Flip The Switch Episode 48: Google Algorithm

John Saunders
By John Saunders

PAT: Today on Flip the Switch. Coca-Cola makes a move to get into the java market. Trump heats up things with Silicon Valley Titans. And SurveyMonkey (remember them?) Goes public after almost 20 years.

For our main topic we talk about the most recent Google algorithm update. How you can tell if your online business has been affected or penalized. And what to do about it.

Let’s get into it.

01:02 AUSTIN: Welcome to Flip the Switch presented by Power Digital Marketing. This is episode number 49.

01:06 PAT: Our Joe Montana episode.

01:08 AUSTIN: Why’d you pick Joe Montana?

01:09 PAT: There’s no good athletes that are numbered 49, and he is the San Francisco 49ers.

01:13 AUSTIN: Oooh. That was a pun.

01:16 PAT: Yeah. Well also, we have football season starting next week.

01:18 AUSTIN: We do. I think we’re all very excited about that. And talk about being excited, we’re very excited for today’s show. You should see Joe Hollerup right now, he just lit up.

01:27 JOE: This is the first time we’ve had all 4 of us back in here in about 6 months.

01:30 AUSTIN: Yeah. It feels like it’s been a couple years. This summer’s been interesting to say the least. A lot of trips, but also a lot of biz deals.

01:38 PAT: A lot of biz deals happening. And we’re going to get into some of that right now.

01:42 AUSTIN: Yeah, let’s go ahead and hop into our news and trends. We will fire off starting with Coke. They made a massive acquisition–the largest acquisition they’ve had in a long time as 5.1 billion dollar acquisition of a coffee company.

01:53 PAT: Yeah, exactly. So Coca-Cola is trying to get into the very competitive java market. They made a deal that was 5.1 billion dollars with a company called Costa. A lot of people speculate that this is because Coca-Cola has been put under pressure to get into new markets and diversify a little bit. Because honestly things have not been going great for them since 2012.

02:16 AUSTIN: Yeah, and I think that this is what we’re seeing in terms of the beverage industry–or I should say, food and beverage. Cause we talked about Nestle pretty recently about their pretty substantial use of Starbucks’ brand world-wide. They’re selling Starbucks products under the Nestle umbrella now. Because the coffee market seems to have quite a bit of surge in it.

Which I think is rather interesting. Because it’s the one commodity that individuals are continuing to drink and grow. Whereas maybe something along the lines of soft-drinks, which once had a big stranglehold on the beverage market is really declining quick. So we’re seeing companies start to make some other decisions.

02:52 PAT: Yeah. Absolutely. Even if looking at one of their arch competitors–probably their biggest competitor, PepsiCo, they recently made an acquisition for 3.2 billion dollars to buy carbonated water dispenser company called Soda Stream. Pretty much what they’re doing is they’re trying to diversify out of traditional soda and soda pop, because of the fact… and I personally think that the decline that they’ve seen in the market is because of lessened demand. Because there’s more data coming out about how bad soda is for you.

03:26 AUSTIN: Yeah. And it seems like it’s almost the opposite with coffee, right? I think that we’ve seen quite a bit of studies over the years of pointing it maybe in the direction of nutritional almost. Where it’s not necessarily making you healthier, such as vegetables, but it’s definitely not affecting you to the degree that soda is.

Where soda is truly bad for you, and at this point, with the amount of research we have on it–there’s no way of getting around that.

03:50 JOE: Do you think this means that they’re going to bring back their failed experiment of Coke Blak?

03:55 AUSTIN: Actually they were just talking about that. So that’s a big reason why they needed to acquire another company is because that went so poorly. That was the coffee company that they had at one point.

04:05 JOE: No. It was a Coke coffee.

04:08 PAT: It was disgusting.

04:09 JOE: Actually, not that disgusting.

04:11 PAT: All right. Resident weirdo, Joe Hollerup for you.

04:13 JOE: Embrace debate.

04:14 PAT: Embrace debate. Well so here’s the thing though. Their shares had been slipping since 2012 which is kind of what we’re talking about. But after this acquisition, Coke’s shares were very unchanged. So this didn’t have that immediate fluctuative impact that they wanted it to. They actually slipped .2%.

04:32 AUSTIN: Yeah, you nailed it. And I think that’s pretty interesting and important to keep in mind, because clearly the market’s being critical of the acquisition, right? They don’t think that this is going to have too much of a bump for their revenue. Which is the point of it.

Or it might take a long time. So that could be another situation too. If investors aren’t seeing in the next couple of years that this is going to have a major effect. So they don’t want to invest heavily now. There’s a lot of things that are coming into this.

