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Episode 22 | January 25, 2023

Do ranking factors matter for SEO?

SEO Ranking Factors. Do they matter? Should you focus on them? And if not, what should you be focused on? Do some ranking factors matter more than others? How do you know if a tactic has directly influenced your ranking?

On this episode of the SERPs Up SEO Podcast we’re diving into the narrative around “ranking factors”!

Marcus Tober, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Solutions for Semrush, joins the podcast to further discuss ranking factors and SEO.

Tune in as Mordy and Crystal take on the importance, or lack thereof, of ranking factors.

00:00 / 36:59
SERP's Up Podcast: Do ranking factor matter for SEO? | With Marcus Tober

This week’s guest

Marcus Tober

Marcus Tober is a leading global SEO specialist and speaker, named a top-8 Online Influencer in Digital Marketing and EU Search Personality of the Year 2016. He previously founded and led Searchmetrics, a global search experience platform, and joined Semrush as Head of Enterprise in 2022.

Transcript

Mordy Oberstein:

It's the new wave of SEO podcasting. Welcome to SERP's Up.

Aloha. Mahalo for joining us on the SERP's Up podcast. We're approaching our groovy new insights around what's happening in SEO. I'm Mordy Oberstein, head of SEO Branding here at Wix. I'm joined by the amazing and fabulously incredible, the greatest of all, Crystal Carter, head of SEO Communications here at Wix.

Crystal Carter:

Thank you so much for that fantastic introduction, Mordy Oberstein. One of these days I'm going to listen back to the podcast and see if they're all different, or if you-

Mordy Oberstein:

No, there are slight variations. I don't script it out. I get stuck. I guess like, "Wait. What do I say next? That doesn't rhyme. I don't know. Okay, stop here and just say her name."

Crystal Carter:

The breath control is very impressive. I must say.

Mordy Oberstein:

I'm having a hard time because I have a cold.

Crystal Carter:

Awe.

Mordy Oberstein:

Everyone take pity on me. Pity me. Pity, pity, pity please.

Crystal Carter:

Put the tiny violins on the audio track, please. Right there. For Mordy.

Mordy Oberstein:

I will take it. Don't forget, the SERP's Up podcast is brought to you by Wix, where every Wix site is HTTPS. Wix offers enterprise level security, keeping your site safe and your users happy. After all, HTTPS is a ranking factor. Interesting. Why would I mention that random fact? I don't know. By the way, it's a very small ranking factor. Don't get hung up over it. But I'm saying that because today's topic is ranking factors. Do they matter? Should you focus on them? And if not, what should you be focused on? Again, spoiler alert, HTTPS is a very, very small ranking factor.

Be that as it may, we'll dive into, do some ranking factors matter more than others? How do you know if a tactic has directly influenced your ranking? Why a focus on intent has perhaps replaced a focus on ranking factors? And why ranking factors matter less in a world that's all about interpreting meaning. That sounds abstract. Plus, we'll dive into a whole lot on Google's machine learning and its impact on the ranking wormhole. And of course, we have your snappiest of snappiest news and who you should be following on social for more SEO awesomeness. Get ready, get set, get ranking factors, or not. Episode number 23 of the SERP's Up podcast is flying.

I don't know what we're flying to yet.

Crystal Carter:

I don't know. I don't know.

Mordy Oberstein:

If it’s a nonstop flight or not, because I have a cold and might need to pause for a few minutes here and there.

Crystal Carter:

We're a top-ranked podcast. We are. I lied. There's-

Mordy Oberstein:

I know all the factors too.

Crystal Carter:

All of the factors.

Mordy Oberstein:

All of the factors. All 200 of the factors. We'll get to all of this. Let's take a step back.

Crystal Carter:

Okay.

Mordy Oberstein:

When someone's searching for something, the question is, how does Google know what results to show? It's a simple foundational question, but we don't really have a lot of information, when you think about it, about that process. As much as we do know, it's what we don't know. It's the tip of the iceberg kind of thing. We have, I'll call it breadcrumbs. We know certain things that Google officially looks at. For example, we know that back links are something that Google has looked at in order to determine whether or not a page should rank or not. When I say back links, by the way, we also know ... well, we know that Google is considering it less important over time, officially, but we don't know how big of a factor it is. So we know that certain things are factors like back links, but how big of a factor are they? Again, in fact, Google has downplayed links recently.

