We brought Geoff Atkinson to the cast! Paul was say Atkins the first two times for the record, but maybe the podcast was cutting out. Who knows. Geoff had a ton of success taking Overstock’s SEO channel from 0 to 300 mil back in the day before it faltering from some Google penalties. Now he is heavy-duty on structured data, and after this cast, you’ll see why it may be a part of your upcoming marketing plan front and center.
Please excuse any spelling, grammar, word choice errors due to the transcription. Transcription provided by rev.com
Paul Warren: Hi. I’m Paul Warren.
Ryan Klein: And I’m Ryan Klein.
Paul Warren: And this is another episode of SEO is Dead and Other Lies. Ryan, how you doing on this fine day?
Ryan Klein: Doing pretty well, Paul. How’s it going, buddy?
Paul Warren: It’s going great, man. It’s pretty hot here in Orlando. We miss you. You must be enjoying the fine weather out there in Seattle. So, we have a very, very special guest for our podcast today, and I’ve actually been looking at this site, looking at some of the stuff he’s done, and listening to some previous podcasts he’s been on, and I’ve been very, very impressed with just what I’ve heard and the knowledge that he has, particularly on the schema side. His name is Geoff Atkinson. Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Geoff Atkinson: Thanks, Paul. Yeah. I’m the founder and CEO of Huckabuy.com. We’re an SEO software company that does a bunch of cool stuff. We automate structured data. We have a product called SEO Cloud. Formerly, I was the SVP of marketing at Overstock, and yeah, I’ve been looking forward to this podcast for quite some time, so great to be here.
Paul Warren: So, if you’re listening out there, this is going to be a little bit of a technical episode. I would say that the last schema episode we did actually did pretty well, so you are really going to get some good information out of this, especially taking advantage of that and kind of how things are going to change in the service going forward, and really, how to feed the Google beast, I guess, from a technical side. So, really, if you’re hitting all these things that we’re going to be talking about, you’re probably going to be doing pretty well.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah, for sure.
Paul Warren: So, let’s just dive right into some of these really good questions. So, how long have you been at Huckabuy?
Geoff Atkinson: Man, I think I’ve been doing it now for about five-and-a-half years. We actually started as an affiliate site. It was like a comparison shopping engine, plus you could see the prices, and you could also see all the coupons. It was an SEO play, and it was a bad decision because at the time Google didn’t like affiliate sites at all, so we were totally swimming upstream. It was just a terrible business model in general. But we built this pretty cool SEO automation technology that people that knew Huckabuy wanted to start licensing, and I honestly didn’t even know the value of a recurring revenue business and what a software business really meant, but we pivoted right into this software company. So, we’ve been doing that for about two-and-a-half years, and boy, that was a good decision. We’re doing great in terms of revenue. So, that’s what I’m focused on now. I’m the founder, and we’re a team here in Park City, Utah.
Paul Warren: Yeah. So, it sounds like it really just was kind of born out of really, I guess, some great processes and ideas that you had to facilitate that other business, which is amazing. I mean, when you think about how many people have probably a really good idea like that, that’s a part of their daily process, particularly in the SEO, that they never really think about, but that’s pretty cool that you were able to capitalize on it like that.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah, it was cool. I think after it got going… I can’t take any credit for the idea, because it just sort of became something, but what I realized after starting it, and after we pivoted, was that there was this huge gap in the SEO world around technical optimization, your conversation technically and directly with Google, and that the typical providers out there, whether they’re agencies or consultants, just were sort of scared of this area and just not tackling them, which is why I’m so excited to talk to you guys, because you guys are totally willing to tackle them.
In my opinion, from my Overstock background, it was such a big site that that was the SEO challenge. That was the real thing we had to do, was make this website talk to Google. I still think it’s a super important part of SEO, if not the most important, and so there was just this big gap where you could write all the content in the world you wanted, but if you weren’t having the right conversation with Google, none of that really mattered. So, I think of Huckabuy as really facilitating the best possible conversation with Google that you can have. We talk a lot about what Google’s perfect world looks like, like what does a website look like if it was built for Google and not for humans, and that’s really what we try to build our product around.
Ryan Klein: This is definitely an interesting topic because I think kind of more your, I don’t know, intermediate SEOs, maybe beginning SEOs, you got to do all this stuff for people, and not just Google. You have that consideration of the human element, but it’s like, this stuff is literally just for Google, so it’s just like this is… No one’s looking at this stuff. That’s why it’s an interesting conversation. It’s very-
Geoff Atkinson: Well, I think it’s great. Just the name of your podcast, SEO is Dead and Other Lies, is so relevant because you do hear that. You hear that SEO is dead and that you can’t do it anymore because you got to build everything for humans, and to a certain extent that’s true, but at the end of the day, they’re a machine, and they’re a robot, and if the robot can’t understand the website, nothing good is going to happen, and so you do have to have… There’s some very, I wouldn’t say rudimentary, they’re actually quite complex, technical moves you need to make in order to have the proper conversation. When you have that proper conversation, the results are pretty incredible. Basically, you do what Google says you should do, surprise, surprise, they give you a lot more organic search traffic. So, I love the title of the podcast.
