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Dissecting the Search Engine Results Page with Alan Bleiweiss (NEWBIE)

Dissecting the Search Engine Results Page with Alan Bleiweiss (NEWBIE)

What shows up in the results, and why

 

Ah those pesky Search Engine Results Pages, they seem to change every single day.

And working out what is what can be incredibly confusing for the newbie, and even the oldbie.

Today we’re going to take you through it.
Step by step.
Element by element.

We’ll name them, explain them and tell you how to optimise for them.

By the end of this episode, you’ll be a SERP Pro!

 

Tune in to learn:

  • Which factors impact personalisation.
  • The increase in ads on Google.
  • Different Snippet types and how to nab them.
  • What the local pack is and how it’s influenced by user location.
  • What the knowledge graph panel is.
  • Which searches spawn a knowledge graph panel.
  • Alan’s tips for creating a combo with your title tag, meta description, and URL that drives ranking and click-through.

 

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And big thanks to vickichiki for their lovely review:

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About Alex

 

Alan Bleiweiss has been an internet marketing professional since January of 1995.

Having managed web teams of up to 20 developers, designers and content specialists, his specialty these days includes sustainable site audits, consulting and training.

Weird fact: Alan thinks Wonder Woman is the greatest superhero of all time. Far more powerful than all the rest, and completely sane.

 

 

Connect with Alan

 

Transcript

 

Kate Toon:
Okay. Those pesky search engine results pages. They seem to change every single day and working out what’s what can be incredibly confusing for the newbie and even the oldbie. So today we’re going to take you through it step by step, element by element. We’ll, name them, explain them and tell you how to optimise them. By the end of this episode, you will be a SERP pro. Hello, my name is Kate Toon. I’m the head chef at the Recipe for SEO Success, an online teaching hub for all things related to search engine optimization and digital marketing. And today I’m talking with Alan Bleiweiss. Am I saying that right? Is that how you say it Alan?

Alan Bleiweiss:
That’s exactly how you say it. Yeah.

Kate Toon:
Very good. My little German A level came in handy there. Bleiweiss, what does Bleiweiss mean in German?

Alan Bleiweiss:
Well, it means led white. However, it was a name given to my grandfather when he came from Russia, to America at the turn of the last century. So 120 years ago through Ellis Island, here in New York and the guy at the desk said, “What’s your name?” And he pronounced it in Russian and the guy said, “Here’s your name in America.”

Kate Toon:
Oh, I love that, that’s so good to have an Ellis Island story, a trackable backable story. That’s very cool. So who knows, you just got what you’re given, right? It could be a lot worse.

Alan Bleiweiss:
I have relatives across the United States, Germany, Israel, and Russia, who all spell it differently.

Kate Toon:
There you go. Well with a name like Toon, it’s pretty easy to spell. I’m just an Irish peasant. My dad tracked us all the way back, hoping to find a Russian Prince, but we’re just peasants. So there you go. I think that says a lot. Well look, for those of you who don’t know who Alan is. Alan has been an internet marketing professional since 1995, having managed web teams of up to 20 developers, designers and content specialists. His speciality these days include sustainable site audit, consulting and training. Weird fact, Alan thinks Wonder woman is the greatest superhero of all time, far more powerful than the rest and completely sane. You know that I have an avatar picture of me as Wonder woman. Do you know that?

Alan Bleiweiss:
I know that.

Kate Toon:
Oh, Alan. You’ve just become my favourite guest ever. She is the best super hero. She’s just like, “There’s no ego.” Is there? The rest of the superheroes are all up themselves right now, aren’t they? 

Alan Bleiweiss:
I believe wonder woman represents the archetype that humanity needs.

Kate Toon:
Alan you’re awesome. Well, I think then it’s perfectly fitting that I should have that as my avatar because I am the archetype for her human, no I’m not, I’m so not . Oh, I want to just talk about superheroes now, but instead of talking about superheroes, we’re going to talk about super search results. Boom. We were going to talk about something entirely different. So I’ve sprung this on Alan at the last minute, but it’s actually an episode I’ve been wanting to do for a long time with somebody who can just talk exhaustively about this and understands it in and out. So we’re going to be discussing the search engine results pages or the SERPs, as we call them. So gone are the days of 10 blue links of search engine pages that were packed with organic results. These days, there are a plethora of ads featured snippets, local packs, site links, shopping carousels, Twitter results, amber carousels, you’re sometimes lucky to even get two organic results on the first page.

