Chris Raines: Well, hello there. Welcome to episode... I ought to check our thing here... 18.
Michael Utley: Happy Friday.
Chris Raines: Happy Friday. Or Thursday or Sunday or whatever day it is when you're listening to this or watching this on YouTube. Welcome to the Dodgeball Marketing Podcast. This is episode 18. Michael?
Michael Utley: Yes, coincidentally the last one we're recording of 2020. What a year.
Chris Raines: What a year.
Michael Utley: Yeah, we'll save that for another podcast.
Chris Raines: At the time of this recording, we have two presidents. So that's kind of fun, but hopefully by the time we record again the world won't be on fire.
Michael Utley: Yeah, by the time this gets published, everything will be fine.
Chris Raines: You really want to have the only one president and not the two. Okay, cool. So what we're going to do? We're going to talk about 2021. And we're titled this one, SEO Trends to Watch in 2021.
Michael Utley: Yep. SEO in 2021. SEO Trends to Watch. So SEO in there twice.
Chris Raines: SEO, SEO, SEO. Because we got to stuff that keyword in the YouTube title.
Michael Utley: That's right.
Chris Raines: All right, Michael, I'm going to interview you for this one because you're the big SEO brain of the operation here.
Michael Utley: That'd be Ross Jens, but yeah.
Chris Raines: Yeah, Ross is great. But I'm going to ask you... This is basically kind of what your predictions are for 2021. So we'll be able to play this a year from now and embarrass you thoroughly on the ones that you got wrong and then praise you for all the ones you did get right?
Michael Utley: I'm going to use the clip editor in YouTube to clip out the ones that...
Chris Raines: We'll go back and forth.
Michael Utley: There's going to be a three minute video [crosstalk 00:01:28]
Chris Raines: I will not be made a fool of... Okay, cool. So, thing number one here is BERT. And we're not talking about the Sesame Street character and we're not talking about Bert Kreischer. We're talking about BERT, the...
Michael Utley: The Google algorithm...
Chris Raines: Okay. What's going on with BERT? What do you think is going to happen with BERT and also what is BERT?
Michael Utley: So BERT is a big update to Google this year and it's going to have a lot of implications. So BERT, it's essentially sort of an acronym, but I'm not even going to get into that because it essentially means AI. It's essentially AI-driven search. So Search Engine Land has a really great example in their article. It would be the difference in intent between the following two searches, nine to five and quarter to five. This is a great example. It was a really, really insightful example from Search Engine Land.
Michael Utley: Nine to five, the word to there means from point A to point B. Quarter to five means this much before the five. So they both have to do with time.
Chris Raines: So both use the word to, but they're used differently.
Michael Utley: It would be easy to see there being an algorithm where you kind of know this is about time, this is about understanding what time it is, the word to here is doing this.
Michael Utley: So there are a lot of ways in natural language, especially with longer form searches when we're using a verbal query to a device like Alexa or Siri, where we're using a lot of prepositions. And a lot of what's happened with search over this last year has changed how we're using search engines. We're using search engines with audible searches more now than ever. And so Google has made a pretty big change this year and it's going to have a lot of implications.
Michael Utley: So the biggest thing that I'm highlighting today is that different people are going to see different things. So there's some other changes, but this moved towards more natural language and AI. It's going to result in a change in sequential searches. So those are going to be more and more accustomed to what someone's trying to accomplish.
Michael Utley: And little bits of... [Crosstalk 00:03:46].
Chris Raines: It's Google looking at your words, but looking past your words and trying to ascertain your intent behind the words.
Michael Utley: Yes. So it's going to be more of a shift to focus on intent. And I can't prove this or anything, but I think we've really seen a change in the behavior of a lot of websites' performance over the last 30 days. We produce a lot of content for our clients around how to do things or how to find a good contractor to do this or this particular healthcare condition, for maybe a dermatologist. A lot of that how-to content has helped our sites jump up in the last 30 days because Google essentially got closer to us trying to be helpful on content.
Chris Raines: Google's catching up with you. Okay, number two. Let me ask you about... A lot of people use tools. SpyFu, there's SEMrush, there's a bunch of others. They kind of look at where am I placing for this keyword? And what's my domain authority and who is my competition? Where are they placing? How are tools like that... Is that going to change at all in terms of their accuracy, in terms of how they're able to give you a snapshot of what's actually going on in Google?
