Candour

Mobile SEO with Cindy Krum

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In this week's episode, Jack Chambers-Ward is joined by CEO & founder of Mobile Moxie, Cindy Krum.

Jack & Cindy discuss:

  • The origins of mobile SEO
  • How much has voice search changed mobile SEO?
  • How has "the death of AMP" affected mobile SEO?
  • Mobile Moxie's free tools - SERPerator & Page-oscope

and much more!

Show notes and links

Transcript

Jack: Welcome to episode 25 of season two of the Search With Candour podcast. My name is Jack Chambers-Ward, and I will be your host for this week. I am joined by the CEO and founder of MobileMoxie, Cindy Krum. Before I get to my interview with Cindy, which will be the bulk of the episode, this episode of Search With Candour is supported by SISTRIX the SEO's toolbox. Go to sistrix.com/swc, if you want to check out some of the fantastic free tools such as the Instagram Hashtag Generator, Hreflang Validator, checking your site's visibility index or the Google update tracker.

As well as their fantastic free tools and their premium features. We've talked about on the show as well. SISTRIX do a fantastic job of their newsletters. I'm going to highlight the TrendWatch newsletter this week and talk about the latest two editions essentially of this newsletter, one available for free on their blog. If you go to sistrix.com/trends and one which is available in the newsletter, which is delivered directly to your inbox every month. Let's start with the monthly newsletter one, shall we? And we'll dive straight into a couple of topics covered here in TrendWatch.

Talking about wedding guest dresses and unsurprising to many I'm sure weddings have been very big this summer after essentially the world being closed for two years, suddenly me, myself included, I got married in May this year. Suddenly everyone is searching for wedding dresses, and wedding guest dresses specifically as the traffic trend we are going to look at here. And before you ask, this is the kind of dresses you should be wearing as a wedding guest going to somebody else's wedding. It's estimated that this year, 2022, will be the busiest wedding season in 40 years. And like I said, I've already contributed to that a few weeks ago, myself, so I'm part of this trend.

I don't know plenty of people who were attending my wedding will be looking for this thing as well. So yeah, if you want to dive into some stats and have a look at trends and the significant peaks, pretty much every summer when it comes to people searching for wedding guest dresses, that is one of the trends highlighted in the most recent TrendWatch newsletter and kind of related, because I was talking to my wife about this the other day, is the brand, The Ordinary, which is a skincare company out of Toronto in Canada.

They are trying to do something a bit different. They have a very clear branding style and they go for this really minimalist black and white, no BS style, and I think that's really what drew my wife to that brand in particular. We try and avoid a lot of that kind of upselling marketing stuff you see so much in cosmetics and skincare and stuff like that. And I think my wife has done a fantastic job of seeking out this brand called, The Ordinary, and really looking at what separates them out. They really focus on a couple of the like, active potent ingredients, get rid of all the buzzwords, get rid of all the fancy marketing stuff and really focus on why it's effective. And it's that kind of no-fluff approach that I think is what separates them from so many other brands in the skincare industry in general, and it ends up being really good value for money, at least according to my wife.

Again, we're not sponsored by The Ordinary, just giving you the anecdotal evidence here for my wife. And they're an interesting one because they focus on the active ingredients, they're able to get those much more cheaply without the extra kind of markup on the price. You then get access to that active ingredient at a much cheaper rate in general, rather than stuff that doesn't actually affect your skin. And the reviews, my wife have been really fantastic over the last sort of year or so. And yeah, there's been a massive, massive spike in interest about August last year, as you can see, if you have a look at TrendWatch and you can really see interest has picked up over the last year or so. So, definitely, something to keep an eye on and a brand, I think is going to be pushing things through in the skincare industry.

Next up, we're going to dive into some UK data for people searching for holidays as well. And this is available, as I said, if you go to the SISTRIX blog, if you go to sistrix.com/blog, you can find it there. Or if you go to sistrix.com/trends, you can find the TrendWatch and sign up for the newsletter there as well. The newsletter was actually done by the fantastic, Nicole Scott, one of the data journalists over at SISTRIX. And this time, the trending search topics for summer holidays in the UK is done by our friend, Steve, over at SISTRIX.

So, looking at holiday insurance, looking at travel insurance, even branded terms such as EasyJet Holidays, Disneyland Paris. Similar to the wedding guest dresses we just talked about, there is a noticeable, very, very noticeable trend towards people searching for this as the world is opening back up and travel is now more available and all that kind of stuff as you would expect. So, if you want to have a look into some holiday-based things and you've got a client, or you've got a website yourself that deals with this kind of thing, it's worth keeping an eye on this kind of stuff, and you can do that by subscribing to the monthly TrendWatch newsletter by going to sistrix.com/trends.

Jack: And without any further ado, here is my interview with the fantastic Cindy Krum.

And welcome to the show, Cindy Krum.

Cindy: Hi.

Jack: Thank you so much for coming on. It's a pleasure to have you on the show.

Cindy: I'm excited to be here with you.

Jack: So, for the listeners who don't know who you are, first of all, shame on them, but second of all, give them a little intro about who you are and what we're going to be talking about this week.

Cindy: Yeah, sure. So my name is Cindy Krum. I am the CEO of MobileMoxie based in Denver, Colorado. We are a consultancy as well as a toolset company. We have the first mobile-oriented SEO toolset out there, I would say, that's comprehensive and in my mind, giving more realistic data than a lot of the tools that people use every day. And I've been doing this forever, doing SEO since about 2005 and focusing on mobile since about... SEO since 2003, focusing on mobile since 2005 and running this company since 2008. So yeah.

