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In this week's episode, Jack Chambers-Ward is joined by SEO consultant and host of Democratizing SEO, Austine Esezobor.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Welcome to episode 78 of season two of the Search with Candour Podcast. I am your host Jack Chambers-Ward, and my guest this week is an SEO consultant as well as the host of the Talks with SEO series on Democratizing SEO, Austine Esezobor. I'm going to be talking to Austin all about the search generative experience, OES, a hot topic and what we think the future of SERPs are going to look like in the next five to 10 years. It's a big topic. It's very much following up on my discussion with Garrett Sussman from a couple of weeks ago about Google Perspectives, I think it's a very, very hot topic and a very interesting thing to be talking about here in July of 2023.
Before I get to my conversation with Austine, I'd like to say a huge thank you to SISTRIX who support and sponsor Search with Candour every single week throughout 2023 SISTRIX are known as the SEO's toolbox. If you go to sistrix.com/swc, that stands for Search with Candour and go and check out some of their fantastic free tools such as their search snippet generator, the hreflang Validator, which as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I've been using a lot on clients recently. The Google Update Radar, I think there's some recent SERP volatility, so keep an eye out for that and updates on the Google update radar and if you want to go, and check your site's visibility index as well. Funnily enough, I was speaking to our principal SEO consultant, Brendan Bennett here at Candour the other day, and we're talking about how brilliant SISTRIX's competitor analysis is, on being able to compare different domains over a long period of time. There isn't a better tool, and again, I know this is a sponsorship part, but I would be saying this regardless of sponsorships.
There isn't a better tool for my money for historic keyword and historic visibility data, over the last five years. So you've been working with a client for a really, really long time. SISTRIX is fantastic at being able to see the progress over the last five years, especially comparing it to other domains and their overall visibilities as well. It's a really, really brilliant way of getting a snapshot and keeping a long-term track. It's something we've been incorporating into our client reports month to month as well. Having the ability to input multiple domains and compare different types of competitors. So the conversation we had with the client was, who do you think are your main competitors in the organic space?
And we put those into SITRIX. We compare them with the client's existing domain, and since we've been working on them over the last few years, we can then track how much work we've been doing, which one of the other competitors have gained or lost visibility. It's really useful for seeing overall industry trends, so if you think there's been a Google update or a shift to the industry in some way, you can see that, "Oh, all of the competitors and our domain have been affected in the same way." There's a chance, there's kind of a correlation there, right? So maybe one can best a shot up out of nowhere, out of visibility, which happened for a client of mine not too long ago. We ended up having a conversation about it. You can check this stuff out very easily. Then, once you kind of spot any unusual trends or spot any patterns, you can then dive in and have a look at the keywords and have a look at that long-term historic data for that individual domain. Then of course, diving into subfolders and specific URLs there as well. With this client I mentioned previously, we had a look and worked out, they had focused in and basically built an entire topic cluster around a particular product, they sell a particular type of product. It was all about Squishmallows, which I know we've talked about on the show before, and they had really honed and focused and created a bunch of informational content around Squishmallows that then linked through to their product pages that they were selling Squishmallows through. And this was a whole process of investigating this and working out where has all this visibility come from?
It's because they were ranking for some really, really, really, and I mean surprisingly high search volume keywords, some really high visibility keywords that were related to Squishmallows. I think "Rarest Squishmallow" was one where apparently collectors really, really care about this stuff, so there was a lot of people searching for that kind of thing. And through SISTRIX, I was able to identify, "Oh, this competitor shot up invisibility. That's interesting. Where did that come from?" Have a look at the actual subfolder and the pages within that subfolder to see where this visibility is coming from and quickly identify, "Oh, this is the topic cluster they've been focusing on. This is the thing."
It's not an overall visibility boost for the site. It just happens that there is a huge focus from them, for whatever reason on Squishmallows and these, I think it was like a couple of dozen pages, blog posts and product pages that were all linking to each other, have suddenly shot up in visibility and suddenly are ranking for high volume terms that bring a lot of visibility. All thanks to SISTRIX, all thanks to their domain comparison feature, which like I said, I highly recommend go and get a free trial. Go and check out SISTRIX because it's fantastic service and they sponsor the show. So thank you SITRIX for supporting us, and I know we talked about Trend Watch last week. I'm saving a couple of the Trend Watches for when Mark is back and we'll be talking about that later on this month on the SISTRIX with Candour livestream, which will be happening at the end of July. The final week of July, on Thursday the 27th of July is when we're planning to do that. So when you are hearing this on Monday, that's next Thursday if you're listening to this on day of release, Mark and I will be reuniting and talking all about the latest SEO news and also talking about SISTRIX, and I've been specifically saving a couple of the funny and relevant Trend Watches for when Mark and I reunite next week. So stay tuned for all of that. Yeah, thank you once again to SISTRIX for sponsoring us. Before I get to my conversation with Austine Esezobor, I'd also like to mention, I'm teaming up once again with the fantastic SEO mindset dynamic duo that is Sarah McDowell and Tasman Solomon, and we're going to be doing another live podcast in Brighton, around the time of BrightonSEO, so this is Wednesday, September 13th at 7:00 PM at Projects to the Lanes in Brighton. Tickets are free and they also include drinks and snacks, so you're getting bang for your buck there already. We did this back in April. It was a brilliant event and we're hoping to get even more people into the globe room at the Projects this time around. Last time we talked about dealing with conference anxiety and anxiety around conferences. Now we'll be talking about how to manage your energy levels. I think it's a big topic. I think it's a thing that we need to think about when we're attending conferences and things like that. It's something I actually touched upon in the last time we did the live podcast, because my energy levels are all over the place when I'm going to big conferences and social events and things like that.