We know that, for example, your site being secure is a factor, but how big of a factor is it? Or we know, for example, that your location is a factor when you're searching for things like, "Pizza near me." So you can get some pizza near you, and put that pizza near you inside of you. That location is a factor. How close the businesses are to you when you're searching are a factor. So you would think ranking on Google would kind of be easy. We have a list of all these factors. Oh, factors here, factors there. Just check them off, no problem. And supposedly there are 200 plus of these different factors. Whether or not that's actually true or not, I don't know. But that's what the general consensus has said, there's 200 of these factors. I don't know.

First off, when it comes to factors, all sorts of misinformation, things like LSI keywords being a factor, false. No such thing. They don't exist. LSI factors, not a thing. Or Google looking how old your domain is. False. No. Not true. False. Heck, there was one time where Google ... or someone misunderstood what a Googler said about RankBrain, which we'll get into later, I'm sure, and said that it's a top three ranking factor. RankBrain's not even a ranking factor. It's got nothing to do with being a factor. It impacts. It impacts what might be a factor, but it itself is not a ranking factor. It's a machine learning property. We're going to talk more about that later.

Then on top of all of that, the ranking factors that we do know that actually exist, we don't always know the role that they play, and when they play and how big of a role. For example, Google has said that they assess the quality of a website at the domain level. They look at quality across the entire site, not page by page. But what exactly does quality even mean? What exactly are they looking at? You can quickly get the picture that focusing on ranking factors may not be the best thing to do if you're trying to thrive on the old Googs.

Crystal Carter:

I think that's absolutely true in an almost evangelical delivery.

Mordy Oberstein:

Hold on, that's the sound of me getting off my soapbox.

Crystal Carter:

Okay. Okay. Just so you know. I think that it's absolutely true, because basically, it's a question of, if you're focusing on ranking factors, you're essentially simplifying ... you're really, really oversimplifying some extremely complex systems. Google today calls them ranking systems. They've got a really good piece of documentation that talks about their ranking systems. Talks about how those systems overlap, intersect, and how there are various different machine learning properties and various different machine learning models that help Google to understand what's going on with search results.

We've got deduplication systems. There's the local news systems. There's MUM. There's BERT. There's neural matching. There's various different things that are going on at once. So yeah, a correlation doesn't always equal causation. Sometimes with a website there's lots of different factors happening at once. So it's sometimes difficult to understand which variable was the decision maker on that. But it's very complex. It's a very complex system, or very complex set of systems that overlap and intersect and are engaging with a very dynamic web that's more and more dynamic every day. So if you're just focusing on so-called factors, you're going to be missing a lot of important elements.

Mordy Oberstein:

I think that's one of the things that frustrates me the most about the ranking factor conversation is not just, "Okay, is it a factor? Is it not a factor? How big of a factor?" But it's really the mindset that it produces. Whereas you are so focused on, "Oh, the title tag, Google looks at that for ranking. It is a factor. I must make sure my keyword is in the title tag in order to be factored in for the factor of the factoring, of the factoring of the ranking." You're missing out on the whole mindset of, "Let me make sure that I create really good content on a page that's technically healthy, so Google can crawl, index it, and then serve this really great piece of content to users." You're missing all of that when you focus on the 200 plus ranking factors.

Crystal Carter:

Right. For instance, it's like the equivalent of if you were trying to get fit or if you were trying to get more physically fit, then you might say, "Oh, I need to eat this many calories." What if all those calories are junk calories? What if all those calories are from Skittles or something? And then you're going to be missing a lot of nutrition if you're just focusing on that. Or if you say, "Oh, I need to exercise for two hours." Let's say you do those two hours and then you go and eat 17 cheeseburgers. Paying attention to the holistic situation is really important and understanding that there's lots of very complex systems that are interacting at once.