Jack: Wow. Wow. I know we had some high numbers to beat, we had Katherine Watier Ong a few weeks ago and she was 17 years in SEO. So 2005 was the cutoff point. I think you might have her beat!

Cindy: Back in the day, there wasn't a whole lot, you just subscribed to Jill Wayland's newsletter and read it every Wednesday and then you did stuff that she said, and that was back in the day where they didn't as separate PPC from SEO as much.

Jack: It was all just merged into one digital marketing bubble.

Cindy: Yeah. Well, that's all just showing up in Google, however.

Jack: So, we're going to dive into some mobile SEO stuff in various forms. Let's start with the real, real basics.

Cindy: Okay.

Jack: So, you specialised in SEO and going into mobile SEO specifically, what encouraged you to do that and what is mobile SEO and how much has that grown, since you've been doing it for so long? Basically, before smartphones, which is fascinating-

Cindy: Yes. Before smart, yeah.

Jack: ... fascinating concept and the early days of those horrible little scrolling. I remember those days. I'm old enough to remember those days, unfortunately.

Cindy: Yeah. I started talking about mobile SEO because I noticed that it was different and the rankings were different. And I had switched jobs from a job that I was very unhappy at to a job that... and I was overworked to a job where they didn't have enough for me to do and they were paying me and treating me much better. And so I felt the need to do something to thank them. They had given me such a raise that I went and got a new phone and it, with my new phone, I had been testing the searches and saying, "Hey, these rankings are different." So, I started trying to figure out why are they different? And then reading mobile development blogs, and applying what I knew of SEO to the mobile development and saying, "Hey, they're doing bad stuff." We know that what they're doing is bad for SEO. Maybe that's why the rankings are different.

Cindy: And everyone at the time and... Well, not as much today, but at the time people were just rehashing the same SEO articles over and over again. At that time, it was a lot of title tags and meta descriptions and things like that.

Jack: That is still true in 2022, mostly...

Cindy: A little bit of research. It's a little bit more away from the title tags, but yeah, it's still very similar. And I wanted to write something that hadn't been written before. What's the point to me? I don't know. I didn't get excited by writing something that's already been written 100 times. So, I started writing about what I was finding in the research that I was doing, and then there was a conference that wanted someone to talk about mobile SEO, and so I submitted myself and said, "I've been doing this research. I haven't actually done it for a client, but I can tell you what I've found." And they said, "Yeah, good enough." And then, that conference still ended up getting cancelled, but I got bumped to a bigger show, which was exciting.

And then, it just so happened that my very first talk in the industry ever, Danny Sullivan was the moderator. At that time, people were still not sure how to handle mobile and everyone was buying .mobi domains, thinking that might be the answer. And I was on a panel, I was very young, I think I was 25 or so, and on a panel with much older and more male colleagues that were saying... and in suits and stuff, saying that everyone should just go buy .mobi domains and .mobi domains of the future, and then I got up and said, ".mobi domains are going to be bad for SEO, because it's a separate domain and you have to start over. Instead of doing that, you could take your regular website, trim it down so it's a little bit faster and then use style sheets to reformat your content to make it fit better on mobile phones." Because that was before we had the concept of responsive design. It wasn't called responsive design. That didn't exist yet, but I was like, "You could do style sheets."

And then afterwards, I felt so bad because I didn't want to be disagreeable and disagree with the other panelists and it was a bit contentious during Q&A, so I went to Danny and I said, "Hey, I'm really sorry. I didn't need to cause a problem. I wasn't trying to be argumentative." And he was like, "Are you kidding? You knocked it out of the park. That was amazing." So, he loved that I was actually saying things that made SEO sense instead of just trying to pitch selling .mobi domains or whatever it was. So anyway, that's how I got into it. That was before the iPhone existed. The mobile internet was still almost always like gray and black, two color. In many cases on Blackberries and things like that, with just an image. If you're old enough to remember the very, very early days of the internet itself where things were mostly text with an image awkwardly popped in every now and then.

Jack: I don't know if you had it over there in the US, but WAP was the-

Cindy: Yeah. WAP, yeah.

Jack: ... internet service we had. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We had WAP over here. I remember that blowing my mind and just being like, "I can have all the power of the internet." Little did I know, we'd have supercomputers in our pockets like a decade or two from then.

Cindy: We are. I remember someone when they got their first smartphone, so this is an even less sophisticated one because it was before I was in the industry and before I was even in university. A friend of mine was like, "Look, this phone has the internet." And it was through Verizon or T-Mobile and it was their on deck horoscope thing. And I was like, "That's not the internet." And it did actually come from the internet, it was updated, of course, daily from the internet. But I was like, "That's really just not the internet." And he was insulted.

Jack: You broke his heart. Thought he had this amazing piece of technology but it was just some horoscope landing pages. It's going to be a big topic, but how much do you think has mobile SEO changed even from pre-smartphone now through to... now we have all these kinds of things through to voice search and that kind of stuff? We're going to touch on a lot of that stuff, but I guess we're going to try and go a little bit chronologically and try to go away through it. So, the invention and initiation of the smartphone, how much did that change for you being at that forefront of the industry already and having a few years of experience behind you already? That must have been an exciting time for you and a really interesting time to suddenly realise like, "Oh wow, this is where we're going with this."

