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In this week's episode, Jack Chambers-Ward is joined by Adriana Stein, CEO & Founder of AS Marketing, to discuss the intersection of SEO and UX:
Jack: Coming up on this week's episode of Search With Candour, I am talking with Adriana Stein all about how SEO and UX cross over and how you can optimize your site for both of them, and I'll be diving into a very interesting study from SISTRIX all about what kind of brands does OpenAI recommend? Coming up, all on this week's episode of Search with Candour.
Welcome to Episode 70 of Season 2 of the Search with Candour Podcast. I am your host, Jack Chambers-Ward, and this week, I have a very fantastic guest in the form of Adriana Stein. Adriana is a BrightonSEO speaker, a consultant, and also the CEO and Founder of AS Marketing, and Adriana is here to talk all about how UX and SEO are actually kind of the same thing and they all relate to each other and you can't really do one without affecting the other. It's a very interesting conversation. We go in all different directions. We cover so many different aspects of both UX, SEO, and digital marketing as a whole. I think you'll really, really enjoy it.
Before we get to my conversation with Adriana, I'd like to dive into the latest article, something a little bit different from SISTRIX, and they have called it, "Visibility in the AI Future." This is an article from Johannes over at SISTRIX talking about which brands are recommended by OpenAI. I will scratch the surface on this because this is a pretty, pretty hefty study and a really interesting article, but I'll give you the kind of top key lines and I'll let you dive into the actual article in the show notes at search.withcandour.co.uk. So what SISTRIX's done, they asked OpenAI for brand recommendations for 10,000 different product categories. For almost all of the queries, OpenAI was able to recommend 10 brands. So for each query, you get 10 brands. There were only 674 for which there were no response, and they were typically in sort of health, politics, more controversial stuff like adult entertainment and things like that. It makes sense that an AI would kind of stay clear of that.
In total, so from those 10,000 different product categories, OpenAI recommended 23,856 different brands, and this means that each brand was recommended on average almost four times. However, of course, as so often is the case in these kind of studies and such, these are not evenly distributed. With almost 16,000 brands, so about 66, about two-thirds of the entire, were recommended only once, and only 570 brands, which is 2.4% of all the ones mentioned, were mentioned at least 20 times by OpenAI.
The 10 most recommended brands by OpenAI, including the number of recommendations, I will give you a brief quick rundown of this, are Samsung with 1,871; Sony with 1,427; LG with 1042; Apple with 936; HP is 809; Nike is 740; Dell is 719; ASIS is 699; Phillips is 637; and also at 637 is Adidas. Now, some brands are also highlighted and particularly high up in these recommendation lists. So things like Apple, Wacom, the company that makes those tablets, and a few other companies work consistently very high up in the recommendations list. And on the other hand, things like BMW, Microtech and Dual Electronics were far lower on the list.
Like I said, I have just scratched the surface. There is the full case study and breakdown and methodology behind this over on the SISTRIX blog, so I highly recommend click the link in the show notes or go to SISTRIX.com/blog and click on the article that says, "Visibility in the AI Future." It's a really interesting study and because we're all talking about AI and how reliable it is and how biased it is and things like that, I think this is a really interesting way to delve into some actual real data and see what kind of brands are brought up in this case study and how often they're referred to by supposedly unbiased AI. Like I said, go and dive into all that stuff. I have barely even scratched the surface on the analysis and the data that the SISTRIX team have done. So go and check that in the show notes at search.withcandour.co.uk.
My guest for this week is BrightonSEO speaker, a CEO and Founder of AS Marketing, the one and only Adriana Stein. How are you?
Adriana: I'm doing great, Jack. Thanks so much for hosting me.
Jack: Welcome to the show. Thank you so much for coming on. I know we've had a couple of conversations through LinkedIn, a bit on Twitter and things like that. It's so nice to actually finally have a conversation. I think we've missed each other at BrightonSEO every single time.
Adriana: Yeah, probably!
Jack: I've seen you across a room a couple of times but never actually had a conversation with you, so it's nice to actually sit down and talk to you for once.
Adriana: For sure.
Jack: So for the listeners who don't know you are, first of all, shame on them. They should know who you are from your exploits across SEO and digital marketing and things, but give us a little intro to basically how you came to found AS Marketing and your journey through to SEO.
Adriana: Yeah, great. So it can be a very long story, but I'll try to keep it a bit more succinct for the appropriate podcast length. But ironically, or maybe not ironically because I've heard from a lot of people that it's the same, I never intended to go into SEO or actually even in marketing; it kind of just happened to me because of the context I was in.
So I'm originally from the US, but I've been living in Germany for seven years now, over seven years, and I first moved here to do my master's degree. I learned German to do that, and long story short, basically that didn't work out like I planned. Lots of bureaucratic things happened in the middle, I won't bore everyone with that, but basically because of my language skills and the amount of time that I had been trying to understand how to live and work in Germany, then the Foreigners Office basically told me, "Well, why don't you try and do content writing or something instead because you have the language skills for that, so why don't you give it a try?"