So it's something Tasman, Sarah, and I are going to be talking about in great detail, and we'll also have a live audience there to take cues and give some As to those cues as well. The podcast will also, of course, be live-streamed on the Silicon Brighton YouTube channel. I'll put a link for that in the show notes, so make sure you're subscribed to that. And of course, it'll be the following week's episode of Search With Candour and over on the SEO Mindset Podcast feed as well. So if you are in Brighton on September the 13th, come and join us at Projects The Lanes. The link for the Eventbrite for the tickets will be in the show notes at search.withcandour.co.uk or you can just click the link on your podcast app. And now, without any further ado, here is my conversation with Austine Esezobor.
My guest for this week is a freelance SEO consultant and host of the Talks with SEO Series on Democratizing SEO, it's Austine Esezobor. Welcome to the show, Austin. How are you sir?
Austine Esezobor: Thanks a lot, Jack. I'm good, thanks. You are one of the few people who know how to pronounce my surname.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Yes. I do go it out of my way to make sure I'm trying to pronounce people's names correctly.
Austine Esezobor: No, you nailed it.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Awesome. That's what I like to hear. How are you? Welcome to the show. First of all, I'm a big fan of your show as well. It's very, very nice to have a fellow SEO podcast to back on the show.
Austine Esezobor: Thank you so much. Yeah, I've been spending a lot of time on it and aiming to get it as brilliant as yours.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Thank you, man. I appreciate that. It's really nice. We were just saying before we started recording to podcast with another podcaster and kind of turn the tables. You are usually the host on your show, but actually turning the tables and having you as a guest, I find it's quite nice to kind of like ... it takes the pressure off a little bit, sometimes, but also, you have that instant kind of audio quality. That rapport. You kind of know how this whole thing is going to flow. So I think it's going to be a really, really cool episode and I really look forward to our conversation.
Austine Esezobor: Yeah, we both have a mic and we both sound great with a mic. Yeah, audio will be clear and I love the lighting that we both have. I think yours is a lot more bright ... it's a lot brighter than mine. I need to up my game.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Yeah, yeah. We've got some pretty big studio lights here. I've only got one of them turned on at the moment, because I'm using the separate camera. If I'm using the proper camera we use for the live streams, there's like four or five lights just absolutely blast, you can get as much light into that sensor as possible, but as some of the listeners may know, I don't know if they know, I'm quite pale. I'm a White guy and I'm very, very White and very pale, so I blow out the camera pretty quickly with my paleness. So I kind of have too many cameras and too many lights on me at once, so I just turn completely-
Austine Esezobor: No, the lighting makes a big difference. It's nice to see you clearly on the podcast.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Yeah, that's something I think I underestimated before we started doing video content. It's just how much difference lighting makes because you can have a really amazing camera, but if your lighting is not up to scratch, it will basically look like any old webcam.
Austine Esezobor: Exactly.
Jack Chambers-Ward: On the other side of it, if you have a super cheap camera, the camera I'm using here is like 40 pounds, something like 30, 40 pounds, something like that, but with good lighting you can make it look so much more professional.
Austine Esezobor: Yep, yep, I hear that. I hear that. I'm that way but with sound. I focus more on sound than lighting, so right now, I only have one lighting, I have two, but I find that one is usually ... well, I thought it was okay until seeing yours. I might have to bring the other one out, but I tend to focus more on audio first. I should say.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Me too. I'm an audio first person. I very much been podcasting for 12, 13 years now, so I'm very much an audio first kind of guy and I've only just started learning video stuff recently. We've been doing the live streams with SISTRIX and stuff like that, but it's cool. I'm hoping to do more video content. I think that's the plan for us as an agency and as the podcast grows and stuff like that, to do more video content. I appreciate you've gone straight onto YouTube with democratizing SEO and talks with SEOs, right? Was that a conscious choice from your side of things? Did it to go straight to video contents?
Austine Esezobor: So I considered this phase two of seven phase plan, master plan that I have. Phase one was audio only and I spent maybe 10 minutes or so and it was just monologuing, me monologuing about SEO. Yeah, I have a thing about SEO, which is odd for some SEOs, but yeah, I live, breathe SEO, so that was phase one, just me monologuing, audio only and phase two I decided to launch it, I think it was October, November last year and I said, "Okay, let me step up to video and have it as a guest based podcast." And I went from 10 minutes to more or less an hour with video. I know that feeling it was a steep hill to steep learning curve I should say. Yeah, I think I've got my bearings with video podcasting now. Yeah, it's phase two so far. Aiming to launch ... I was aiming to launch phase three this year, but I think I'm going to focus on phase two for the rest of the year. Yeah, I have a lot more thoughts around video podcasting and SEO and I want to mesh those three into something so I have other phases to come where those will be years down the line.
