages require different techniques and tactics. A lot of people get this mixed up and they think that, you know, they need to be improving their links in, you know, like areas where they actually should be included in trying to improve their user engagement gain or vice versa.

So really understanding where you're at. In your SEO content journey will affect how you should take the feedback and the overall, like thoughts that are floating around surrounding all of these updates. So new websites, typically you're playing an authority game plus technical SEO. The authority that you're trying to build is domain authority and backlinks.

I call it a mid-website where you have a few ranking pages. You're, you're still playing. The authority game, but it starts to bridge more into this notion of topical authority or how your related pages are performing. Once you have a mature website, chances are you're going to start playing the user engagement game.

And that's going to be things like dwell time clicks, which Google has now been outed as actually using within their algorithm and overall your content's ability to conclude search journeys. So. This is then kind of how it looks, right? To start, you need technical SEO for Google to find and access and index your content in the first place, then you play the authority game in terms of seeding into the search results.

Once Google has found your content, you know, you'll place on the front page. If you have strong domain and topical authority, you'll place Nowhere near the front page, if you don't have any of that. So if you're starting off, you know, in the fifties and sixties, like rankings-wise, then chances are you have a domain and topical authority problem, perhaps a technical SEO problem.

If you're generally speaking on the front page or second page or third page of Google, then I would say you're playing the user engagement. Signal game. So understand where you're at in terms of your SEO content journey to then understand, you know, all of the different prescriptions that us SEO doctors are, are making.

So. What has Google been up to? There's been a lot of algorithm updates. You can kind of see here in Google's search status dashboard that we saw the October 2023 core update, the October 2023 spam update, and the September 2023 helpful. Content update, all of that to say that, well, you know, these two most recent ones were released in the last couple of weeks, and the helpful content update, which has kind of shaken up the industry, caused a lot of volatility.

You know, that one has like resolved itself already. So it's hard to know exactly what's going on with core and spam, but the September helpful content update, there's a lot to unpack there. So let's jump into that helpful content update version to the helpful content update it started late 20 or mid 2023 ended late, or September, sorry, September, 2023 and ended late September, 2023.

This one, in my opinion, actually dealt with a lot of experience. Related content. I would say that overall, it's helpful to kind of go through the Google propaganda, which is what you're seeing here in terms of the helpful content update to really unpack what Google is really trying to do and how that relates to a lot of the different changes that we've seen happen with the SERP.

So you can see here this: Again, do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you? I think all of this is this assessment that your homepage user experience actually does matter. And direct and branded search traffic also matters.

So the Synopsis of what I've been able to unpack here is that websites with exact match keyword domains, like if we went with vacuumcleaners. com, As an example, those were the most affected through what like the helpful content update here. So obviously if you go to like a vacuum cleaners. com, then you just have a lot of links out to, you know, pieces of content talking about the best vacuum cleaners.

You don't necessarily have a brand. Or a lot of direct traffic that is looking for your brand. And that is to say that, you know, those types of websites are typically set up from an affiliate standpoint and, you know, trying to game the algorithm by having an exact match domain. Well, for, I'm not sure how Google is able to do this, but they, they've been able to kind of knock those websites down in terms of the, their ability to perform well in search.

I think that a corollary to this is this idea of like branded search mattering. So you kind of see here I have this like small screenshot down below, but it's this idea that if I googled. Something like vacuum cleaners, and I did not see my brand that I actually wanted to see, like Best Buy, for example, then the user would have to re perform the search for that particular brand.

So they'd have to then Google Best Buy vacuum cleaners. Thus then having, giving Google training data to say that A SERP that did not have Best Buy for vacuum cleaners was not useful and therefore the SERP moving forward should likely include Best Buy for searches in relation to vacuum cleaners. That said, you know, if I'm to put on, I guess my gray hat to make a recommendation on this, I think, you know, that's where.

Doing having sets of users performing navigational searches for your brand in relation to the head topic that you want to rank for would basically train Google's model into thinking that your website is more closely related to that brand. A more actionable example would be, you know, nerd wallet and credit cards, right?

If people Googled credit cards and did not see nerd wallet, they Google best travel credit cards, nerd wallet, therefore making Google very closely linked to that topic. the brand. This one is Google's press release on helpful content. Does it demonstrate first hand expertise? I think this is the version two, like the crux of version two is version one.