And so I talked to one of my friends who did something similar and I asked her, "Well, how did you get clients? How did you start doing something like this?" And so she basically told me about, there's a German version of eBay. It's eBay Kleinanzeigen. It's a small ad site and then you can write what your skills are and then people can just contact you when they need help. And luckily for me, I was able to get three clients within just a couple of weeks because there was a lot of demand for people needing help with content writing and content translations between the English and the German language. And so I was very lucky to work with some really great clients, a lot of the time directly working at their location as well, and really closely with the marketing managers. And over that whole year, then I got actually a really good completely hands-on training with SEO and content marketing, content writing best practices, and also got paid to do that, which was amazing, so it was kind of like a rate of return to everything-
Jack: That makes a big difference, right?
Adriana: Yeah, that just kind of fell into my lap, so I'm a very lucky person for having that opportunity. And after doing that, I realized, "Oh, well I quite like this and I think there's going to be some more demand for that," and so I just kept going and kept getting higher and higher roles with my next client, so working more on strategy and things like that versus just content writing or translations. And fast-forward to today, then that actually was what led to me founding AS Marketing because AS Marketing, we're a full-service international marketing agency that supports clients across the globe, and we started with this kind of English and German exchange, especially German companies wanting to expand into the US because that's essentially where I started here in Germany. But now, we do that for a whole list of markets and everything because I found out there's quite a demand for this and I couldn't do it all myself. I needed a team, especially for covering all the language that we do. We support our clients in 30 languages and growing right now.
So yeah, that's kind of the short version of how I got to where I am today.
Jack: I think that's a really, like you said, that's a weirdly common thing where people end up falling into SEO by accident, and speaking to people like Myriam Jessier or Sarah Presch as well, having the multilingual, bilingual skills can be such a powerful tool, especially like you said, when you move away to a different country but you're a native speaker and then become fluent in that language as well, you're able to be that much more flexible, that much more adaptive, and are able to then offer that as a service on top of other stuff as well. So being able to understand, "Oh yeah, I have this cultural understanding as well as the language skills as well as the marketing skills," that's a powerful combination, for sure.
Adriana: Yep, absolutely. I mean, I can say just from the opportunity that I've had to really to scale from just where I started to where we are now, it's clear that there's a very big need for that, both in terms of the language part, but also understanding just how the market functions in general. That's what, a lot of companies when they're expanding, they don't have experience with or they don't have a resource to ask about how that works. So yeah, it's a very nice place to be in, I must say. So sometimes when one door closes, another opens.
Jack: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, I have not a similar thing, I don't speak any other languages, but I come from a language background. I used to work for an English language school, so it was international students coming over to the UK to learn English, to then go to university to get their qualifications to go and get jobs and all that kind of stuff here in the UK. And I would, again, be dipping my toes into little bits and pieces, and I started off as just the main welcoming person, greeting people, helping them with their visa applications to come over here to the UK and study and all that kind of thing. And eventually, I was like, "Oh, I'm helping out with the website now." And then I realized, "Oh, I've written the entire copy for the whole website and now I'm accidentally doing link building." I'm like, "Oh yeah." And by the end of it, I was like the digital marketing manager. I was like, "Oh yeah, that is a role I guess I'm filling now." And then realizing, like you said, you find that thing you kind of fall in love with and I was like, "Oh, well SEO is the thing I enjoy the most," and then transitioning through and somehow ending up here at Candour.
Adriana: Funny how that happens.
Jack: Yeah, yeah. Like I said, I think it's really common in this industry where almost when you start learning about SEO, a lot of people don't even realize it's a thing. It's a whole job in and of itself. It's a whole industry. It's like, yeah, it's just marketing on websites and online and stuff. That's whatever. The internet is the internet. But having this whole thing, and as we're going to talk about, how that relates to other industries around and how websites relate to each other and how different aspects of the website can affect all the different channels, multichannel approaches and all that kind of stuff as well. I think that's a huge journey for all of us, and as we go and learn a bit more, stumbling our way through and learning as we go.
Adriana: That is really SEO though. It's really stumbling through and learning as you go.
Adriana: I think even nowadays, with all the changes, we've all just accepted it. That's our work now, so we just gotta roll with the punches.
Jack: Exactly. Never stop learning in SEO because you'll get left behind.
Adriana: Yep. Yeah, like within a week too.
Jack: Oh yeah, exactly. Exactly. Suddenly, there'll be a huge change or a huge shift or an industry change, and I think that's totally relevant as well. You're talking about understanding business practices and things like that, it's that, again, something I talked about with Sarah, that cultural side of things, let alone the language side of things like, "Oh, German businesses do this in this way, and this is an unwritten rule that nobody really talks about." You're not going to find it written down anywhere, but after you do business with a few different people from a similar culture in a similar country, you're like, "Oh, okay. Yeah, I see how this works. Right, yeah." You need to make sure you shake their hand, proverbial shake their hand in this way, to then get the relationship going or whatever.
Adriana: Absolutely. That's a good way to put it.
Jack: Yeah, proverbial handshakes.