Jack Chambers-Ward: I like having a long-term plan. I think that's always good with a new project, when you're starting a new podcast or a new site and you're working an SEO, working with a new client, having that kind of multiphase, multistep plan is always key to keeping up long-term goals, making sure you're hitting those goals, keeping track of all of that kind of stuff. Don't be afraid to pivot and shift as well while you're going there, right? It's not necessarily set in stone, but having that kind of guideline I think helps a lot.
Austine Esezobor: Yeah, definitely. I remember when I first told people about my podcast, this was during phase one, I mentioned I had a 10-year vision and I remember this person specifically and the agency I was contracting at the time. She looked at me like, you're going to spend 10 years working on a podcast, growing a podcast? I was like, "Yeah, it's just something I do." Yeah, it's an odd obsession but a beautiful one. It's how I like to spend my time talking about SEO.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Funnily enough. Me too and that's why we're here. That's why we're here to do a podcast together. So the topic you brought for us this week is all about ... a pretty hot topic to be honest around in 2023 at the moment, the SGE AKA the search generative experience and the future of SERPs as a whole. This is something I touched on a little bit with when I had Garrett Sussman on the show a couple of weeks ago. We talked about perspectives and kind of how that's been changing, the SERPs, people testing it now in the US and all that kind of thing. I'm interested to see the slightly different perspective for wanting a better phrase, no pun intended, to talk about the SGE side of things and really get your thoughts and ideas and kind of predictions as well, I guess. We're going to be peering into our crystal balls and looking into the future of what we think the SERP is going to look like over the next six months, couple of years, 10 years, get around to that 10-year plan of yours Austine.
Austine Esezobor: Sure, let's do it.
Jack Chambers-Ward: So let's kick off with, and kind of leading off with that, what do you think the long-term plan for SGE is? Do you think this is a flash in the pan Google and test it out, give up on it quickly or do you think this is a part of a wider kind of user experience journey that Google are going through right now?
Austine Esezobor: I think it's one of those situations where it's a need most for Google. Google has ... they have to do something like this, like search generative experience, like perspectives. Let me give you a quick background on ... well, it's my theory on why they're doing this. I haven't talked about this, not even on my podcast, so this is an exclusive.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Breaking news. Exclusive for Search with Candour.
Austine Esezobor: My thinking around why Google are making this pivotal shift in search and user experience is the threat from social media. When we think of social media, social media platforms specifically, namely TikTok, we think of these are social platforms, but they do have a search elements to them and my thinking, social and search, they both share the same audience. They're going after the same user base. As users increasingly search more on these platforms, these social media platforms like TikTok, the more they stay away from Google. I think we're at a point now where Google is realizing they ... TikTok, they have the youth. The youth being Gen Z and Gen Alpha. Now, the third generation after Gen Alpha, if they attain them, Google's market share will drastically reduce. And I believe they're going to lose market share. Odds are Google will turn out to be one of the big players. I don't think they'll have as much dominance as they do right now in the coming years. I do think they'll be a major player. Now, how much of a dominance they have depends on how much they serve their users, and if you think of the way Google indexes information compared to the way social media platforms index information, Google is very outdated, extremely outdated. Think about this from ... for example, the way people search is entity-led, right? So based on social media I should say. So they search for a creator, I don't know, Logan Paul for example. And then, they decide on the topic.
The way people search on ... and that is influencing the way people search on Google. The way Google indexes information is outdated, as I mentioned. They index by topic first. They index topic first and then, they consider the creator i.e. the brand. So they seek information, whereas social media platforms, they receive information. That's a big difference there. The way social media platforms receive information naturally lends itself to be brand-led, entity-led. And Google is falling behind because they are not keeping up with the way people search because people are ... because social media platforms are more brand-led, entity-led. The way people search, they remember the entity's first i.e. the brands, the creator's first. So if you think of the way the changes Google are making, going from strings to things, all of this is to ensure that they capture the audience. Remember they have a shared audience, they want to capture the audience and maintain their dominance with the audience. So they have to shift from being topic-led to being brand-led or entity-led. And this is my thinking behind why they're making all these changes to search. Essentially because of the threat of social media platforms, namely TikTok.
Jack Chambers-Ward: It's interesting, because I think we talked about it a lot on the show recently with how much we're seeing short video content served on SERPs now. TikTok being the prime example and I think you're totally right. More and more people are turning towards, for want of a better phrase, influencers use Logan Paul as an example there, I think like one of the biggest and most influential people in the world, especially to younger generations. I think that is a big factor in a lot of people building that trust and that kind of reputation and almost relationships with brands as well. You have that kind of relationship with an influencer at the face of a brand, in a very different way than you do to just a household name brand like Nike for example. No one is especially the face of Nike at the moment, but maybe you have Logan Paul and he's the face of Prime and everybody knows that's Logan Paul's drink. Even if you see it in a supermarket, you know that that is Logan Paul's thing, and that he's kind of already establishing that humankind of interaction and that moment of connection, right?
Austine Esezobor: Yep.