Paul Warren: Thanks.
Ryan Klein: I’m into it, too. I’ve heard it, yeah, since I got started. I mean, I started maybe eight years ago. Paul’s about a decade, and even when I was starting, it was just like, well, this is a pretty cool industry, but it could be wrapping up any day soon already. I’m like, oh, that sucks for me. I just got started.
Paul Warren: Yeah, I’ve been hearing that for 10 years.
Geoff Atkinson: Oh, that’s not true at all, man. Yeah. SEO is not going anywhere. It is a huge part of the world economy, how you talk to Google, what Google does with your site. How much of the world’s economy flows through Google? It’s got to be enormous. So, I don’t see it going anywhere ever, and it’s just going to get more and more complicated as voice search starts expanding more and more, and you know there’s going to be something after voice search, where you think of something, and it searches for it, whatever, and those are all technical challenges that SEO experts will address, and technical SEOs and developers.
Ryan Klein: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:06:36]
Paul Warren: I think VR is going to be the next thing, too, is how do we serve new ads and things and organic information in VR, because eventually, it’s going to go into that space as well.
Geoff Atkinson: I totally agree.
Ryan Klein: Definitely, yeah, and augmented reality. Yeah, but it goes into your brain, of course it’s just going to be porn for days for everybody. That’s all it’ll be.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah. Once in a while you’ll have to buy something off Amazon, and then it’ll just [crosstalk 00:07:03]
Paul Warren: So, I know just from talking to SEOs and working at different places, schema is a really confusing concept to a lot of people, probably because I think Schema.org is a very confusing website. It’s not really user-friend for the laymen. Right?
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah.
Paul Warren: There’s a lot of information on there, and a lot of people don’t really know how to implement these things correctly, so they end up using maybe [inaudible 00:07:25] on WordPress. They use some sort of plugin, and then it doesn’t implement it the way that they want it. But you must see this all the time, because this is the main aspect of what you’re helping people with, but what do you think are some of the things that people get wrong on websites all the time?
Geoff Atkinson: Oh, man. There’s so many things people get wrong on websites all the time. Probably the biggest thing that I notice is just how little thought is given towards how does the site respond when a search bot comes and crawls it. I argue that in any given day the most important visitor is that Google bot, and what’s their experience look like? Then you have sites that… How long does Google have to hammer home page speed for people to realize that they need to have fast page speed?
Paul Warren: Oh, man.
Geoff Atkinson: There’s tons of reasons why they want fast page speed. One is that there is a great reason for it when it comes to the users, but they have a very selfish reason for wanting page speed to be fast, and that is that every second that they’re waiting for a page to load, they’re not crawling and gathering information, and they’ll leave. Right? If the page is slow to load, or a site’s slow to load, they’ll just leave and take off, and that’s not good for either side. It’s not good for Google because they’re not getting all the information, and it’s not good for this company, because they’re not getting properly indexed, so I generally think… Another misnomer, I think, is that people talk all the time about the sort of conflict between a site that’s well designed for users, and a site that’s well designed for SEO.
I think a site… I’ve learned, and my experience has been a site that’s designed really well for SEO converts way better than almost any site you can A/B test for users. It’s because you’re literally giving people what they want. You’re architecting the navigation, for example, based on keywords that people are searching for, so it’s easy for them to find what they want using the terms that they use. So, I think there’s this disconnect that SEO is in a battle with the user experience. I actually think that SEO is simply building a site, giving the users what they want, and so how could that not be a great user experience?
I even know this from Overstock. When we’d do stuff strictly for SEO, conversion rates would jump. They’d get better. So, I think that’s a big issue, that people, one, don’t think about what’s the bot’s experience when they come to the site. We just care about what the user experience is. We spend tons of money and tons of time on IU, UX. Well, what’s the Google experience look like? Then secondly, that they’re different, that they’re different things, and in fact, I think they’re quite similar. You build a site really well for SEO, it’s going to be great for users as well.
Paul Warren: Yeah. I mean, I totally agree with you. I think Google spends a lot of time building a good experience for humans. Right? I mean, it’s the search engines that humans go to. So, their end result is a possible experience for humans. So, in a roundabout way, if you’re making a good experience for Google, you’re going to give a good experience to people.
Geoff Atkinson: I completely agree. Yeah, that’s what they want. Right? They have a single purpose, and that’s to organize the world’s information and serve it up to human beings in the best way possible, and a site that serves them well serves users well.
