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Google Q&a With Bill Slawski, Jon Henshaw And Myself


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#1 Black_Knight

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 02:09 AM

Andrey Lipattsev of Google, doing the whole Head of Search Quality role, agreed to answer some questions for Anton Shulke of http://webpromo.expert/google-qa/who invited Bill, Jon, and I, to ask whatever questions we felt he'd be free to answer.  I wouldn't call the resulting 1hr hangout mind-blowing for revelations, but it was certainly an interesting hour (and let's face it, what may seem less than mind-blowing to me may still be pretty enlightening for those less heavily involved in SEO).

 

While some of Andrey's answers seemed a little 'safe', I certainly understand that they (Googlers) have to be careful not only of what they say, but how they say it, and we were free to press if we felt an answer was either evasive or non-committal. ;)

 

The video is embedded in the page above, or alternately can be found on youtube

 

 

Among the key areas discussed were social signals, mobile search, quality ratings, the 'chinese wall' between paid and organic, and a whole lot on tracking and personal data concerns.



#2 cre8pc

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 11:36 AM

THIS is so good!

 

I listened to it while taking a shower and am now watching it again and taking notes where I had questions.  

 

There's an abundance of information here and you all asked excellent questions.



#3 Black_Knight

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 01:25 PM

We'd had a few days notice to prepare some, so we actually only managed about half of the questions we'd prepared, I'd guess.  We're hoping to do another session sometime to get around to some of the other questions.  But I think there were some very interesting observations on attitudes and things that concern Google generally.  I'd have liked a little more, naturally.  For example, when we talked about the site:domain.com search operator not being reliable, it was almost explained that there are multiple indices in search and site: only checks the main one, but not quite.

 

Of course, some joker kept posting little jests in the side-chat area ... oh, wait,  that was me. ;)



#4 cre8pc

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 01:44 PM

I watched it 2x. Thank you for bringing the video to our attention.  I really enjoyed it.  The questions were good.

 

My only strong takeaway is that Google is trying to understand what our search queries mean.  The context of the query is still a mystery they are attempting to solve.  Google is interested in the devices we use as well.

 

Jon asked, "What’s 2018 going to look like?"  The response was the future is mobile. Results unique to each user. Google wants to be useful, predictive to users. Queries are most fundamental content for rank. Most searches on mobile. No big keyboard anymore. Other methods of input are video, pictures, voice. The example given was to ask, "Is it raining again?" That’s a query, specific to users location. (Note no location keyword.) And then when Google says, "Yes, its still raining in [your town], user continues the dialog with, " What about [insert town] (Note no "rain" keyword just the new location).  Google will be expected to stay with the conversation even when the query changes.  And then, tell you what is happening that day, despite the weather or in both places you asked about.

 

Jon asked if there would be a need for websites anymore and there was no solid answer other than a history lesson on how we used to live without them.

 

Bill inquired about the need (or not) for supplying Google with structured data,  XML sitemaps, etc. The response was "The connection between entities and understanding words on page is the future."

 

I thought the part on Twitter was interesting.  Google can use Twitter to help it figure the context and meaning of conversations.  It's not the social signal but the effort to understand meanings. 

 

On spam - “If it hurts Google we will take action.” Doesn’t matter whose doing it. It meets guidelines or violates. “Simple as that”.

 

Other topics were privacy, security, copyright.  Ammon dug deep. 


Of course, some joker kept posting little jests in the side-chat area ... 

 

 

The screwdriver jammed into the Android phone was funny  B:)



#5 bobbb

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 02:31 PM

I pressed pause after the first question was answered. Will get back to it later. It was well answered. A politician could not have done better. Maybe I don't get the same results as him but from what I read here we all seem to get the same type of SERPs.

It might be nice it the participants shared their thoughts on some of the answered provided so we may know what to look for when we view the video. Would that influence how we view the answers??
 

Jon asked if there would be a need for websites anymore and there was no solid answer other than a history lesson on how we used to live without them.

So where would they get their info to reply to anything. We use to live without electricity and cars and computers too!