Jack: And speaking of things that... I'm going to try and segue, I'm going to desperately try and segue. Speaking of things that shake hands with each other, we are going to talk about how SEO and UX crossover, interconnect, and how they can interact with each other because again, I think it's something a lot of us kind of take for granted. Coming back around to, like we were saying, "Oh, I didn't even know SEO was a thing before you learn that SEO was a whole thing," UX is another side of that. And I think it's such a key part of it and I'm so glad you brought this topic onto the show because it's a thing I think so many people will just underestimate and just like, "Oh yeah, that's how websites always look," or, "Yeah, when I change this thing on this website for an SEO reason," a lot of people don't take into the aspect of, "Yeah, that's going to make a huge difference of how the user actually navigates around the site and moves around and things like that."
Adriana: Yeah, absolutely. There's so many interconnections between UX and SEO, but I don't even know if they can really be called separate things. Yes, they have separately named concepts, but really, SEO, as soon as you start doing content, even after a couple of months, you really need to start doing UX. Basically, right away after that because you're going to start with doing optimization and you want to make sure that you're actually getting conversions and doing nurturing for your audience as well, trying to get them to the right pages, and especially if you have a really big website, for example, UX is so, so important just to understand how does the user actually move across the website and what do they read and in what order? What is the content journey? And so you can't really look at them as two separate things. They're really the same thing because you can't have a good UX experience if you haven't really looked at like, okay, how do we directly tie in how we do SEO within UX? So it's one and the same thing really.
Jack: Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of people see the SEO as kind of the step of getting the user from the search engine to the page, and then once you're on the page, the UX kind of kicks in and that's when you need to worry about that kind of stuff. But you are right. They're so intrinsically linked and one can so directly affect the other, whether you mean to or not is a whole other question. But I guess I want to start off, I'll start off on the negative side of things because I think this is where a lot of people see how the two interact with each other. So, how can bad SEO negatively affect UX? And then after that, we'll follow up with the vice versa of how bad UX can negatively affect SEO, but let's start with how bad SEO and bad practices can affect UX as well.
Adriana: Yeah. So I think this is a concept that actually Google, with a lot of its algorithm updates over the past couple years, have tried to improve on because SEO, in the older days or the early days, people were doing a lot of keyword stuffing and weird things like white text on a white page.
Jack: Ah, cloaking and all that fun stuff.
Adriana: Yeah, cloaking. Cloaking, exactly. Weird things like that that used to be considered part of SEO and you could rank for that, but they were of course really bad for UX, and I don't know how you could really get away with those sort of things nowadays since Google did its helpful content update, I think it was two or some years ago, forgive me if I'm wrong there, but something along those lines. It's really intertwined SEO and UX because this page experience is a big part of ranking factors now. So, are things on your page readable? Do you have a good page load speed? Are your images doing weird things and taking over the whole page? Do you have massive text blocks and things like that? And so those changes and putting that into consideration for the rankability of a URL, then that also impacts its ability to rank in general. So it's hard to really have a bad UX experience and then still be successful at SEO nowadays, but still what can happen, you can have content that is still written quite well under, let's say, SEO best practices, but then your UX experience can be bad just in terms of personalization or the customer journey, and then that's going to impact just simply how the reader feels about that afterwards. Maybe, I don't know, they got a bad taste in their mouth and they don't want to read anything else or they don't come back, they're not a repeat visitor, they didn't find the information that they needed. Even though you are ranking well, that also goes hand in hand too. So there's kind of two sides to that.
Jack: Yeah, I totally agree. I think giving users a bad experience... For me personally, I'm not a very quick reader. I need to really focus when I'm reading text on a screen or in a book or whatever, and I find a wall of text with no formatting, no paragraphs, no spacing, just impossible to read. I will slow to a crawl and feel like I'm verbalizing in my head to even process it. And anybody who's ever worked with me or written Google Docs with me or even podcast show notes, everything is formatted to within an inch of its life. There's headings, there's bullet points, there's all kinds of stuff going on just because I need that to be able to skim-read and function and all that kind of stuff.
And I think that's totally true for on-page content, just simple things, like you said, like once you get on that page, how are the images breaking up that text? Have you used all of your images at the top and then there's just 2,500 block words with no headings, no structure, no whatever, or have you used those images to space things out? Do they make sense within the context of the article? Simple little formatting, things like that, can make a huge difference for me as a reader. Even thinking outside of SEO and before I was conscious, brain was switched on to SEO best practices and all that kind of stuff, just seeing like, "Oh God, yeah, I don't want to read this. This is a terrible article, I don't care about this." And I think that also ties into the wider conversation, like you said, with Google understanding content so much better and understanding relationships between UX and SEO and how directly they affect rankings. With E-E-A-T as well, I think your jeopardizing your chance to be understood as a trusted source of information. Your viewers get frustrated and can't read your content. Why bother writing that content in the first place, right?
Adriana: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I mean, it's great that there's been such advancements that Google can understand that, and nowadays, it's so important to even look... SEO is not just about what you're doing on the SERPs. So yeah, you could get some rankings there, but actually, good SEO is supporting that customer journey all the way through the sales process or through the purchase process, and then even beyond as well. So getting those repeat purchases or becoming this go-to information source, and that's actually all really UX, but for SEO to actually be perceived as successful, you have to have successful UX tied into it.
