The In Search SEO Podcast
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Summary of Episode 52: Making Your Brand & Products Discoverable on Google & Beyond
- How to be discoverable by gobbling up as much market share as possible
- Taking advantage of review sites for discoverability
- Where Search fits into the discoverability picture
Plus, we take a look at the impact of the holiday season on the presence of PLAs on the SERP!
PLA Data Trends for the 2019 Holiday Season [02:43 – 12:37]
Some really good SEO folks out of South Africa, David Jenkins and Chris Avery, of the Mickley Lew SEO agency, asked Mordy if he could pull some data on PLAs during the holiday season for South Africa and the world in general so Mordy did just that! All he did was took a look at PLA levels as of Nov 1st And then again as of Nov 30th. (And yes, while the holidays end at the end of December, we’re referring to the holiday season of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday). Mordy chose November 1st because things were relatively stable with the SERP feature at the time (since PLAs spike frequently), but it does mean the data is a little limited…so we’re just focusing on the general trend here. That said, Mordy did check if there were crazy spikes that directly preceded or followed the dates being used so in some cases made adjustments. For example, if on Nov. 30th there was a crazy spike which then returned to normal on Dec 1st, Mordy used the Dec. 1st data instead.
Enough chit chat. Let’s get to the data!
Here’s what Mordy found on the percentage of SERPs that contain at least 1 PLA (on page 1)
Now here’s what’s fickle about this data. Check out the same data but for 2018:
Now here’s where it gets super crazy. Here are the average number of PLAs on page 1 in 2019 comparing Nov. 1st to Nov. 30th:
And now here’s the average number in 2018:
This is really interesting data as it a) helps you understand how competitive the PLA market is this time of year relative to the past and b) how competitive the SERP now that there are more PLAs competing for clicks. Mordy has to imagine that more SERP pages with PLAs means getting organic clicks will be harder… so if you see your traffic is down and you’re in a relevant vertical, have a look and see if PLAs are showing up for your queries.
On Making Your Brand a Site Discoverable: A Conversation with Garrett Mehrguth [13:15 – 43:59]
[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]
Mordy: Welcome to another In Search SEO podcast interview session… Today we have with us a prolific industry speaker, a Marketing Land author, and CEO of Directive Consulting, he is Garrett Mehgurth!
Garrett: Thank you! It’s great to be here.
M: Before we get started, give a quick Garrett fun fact we might be surprised to hear.
G: This is a sad story. I tore my Achilles ten weeks ago and I retore it last week. It wasn’t fun, but I tore it twice. The first time I was playing soccer and the last time was in the shower. But you know that’s how life is, you can’t really forecast it. It’s an interesting fact, but I’m excited to be here today.
M: Well I hope you feel better, Garrett. So today we’re going to talk about discoverability, but before we begin what do you mean by being discoverable or “discoverability?”
G: The whole point of why search marketing exists is that people want to be found or discovered when their ideal customer persona or target market is searching for the product or service that they sell. That’s the whole purpose of discoverability. But for some reason that turned into how to rank for keywords and it changed the way we do our jobs. We got away from the fundamentals of what search marketing is. I’m trying to get marketers back to what is realistic to the environment of the SERP landscape and help people think practically how about they are discoverable. The whole point people hire SEOs is to be discovered, but for some reason, it turned into getting backlinks and ranking websites with keywords.
M: So you must be happy with machine learning and how it makes SEO a little more holistic than it was a few years ago.
G: I’m excited that the average marketer is much more educated. More people know what SEO and PPC are and are more knowledgeable about the expected results. And it’s very difficult to generate those expected results because the landscape is so competitive. People seem to forget it’s a competition to get on the SERP where you have to either displace one of the top ten results to achieve market share or identify opportunities that already exist and position yourself on those opportunities.