We didn't really see. You know, much dinging or emphasis on experience as much as you had, would have expected. And I think that, you know, the role of manual search evaluators is I think the crux of what we've seen impact version two, right. And this is going to be seen most dramatically with the like the distinct rise of UGC websites like Reddit.

Quora forums we've seen just kind of be boosted really heavily, and I think that this one really shined in at least the version two update. We'll see what happens in, you know, future, future updates. Does your site have a primary purpose or focus? You know, this is the idea that topical authority or you know, your content's ability to perform for related sub subtopics does.

matter quite a bit. And after reading your content, will someone leave feeling they've learned enough to about a topic to help achieve their goal? I think that this one is both knowledge graph entity coverage, which is, of course, what ClearScope helps with when you run the reports and grade well. And I also think that this one is also shining through in terms of.

Google's trial showcasing that they do indeed use clicks to inform, you know, their search models well, someone reading, leaving, well, someone reading your content, leave like they're feeling like they had a satisfying experience. This is actually directly the search click user engagement data that we're talking about.

And then, yes, are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews, you know, be more brainwashed by Google's PR propaganda, all that good stuff. So, I think, you know, to unpack Some of the, what the doctors, the SEO doctors are, are recommending. I do think that, you know, one of the most common misunderstandings is that the helpful content update is not a negative kind of update.

It's really just looking at content that is doing a good job, exemplifying experience and probably, you know, like exemplifying, you know, content that. Actually helps the user in terms of them not going back to Google and performing an additional action. And so it's not going through and saying, Oh, you know, that's not you like.

Minus 50 points, right? It's more saying that, oh, you know, if you are doing this, then plus a hundred points, a lot of people view these algorithm updates as penalties, but they are not penalties. They are simply rewarding websites. And that are doing a good job with, with this, you know, good old Lily Ray here again, HCU is still only not a positive one.

This means impacted sites go down. Let's see here. A better show work is continuing. Yeah. So yeah, there's again, conflicting advice that goes both ways on, on each one of these things. This one came from Charles floats. He did like analysis on, you know, what he saw happening within the the SERPs.

And really, I think the main takeaway is that, you know, UGC sites this is what I like and brand building, right? These are again, closely following the the stances that PR, the Google's PR has put out. We've seen a dramatic rise of. UGC websites like forums and Q and A type stuff. I want to pause here before we dive into the role of manual search evaluators.

Any questions, thoughts, comments that have popped up?

We do have a couple of questions. I think it might

Travis: be good to kind of address right now before we move into the the next section. So I think the first one for Megan will running clear scope reports near the new expectations. Google has set with its helpful content

Bernard: update. That's a great question.

Megan, Megan. Yes. So ClearScope reports are generated in real time. So that means that when you run the ClearScope report, we will scrape the SERPs immediately at the time that you've run the report. And that will then mirror the expectations that Google has because the SERP has likely shifted, you know, to more experience led content.

Awesome. And then Brian asked,

Travis: is going back to the when you walk through ClearScope, he asks, is SEO value always calculated in USD or can it be adjusted to pounds or euros?

Bernard: That's a great question, Brian. I hadn't thought of adjusting the currency rate, but I'll make a mental note to bring that up to our product team to consider moving forward.

Awesome. And then

Travis: Alicia asked, How do you increase your DA as a mid to mature website? We have implemented PR and have quite a few ranking pages now, plus grown our own SERPs a lot. However, our DA is stuck at a

Bernard: frustrating number. Yeah. Alicia, that's, well, I'll, there's a lot of different ways to approach it tactically, strategically, all of that good stuff.

I will just say that my opinion on DA is that DA itself is a very flimsy metric and number. I think that the most important analysis of authority from a links perspective comes From this idea of how well that page that specific page and website is performing for the topic that it's writing about. Now, in a lot of cases, you can imagine it's writing about.

The number of D. A. correlates strongly than with an ability, a website's ability to rank well. However, we're starting to see deviations away from that. So in one example, if you have a small blogger who has a low domain authority website, but strong topical authority and is therefore performing well in the SERPs.

Then we could say that maybe that website's DA is, you know, 20, but they are pulling in, you know, 50, 000, a hundred thousand plus traffic visits for, we'll just say, you know, like personal finance related topics should that website have a top ranking piece of content for, you know, best ways to save for retirement and have that link out to, you know, your financial advisor service page that I think contributes an exponential vote to your.

