The legendary Barry Schwartz (Search Engine Roundtable, SE Land, etc.) visited our offices today in Israel. After a private shmooze over coffee and pastries with the team, Aaron Friedman (our Director of SEO) had a brief Q&A on camera about the future of search, recent algorithm updates, penalties, and a bit about mobile and Android vs IOS.
We discussed penalty removal vs actual ranking and traffic rebounding, webmaster chatter given the new transparency of manual actions in webmaster tools, and some more nuanced points around helping clients recover from past efforts that put them in the penalty box.
In addition, Barry was gracious enough to let us geek out with his Google Glass.
Apologies about the audio/video quality – some equipment went south immediately prior to Barry visiting so we used a Flip Cam instead.
Aaron: Alright. Well, we’re here with Barry Schwartz, [inaudible 0:02] Israel. So we had some questions that we wanted to ask him when he’s in the office, specifically related to Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird.
So to start off, Barry, the team wanted to know, has Google’s drive to transparency with manual actions and webmaster tools reduced or increased chatter in the forums regarding penalties? I guess a follow up to that is, any indication whether there has been an increase or decrease in reconsideration requests since then?
Barry: Right. So you’re talking about when Google came out with their notification system for manual action, called Manual Action Viewer?
Barry: So if you don’t know what that is, basically, if you go to Google webmaster tools, on one of the sidebars is a menu called Manual Action Viewer. If you click on that, Google will tell you if you have a manual action.
It’s important for everybody to know that manual actions are different than algorithmic actions. Manual actions are basically where Google actually looks at the site, and it says you’re doing something bad. They will go ahead and give you a manual penalty. Algorithmic penalties are penalties where the algorithm itself, one of these animals, actually does something to you.
The Manual Action Viewer will tell you if you have any of these penalties. That being said, your question was, “Was there an increase in chatter?” I believe, initially, there was a major increase in chatter, because people were able for the first time to see, “Oh, I have a manual action penalty. How do I go ahead and prove it?”
So they looked at their web master tools. They said, “Oh my God, I have,” I don’t know, some type of penalty, a national link penalty, they went to the forums and they said, “Hey, what do I do?”
So a lot of that. I think it has decreased a lot recently, and I think it has decreased a lot because are now able to see if they would have a manual action or not. Now all you see are questions about Penguin, Panda or Hummingbird.
This should be raised, because people shouldn’t be asking questions about Hummingbird. They should be asking questions about Penguin or Panda or other algorithms like whatever other thousands of algorithms they have. So, yeah, initially it probably was increased, but it’s probably down a little.
Aaron: I actually posted a picture on Facebook. We were celebrating the removing of a manual penalty for one of our clients. You actually made a comment. You said, “Don’t dance yet. Let me know if the traffic returns.” So have you seen any cases or people talking in the forums about the traffic actually returning and anyone actually recovering from penalties?
Barry: Alright, so you had a manual action for a client. Not you, personally, but one of your clients.
Aaron: One of your clients had it.
Aaron: Before they hired us.
Barry: They hired you because they had a manual action. You removed the manual action, with a lot of people have success with doing, which is good. But usually after, I see very little people say, “Oh my God, my traffic is all back. I’m doing business again.” Usually, when somebody has a manual action, I think they also probably have one of these other algorithmic actions.
Maybe I’m wrong, but usually I don’t see any full recovery, or even 80% recovery after a manual action is removed. There are people who claim they have seen that. I have never seen that in analytics before, where they would have an actual link removal. What happens, if you think about it, Google had a discount in all these links. These are natural links you had that were working for you before you got a penalty.
Now they are discounted. They actually slapped on a penalty. So, let’s say you have all these links. You’re up here. Google found you had all these links, unnatural links, alright, so they discounted those links and they also slapped on a penalty over here.
Aaron: [inaudible 3:29]
Barry: So here are links. Here is your ranking before. Am I messing this up?
Aaron: No, you’re fine.
Barry: You dropped down because your unnatural links were worth this. They got rid of all those bad links you had, your ranking is down here, and then they also slapped on a penalty because of your link. So now you’re back to maybe up here.
It’s not to scale, but basically back up to here, but you’re never going to go back up to here unless you get quality links.
Aaron: So what do people do when that happens? So if somebody had a manual penalty, and they probably have an algorithm penalty also, and then they get the manual penalty removed. How do they get back up to this point? What are some things that you have heard people talking about in the forums that they have done to help them get back to that point?