Jack: Yeah, definitely. Something you mentioned in the show notes that I thought was really, really interesting, you mentioned it a couple of times already, it's nurturing that user journey. I think, again, coming back round to E-E-A-T and how things relate to each other, both internal and external links and how they're laid out, how they're connecting to each other massively affects the user journey. The obvious thing is like, "Oh yeah, that's how our crawling tools, that's how SISTRIX and Screaming Frog and all that kind of stuff, we'll crawl around and see these different pages relating to each other," but users have the same experience as well. I don't know about you, maybe this is because we are professional SEO people, but I click on internal links to follow their journey and see where they go, and same for external links. Is that source reliable? Have you just quoted some random thing that is now discredited or is it a legit source of information? So how much do you think internal links and external links, links in general on that page, affect UX and SEO, like combining together?
Adriana: Yeah, really a lot. I think both internal and external are important. External, of course, for credibility. There used to be this minimum external links for how many-
Jack: The fear of external links.
Adriana: Yeah. Is it too much or too little? I don't think we're reliant so much on that. It's more like if you need to quote a source then do that and just make sure it's a really credible source, then an external link is great there.
But what's really become a lot more important is the internal linking. So of course, like you said, Jack, trying to understand, I'm reading this thing and then there's a link here and then, okay, so I'm interested to read more about this thing, and then what does that link to next? And rightly as you said, just how Google goes through and crawls content, then the users have that same experience across your website as well. So it's very important to make it very understandable what is the next step, or where is the next place that the user is supposed to go, or where can they get more information based on what's relevant for them? So of course, it's important for the customer journey. If you're starting out on a top of funnel-type page, so this is where a user is nowhere near ready to buy something, they're just trying to understand, okay, what is the basic information from this? And then what do I need to learn? Maybe they don't even know that they have a problem yet. They're just kind of starting out and understanding. And then those internal links will help bring them on to something deeper within the sales funnel. So something to more middle of funnel where they're like, okay, now I kind of know what I have a problem with and I know I need something to solve that problem. And then I'm going to go through and maybe compare some things and understand, do I trust this company? Do I trust this information? What's the best thing for me that works for my problem?
And then they need to also be then served as well something bottom of funnel, so more conversion-type focus, which you can do SEO for as well, which is a big thing. This is one of the number one things when we're at my agency, when we are doing review of new clients who start out, so one of the number one things that we find is they're not doing anything bottom of funnel. All of their content is this, what is-type content. They're not doing SEO for conversion pages and you can do this for keywords that describe exactly what you sell basically. And so that's what you want to link to across your website, especially with internal links and drive the users there so that you can be sure to get the conversions because that's how you are basically driving revenue with with SEO is you need conversions from that.
So there's that big piece as well in terms of customer journey, but then there's also topical authority. And I have talked about this a lot in terms of using your website as a content engine. SEO is not just one blog article or one landing page or a random couple pieces of content. For it to really function now, you have to use your whole entire website, your entire content architecture to work together to function in a way that it nurtures the users toward conversion. So from top, middle and then bottom of funnel, linking them that way. And that linking also helps for topical authority because once Google can see, "Okay, this is the flow that this content goes through, and then this is what it ends up as," because the more that you internally link to something, basically it's a signal to Google, "This is my most priority page," so it's signals to Google, "Okay, this is what I want to be authoritative on," which is a big ranking factor. Topical authority is one of the number one ranking factors now.
So it's this tiny, tiny thing, internal links, actually when you look at it, but in the big picture of things, it can completely make or break your strategy and if you have success with it.
Jack: I couldn't agree more. Yeah, it's something I talk to clients about a lot when it comes to, like you said, understanding where each page sits in the funnel, as well as the site structure and understanding where in that journey, how are users landing from an informational intent, like you said, are they trying to find information about the products or services first, other than that kind of early top of the funnel research kind of stages, and then also, having pages that clearly match sales intent, commercial intent, transactional intent, however you want to put it.
And understanding that sometimes, especially when you're externally linking and stuff, as we said, don't be afraid of that because I can't think of a customer journey that is just, "I land on a blog post, I click on a product, I buy the product." I don't think I've ever done that in my entire life. 99% of people do not just start at the funnel, work the way down the funnel on one website. You'll get people who come in bounce out again and then be like, "Oh, I read that article the other day. I did, I can't remember what the answer was. I'll go and check that again or do another search and find another related article." As you said, using your whole site as this hub of information, building it up as using pillar pages and hub pages and spokes to then all interconnect with each other, you want to be answering basically any question, no matter the intent, for your products and services across the board. So whenever a user is coming back, and like you said, you then build your authority, right? You're building that topical authority of like, "Oh, whatever I search, this website always comes up and always has the answer. They must know what they're talking about. They must be the experts."
There was a phrase Lily Ugbaja told me a few months ago that was, I think, most brands are seen seven times before somebody buys something from you. The traditional examples will be like you'd see a billboard, and then you'd see them on a bus stop, and then on the side of a bus, and then in a magazine, and then in a newspaper, and they're like, "Oh yeah, I should probably go and eat a burger from Burger King," or whatever it is. But that is now true in digital marketing. Being able to cover the entire funnel with full content that links with each other and is consistent and appropriate is such an important part of, like you said, getting the whole machine working together and not just putting all your eggs in one basket of one blog post.
Adriana: Yeah, exactly. That won't get you very far nowadays. I think John Mueller said something around, "You need 200 content pieces before you're considered authoritative on a topic," so you got to really get your PhD in that topic.
