Our baby is growing up! On Tuesday we celebrated Peak Ace on Air’s first birthday with a relaxed but super-informative episode about where SEO, paid search and PPC are going. Bastian and Domi were joined by Peak Acers Julia Riml and Paul Draegert, our PPC and Paid Social experts respectively. Plus, we welcomed special guests Cindy Krum, CEO of MobileMoxie and Mike King, Founder of agency iPullRank, both calling in from the United States at a very early hour of the day!
First: writing is hard!
To kick off the episode, Mike told us about his upcoming book, The Science of SEO, about the technological side of SEO. No one really knows how Google’s algorithm works, but you can get close – Mike walks us through how you would build a search engine, so you can understand how the computer science works in context. He’s still working on it – so look out for it sometime in 2022. Cindy, (who has also written a book) recommended a Ted talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, on the subject of writing – check it out if you’re curious.
What’s the current state of affairs of Google SERPs, and what will we see in the next 6-12 months?
Getting things started, Cindy said that voice-activated search will be a much bigger thing, with the added element of answering questions in that context. Secondly, we’ve seen an uptick in interactive graphs since COVID – the hot new thing will be marking up data sets for an interactive display, just like featured snippets, so that the data will be visualised in the SERP. Domi and Bastian agreed that that could be part of a general change in search results with lots more opportunities for content coming with this data visualisation feature.
Google: is it good enough?
Our expert panel got into an interesting discussion about the pitfalls of Google as an entity and the relationship between it and SEOs. Mike raised the point that SEOs do a lot for Google, providing inputs to help it to provide better data to users. Google needs to keep improving to get more context about the user, their proclivities, devices, on its quest to be the presentation layer of the internet.
Cindy added that the web is becoming a central repository of data that can be drawn upon and presented in a multitude of ways. We need to get better at how we surface this information: Google will insist that SEOs structure their data, but Google needs to do its part too. Bastian added that Google doesn’t help itself by staying so fragmented, with different sources in each country and each language, and being so much worse in any language other than English.
Google is bad at facts
Despite Google being the place people go to for reliable information. Mike said, Google is still bad at telling fact from fiction. This is really important as Google is basically a public service at this point. Plus, as Cindy said, it has a long way to go when it comes to authenticating content. Telling real from fake will be essential for becoming the entertainment layer it wants to be. This was especially relevant during the US elections last year (as Paul told us about at the time). Trustworthy news sources will print corrections or retract information if they get something wrong – untrustworthy sources, like people on social media, won’t. This is a huge problem in the case of, oh I don’t know, someone calling an election early for themselves…!
A hole in the Internet: How to answer a negative?
A really interesting discussion was of how Google actually answers questions where there is no clear source in the Internet for the data. Cindy’s example: “Is Joe Biden an alien?” If no one has written anything answering this question, it leaves it open to any page that ranks highly because of keywords, potentially directing people to wrong information. Plus, Google is limited by its language versions. If someone has written the big “Joe Biden is not an alien” article, but only in Italian, then Google can only answer that question in Italian.
Full funnel tips: get all the data!
Mike’s tip for improving measurement and conversions was simply to get as much information as possible and store it for yourself. Get users to log in and enrich the email address with FullContact or ClearBid and track every event. Storing the data you gather for yourself in BigQuery as soon as possible will also ensure you can hang onto it if anything happens.
Could a new Apple search engine compete with Google?
Bastian raised the topic of Apple developing a new search engine and Cindy replied: they’ve already tried to do this once and it didn’t work. An Apple search engine would not pose a threat to Google because its data is too limited, within an exclusive, closed environment. Meanwhile, Google takes data first and asks questions later, creating the broadest possible pool as possible. Or, as Mike put it, “Apple Maps tells you everything you need to know.”
Competition would be no bad thing according to Julia. Google’s near-monopoly on search means that the SEO and PPC world is really at its mercy.
Neeva, the subscription-based search engine
And what about Neeva, the new, paid-for search engine? Well, despite the excitement from venture capitalists, our panel isn’t convinced that it will really be worth the money – or achieve the popularity that people think it might do. A search engine with improved privacy and a price tag will most likely only be used for the most sinister or embarrassing searches according to Cindy – not something Neeva will want to be associated with. Plus, it will only reach an audience already more concerned with privacy like DuckDuckGo users. Most people think of Google search results like water from a tap: they don’t think about its implications. Since people don’t *feel* their privacy being violated, they’re not all that motivated to protect it with a pricier, more private search engine.
How to rock SEO in 2021? Be like a diamond
Cindy’s advice: be like a diamond. Make sure that as a business, you are multi-faceted in your online presence and your content. That means creating original text, content, podcasts, videos, even images. As Google’s stock photo detection is improving, an easy shortcut to higher rankings will be to make sure your images cannot be found anywhere else online.
Content disparity and natural language generation
Answering Bastian’s questions about the big issues in 2021, Mike mentioned a threat and a potential boon. The threat: a content disparity issue with mobile-only indexing. What could be big and fun: creating content at scale with natural language generation. Apparently at iPullRank they are already experimenting with this, auto-generating content in response to keywords. Mike said it will change the fact of SEO in the next year or so. Good as it is for short texts though, he said it will still need a human to read it over – so at least my job’s safe.
Paid social ads in 2021: direct integration
Bastian asked Paul about the most significant developments in social for this year. The answer: tracking and privacy, as with anything else. The private click measurement protocol will hopefully reach Apple soon.
Direct integration into social platforms should also be a big change. Paul said the whole checkout process should be available within the social media platform without having to go to the website to avoid tracking issues. This integration will also make creating lookalike audiences easier!
If you’re buying ads in social: test, test and test some more
Cindy raised the point that social ads can be tricky when you jump from platform to landing page. Make sure you test your ads on the web social media conversion funnel, and on Android, and on the Apple app as these can be wildly different and even block the user from converting.
What will be the hot topics in PPC in 2021?
Julia said that higher prices will be really important to keep an eye on in PPC this year, especially for agencies. Plus, you’ll have to identify yourself and verify your business in order to become a Google Ads Advertiser to keep users safer. Basically, as always, privacy will make things harder for PPC and the main concern with Google Chrome.
Google core web vitals: a lot of fuss over nothing?
Wrapping up the episode, Bastian brought up Google’s new core web vitals and page experience updates, saying that while Google is pushing it really hard, will it really make such an impact as it says? As Cindy threw in as a final comment: “If they’re gonna make a big fuss out of it, then they need to make sure their API and all the tools can pull out some consistent data!”.
Phew! If this extra-long recap tells you anything, it’s that this episode was absolutely packed with insights and expert opinions you won’t want to miss, so do watch the full video above for all the details. We’ll be back next week with our organic search update for March!