But I think that the market is dictating that they’re not particularly thrilled with it, and don’t see it as a major win for Coke.

05:02 PAT: Yeah, that might be true. But I think that in the long-term, it’s a good acquisition and here’s why. It’s a UK based brand–Costa–under a umbrella company I believe they’re called White Bread LLC? Something like that.

At any rate, in the UK, Costa has more… they are more common and more prominent than Starbucks is. So this is a very massive scale acquisition that was taking place.

05:26 AUSTIN: They’re bigger than Starbucks?

05:27 PAT: They’re bigger than Starbucks, in the UK specifically. So what that means in the long-term is that Coca Cola’s going to be able to expand their international reach a little bit. Because the java market, especially in the United States, is extremely competitive because of big players like Starbucks.

05:42 AUSTIN: Yeah, absolutely. And I think Cold Brew, and there’s a lot of craft coffee almost which has taken over a lot of… at least on the West coast. For us. We feel that. With beer and with coffee.

But so it looks like they have a lot of plans also to go into the Asian market. A little bit of Australia is what we’re seeing.

So this is definitely an international play, right? For Coca-Cola, they’re saying we can’t really dive into this American market because it’s just too saturated. As Pat is saying. So what else can we do?

Well, the good news is there’s another 7 billion people out there that drink coffee. So we’ll just go looking for them.

06:19 PAT: Yeah, to me this is just an incredibly, competitor-centric move. So you see their arch-rival PepsiCo making a move to acquire a company that can complement their offering for 3.2 billion. Coca-Cola goes out and immediately tries to one-up that.

I don’t necessarily that that’s the right motivation for the move. They need to assess the market a little bit more critically. They may have lucked into something that could end up being a good long-term play for them.

But I think that the motivation behind the move is just incredibly competitor-centric, and isn’t… I don’t know. I just think you need to assess it a little bit more critically than that for an acquisition that’s this big.

06:51 JOE: Well, I think they have the power and the means to infiltrate the US population with some sort of bottled drink that you could get at a convenience store or a gas station or 7/11 that isn’t necessarily Coca-Cola branded. But could be Costa branded. Something new, something kind of… not innovative, but something new to the US consumer. Next to those Starbucks Frappuccinos, and those types of things.

To just have something completely new in there to test a drink. And I think that’s where they could win.

07:19 PAT: Well, I wonder what the price point would be on that though. Because you have to consider the importing cost too. I think that the overhead cost for just this whole operation–to bring it to the United States–and compete a little more head-to-head would be higher.

But I do see what you mean, and I think that is the direction that they would end up going with it. I’m very interested to track that and see how it goes.

07:36 AUSTIN: Definitely. All right, let’s transition out and get into our next one. We’re going to be talking about Donald Trump. Which we do not do very much.

07:45 PAT: Not at all.

07:47 AUSTIN: Because we don’t like to get too political here. But this does tie back into what we always talk about, which is Amazon, Google and Facebook. The big 3. So I’m going to let Pat break this down, but we’re talking about anti-trust.

07:57 PAT: Yeah, so we’ve talked a little bit before on the show about the disparaging gap between the US government and Silicon Valley companies. The people that are controlling and making decisions for fiscal and monetary policy for the economy aren’t the ones that are driving the economy forward. We see that innovation in Silicon Valley.

We saw that rift get a little bit bigger earlier this week. Donald Trump had some very pointed language when referencing Facebook, Google and Amazon. And in true Donald Trump form he just says, “This is just a very anti-trust situation. Very anti-trust.”

08:34 AUSTIN: That was good imitation, by the way.

08:36 PAT: Thank you. I’m actually known for that.

He brought this up when he was kind of just talking about these companies, and it really raised a lot of concern among people that he would loosely throw these terms around. And I think there’s a couple different reasons why he might have done that.

Because it kind of conflicts with what typically a conservative viewpoint is. You want to have a capitalistic, free market, right? In this scenario, it almost seems that he’s advocating for the opposite of that.

09:04 AUSTIN: Yeah, I think it is pretty interesting. Because what happens then? If you’re going to start to look at if these companies are anti-trust that means you bring in the FTC–the Federal Trade Commission–and that alone is government, right? And for someone who’s a conservative republican, advocating for government action isn’t necessarily what falls in line with what he’s selling. And that’s the conservative, free-market, tax cutting Trump. And that’s what he’s pumping dollars back into big business.

09:30 PAT: And that’s the platform that he ran on.