So today we’re going to break it all down. And we’re going to discuss each element and how to rank for what it means. So the first thing I wanted to talk with you about Alan, was personalization. So a big misunderstanding of newbies coming into search is, they Google themselves and they go, “Look at me, I’m ranking number one.” And they don’t realise that there’s a lot of personalization in the search results. So I wondered if you could talk us through what impacts personalization. So how does Google personalise the results? What data does it use from us?

Alan Bleiweiss:
Yeah, so there’s a variety of data sources when it comes to personalization. There are actually two that have the most impact. Okay. See, now, just talking about it, there’s three, there’s four that have heavy weights under different circumstances and where they can merge at different times. So the first thing is, what is your own search history? Google is always attempting to provide individual people with the most preferred results for their search effort. And one of the ways they can do that for most consumers, versus those of us who are marketers is through personalised search history and says, “Oh, in the past, you’ve looked for this. You’re looking for something slightly different, but we understand it’s highly related. So we’re going to include some of that in this search results.” And that’s going to change that search results set compared to if they didn’t have your history at all. Then there’s a more refined history if you’re searching after you’re signed into a Google account that contains that much more granular data. 

Where it starts to get complicated, is they’re are always going to also factor in geographic location for a certain set of phrases that you’re searching for, products that you’re looking for, services that you need. If they think there are local providers, they’re potentially going to show the map in amongst the regular organic listings. So local has a lot to do with it. And that’s a really flawed system for the reason that where they get hyper-local with your phone and your geographic location on your phone, they base it on desktop and laptop connections on where your internet connection is coming from your internet service provider, and here in using miles, rather than kilometres. Here in the United States, that could be next door, it could be 30 or a hundred miles away. Now, if I’m looking for a dentist, I’m not going to travel a hundred miles unless I live in a really remote territory, and the nearest dentist is a hundred miles away. So they try to personalise, but it can be very flawed. Another factor is how much revenue can they make from the ads that they display? And- 

Kate Toon:
Yeah.

Alan Bleiweiss:
Where search results will change based on revenue opportunities for them, even though the organic team and the ads teams are two separate teams. 

Kate Toon:
Yeah. I’m just going to go through those again. We’ve got your personalised history, the more refined search history, your geo location and ad revenue opportunities. So there’s a whole different gamut of things. And also being signed in to Google and Google related prophecies. If you’re signed into YouTube or you’re signed into Google or you’re signed into Twitter, that can impact it as well. And even if you click incognito search, it really doesn’t strip out a lot of that personalization. It’s still hyper-personalised to be honest, isn’t it? It’s not supposed to be, but it still feels like it is.

Alan Bleiweiss:
It is to a certain degree. Yes. And another factor is they’re always looking to test with the live search results data. So they will change search results from time-to-time to see what might get more stickiness on their own pages or more click through value. And so it’s a whole nest of factors.

Kate Toon:
I love that you called it a nest. It does sound like a nest, of thriving Google snakes. And talking about Google snakes. Let’s talk about ads. So ads have moved up and down around and around. They’re on the side, they’re on the bottom. Now they’re on the top. And obviously Google isn’t an altruistic charity, it has to earn money. But the ads seem to be growing and growing. I’ve seen up to five at the top of the page and ads in the local pack, and more at the bottom. So you realise they’re squeezing the space that organic listings have to almost nothing. What’s the deal with ads? What have you noticed over the last couple of years?

Alan Bleiweiss:
So ads continually evolve and change as well. Absolutely. And just in my last minute notice about the topic today, I did a little bit of Google digging just to make sure I get-

Kate Toon:
Good on you Alan, good on you.