Jack Chambers-Ward: I think that is a big part of why user generated content is becoming more and more popular and coming from background to perspectives, like I was saying a couple of weeks ago, and as you were saying just a second ago, that's serving way more social media content. It's purposefully showing more perspectives from Twitter ... well, maybe not Twitter much longer, but maybe it'll be replaced by Threads soon, but things like Reddit, Quora, stuff like that, all that user generated content where I think people kind of want to get past the filter of a lot of the ... my wife has said this for example, she'll search for something and find what she calls like SEO crap where it's obviously written just to rank for the sake of ranking to get clicks and it's not actually providing that much value to the user.
Whereas if you are searching for these specific things and interacting with things in a slightly different way, as you're saying there, you get through that kind of ... you break through that bubble and find that more user generated content, whether that's through social media, whether that's through TikTok, whether that's YouTube content or podcasts or whatever it is, you're directly interacting with the people and I think that ties into EEAT as well. They introduced experience for a reason, right? I think that's a huge factor in that.
Austine Esezobor: Absolutely. The experience part of it is essentially Google realizing they need to pivot and use the playbook from social media platforms in order to stay relevant in this upcoming world of AI. Now, when I think of AI generated contents and how experience is going to become a lot more important, think about ... how can I explain this? Think of Bard and also SGE. Bard specifically, they essentially can correlate contents themselves, right? Google can. They have 25 years worth of data on pretty much any and all topic you can think about. So if someone search for something, Bard can essentially provide the information that the searcher is seeking. What's going to be more important is the experience and the experience from users i.e. people, creators. And this to me is looking into, "Okay, AI content is going to be rampant in the years to come," probably even in the months to come. It can be as early as a few months.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Probably tomorrow, dude
Austine Esezobor: Yeah, with the speed of changes, right? It can happen and they're seeing AI generated content as if you like, low tier content. Now Google have said that they are not going to discard it, but I believe more important content, more quote-unquote important content is going to be content that's centered around branding. I'm using branding as the most important type of entity. Essentially Google are going to be focused on entities, right? Branding I think ... sorry, a brand I should say is going to be the most important entity, out of all the entities the brand has. So using Logan Paul as an example, he is the brand. Prime is another entity, but the most important one is Logan Paul as the brands, the creator.
And Google knowing and indexing information i.e. entities based off of just topics, it's not going to do it. Bard is going to have that covered. What's more important is knowing the brand, knowing the creator, the entity, and this is where social media has a one up on Google because they already have the information or the, if you like, all the data points that they need to understand a brand. Whereas Google, sticking with their, if you like, outdated way of discovering information and discovering it via topics rather than brand first. They are falling behind so they have to make changes and E, the experience part is a pivotal part, especially for perspectives. This is why they've launched their perspective or are launching their perspectives. This is something that they realize is rampant on social media. People want to understand other users or real people's experience with things, whatever topic they have in mind.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Definitely. I think that's a huge part of it and especially with the SGE having that real kind of like FAQ based, learn more and ask questions here and all that kind of stuff. You're going to find people searching in totally different ways, right? Rather than just the people also asked kind of thing, you are literally generating that new response and getting a new way of interacting and I think a lot of people are seeing it as kind of an expansion upon the AI stuff that we see so often in SERPs. A lot of people seeing it also as kind of the escalation from what we saw about 10 years or so ago from featured snippets. And there was a lot ... I know you were around about that time Austine, but I wasn't. I'm aware of the fear and stuff that happened around 10 years ago when featured snippets happen and everyone's going, "Oh God, there's zero click searches, what do we do?" And all this kind of stuff. Do you think the SGE is going to kind of bring a new wave of worries to SEOs in terms of getting fewer clicks, dropping their CTR and stuff like that?
Austine Esezobor: Definitely. I think SGE is ... if PAA and and/or Featured Snippet was a level one or primary initial change, I think SGE is taking it to another level and I think we are ... SEOs are going to see a change in traffic, definitely a change in visibility for certain keywords and for certain, if you like, stages within the user's journey. The early stages. Forget about those. They're pretty much covered by Google, SGE, Bard, all of that is ... I think Google, they have to own that in order to maintain their competitive edge with social media platforms. We still need those information on our sites where the difference is going to come, I think is going to be an increase in searches around branded terms. So a branded keyword, and when I say brands consider entities, I should say. So brand products, all of these are entities, right? And I think we're going to see an increase in that and that is going to be a lot more valuable. So if someone is searching for, let me use a simple basic example, red shoes, I think that's pretty much going to be owned by SGE and perspectives. However, if someone is searching for ASUS red shoes, that's a lot more valuable as a term to go after. And I think with E-commerce, we're going to see less of it because these days someone is searching for red shoes. They're not looking to do a history lesson on red shoes. They want to ... it's a purchase intent, right? So for E-commerce there's going to be less of an issue with these top funnel keywords. The changes are going to be around non E-commerce or if you like, question-based searches.
Jack Chambers-Ward: I think that's a huge part of so many strategies we talk about with clients here, and we've talked about on the podcast many times before, I know you've talked with people before as well, having a combination, serving all the possible intents for your potential clients, your users.
Austine Esezobor: Yeah.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Having informational content on E-commerce site can actually bring users in through a different path, and if they're going to, like you said, look for red shoes on your site and your shoe website, then they want to ask a question, "Oh, what sizes are available? What different brands are available?" Whatever.
Austine Esezobor: Yeah.