Maybe answered here

Other topics were privacy, security, copyright


#6 Black_Knight

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 03:46 PM

Here's a slice of the very near future, which may add some context:

 

I walk into a store on the high street and look at an item.  I ask aloud, seemingly of the air "Is the Randex 357 a good product?".  The familiar voice of my digital assistant through my earpiece replies at once "87% of reviews of the Randex 357 are positive with 4 or more stars.  The Hakai 250 is the only product with a higher average rating but the closest store with one in stock is 243 miles away.  The Randex 357 is available in [alternate store] on special this week saving you 18 dollars and 37 cents, and the closest branch of that store is 580 yards North on [street address].  Alternately I can order the Hakai online with an expected delivery time of 4 days."

 

No blue links, no web page, no visual display at all.  An ever present personal assistant rather like JARVIS in the Iron Man movies is the first way we get used to wearable tech fading into the background.  The Assistant can easily route display through to our smartphone or tablet if we need it, but mostly it is just a helpful voice in our ear.

 

The information it has is pulled from dozens of sources, and it is capable of cross-referencing those sources to  reach an answer that no one of them has alone.  It pulls prices from online stores, locations from directories and maps, data from review sites and social media, your own location from GPS, and accesses lots of other sources all seamlessly and automatically.  A smart assistant always just a word away.



#7 bobbb

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 04:07 PM

Not sure I like that world and I pity those who will grow up in it 'cause I can think of many scenarios.



#8 Black_Knight

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Posted 20 November 2015 - 04:31 PM

Indeed.  And that is the most benignly positive version.

 

The thing is that between your smartphone and all its sensors, the various voice assistants (Google now, Cortana, Siri), and wireless headsets, we already have all of the tech for this right now.  It is simply the software that needs refining, and a bit more aesthetics in the hardware design of earpieces.  This is a very short-term future.



#9 iamlost

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 01:17 PM

I still need to find time to listen, hopefully next couple of days.

However, to pick up on the contextual info delivery discussed above: while it is definitely one of the main ways forward in information delivery it has two serious potentially critical problems:
1. it is a level of personalisation that requires deep privacy inroads. Currently such data is treated as a saleable commodity rather than as a delivery competitive advantage. This is primarily because the services are delivered 'free' and something/someone has to pay for it. Regulation is falling farther behind every day, often chasing the already passé. We need regulatory principles first and then fit the explicits as appropriate.

2. Google and other delivery services are operating at scale and on the cheap so that information is never verified, which has already proven hazardous even deadly in current systems. And every one of the systems to date have been corrupted/hacked for fun or profit. Security is never high on agile/lean beta forever systems. Instead of hacking for ranking it will be hacking for acquisition/redirection. And wifi/bluetooth is easy peasy.

 

It is not the systems or even the software that will make or break this future but the validity of the information.

Note: as yet organisations are not being held accountable for the information they supply, at some point this must change although they will fight bitterly to be exempted as if 'automated scraping' is a valid excuse.

 

Finally, just a reminder that context is coming to websites as well. Has been for years.
* Will Context Fell Google?, Cre8, May-2012.
Note: it would certainly be amusing if Google goes direct and bypasses the web that nurtured it.

* The Living Adapting Site, Cre8, October-2015.

Context -> Content -> Structure -> Presentation/Behaviour ---> the personalised information internet (includes the web).



#10 Black_Knight

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 01:51 PM

Good call, iamlost, and those were both points touched on during the conversation at some point.  One of the questions I did not get time for this time around was whether the adoption of TOR and increased privacy concerns had yet become statistically significant (the main users of TOR are a significant early-adopter and technically able demographic), and whether Google had contingency plans in mind for if user-data suddenly became a lot more scarce (or unusable) due to security concerns over privacy, software, or legislation.

 

In a way, apps themselves, and the direction of Google in being able to access them and extract meaningful data, is already a way of 'bypassing' the web.  Right now, I'd still say that even smartphone users make use of the regular web quite a lot, i.e. browser use, but there is also a lot of use of apps for social networks, and social networks make up a LOT of the time spent on the mobile internet.  As companies move forward, we may see the apps incentivized, with special discounts, or some kind of loyalty rewards (because apps allow you to capture richer data through logins, etc).