Alan Bleiweiss:
Just to show examples of what things can look like, right. And with the ads, it’s no longer just the text ads. For some searches, they now have an image carousel at the top of the search results that are ads for products in the images. This is how much change is going on. They’re continually looking for more ways to get more people to click on more ads. And the claim is, the reason we do that is because we find it’s more helpful to consumers. Now, an argument can be made for that against that. But it was just fascinating that they’re switching different search phrases, you see different examples of what the ads now look like. Sometimes those image ads are now on the right, and sometimes they’re a carousel on the top. 

Kate Toon:
Yeah. I’m going to come on to talking about that ad carousel. I’m so glad sometimes that this podcast is audio only because if you’d get to seeing the faces I was pulling while Alan was talking about that, about it being the best result for the user, I was pulling faces. 

Alan Bleiweiss:
Yeah. I just want to touch on one more way. It’s an endless rabbit hole for Alice in Google’s Wonderland. So for example, if you do a search for Adelaide tourism, okay, you’re going to see organic listings. You’re going to see “people also ask” Box, which is other questions that people ask that Google thinks is similar. You’re going to see COVID info because this is important for business owners to understand especially. We can’t just rely on what our normal behaviour is, what society needs us to adapt. So COVID information on website is really important, right? Google has COVID info for the tourism, but then there’s also a tourism carousel. And within that tourism carousel, there are narrowing options for which topic within tourism, you want to see results for. Okay. 

Here’s where it starts to get complicated. They also have videos, they also have images and then they also have a knowledge panel. But let’s talk about the tourism carousel. From my results, it’s three-quarters of the way down the organic page, and if you click on a tourism attraction, it opens up a new page in Google, you don’t leave Google, you go to the Google travel system. You’re no longer on Google organic. You’re now in the Google travel system. And it shows you a lot of pictures and links, but on the left, there are several options, hotels, flights, and if you go there, it’s to drive you into their booking system at Google. So it’s a revenue stream for Google and you don’t leave Google.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. You might think you are, you might think you’re going to some kind of engine, but it is still Google content, it’s still Google revenue generating content. Yeah. It is a rabbit hole. It’s interesting. I want to talk about a few of those other things that you mentioned as well, and we might come back to the carousels a little bit as well. Position zero is obviously something that people talk about or have been talking about for the last couple of years. So position zero is the spot above, sometimes even the ads, above the organic listings, above everything. And when it came, we were all quite excited about it, it featured snippets. Great. 

But these days we realise that even when you get the enviable position zero, you don’t always get the clicks, and a little while ago, Google changed it so that the snippet is the only result you get. You used to be able to have your snippet and then your organic result, if you’re on the first page. Now you only get your snippet. Let’s talk about the different types of snippets that there are, obviously the ones that are obvious, are just the featured snippet, which is just usually an informational panel. We’ve got featured videos, featured lists, featured recipes. What other snippets are there Alan?

Alan Bleiweiss:
All right. So, again, this is a really complex answer because they’re continually playing with that top spot. Right. I mean, if you’re doing a true local search, position zero is actually that map pack. So that’s position zero for those searches, but there are other searches that have local, but where the map is below ads or it’s below one or two organic, and then all of a sudden position zero is this elusive unidentified thing that varies, right? Sometimes now position zero is, people also asked, it’s literally the first thing you see. It’s questions that they’ve shown that other people have asked before you get any results for what you actually asked for. There are times where it’s just a featured snippet. There are times where the featured snippet is still listed among other organic results. Sometimes there are now two featured snippets. And then again, other situations, sometimes you’ll see the image carousel as position zero, or be careful, it’ll be an ad carousel that has images in the ads. So you might think you’re looking at an image carousel, but it’s ads.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. I should stop us here a little bit and just explain, we are genuinely generally here talking about the desktop results. I’m going to talk about mobile results in a minute because mobile results are different even again, and something Alan and I keep on touching about is the intent of the search. So for those of you who are new to this topic, we’ve generally said there are about four different types of intent, conversion intent, information intent, investigational intent and navigation intent. But you could also say that local is an intent as well. So, when Alan’s talking and he’s saying, “Some searches generate this.” So if you have any kind of conversion keyword in there and you might not even think it’s a conversion keyword, but Google thinks that it is. You don’t have to actually say buy or price or anything like that. Google will decide this search query generally means people want to buy stuff. And if they’re going to do that, there’s going to be more ads. There’s going to be an ad carousel. There’s going to be a shopping carousel. There’s going to be all this other content. 