Jack Chambers-Ward: You have answers to those questions, that stops them from leaving your site and going somewhere else. And I think that multifaceted aspect to targeting search intent and making sure you are covering all your possible basis with users, I think you're spot on there. Yeah, absolutely. I think E-commerce is going to have maybe a weird journey but less of a significant direct effect on those transactional intents of things. It's the informational stuff that I think is really going to get affected by this because you can so easily spin off with the questions that SGE comes up with. The fact that it has the little FAQ sections and explore more and all that kind of stuff. That leads itself to that informational journey. And I wonder if that almost makes ... potentially could make customer journeys longer because they're more likely to click around and hover around on the SERP for longer in a way. Do you think that's going to necessarily affect how users eventually get to their end goal? Do you think some of these users maybe will find it frustrating or do you think it's probably going to end up being a more positive experience for users?
Austine Esezobor: I think overall it's going to be positive for users. There is a chance that it makes the journey longer, but I believe SGE is designed to make it quicker. So the research phase, let's consider informational based queries, the research phase. Google is looking to shrink all of that down and have all of the information that you could possibly need. The fact, should we say on the SERPs itself, you don't need to click on the website, go back, click on a different website, all of this is going to be ... is time-consuming. And if you think of the way social media platforms have this information, right, they have it via people. Also, I should also add the way websites function, it's a lot more clutter than social media platforms. Let me give you an example. For an informational based query, right? Let me think of one. What's it like in New York during summer, right? You can have a website that has that information on the website, but everything else around it is full of junk, clutter. What is the phrase that your wife use? Was it SEO-
Jack Chambers-Ward: SEO Crap was her exact word.
Austine Esezobor: SEO crap. Yes.
Jack Chambers-Ward: I think I'm probably also editing that for the podcast. No, my wife, that's me censoring my wife.
Austine Esezobor: It's true. She's correct with I don't know if you can ... I sometimes look at websites and I see the SEO on the website, I think all SEO see it.
Jack Chambers-Ward: 100%. You can't turn that part of your brain off, right?
Austine Esezobor: Exactly.
Jack Chambers-Ward: You know it, when you see it and it's like, I see what you're doing. You're almost like unpicking the strategy as you're clicking around.
Austine Esezobor: Yeah, right. Especially with long form content, which in itself is a mistake. Anyway, that's a separate discussion, but all of this leads to crap before a user receives the information with the query of the query. Whereas on social media platforms, a user can find exactly what they're looking for from a user who's created that content without having to go through several different pieces for content just to find it. So that expectation is from users and remember, social media platforms, Google search, same user base. Users expect to receive information that quickly, whereas on Google, we're using the outdated model and Google influencing websites on the way that websites have traditionally optimized for Google's subset of users who they want to make their users, it's outdated and they need to change it.
They, being Google, which means they need to influence websites to make changes. So I think the way we optimize websites is also going to change in a drastic way. I think the information will have to be a lot more quicker. I think we'll have to sign posts to machines, Google a lot clearer as to where precisely this information is. They don't need to ... and I think this is probably one of the reasons why so far on SGE, there aren't necessarily links in place for information and I look at that as Google saying the user doesn't necessarily want to enter a website to gather this information. Go back to Google search for ... click on another website. All of this is time-consuming. So the research phase is going to be shrunk down. Google has to shrink that down for their users because that's what they expect because of social media.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Yeah, that's interesting. I'm trying to imagine what my user journey has been. Like you said, it's difficult to turn off the SEO brain on some things and I find myself even in daily life just searching around outside of work, outside of ... even if you're not on website, just on the SERP, I'm conscious of like, "Oh, how does that SERP feature work? Did they use schema for that thing?" There's that constant little thing in the back of your brain, let it take it away, right? I wonder if Schema will become more important to really signpost key information and stuff like that. Obviously, that's been a big part of a lot of targeting PAA strategies. Obviously, we have the tool here at Panda called AlsoAsked, which helps you get all of that information and then using Schema to closely target and mark your FAQs and stuff is a huge important part of that strategy. Do you think Schema will tie into this as well and kind of help Google find that structured data and get the answers quicker and faster or do you think Google are kind of going, "We don't need you. We can do it ourselves. We've got the power of AI and we know what we're doing kind of thing."
Austine Esezobor: Excuse me. I think if you are relying on Google to get it right, they're going to get it wrong. So you have to use schema. I think schema will be fundamental. Schema is the language of Google. So if you have schema in place on your website, on a page, you are telling Google precisely what they're looking for. You're signposting them. Without schema, this is them figuring it out. Now, if you have two different websites, one with schema, one without, Google is able to decipher information quicker and easier than with the one that has schema than the one who doesn't. Who do you think they'll prefer to show up? Who do you think they'll get information from? It's going to be the one who makes it easy, right?
So every website will have to have schema in place. I think this is something that all SEO will need to ensure that brands are aware of the power of schema. It's not necessarily for users but for something that will help search engines, namely Google to help their users. It's fundamental. So think of a site that I like to recommend in terms of one that provides information to Google in ... with schema in a very succinct way is IMDB. They have it nailed. I think all websites will have to get onto the level of IMDB from a schema implementation point of view for their specific niche or vertical.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Yeah, I think you're totally right that almost like Google likes you giving them a helping hand and just signposting your information like you said, makes it so much easier to find, to crawl, to index and then, serve on the SERP. I think Google do really kind of like people to point as many kind of directions as they can and be like, "This is the thing. You don't have to go in the same way that users do," right? You're finding that thing on a featured snippet and now going through to SGE, you're going to find that information straight away right in front of you, highlighting the new features, snippets that have the highlight in blue and stuff and big bold text and all that kind of thing.