Theoretically, you have two options to be discoverable organically. You can show up on a paid list or review site that already ranks like Yelp, Clutch, G2Crowd, Capterra, or Software Advice. These are places where you can either pay-to-play or get reviews and show up. The other option is to get your own website to show up which theoretically is more difficult because if you’re not there you have to displace someone whereas for a third party website that’s already there you can just position yourself on it. And ranking on a third-party site is free, not financially, but that it’s more secure because you don’t have to displace someone. If you think simplistically and about game theory it makes more sense how you can win.
M: You mention you’re competing with the first 10 organic results, but I would say that you’re also competing with all the SERP features on the page. How does discoverability work out in an era with so many SERP features?
G: Well discoverability comes down to if you’re on the SERP features or not and if you’re not then we might want to work on being discoverable depending on the purchase intent or stage of someone in that funnel. If we deem there’s an opportunity of revenue then we have to consider if it’s worth the time, resources, and attention that we’ll have to take away from other activities to get that SERP feature. It’s a constant analysis one must do and world-class consultants know how to prioritize. If you prioritize correctly from all available options and select the right ones on a consistent basis then you will drive results.
M: How would that work if you’re selling a product and Google is showing all sorts of product carousels. Even if your product is on the carousel, how do you get yourself discoverable when users can’t see your brand and you’re stuck on the Google property?
G: I disagree. First off, going from left to right has poor clickthrough rates so now Google works on a vertical model because you can generate statistically more significant clickthrough rates. And those SERP features are usually indicative of other results from the rest of the page. But that to me is a little less valuable. We know the #1 organic result has about a 30% clickthrough rate so it’s no longer that you need to be in the top ten, you need to be in the top five if you want statistical significance for any given term and the volume of that term is indicative of how much traffic you get.
M: Beyond that, I would argue you will need to be above the fold. There are cases where there are 3 or even just one organic results above the fold.
G: Right, and the question people need to ask is can I be discoverable in as many places as possible with returns on ROI and not can I show up for more terms. What I found was that trying to show up for “more terms” leads to diminishing marginal returns in the short term compared to thinking how can I show up more often for the “right terms.” Discoverability is about taking as much market share for returns that you know are driving revenue based on your search term report, your Google Ads account, or based on any type of attribution that you have.
So the goal isn’t always to show up for “more” keywords especially if you’re an SEO consultant when you’re usually needed for only a short amount of time and you need to quickly show that you can bring in results so that you can build trust with your client. A lot of the times it’s about going deeper for the right terms than trying to show up for more terms.
M: I very much agree. You brought up review sites and I noticed that Google has an increased preference to review sites. I’ve done a study that for particular software queries, 70% of the SERP is occupied with review sites, i.e., not sites that you can buy what you’re looking for. How do you control the narrative of a review site?
G: So each one operates in different ******. I’ve been evangelizing the value of review sites for the last three years. We work with one of the largest brands in the world and we helped them build closed-loop analytics and a lot of times they actually have a 230% lower cost per opportunity from third-party review sites for the same keywords they’re running Google Ads on. So compared to Google Ads you can have an exponentially lower cost per opportunity.
There’s a couple of reasons for this. One of them I call the Amazon effect. Essentially we’ve been programmed that if we’re going to buy a $5 breakfast burrito that we’ll do research on the best $5 breakfast burritos. Simultaneously, if a consumer would do research on a burrito they would for sure do research on a $250,000 software. Google knows this so when you modify software queries with things like top Vespa reviews and you’re indicative of purchasing intent… if you search for top erp software you’ll see that all the results are review sites, there’s not even one organic listing. It’s not because Microsoft doesn’t have a strong marketing department that’s targeting that term, it’s because Google is saying that their users are looking for peer reviews and trusted resources.