If we think about the fitness thing, what you eat, how you sleep, when you eat, all of those different things will come into play in order to make sure that you're happy and healthy. This is the same with your website. When Google sees that your website is happy and healthy and full of good quality content and full of good quality information, and functions well using lots of different criteria, then they'll be able to serve it to users because they know the users will get a good experience.

Mordy Oberstein:

That, to me, from an actual technical SEO point of view kind of thing is the point. There's things that happen beyond the ... let's call them the factors or the signals, that impacts how Google ranks something, that we don't appreciate and talk enough about. Let's say, for example, like user intent. This is something that has been more and more of an issue in the last, let's say, five, six years, where the particular factors that are applicable all depend on the various intents. So you don't even know what the factor is here because you don't really understand how Google's understanding it. For example, I'll give you a concrete example of this. Back in the day, not all recipe pages had images on them. Today, any ranking page, any ranking recipe page has an image on it.

Crystal Carter:

Yeah. And very likely, a video.

Mordy Oberstein:

Right. Because machine learning, Google, RankBrain in particular, figured out that when users go to a webpage for a recipe, they want an image. An image became a ranking factor. You might say, "Okay, great, I'm not talking about a recipe, I'm a health website. I'm cooking something." Let's say meatloaf for people with diabetes. Making that up. Yeah. You might be a health website or you might be a medical website, but you're talking about a recipe. So now a recipe ranking factor steps into your health website, which you never would've thought of, because, "I'm a health website. I don't have to worry about the ranking factors for a recipe website." You don't even know what works anywhere at any point at this point.

Part of the reason is because of machine learning, which we're going to talk about later on, but part of that is also, in a world where Google's trying to focus on ... Listen, take a step back. What's Google trying to do is trying to offer relevant results to people. A lot of what goes into what it shows or doesn't show is how well it understands the query and how well it understands the content. So things like MUM or BERT ... MUM, not so much yet, but Bert, all these kind of machine learning things that help Google actually understand the content itself, those are not ranking factors. Those impact what might be a ranking factor ultimately, but those things just help Google understand stuff. So while you are focusing on ranking factors, Google's focusing on understanding stuff. What can actually impact the ranking has nothing to do with the factors per se, but what happens beyond the factors or what's a meta factor. What plays into Google and how they understand the content itself versus the factors per se.

Crystal Carter:

Right. What helps Google to read it with their machines and what helps users to be able to understand and appreciate the content, and to convey the information appropriately. One of the things you mentioned was, "What is Google doing?" If you go to how search works, if you ask Google, "What do they want to do?" They say they want to organize the world's information. They don't talk about websites. They say they want to organize the world's information. And they want to do that in a way that is high quality. That's their business. Their business is to be able to provide high quality information to people. So whatever enables you to do that in the best possible way is what will help you to rank better, if that's your objective. Sometimes that might mean making sure that you're actually using words in your content that are relevant to the query. So when they're talking about their favorite pastries, they're talking about Ding Dongs instead of Ring Dings, then you should probably include Ding Dongs.

Mordy Oberstein:

Ring Dings all the way.

Crystal Carter:

Then you should probably include something about Ring Dings. But if you wanted to do something more niche, that only Mordy Oberstein likes, then you can maybe write some content about Ring Dings.

Mordy Oberstein:

Harry Schwartz also likes Ring Dings.

Crystal Carter:

That might include their content. It might include the way that your content is formatted. It might include things like site speed, mobile performance. That sort of thing. Make sure that you're doing whatever will help your content perform best. Again, one of the things that people sometimes get overwhelmed with, particularly when you're talking about ranking factors and ranking, da, da, da, da, da, you can accumulate ranking. Your ranking, it's dynamic. It will change. It goes up and down with regards to algorithm updates and stuff like that and different cert features. So if you start with one thing, you can go back and you can optimize. You can go back and you can optimize again. There are pages that rank for years because they're regularly updating those. Certainly something we talked about on the podcast previously with Rebecca from the Wix blog, they regularly update their content to make sure that it's relevant, it's accurate, and it's meeting user's expectations with regards to format, content, et cetera.