You're making it as easy as possible and as digestible as possible compared to God, it's 1500 words and I've got a scroll through this thing and it's probably number of 18 out of 35 different points in this article, just keep scrolling, keep scrolling, having it signposted. I think you're totally right. Schema is going to be ... it already is, but even more important part of so many content strategies to really highlight the important part to make sure we're serving the right information at the right time, and to the right people.
Austine Esezobor: Yeah, absolutely, and think of a number of brands who have a problem with their CMS, not able to have schema implemented. This is something that will have to be worked on with the changes that-
Jack Chambers-Ward: I've experienced that with quite a few clients personally. I'm sure you as well-
Austine Esezobor: Absolutely. Absolutely. A lot of these CMSs are ... they are not kept up to date, right? So CMS optimization, SEO is working with developers on the backends to ensure that things are enabled on the front end, will have to be a priority. So if you think of SEO, the three main pillars, all pillars at all site will have to have ... to be strong on all pillars including the fourth pillar of data if you want to consider it the fourth pillar of SEO. I know there's a lot of data-led SEOs who consider data the fourth and I'm fine with that.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Yeah, I'm comfortable with that. I'm not going to argue too much. I don't want to pick a fight with data SEOs, they're very scary people. They have all the data.
Austine Esezobor: Exactly.
Jack Chambers-Ward: So let's think, prognosticate for the future, do you think SGE is going to become a fundamental part of the future of the way we search? Do you think perspectives is also going to be part of that and how much do you think those two elements, the newly introduced tests and experiments from Google are going to be around in five, 10 years time?
Austine Esezobor: Okay, so both I believe will have to be around. It may not be in the current form that they are in, remember both are still, if you like, in beta mode, right? Google will have to have something like this. The two of them being around is a bit confusing, right? There's always a question of well, what's the difference? Which is which, right? Now, SGE is a search generative experience. I'd like to think of it as if the facts about a query, whereas perspectives is more firsthand experience. So think of it more as opinion pieces from real people. That's the way I like to differentiate them. Now, Google has to be careful with the way they launch it because think of these as two different products within the product of search.
So they have three different products which they're essentially trying to maintain for their users. And if you think about it in a sense, they're becoming more social-led, dare I say. We know Google historically haven't been very ... how can I put this effective or should I say good with social media based off Google Plus for example. So they have to be careful with the way they serve their users, ensuring that they do not distract them and ensuring that they're serving them with precisely what they want, based on their current expectations. I think it's going to be around both. The future of them. I do think they'll need to have an iteration. If they can somehow bundle both into search and make it the new search, I think that would be better. At the moment, they seem like three different ... it seems like it's split and Google is split in their focus, which is each one has taken away from the other and that isn't good for Google, I don't think. I think that is leaving users a lot more confused. Even as SEOs we're confused about the two of them SGE and perspectives. So if they ... let's say A, a scenario A. Scenario A, they make the beta versions of both of them as you feel like testing grounds. When they release them, they slowly merge into the one search rather than having three different ways of searching. It's just one search and this could be the new way of searching. The blue links, they'll slowly fade those away. And I do think those will fade away no matter what, in the years to come. And have it as, "Okay, this is now how users can and should search on Google search."
Scenario B is they keep both around and user's understanding of search becomes distracted. It's not as simple as it used to be, and if we have that scenario, I think there'll be a question mark of, "Okay, why am I going to Google search to be confused, we're not going to stay on this platform that I'm on, namely TikTok and search for something, get precisely what I'm looking for and be satisfied quicker than I can with Google." So this is the lines that Google are facing. They have to somehow make their search functionality seamless and as one rather than the three different ways of searching. Yet introduce it in a smooth way that doesn't take away from what people already ... what users already expect from Google, which is still the 10 blue links, which is fading away. My thinking is that Google wanted to fade away their 10 blue links over a longer period of time, giving users a lot more time to get used to using search. Users from ... if you think of the oldest person who uses Google, all the way to the upcoming generation using Google, but because of social media platforms, they have their hands forced and they have to make those changes now a lot quicker. So this is what I think is the dilemma that they are facing.
Jack Chambers-Ward: I totally agree. I think yeah, we could definitely head down ... too much going on at once on a SERP kind of thing, like you're saying that distracting kind of thing. I think we also take for granted, we were just talking about how, you can't look at a website and not think of it with your SEO brain, and the other way around is people who are not SEO and then, it's like, "Well, I don't even know perspectives exist." Most people around the world don't even know Google Perspectives is being tested in the US right now. They don't know that SGE is around the corner and have no idea what that even stands for. Most people probably even know what SEO stands for, let alone SGE.
Austine Esezobor: Exactly.