Now to answer your question, Capterra runs on a CPC model, G2 runs on a SaaS model, Software Advice runs on a CPR model, and others like Clutch run on a public retainer model where you pay a flat monthly rate. Now Capterra and Software Advice are both owned by Garter. This is important because if you’re in software then you only need to get a review on one site and share it across both platforms which makes it easier instead of having to ask consumers to leave reviews on multiple platforms. They also own GetApp. Across our SaaS portfolio (we have over 300 SaaS friends over the past few years), we are seeing world-class results with publicly traded and private companies from spending on these third-party review sites.
M: I’m wondering to what extent these companies are buying reviews?
G: You can but you can’t buy reviews. Some require LinkedIn verification. For some, you have to put where you work, and if you try to get your employees to add a review it will get flagged. It’s like Yelp reviews, if you send direct links it will get flagged, and if they come from similar IP addresses it will get flagged. They do a decent job as it’s not as bad as Amazon. They do help you so if you want you can upload a customer list and they’ll run a review campaign for you. These are helpful in getting you reviews and I don’t think there’s as much fraud compared to other channels so for the most part you are getting real reviews from real people.
M: That’s good to hear. Speaking of Amazon, to what extent are SEOs too focused on search and not focused on Amazon independent of search?
G: It really goes to discoverability. If your ideal persona is looking for a product you sell and Amazon is taking a significant part of that buyer journey and you’re not on that platform you have to ask yourself if you have a way to acquiring customers at a lower customer acquisition cost than paying the Amazon fee. If you do then it makes logical sense, but at the end of the day if you’re not on Amazon in a products sense it can be difficult as most people when searching for products are going directly to Amazon and searching from Amazon, not even from Google. My wife and other people in my family do exactly that. I myself do that. So there is power in being in that marketplace you just have to look at your margins and ask if it makes sense financially.
M: In cases where it’s hard to break into the SERP, to what extent does it make sense to branch out to become visible be it banner ads or whatever, where the user avoids the search and goes straight to you?
G: There’s a ton of wisdom there and my deck for next year is all about how to build your brand. If you look in an attribution model, almost always your best cost per acquisition is from your direct traffic yet most of us aren’t doing anything to build brand new traffic because we don’t see immediate ROI. And we’ve been tricked into this belief that only things that are valuable are trackable and drive x amount of ROI. So we go about our day buying backpacks, swag, cold brew, kombucha, etc. when we could have just gone on LinkedIn, done a text ad, done CPC bidding instead of CPM, and then generate a ton of impressions. For example, I was just able to generate over 2 million impressions over my exact impression for $2,000. That to me is hyper-valuable. All of these people are being tagged and being remarketed to. All of those people I can run remarketing lists for search ads for a lower CPA than my traditional search ads.
Here’s the problem with a lot of things. If you can build your audience and then run remarketing lists for search ads then you intrinsically got the number one part of search marketing right which is timing. In other words, you built your audience with the right persona and then you positioned yourself to be discovered when the timing is right. If you can do those things on a consistent basis then you can be highly effective.
M: That’s interesting. If you could advertise on Nascar and gain that visibility is that something you would do? To have your brand visible in a way that doesn’t result in clicks or traffic but simply brand awareness?
G: Oh, yeah, I mean, I don’t think I would do Nascar.
M: I’m just using it as an example but yeah, I wouldn’t use it either.
G: To give you a realistic example, I **** podcast ads. We closed close to half a million dollars in podcast ads. I like Freeway Sponsored By ads like Adopt a Highway so instead of paying $15,000 a day for a billboard you can pay $500 a month for the Adopt a Highway sign right below it. I like airport ads that have your ideal persona. I’m entirely a friend of brand. There’s nothing better you can do than to build people that actually have a desire to work with you so even when they don’t have brand recall where they don’t go directly to you but they still search, I want them to have heard of me before they find me. If you search for what I offer and you have purchase intent you will discover my brand. The question is will you have an affinity to use me over someone else. Will I be one of the three tabs that you have open when you schedule a quote and if I am I know I can win 30% of the time. And that’s my goal.
M: That’s one of my qualms of the favicons. I’ll only click on the brand that I know over one I don’t know.