09:32 AUSTIN: And that’s the platform that he ran on, and a little bit of what he’s done, right? He’s on-shoring companies such as Apple. Giving them tax breaks to bring them back into the American economy.

And then he’s turning around and bashing another 3 companies. So it’s a little bit confusing and definitely a cause for concern. But like Pat is saying, there is some ulterior motives.

09:51 PAT: Yeah, so it’s very coincidental that these are 3–well at least 2 of these 3 companies, Facebook and Google, have been scrutinized and publicized for repressing what many people believe to be conservative viewpoints. We’ve seen that on Facebook and YouTube. And Google. They’re repressing searches around crazy conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. A lot of political pundits for the conservative party have been repressed on these platforms. It’s kind of been shown that there is a liberal bias with these companies.

Amazon, I think, is the exception to this. I think he clumped that in there for good measure. And because they’re the 800 pound elephant in the room that can’t be ignored.

10:26 AUSTIN: Second largest search engine, so they have a lot of data.

10:30 PAT: Exactly. Big data guys.

But I thought that this was interesting and a lot of people are pointing to this as the primary motivation for bringing up this kind of scrutiny. And I think that’s a little bit true.

I mean, if you do look at it, he has been outspoken in the fact that these platforms… previously, he has been outspoken in the fact that these platforms should allow for free speech and advocated for that.

And he has always brought it back to the fact that conservative pundits and conservative empathizers, and advocates have been previously repressed on these platforms.

11:00 AUSTIN: And to play Devil’s advocate a bit, let’s say that we are Donald Trump and we are upset because of some things. And we have facts to back this up. Because know for one that Facebook has quite a bit of issues with manipulation of news and trends. They publicly came out–at least their employees did–saying that we used to, at our office, manipulate what news should up on the trends.

11:25 PAT: Right.

11:27 AUSTIN: And so as the President of the United States on typically the opposite side of the news cycle. These articles that are being manipulated were not necessarily conservative viewpoints. They were largely liberal.

So he’s got a little bit of a point there, right? Where he’s saying, “I’ve seen this. I can prove it. It’s factual. And now I can point to the companies that are doing it and saying that this is proof that they have a strong hold on the information that an individual receives. A common individual using their platform is being swayed and or manipulated based on the company’s choice of words.

11:58 PAT: Yeah. And actually to double down on that Devil’s Advocacy– the EU in July actually slapped Google with 5 billion dollar fine for its Android anti-trust violations. Related to the promotion of its own software services. So basically they were repressing searches around iOS and Apple and trying to channel all of those types of search queries towards their own products. Their Android solutions.

That’s the first time that we’ve ever seen a company of that magnitude get slapped with a fine like that. So I think that there is definitely some fact behind what he’s saying. I don’t necessarily think that it is entirely accurate.

12:39 AUSTIN: If we want to go to the finish-line here and say “Is this going to happen?” It’s a pretty strong, “No.” There’s no real reason for the FTC to get involved with 3 companies that I don’t think that it’s totally true, that they’re doing an anti-trust situation.

You also have to think about it from a competitive standpoint. Who’s Amazon’s competitor? Who’s Google’s competitor? Who’s Twitter’s competitor? Who’s Facebook’s competitor?

They’re kind of just all their own competitors in a certain way. And there’s no one else on the market for them at this point, right?

You can maybe point to Snapchat or a little bit Apple, who are in that informationally based, we have a lot of data situation. But realistically, they’re providing a service that no one else can. And that is not an anti-trust situation. That’s a capitalist win…

13:24 PAT: If it’s a market share situation.

13:25 AUSTIN: It’s just… we allow in the United States for companies to create something that isn’t available. And that’s what Amazon and Google specifically have really done. Is they made something that no one else could and that’s not their fault, right?

It’s not their fault. And we talk about anti-trust situations being… Like, let’s say for instance we’ve talked about AT&T, right? They were broken up I believe it was the turn of the century. Round 2000. For taking a stranglehold on the communications market. So they had way too much power.

They owned power line companies, right? They were in your homes. They… cellphones were coming out and they were taking over that.

And there was competitors, but no one had any room, cause they had more cash. See THAT is anti-trust. There are other competitors that could probably do a better job in their local environment. In the local community. So they need a chance to have that say.

But we’re looking at Amazon and Google, that’s not the case. There is not another Amazon vying with a better product, with a better platform out there. Amazon is providing a service for a lot of people that no one else can.