Jack: Better start writing! You would hope, after 200 articles, you'd kind of know what you were talking about.
Adriana: Should do!
Jack: Even if you didn't at the beginning, hopefully by number 200, you would kind of be a bit of an expert.
Adriana: Yeah, I would hope so!
Jack: Is that kind of like you do something for, is it 10,000 hours and you become a master? Kind of like that, the old idiom proverb or whatever it is.
Adriana: Yep, yep. I mean, do 100 articles or 200 articles, you might be around 10,000. I don't know, I'm not a math person, but it'll take you quite a few hours though.
Jack: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Something else you mentioned as well was thinking about KPIs and how we measure that journey as well. Because like I said, I don't think that journey is as clear as we'd like to think of, especially when you're visualizing it. You're in GA4 and you're using the funnel visualization or you're in Analytics and using the customer journey, user your behavior analysis reports and all that kind of stuff. It makes it look very simple like, "Oh, they dropped off on the third step, so therefore we need to optimize the third step and then they'll naturally go on step four and five and purchase on step five. It's as simple as that." No, it's not that. No customer journey is that simple.
Don't get me wrong. You want to make it as easy as possible, but you talking about KPIs I think is really interesting because it's something I think a lot of us working as freelancers and agency side and also working in-house as well, is that, like you said, at the end of the day, you've got to make money, you've got to convert, you've got to generate revenue from somewhere, otherwise how are they paying you as the SEO consultant? How are they paying for the marketing? How are they funding everything and keeping the lights on? So from your perspective, what do you think are important KPIs coming in from any part of the funnel? And I guess we need to understand, do those KPIs change depending on if you're coming in with an informational intent or a transactional intent, and I guess the bigger conversation of how we communicate that to whoever we're reporting to?
Adriana: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, first off, I can just say that data is our best friend, and I can totally understand that SEO data is so... It's so complicated. Because my team, we offer PPC and I never understood how important data was until I saw PPC projects and I saw our PPC strategist working and I was like, "Why doesn't SEO do that at that level?" And that's what we need to do because then it's going to be a lot easier-
Jack: Don't you just wish we could have just SEO cost-per-click and stuff? They get so many numbers in PPC, I'm so jealous. I'm a numbers guy. I love that stuff.
Adriana: Yeah. No, I mean, I love going through data and I love analyzing things, and I think that SEO, for it to really be taken seriously, you do have to become that data-driven as with PPC because that's how you can understand your performance from A to Z. And you have to build this connection between everything from keyword ratings to traffic to engagement-type metrics, clicking on a certain thing, downloading something, signing up for something depending on your type of business, and then going all the way from leads or conversions. And you can't understand that or how that all works together until you have tracking. And I won't say that you should try to check the ROI of every blog article because that's not really how that works. Again, you have to think of your website as a machine. Your content all works together as a machine and you can check the KPIs for that channel. And I think what's become even more important now is engagement. So speaking of GA4, I wanted to mention this because I just read a really interesting post on LinkedIn from John Bonini, he's the Director of Marketing at Databox, and he posted some data related to engagement KPIs from 2,200 companies according to GA4 engagement terms. So that's interesting because it's brand-new data. So GA4, it's very different because it defines engagement in a different way than we were used to looking at in Google Analytics, and this is very important for how we look at SEO and UX now. So according to John, or according to Google, engagement now is considered a session that lasts longer than 10 seconds, has a conversion event, or has at least two page views or screen views. So I really like this definition because this is really what SEO content or content created for SEO as a channel should be doing. And if we look at, he lists this engagement rate, the average is somewhere around 56.94% from all of these companies that they looked at within Databox.
So I think now, we're going to really have to be looking at how well does content engage the audience, especially within the SEO strategy, but across the entire website? Are we meeting these kind of benchmarks, particularly for informational-type content? So are people actually reading what is on the page? Are they finding what they're needing to find or are they just leaving because something isn't working? So really honing in deeply on different ways of tracking this, especially within GA4 and setting up some kind of tracking. I think it's going to be really, really essential for SEO going forward to understand that kind of content performance that's not just bottom of funnel. Of course, bottom of funnel, you'll most likely have tracking set up for whatever your conversion point is, whatever that'll be, you'll have an event set up for that, but I think it needs to be just as important what happens in the middle. Otherwise, you don't get that full journey understanding of everything in between. And where you're going to do a lot of the optimization is the in between too because it's probably a whole lot more content than the bottom of funnel stuff that could be hundreds, even thousands of pages, depending on how big your website is.