Mordy Oberstein:

On the relevant point, relevancy is a ranking factor, but if you focus on it like that, "Oh, I need to make sure my content is relevant because it's a ranking factor," that's not the way I would approach it. I'll just put it that way. One is because you don't really know anything. Doesn't tell you anything. What you should be thinking about is your user. But let's say you're thinking about Google. Let's just say you are thinking about Google that way. I would think about it as, "Okay, how is Google determining relevancy? How does machine learning properties understand content in order to say, 'This is or this isn't relevant'?"

In that case, what I'm trying to say before is that you're not focused on the ranking factor when you're doing that, you're focused on the ecosystem. You're focusing on what's happening before Google ever gets to the point of saying, "Okay, how do we weigh this page for this query? How do we weigh the different ranking factors?" You're looking at, okay, relevancy, great, whatever, that's a ranking factor, who cares? I'm more concerned with, what happens underneath the surface that Google ... to determine rate relevancy? What does relevancy mean to Google?

Crystal Carter:

Right. If you think about just that one thing, they've got a couple of different things. They have a freshness systems. It says, "We have various Query Deserves Freshness systems designed to show fresher content for queries where it would be expected." That's something that they think about, for instance. They have local news systems, if it's something that's about local news, which might make it more relevant in certain places. For instance, if I Google hurricane, or something, and I'm in a place where there isn't a hurricane happening, then I don't need to know the local news about the hurricane. If I'm in a place where it's hurricane season and I Google hurricane, they know that I want to know what is coming. Like, "Do I need to batten down the hatches?" That's something that we need to think about.

They also have systems that are around reliable information, which helps them to make sure that they're surfacing high quality content and elevating quality journalism and various different things. Their ranking systems guide is a really good outline of some of the things that they think about when they're considering that. I should also of course give a shout out to Lily Ray and her tireless commitment to encouraging people to read Google's Quality Reader Guidelines, which also talks about how they understand quality and all of the different nuances that are included, including E-E-A-T, which Lily talks a lot about, but lots of other, not factors, but considerations as well.

Mordy Oberstein:

Right. That's a good thing, I think, because again, you're not focusing on, "Is this a factor? Check." You're trying to get into a mindset and an approach and an understanding of content relative to users, and what Google may or may not be doing in the algorithm. That's what you should be focused on, not ranking factors.

That's not to say, however, that thinking about ranking factors is inherently bad. It's like anything, it's how you use it, how you approach it. Let's bring in someone who I remember way, way, way back when, when ranking factor studies were the big thing in SEO, who is moving the industry along from general ranking factor studies to niche ranking factor studies, who's really been a part of the ranking factor conversation since it started. Senior vice president of Enterprise Solutions over at Semrush, Marcus Tober, is going to share his thoughts about, is thinking about ranking factors harmful to SEO?

Marcus Tober:

I believe thinking about ranking factors is helpful to SEO, as it helps to reflect and create context between your own pages and to competition. It also helps to create aspirational goals and is actually really motivating. But generally, just checking boxes, meaning chasing irrelevant or broad ranking factors is not SEO. This is how SEO used to be 15 years ago, but it's not really SEO anymore. But there are general ranking factors and this is something people should keep in mind all the time. Like, the page of your website and the context of your competition, and not just purely following Google's recommendations. Or looking at user engagement metrics and having a good CTR to know that, "Okay, I'm actually relevant. People click my results." Or generally, basic SEO, which I believe many people are not getting right, like having a good page structure, relevant title text, clean code, crawlable content, or generally, a crawlable website, avoiding load and duplicate content.

Then I would also put into the bucket of ranking factors is having a good internal linking structure. Generally, relevant content. A good usage of structured data. And of course, as we all know, you need to be appealing to others, so that you track back links. Because Google is still machine, Google need these back links to discover your content and understand if you're important or not. But if you then think about ranking factors, Google really wants to deliver the most relevant result for this particular query the user has. Generally, basically, there are ranking factors on a keyword level. That's why before you start optimizing your website, you should really think about why you should rank, why you might be or will be the best and most important source, and if you cannot believe even yourself that you should be the one ranking first, then you should do something else before you apply SEO.