#11 bobbb

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 06:56 PM

OK now I have viewed it all. Lots of fancy skating going on but then the job probably demands it.

I thought you were pro that 2018+ scenario so I read that wrong.

But back to the example. That voice is Google speaking. Speaking back: "What I also want to know is how many of those reviews of the 87% are paid for because you obviously do not want to send me there (because it means losing me) and how many of the recommendations are also paid for. There must be more than 2 places which sell those and more than 1 online seller." I don't know what those 2 products are.

Today I understand where the information comes from for the reviews. It is scraped from somewhere else including your site. OK there is value added.

In that future, according to him, there will be no websites because the voice of Majel Barrett-Roddenberry will answer all. Well he alluded that there will still be and on occasion you will be sent there. They would be piddlings. He was quite clear G depends on webmaster content (scraping). Those piddlings may not be enough to allow that site to survive. We see paywalls coming up everywhere. Who will put in all that time to review and post so they may scrape?

My example:
This summer I got interested in tracking (seeing) the ISS (KW "satellite tracking") and visited a number of the sites to find one which I found to be the simplest to use. That guy got traffic and during the summer I clicked 2 ads which looked interesting. But if Majel always gives me the answer what motives him to keep his site up-to-date (plus the others) then where does Google scrape from to reply.



#12 Black_Knight

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Posted 21 November 2015 - 11:25 PM

But back to the example. That voice is Google speaking. Speaking back: "What I also want to know is how many of those reviews of the 87% are paid for because you obviously do not want to send me there (because it means losing me) and how many of the recommendations are also paid for. There must be more than 2 places which sell those and more than 1 online seller." I don't know what those 2 products are.

Today I understand where the information comes from for the reviews. It is scraped from somewhere else including your site. OK there is value added.

In that future, according to him, there will be no websites because the voice of Majel Barrett-Roddenberry will answer all. Well he alluded that there will still be and on occasion you will be sent there. They would be piddlings. He was quite clear G depends on webmaster content (scraping). Those piddlings may not be enough to allow that site to survive. We see paywalls coming up everywhere. Who will put in all that time to review and post so they may scrape?

 

Step back and expand the view.  Google would not need to monetize the answer.  Their value is in you trusting the voice.  Needing the voice.  Carrying it and all its fancy sensors and telemetrics everywhere throughout your life.  Make any platform, device, system, ubiquitous and people will beg for ways to pay to tie into it, or buy its data.  Knowledge is power - which is why people use Google at all.  They want its knowledge even as they add to it without a thought.

 

Sites may become apps, or apps may become more cross-linked and shareable to effectively become the new sites, not just tied to a visual screen display.  We're already seeing that with responsive design.  So long as there is any possibility that having your data available on the internet is going to bring you a sale (either the online-ordered "Hakai 250" or the online-advertising (via earpiece in this scenario) driven physical visit for the discounted "Randex 357" are potential sales only made possible by having their data out there and scrape-able) people will continue to publish.  And to advertise in places it may be seen.  Other's apps, others galleries, whatever.

 

​To take your example of satellite tracking, sooner or later just hearing where the satellite is won't be enough.  You'll want the voice to suggest where you can see images, or get an in-depth read, or a video, etc.  A site referral, even if the site turns out to be a dedicated app by someone.  There will still be traffic, and it will be more purposeful, more engaged.  Those who only wanted one single fact and would have left won't have arrived at all.  Certainly that means you lost a chance to advertise at them, but is that a bad thing from their perspective?  If it is, they'll visit more sites and trust the short answers less except for finding the sites.

 

It is largely going to be a whole new area for usability and user-experience.  When I ask "where can I get a cup of coffee?", did I ever actually want a directory of the ten thousand coffee shops in the city?  Or did I just want a couple of the best options (the closest place for any coffee, the most popular place within a block or so, or whether somewhere close by sells my absolute favourite coffee blend).