Jack: Yeah, absolutely. I know it's very rare to hear people on a podcast saying nice things about GA4, but here we are. We're saying nice things about GA4. Only briefly, I promise. But yeah, I did training at BrightonSEO with Dan Perry-Reed and we went through this whole process of rethinking about how engaged users, active users, whatever that phrase, the wording now matters about... The definitions have changed. The wording can look the same, and you may think like, "Oh yeah, that's totally the same thing," but you're totally right. There is now a new definition of if you have not completed an event within the last period of time, and you can change those periods of time, you can adjust how long that is depending on your site and your users and things, that makes a huge difference to how users are engaging. It's like the opposite of bounce rate. And again, a hot topic, let's not dive into bounce rate and SEO and oh God, that's not a thing I've ever hung my hat on or a thing I have ever reported to clients with any sort of reasonability or anything like that. But engagement on the other end of that, I think is something that GA4 is really interested in doing. And like you said, that is more data we can use, both from UX side, both from a SEO side, and understand how users are actually interacting with the site. That event tracking that is the foundation of GA4 now, and the fact that you can basically turn any event into conversion, so if you want to know however many people are clicking on a link in a blog post, you can turn that into a conversion if you want to. If that's the KPI you want to report on, you can just flick the conversion tick box and just be like, "Yep, there you go. That's a conversion now," and understand that and be able to track it.
And yeah, again, not being too positive on GA4, I don't want to have too much of a hot take, but I think tracking is such a keeper and another thing that goes underrepresented, underappreciated, and it's something we've found with a lot of our clients. I know our Head of SEO, Brendan, and our Senior Analytics Specialist, Luke, have really been going through that, as we've been setting up our clients on GA4, really looking at the tracking that they currently have on Universal and how that translates, what needs to change. Is there anything you wish you were tracking that you're not currently tracking? "Oh, we didn't even know that was possible," is often the thing from clients.
Adriana: Yeah, that's true.
Jack: "Oh yeah, we set this up 10 years ago or six years ago or whenever it was. We didn't know that was even possible to track that kind of stuff." And now, the phrase that Dan drilled into all of our heads at the GA4 training was, "Everything is events, so you can track everything. Absolutely everything in GA4 is built on events. There's no sessions, there's no page views anymore. It's an event called page_view." Here, everything is events. You can track to the minuscule little detail, and that's hugely powerful for understanding that customer journey for understanding, like you said, the actual on-page interactions for people. How far are people scrolling? Most people look at things like Hotjar or Squash Orange or that kind of stuff where you see the heat maps and all that kind of stuff. But you can get so much of that data in a similar kind of way. And like you said, data is king, data is so powerful. From simple free stuff like GA4 and getting your tracking right can be a huge, huge step into understanding where you're converting, where you're not converting, where it's all going, where users are getting frustrated and everything in between.
Adriana: Yep, yep. Absolutely. I mean, I'm not a massive fan of GA4 either, but I do appreciate this piece. I do see what they're going for and anyways, we're all forced to use it, so we might as well just do our best to slog through. But I think how they have redefined what actually is in an event and what actually is engagement is really, really useful, especially for UX, and considering SEO is a long-term strategy and you're building out more content over time and optimizing content over time, this is the data that you need to have and there's no other way to check it, especially for large websites where there's a lot going on, a lot of content, maybe a big number of organic traffic. There's no other way really to look at it than to have something like GA4 or something similar and another tool that maybe tracks similar stuff, but you have to look at it from an oversight data perspective. Otherwise, you're just getting too into the nitty-gritty. I mean, like heat mapping with Hotjar is really great. It can be really, really useful if you're looking maybe at conversion landing pages especially. That's what my team and I have looked at that, a lot for our own website just to see how do people actually look at these pages or our pricing pages a lot? That can be really useful for how people move through pricing pages, but you can only look at that data from a very limited level. You need to take a much larger scale, bigger level, more macro level with something like GA4 to understand, okay, how is engagement actually happening across the whole website, across hundreds of pieces of content, across hundreds of pages? And then you can make a better decision about how to optimize everything. And at the end of the day, it has to be as simple as possible for users to navigate. It has to be easily readable, it has to be personalized, but you can only really understand that from a macro data perspective.
Jack: Absolutely, absolutely. Couldn't agree more. And to finish this off, let's get into some controversial stuff, shall we?
Jack: Where SEO and UX actually clash and maybe don't agree with each other. So I'm sure many listeners out there, I'm sure you've experienced this, Adriana, I know I have, where the SEO best practice is probably actually going against probably the best UX practice. From your experience, and like you said, working with your clients and with your team, where do you fall in terms of when those two things clash? When the SEO team is saying one thing and the UX specialists are saying another thing, where do you draw the line essentially? Where's the best place to find that common ground?
Adriana: Yeah. I mean, I hate to be the SEO who says, "It depends," but I mean...
Jack: Everybody drink. That's the rule.
Adriana: I know. Yeah, we could really have a game on that one, for sure, but I mean, it really does depend on the context a lot.
A lot of where I found that to be a roadblock is on the development side of things. So there's some things that you are just simply limited to because of the tech stack. You can't change something or do something in a certain way because of how the tech is set up and there's just nothing you can do about it. And sometimes, it can be harmful to SEO. I've seen this, especially in terms of site structure. There are limitations there, but that's just something you got to try to find a workaround. I mean, I think as SEOs, it can be difficult because we have so much to get to work the way that we want. We have to convince so many people and so many things to work the way that we want for us to meet our goals, and sometimes we don't always get our way and that's okay because there are other things happening in a company, and even in a marketing department, even in an SEO team that we have to find compromises for. And so tech can be one of those things that you just got to find, okay, what is the most flexible we can be with the tech, but then still try our best to meet what we can with SEO.