If it’s very much like, “How do I boil an egg?” The search results dramatically change again, to become more video driven, more blog driven, fewer ads possibly because maybe there’s not a lot of revenue to be made out of egg boilers. Although there’s probably a few ads for egg boilers there as well. Less likely to be local results. As soon as you add a location or anything like that, the results will change again. You’ll get maps, you’ll get ads. You may get these accommodation and tourism elements. So it really does depend on your search. And you should experiment with this. 

If you’re walking around, listening to this podcast, when you get back to your desktop, just pick a word, I always use Piglet, and put the word Piglet in. And if you put Piglet in, because Piglet is an international celebrity from Winnie the Pooh, the search results will show results about Piglet. There will be a knowledge graph panel, we’re going to talk about that in a minute, all about Piglet. There will be snippets of the movie, Winnie the Pooh. If you put in cute piglets, the results change completely. You get images and videos of piglets. If you put piglet jumper in, suddenly you get websites and ads carousels with pictures of people wearing jumpers with piglets on. So just play around changing the intent of your search, and you’ll see all these elements that we’re talking about. 

Now one of the ones we’ve talked about a few times is the local pack. Can you explain the local pack to people? I know it’s hard because you can’t visualise it. You talked about how that is decided, it seems like Google has just dropped the pin in the map, drawn a circle around it. If you’re in that circle, you’re going to show, and it generates that a lot, lots of local searches happen on mobile devices. So it literally goes, “Where are you? Okay, you’re in the circle. We’re going to show you this.” Is it as simple as that? Or is there more at play there? 

Alan Bleiweiss:
So generally speaking, and especially through on mobile, you’re going to get the map right away and it’s not going to show you all of the results they have in the map. It’s going to show you what their system considers the top three results for most map packs these days, that count vary sometimes. And on mobile, it’s more scrollable to see even more. And it is based on a geographic understanding of where they think you are. So I’m in google.com.au right now. So I’m using Google Australia. Okay. And I typed in vintage lighting, and it did not give me any Australian results. It gave me results within a geographic radius of where I live in California.

Kate Toon:
So annoying. Isn’t it? It’s so annoying. Because like if you’re on holiday in Melbourne, and you’re trying to find something in Melbourne. Yeah. It sometimes- 

Alan Bleiweiss:
If you’re in Melbourne, it’s going to see your Melbourne internet access.

Kate Toon:
But I mean like what if you’re in Melbourne and you’re actually thinking, when I get home, I’m going to book a plumber. 

Alan Bleiweiss:
Right. Exactly. Or what if you use a virtual private network? There are these things called VPNs that people use for privacy, virtual private network, where you could be logged in through that system anywhere in the world. Right? And that’s for privacy reasons. So the results aren’t always what I would think would be best for my needs. And I mentioned that before, if I’m going for a dentist, I don’t want to travel a hundred miles. But if I’m in the Australian Google, why am I seeing California results? Right? That’s the first thing that comes up. 

To add to what you said about Piglet as an example though, right? So that’s for vintage lighting. If I do vintage light fixtures, which to me is the same thing, I will also get a map pack, but I get different results below that. So one of them, I get people also ask, the other one I don’t. One of them I get popular products and then another one, I don’t get popular products at all, but vintage lighting and vintage light fixtures are the exact same to me in my brain. Right. So yeah, it’s really important. Whatever a person wants to achieve with Google, we now, more than ever before, as human beings, experiment with our own search to see what comes up. 