Paul Warren: So, one thing about site speed, though, because this made me think about it, like you were saying, a lot of people don’t do what Google just tells you to do. Right? I think if you were to Google site speed optimization, you’d probably get served something from Rand Fishkin, from Moz, and then there’d probably be a Neil Patel article in there, and then someone took all of those pages, and they tested them for site speed, and none of them were optimized for it.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah. Well, there’s a way around that now. Well, not totally, but yeah, site speed’s an interesting one. I can’t say I wouldn’t go to Huckabuy right now and probably test our site speed, although it’s getting a lot better. But one of the things that’s… I’d love to talk about this. I don’t know how much you guys know about dynamic rendering, but there is this huge movement that is not even a movement, because no one’s following it, but it’s a huge opportunity, and it’s something called dynamic rendering where you can actually make a version of your site just for Google, and they support that now, and they’re big fans of it, and no one’s adopting it.
They’ve almost thrown their hands up in the air and said, “You’re never going to listen to us. The front end’s always going to be really difficult. You’re going to have tons of dynamic content. Their page speed’s going to be awful, so just give us a version that we can handle and crawl and index and understand.” No one really has listened to this. Fortunately, I have a really smart CTO that picked this up the day that they announced it, but that’s what our whole SEO Cloud product’s about, is let’s build that perfect Google crawl experience in a version of the website, and host it in a cache, and we’re making everything instantly available, and just give them that. But yeah, people don’t listen as much as… So, an earlier comment about how much of the world’s economy flows through Google, for it to be that important, it’s amazing how little people listen to what they want.
Paul Warren: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a great tip about dynamic rendering. I mean, when you really think about the websites that Google really wants, they want something simple. You look at Wikipedia, right? It’s really simple.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah. Oh, that’s a perfect… That’s my number one example in sales calls. I say, “What’s the perfect website for Google? It’s Wikipedia.” It’s flat HTML, loads super fast, great content, obviously, that’s generated by users. That’s what they want. They want a simple experience.
Paul Warren: HTML, rich content, super simple, super fast. Yeah. So, if you have the option of doing that, which we all do, I don’t know why more people aren’t taking advantage of it. I guess it’s just lack of knowledge about it from the industry, probably.
Geoff Atkinson: I think it’s a big technical problem. I don’t think it’s lack of knowledge. Maybe it is. Maybe people just don’t know about it, but I think once you hear about it, it’s like, how do we do this? That’s a really big technical problem that fortunately, Huckabuy has set out to solve it, and we did, which I think is a really amazing IP that I think everybody should be taking advantage of. But yeah, I think it’s just a technical problem that… Think about it. If you have a WordPress site, and you turn into a big software company or whatever, you got a Shopify site, and you end up becoming this big ecommerce player, the sites get really complicated.
So, to take six to nine months and just say, “All right. We’re going to build the perfect version of this site for Google and ignore the human interaction for nine months or six months,” or whatever it is, what CMO is going to sign off on that? I would do it, from my Overstock days, but I think I’ve thought about things a lot differently than most CMOs. Who would do that deal, or even think of doing that? It’s very rare. So, we’ve provided a solution to try to solve that. They can get on SEO Cloud and have that perfect… Anybody can get on SEO Cloud and have that perfect interaction with Google in three weeks. But it is a big technical hurdle. It’s hard to do, and I think that’s why we don’t see it happening very often.
Paul Warren: Yeah, I know. I work in a space with very large websites in the franchise space, and so I was just thinking, man, how I would have to explain that, doing that all in-house, and the amount of time that it would take from the dev team and everything, to get our stakeholders, and I was like, man, I don’t even want to walk in the room with that. You know?
But when they heard it… So, actually, SAP was our very first customer on SEO Cloud, which my CTO absolutely hated because it’s a huge company, and it was still in beta, and I literally drew this up on the whiteboard for them, and they bought it. But they recognized the problem, and we had a very easy solution for them. So, you’re right. It’s like, where do you even begin to do that internally, and do you even want to fight for it? Because companies are political, and it’s such a nasty problem that it could go wrong very quickly.
Paul Warren: Absolutely.
Ryan Klein: Yes. Speaking about WordPress websites, as we know that there’s millions, if not tens or hundreds of millions of WordPress websites, and it’s come a long way for SEO nowadays, and we’re talking about it, and especially with your background, you know how bloated it is with code. You know how it’s no [inaudible 00:16:53] for load speed and for crawling. Is it just not a good idea? If you plan on making a website that’s just hundreds of thousands of pages, is it even feasible for a company to be able to alter the framework nowadays for structured data or crawling?
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah. This is probably the best way to put it. So, I think WordPress is actually great. Huckabuy.com is on WordPress. You can get a long way without really any technical chops, but there are then… When you get bigger, there are serious limitations. So, essentially, the product of WordPress is targeted to nontechnical people. So, nontechnical people can build a site, they can build a blog, whatever they want, and they can get a very far way. The problem is that there is information, there is data that technical people have access to, like the developers, that WordPress can’t have access to, and that’s when it becomes a problem.
So, say you have whatever it is that you want to display on a page, or you want something to get pulled in, and WordPress doesn’t have a plugin or whatever built for it, or even if they do, it might be a jenky plugin that slows down page speed, or all sorts of things. Once you sort of eclipse a certain point, there’s information that you’re going to want to pull into the site. There’s page speed issues, and things that technical people can pull off that the WordPress platform literally just can’t. But it does get you so far down the field that it’s worth it at an early stage.