Barry: I have honestly never seen a case where they got back to here. I have heard some people talk about it. I have never actually seen it. To get back to here you have to get all those links back. Not the ones you had before, but new ones.
Aaron: New ones.
Barry: Good ones. So how do you do that? I don’t know. That’s another topic.
Aaron: Okay. This may be a redundant question, but have you seen any trends as far as Penguin? Joe, this is just totally redundant. I’m not asking it.
Barry: Ask it.
Aaron: Well, any trends that you have seen that are really about rebounds or, you know, on the algorithm side.
Barry: So whatever it is in an algorithm update, you usually here most of the noises coming from people who were hit by the algorithm that have a negative impact, but there are always a handful of cases of people saying, “Hey, I recovered.”
Most people who recover are not going to go ahead and tell anybody they recovered because they don’t want the exposure, people looking at their websites. But a lot of people do say they actually have recovered after one of major updates. Now, it’s hard to track updates with Panda now, but with Penguin it’s easy because Google will announce them, but Panda is now rolling every 30 or so days. It’s hard to tell.
There are also algorithms that are within here that nobody talks about, so it’s hard to actually know what algorithm hit you. But yeah. I mean, I have definitely seen people say they were recovered or they were hit after one of these major updates.
Aaron: The next question is will SEO agencies be forced to incorporate social tactics for their clients, so Google plus and then possibly Twitter, Facebook, anything else that they could be using in the future?
Barry: Alright, so there are two answers to that. One is, currently, [inaudible 5:53] Google+ is that now part of the search ranking algorithm. But if you go ahead and look at personalized search you will see that if you like, +1, something and I’m a friend of yours on Google+, it would actually have an impact on the rank of that result that I search in personalized search.
Another thing is, social media, Google+, gets more awareness about your content out on the internet. The more awareness you have about your content on the internet, obviously . . .
Aaron: So it’s more of an indirect relationship?
Barry: There is a direct relationship. That’s the thing. [inaudible 6:25] says there’s no direct relationship, but if you logged in and I relay something and you’re friends with me on Google+ and you’re in my circle, it will have a direct impact on what you see in search. So it might not be part of the core search algorithm, but it’s definitely part of some personalized algorithm they have.
Aaron: We saw some of that, and Google is now showing hashtags. You can search for hash tags and get them showing up inside search results. Do you think that’s correlated at all?
Barry: It’s obvious. It’s pulling from . . .
Aaron: As far as ranking values, though.
Barry: I don’t think it’s related to ranking values. Not yet. Most people don’t believe Matt [inaudible 7:00] when he says things. I tend to. Obviously, if he is going to say something in black and white, I think it’s true. When he starts skirting around the issue, you know there’s something there.
A: [inaudible 7:10]
Aaron: So the next question is with factors like mobile search, context and even potentially Google Glass on the rise, where do you see SEO/Internet marketing in five years?
Barry: Some would say [inaudible 7:28]. Like, you’re on your smartphone right now. A minute ago you were on your laptop. You were like, “Oh, I should use my smartphone for this.”
Aaron: You said that, actually.
Barry: Oh. I said that. Probably yeah. That makes sense. I think most people watching this video, most people like us, are using our mobile phones more often to do searches and they are less often on their desktops. The percentages are changing. So Google says that if your site isn’t mobile friendly it might have a negative impact on your rankings for global search groups.
They didn’t say which way to do it. They [inaudible 8:11] whatever. I’m not going to get into those technical questions. But if people are searching on their mobile phones an you’re in an industry that mobile search is very important to, you can look at your analytics to see what percentage of your traffic is mobile, and if you see there’s a large percentage of your traffic that’s mobile, above 20% I would say, you want to make sure your website is mobile friendly.
That being said, if it’s not, Google will probably have a negative impact on your website for the mobile search queries. So you want to definitely optimize for global search. It’s not necessarily optimizing in general, but it’s optimizing Google search.
How will that will impact in Glass, it’s hard to know for sure right now. I think Google Glass is more of a where you are, what you’re asking type of pattern thing. See, they’re having to think of Google now and building. I think marketers should actually start looking towards what information do they have in their databases that they would find useful data to their user. What can they do to actually build an app for Google Glass service to send them information?