Kate Toon:
I think that’s so-

Alan Bleiweiss:
Because we might assume, if I only use vintage lighting as the phrase that I focus on, but I don’t also mention vintage light fixtures. I’m going to get different visibility results from my presence in Google and different traffic to my website.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. And I mean, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to cover this topic, because I think a lot of people will do their keyword research within a tool. They’ll be fiddling around with spreadsheets. They’ll be looking at search volume and number of links to the site and domain authority or whatever. And that’s all very well and good, but you might find this amazing keyword that you think is going to be the bomb. You go to the search results and you find that that keyword spawns so many of these other elements that are either Rev ad driven or that you cannot control, that yes you can rank. But in reality, you’re going to be ranking in old school position nine on the page, below the fold, we know that people don’t scroll on Google. They most definitely don’t go to the second page.

So this keyword that looks like it would be great for our organic perspective. Still, you might get that number one organic position but the click-through rate is going to be so bad because there’s so much noise around it. I mean, in the olden days, we used to say, “Position one around 33% of the clicks, position two about 17, position three about eight.” But it depends now because if there’s four ads above you and the local pack and an ad carousel, you could be in position one but only getting like two or 3% of the clicks. And I think that’s what people really don’t understand. You need to go into the search engine and experiment. Now, the other thing that throws people a lot with the organic results is the knowledge graph panel. So you touched on this earlier, imagine our audience doesn’t really know what it is. How would you explain the knowledge graph panel to a newbie?

Alan Bleiweiss:
Okay. The knowledge graph on desktop or laptop connections, is a box that appears to the right of the main search results column. So one on the left side, if you have ads, if you have a map, if you have people also ask organic or other results. To the right of that, you’ll see this knowledge graph box. And what it does is it’s an attempt by Google to say, “For this topic, this phrase, this word set, we have associated with enough data from enough search over time that we think we know the most common things people want to know about this topic. And we’re going to include them in this box.” Now in mobile search, you’re going to see it. Sometimes it will be the top result, in mobile, above the organic and above everything else. Right? And so it’s going to vary mobile to desktop or laptop. But it’s going to include a whole range of different things. All based on the associated understanding person-place thing, who, what, where, when, why and how, as the most commonly searched people, places, things, who, what, where, when, why and how topics. And they try to gather that into a single box. 

So with Piglet, there’s a handful of pictures. It says that Piglet is a fictional character. There’s a brief description that was pulled from Wikipedia. It lists the name of the creator, when the Piglet first appear, which species is Piglet, right?

Kate Toon:
He’s a pig. 

Alan Bleiweiss:
Right. But people apparently searched enough over time, that Google has identified this is a who, what, where, when, why top question, right? What movies it was in, books. There’s information about Piglet’s personality.

Kate Toon:
I love that, that’s one of my favourite bits. You know that this is something I search for a lot. Apparently Piglet is quietly intelligent, that he’s timid and often takes his lead from others unless overcome by fear, when he will stop that stage fright.

Alan Bleiweiss:
And there’s a whole host of additional information below that. Now, depending on what the topic is that you’re searching for the person, the place or the thing that you’re searching for, you’re going to see different results in that box. Again, based on Google’s data that says, “These are the things that people look for most when they’re searching for this.” So that varies as well. 

Kate Toon:
Yeah. It’s interesting because if you search for a known, I mean, Google refers to these things as entities, we are all entities. So if you search for a known entity like Piglet, you get a certain type of knowledge graph panel. The one that most normal humans will get will be probably related to their business. So if you type in your business name or your business brand, like for example, if you type in Kate Toon, you don’t get a knowledge graph panel, but if you type in Kate Toon, Sydney, you do get a knowledge graph panel. That’s all my information from my Google, my business page. So Google draws this information from the knowledge graph panel, from different sources, depending on the type of search. So because I’m a business and it’s a location, it’s pulling it from Google My Business. Sometimes there’s also a bit of true local content there and a few other sources. 

If you’re a known entity, it often pulls a lot of content from Wikipedia and other trusted sources like that. So again, a whole other panel and that’s a great thing. It’s only going to spawn when people are actually searching for you. So it’s free real estate for you, but it’s not going to spawn if people are searching for your industry or your category. Google has to have a really good idea that this is the right result, this result is exactly the result and therefore we’ll show the knowledge panel. And that can take a while, especially if you’re a small business for that to happen, for Google to connect the dots.