Michael Utley: I really think it is. I think it's going to be a tough time for SEO folks who are used to using these tools as if they're a statement of truth. Here's what I think we're going to have going forward. So for years, we've had a Google search, there might be anywhere from 100 to 200 different factors going into what search engine results are for a particular search, including things like where in the world is the person, where are they? If you do a search for a local business provider, Google is showing you something local to you, while if you're doing a search for a topic and you just did another search, well, now Google may be taking into account that search you just did seconds ago. And if it's a similar topic, then maybe they may think you're still working on that.
Michael Utley: So how are search engine tools like keyword tracking tools going to replicate in their spot checks and their efforts? It's going to get harder. We've already seen this with localization searches. So we can't always replicate a search in Nashville that we can see when we have a client or we even simulate or try to replicate searches based on different geographical locations. But now that's just going to get more confusing or more complicated in terms of replicating. So we don't think these tools are going to become worthless. What we think everyone's going to have to do is treat them like we always have, which is they're directional. If things are moving up, things are probably getting better. If things are moving down, they're probably getting worse.
Chris Raines: But you shouldn't freak out about, "Oh no, we were in position five. Now we're in four, with five it seems like..."
Michael Utley: Don't worry about it. You're probably not in five. You were probably in five for that one search. You might've been in two for some searches and you might've been in 18 for some searches. For that term, during the same period of time...
Chris Raines: Depending on who's searching?
Michael Utley: Because of who, what else they're doing. And the complexity that's just gone. Not just in a further direction of more complexity, but with the BERT update factor 10 minimum, it's an exponential change in complexity.
Chris Raines: All right, Michael. Let's talk about two. This is one of your kind of forward-looking predictions, but how do you think... We already know Google does this, certain websites get the de-indexed by Google, certain websites get squashed because the content's low quality, or it's... We've heard the fake news phenomenon. If they're low reliable websites, a lot of misinformation on medical stuff, like all kinds of stuff that, and Google sees itself as for right or for wrong. However you want to look at it, that's the arbiter of what people should see, what's valuable to be seen by all these various publishers.
Michael Utley: That's right.
Chris Raines: How is that? Do you see that staying like it is? Backing off and becoming more of a blank platform or accelerating into more curation, more choosing who's going to be shown and who's not?
Michael Utley: Yeah, I don't. So we're going on a bear hunt. There's no way around this problem. Google makes up so much of the market share right now, and the conditions, the political and social conditions right now for Google, for political, social, community-oriented events. Who's a good guy, who's a bad guy? They're very similar to when we were going into the medic update. Google was receiving a lot of political pressure to not disseminate bad healthcare information. So the medic update was a specific corrective to that. Well, now, Google's in really a no-win situation. They essentially own the marketplace of ideas for search engines, and what's happening is a lot of society is becoming more politicized. And so I think we're due for... Oh, and the tech giants are being called before Congress again.
Michael Utley: So we're in maybe the third big highlight of that in the history of this current wave of tech giants. I'm thinking about Facebook, Twitter, Google, in terms of being arbiters of truth. So yeah, the political conditions are ripe for another thing like the medic update, but applied to good guys, bad guys in the political spectrum.
Michael Utley: In a way, I think what's going to happen is that's going to be rolled out in a way that has implications beyond what Google even intends. And I think it will potentially put them at risk of further pressure from Congress.
Chris Raines: Yeah, and I would add to that even. I think it opens up the door for even more of a fissure of distribution of the market share. So as good as Google tamps down more on sites, one example is sites like Breitbart are just completely de-indexed. You can't find them on search. So I think more of that will start to happen.
Chris Raines: And people will start to go to different... You have DuckDuckGo that is gaining market share. So I think you're going to see a little bit more of movement around, of people that want more. They want things that they know that they can't get. They'll start to think like, "Well, Google's not going to give me what I want because they don't think I should have it. So I'm going to go to DuckDuckGo or Bing or whoever to get it."
Chris Raines: So I think that'll be another secondary effect. Google will still be dominant, very dominant, but you're going to see other search engines that are acting more like platforms. And just kind of like a blank algorithm. They're not sort of pushing the scales anywhere. I think you'll see search engines like that take a little bit more and more market share.