So, for example, I’m currently in the process of building something called Jew Glass. It’s basically a Jewish app for Google Glass that knows where you are and will send you information based off your location, or what time it is during the day.
So if you’re in a synagogue, it’s going to know you’re in a synagogue and it’s gong to say, “Alright, you’re in a synagogue. These are the things you should probably say while you’re in a synagogue.” I’m thinking about how I can provide useful information to Jewish people through location-aware devices like Glass or Android phones or iPhones with my data that I have, that Google doesn’t have yet.
Obviously, Google is taking over niches. It’s taking over industries by taking people’s data, but if you can provide data that they might not have access to, maybe they will acquire you or maybe you will provide a service that you’ll get a lot of traffic to and be able to monetize. Right now you can’t monetize anything with the Glass, but with Android phones and iPhones you can.
Aaron: Cool. Does anyone have any other questions?
A: Shake your [inaudible 10:06]
B: [inaudible 10:08] question?
A: Text message.
Barry: Live Q&As.
Ari Roth: While he looks at a question, you mentioned, of course, that Panda is rolling out every 30 days or so, but Penguin is more just whenever they just refresh the algorithm. At any point do you see, or have you heard anything about, Penguin making that shift to being an ongoing rolling process?
Barry: I have not heard anything like that. I wouldn’t expect it for another year or so. They have to really perfect it, like they did with Panda. So I would expect it one day, but when that day happens it’s going to be hard for SEOs to keep track of all that stuff. I am begging Google to come up with, in web action tools, not just have a annual action viewer, but an algorithmic action viewer. It’s kind of hard for them to do that, but hopefully.
Aaron: So we have one other question that was just texted in. The question is, iOS versus Android. Which do you prefer?”
Barry: It’s funny. So I prefer iOS over Android. I carry both with me, but my main device is iOS. When I went to the Google Glass explorer, basically, they had this event where a bunch of Google Glass users would talk to each other. It would be some type of networking thing with, I don’t know, a bunch of people wearing Google Glass.
And I asked a bunch of the Googlers who had Google Glass, what do they use as a phone. I probably asked, like, three or four different Googlers. Everyone said that for their personal phone they have an iPhone, but for their work phone they have Androids. So I found that to be funny.
I personally like iOS. I feel like it does things a little bit faster in terms of less clicks. It’s more fluid. It’s easier to develop for because of the screen sizes, but Android is definitely something that, if you’re building apps, you have to use. You have to build these apps for Android, because most of the market is there these days. Android has a lot of benefits. I love Google Now integration. I love how it lets you do certain things that iOS won’t really do, but at the same I personally use iOS.
Aaron: Cool. Any other questions before we say goodbye to Barry?
Shlomo: One quick question.
Shlomo: No, it’s just a small thing. So there is a recent Bing It On experiment produced by Microsoft. You’re familiar with it?
Shlomo: And then Freakonomics came out and debunked it, and then there’s a back and forth. I was wondering what you thought in terms of Bing’s potential and the results from their study.
Barry: Okay. So, yeah. Bing versus Google. It was funny. I thought when Bing first did all their marketing, before and it was actually called Bing, I thought they would take over a lot. I thought they would have a lot more market share now than they do right now. I was wrong.
I thought the same thing with Internet Explorer. Remember when Firefox was big and nobody had Internet explorer? They just completely took over the market by betting against Internet Explorer on every single computer that they released. They were doing the same thing with their search engines. The default search was Microsoft Live Search, I think, back then.
It didn’t have an impact. I was completely shocked. But I think they’re doing great. I think they’re actually capturing a crazy amount of market share. I think they’re up to 20% or 30% these days. Oh, and Yahoo right now, we will see how long that lasts for with Marissa in place.
But the Bing It On challenge itself, it’s cute. I don’t now how much Microsoft has an effect, but Microsoft bashing Google has more of an impact for them in terms of market share than that.
And that’s obviously not bad for Google, but I’m interested to see – that whole Freakonomics thing goes back and forth. Bing said, “You’re wrong,” and Freakonomics never got back to them. That concept was, like, pushing. “Oh, look at this. Freakonomics is in.”
And Bing was like, “Well, Freakonomics is wrong because of this,” and I find that all to be gossip in the industry. The bottom line is market share, so it would be cool to see, a year from now, how much more share they have, but I’m impressed with that they have so far.
Aaron: Cool. That’s it. Thanks so much. Thanks for coming.