Also, site speed is another area where I've seen there be some clashes as well. If you use something like WordPress, for example, WordPress is really great. I love it in terms of flexibility and customization, I think it's great, but you can have some site speed issues because the plugins and things just start to weigh it down and weigh it down and you've built your entire site infrastructure on these elements with the plugins that you need and sometimes they just can't be changed. And so sometimes you've just got to accept also, "Okay, something is a little bit slow here and we just can't change it. We've got to find another workaround." So, I think it's just always about compromise. We can't always have everything perfect for SEO the way that we would want because sometimes it does even go a little bit against UX, like SEO also tends to be quite text-heavy in a lot of places because if you look at SERPs, content has actually gotten longer and longer, despite that people have less and less of an attention span. So I always find that very ironic, but you can have good long-form content, but it has be written really well and formatted really well for that to work. And sometimes, that's also where SEO and UX can clash as well like, "Okay. We still have to do all of these optimization best practices for for SEO to function for this content to rank, but now still, it's also got to be readable. People have to be able to look through it and click through it and see it," and there can be some clashes there as well.
So yeah, in the end, it's just always trying to find the best compromise.
Jack: To annoy the fewest people with each team and keep everyone happy maybe.
Adriana: Yes, that's true.
Jack: Like you said, I think getting things implemented can be such a struggle. And funny enough, it's something I talked about with Mordy on the SEO Rant Podcast. Being able to communicate with developers and being able to almost speak their language, coming back to what we were talking about in the beginning, being multilingual and bilingual and things like that, being able to understand what are their priorities, what are they looking to get out of this, from the UX team, from the developer team, what KPIs are they being measured on and why does that matter to them? Is that a bigger benefit to the business as a whole than this blog article, or like you said, updating this, installing this new plugin on WordPress or even removing this plugin on WordPress? Is this the thing that is essentially the keystone that is holding the whole site together and if you touch that, everything crashes, the theme crashes, it all goes horribly wrong? I've been there, I've seen that.
Adriana: I've been there too!
Jack: I've turned off a plugin and gone, "Oh no, everything's invisible now!" It can't be that simple. I think there's a golden rule that Mark's always told me ever since I started here, coming up on two years here at Candour, that the golden rule of SEO is that it should never negatively impact the user experience. And if you are making a decision that is purely based on, "Yeah, this will rank," basically that blinkered, one-mind kind of approach to it, have a think about the bigger picture. You were totally right about the data. You're totally right about understanding where everyone else is coming from. That bigger picture, that macro view, that overview is so important and how, as you said, Google now understands how everything relates to each other, all the different aspects of the site, whether that's paid, whether that's organic, whether that's UX, whether that's page speed, page experience, all that kind of stuff, how all directly relates to each other and how much that talks about the quality of the site as a whole.
And there was something they were talking about at Google I/O recently as well. You mentioned the format of articles getting longer and longer. You often see these articles where it's like, "The average number one ranking article is 2,200 words," and then two years later, it will be, "The average length of a number one ranking article is 2,800 words." You're like, "Okay, right." And some people take that too literally and are like, "Right, I need to write 2,800 words on this specific topic."
But then sometimes, and I've had this conversation with clients before, you'll see a SERP full of video content. I worked with a previous agency, I worked with a company that sold tools and hardware store kind of stuff and all that kind of thing, and all of the informational content, and I mean all of it, was YouTube and TikTok stuff. Like 99% of it was, "How do I use this particular drill bit in this type of wall?" There is a video of a person using that drill bit in this wall in this specific example, and you see how to hold it, you see how to move it. Things you can't do, like you said, with just text that so many SEOs, we're all guilty of it, rely on just text, and maybe you don't have the budget to do video content, but understanding, like you said, the right format of the content.
To answer that question, if you write an article and 99% of the SERP is videos, you're probably not going to rank because people are going to watch the videos instead.
Adriana: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, people have been saying this for a long time, that video is becoming more and more important and it's still true and becoming more and more true. So whenever you do have the budget and the capability to do a video, then try and do that. And it can become a must too. If you want to rank, as you said, where all the other SERPs are video-based, if they have video media, then there's nothing you can do. You've got to get a video in.
And I think too, for people who might be concerned about budgets, the nice thing about video because it's become so accessible with phones and with TikTok, there's a whole lot less emphasis on having these big, expensive, professional, crazy videos that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. You don't need that at all. Just record yourself at your computer. Record someone.
We had a client, actually. They were selling laser engraving machines and they made all of their videos just walking through the factory, basically. So they actually had their social media person, that was a lot of their day was they were walking through the factory and just taking videos of people working on the machines, and they would just go up and, "What are you working on today? Explain this a little bit." And it was just on a phone. It was just on a phone. And then just lightly touched up just to make sure it was clear and in the right format before putting it out. And if it worked greatly, it worked perfectly for blog content, also for ads. They work really, really well for ad campaigns, both for YouTube and Facebook. So, it's really that simple. I mean, the cost for them to create videos was very little, so you can do it as simply as that.