14:27 PAT: Yeah, I think that the only time that it should come into play is if they continue to expand into so many different markets, and gain a controlling amount of market share within those specific markets that were outside the realm of their initial USP–their initial niche. That is when concern should be raised.

14:43 AUSTIN: He’s totally right–Patrick here. And when we talk about that, this is horizontal and vertical integration. And where we are seeing Amazon do this to a degree. We’ve actually talked about this on the show–where they’ve bought up sportswear companies and then they’re purchasing the entire supply chain.

14:56 PAT: Exactly. They own the manufacturing plants.

14:58 AUSTIN: Manufacturer. Logistics. And then we’re talking Retail too, because they’re selling it. Because that’s what their platform does.

So that is a different conversation than what Trump is having. Because Trump is having an anti-trust conversation about the information you receive. The words that you hear and look at, and know to be true based on these authoritative platforms giving them to you.

So completely different situation.

15:19 PAT: Right. And I think there’s always going to be some subsidiary fallout from claims made by an executive like the President. The very first of which being that even if there are some unprecedented or false claims being made around search repressing and information repression, it’s still going to spur some controversy.

We actually saw that Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah asked the FTC to investigate possible anti-competitive effects in Google’s search and digital advertising practices very shortly after Donald Trump made what The Verge reports as “Several unfounded or false claims about anti-conservative bias on those platforms.”

So he may be fully misinformed about the issue. But still advocating for it in so strong of a way that his cohorts–that his conservative colleagues–are going to try to take action on it with the FTC. And that is something that should be a little bit concerning. Because the facts aren’t straight in that scenario. And it’s opening up a platform like Google to what I feel to be unfair scrutiny.

16:18 AUSTIN: Yeah, and I think one final point… it seems as though Trump and Bezos are not necessarily friends. So I think…

16:26 PAT: (laughing) It’s safe to say that right about now.

16:28 AUSTIN: I think Trump doesn’t like him, and hasn’t for a long time. So that’s definitely driving a little bit. And I’m sure it’s the same with Zuckerberg. I don’t know… they probably beat him in golf once or something. I don’t know.

16:36 PAT: I couldn’t see Zuckerberg being good at golf.

All right, moving onto our last piece of news here…

16:40 AUSTIN: (laughing) That’s a good point.

16:41 PAT: Yeah. There’s no way that guy’s good at sports.

Looking at our last bit of news here–SurveyMonkey, they’ve been around for 19 years.

16:49 AUSTIN: Yes, they have. I remember hearing that name when I was a kid in middle-school I want to say. When you take those surveys in class. “Fill this out to let us know if this project was good.” Right?

16:59 PAT: Right. Yeah, 1 to 5.

They just filed for an IPO on Wednesday. For 100 million dollars. Per that filing.

17:07 JOE: SurveyMonkey?

17:09 PAT: SurveyMonkey. They just filed for a NASDAQ public offering. They submitted their paperwork to the SEC. it’s all finalized.

Like, what’s the deal? What’s been the hold-up with this?

17:23 AUSTIN: I think we’re a little bit confused, but I think there’s also a couple theories on why a company such as SurveyMonkey might go public and also might get some pretty big investments, right? They seem to have gathered quite a bit of capital from other companies. They brought in 250 million from Tiger Global, ICONiQ capital, and Social Capital Partnership. The value of the company is now 2 billion dollars, based on these initial investments.

So they’re going and IPOing at 2 billion dollar valuation. So I think that that shows you that there’s something going on here. And I think what SurveyMonkey has is data. They have so much data and we know as internet marketers, in this day and age, there’s nothing more valuable than data.

And that’s how we make good marketing decisions. Facebook allows us to have data. Google allows us to have data on individuals and households and geographic locations–specific locations. So that’s why you think SurveyMonkey’s been having people answer questions for 19 years. All ages. Everyone.

And if they were smart–and they must have been–they kept it all. So they have 19 years of information on what people like and what they don’t like. And there is nothing more valuable to a large company that could be working with SurveyMonkey–and a lot do. To get this data. So you think that they’re probably selling it. Or if you’re signing up and you’re–I don’t know–let’s say Amazon. And you want someone to fill out their user experience and what they purchased, you probably use SurveyMonkey, right?

18:55 PAT: “Powered by SurveyMonkey”

18:56 AUSTIN: Exactly. So you’ve got to imagine that their probably in a pretty good spot in 2018 when data is king. And clearly they’re doing it correctly, let’s hope. On the data collection side of things. Which also puts them in a very advantageous position, because we know that a lot of companies that do collect data, have done it poorly.