Alan Bleiweiss:
Or if you’re like me-

Kate Toon:
Yeah.

Alan Bleiweiss:
Having been semi-retired for eight and a half years, and not needing to be found visibly for more than the very important phrases I care most about, you won’t see a knowledge panel for me at all, because I haven’t put in the footwork to make those connections online, to confirm the entity understanding as it relates to the helpfulness value that Google thinks is the reason they create the knowledge panel. Right. They do it because they want to be more helpful.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. That’s genuinely them being useful. And this is his work and some SEOs focus entirely on bolstering that brand SERP, that knowledge panel and there’s advice around maybe an entity on trying to get yourself on Wikipedia, trying to get yourself on IMDb, just all these trusted sources. And it is work, it’s a lot of work. For a small business if you’re just starting out, my top tip would be to make sure your Google My Business page is really spot on, is detailed, it’s got information. That’s going to be your best bet to begin with. If you’re a personality and you want to be, unlike Alan, who wants to be a secret squirrel, if you want to be known, then there is work to do and connecting those dots. For example, my book pops up now because that’s on Goodreads, and Google pulls content from Goodreads, so then I had to connect that to my profile. I had to make it very clear that Kate Toon is me. It’s interesting, there’s a lot to be done there. 

I’m just going to go through what we’ve talked about. We have talked about positions zero, featured snippets, ads, personalization. We’ve talked about Google changing the SERPs based on their desire to earn money. We talked about the knowledge graph. Now, one thing I wanted to talk to you about was the blended results. So you and me, remember, back in the day you had your first tab and that was organic results. And then if you wanted to look at images, you went to the image tab news, whatever. Now it’s all homogenised in the blended search. So if you are succeeding in image search or video search, will you succeed in the blended results in the same way? Are there the same results being pulled through?

Alan Bleiweiss:
Yeah, you will, to a certain degree based on the circumstance. So for example, I mentioned earlier, they now have an image carousel that sometimes comes up in position zero, right? That image carousel comes from the image results system itself. However, just like the map pack on the organic page, typically only stars the first three on desktop. Laptop will potentially show more in mobile based on circumstance. There will be times where you’ll go to and see that result set on the organic blended and then go to images. And you may see different order in sequence, right? Because now all of a sudden with the order and sequence of the entire pure image results set, there’s different behaviour that takes place compared to the behaviour of people doing the organic search process. 

When you go to the image results now, quite often, the top position zero in the image results is now ads of products that have those images. All of a sudden that changes everything. Then below that they’ll have several buttons to refine it. So if you say wedding dresses, there will potentially be buttons for red wedding dresses, crimson, white, formal, all the different materials that are common, those kinds of things. You’ll see image results, but then you can further refine the sort result as well. And that’s not going to match up with the blended organic that has the image carousel at the top at all.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. I know. I feel like I should buy every SEO in the world a t-shirt that says it depends. Because it does depend on so much. I also want to say, I love the fact that you said wedding dresses, red wedding dresses. I mean, when was the last time you saw a red wedding dress? What kind of weddings do you have where you come from?

Alan Bleiweiss:
I actually have a couple of clients that are ongoing another audit every year to go further and further, that are in the wedding and bridal industry. And they’re really high end designers. And there are niches, there- 

Kate Toon:
You’re right. There are, you’re right. 

Alan Bleiweiss:
So there’s people who want black wedding dresses and their whole bridal party to wear black because they’re goth they’re into the goth scene.

Kate Toon:
I get it. I’m just obviously a bit old school. There’s riches in the niches, as they say, Alan. I think it’s very interesting to Google, Google Image search your own name and see what comes up. I’ve just done it for myself and there’s subcategories now, which are really nice now. You get little thumbnail images. It’s Kate Toon, copywriting podcast, speakers equals SEO success conference. And the last one is clever, which I love that. And I’ve worked very, very hard to get all the hideous images of me out of the search, but there’s still a few there, so go and look at that. So, yeah- 

Alan Bleiweiss:
And that’s fun because when I do an image search for my name, the first button is SEO audit, because that’s the thing I have the most established identity with.