Cindy: It was. It was exciting and I can tell you, I still have the same advice for people who are trying to break into SEO or make a name for themselves. The only thing that really worked for me, I wasn't really trying to make a name for myself per se, I just found something interesting that no one was talking about and I took a chance and started talking about it. And I didn't know if everyone was going to gang up on me and say, "No, you're wrong, you're an idiot." I was just researching and I'm like, "This is what I found." But luckily people agreed with my perspective and it just took being a little bit of brave and saying what I thought, and then being willing to take feedback if people thought I was wrong, I was happy to find that out because I wanted to know what was right. And so not having a big ego about it and just being like, "This is what I'm reading. This is what I'm seeing. That's fascinating, and if anyone disagreed say, "That's great. Tell me more. I want to learn."

And it's just changed so massively. In those early days, like you said, there was a whole different language for writing mobile web code, WAP, and there was actually a different one in Japan. It started with a C, I can't remember. And at that time, Google actually had a separate index for mobile, and then it's come so far. Even back then you could have built in responsive design. It wasn't called responsive design. When people figured out that .mobi was a pain in the butt, most people decided that they should put it on their main domain, but they should either do it on a mobile subdomain or a mobile subdirectory. And of course the same arguments we have now about subdomains and subdirectories. We had about where to put your mobile content. Is it better on a subdomain or subdirectory, and why?

And that was good because you could not do the entire site and you could have thinner, lighter pages and formatted specifically for narrow width screens and all that. But then, Google realised that was problematic for them. They tried to handle it with something called, bidirectional annotation, where you would have two tags pointing to each other that created a marriage between the mobile page and the desktop page, and the mobile page would rank via the desktop ranking signals. And then Google realised, well, if everyone does this, then we're doubling our effort to have to call an index the internet twice, especially if we want to validate that the mobile page isn't spammy. And so they rethought that and they were like, "Wait, responsive design sounds great." And they said, "Okay, never mind that bidirectional annotation, do responsive design, because then you only have one page and we don't have to combine the ranking signals."

The problem was no one knew how to build in responsive designs. So they just used a bunch of JavaScript and the new pages ended up being heavier and slower than the original desktop pages had been. Trying to cram an original desktop page into a mobile format. It ended up being slower because of on the JavaScript. So then Google said, "Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Here's this thing called, AMP, which basically reverted almost to .mobi... or not.mobi to m-dots because you had the... They didn't call it bidirectional annotation, but you had to do a bidirectional annotation. Here's my normal version of the page. Here's the AMP version of the page.

We still have AMP. It's not as rewarded anymore, but it's also works on desktop and things like that. But it is its own subset of HTML, which is what previous mobile coding languages were. So in some ways, we've gone full circle except to say that now Google switched us to mobile-first indexing and they made a big deal about that. And I don't know if you've heard my dissent on this topic, but for years I've been saying, we were all ready, they were saying they were telling us that the smartphone crawler was, in many ways the primary crawler before we officially switched to mobile-first indexing. And before that time, Google had changed the user agent of the crawler, really a lot casually without big notices, without big warnings.

The communication to SEO was about crawling, but the thing was called, indexing. And so I said, "Why are they calling it mobile first indexing if it's really just a change in the crawler and maybe it's a change in the default crawler, but that was already the default crawler?" My idea is that the switch from the old way of indexing the web to mobile first indexing was included the change of the primary crawler, but was also about creating a different organisation of the index that was more flexible for the long term growth of Google to meet newer, more diverse needs on what they consider mobile, which I think is a broader set of devices than what most people think is mobile.

I try and remind people that mobile just means portable or not tethered, not stationary. If you think about the future of the internet, it's definitely not stationary. And if I'm yelling across my house at an Alexa or a Google Assistant, that's not stationary, that's following me anywhere I go, because it's listening to me. So, I think the concept of mobile is more broad than just a mobile phone.

Jack: Absolutely. Yeah. Well, I think we'll dive into a few topics there. I want to wind it back to talking about AMP and stuff like that. Because you touched on there, we still have AMP to this day, but there's been a lot of chatter of the death of AMP and how Google is not no longer prioritising that. How much has that changed SEO from your perspective and how do you think the, quote, unquote, "death of AMP" is going to affect mobile SEO going forwards?

Cindy: Well, I have unique thoughts on AMP and always have. Number one, AMP is great. Just in general, the AMP language was developed by some of the best programmers in the world, some of the best coders and developers to make things screaming fast. And that's good and that's not just good on desktop or not just good on mobile, it's good on desktop too. Speed is great. And having clean, light, predictable code is great. One of the things that slows down development, slows down browsers is having to anticipate all of the bad junky code that people might try and throw at it, and AMP tried to tighten it down and said, "No, this is what you have to do." And so since AMP came out, I've been advocating for people to... if they could, if it made sense to do what some people call, canonical AMP or AMP Only Design, which is to say, don't have a regular version on an AMP version.

If you can do the design you want have just an AMP version, why have both, why maintain both, use the really fast code if you can. And then, if you can't and especially if you're struggling with page speed, go look at what AMP components you can switch in for whatever you're using, because it's going to be faster. And even if you're not AMP valid, you're going to get the speed benefit without having to reinvent the wheel because the best developers in the world made this code super fast, so just do that, don't think too hard about it. If you can, go get sample AMP code and use that to replace whatever slow code you're trying to replace.

Now the, quote, unquote, "death of AMP", I get that Google has communicated it, but I wonder how much people are actually looking at the data, because I do have a client that struggles with speed, but had AMP pages that just recently someone introduced an error and we missed it for a little while. We didn't notice that there was an error in the AMP code and they were AMP valid pages and then they weren't anymore. We had been getting traffic from the AMP pages and when they didn't validate anymore, traffic fell off a cliff for those pages. So I'm not convinced at all that AMP is dead. In fact, I'm not even convinced that AMP validation doesn't matter. In this case, it absolutely did.