Content ability to to rank well, rather than the idea that you know it's coming from a D. A. 20 website. And the reasoning of why I'm making this very subtle distinction is because Google does use. clicks and user engagement signals to understand whether or not content is doing a good job meeting the needs of the searcher.

So if that piece of content is, you know, ranks one through three, then that piece of content is doing a good job concluding the search journey. Therefore, whatever that piece of content internally or externally links out to must be fantastic on the flip side, right? I think this is really what counters a lot of sponsored like posts that happen on Forbes and you know, Huffington posts that, that kind of stuff is that if a website is really high domain authority, yet the content that is posted.

Sucks in that it's not ranking well in, in Google search, right? Like, let's say I'm a Forbes contributor. I write this piece of content. That's like, you know, best content optimization platforms. And I just say, clear scope, clear scope, clear scope. And Google looks at it and buys it, you know, as position five, nobody likes it.

So they 50. Then my. Hypothesis is that that piece of content, even though it's coming from a high domain authority website like Forbes, isn't actually voting much to the link equity that ClearScope is getting, because it's not doing well in, you know, SEO, therefore it's not meeting the needs of the searcher, therefore, whatever it's linking out to must not be, you know, that good.

So anyways, I think that's the most holistic answer that I can give you, Alicia, is that you kind of want to do link building efforts on already existing top ranking content for the topics that you want to pursue. And then, kind of, to a degree, ignore the notion of like domain authority. Although oftentimes, they are very correlated.


Travis: And we'll tackle two more questions, and then we'll get back to the presentation. But the next one we've been talking a lot about internally. And it is with the helpful content update, what should be the keyword research

Bernard: strategy now? Yeah. Well, we were about to publish some content on this.

I've been calling it RINCH style SEO. A few years ago, I was calling it search perspective frameworks. But the idea is that people will have their own journeys to understanding or researching any given topic. And, you know, the traditional way of thinking about it has been very basic in that people have been saying, Oh yes, well, it's information or research or transactional or commercial.

And that's, you know, like pretty basic as an analysis really, right. If somebody is looking at a given topic, they're going to want to know. You know, like why this is important to me, you know, how I should go about doing it. You know, what are the common mistakes that I might make while doing it? You know, why I maybe should consider not doing it.

You know, there's all of these different perspectives that a user is likely to care about within a topic. And I think that, you know, the short answer is that Going after long tail keywords is a good shortcut to uncovering the exact intents that the user is likely to care about within their journey. And, you know, it's, it's a lot more complicated to, to do that well at scale for a variety of different topics.


Travis: And then we'll do one more question and John, Cindy, we'll get to yours after the presentation. But the next one's from Alex. Do the pages section on the content inventory update in real-time or do you need to add them manually

Bernard: again? Yes, the pages in ClearScope's content inventory will update every day looking at your own.

Content. So if you know something happens, you know your your page internally, somebody made a change or for a force, then we will alert you to say, Hey, this page is, you know, no longer you know, doing well. And that happens every day, then every month, because topics typically don't evolve so quickly that you need, you know, weekly or daily snapshots, but every month we will regrade your content against the search engine results page.

And that's where you're likely to see some nuances in terms of, you know, topics that have shifted in terms of intent or have evolved in terms of, you know, people's engagement with that particular topic. Then let's dive in. There's still a good amount of stuff to talk about, more specifically, the role of manual search evaluators.

I think Marie has been kind of shouting this out for a bit, but it's all about how Google uses quality raters. I think the most important aspect of all of this is understanding that Google's algorithm is not pure science. There are thousands of quality raters who sit down every day and they play Tinder.

With the search results. So manual search evaluators are Google's way of infusing qualitative reasoning inside of their machine learning. So Google will then, you know, give people these. Pages, and I'm not entirely sure how, how the UX of it looks, but they'll present a quality rater to say, here's a page here is, you know, a set of criteria that we want you to evaluate on this particular page.

Does it meet the standards that we've laid out here? And then, you know, you swipe left or right. If it does, it looks great. You know, And then it's a match. So manual search evaluators, I think, shape Google's algorithm in an interesting way. So let's put it like that. There's a lot of these things that happen, and I think when it happens, it's always unclear as to why.

It's happening at least from a pure scientific algorithmic standpoint. And you know, the best ones that I can highlight look like this, right? Like, I think for a period of time if you practiced as c o in, you know, like the 2010s that you, you saw hero images everywhere. And everything needed to have a hero image.