So, I think my biggest takeaway about WordPress is that it is targeted for nontechnical people, and so you can get a long way without development, but then there comes a certain point where you have great engineers, and you have great people that can work from the front end, and they’re very limited by WordPress, and that’s when they can kind of take over and take you to the next level where you have a site like Overstock or Amazon or Ebay, or whatever it happens to be. You just can’t run at a certain point with them. Then there are obviously SEO issues with the WordPress site. With Huckabuy, we’re on WordPress, but we use our own product, obviously. So, we have SEO Cloud, and none of those sort of crawl issues are an issue for us because we have that in place.
Ryan Klein: Okay. So, Yoast and All in One ain’t cutting it for all your SEO stuff? All that [crosstalk 00:19:29]
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah, definitely not. I mean, it’s a cool tool, and again, it gets you pretty far down the path. If you really care about SEO, and you realize that it’s a big important part of your business, and it’s what drives the top line and all sorts of things, you don’t want to be reliant on a plugin that can fail and bloat the code on your site and stuff like that. One of the things that’s shocking to me is I always thought of SEO as a really core competency at Overstock, so it was like, this is what we’re better than our competition at, and this is what makes us better. You think about how many companies are dependent, so dependent on SEO, and yet they don’t consider SEO a core competency or put money towards it or hire developers or hire whatever, it’s kind of mind-boggling. So, you do end up with these companies with a very dependent revenue channel through SEO. It could be 60%, 75% of hundreds of millions of dollars, and that they’re relying on Yoast plugins to get the job done instead of [crosstalk 00:20:36]
Ryan Klein: I guess it is a little frightening, isn’t it?
Paul Warren: It’s kind of terrifying, actually.
Geoff Atkinson: It’s super terrifying, yeah. I mean, we talk to huge public companies all the time, and a bunch of them are customers, and you’d be shocked at… At Overstock, I had something like 40-something people working on SEO, and at least more than half of them were developers. So, we invested super heavily, and it was $300 million of the revenue, so why wouldn’t you… You literally can’t spend enough, compared to any other channel. But you look at Fidelity, for example, we tried to talk and get in at Fidelity. They don’t even have a person to talk to. They don’t have a human being to talk to about SEO, which kind of blows my mind.
Paul Warren: Yeah. So, we work with medium size to… I mean, I work with a large company, but Ryan’s client base is the more medium size to smaller businesses.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, that is correct.
Paul Warren: So, for that, locals is a huge aspect of it, and there’s a lot of things that we just always recommend from a structured data standpoint to have on your site. So, what are some quick wins that you would give, just really for any site out there, to implement right away that you could see maybe an increase in click-throughs, or potentially even an increase in rankings?
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah. The first step is always just to make sure that the information is available. So, say you’re a local business, and you have… Even if you just have one location or you have two locations, make sure there is a page dedicated to that location so that you can display all the information that’s necessary for the structured data, you can display reviews, you can display images, all sorts of things like that. That’s always just kind of the first step I recommend with smaller businesses, is what is the information that’s really important from a structured data perspective, which often they don’t really dig into, and so you guys would probably help them with this, but what is the information that’s sort of critical, and that Google really wants? Let’s make sure that a site’s architected so that we are at least, even if we’re just displaying it in the HTML, we’re displaying it, and then let’s layer the structured data on top of it.
Probably the biggest mistake I see with local businesses is that they don’t have that. They don’t think to put a page on their site for each location that describes the location and what they’re doing, and so that’s sort of step one, I think, is to… What would be important for this small business, what does Google care about, and are we displaying in a way that then we can layer on structured data so that Google, when they come in, are like, “Yes, I got it. I got all the information I need about small business”?
Google is… Their revenue future is dependent on small business, so they’re going to do everything they can to enable small businesses to be successful on Google, and structured data obviously is speaking their language, so if you layer good structured data, good reviews, all the best practices on a small business, it can take off faster than an enterprise customer can, because they are really trying to absorb and display this information. It’s really a critical part of their own business model, and so they’re behind it.
Ryan Klein: Yeah. Speaking about local especially, and since we touched on this a little bit earlier, the voice component, I kind of want your take about the future of voice search and how it applies to some of the local businesses. Do you feel like we’re definitely going in that direction in 2019 and beyond, and is there any structured data for voice right now?
Geoff Atkinson: So, Google came out at their last Google IO and said that voice is almost completely based on structured data, and what’s interesting about it is the difference between voice and desktop or mobile is you don’t get back the 10 blue links. You get one answer back. So, there’s a win-or-lose situation. You’re either number one, or you’re gone. It is very dependent on structured data because… This was a great explanation that someone on my team came up with about voice search. If you make a voice search, the only time, and we actually have a bunch of Google Home devices in our office because we think it’s the future, and we test them out all the time, and they’re actually really kind of pathetic. There’s not a lot of things that you can ask it, and it gives you a good answer.