So I encourage anyone who's not... who had AMP and then told their developers, "Oh, well, Google's deprioritised it. Do whatever you want." Go look and see how that's working out for you, because if the rest of the site speed is not great, it could be a big hit. If it doesn't matter, why is there still a separate reporting utility for AMP errors and stuff like that in search console? It does matter. If they report on it matters somewhere.

Jack: Yeah. That's a really good point. Yeah, absolutely. As much as we give credit to Google for a lot of the transparency they have comparing to other companies that do not communicate their changes and their algorithms, like you said, they used to change the crawler bots all the time, and now there are a lot more community about the changes that happen. Even in my show notes that I sent over to you beforehand, the, quote, unquote, "death of AMP" has really... almost been blown out of proportion and really misunderstood and miscommunicated. I don't know, maybe.

Cindy: Maybe what I'm experiencing is a unique experience and that website's page code is just that slow and no one else is struggling like that, but I doubt it. I've seen a lot of slow websites. I don't know. Has that been your experience? Looking at stuff like that day to day, have you witnessed anything like that?

Jack: Yeah, I mostly agree with you actually. I was talking to Mark about this and we were having a similar conversation of like, it's still seems to be... Like you said, responsiveness and speed are still important things and why not have that? If you have the capacity to have it, then why not have it kind of thing? And it seems to-

Cindy: Right. Well, and if it was dead, then validation wouldn't matter, but it does seem. Why are they reporting on AMP errors if there's no such thing as an AMP invalid or AMP error. It exists, it's a thing.

Jack: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. To jump around, and you touched on voice search earlier as well and having Alexas and Google assistants and all that kind of stuff. How much has that changed mobile SEO as well? I know I touched on this a lot with Katherine Watier Ong a few weeks ago, talking about how differently people search with their voice that they do by typing something out. And even the transition from typing it into a laptop or a desktop, then the transition to on a smartphone, and now the next evolution of doing it by voice, how much do you see across those different sides of people searching and the ways people are searching through different mobile devices? Like you said, anything that's portal is essential mobile these days, so there's many different ways and it sounds like it's the obvious thing of like, "Oh yeah, smartphone is mobile SEO, but it actually encompasses a much wider thing." Do you see a lot of differences between those things from your experience?

Cindy: Well, I see a lot of SEOs talking badly about voice search and lots of jokes about your voice or whatever. And there were lots of jokes about the year of mobile and look where that's landed us. Every year is supposed to be the year of mobile and then people would joke and say, "But it hasn't happened yet." Well, yeah, stuff like that, there's this S curve of technology adoption where things are really, really, really slow until it gets so user-friendly and perfect that there's no reason to not adopt it, and then it skyrockets, right? And that's how mobile search was, and that's how MP3s were, that's how every technology goes. They're early adopters and the early adopters suffer with some junky stuff for a while, and then they fine tune it and refine it. And that to the point where it's usable enough for everyone and then everyone does it.

And I think that it's easy to forget that we have to go through those years. And also I think it's easy to forget that early searches on the, quote, unquote, "internet", my friend's horoscope thing was the internet and it was a sucky internet, it wasn't a good internet but it got there eventually. And so, I think that's similar with voice search. And SEOs say, "Well, if you ask your voice assistant the weather today, that's not a search." Absolutely, it is. It's not a search that the app, that they can keyword research as well for. That's the difference.

You have to broaden your understanding of what it is to search. Because if I let's say I yell at my assistant that I want to play Despacito, it has to know that that's not a movie, it's a song, and it has to have the archive and it does have to do a search even though we think... Well, yeah, but that's an easy search. Well so what? It had to disambiguate that this is a song, not a movie and it's not going to cast it to my TV, it's going to play it as audio and it's going to pick the right version because maybe there have been 200 people knocking it off on YouTube.

Jack: Yeah. I've experienced that before where you ask it to play a song and it's like, "Here's the cover from 15 years later by some band you've never heard of." And I'm like, "Thanks, Google. That's not what I wanted at all."

Cindy: Yeah, exactly. So they can get it wrong, but we take for granted that don't. They get it right most of the time.

Jack: Yeah. Yeah. You assume it's so simple, right? Yeah. Yeah.

Cindy: Yeah. And so it is a search, even if you think it's an easy search, it's not as easy and asking about the weather that implies that they know where you are and they take in different elements of contextual information to apply to the query. And so yeah, SEOs have a hard time contextualizing voice search as search. And especially when it is in their minds an easy search query to find the answer to, I get where they have that difficulty but that doesn't mean it's not a search and that doesn't mean that Google doesn't want to be there, and that doesn't mean that you and your clients and your brands won't eventually want to be there. Just like the people who said block, "I don't need a website." When the internet was new, regretted it eventually or eventually had to come around usually and say, "Okay, well I guess we need at least something on the internet. I guess this thing is sticking around."

So I think that voice search is going to grow. I think that discounting it because you don't understand it because it's not an exact allegory for web search is a mistake. I think being open to understanding that Google is applying... silently applying additional modifiers to anything that you yell at an assistant as part of the query is how we get to things like, MUM. When you have multimodal queries, Google's been doing multimodal queries for a while with voice. We just announced this, MUM understanding algorithm, but it's not that they didn't understand it before. It's just that they weren't really talking about it because they were applying location and history. Let's say I have a favorite cover of Despacito, perhaps. And I've been playing it crazy on YouTube. Maybe they'll, "Oh, she means this cover and she likes the video." Because they've seen all the history of what I've done in YouTube and YouTube Music and whatever.