And looking back on this now, I feel like there was probably a time where the quality raters were being presented with guidelines that said, you know, things that have images look generally speaking better. And so they did that and they trained the algorithm to think that. And then we saw that all like happen everywhere.

But over time, you know, that got de-emphasized and, you know, I think we saw a period of time and, you know, it still might be going on where statistics, right, this like expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, probably the trustworthiness part of it came from the citations, right? Making sure that should you make claims that you back up the claims.

And I think that we were heavily weighted on trust. Worthiness in the more recent years. Now, you know, I'm not saying that that's all gone, but you can imagine today what it looks like is authorship. So, you know, Lily Ray calls this one out, which I think is particularly interesting. But, you know, a blog about NYC tips as an NYC, you know, local caught her attention.

Essentially, all of the articles are anonymous, because it's about NYC and not the authors, and it looks believable, but ultimately, you know, it doesn't really pass the manual search inspection. So there's no proof, you know, it looks like they're just summarizing Yelp reviews, and My guess on this is that the only way the algorithm is really capable of knowing this is because manual search evaluators are infusing the algorithm with this qualitative edge.

You can see here, right, 2023 and well beyond as you know, in the next like three to six months before Google maybe, you know, make some more changes in relation to AI, but experience authorship and legitimacy, right? These are what we're seeing as the winning web experiences. And the, again, the reason why this happens is because people are behind the scenes training the algorithm to say, we want real people.

We want, you know, if you were to click into Amy Richer, that that looks like a legitimate authorship bio, you know, she's like very, you know, certified in these different areas, a subject matter expert. And that's what manual search evaluators are doing. To infuse the Google algorithm update with the experience.

Google Spam in October core 2023, I tried my best to look into any specific surrounding these two, but they're still in the process of being rolled out as they've really only hit the SERPs in the last like six to seven days. I would say that. It's a reduction of spam kind of more targeted at like a lot of other like foreign languages and it's hard to really say what has happened with these and we'll continue to see how the updates roll out.

I think this one's interesting. Links aren't a top-ranking factor. You'll see here that that came from Gary Elias where he, he said that at PubCon. in, in Austin this year. And I think that It's back to the SEO stages, right? If you are in the top three pages of Google, I do kind of believe that links aren't a top three Google search ranking factor, right?

You're kind of playing in your contents ability to to rank well and serve the searcher. rather than, you know, pull a bunch of links. However, right, Gail from authority hackers, Google links are not a top ranking factor. And then he goes and redirects a hundred-plus links from old posts that they removed.

And then they went from, you know, number 11 to number one. Okay. So, you know, what happens there? Well, you can imagine if all of a sudden a lot of. Pages are linking to a page that's going to make a Google's algorithm raise an eyebrow. It's going to say, Hey, like maybe we should take a closer look at this.

And so, you know, the ending result of boosting a page to the top spots makes a lot of sense as a algorithm reaction to a large influx of links. Now, ultimately, right. That piece of content isn't being clicked on. Much and also isn't giving users what they needed because they're going back to, you know, Google and clicking on Zapier or ClickUp and then yeah, you know, it's going to be bumped down from the SERPs.

So all of that's to say that, yes, I do think links are still an important factor. They just are even more important if you are just getting started and kind of in your early to mid like stage of website maturity and SEO content rankings. This is like pretty interesting. It's ongoing, right? The Google search antitrust trial updates.

You can see here from big tech on trial. We try to avoid confirming that we use user data and the ranking of search results. You know, not to discuss the use of clicks in search. And, you know, this person testified that Google knows, or everyone knows, Google uses user data in search. So, All of that's to say that for a very long period of time, the official Google propaganda was that Google did not use click data in search.

I think, you know, like that was kind of in regards to privacy considerations, you know, GDPR, just all kinds of different things where Google didn't want to look import Like they were using user data too much because, you know, Facebook and Meta and all these other sites were getting a lot of flack because all that they did was sell user data.

So they wanted to like distance that. But now that we know that that's actually happening. I don't think it comes to a surprise for most of you here that you've probably been following, you know, me or Google long enough to at least infer that should they not be using user clicks or whatever, that there were using at least something that demonstrated some like form of engagement.