The things that do give you a good answer are all because the industry has caught up to structured data and are doing it. So, if you ask the Google device, any Google device, how to make a margarita, it’ll walk you step by step by step through how to make it, but if you ask it what’s the best customer review software platform, it’s going to have a hard time if there’s no site that’s providing structured data. So, the answers that are being provided are literally, when you see a rich card on a result on a search query, all it’s doing is just reading back to you the rich card.
So, right now, what’s interesting about voice search is, like anything, it’s going to take some time to adopt. So, people right now feel comfortable doing certain things through voice search. They might be able to be comfortable asking about a movie time, or even maybe booking a movie ticket, but what percentage of tickets are being purchase through voice search? Probably pretty small. Will it be a lot higher in two years? Absolutely, it will. When will people start feeling comfortable buying insurance through voice search? Pretty much zero today. In two years, in five years, it’ll be a percentage.
So, it’s not a question of whether or not it’s moving in that direction. It definitely is. It’s just how fast is it moving, and Google is very dependent on structured data to be able to provide a good experience. So, we’re trying to really get out ahead of that, and I think customers and sites that have really good structured data are going to start reaping the benefits of that one answer versus 10 links situation, because in five years, imagine that voice search is a really big deal. Only ones that are going to win… So, now all of a sudden, instead of 10 links, it’s just one answer back. That’s such a big change to the SEO landscape, and we want to be as far ahead of that as possible.
I don’t even feel particularly… I’m a tech guy, and I don’t feel comfortable… I really don’t use voice search very much. I do in the office, and I kind of force myself to to understand it, but I wouldn’t buy a product. I’m not there yet. But this younger generation, as they get older, it’s a thing that is definitely to be reckoned with, and I think like any SEO movement or any SEO directionally, you just want to be out ahead of it, and that’s what we’re trying to do at Huckabuy, is just be out ahead of what’s happening.
Paul Warren: Yeah. So, that kind of leads a little bit into my next question, is… We all saw mobile overtake desktop. I remember it was sort of a big day when that happened. Do you think that we’ll see a time when voice search overtakes mobile or desktop?
Geoff Atkinson: I think we will. It might not be in our lifetime, though. It probably will. What’s wild about it is that adoption can be slow at first, and then it can happen all at once. So, I think a lot of it relies on the adoption of structured data to make the user experience better, where you can get all the information and answers that you want, and the only reason that adoption, I think, is low is that there isn’t a wonderful experience yet. You don’t know if you’re going to get the best price. You don’t know what the reviews are. So, there’s a lot of sort of… I even think about will there, that problem of just once result, will you be able to say, “Next result. Next result”? How will we search? Because it’s totally different behavior than just typing on a computer.
So, I think at some point it’s going to become very comfortable and easy for people, myself and you guys, to be able execute most of the things that we do on Google.com through a voice device and get what we want. I don’t think it’s close to being there yet, but at some point it’s going to get as easy, if not easier, than opening up the computer and typing in a search, and at that point, look out. That’s when it switches. Right? That’s when it-
Paul Warren: It’ll at least be more volume than Bing, so there you go.
Geoff Atkinson: Okay. Well, it already is.
Ryan Klein: No, Bing is on its way back. Come on. We know this.
Paul Warren: Oh, yeah. We talk about that.
Ryan Klein: Yeah. Yep, but that’s definitely an interesting point. I mean, mobile, I think, really started to take off when phones and networks could finally load pages in a timely manner.
Geoff Atkinson: Exactly.
Paul Warren: Even if you talk to people at Google, they weren’t even prepared for the way that mobile took over like it did.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah. I mean, I don’t know how old you guys are, but I had a PalmPilot, and good luck. Why would you take the stylus out and start tapping and hunting with your stylus for letters to search for stuff? It didn’t work. Then the iPhone, all of a sudden it was like, well, this is so much more convenient. I can be anywhere and search for anything, and-
Paul Warren: I was a proud BlackBerry user at one point in time, so I totally understand.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah, me too.
Paul Warren: So, voice search, being that there’s only one spot, it’s pretty much a zero sum game there, what do you think affects the rankings for that? Is it just the number one spot organically, and then having the correct markup for it?
Geoff Atkinson: So, I think right now, the way it works is that I basically look for the highest domain authority and best [crosstalk 00:30:38] core that has structured data, and then they give them the number one response. I think it’s very similar to the desktop search and what you get with rich cards, but it reads the rich cards earlier, so it’s weighted more. Structured data is weighted more, because otherwise, it’s the jenky experience, like the Siri experience, like, “Let me Google that,” and it just reads the number one result back.
So, I think that’s kind of how it works now, but I think it’s going to get a lot more complex and a lot… It’s going to be its own algorithm, for sure. It already is, and it’s going to be dialed, like everything Google does. It’ll be well tested and well thought through, and they’ll put a ton of money and developers behind it, and they’ll try to be… This is really the window that’s open for other search engines to possibly compete, and Google’s just not going to let that happen, in my opinion. But this is a window for them to say… Apple, to be able to provide a better voice search feature than Google does, but my money’s on Google figuring it out.