Cindy: All of that, my contextual historical behavior, location, everything else they know about you is part of a multimodal query so they've been doing that. Now, they're doing it more with on the desktop, so they had to announce it, right? Or on a mobile phone where with MUM the best example and the most useful example for approving to SEOs that people will do this is the example of, they have a name for this one search, it's not just MUM, they call it like Multisearch, I think, where you can submit-

Jack: Yes. So it's Multisearch now.

Cindy: Yeah. You submit picture of someone wearing a dress and you say this in green, because the original one was orange and Google understands that you want the dress and it tries to match that image with something similar, but in a different color or maybe the exact same thing, but in a different color. And so, that's fascinating, but it's scary and we'll take it a step further. And so, the other examples that are less commonly seen from Google coming out there is people taking a picture of a bicycle part, let's say the gear changey thing, I'm not a bike... Well I have bikes, but I don't know what the parts are called. Gear changey thing.

Jack: Me too. I'm no help here. I'm afraid. Sorry.

Cindy: Yeah. But no, it's very common thing, right? And it's part of the point. So I take a picture of the gear changey thing. I submit it to Google and my query is, how to fix? Google has to know what the gear changey thing is called. Translate that image into a word and then search to find me videos. So not only am I going to learn how to fix that thing, it's going to tell me probably what it's called because Google had to know what it was called to find the information. And how do you do keyword research for that?

Jack: Doing image and keyword combinations at the same time. Yeah. That's going to become a more and more hassle, I think, process. It hurts.

Cindy: Well, of course. Hassle it's our job. We love it.

Jack: I'm teasing. I'm teasing.

Cindy: That is so different and so hard or so conceptually hard to grasp onto that I think SEOs just want to pretend it's not there or don't want to use the brain power to think about it and would rather just discount it.

Jack: Yeah, absolutely. It shows when we talked about Multisearch, when it was announced, like you said, I think it was early this year, wasn't it? I showed it to my parents who are barely like internet capable and technology literate. They order some stuff online occasionally, but there's no real interest in internet culture or using it regular or anything like that. And I showed my mom that example of that you said the orange dress, but in green. She was like, "But how does it know?" I'm like, "Exactly." Google is powerful. They're using so many different technologies combine all this stuff. Like you said, multimodal understanding of everything and combining this whole thing together to really change how we search. Yeah. My mom had no concept of how sophisticated everything had become through voice search and Google Lens and all this kind of stuff.

And now recently I've introduced a Google assistant into my parents' house. So whenever they have a question, they can just do it with their voice. But rather than like, "Oh, we go and get out the laptop and pull it out and blah, blah, blah." They use the word hassle, I think that's probably why I heard in my brain. It's such a hassle to go on and switch on the thing and blah, blah, blah, I could just talk at my thing and get an answer of the weather or they're watching a film and who's the person on screen and all that kind of stuff. Yeah. It's amazing how sophisticated it is. And like you said, I'm not sure of enough people pay attention to how game changing some of this stuff can be. Like you said, in the early days of mobile SEO, people were discrediting you and discounting like, "No. Who cares about mobile?" And then, now basically everyone in the developed world is wandering around with one of these, sometimes two, sometimes three on them at one time.

Cindy: Not even just the developed world in the less developed world, they skipped computers and went straight to phones. In some cases, more mobile focused than the more developed countries and it's something that people don't realise, but they rely more on mobile in some cases because it's cheaper than buying a full computer and it's portable, da, da, da. But yeah, I think that people are discounting it and it's smarter and more exciting and fun to embrace it and go along for the ride and learn as you go, rather than just say, "Well, that's not what I do." Because it's going to have to be. Adapt or... It wasn't adapt or, die.

And especially in technology and especially with SEO, yeah, the stuff that you know is going to work for a long time but it's not going to be cutting edge or innovative and it's going to be more and more mainstream and there's going to be a race to the bottom in terms of what you can charge, and there's going to be more and more automation for what is easy and wrote and what we've been doing for years. People have already thought about how to do the automation to take care of that stuff. It's the new stuff that's hard, where it takes creativity and testing and paying attention where you can stay ahead of the pack.

Jack: Yeah, absolutely. So let's talk about testing. Let's get into how we actually look at mobile results and search and all that kind of stuff. As you mentioned, you've got some fantastic tools on MobileMoxie, such as the Page-oscope and the SERPerator and things like that. Should we dive into those a little bit and how they work? I've been using the SERPerator for a while. I credit to you and how fascinating and interesting that is and how it's able to give realistic results so quickly for the listeners who don't know. Sorry.

Cindy: Exactly. I love that you've been using it and I appreciate you mentioning it and it's not realistic results. It is real results. Google thinks we're phones because we passed all the same information that a phone would. So a lot of SEO tools work by using APIs that Google has said. They intentionally make the APIs a little bit wrong. And the APIs are like sometimes only down to a country, which like... Countries like the US are so big if they geocentralise to US. You're in Kansas, which doesn't help as many people as you would hope.

So the SERPerator is a tool we've had for a while and it lets you choose from a bunch of different phones, choose a location down to a specific address. If you want, it can be down to a city or a coast code. We won't let you just choose US, you have to go further than that, and of course it's worldwide. So UNS is just a funny example, but choose any location that you want and any language that you want, including script languages, which I tell you because it's hard and I'm proud that we got it done and we've just... we're adding Farsi right now. Farsi was one wow that we didn't have. We had Arabic. And Farsi has just a couple extra characters.

So, doing the script languages, Chinese, Hindi, Thai. Those are hard, but they work fine in SERPerator, so it's meant to be used. And actually our number one country is us for traffic. Number two is India. We get a lot of people because there are so many SEOs working in India for non-Indian companies that they love the SERPerator because they do testing to see what are our real people seeing and search results in the countries where they're working.