Jack Chambers-Ward: And it's those people ... let's not worry about us, as professional SEOs or let the power user people who know what's going on. The vast majority of people do not care about this stuff and just want to get to the information. I wonder, obviously, I think I'm guilty of this and so many of us in SEO are guilty of this kind of taking that for granted. I mean like, "Oh yeah, SGE is going to be this big thing or perspective is going to be this big thing." What really matters is what do people who are not in SEO and not paying attention to this stuff, how will they react to it? I use the example of the big bold blue highlighted feature snippets that came around late last year, early this year, and I talked to my wife about that, shortly after they came out. She was like, "Why? It's a bit patronizing, isn't it?"
I was like, "You could see the two sides of it, that is giving you the clearest bit of information as quickly as possible," but then she was like, "Well, I can look for it myself. I'm a grown person. I don't need you to point out and bold everything and all this kind of stuff. Why is it highlighting the keywords?" I'm like, "Yeah, okay, fine." I think we kind of underestimate how people will, fun enough, have different perspectives, no pun intended, about how this stuff is going to work. I think you are totally right that we could be heading towards a directionless, weird SERP where sometimes you're getting search generative experience, sometimes you're getting perspectives, sometimes you're getting some blue links and then, a map pack on top of that and then featured snippets here.
The SERP can be confusing enough as it is, speaking to my parents who are completely technologically uninterested, disinterested, have no sort of ... they're recently retired, so have no ... I think they recently bought something on Amazon and it was a big celebratory moment of, "We bought something on Amazon and you didn't have to help us." Here I am working in tech at SEO and all that kind of stuff, but I think we kind of underestimate how it could be a weird jarring, like you said, distracting experience for a lot of people. So I think Google really have to learn how to hone this in and really make it as intuitive and as easy to use as possible for people who are not professionally clicking around.
It's something I talked about with Garrett where perspectives is a pill at the top, just underneath the search bar. It's one of those little filters like images and videos and news and all that kind of stuff. The big question for me was where is it going to sit in the SERP? Is it always going to be the first thing you see? So your SERP is something that's perspective, then images, then news, then videos, whatever, or is it going to be relegated to, for want of a better phrase, position seven across that set of pills? Would the standard everyday user of Google even notice it exists? Do they have to force it upon people for people to notice or is that a frustrating experience? I'm full of questions of how the regular everyday Google user will have these weird experiences going forward.
Austine Esezobor: Yeah, I think all of that is a possibility. All those options are possibilities and I think Google will have to moderate it based on the user, user data. So let's say for someone for who's known for searching for a particular keyword and Google knows that they want to ... Google decides, "Okay, they're just researching," right? They will just show SGE. They'll decipher. There's no need for them to click on websites. If they want to purchase something, they'll probably show SGE and then, ads and then have organic results way down on page two. It saddens me to see organic ... the traditional template links removed, and I do think for some queries, it's going to remain.
I think for queries where Google doesn't necessarily have enough dataset or aren't confident on the dataset, we'll still have the template links, but when Google are very much prominent sure of themselves, then they'll show SGE. So think of let's say Apple's keynote event, right? The ones they have every September, I think it is September and March. During those times Google knows that people will be searching for ... people who are searching for Apple, want to see Apple based information i.e. Apple's website. So they'll be looking to pull information from there as quickly as possible and to present it in an intuitive manner. So in those types of query, with those types of queries, the 10 blue links wouldn't make an appearance. You'll probably get SGE, you have multimedia results in the SERPs for queries where Google either are not sure or it could be a combination of things, that's when you'll see the traditional blue links perhaps SGE and maybe perspectives. Right now, I think the first step forward Google is to prepare their audience for it, their users for it, which is why I believe they have it as an option and why I think they'll phase that in slowly, but they can't be too slow with it because the slower they are, the more ... the higher of a chance that they lose their market share.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Yeah, yeah. I think that market share is a really interesting thing to think about because we so often see being in kind of the smaller search engines doing these weird experiments and doing cooler extra things, and then Google will come along a few months later and be like, "Hey, look at this thing, we totally originally invented, honest, this is a totally cool thing." There's been a lot of talk about maybe Google adopting some form of index now because from the stats that we've seen from Bing, that's been a huge success and how many pages are getting crawled and indexed through that process? Do you think we will see other ... obviously, we've already seen Bing AI and that kind of not quite the same, but heading in a similar sort of direction. Do you think this will be a kind of landscape changer for other search engine in general, because Google is obviously the market dominator, for want of a better phrase, or do you think this is where, like you said, that shifting balance may tip towards more social media stuff and things like TikTok and YouTube and other kind of social media platforms will kind of balance out and actually take some of Google's market share?
Austine Esezobor: Yeah, I think with competitors of Google ... search competitors of Google, they haven't been that much of a threat to Google. The real threats on the ... yeah, I would say the real threat, quote-unquote real threat will be from social platforms, and I also throw in Amazon. So if you're like non search-led platforms, TikTok, Amazon, those type of platforms, because they're virgin into the ... they're going into the space of search, they're now serving users and prompting their users to search, if we didn't have this threat from social media, I don't think Google would've released certain features as they have done this year or are about to release this year. I think it'll be this year that they release SGE and Perspectives.