Mordy Oberstein:

Thank you so much to Marcus for that. If you were looking to find Marcus on the internet, you can take a look for Marcus over on Twitter. That's @MarcusTober, at M-A-R-C-U-S-T-O-B-E-R. He's absolutely right. I think my contention with ranking factors has to do with the fact that that's not the approach that we should be constantly thinking about. That's not to say that ... Hey, look, HTTPS is a ranking factor. All things being equal, if I could just quickly make my site HTTPS, leaving aside all the reasons why you would want to do that anyway, well, why not? Why not try to get any competitive edge I can over another website, from a ranking factor point of view?

Crystal Carter:

I think the fitness analogy is another one as well. For instance, exercise is a factor for being more fit. Doing some exercise, if you're doing none is going to be better than ... doing some exercise is going to be better than doing none. It might not make you look like an Adonis or whatever, but it'll make you look ... it'll be better than not doing anything. Absolutely. With regards to the HTTPS thing, you said that it's not as important. They've included that as part of their page experience network of systems. One of the reasons why it's less important is because most people have it now. So if most people have HTTPS now, then it's not going to give you a particularly competitive edge. However, if you do not have HTTPS on your website, then yeah, if you add, it'll improve your website because people-

Mordy Oberstein:

In so many ways. In so many ways.

Also, at a minimum, you have an extra S. Everyone loves the letter S.

Crystal Carter:

Everybody loves the letter S. It's very useful in Wordle. I'm not going to lie. I-

Mordy Oberstein:

It's done me wrong in Wordle. So we'll talk about the S later.

Crystal Carter:

My starter word has an S in it. It's super easy.

Mordy Oberstein:

I tried it. It doesn't always work for me.

Crystal Carter:

Oh, okay. What's your starter word?

Mordy Oberstein:

It depends on my kid, but I always try to ... We do it together. I try to put an S in it. "No, do this one, it has an S in it." Or an R. I like Rs. Right?

Crystal Carter:

Yep.

Mordy Oberstein:

But it doesn't always work. I would need, I would like, a machine learning algorithm to help me get my Wordle right. Which brings us to our conversation that I think we need to have. It behooves us to have. We wouldn't be doing our job as podcast host, an SEO podcast host, if we were not talking about machine learning relative to ranking factors, and how the whole machine learning thing has changed the dynamic around ranking factors, because it has changed. Back in the day, all anyone talked about was ranking factor, ranking factor, ranking factor. That conversation has sort of died off in a lot of ways because of what's happened with machine learning. So, let's take a little bit of a deep thought into machine learning and ranking and the role it plays.

Ranking factors mean algorithms. Algorithms mean technical advancements. In Google land, that means machine learning. That's what fuels the advancements in the algorithm. Ranking factors play a more immediate role. I'll put it like this, ranking factors play a more immediate role, whereas machine learning plays a meta role. I'll give you a good example of what I mean.

Crystal Carter:

Okay.

Mordy Oberstein:

You can hit all the ... you've checked all ... Let's assume we know all the ranking factors. All of them. And you've checked all of the boxes. You've checked them twice. You have all the ranking factors. You get a metal. You have a ranking factor, and you get a ranking factor, and you get a ranking factor, to quote my inner Oprah.

Crystal Carter:

Yay.

Mordy Oberstein:

The problem is, is that machine learning dictates the SERP itself. What do I mean? Let's say you type in, "Buy car insurance," and you have a page that sells car insurance. Again, you have all the ranking factors checked off, you've done them all.

Crystal Carter:

Right.

Mordy Oberstein:

But machine learning is telling Google that the intent here is not just to buy car insurance, it's also to learn about buying car insurance.

Crystal Carter:

Right.

Mordy Oberstein:

Google will say, and they literally do this, "We will have six slots for pages that sell car insurance and four slots among the top 10 results that offer places to learn more about car insurance." So even though you've checked off all the boxes, if your page sells car insurance, you are limited to six out of 10 slots, let's say, on the first page.

Crystal Carter:

Okay.

Mordy Oberstein:

So ranking factors are one thing. Great, you've checked off the ranking factors. But unless you're understanding the Google ecosystem from machine learning point of view, which in this case means that there's multiple intents and Google's going to divide the SERP into multiple intents, and you should have content that hits both of those intents, you will be limiting yourself to just 60% of the SERP, assuming you can rank for all six slots.