So yeah, anyways, there's there's different. Approaches. I don't think this necessarily changes like how we should think about Google search. I think, you know, Kevin dig called this one out. It's like the implications, because now we actually know Google is using click data, you know, what would we do.

It's like, yeah, we'd probably pay more attention to the user experience. We would, you know, like really think about click-worthy titles. We would provide great experiences. And again, it's not like this really changes anything in terms of our approaches for how we're doing SEO. But I think it's nice too.

Here, you know, Google come clean about this because I have certainly debated many SEOs on, you know, this user engagement signal thing much more than I would have liked. And I'm like, all right, well, I Don't imagine why Google would not use click data. This is also interesting. Google ads, search and Chrome bosses, you know, discussing how to boost ad revenues in emails.

You know, long story short here is that published emails have basically called out that Google. The ads team was telling the search team to, you know, kind of make search results worse by prioritizing ad revenue, you know, all of that stuff. I don't think that this comes as a surprise. Either, you know, we all operate in Google sandbox and Google has been cannibalizing and trying to, you know, capture more of the value for themselves with knowledge graph panels, you know, Google product placements, Google shopping, Google maps, Google everything, really.

And so I think, you know, the takeaway here is that. Ultimately, when we play Google SEO, we are still playing in Google's backyard. And, you know, if anything, maybe my recommendation here is to, to kind of not place all of your eggs in, in the Google basket, you know, and I know that comes a bit like. Not like a, of a recommendation that I would exactly say is beneficial for ClearScope, but I do think that diversification of marketing channels and owning your own, like, you know, audience and list is of course, at the end of the day, what we can do.

And I don't think this is. Specific to Google, right? We're seeing X or Twitter go through all kinds of really crazy stuff. Now, you know, meta has obviously changed significantly in the last like 10 years, your audience through email lists, and that will be, you know, always defensible. Yes, bard s g l l m's AI insert extra buzzwords here.

I think that The going sentiment around amongst our SEO doctors in the space is that SGE continues to evolve, but more recently, right, a lot of people are are saying this thing called like they're calling it SGE light, but I basically fold it down. The you know, the generative experience. So I think, you know, with relation to the email to our shared and the antitrust and, you know, Google kind of prioritizing ad revenue.

I think, you know, this makes a ton of sense. I've always kind of felt like the S. G. E. was really You. Just a slightly better version of a featured snippet and a featured snippet would be essentially, you know, Google arriving at a very high level of confidence that that featured snippet is the answer that you're looking for anyways.

And so I think that SGE, should it roll out, I, my, my take is that, you know, it kind of replaces featured snippets to a degree and we kind of see it more in that like isolated manner. I've always been of the opinion that SGE and this whole like AI movement is just better consumed through a chat.

Interface and I've always thought that, you know, Google should just release Google chat or something like that to then capture, you know, those types of searches or questions that people might have because they wanted it through like more of this AI interactive component. Which is to say that yeah, so this is more SGE lite stuff for things, right?

This is kind of saying that in some ways, shapes and forms, you'll go to chat GPT or BARD to inquire about certain things. I think that, you know, those kinds of LLMs. are powerful because they retain historical context, right? You can say, Hey, you know, what are your thoughts about this? And then, you know, the LLM, whether it's BARD or chat GPT, we'll say here, you know, here's my thoughts.

And then you can say, okay, well, and, you know, more practically, it's like, Give me the best things to do in Australia, for example. And then it will say, yeah, go do this and go do that. And I'll be like, no, actually give me things that are like outdoors rather than indoors. Right. And so essentially that continued dialogue and conversation is where LLM shine, because you can't really do that as well when you're, you're searching.

So I think this. Makes the most sense for like SGE and AI is that, you know, there's a lot of chat interfaces that will cannibalize parts of keywords and topics that people are likely to be searching for. I think we're seeing that actually probably influence a lot of code. Right now with GitHub co pilot and chat GPT and being able to read a bunch of like open source code You're seeing less like oh, you know, like if I have this coding challenge or problem, you know You'd rather just get that from chat GPT So I think you'll see a class of searches More or less like I'm not gonna say disappear or I think it'll like transfer over to you know like bard and and chat GPT So, yeah, I think that wraps up a lot of what's going on in SEO.

I think it's been a turbulent year and I think it's, it's exciting to see, you know, what changes and, and things will continue to make. Yeah, completely

Travis: I agree. You have a couple of questions from the audience, and I didn't get 10 more minutes. So if you have questions, go ahead and drop them in the Q and a box, but they kind of kick it off.