#13 bobbb

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Posted 22 November 2015 - 02:36 AM

 

Step back and expand the view.  Google would not need to monetize the answer.  Their value is in you trusting the voice.  Needing the voice.  Carrying it and all its fancy sensors and telemetrics everywhere throughout your life.  Make any platform, device, system, ubiquitous and people will beg for ways to pay to tie into it, or buy its data.  Knowledge is power - which is why people use Google at all.  They want its knowledge even as they add to it without a thought.

OK

I've always said I'm waiting for the day we speak to our computers à la Star Trek but right now I choose to not carry all the fancy sensors and telemetrics everywhere throughout my life because I don't trust the voice anymore.
 

Those who only wanted one single fact and would have left won't have arrived at all.

Agreed.
In these forums here all discussions are about converting (to sell)... but I am not selling unless showing an ad is called selling.
In my satellite example I did see more images and got to read in-depth articles but only because I landed there. He "converted". That was his reward. He got to show a few more ads and it's OK. That's where it's at. The info was free. In the future context we are talking about I don't believe Google wants me to leave their property ever. I'm sure that guy did well because at times his site got overloaded.
 

"where can I get a cup of coffee?"

What I want is "the closest place for any coffee, the most popular place within a block or so" regardless of whether they pay to advertise or not. What I don't want is only those who pay to be included. I expect an information engine (SE) to do that. Andrey mentioned their need for user trust. I don't trust the voice. It's gotten greedy.


Edited by bobbb, 22 November 2015 - 02:38 AM.


#14 Black_Knight

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Posted 22 November 2015 - 03:04 AM

I don't trust Google either.  But my reasons are entirely different.  

 

Most of the time when people (elsewhere of course) complain that Google is greedy they are whining because their supply of free traffic became something they had to work for.  Google are accused of greed by the greedy.  Many of us see Google referrals still as mostly a gift horse that you don't complain about the dentistry of.  I trust Microsoft or Apple a lot, lot less.

 

In my experience, Google's 'chinese wall' is highly effective, and monetary concerns are not on the agenda of the search engineers at all.  Yes, the favour brands, but brands don't have to be big brands, or the richest companies.  Plenty of charities, freeware, and more are brands of huge importance, without spending a dime.  It just so happens that many of the companies that got to be big got there by having all those quality signals, and good marketing.

 

No, the reason that I don't trust Google is that I think they are still too wrapped up in academia, too naive.  I don't think they have nearly enough respect for the lessons of Alfred Nobel's reasons for needing to create a Peace Prize.  I don't think they realise how greedy and dangerous Government is.  I think Google imagine they have a lot more control over the data they collect than they will ever have.  I don't think they realise quite how big a target they are, or the extremes that all sorts of people would go to to seize that power for themselves.



#15 bobbb

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Posted 22 November 2015 - 11:08 AM

 I don't think they realise quite how big a target they are, or the extremes that all sorts of people would go to to seize that power for themselves

Had not thought about that side of the angle. Knew they had too much power for one corporation.



#16 iamlost

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Posted 22 November 2015 - 06:29 PM

An interesting back and forth (and obfuscation :)) on the 'pushing down' of organic search results. Parsing the replies (excluding the omission of speaking to the AdWords results sitting directly on top, which may well be gathering in much of what used to be the value of those top three positions (~60% of first page clicks)) the answer seems to be that Google considers the Knowledge/Answer Boxes and similar as organic despite not actually sending many searchers to the data suppliers; that YouTube, Picassa, Maps and other Google properties are viewed as organic as they are not Google search but 'independent' just like you and me. So they were using the same terms but the definition was quite different.

Then the addition of context via mention of Android Wear specifically and mobile generally. He basically said that the old style results of title, description and link are remnants of search of a decade ago that is currently on life support that can and will be cut as soon as Google thinks they can get away with it; starting with the latest devices and working backwards.