So yeah, it's real search results. And then, in the paid tools we parse those search results. So the SERPerator has a free version on our website and that's just the view of the phone. We haven't even started promoting it yet, but we do have a SERPerator extension now in the Chrome extension tool. And it'll be-

Jack: Oh, there we go. Breaking news.

Cindy: Yeah, it is actually. Well, we'll have started promoting it by the time the podcast goes live, I imagine. But it is slightly different in the free tools on the website because it shows you one phone and then it parses it. So it tells you everything that's in the search result and then we give you what we call the actual or the traditional rank, which is like what an SEO would rank something as, like this is first position, but then we give you the actual rank, which is like what your parents would say. Something ranks where you count everything including paid and including knowledge graph and including everything that Google injects. So we give you traditional rank, actual rank, pixels from the top and percent of SERP. So you can see that a knowledge graph takes up sometimes 10% or 15% or 20% of a SERP and that pack takes up 12% of a surf or ad. You could say, well there's three ads and they take up 6%, 4% and 7%. That's a lot of the SERP.

And that means that after the three ads, even if you're in position one, you're at 570 something pixels or whatever, depending on industry. So we give you those things for that particular SERP and it's device specific location specific blah, blah, blah. So it's what a real phone would get if you're standing in that spot and on that phone. And a lot of people don't realise, of course, it needs to still be said, results are different, sometimes very different from mobile to desktop. Usually not super duper different, but the organisation and the layout is almost always different because ads are at the top instead of on the side, and if there's a knowledge graph or a map it's at the top and pushing everything organic down.

And so, that's worth knowing. You can be proud of position one, all you want, because maybe it's the best you can do in your mind. But if you're still not getting seen, because everything above position one is pushing you down, then there's less to be proud of, right? Like maybe knowing that this query always has five ads means that you deprioritise that in SEO, if it's a really mobile oriented query and it's dominated by ads and maps and knowledge graph and stuff that's harder to get. In the paid tools, we score those things. So we score, we have something called, a mess score. And I'll tell you, I hate the name mess but it's the only... We wanted something with an M, but it just means it's like messy to rank for, it's hard, because there's a bunch of Googly stuff that's really hard to displace, right? Like yeah, you can outrank knowledge graph, maybe.

Jack: Good luck. Yeah.

Cindy: I've seen it happen once or twice. But trying to do that is a fool's errand. It's not a good use of anyone's time and money. Really.

Jack: Yeah. That's really interesting thing and that's something you don't get from a lot of the keyword research tools you'd be using day-to-day. Just looking at SERP through those and content explorers and all that kind of stuff. You would not get that kind of SERP real estate understanding of what your customers, potential customers, potential users are going to see. That's a really, really interesting like delve into SERP that I think we don't really do that often.

Cindy: I think it's more and more important. And I think that even if Google is an intentionally being nefarious, they are not actively reporting on all of the stuff that they've started injecting into the search results, especially mobile search results and that's why I thought it was really important to have the traditional rank and the actual rank because... and the pixel height, because position one is almost meaningless if you're below a lot of stuff and the stuff that Google puts in is usually more colorful, more pictures, more interactive, they're expanders, and it's keeping people's attention much more than a blue link. Even if your blue link has some schema, like you're hard pressed to compete with people also ask where they don't even... the user doesn't even have to get to another website and wait for it to load, they can just get the answer that they want and really that's what users are searching for. They're not searching to click to your website for the most part. They just want what they want.

Jack: Yeah, absolutely. I know that's been very controversial for a lot of SEOs. The fact that Google is taking content that has been written onto the SERPs and you are never getting that click through to your site, you're never actually getting that. They're able to deliver the content that you've poured your blood, sweat and tears into and then delivering it essentially for free onto the SERP there as well.

Cindy: Well, so here's an interesting point that I think is relevant to keep in mind is I imagine you saw a couple months ago when the knowledge graph for London switched from being credited to Wikipedia to being credited to Google. And so Google used their own AI to rewrite what they knew about London, presumably from Wikipedia and other sources. And I think that there's a reason they're doing that. Number one, Google has the capacity. They're good at AI, that's a strong suit for them. But number two, they want to get out of any of these intellectual property disputes and lawsuits in the EU and around the world that are from people who are mad that their content is being lifted. So Google's like, "No worries. We're not going to lift your content. We'll read your content and learn from your content and rewrite it."

And so expect more of that because this is... When we think about Google as a business, what can they do to protect their interests while they can stop doing things that piss people off and that cause lawsuits.

Jack: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's a big factor of why we are seeing GA4 and that announcement coming through and GD, as you mentioned, the EU and GDPR and this whole privacy and data issues we're seeing globally at this point now. But yeah, I think Google is definitely moving towards that as you said, kind of protecting their interests and protecting themselves. We even talked a few weeks ago about how much money they were making from ads and all that kind of stuff, and then going onto the PPC side of things, how much that's being automatically optimised and just like, "Yeah, your optimisation score isn't 100%." I was like, "Yeah, but it's actually functioning better for me and my client if it's not 100%," but it makes Google less money. So it's like, "Oh." Like you said, there's a nefarious element there as well, right?

Cindy: Absolutely. Well, and maybe it's not intentionally nefarious.

Jack: Oh sure, sure.