Ryan Klein: Yeah. I definitely have a theory, and I think I’ve mentioned this in other podcasts, hopefully not multiple times. I mean, we talk about site speed probably every fourth or fifth podcast, but I probably only mentioned this about just once. But there’s definitely going to have to be its own algorithm or AI or logic to really give you that definitive one result, without a doubt. So, they have to use different logic because it has to be the most accurate… When you do a search on anything else, of course you have 10 results or more, 13 with ads or maps and whatnot.
So, this is their chance to, man, I can’t screw this up. So, my theory is, especially for local, is that people definitely do use modifiers like best or top, or something along those lines when searching for local services, or maybe even products, so my theory is local businesses that on Google get reviews, it’s basically going to be like, if someone says, “What’s the best ice cream parlor by me,” it’s going to go to the maps, and it’s basically going to look for whoever has the most reviews, best quality and quantity, and give that result.
Paul Warren: Yeah. That, or they’ll go to a paid format for it, through Google My Business.
Geoff Atkinson: I agree. I think one thing that’s interesting to think about too is it’s not just what result they pick. It’s what the result looks like. So, the result of a voice search, how it comes back to a user, will be quite different in the future than what a Google Search response looks like. So, you can’t just show a map, or you can’t just start reading. You want to actually answer the person’s question in some valuable way. So, I think that’s something that they’re struggling with and working on, is what does a perfect voice result look like in the form of its own result, coming back to the user.
Paul Warren: Yeah.
Ryan Klein: That’s interesting. Yeah, because there’s so many ways to look at it. If someone says best something, “This the best. It has a thousand reviews and a perfect 5.0, but it’s 10 miles away, but this one is a 4.8, and it’s pretty close, but it’s right down the block,” so it’s just [inaudible 00:33:52] level when you start thinking about it. It’s just like, the logic that goes into these things-
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah, that’s why I think a little bit… Yeah. The door’s open on who’s going to be the best at it, because there’s a lot of technical hurdles to figure out.
Paul Warren: Yeah. Then I think depending on the space that you’re in, your money, your life, that hit a lot of places pretty hard, a lot of websites, and you got to imagine a good amount of those questions people are asking are going to be related to those things, so how does that play into that, too? What sites are they going to pick that from that have it? Because there’s so much confusion even right now, and kind of the medical space, in particular the rehab, which I came from at my last job, how you’re going to serve up trustworthy content, and then that’s just another layer to add on to it.
Geoff Atkinson: It’s an interesting time. It’s been interesting. I don’t know about you guys, but I love being part of… I think it’s incredible, what’s happened since… I started at Overstock in 2005, right out of college, and see what’s happened since 2005 to 2019 is super cool. What’s going to happen from 2019 to 2050 is going to be just as interesting, if not more. [crosstalk 00:35:01] huge technical problems that we’re pushing… It’s like the Wild West. It’s not the Wild West. It’s more regulated now, but it’s going to be very interesting to see how we solve these issues.
Paul Warren: I was going to say, you remember the real Wild West days.
Geoff Atkinson: I do. Yeah.
Paul Warren: You get the brink of Squidoo articles for affiliate stuff back in the day.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah.
Ryan Klein: I only got a taste of that life.
Paul Warren: Yeah, I was at the tail end of it. You could still do… I remember Google would still tell you the exact keywords people were searching in Google Analytics, and I remember slowly seeing that go away to not provide it. You could build directory links all day, and it would work. Man, those were great times, weren’t they?
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah, I remember… I mean, you guys know the company Conductor. I’m kind of throwing them under the bus here, but they’re actually a great company, but their first business model was they would buy ad space on the top, New York Times, Yahoo!, with no tracking parameters, and you could just buy links. You could buy a link from the homepage of The New York Times through Conductor. It was crazy.
Ryan Klein: I loved that one.
Geoff Atkinson: They were just printing money, and then that ended abruptly. But yeah, it was kind of wild. The Overstock days, it was a hell of a run, and you really can’t almost do that anymore, but it was cool to be a part of.
Ryan Klein: Yeah. So, our listeners are definitely listening to this point in the podcast and wondering, how can they exploit structured data? No. In all reality, I’m not really sure if there’s anything that you can do or exploit.
Paul Warren: [crosstalk 00:36:40] you’re just doing it right, I guess.
Ryan Klein: Yeah.
Paul Warren: So, you’ve obviously been to Schema.org. So, how do you feel about the resources on that site, and how it is as a site? Do you feel like it’s a… I mean, technically it’s like a great resource, but do you feel like it’s a good place to start if you’re new to structured data?