Michael Utley: I think so too. We've got that in here as well. [Crosstalk 00:10:56]
Michael Utley: But I think that we're going to have this spread beyond just news sites to things like... Well, think about this. And we're not trying to be political or take a side, but for SEO professionals and companies, if you have language on your site that at some point gets culturally deemed to be either hateful or transphobic or gendered, this is going to be like having informal wellness advice before the medic update.
Michael Utley: You might think that you're providing people tips on how to get better sleep at night, and that it's just kind of a wellness thing that you're just kind of bumping up against, but it's being perceived suddenly after the medic update as, "Well, it sounds like you're trying to provide healthcare advice. And we don't see the credibility. We don't see the incoming dot edu and dot gov links. We don't see your domain authority being such that you sort of merit the opportunity to do that."
Michael Utley: We've had websites that got into the realm of self-help content that are pretty big sites with a lot of traffic, that if they touch on something that's more about psychological health, they've gotten dinged because it was falling into that healthcare category a bit too close for comfort.
Michael Utley: So yeah, I think conditions are ripe for a big push that can happen inadvertently just with a domain update of trying to do the right thing and trying to minimize the influence of foreign parties on our elections, trying to minimize the spread of hate speech. There are a lot of companies doing legitimate business that's not political. They can easily be adjacent to this stuff just by virtue of language changing without us realizing how much it's changing.
Chris Raines: All right. Next, we've got new sites and ranking fast. So up until this point, how long did it take a new site to rank and are you able to rank sites fast and will you continue to be able to do it?
Michael Utley: We used to be able to get a new site going in ranking for something within like three to six months pretty easily. And I would say that now we're feeling more like a year. If we start a new local roofing company and it's a new domain, it's really taken us a year to get them showing up on page one for their local market. And it's really stretched out.
Michael Utley: This is called Price's law, "whoever's winning is going to win more, whoever's losing is going to lose harder." So, "to whom much is given more will be given also. He who has little will even have that taken away." This is very Biblical.
Michael Utley: But we think [of] Price's law with... The higher SEO becomes more sophisticated and the better Google gets at pointing to the past as a way to understand the present, the harder it's going to get for somebody who didn't exist in the past to get established in the present.
Michael Utley: Just kind of common sense here, but just in terms of what we're seeing, I'd say five years ago, I could start working on a website and within, 30, 60 days, page one. And now that's just nowhere near the case.
Chris Raines: Yeah. All right. We have time for one more, Michael. Which one do you want to do here? We've got, I think a couple more left. What do you want to talk about?
Michael Utley: I think the one that you touched on earlier, watch for the rise to alternatives to Google.
Michael Utley: So we've been optimizing for Google, and Bing, and Yahoo for quite some time and that's gotten comfortable. I'm seeing a lot of people talking about DuckDuckGo because they like the privacy aspects of that, and the not being tracked.
Michael Utley: You've also got some advertising that's going to happen. And I think that investors and the sort of investor class are going to see some opportunity and going after some market share. I saw recently someone said, "If you want to build a business, look for a profitable company that owns a fax machine."
Michael Utley: I thought that was really good. Look for a profitable company that still has some outmoded thinking. And I think consumers are more sensitive to privacy now, and that lack of transparency and the struggle to sort of know what your rights are with Google? It feels like a fax machine to me right now.
Michael Utley: So I think somebody is going to be coming for Google and we can watch for DuckDuckGo or somebody else over the next year to be a kind of a hot rock star in the space and become a new basic and maybe even get up to maybe like 10% market share, which would be a lot of money, which would be huge.
Chris Raines: And then make them a real player. That's a lot of users, 10% of users is a lot of users.
Michael Utley: I'm positive and optimistic on the trend of another search player coming into the space.
Chris Raines: Competition is good.
Michael Utley: We haven't had a new player in the pantheon of tech titans in a while.
Chris Raines: It's been 20 years [crosstalk 00:15:55]
Michael Utley: Yeah, for search Google's been. It used to be Yahoo. Yahoo was a really big deal for a while and even bought Overture as a paid search platform. But Google AdWords was such a simple interface, came out, shot right past Yahoo and their Overture layout for ad buying was too technical. But yeah, somebody is going to come along and beat them.
Chris Raines: All right. That's it. Look, we can replay this in a year and we'll see how right we were. But I think those are good predictions, Michael. So I hope that you enjoyed that and we'll see you on the next one.
Michael Utley: Thanks so much.