Cindy: It just play out that way. I think that most people have good intentions, but something else to think about from a mobile perspective. So, one of the big push backs I got for many years and so that is that. Yeah. Why do I want to optimise on mobile? No one clicks through on mobile, which is in some cases true, you get less click through on a mobile search result and it's because Google is doing so much to make other things that aren't your website look good and to get the answer in the search result faster. But here's the thing that SEOs forget, and again, thinking like Google as a business itself, people weren't clicking through on mobile ads either. And so what is happening now, and I think this is part of what we're seeing in a lot of the new features that are coming out is Google is adding more and more query refinement options throughout the SERP, especially at the bottom. Did you mean narrow this down? They have different ways of phrasing it, but it's not just related searches anymore. Sometimes you can get a three pack of like, "Did you mean this?" What if you search... other people search for this next?

Just all of these suggested new searches, but also same with disambiguation and related topics in the knowledge graph. When you click on any of those many things that are like a query refinement, all it does is launch a new search result where they can put more ads. So give the user more opportunity to click on their ads because people weren't clicking on their mobile ads either just like people weren't clicking as much on mobile websites. They weren't clicking as much on mobile ads. So Google's trying now to show more mobile ads from what's perceived as one query, even though it's kind of a path or a query journey, if you will. And they talk about that in MUM too. I think that's somewhat related to MUM is this query journey concept. And when people are on that path, they think, "Well, I searched for this." Well, you actually like you did a search for this and then it opened another search for that and you eventually got where you were going, but it wasn't just one query, and Google loves that.

Jack: That's giving them more data, right? Like we said, thats...

Cindy: More data and more opportunities for people to click so that they can charge for an ad.

Jack: Exactly. Exactly. Which is the end of day, like we said, Google is a business, so that's kind of to be all and end all unfortunately at the end of the day. Something you briefly touched on there as well, I think interestingly talking about like attributing mobile traffic. And again, I touched on this with Katherine a couple of times as well. There is basically no way to accurately measure voice search as far as there's no view or property and analytics or search console that you're able to actually get your voice search data reliably there. And I know there's been a lot of issues with attributing app clicks coming through to, and being misinterpreted and misattributed to direct traffic instead of actually coming through and all that kind of stuff. Have you experienced that shifting as we're seeing more people using apps for stuff you get the in-app browser thing that I absolutely hate, that drives me nuts where... Oh yeah, I've got all my usual stuff saved on my mobile browser and then it opens in the Facebook browsers. I'm like, "Go away, Facebook. I don't want to see that."

How do you think that affects it? Again, I guess that's the opposite side of it, right? They're trying to keep users in their ecosystem in the same way that Google is doing it for the SERPs, I guess.

Cindy: Right. Right. Well, Facebook wants to track what you're reading and what you're looking at in that article that you've clicked on too. Yeah. So it's interesting. My hope of course, like many people is that GA4 will solve these problems. Obviously, there's a lot of dissent and concern that it won't and it'll make things worse, and that may be true as well. We may suffer for a while. I think it's in Google's interest to do a better job in attribution, I think because it does help them potentially, TBD, we'll see when we get the data, but potentially it gets them out of some of these intellectual property concerns where people are like, "Oh, well, Google lifts our stuff and people never see it." If they can do a better job with attribution, they can say, "No, this person site you and five people also asked." And then clicked through to your website and is now a regular subscriber and buyer.

It's an awareness play and that's much harder... It's always been harder to measure. There's that hope. It's another thing to say, like with the Facebook browser, yes, that's a bad experience and it used to be much worse, actually. Facebook browser used to really struggle with JavaScript and so I've seen people, what was it... Stuart Weitzman, a shoe brand launched this ad campaign in Facebook and when you clicked on the ads, it was like design your own Stuart Weitzman loafers, and they had all these colors and things like that. And when you were on the web, it worked fine, and when you're on an iPhone, it worked fine. So presumably the person who made the ad and developed the landing page on an iPhone, but they never tested in an Android and in the Android version of the Facebook browser, you couldn't choose anything.

Lots of SEOs forget like because lots of SEOs they index high for iPhones. Half the world has Androids still. In some countries it's more, in some countries it's less, but it's about half still. And so, Stuart Weitzman was wasting, maybe not half of their budget, their ad budget, getting people to a landing page that didn't work, but at least a third of it. If we think that a third is on desktop, a third is on iPhone and a third is on Android. And som stuff like that, if you're a marketer, you should be aware of it. But from a tracking perspective, it's just a mess. I don't have a good answer here. It's a mess, and I hope it gets better.

Jack: Yeah. I know. Like I said, we touched on it quite a while ago and I think it was back in episode two of season two. Six months ago or so. I'll leave a link in the show notes for the list as you don't want to click through. We had a fantastic article about how to dive through and actually reattribute everything and fix it all or make sure we were working a client at the time who had worked with Strava and a promotional thing, which is a running tracking app, and they had built this thing and it clicks through from Strava directly to the site and all just went to direct traffic. And we were like, "Where is this Strava traffic going? What is happening?" We're getting all this stuff from that we know it's working, because we are getting contact forms on the website and all that kind of stuff and referrals, so where is this all going in analytics?

And yeah, we went through this whole process of reassuring everything, and it was such a difficult process such a... You would think it would be something that would be fairly simple, like you said, because we move, we're so sophisticated now with understanding how much of the web is being searched on mobile and things like that. You would think it would be a fairly straightforward thing, so fingers crossed for GA4 fingers crossed for the future.

Cindy: Well, here's something interesting too. In the same way that Google seems to plan to use AI to get out of intellectual property concerns with the London knowledge graph example. I think that they're going to do the same thing or they've already said they're going to do the same thing perhaps for similar reasons in GA4, is they're going to take all this data and they're going to model the attribution methods and perhaps in their mind, especially, but maybe in reality as well, their modeling is going to be an accurate representation of where traffic does come from. And so, they'll use this AI to fake it and say, "Oh yeah, don't worry nothing to be concerned about here." You're getting that traffic. It's just, we had to model it in our analytics so that you would feel better and know that you're getting it and know how and why. So, that's it.