Crystal Carter:

This is why Mordy and I both very regularly tell people to look at the SERP, and also, to experience the SERP. For instance, for that "Buy car insurance" thing or car insurance query, sometimes machine learning starts before the person even gets to the SERP. They'll start typing in, "Car insurance," or, "Buy car insurance," and they'll get some results, some preview results, and those are machine learning generated. Google learns that lots of people, when they start typing in car will type in insurance, or something. I've gone off on and fallen into an internet wormhole based on some of those things, where I started typing in something and it then started giving me ... I was like, "What is that? I've never even heard of that."

Mordy Oberstein:

The autocomplete is very helpful sometimes. If you're thinking about ranking factors, you're not thinking about access points or entry points to your content from the SERP, and you're not even creating any of that content.

Crystal Carter:

Users are very aware of this as well. Users are very aware that Google will give them an autocomplete. They're also aware that Google will filter them. I was having a conversation with somebody who was talking about, "How do I compete with a brand that has the same name as a city?" For instance. I was like, "Think about your entity." The way that Google understands entities and the knowledge graph is also another thing to consider with regards to quote, unquote ranking, because those knowledge panels show up with high priority, either on mobile or on the sidebar of the desktop search. How Google understands those entities will affect whether or not they rank certain bits of content. That's really important to think about as well. For instance, I looked up the band Texas during this conversation. Or no, I looked up the word Texas. Texas is a band in the UK. And obviously, it's Texas. Don't mess with Texas.

Mordy Oberstein:

What's that? I heard about the band, what's the other thing?

Crystal Carter:

Exactly. Because I'm in the UK where that band is famous, I got a disambiguation box that was like, "Do you mean Texas the band or do you mean Texas the state?" It popped up. That is machine learning. Google knows that people in the UK are regularly looking for Texas the band, and then sometimes, Texas the state. Then I also did the same query for Chicago.

Mordy Oberstein:

Ah, a working  band.

Crystal Carter:

The first time I did-

Mordy Oberstein:

Terrible city. I'm just kidding.

Crystal Carter:

Shout out to all my Chicago fans. The Bulls.

Mordy Oberstein:

Hi, Dr. Pete. Hi, Kevin.

Crystal Carter:

I also looked up Chicago. The first time I looked up Chicago, I didn't get a disambiguation thing for Chicago, the band. But then I kept looking around and I didn't click on the thing that it was talking about, Chicago, the city, and then Google gave me the disambiguation for the band. Because they were like, "You're clearly not finding what you want." So it's very important to remember that Google is doing this ... it's machine learning. It's happening in real time. They have lots of things that are happening in real time that are very complex.

Mordy Oberstein:

It's not even conjecture. I'm going to read something from Google to you. This is Google telling you that the way they appropriate ranking factors is based on machine learning. This is in reference to RankBrain, which is the first machine learning property Google introduced. I'm going to say 2015, could be 2014. Not 2016, but I think it's either 2014 or '15. I'm terrible with years, but it's one of those two. RankBrain helped Google understand not only queries that it never saw before, but also helped Google understand intent and what users want out of the pages that they're seeing. Or potentially be seeing.

I'm quoting you from Google here. You ready? "Beyond looking at keywords, our systems also analyze if content is relevant to a query in other ways. We also use aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether search results are relevant to queries. We transform that data into signals that help our machine learned systems better estimate relevance. Just think, when you search for dogs, you likely want a page with the word dogs on it hundreds of times. With that in mind, algorithm's assessment page contains other relevant content beyond the keyword dogs, such as pictures of dogs, videos, or even lists of breeds." It's what I said to you before about recipes. Google saw, hey, users, when they went to a recipe page that had no picture, bounced, and when it had a picture, they stayed. So, pictures are a ranking factor for recipes.

Crystal Carter:

Everyone's really going mad for machine learning. Everyone's going really mad for ChatGPT right now. They're saying, "Oh, Google's really lagging behind." I'm like, "Google's been doing generative search results for years." With featured snippets, they're able to extract different content, they're able to manipulate it. For instance, sometimes you go to a webpage and they've got numbers, they've got a list in numbers, and then sometimes on the SERP it shows it in bullets. They know what they're doing. They change around the ... They change around ...