Facebook for instance, where they’ve gotten in a lot of trouble and they’re getting slapped with fines.

But you imagine because SurveyMonkey is kind of an opt-in situation. Where you have to physically click into the survey. And you have to go and actually give your information. There’s probably a lot of privacy policies associated with that that you opt into when you go to their platform. And they must have figured this out a long time ago.

19:33 PAT: Yeah, and I think that it’s really valuable even now, not just for companies that are trying to learn more about their markets. But for companies that are trying target people based on the type of person they are, as opposed to what the physical thing that they typed into a search query. Or the physical things that they have looked at before on the website.

Custom intent is a lot bigger now than it was before. This is the exact type of data that can be leveraged for custom intent. I think the reason that they’re going public right now is because they understand the value of that, but they are still not profitable. And they need to raise capital in order to help with gap.

This year they reported a 27 million dollar net loss on 121 million in revenue during the first half of 2018. During the same period last year, only had 19 million net loss on 106 million dollars in revenue. So their revenue is going up, but their net loss has increased more exponentially than their revenue has gone up.

20:25 AUSTIN: What do we think they’re spending money on? Is it advertising?

20:29 PAT: Gotta be overhead.

20:30 AUSTIN: Their overhead?

20:32 PAT: So here’s the thing. That usually isn’t the case with tech companies, especially because you’re just looking at buying server space as the primary cause of overhead costs. So I don’t know what they’re spending all of their money on. All of that’s obviously going to come out when they’re public.

But whatever is going on, the fact that it’s going to be brought to the public eye will be advantageous for them in the long run. Because their value prop. Is leveragable and is important in this day and age. They just need to figure it out financially.

And it’s not even that bad if you look at a few of these other companies that have gone public with big hopes for the longevity of the company. Like Spotify, for instance. People are buying into that stock because of the fact that it is so personalized. It has the AI feature. It gives you what you want.

This is the types of source information that would help power those types of processes. This the type of source information that can help power AI. So the more prevalent AI and VR become, the more important information on a personal level, like that that SurveyMonkey collects–the more important that becomes as well.

21:34 AUSTIN: And I think this is the 3rd company I can think of that hasn’t been profitable when they IPO. Snapchat, and then the one that you just mentioned… Spotify. Spotify wasn’t profitable and now we’re talking about SurveyMonkey. And it’s either that this day and age that the investment groups are either really stupid, and they don’t know what they’re doing.

Or they’re seeing this as major opportunity for them to make a ton of money, because they’re finding a… pretty much a diamond in the rough if you will, where they’ve got a great product, but they just don’t know how to make money.

So they go, “Well, we know how to make money. We’ve been doing it forever.” I’m assuming.

So they can flip the switch on that one…

22:14 PAT: Oh. A little branding plug right there.

22:16 AUSTIN: I think I should have said “flip the script.”

22:18 PAT: Yeah. I think that… well, it’s on the past now. Let’s not even worry about it.

22:23 AUSTIN: But you all get my point, here. This is most likely they’ve got a game-plan on how to make SurveyMonkey profitable.

22:28 PAT: Yeah. So we’re just going to have to follow that one and see. It’s interesting. The thing for me, especially if they’re trying to raise capital, if you want to make money on your investment, you can’t be investing in companies that are making a net loss. So there’s kind of two sides of the coin. It’s almost like a Catch-22. They need money to fix this problem. But because of this problem, people aren’t going to give them the money they need to fix it. So we’ll follow that one.

22:55 AUSTIN: We will see what the market says.

22:56 PAT: All right you guys. Going into our main topic discussion for today. We wanted to bring you a little bit of digital specific news that could really impact your website and your online business. We’re talking, of course, about Google’s most recent organic search algorithm update. Here to update us on that is Mr. Austin Mahaffy.

23:14 AUSTIN: Yeah. You made it sound like we had a special guest coming in there.

23:16 PAT: I need to lead people on a little bit because they’re used to that.

23:21 AUSTIN: Joe just said I am a special guest. I really appreciate that Joe.

All right so let’s go ahead and talk about what Google is doing. Why they’re doing it, and then more importantly, how to fix it.

The very beginning of August, we saw a very significant algorithm update. Everyone was calling it the “Medic” update. The reason for this is because what we’re seeing from metrics perspective is about 44% of the sites affected were in the medical industry, or the health industry. So we’re calling these pages, “Your money or your life.” That’s what Google refers to them as. And why they call it that is because very simply you’re giving a company money to protect your life.

So Google’s taken this very seriously. And this year they’ve not only done what we’re now seeing with organic search but they did have a paid search update. A very substantial one for medical industry.