G: Correct and that right there allows you to overcome some of the SERP realities by building brand affinity and it creates a moat around encumbrance in your marketplace.
M: If you could pick two digital platforms where you can shoot for advertising to increase visibility and brand awareness, where would you go? Obviously, it depends on the vertical.
G: LinkedIn and LinkedIn.
G: If you’re in B2B nobody has the targeting they have.
M: So where do you rank Google Ads on the SERP?
G: Number two. Number one is third-party review sites and number two is Google Ads. As I said before, I have data that shows the 230% lower cost per opportunity with review sites than Google Ads
M: Before we end off, if you’re a small brand thinking about being more visible what are some general tips you’ll give?
G: Yeah, I call this “A Frappuccino a Day.” Take the amount of money you’re willing to lose, take a look at all the money that your CEO, the marketing team, HR, etc. spend on random stuff that you don’t know why they’re spending money on it. Or if you’re lazy you can just say, “I don’t mind losing $10 a day.” Make that your new brand budget and then go and have some fun.
Think about clarity. A lot of us have really bad taglines. Imagine an SEO software with the tagline, “Changing the way SEOs do business.” It doesn’t say that you’re an SEO software. When you do a branded ad what you want to do is not change human behavior but understand it and leverage it. In other words, no matter what, if you run a branding ad your clickthrough rate will be terrible. No one will click on display ads. So build ads that work without the click. I believe you should always say in any branding campaign what you do and who you do it for because you need to get that across without anyone ever clicking. Your landing page doesn’t matter if 98% of the people don’t click. You have to then ask yourself was I able to drive awareness of what I do and who I do it for.
Optimize It or Disavow It
M: If you had to do one over the other in order to build some discoverability… would you pay a review site to feature your product/service more prominently or would you just buy a ton of links to your own site?
G: I don’t buy links so I would just do the review site.
M: Do you link build at all?
G: Well, I am on this podcast. I do a ton of link building but I call it PR.
M: I’m totally with you on that. I’m just curious why you don’t buy links.
G: So a few years ago I tried backlinks and what I found that sites like Fat Joe or Audience Bloom are running on link networks and if you try finding these sites that are linking to you will most likely not find them on the SERP because due to the latest algorithms they are being ignored. And the crazy part of this, for a lot of SEO agencies this is accounting for 15-30% of their total budget and 60% of the total available resources of an account which maybe before will create a manual action and now creates nothing.
If someone is hiring an SEO agency for less than $6K a month, a lot of what they’re paying for is literally for that agency buying links and any agency that guarantees links is buying links. I tested this and found no statistical increase after buying links despite all of their promises and BS marketing. I don’t think it works and I believe it’s a misuse of resources that creates a misportrayal of what actually works on search engines.
M: Amen. Thank you so much, Garrett, for coming on. I really appreciate you taking the time. It’s been great. And good luck with your Achilles.
G: Thanks, glad to be here and thanks for having me.
SEO News [44:33 – 49:08]
Google has made BERT international!: Danny Sullivan announced that BERT is being applied to other languages than English… 70 languages to be exact.
Google Releases New Publisher Center: Google has launched a new publishing center. The new center makes it easier for publishers to manage multiple publications.
Google Planning New Guidelines for Pagination: It appears Google is getting ready to release new guidelines on paginated content being that rel=next/prev is no longer supported.
New ‘In Stock’ Feature in Google Images: Within image search, Google is now letting you know if the product reflected by the image is in stock on the site.
Google News Showing Multiple News Carousels: Big news for the News carousel on Google SERP. Google is now showing multiple news carousels for many queries with each carousel representing different topics related to the story.
Fun SEO Send-Off Question [49:08 – 52:49]
If Google could be described as an iconic historical quote, which one would it be?
Sapir took a quote from Winston Churchill: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
Mordy took his quote from the great Marilyn Monroe: “I’m selfish, impatient, and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I’m out of control, and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.