Geoff Atkinson: I think it’s a great place to get the concept, perhaps. I mean, it’s so sort of… Maybe even not, I don’t know. I always point people towards Google’s own documentation. So, one of the things that’s interesting about schema, one is that they don’t actually use the Schema.org repository. They use the JSON-LD repository. So, that’s a little inside tip that [crosstalk 00:37:28]
Paul Warren: Yeah. I ran into an issue with that just the other day, actually, where they just didn’t match up.
Geoff Atkinson: So, Schema.org is almost so academic and so technical that it doesn’t take into account any of the real business value of schema. I think Google’s documentation around structured data is really the source to get started, because it actually will help you realize the business value of using structured data. Schema, no. They don’t do anything. In fact, it probably turns people off on it because it’s so technical, and unless you’re really deep, you’re a structured data expert that does this for a living, I think you’d have an incredibly hard time getting started there. I’d point people towards Google’s own documentation in trying to figure out what the business value is for someone, and start and go from there.
Ryan Klein: Makes you almost think what the point of Schema.org is. What is the-
Geoff Atkinson: Well, yeah. It’s a bit outdated now. I mean, if you really want to contribute to structured data, and I actually don’t call it schema, I call it either markup… Structured data markup is the official term. So, we have actually, with our customers, come up with object types that we would like to introduce. They would never get done through Schema.org. It does get done through the JSON-LD organization, and they are ones that really decide what happens and what doesn’t. Schema, it really doesn’t impact things that much.
Ryan Klein: Gotcha. So, if people want to implement structured data, are there generators out there? Are there any plugins, auto-generators, templates that you trust at all, or is it kind of like you have to do it custom every time?
Geoff Atkinson: You know, I’m not the best person in the world to ask that question because we have a competing product, obviously, that’s clearly [crosstalk 00:39:29]
Ryan Klein: I’ll ask Paul. Paul, what do you…
Geoff Atkinson: I’ll tell you that there are… There’s the Yoast plugin. There’s the Google Structured Data Helper, I think it’s called, and they’ll get you going. I think that’s… They’ll get you going. They’re not the best solutions, but they’ll get you started, and I think the more people that adopt structured data, the more sites that do, the better. It’s better for everybody. It’s better for Google. It’s better for Huckabuy. So, I’m a big proponent. I’d probably start there, but you do reach a point where you’re like, oh, man, I really need an expert or a developer that’s almost dedicated to this.
The other aspect of it is it changes. It changes a lot. So, structured data is being… I’d say there’s two fundamental algorithm changes over the last five years that almost every single algorithm update, it just doesn’t go away. You might even… Actually, 10 years. Forget five years. One is mobile. Every algorithm has gotten more mobile-friendly, and structured data, and usually the enhancements to the structured data are pretty complex. So, if you do use some of those tools, and something changes, it breaks, which is a bad thing. But it’s a great place to get started, and I encourage people to sort of test it out and see what it does. I can give you some statistics. I remember early days when Matt Kutz would talk about structured data and say, “It has no rankings impact. It’s just for the rich cards and click-through rate.” Give me a break. That’s just so not true.
Ryan Klein: Oh, boy. Nothing he said was [crosstalk 00:41:09]
Paul Warren: I mean, generally, you’d just go to the SERPs and then look it up, and it’s about the opposite a lot of times as what Matt Kutz used to say.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah. Well, just think about the level of detail that Google would understand a site that has good structured data versus them just crawling the HTML. There’s going to be all these new keywords that the site ranks for. There’s going to be all sorts of understanding that Google gets by absorbing that information, and that’s going to do something to their algorithm, and what we’ve seen is it has a pretty dramatic impact on the overall traffic.
Ryan Klein: Yeah. I can’t imagine it’s just how the results are presented. It has to be just going back to giving Google what it wants. I don’t see how it isn’t.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah. Take a complicated site like Salesforce. So, Salesforce is a customer of ours, very fortunately. They’re a great customer. So, they’re not organized… This is the interesting thing about B-to-B software. I know we’re running a little long, so I’ll try to be quick here.
Ryan Klein: No, you’re good.
Geoff Atkinson: But think about an Overstock or an Amazon. These sites are structured, in a way, so they have these really well described categories, like men’s watches, for example. They’re all the same format. All the categories are the same format, and surprise, surprise, they have men’s watches in them. You get to a product page, those are all the same format. They’ve got a product name and a description and a price, reviews. In fact, an Overstock and Amazon’s going to have this huge product API going back to Google that contains all of their product information. When you get to a company like Salesforce or SAP or something like that that’s not e-commerce or travel or real estate, all that structure goes out the window.
So, they know that Salesforce is super important. They know that the domain authority is in the 90s. They want to know everything they can about Salesforce, but the structure of the site does not lend itself for Google to understand. So, take a site like that, and then layer structured data on top, saying, “Hey, Google, this is a software application. Here’s what it does. Here’s what it integrates with.” They’re dying for that type of information about Salesforce, and structured data ends up being this fabulous mechanism to communicate a software site with Google, and they’re going to get all sorts of information that they never even knew before, and that’s going to have a huge impact.