The other fascinating point about the introduction of context was his series of queries with missing input is it raining again -> answer includes user location -> what about [insert location] -> answer includes weather -> sounds good, let's go -> cab is called, flight and hotel booked.

His assumption is that of IBM in the 40's, that the world only needed a half dozen computers (and that they'd be IBMs) and that it would be terminals that proliferated not the computer. Of course the personal computer of the 70's and 80's flipped that on it's head (and the number of mainframes had already skyrocketed). He implies that we will, with our mobile devices aka terminals do everything through centralised services (and that would be Google) aka mainframes.

I suspect that we will have integrated personal apps/services that do the calling as needed to our preferred suppliers. It may well flow much the same BUT much much more decentralised and much much less Google oriented.

What it confirms for me is:
* diversifying traffic and revenue is increasingly critical.
* blocking certain Google (and other) bots/offerings and limiting others from various bits or everything is increasingly important.
* knowing your business model and having a business plan out several years is increasingly valuable.
* the future decade is looking at least as fascinating as the previous.



#17 Black_Knight

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Posted 22 November 2015 - 06:47 PM

What it confirms for me is:
* diversifying traffic and revenue is increasingly critical.
* blocking certain Google (and other) bots/offerings and limiting others from various bits or everything is increasingly important.
* knowing your business model and having a business plan out several years is increasingly valuable.
* the future decade is looking at least as fascinating as the previous.

 

Absolutely the same things on my own list, barring only the continued (and growing) importance of "Brand".  As search moves from simple strings of characters to understanding entities, one needs enough identity strength (Brand) to be an entity, however small.

 

When diversifying, don't just think about additional traffic, but think of 'hedge bets'.  If people stopped using Google as much, what would they use instead?  More word of mouth on social?  More reliance on consumer testing and reviews?  Demonstrations and tutorials on youtube and podcasts?  Get there before the popularity explosion, even if it never happens.  There are always some ahead of the curve already doing it.

 

Schema is not your friend.  It is a training set for machine learning.  Using it now may give you a short-term advantage, or you may find ways outside of search to make it valuable to have your data be a free utility ... but never forget that Google only rely on a small proportion of sites using good markup of any kind.  Just enough to teach the machines to recognize the same data 'in the wild'.  Any advantage in terms of search are not long-term.



#18 bobbb

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Posted 22 November 2015 - 07:37 PM

Then the addition of context via mention of Android Wear specifically and mobile generally. He basically said that the old style results of title, description and link are remnants of search of a decade ago that is currently on life support that can and will be cut as soon as Google thinks they can get away with it; starting with the latest devices and working backwards

He said that was the 90's. Well I say fast forward 25 years to 15 years into the 21st century and this is what we have so it is the early 21st century look. His vision of 2018+ is probably correct since he knows what is in the pipeline at Google. Maybe it is on life support but today, now, blue links and snippets is 21st century. The other is still a vision which is for the future. Lots can happen in 3-4 years.

 

One thing I can says about IBM is they understood backward compatibility. Something Microsoft picked up on which is why you may still run old 90s programs as is and why we can still have FAT file systems and the 8.3 names are still around. Check files in the Windows folder and see most are still 8. at least and with no blanks.

 

I still use wmatch.exe published by PCmag in the 90's


Edited by bobbb, 22 November 2015 - 07:53 PM.


#19 iamlost

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Posted 22 November 2015 - 08:03 PM

Dang, Ammon, it is good when you find time to stop by. I certainly missed a great deal not joining Cre8 before I did. Especially as I find myself in so much agreement. :D

I do like to read through the archives regularly though, still an enormous amount that is still quite relevant; best practices tend to linger.

I rarely mention 'brand' just as I rarely mention entity as so many misconstrue both. Absolutely, being/becoming a recognisable entity aka brand and encouraging appropriate entity interconnections is a major part of marketing including SEO.

Again I rarely mention traffic diversification as far too many are Google sighted and even the near sighted only see search engines. Perhaps, though it is time for another dropping a pebble into the abyss...who knows it may just hit someone on the head. :D Hedge betting traffic - a good thread title. Time, anyone got spare time to share?