Mordy Oberstein:

Yeah, they'll take the H2 and H3s and turn that into a numbered list.

Crystal Carter:

Right. Exactly. They're able to do that. In the featured snippets, what you get is Google understands the intent. For instance, the word for ladybug in America is called a ladybird in the UK. If I look up, "Why are ladybugs different colors?" I'll tell you why. One of them. Because the orange ones in Ohio bite you.

Mordy Oberstein:

Ooh.

Crystal Carter:

Yeah. They're awful. They're vicious. They come out in the …

Mordy Oberstein:

You know why, because Ohio's near Chicago.

Crystal Carter:

Whoops. We love the Midwest. We love the Midwest. And all of the pop that happens in the Midwest.

Mordy Oberstein:

I love pop.

Crystal Carter:

I love pop. It's my favorite. Shout out to Kenyon College. Hey. Shout out to my alma mater, Kenyon College in Ohio. Anyway. Yeah, if you look up, "Why are ladybugs different colors in the UK?" Or, "Why are ladybirds different colors in the UK?" They will give you information about ladybugs because they understand that that's not the literal word, that is the fly. They understand that there's different words for those things. And they do that in real time. As things change and as language evolves, which it does really regularly, they understand this. And yeah, it's something that they actively work with, and machine learning is absolutely crucial to that.

Mordy Oberstein:

I think the point we're trying to drive home is that things that are not ranking factors per se, impact rank more so than your specific ranking factors.

Crystal Carter:

I think that there's a difference between SEO best practice and ranking factors. There's SEO best practice, like your headings and your meta descriptions, and your this and that and the other. All of those things are great best practice, and they contribute to how Google understands your content so that they can rank it.

Mordy Oberstein:

So the next time you see a, "This is a list of the top ranking factors." Have a look. Sure, whatever. But focus more on what's happening in the ecosystem. How is Google going about actually understanding content and trying to align with that? Because if you align with how Google's trying to understand content, Google will see you as relevant. And then when they weigh the ranking factor of relevancy at 90% for this query, you will rank.

Crystal Carter:

There you go. There we have it.

Mordy Oberstein:

And you'll have done it without ever worrying about a ranking factor. You know what you should be worried about though?

Crystal Carter:

What? What?

Mordy Oberstein:

The news, and what's happening in the news. Maybe something's-

Crystal Carter:

What is happening?

Mordy Oberstein:

Well, we're about to find out, because here's this week's Snappy News.

Snappy News. Snappy News. Snappy news. Some people will lie, "I hate to say, I told you so," but I revel in it. I told you so. Just one week after I reported to you about bank rate using AI to write content. I said, "Be careful." CNET stepped in it like you would not believe. Allegedly, they have been spitting up AI content and having it reviewed by people. But it turns out it's been a hot mess of inaccuracy from Mia Sato and James Vincent over at The Verge, inside CNET's AI powered SEO money machine. I am not going to get into the whole thing here. I will link to the story in the show notes. Most definitely read it. Fascinating. I feel like we've gone backwards in time in SEO world. Not happy about it, but read the article.

But the article said it goes through CNET's alleged content farm or content building of over 70 articles built by AI writers, saying, quote, "The business model is straightforward and explicit. It publishes content designed to rank highly in Google search for high intense queries, and then monetizes that traffic with lucrative affiliate links." Meaning exactly what Google says you are not allowed to do in their guidelines. For the record, by the way, according to Mashable, CNET has ceased with the creation of AI powered content. The moral of the story is this is an emerging technology that needs to be used the right way. Please, please, please don't just jump into these tools carte blanche. Let the dust settle. Be mature with them. Figure it out.

In other news, Google will be adding an AI powered chatbot in 2023. How's that for contrast? Per Danny Goodwin over at Search Engine Land. Report, "Google Search will debut chatbot features this year." It's been speculated that Google went bonkers when the popularity of ChatGPT came about, trying to determine how it might impact their business model. So it makes sense that Google's anxiously letting you know, "Hey, hey, we're going to do this. We're not behind the times here. We have this. We've got you covered. We're going to have the chatbot. We're going to have the chatbot." At least according to a report from the New York Times.