All of that I believe is because of social media. I don't think all the search engines were that much of a threat to Google, but when they started to see that one, they do not have the audience of Gen Z and Gen Alpha. I think Gen Alpha was the one that really got them thinking, "Wow, this is something that we need to take seriously." If users are searching on the platform that they are on i.e. social media, because social media ... it's strange because it's always ... being a search person, I've always considered search as my thing, but I always looked at social media as an interesting area because I saw the search functionality or capabilities on social media, and it was never a big deal, to backtrack.
I thought of this ever since Google bought out YouTube because I was like, "Oh, okay, I see what they're doing. They want to own the competition," as they were at the time. I saw a similar thing with TikTok. Now, if TikTok were American, US-based, I do believe Google would seek to acquire them from a broader POV, and I'll touch on this very, very quickly, but we essentially have Google search, TikTok, US, China. That is the battle that we are seeing from a broader point of view, and it just so happens that these entities are US, number one. China number two, but in terms of who's the fastest rising economy, it's China. So again, all of this is a major, major issue for Google that they have to address.
They cannot just rest on their laurels and expect to maintain dominance. It's not going to happen. Eventually, if we were to look down, let's say 10 years from now, I don't think we'll have one main dominant player as we do now. If we do, I think Google will most likely be the one who's on top, but I do see ... I think we'll have a situation similar to how we have Apple and Android as the two main factors. I think we'll see this type of thing on search where we'll have a player who's the more dominant, but the secondary player is right up there with them.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Which is not something we've really seen in the history of search, even since the early days, 25 years ago or 26 years ago, I guess it was 27 years ago, when Google first started
Austine Esezobor: In the very, very early days,
Jack Chambers-Ward: The really, really early days you had Yahoo was kind of bigger up there-
Austine Esezobor: Slightly before my time.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Yeah.
Austine Esezobor: Yeah.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Yeah. It'd be very interested to see what that kind of more competitive search landscape would look like. I'm here, I'm intrigued, I'm worried, excited and equal measure.
Austine Esezobor: It's going to be exciting times for SEO, it's going to expand SEO. I think the traditional way we carry out SEO, we'll need to adapt certain keywords. Top funnel based keywords, we'll have to have less focus on them and more focus on more important ones beginning with the brand. I think the brand will be central to everything that's carried out in SEO moving forward.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Awesome. Well, that is a good note to end on, Austine. I think it's going to be a very interesting six months, year, 18 months, 10 years down the line. So I look forward to experiencing it with you. Maybe we'll have to reconvene in a year's time and see where this all is and what's happening.
Austine Esezobor: Sure, yeah,
Jack Chambers-Ward: Make an annual check-in and see where the SERPs are.
Austine Esezobor: It'll be my pleasure.
Jack Chambers-Ward: So where can people find you around the internet if they want to follow you and follow talks with SEO and Democratizing SEO?
Austine Esezobor: Well, Jack has been a pleasure being on. Thank you so much for having me. You can find me on YouTube under Democratizing SEO, check out my website, and also, I'm on LinkedIn. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not much of a social media type of person, but LinkedIn is my ... that's my jam. So yeah, look me up on LinkedIn.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Nice. I knew I'm not finding you on TikTok anytime soon.
Austine Esezobor: I was contemplating TikTok very early on, but I'm more of a passive user of TikTok than participants of it.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Awesome. Well, the links for everything Austine just mentioned, will be in the show notes listeners, so go to search.withcandour.co.uk. You can find the LinkedIn, the YouTube channel, the website, everything there for you, nice and easy to follow Austin and follow and go and listen to the podcast. Well, it's fantastic.
Austine Esezobor: Thank you. Yes, please do.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Thank you so much for joining me, Austine. It's really, really cool to have a conversation and like I said, maybe we'll reconvene later on down the line and have another update on the SERPs and the future of SEO.
Austine Esezobor: Thank you, Jack. I'll be happy to come on. I have a lot to say around the future of SEO, so yes, that'll be awesome to come back.
Jack Chambers-Ward: Awesome. Thank you. Bye.
Austine Esezobor: Thank you. Cheers.
Jack Chambers-Ward: And that about wraps us up for this week's episode of Search With Candour. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you once again to Austine from Democratizing SEO for joining me. That was a really interesting conversation. Boy, there's a lot of things to talk about with the future of SERPs at the moment. If you haven't already, by the way, do go and check out talks with SEOs on the Democratizing SEO YouTube channel and podcast apps. I highly recommend it. Recently, funnily enough, featuring the one and only Steve Payne, the marketing manager over at the fantastic SISTRIX and Steve doesn't often get on a podcast, so it's nice to actually hear Steve interviewed and as a little tease for those of you have stayed around right until the end, Steve might just be swinging by the Candour studio for another podcast very, very soon.
So stay tuned for that. I've got some fantastic guests coming up as well as Steve. I'm going to be talking to Alizée Baudez. I'm going to be talking to Katie McDonald. I'm going to be talking to Jo O'Reilly. I've got a lot of fantastic guests and a variety of different topics from digital PR, to things that are annoying us in SEO, to international SEO topics and everything in between, coming up in the next week. And of course, like I said, the live stream with Mark at the end of July as well. So lots of stuff, lots of exciting stuff coming up in the next few weeks on the Search with Candour, the feed. So thank you so much for listening. Please stay tuned for all of that, and I will see you next week. Have a lovely week.