At the beginning of the year, they locked a lot of specific types of businesses out. For instance, rehabs–drug rehabs–were not allowed to advertise anymore. Pay for ads on Google.

And then now we’re seeing them hit the same sector pretty heavily with organic search. And why they want to do this is because they want to basically decrease the visibility of illegitimate companies.

24:36 PAT: Why do you think that’s the case?

24:37 AUSTIN: The reason for this is… Google will never tell us the real answer for this, so I have to speculate. But there must be a ton of manipulation going on with this industry, right? Where Google’s entering into a little bit of a tricky situation where they’re giving free visibility–cause organic search is free–to companies that are not legitimate. So this has been the lifelong problem of Google and their algorithm is that people manipulate it.

It is an algorithm, so there’s an answer to the equation. And people figure it out all the time. And if your business isn’t legit, you can still show up number one. So that’s a big problem that Google has.

So what Google has to do is they need to come up with a way to eliminate a lot of those. And they still have to do it from an algorithmic perspective. So what that means is even if you’re a good company, and you do not fit exactly what Google wants, you might lose your visibility also.

25:29 PAT: Because you’re just put in that category, right?

25:30 AUSTIN: Because you’re put in that category. Exactly.

So what Google is saying and what they really want to do is there’s an acronym for it… EAT–Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. So just to give you a direct quote from Google on what EAT is and why it’s important. So “high EAT medical advice should be written or produced with people or organizations with appropriate medical expertise or accreditation. High EAT medical advice should be written or produced in a professional manner, and should be edited, reviewed and updated on a regular basis.”

So what Google wants you to do if you’re in this industry, is be authoritative. So put down what your medical expertise is on every blog post. Put it on every page. Point to how you can find more about that accreditation. And make your business as legitimate as possible.

So you might know… and it may be pretty obvious… that you’re a legit doctor. Or you’re a legit medical device company. But there’s a lot of companies that are manipulating this. So you need to be very upfront about how you do that, and who accredited you. And why your organization is legit.

So pretty much what Google want you to do is be legit as possible. So kind of what we saw happen–and this is from a lot of analysis I’ve done over the week–we saw a lot of websites go down that have homepages that are not doing this. They’re not being authoritative, they’re not showing their expertise, and they’re not being up-front with what a customer’s going to get.

So what we’re looking at really is you maybe see more of a sales tactic associated with the page, and less of an informational tactic. That’s where Google wants you to change, is to be informational and not sales oriented.

27:13 PAT: Yeah. That definitely makes sense, but I just want to make sure that I’m understanding you correctly, so the listeners are. So if I… let’s say I own a website. And my homepage is my highest traffic page on the entire site, right?

Does that mean that I can’t include long-form sales copy on the homepage without running the risk of getting penalized? Should I be reserving that for landing pages and putting specific information about my offering and USP in our business on the homepage or at the forefront? Or what does that mean as far as what kind of content I can have there without running the risk of being penalized? A little bit more specifically?

27:48 AUSTIN: So, yeah, that’s a great question, Patrick. And it’s okay to have the sales copy is kind of what I’m seeing analyzing websites that did go up. They do have some sales copy, right?

But more importantly, what they have above the sales copy is information. So if you’re going to go on a more salesy attack to your homepage–you cannot do that 75 to 25%. You’ve gotta go 50-50 pretty much, right? Or more, of information.

And stack your information first. So what we mean by information is let’s say you work with insurance companies. What insurances can you provide people? Tell us about your business right off the bat. Where are you? What do you specialize in? What accreditations does your business have?

And then right below that, I want you to go into detail about your treatment process and programs. So tell us about specifically what you treat, how you treat it, and those sort of questions that need to be answered for someone hitting the site right away. Before you start doing things like, let’s say, testimonials.

Or maybe you’ve got some sort of sales pitch where it’s a deal of some kind. Like, 25% off. I don’t know if rehabs are doing that.

28:59 PAT: Yeah, I don’t think they would do that.

29:00 AUSTIN: Point being… let’s say it’s medical device. Same thing. So you have to be informationally driven first and that’s what the user needs to see first, before you start selling them.

29:10 PAT: And the reason that the user needs to see it first, and the way they can quantify that is the way that Google crawls and indexes a website is the same way people read. Top to bottom, left to right.

So if I am trying to make sure that I don’t get penalized, I could structure my homepage in a way where I talk about who we are, where we’re located, what we do, what services we provide, why we’re good–accreditation. And then I would go into testimonials, referral programs, deals… things like that. Is that what I’m hearing?