Kate Toon:
Reputation for, yeah.

Alan Bleiweiss:
But not just in general specific to images.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. It’s so weird, isn’t it? It’s always interesting to Google yourself and look in news and see what pops up there. Videos as well. Shopping is interesting, My Book pops up there. I mean, I think anyone listening to this is going to feel overwhelmed to a degree, but I think the message is, and it keeps on coming through from what you’re saying, is you just need to experiment. You just need to go into the search results, take all that data. Yes, it’s brilliant. But then see what happens when you start searching and see how things change. But let’s come back to the original, the OG, the organic results. It’s made up of the classic title tag, URL meta description and sometimes you get the added bonus of a few site links underneath. And I know Alan, this is well-worn ground, but you are like the dojo of SEO. So what would be your tips on creating that title, a meta combo, that drives ranking but also generates click through. I know this is basic to you, but what would be your tips?

Alan Bleiweiss:
Oh, this is the beauty of the world that you and I operate in. We’re here to help other people. Right? Alright. So the first rule is to identify the search phrases you think are most relevant to the page, but don’t just guess on your own do real research. What’s the keyword volume? There’s a search volume for those. But what are other variations? I brought this up earlier today, there’s two different phrase variations that get different search results, right? So think about which one, two or three phrases are the most valuable to you, and aren’t overly broad because if you think, “Wow, this phrase has a lot of search volume.” But what if the majority of people doing that search are not looking for what you’re offering. 

If you’re selling products or offer a service, they may be doing research for educational reasons and they won’t ever buy from you. Ultimately they may be doing research and are not ready to buy, but that’s informational content you create. So you need to understand all of that. Once you understand all of that, you need to formulate your page titles to make it as effortless and frictionless as possible for somebody who does a search to see that title in the search result and say, “That’s exactly what I was looking for in a few words.” From there, it’s the same thing with your meta-description field. The meta-description field does not impact ranking where the title does. It solely impacts click-through rates and your description needs to reaffirm. And the rule is… There’s a psychology rule, 3-30. You need to capture somebody in the first three seconds, and then if you do, you’ve got 30 seconds to convince them. 

Kate Toon:
I love that Alan, I’ve not heard that before. I mean, I’ve heard the three seconds, but I’ve not heard the 3-30. I love that.

Alan Bleiweiss:
And it goes further. It’s not just about a search result. This is for every page on your own website. You have three seconds to convince them that they can trust what they found, both that it is spot on to what they were looking for. And that’s why you need a proper H1 title, visibly H1 on the page, right? You don’t want to delay or cause confusion with that three second. “Yes, this is what I was looking for, and it doesn’t look like a scary site that I’m going to run away from.” And then you have 30 seconds to lock them in if they’re going to stay longer. The same thing with the search results though. So, the page title is that three seconds, and the higher the ranking, the more likely they’re going to see it, right? And then your description, it shouldn’t take them 30 seconds to read it. You need to realise there’s going to be a play between looking at your search result and the one below it or the one above it, or the ads to the right. You generally have 30 seconds to figure this all out for enough people in the world, that these words matter.

Kate Toon:
They matter so much. They’re the first words anybody’s ever read about your brand. If they’re not searching for your brand, they’re searching for your category. They’ve never heard anything about you before. So those two bits of copy are so important. I like to describe them as Batman and Robin. So Batman comes in, pow. That’s the clarity of the message, making sure that it’s exactly what people want. Robin comes in and he explains what Batman’s just said. And I think you’ve got a limited number of characters, it varies, but it’s around 155ish characters including spaces. And it needs to be written like a little ads. Like it needs to be written like a Google ads at the top. So you can say what this page does and what you’re going to benefit from it.