I have totally ignored schema dotorg as just another SE 'let's get the webdevs to do the heavy lifting' à la rel=nofollow/canonical. I have used microformats for a decade, however, my usage has changed significantly from client to server as part of my delivering content on context experiments.

Speaking of which, when you have another such Google Q&A opportunity, given that Google is looking to deliver on context, which means that what one visitor sees may not be what another does ... which is something Google has been very much against ... if different people see different URIs or the same URIs in a different order on a singular URL are they going to spazz? :)

As a followup: if presumed new (aka unidentified users) visitors - and googlebot - are served one thing on a URL but recognized return visitors are served one or more quite different aka personalised results on that same URL...

For reference: The Living Adapting Site, Cre8, 14-October-2015, and linked threads.

 

An answer may just affect architecture or how soon I simply kick Google out totally.

 

 

 



#20 cre8pc

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Posted 24 November 2015 - 11:42 AM

Schema is not your friend.  It is a training set for machine learning.  Using it now may give you a short-term advantage, or you may find ways outside of search to make it valuable to have your data be a free utility ... but never forget that Google only rely on a small proportion of sites using good markup of any kind.

 

 

So glad somebody has the courage to say so.



#21 Black_Knight

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 02:19 AM

... when you have another such Google Q&A opportunity, given that Google is looking to deliver on context, which means that what one visitor sees may not be what another does ... which is something Google has been very much against ... if different people see different URIs or the same URIs in a different order on a singular URL are they going to spazz? :)

As a followup: if presumed new (aka unidentified users) visitors - and googlebot - are served one thing on a URL but recognized return visitors are served one or more quite different aka personalised results on that same URL...

For reference: The Living Adapting Site, Cre8, 14-October-2015, and linked threads.

 

 

That's one I can pretty much answer right now.  The answer is that it depends on just how much is contextual and personalized, and how much is a known entity for quality and relevancy.  For instance, Amazon and Ebay both have a lot of contextual output on their pages, relating to your browsing history, purchasing history, location, and more.  However, an item page is still about that item, and its description and quality doesn't change.  A category page is always of known quality and relevancy to the category.

 

Another example is Youtube, of course, where all those suggested videos on the right are contextual, based on your prior activity, recent views, etc.  The comments can change without notice, but the core content, the video itself, is reasonably expected to remain the same for all users (even if the pre-roll ads change).

 

In the same way, your own site can have huge amounts of contextualized and personalized references and content, provided the core content, the 'main event' remains a constant, and provided there is some consistency of navigation to reach the home page, to search, etc.



#22 iamlost

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Posted 25 November 2015 - 08:07 AM

 

That's one I can pretty much answer right now.  ...

That is my premise as well ... and part of the testing is to try and get a feel for how much is too much. However, it would be nice to get a Googler take on it especially as my sites are not exactly an Amazon or eBay.



#23 glyn

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 09:54 AM

If internally people are coming to this guys section and saying that the Advertisers are not happy with the results, it would only be done if previously a similar question had been proposed? (9:44)



#24 cre8pc

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 10:21 AM

I watched yesterday for about 30 minutes until I was interrupted and had to take care of something else.  I was struck by how advanced the discussion was.  Not for the faint hearted.

 

And, my takeaway from the Google rep was that SEO's are obsessed with search and care about things to a level that everyday folks don't.  Or, in my mind, I thought, beginner SEO's or those who claim to do the work but at the skill level of 10 years ago.  That could explain the ongoing repetition of bad information out there on SEO.

 

Situations like what I'm dealing with too, with small biz owners who hire the WRONG companies.  When I review their contracts, or see the results of the final site, it's just a frustration for me.  I'm not an expert either.  I know enough to know when to tell clients to hire a real SEO and then I refer the proper folks but finding affordable ones is a whole 'nother issue.



#25 glyn

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Posted 21 January 2016 - 10:36 AM

BILL GREAT QUESTIONS AT THE END. THEY ARE LISTENING FOR SURE!





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