29:36 AUSTIN: That’s 100% what I feel is correct.

29:40 PAT: What signals point to that?

29:42 AUSTIN: Right. So what Google’s algorithm is doing–and it’s an AI learning machine… machine learning algorithm–that has the ability to understand context, and now what we perceive to be authority. And so contextually they want the user searching to have the best information they can get. So they can understand that someone typing in the search query “san diego rehab center” has a problem. They can understand that. It’s not just words to them. There’s a lot of association with that term.

30:14 PAT: Right. There’s context and not just content, right?

30:17 AUSTIN: Right. You’re going through a hard time, you’re clearly desperate. There’s a lot of negative associations with that, so the algorithm can understand that we need to be showing the companies that can help them the fastest. And based on their search query, what websites can we match that best give them that opportunity.

So the ones that provide the information on San Diego rehab center–which is hopefully a San Diego rehab center would have that copy on their page. Information for that person typing that in. And that’s the first thing they see.

And then maybe they do have what insurances they take right away. So the person can see if that’s a fit for them, or if they need to bounce and find another one.

So if you’re a website, and you’re a business in this industry, you need to think, “What does my user need the most? Someone’s landing on my website, what do they need the most from me right now to make a decision as quickly as they can?” Because this is not shopping for a new pair of pants. You’re going to bounce around and you might compare prices, and you might read an article. This is your life, right? Your money or your life. So that’s where that comes into play. Give this person–this potential customer–what they need the most, which is information first. And give it to them fast.

31:28 PAT: I have a question then. So if that’s the general principle by which the algorithm was updated, right? Is it reserved to specifically sensitive topics or types of websites? Or is this a widespread thing that even like an e-commerce website needs to keep in mind.

31:44 AUSTIN: Another great question, Patrick. And you do need to keep this in mind if you’re an e-commerce website. We also did see e-commerce sites get dinged for this. It’s called the “Medic Update” because it was mostly medical companies, but that does not mean that you’re off the hook if you’re an e-commerce company. Because Google is still being pretty stringent on who’s selling and how their selling it.

So yeah. You should take a hard look at your website and ask yourself, “Am I answering the questions that the people on my website want to know? Am I giving them the information that they need to best make a decision?” And think about that first.

This isn’t a different situation than every company’s had to ask themselves before. Are we giving our customers what they need and what they want? This is not that different.

But because it’s Google, and because it’s SEO, people are constantly into manipulation first because that’s what we’re going to get our reward, right? We’re going to get our visibility if we appease an algorithm.

But I’m saying… and I think this a 2018 approach to SEO… is actually go back to the roots here and think about the user first. User experience is perceived to be what Google cares about most now. User experience. And they may have always done that. But they’ve been able to change their algorithm enough where it can understand user experience a bit more.

Think about that a bit first. User experience is first. And then do a little bit of your SEO tactics of adding in the keyword variants that you need and then backlinks. But truly think about user experience first. What does someone need from me on this page specifically? And what is the exact query that I would want someone to type in to find my page?

So that’s really important to think about too. Base your whole page off that, right? If you want to rank for a certain keyword, be the most qualified, and the highest quality. The most authoritative on that subject. And you’ll be rewarded.

Cause that’s what Google wants to do. They want to reward the best.

33:33 PAT: Are you seeing any parallels between this shift… or not this shift, but this gradual… with every update moving towards an enhanced user experience. And the same type of scrutiny that companies like Facebook and Google have been put under before about repressing searches because of algorithmic manipulation? Do you think that this is in response to enhanced scrutiny that these Silicon Valley companies have been placed under?

33:56 AUSTIN: I don’t necessarily think so. That’s to some degree I think more on the news side of things. Where with these types of searches it’s really giving people completely different information and a need or desire. So it’s not necessarily an influencing on your thoughts. It’s more so just making a purchase so to speak.

So I don’t think so, but I do think that Google still doesn’t know what to do. And they’re not 100% sure that this is the correct way to do this.

And I think to kind of round this out on more of my opinion, I think what they did to this algorithm isn’t the best. Because they clearly wanted to send a message to all the illegitimate businesses. They also sent a message to a lot of legitimate businesses, right? So a lot of the clientele we work with, they’re great businesses. They have great reviews. They take care of their clients. They’re good, accredited, real companies.