A lot of B-to-B businesses are like that, that aren’t… They just don’t lend themselves for Google to understand them really clearly, and that’s actually… Out of our customer base, those B-to-B software sites grow like crazy when we layer structured data on top, because Google’s thirsting for that information, and they just don’t have a way of capturing it, and structured data ends up being this great way to do it.
Ryan Klein: You heard it here first. Content and links are no longer king.
Geoff Atkinson: I’ll say links still matter a lot. I’m always amazed at just people spinning their wheels on content, though. It’s like they just write content for content’s sake, it seems like, and just think something is magically going to happen.
Paul Warren: Man. So, if somebody wanted to get in touch with you and learn more about your products, where would they do that at?
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah. Huckabuy.com would be the best place. Just come to our site. You can read more about what we do. Fill out a contact us form, and we’ll get in touch with you right away. If you put my name in it, I’ll make sure that I get in touch with you personally, and if you really want, it’s just Geoff, G-E-O-F-F, @huckabuy.com. You guys have a smart audience, so I would love to hear from your folks and help them, and help them down the future of SEO. I think it’s a way different landscape than it used to be, and I’m really excited about it. I think Huckabuy is well positioned. I think you guys are thinking about it the right way. It is a different world than it used to be, and we’re helping people get through that world and make sure that they’re ahead of the curve.
Paul Warren: Yeah. I mean, I got to say, in my professional life, right now this is one of the more important things, so even outside of our listeners, I am getting a lot of great value out of this podcast.
Geoff Atkinson: I’ve listened to a few of your podcasts, and I’ve absorbed some of your content, and I was just like, these guys get it. Once in a while, I come across someone that’s just like, yep, that’s the future. That’s what we got to be doing. You already were there before we even talked, so hopefully you learned something, and the viewers learned something. I just really enjoy these conversations because they’re rare for me. They don’t happen every day, so when they do happen, I get really excited.
Ryan Klein: That’s cool. I’m sure you have a good team and a lot of smart people working there, too, but yeah, it’s funny because-
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah. Next time, you should have our CTO on. He’s way smarter than I am, and if you really want to get technical about SEO, I don’t know someone that knows what Google’s up to better than he does. He’s my guy. I told you guys I reached out to him before this podcast to help me answer your questions. His name’s Chase, and sometime, if you really want to geek out, he’s the guy to talk to.
Ryan Klein: Nice. I thought he was going to say, “His name is Matt Kutz, and actually, this is where he ended up at.”
Paul Warren: Like, “Yeah, I pulled him from Conductor. He’s a great guy.” It’s funny you mentioned Conductor, man. I worked at a company for a couple years, and they tested between BrightEdge and Conductor at the same time, and I got to go to C3, their event and stuff in New York, but yeah, I didn’t know that’s how they started doing that back in the day. That’s really interesting, actually.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah. I’d love your guys’s take on BrightEdge and Conductor. They’re kind of competitors in that they’re SEO software, but they do totally different stuff [crosstalk 00:46:54]
Paul Warren: Especially now, though, too. Conductor’s, I think, a lot of more sophisticated than what BrightEdge really is out of the box.
Geoff Atkinson: Yeah.
Paul Warren: Yeah.
Geoff Atkinson: It’s good to hear. It’s been a bit since I checked in on that.
Paul Warren: Yeah. I mean, it’s one of those things that’s like, if you have a really large team, and you have a lot of variety and skill level on that team, like maybe it’s something that you look at, and you’re really going full into content marketing, but there’s downsides to both of them, and I don’t generally recommend them at the price point unless you’re the kind of business that can afford it, and it’s sort of your mission. You know?
Ryan Klein: Yeah. It’s good hearing about this, too, because we’re trying to always give our client the edge, and structured data is something that we execute, but after this conversation, it sounds like we’re dabbling. It sounds like it’s definitely a little bit [crosstalk 00:47:45]
Paul Warren: Yeah. I took notes, man. I’m like, I got to go check this out now. I got to go to that. So, it was really good, really good info, actually. Geoff, thanks for coming on the show and talking to us for so long. We really appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to do this. If you guys have any questions out there for Geoff, you can hit us up at email@example.com. We respond to questions pretty quickly, and be sure to like, share and subscribe, and if you’re interested in being on, or just interested in anything question-wise, SEO-related, we respond real quick, and we’d love to hear from you guys.
Ryan Klein: Well said, as always, Paul.
Paul Warren: Thanks, Ryan.
Geoff Atkinson: Thank you guys so much for having me. It was a real pleasure. Great to meet you both, and I have a feeling that we’re going to be… We’re like new friends or something. We’ll be in touch.
Ryan Klein: Right on. Absolutely.
Paul Warren: All right. Well, thank you so much. I’m Paul Warren.
Ryan Klein: I’m Ryan Klein.
Paul Warren: And this is another episode of SEO is Dead and Other Lies.
Ryan Klein: Goodbye.
Paul Warren: Bye.