Actually, you mentioned our tools and I feel like it's a good time to mention the Page-oscope one, two, because with JavaScript and also with what I think is the future of SEO, that's also exciting, which is Edge SEO. We are having more and more stuff that is being injected in the last minute when a page is rendered to theoretically help SEO. And if you're not aware of Edge SEO, that's kind of what it is. You use your CDN and programs on the CDN or the Edge to do things like pre render all the JavaScript or add in your hreflaying or your schema or whatever, so that you don't actually have to go beg the development team to do it. You can just have this middle layer to that. You control to do it. And that sounds great, but can quickly get messy if different teams or different groups have access to the Edge and are writing or overriding people's rules that are already set up or you can... It could get messy quickly.

And I can even give you an example with a client of mine, they just built a utility to handle redirects and they told the SEO team like, "This is your new utility to handle regex so you don't have to bother us anymore. Just put them in here and they'll be done." And it was an Edge SEO thing that the development team figured out that they could do and they were only doing the regex for Googlebot mobile, and so when I would run a crawler through, crawler was saying, "No more than two hops and usually just one, it's less," but when a user was doing it, sometimes there were still infinite loops or eight chain redirects, because this was only handling the problem for the bot and the dev team was well intended, they wanted to do the right thing. They just didn't realise like, yeah, but the regex helped users to like... And also core web vitals like Google is going to see that this is still really slow for users even if it's fast for the bot. Because core web vitals is based on real user experiences in the browser.

Cindy: So, we built the Page-oscope with stuff like that in mind. Now, it can be used for a lot of things. It can be used for conversion optimisation and you can... it gives you an interactive view of any page and you can click through and interact with it all the way through conversion. We recommend not putting real credit card numbers in there, but you could, and you could buy stuff from a website in our Page-oscope. But it's also great for Edge SEO and Technical SEO because we give you the phone and the raw and rendered code and a diff checker, and those are device specific. So for instance, if you're sending different code to an iOS device versus Android, or you're sending different code to desktop, we can show you that. And in the paid tools soon, you're going to be able to diff check not just for one page on one device, but diff check this page from mobile to desktop rendered or from mobile to desktop unrendered or from today rendered and three weeks ago rendered.

Jack: Oh, amazing.

Cindy: It's great for like, "Hey, this page template is falling off a cliff and we don't remember changing anything what changed? We can go back and grab the code and compare today to when it worked well," And say, "Oh, they lost the schema. How did that happen?" So, that's all handy and that's what you get. So we have the free version and there's this... there's a Page-oscope plugin in the store as well, and those, you get 10 free tries a day, which for most people is enough, you don't need more than that. But if you want to track things over time and capture it, then that's when we make you pay.

Cindy: But it's useful because one of the main things that I've seen when I go into offices and I go and evangelise mobile SEOs. People will sit while I'm talking and just do searches on their phone. And the minute they get a break, they hold their phone up to their neighbor and say, "When did this happen?" And it's something that's popped into a mobile search result that since they're testing and doing all their work from a desktop, they hadn't looked at a mobile result and Google's added a knowledge graph or a map pack or an app pack or something that they didn't know was there that was pushing them down. And so that's the reason we created the paid versions of the tools and we call the ones that track history, the Datalyzer. So there's a page Datalyzer and a surf Datalyzer, because we grab that and we still parse it all and then let you see what changed.

Cindy: Oh, well now, you're position one ranking, you've had position one way through the whole time, but now it's at 800 pixels or now it's only 3% of the SERP when it was 5% of the SERP or whatever. So, you get to see over time and answer attribution questions that usually in with regular SEO tools have been left to the ether, because how do you answer when did this happen? Nobody knows, because no one else is taking history of the... And you just hope and you're like, "Oh, see that drop that's when that happened." And you're just like, you just assert it, but you don't have any proof. You go to search console and you're like, "Oh, it dropped off right here three weeks ago." That's when probably they introduced that. But you don't have proof, you're just guessing. So, this makes it a bit more reliable so that you can feel better about saying, "Oh, well, that's when that dropped off."

Jack: Amazing. Well, listen, if you do going to check that stuff out, like I said, links in the show notes for MobileMoxie and all of the free tools and the list for all the paid and pricing and all that stuff as well. That is pretty much all the time we've got this week. So Cindy, how can people find you on Twitter, on the rest of the internet, across various social media and things like that?

Cindy: Yeah. Twitter is 100% the way to reach me, email, LinkedIn are all kind of a mess. I do respond to emails, but it's safer on Twitter, there's less spam there so far. So yeah, Suzzicks, S-U-Z-Z-I-C-K-S on Twitter or the MobileMoxie account, I'm in there a lot too. I have other people in there, so that you'll get help, that's the best place. And then also, if you think I'm interesting, we have a whole YouTube channel of me doing all the talks that I've done in the past couple of years. I also put on YouTube so you can get more interesting tidbits there.

Jack: Excellent stuff. Fantastic. Well, thank you very much for joining me. It's been an absolute pleasure and I've learned a lot this week.

That's all the time we have for this week. Thank you, Cindy, for coming on the show. It was a pleasure to interview and really, really interesting to dive into the history of mobile SEO over the last 15, 20 years or so. I hope you learn something less as I know, I certainly did. And I will be back next week with my co-host Mark Williams-Cook to discuss all the latest in SEO and PPC news. So please do subscribe. Please do have a lovely week. Until then, and thank you very much for listening.

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