We have John from earlier. He asked, how do you determine your website maturity in the life

Bernard: cycle? Yeah, that's a great question, John. So I think it's, it's the best, most practical like recommendation that I can give you is how much content you have at what rankings? So, you know, if you see a high density of content that is ranking, you know, on the fourth, fifth, sixth page of Google, then chances are you have a topical or domain authority problem.

If you know, you're publishing content, and it's taking a week to even show up. In rankings, therefore, indicating that you, you know, have like indexation problems or, you know, crawl, you're running into crawl stuff, then I think, you know, that's, that's more of a reflection that you might be earlier on. And then, if you're publishing content.

And it's immediately seeding into Google into like front page, second page, and then likely you're a mature website for the category that you're writing about. So yes, that said, I think the most important thing to understand is that maybe it's not website maturity, but it's topic maturity, right? Like NerdWallet, if they started to write content on like personal health and like, you know, diets, well, their website would be very immature in terms of the life cycle of, you know, personal health and diets, even though, you know, the website as a whole is very mature within the topic of personal finance.

So I think it's really topic by topic. Specific and and then just kind of seeing, you know, of the content that you have within the topic that, you know, you want to rank for what's where are you positionally and I'm generally say for second page, you know, you're kind of mature and playing the user engagement and then, you know, Second page to a hundred page, you know, you're probably mid levels of maturity because Google is finding and indexing and wanting to serve your content.

And if you're nowhere found on the top hundred spots, then chances are you're very early in that topic life cycle. Nice. Cindy

Travis: asks, any suggestions for when you're in a saturated market and there are a hundred what is x pages, is there, is this where experience and EAT matters? Any thoughts in addition to working on long tail keywords?

Bernard: Hmm. Okay, so let me see here, something around, we're in a saturated market where there's a hundred, what is x page? Yeah, I mean. I talked about this a lot more within another presentation that I've given, and I think that if that is the case, right, and perhaps it's a fairly dry topic, then the idea is that you, you kind of want to beat the, the website in terms of You Your ability to add to the knowledge graph, or I guess in SEO speak, people are calling this information gain.

So if you're competing in like high, high confidence, SERPs, right, like this is kind of what I'm imagining when you say there's 100 what is X. If it is all like, what is X, right? And we all agree that this is all like, what is X typically speaking, what you have is a, a featured snippet that that gets produced, right?

How many legs does the dog have? That's probably likely always, you know, four legs, something like that. So what happens then in those particular SERPs is that you need to add it to the. Knowledge graph in a compelling way, which is well, we're clear scope like shines, but it becomes a much more nuanced game in terms of your, your ability to rank.

Travis: Nice. Yeah, it's helpful. And supposes the last question for Megan, do we think Google will eventually rank pages that have used Bard more so than those who

Bernard: have not? That's a, that's an interesting question. I would say

that I don't, I don't think so. I, I can't say that with absolute certainty because I'm not sure how, you know, BARD's language model or, you know, Palm, I suppose is kind of how they're describing it in terms of Google gets constructed and whether or not Google search is play, you know, like contributing to the pool of training data that's being used for, for BARD.

So. All of that's to say that. It's likely to like matter in the same way that Google kind of calls out. They're like, well, you know, SEO and PPC, you know, that data doesn't cross. Right. So whatever is going on with SEO does not affect PPC or I guess, more importantly, vice versa, right? If you're spending a bunch of money on Google ads, that does not affect your ability to rank well.

In Google search, and Google has always been very keen on promoting that propaganda. However, right, what we've seen is that, you know, should you spend a lot of money on PPC, it's correlated with your ability to do well in SEO. And I think, you know, you could rationalize that to say that, you know, if people are just seeing more brand mentions of your site show up in search.

Regardless of its PPC or SEO, then they're more likely to want to click on, you know, your organic result if you owned, you know, like a PPC like results that you were bidding on for a keyword. So I think that's probably the way that I would approach BARD and SEO is that I think Google is going to be pretty clear.

And say, you know, the usage of BARD does not really affect SEO, but chances are they might share some of the same proprietary, you know, technology in terms of knowledge graph or training data, which could help. But I think Google will likely want to keep that, you know, pretty distinct from one another.

Written by
Bernard Huang
Co-founder of Clearscope
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