I think this will be an interactive chat experience, where instead of getting a simple question answered with a simple result, which Google already does, it'll be something like, "Hey, where can I get pizza near me?" The chatbot replies back with a bunch of listings. And then you say, "Hey, chatbot, which one of these listings has gluten free pizza?" In other words, it'll be a way of interactively refining or exploring topics and queries. Expanding on that and refining in on that ... on all new and interactive ways. With that, this is this week's Snappy News.

You no longer have to worry because now you know the news.

Crystal Carter:

I'm even more worried now. No, I'm not. I'm not. That was great news.

Mordy Oberstein:

Thanks. I was worried that you weren't going to like it.

Crystal Carter:

No, I love good news. It's always good to get good news. It's great.

Mordy Oberstein:

Yeah. All news is good news. Is that a thing? No, that can't be a thing. That shouldn't be a thing.

Crystal Carter:

Well ... Anyway.

Mordy Oberstein:

You know what might be news to you, then?

Crystal Carter:

What's news to me?

Mordy Oberstein:

Who you should be following this week from our social awesomeness around SEO.

Crystal Carter:

Yeah. Social media is a great way to hear about SEO. That's where I get a lot of my SEO news.

Mordy Oberstein:

If you're looking to get a more holistic understanding of how you should be going about content and SEO, and not worrying so much about, "Is this a ranking factor?" You know who you should be following, is Dr. Marie Haynes.

Crystal Carter:

Dr. Marie Haynes, she's an absolute gem.

Mordy Oberstein:

She's a treasure.

Crystal Carter:

She has such a healthy, incredible curiosity for SEO. She asks questions about things that she's considering. And she thinks deeply about the questions and the answers and what it might mean. I saw her having a really interesting discussion about, again, mentioning ChatGPT, about what that means for search. I know a lot of people are asking those questions, but I'm really interested to see what she thinks about that. Speaking of which, she wrote a fantastic article about Google and their algorithm updates. Which has to do with ranking, particularly from a domain point of view, for the Wix SEO Hub, which is an absolute must-read. Please check that out. But yeah, she's a fantastic, incredible thought follow, and is amazing. All of the platitudes, all of the compliments for Marie.

Mordy Oberstein:

Great conversation on Twitter. Does great assets for the community. Search news you can use. So check that out. If you're looking to understand the algorithm better, the quality reader guidelines better, she's someone you definitely want to keep an eye on and follow. Over on Twitter, @MarieHaynes. That's at M-A-R-I-E underscore H-A-Y-N-E-S. On Twitter, @Marie_Haynes. We'll lead to it in the show notes. Definitely give her a follow because she's our follow of the week. Which means we have reached the end.

Crystal Carter:

We have?

Mordy Oberstein:

I hope I have factored in an ending.

Crystal Carter:

What did we learn today about machines?

Mordy Oberstein:

Yeah. Well, we learned there are a lot of factors, and worry about the machines more than the factors.

Crystal Carter:

Factors to consider about machines.

Mordy Oberstein:

I'm factoring in the point you've been making about machines, about the factors, and factoring in your point about the machines, my factoring of the factors is less. Does that make sense?

Crystal Carter:

How should we rank that assessment?

Mordy Oberstein:

It's very secure. Has an S.

Crystal Carter:

Okay.

Mordy Oberstein:

Thank you for joining us on the SERP's Up podcast. Are you going to miss us? Not to worry, we're back next week with a new episode as we dive into, ooh, this is a hot topic, do traditional search engines matter as much as they used to? We're probably going to Chat GPT-3 with that one. Look for us wherever you consume your podcast, or on our SEO Learning Hub at wix.com/seo/learn. Looking to learn more about SEO, check out all the great content and webinars on the Wick SEO Learning Hub at, you guessed it, wick.com/seo/learn. Don't forget to give us a review on iTunes or a rating on Spotify. Until next time, peace, love, and SEO.

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