They got dinged too. They got hit really hard. And that is a problem

34:55 PAT: Exactly. Cause you’re just categorically dinging somebody because there are these signals that a machine learning or AI deems to be illegitimate, when in reality it likely isn’t. Or it may not be especially in comparison to some other very shady businesses. Because, you know, what we’ve seen in digital marketing–for every legitimate, great company that is on the web–there is going to be a counter-part that is not good.

I just think… and I agree with you… because I think that it is unfair for Google in any type of update… especially with the amount of say that it has over the visibility and the potential livelihood of these online businesses… to focus on trying to penalize bad businesses, and having that trickle over into the good.

Rather than rewarding the good businesses and having that trickle over into the bad. I think that at the end of the day Google… kind of my thought on it a little bit, is it’s almost as if Google is saying, “We know what’s best for users.” As opposed to just trusting the human instinct.

If you go to a website that is not a legit company, you know that. As a user, you do know that. There has to be a certain amount of accountability as a customer. And I disagree, kind of like you, with trying so hard to focus on penalizing the bad as a result of some bad practices, and having that trickle over into the good. Rather than the opposite.

36:16 AUSTIN: Yeah, I think that there’s definitely some association there… you’re correct… humans should have the capability of understanding this. And we don’t have the data on whether this is such a large issue. That’s why Google is making such a massive change all at once. They’re just overloaded with illegitimate businesses ranking high, so they just gotta do something now.

I don’t think that that’s necessarily the case. I think Google’s consciously trying to improve their algorithm and they are humans over there, that are making program changes. They’re actually affecting code and re-writing these algorithms. Just like you and I are sitting here typing words. And sometimes humans make things that aren’t as good as they once were. Or it’s not correct this time around.

So it’s iterations, right? It’s an iteration of their most important product, which is their search algorithm. And maybe they didn’t get this one 100% right this time. And we see this a lot. We see Google testing and changing their algorithm all the time.

So we could see… take a hard look at your website and if you truly feel, “This is a good User Experience. I’m giving people information. I have good backlinks. I have long blogs that are good and informational. And I show that it was written by a doctor right on the blog post.”

Just sit there and wait. Google’s probably going to reverse that for you, right? Because you’re a legitimate business. Google isn’t against legitimate businesses. They just have an algorithm which makes decisions for them.

So think about that too. Keep your steady-go on this, right? If you’re doing a good job, you work with a good agency. And you actually have a high quality website, just let time work itself out. And you’ll probably be rewarded.

37:52 PAT: Very glass half-full ending there.

One last thing, if I’m a business owner and I can… this update rolled out. What are a couple of tell-tale signs that I could look at today that would indicate that I am being penalized?

38:08 AUSTIN: That you’re fucked? Yeah, number one would be if you have access to SEMrush.com, go ahead and pop it in. I don’t even think you have to have a profile. Pop your website in… Your domain… and it’ll show you a graph of your keyword rankings. Your total keyword rankings, so all that you have. And if that things going down like a big drop–everybody knows it on a graph–you’ll know there’s a problem pretty quickly. And then you should take the things that I just said, start asking yourself if your homepage or your blog posts are answering those questions.

Whatever your most high-traffic page is that’s probably the one that was affected the most, so for a lot of these rehab facilities it’s their homepage. And take a hard look at that and compare it to–which is where I found a lot of my information–the ones that are now ranking first. It’s that obvious. When there is something bad that happens, that means someone else got it good.

So go take a look at their site. Analyze their backlinks, analyze their copy. Analyze their flow. Take full screen shots, and compare your homepage versus their homepage and see how the content is stacked. See what a person’s seeing first, second, third, fourth on that page. And you’ll find an answer. Because it can be truly obvious if your whole, entire homepage is set up backwards.

You’ll be like, “Well, shit. I gotta form at the top. I have the testimonials directly below that. Wow, they’re not finding about what my service is and what my program is until 60% down the page.

39:29 PAT: I’m just trying to get sign-ups.

39:32 AUSTIN: Wrong answer. Move that up. Drop the form down. Put those testimonials directly before the form but at the bottom. Information first and you’ll be okay.

39:42 PAT: I love it. Great insight there, Austin. Appreciate you diving into that for us.

And that just about wraps everything up from episode 49 of Flip the Switch. Join our forum on Facebook. It’s Flip the Switch forum. We will add you. Austin’s sitting right by his computer right now, waiting for you guys to request us.

But until next week, this has been Pat Kriedler, Austin Mahaffy, John Saunders and Joe Hollerup signing off.

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John is the Director of Web Development at Power Digital and thrives on the balance between creative and strategy. Using his experience in CRO, John approaches website builds with the user in mind, combining psychological and technical aspects of design.