So the title tag gives the clarity of what it is, and the meta description says why you should click through. Gives people a reason to click through. Doesn’t truncate, doesn’t shove the brand in there, six times and one of the best things you can do, if you’re trying to write meta descriptions, is look at the ads, because those ads have been optimised over time, again and again, the copy is being tweaked and fiddled with. So the benefit messages they’ve got in those ads are probably similar to the benefit messages you should be using. So, if they’re all mentioning Australia wide delivery, maybe they’ve found that that’s a real thing that engages click through, and maybe you should mention that in your meta. So yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? Gosh, I’m not sure if we’ve helped people or we’ve made it sound more complicated. But in summary, with all this noise, and we haven’t even talked about the amber carousel or various other things, but this episode could go on all day, I guess, Alan, with all this noise in the SERPs, in the search engine results pages, what does ranking number one even mean these days? Does it mean anything?

Alan Bleiweiss:
It does, and it depends.

Kate Toon:
You’ve said it again, it depends bingo, on the show.

Alan Bleiweiss:
Because it does. And we also need to remind people, I mentioned this very briefly earlier, experiment. Don’t think that you’ve come out with one answer that you don’t ever have to, or one page that you’ve optimised with the best keyword phrases, the best title and all of that. You always need to consider the possibility that you’re going to shift at some point to adapt to the ever-changing environment, yet don’t be afraid that you can’t make a decision because you’re worried that you didn’t make the best one today.

Kate Toon:
Yeah. I love it. I love it. So let’s just finish up by saying it depends. And it’s got to be a constant source of Googling your keywords that you’re already ranking for, Googling the keywords that you’re going to go for, Googling yourself and your brand and just seeing what changes. I haven’t Googled myself in a while. I’ve had better things to do. And even today I’m seeing slight differences from when I’ve looked previously and that’s interesting, but don’t just find it interesting. Turn that interest into action. I think too many people get the data and then they ignore it and carry on doing what they were good at doing before. But the SERPs will inevitably keep changing. Google has two missions. One is to improve search for the consumer, the other is to make money. So they’re going to keep on tweaking until they can achieve that. So yeah. Alan, I could talk to you all day. I’m so grateful for your time today. Thank you for coming out of semi-retirement to talk about Piglet. I know that after this you’re going to go back and read that whole Piglet page now. I’ve started something wonderful there I think. 

Alan Bleiweiss:
It’s great. 

Kate Toon:
So where can people find out more about you? Where’s the best place to follow you and connect with you?

Alan Bleiweiss:
Yeah. Twitter is my presence. So Alan Bleiweiss. A-L-A-N-B-L-E-I-W-E-I-S-S. That’s who I am on Twitter.

Kate Toon:
That’s the place. And honestly that’s, for those listening, that’s where I connect with most SEO’s, it seems where they’re most comfortable. So I’ll include a link to Alan’s Twitter in the show notes for the show, but Alan, thank you very much. It was fabulous to talk to you.

Alan Bleiweiss:
Such an honour to have been invited to participate Kate. Thank you.

Kate Toon:
Oh gosh, I can’t tell you how much I enjoy having these different guests on the show. Alan is someone I’ve followed on Twitter for a while, we’ve connected. Just what a lovely man. If you don’t follow him on Twitter, please do. I have video going when I’m making these podcasts and I will share a few snippets of the video, but I don’t know. Anyway, I feel a bit emotional. That’s the end of this week show. If you have any questions about dissecting the search engine results pages, head to the I LOVE SEO group on Facebook. You’ll actually find a little video that I made to accompany this episode, just talking through some of the elements that Alan and I’ve discussed, because obviously some of them make more sense when you see them, rather than just hear about them. 

So, as you know, I like to end the show with a shout out to one of my lovely listeners. Today it’s the Vicky Chicky. Vicky Chicky, that’s such a cool name. She says, “I really enjoy listening to Kate and her guests, and it picks up all lots of tips along the way too.” So thank you very much, Vicky Chicky, and thanks to you for listening. If you like the show, don’t forget to leave a five-star rating and review on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you heard the podcast. Your reviews will help others find the show, learn more about SEO and digital marketing, and you’ll get a shout-out. And don’t forget to check the show notes for this episode where you’ll see that video that I mentioned. You’ll also see some video snippets. You’ll be able to connect with Alan on Twitter, which I highly recommend you do. And also leave a comment about the show if you enjoyed it. So that’s it for this time until next time, happy SEOing.