Jack: Yeah, I think we're seeing more of that, like you said, with lower attention spans being more and more common now, things like TikTok, whatever, YouTube Shorts are trying to emulate TikTok, a lot of the other video platforms are now trying to emulate TikTok in certain ways. You're getting a lot more, I know I've noticed it recently, and Google talked about this, like I said, at Google I/O, with the perspective side of things and how they're expanding. You can just click on a thing and follow up on the next question. So much of the content they showed was that vertical portrait-style video, which growing up in the '90s, just drives me insane because I've been telling people for years to, "Turn your phone sideways and film it landscape. That's how things are filmed," and now everyone films in portrait and all those skills are pointless and gone.
Adriana: Yep, yep. That's the nature of the '90s kid here.
Jack: It breaks my heart in many ways. But that's the thing, if you can get your answer in 15 seconds in a portrait video, whether that's a TikTok or a YouTube Short, it doesn't matter, whatever platform it is, why would you bother reading 2,800 words in an article that, right at the very end is, "And by the way, you need to use this particular thing." You could have told me that in 15 seconds.
Adriana: Yeah, exactly. It's not necessary.
Jack: I think that that totally ties into the other side of UX is understanding your audience and understanding what kind of people are going to be interacting with your content. Because if you're talking about a younger audience, well, I talked about it last year with Annie-Mai Hodge. We are talking about how so many people are turning to TikTok and YouTube as their search engine essentially, rather than... They don't even go to Google and don't even think about it. The first thing they look at. And I spoke to Glenn Gabe about this. He said his son was doing the same thing. The first thing they do is search it on TikTok before they even go to Google. They then use Google as the verification process. Like, "Okay, I saw this thing on TikTok, but TikTok is full of rubbish and liars and scammers and all kinds of stuff, so let me actually search this on Google just to..." But the initial search, the initial intent was TikTok. And I think, like you said, that can be a huge game-changer for so many clients, not even thinking about that space. And like you said, "Oh no, we don't have half a million dollars to rent out a studio and do a big production of all of our products." Have someone... When you mentioned the laser engraving thing there, I have seen those on TikTok and it's full of ASMR-type stuff where it's just like, "Zzzz," just buzzing around and spelling out a silly word or a rude phrase or whatever like, "Ah, it did a swear word into a piece of metal, hilarious." A million hits straight away. And little things like that, just doing that kind of a gonzo viral marketing, for want of a better phrase, can be such a powerful tool, even in 2022. It feels like it's an old outdated thing, but it's actually something that can be really, really relevant now as well.
Adriana: Absolutely. I mean, entertainment is one of the biggest factors of engagement in general. So entertain people, pull at them logically somehow. Yes, data matters, but people make decisions on a very emotional basis, so you've really got to keep them entertained. And yeah, written text may not be the best way for future generations, I can say at least, we're a lot more video savvy.
Jack: The millennials like us, we'll always text and maybe a little bit of video, but we'll lean on the text still. Don't worry.
Adriana: Yeah, I'm the same. I still read things a lot. I don't do video a whole lot. I watch TikTok, but it's not so often. I'm still listening to podcasts and reading things, and that's, I think, the main way that I consume content, other than Netflix, of course.
Jack: Yeah, me too. Me too.
Well, thank you, Adriana, for joining me. It's been an absolute pleasure. It's been a really interesting. I think we've covered a lot of stuff on this episode. It's been a really interesting conversation. We've gone all over the place from UX to KPIs to conversion funnels and everything in between.
Adriana: Well, thank you so much as well. This is really fun. I like the multifaceted conversations. I mean, that's SEO nowadays. It covers a lot of stuff!
Jack: That reinforces exactly what we said at the beginning, right? You can't talk about SEO without covering a bunch of other stuff. We've ended up spending five minutes talking about TikTok at the end.
Adriana: There you go!
Jack: So it's like, yeah, you start off talking about UX, you end up on TikTok. Welcome to SEO in 2023, to quote David Bank. Awesome. Well, Adriana, how can people follow up and follow you on social media and get in touch with your agency if they want to work with you and your team as well?
Adriana: Yes, so LinkedIn is probably the best way. You can also check us out on our website ASmarketingagency.com. I'm also on Twitter, but who knows what's happening with Twitter nowadays. Some strange things, so the safe ones are LinkedIn on the website.
Jack: Nice. Well listeners, links for both those things will be in the show notes, so it'll be nice and easily accessible. You can go follow Adriana on LinkedIn and Twitter if Twitter is still a thing by the time this podcast comes out. Who knows? Like you said, who knows with Twitter?
Adriana: Who knows?
Jack: It's changing on a daily basis, it feels like.
Jack: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining me, Adriana. It's been an absolute pleasure.
Adriana: Thanks so much, Jack.
Jack: And that wraps us up for this week's episode of Search with Candour. Thank you once again to Adriana Stein for joining me on this week's episode. It was a really, really interesting conversation. I really, really enjoyed that, and I will have a couple more BrightonSEO speakers coming up in the next few weeks as well, so stay tuned for that.
Of course, we will be announcing all of the stuff coming up for our livestreams with SISTRIX coming up in June as well over the next couple of weeks, and of course, lots of other fantastic guests and other things planned for the future of Search with Candour over the next few months leading up to BrightonSEO in September as well, where I will hopefully be running around getting clips and all that kind of stuff from the show floor like I did last October as well.
So stay tuned for all that stuff. Thank you so much for listening and have a lovely week.