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Episode 1: Optimizing for Search Intent

Marketers can’t just focus on ranking for text-based content anymore. Today, search engine results pages are more diverse than ever — from images to video to knowledge boxes and more.

In our first episode of Skill Up, Jorie and Matt dig into all of the different ways Google is serving up different content types and how searcher intent should inform your SEO strategy.

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Episode Transcription

Matt Howells-Barby: Hi. I'm Matt Howells-Barby.

Jorie Munroe: Hi. I'm Jorie Munroe.

Matt Howells-Barby: And this is Skill Up. Skill Up is a podcast sponsored by HubSpot Academy that's all about the changing landscape of marketing, sales and customer service. This season we're diving in on SEO and how to create a strategy [00:00:30] for 2018.

From future snippets to writing content that ranks to voice search, we're going to show you exactly how you can improve your rankings and drive more traffic to your site. And because we don't think you should wait to grow, you can listen to the entire season now on Apple Podcast, Spotify or wherever you go to get to your podcasts. Plus, if you want to know when our next season is launching, sign up for email updates by visiting [00:01:00] www.skilluppodcast.com.

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HubSpot Academy offers engaging and informative classes that can help you skill up so you can grow your business. Go to hubspot.com/skillup to check [00:01:30] out trainings, certifications, community discussions and much, much more. That's hubspot.com/skillup and start learning together.

Matt Howells-Barby: We're long past the days of search results pages being a simple list of links. The algorithm is constantly changing and Google is always experimenting with how and what types of content actually get displayed. Just a few months ago, Google began seeing zero results for searches like, "How much is [00:02:00] 100 plus 20?" The results page was just the answer. And then there was a link to view the typical list of results. The experiment didn't last long. They removed this feature after a week, but it shows how Google's trying to optimize for the intent of the search, rather than the search itself. That could be in video, images or just a date, depending on what the person is looking for.

Organic link results are getting pushed farther down the page or [00:02:30] they're being replaced altogether by other types of content. And that means you need to change the types of content you create and adjust your optimization practices. In this episode, we'll talk through the diversification of content types in the search results and how to win in a world of shrinking organic real estate.

[00:03:00] Hi everyone. As I said previously, I'm Matthew Howells-Barby, director of acquisition here at HubSpot and I have Jorie Munroe in the studio with me. She's an inbound professor for HubSpot Academy and my co-host.

Hi Jorie.

Jorie Munroe: Hey Matt. Excited to be here.

Matt Howells-Barby: Me too. So tell me, how did you become a professor at HubSpot?

Jorie Munroe: Yeah, that's a good question. I actually started at HubSpot on the front lines, answering those everyday questions with [00:03:30] the calls coming in from support and what that led to is me realizing that I really loved education and understanding the everyday needs of the user. So I fell in love with the conversion tools and the analytics tools, so I joined Academy as a conversion rate optimization and reporting professor. This is a topic that's super interesting to me because I kind of straddle the world of data collection and content design, so I hear about SEO [00:04:00] on the fringes, but I'm excited to learn more because it's actually really important for everyone to know these days.

This is something you've been doing for a while, right?

Matt Howells-Barby: Yeah, a little while.

Jorie Munroe: Little bit, little while. Okay.

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Matt Howells-Barby: Yeah, so I started actually ... I've been at HubSpot now for around about three years and initially came into HubSpot to pretty much head up the SEO team that we were growing out. And now I run all of our user acquisition, which encompasses the [00:04:30] SEO team and amongst a bunch of other different channels. Prior to my time at HubSpot, a lot of my focus was very deeply in SEO. I was running a lot of our big digital campaigns for a big agency back in England at the time and, as you've probably guessed from my accent by now-

Jorie Munroe: I would have never known you were from England.

Matt Howells-Barby: What I was doing there was working with, in all honesty, all kinds of different brands from tech businesses through to weird and [00:05:00] wonderful manufacturing and aerospace companies. I have a pretty strong breadth of knowledge of different situations in SEO, certainly faced a whole bunch of problems in SEO that have sometimes just felt like they're aging me, but at that point, I think one of the fun things has been, at HubSpot, having access to so much data, and getting insight where previously a lot of people won't really have [00:05:30] all of the data we have at our disposal, which means we can do really fun stuff with testing things in SEO.

Jorie Munroe: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It's exciting to hear about how many different industries you worked with because these days, SEO is very much marketing 101. But it's hard to overstate how important search is for a piece of content or an entire campaign. And while I feel pretty confident about creating content and distribution, I still don't really understand quite the mechanics of how [00:06:00] search works or, if I'm honest, it's based on some research I did gearing up for my role as a professor, but that was when I was first starting out so, so much has already changed, right?

Matt Howells-Barby: Yes. And SEO when I first started out, going back a number of years now, was really not a very fashionable thing as it is nowadays in marketing, where a lot of people want to learn about it. And actually, it's relatively accessible [00:06:30] to some extent to get started, because primarily, it jumped on the wave of the rise of content marketing and inbound marketing as a whole. But back when I started, it was the IT person in the company was the person who managed the SEO and it was this really technical thing and there was just a lot of spamming that would go on and a lot of relatively crappy stuff.

But that said, I think when you look at some of the biggest changes that happen in [00:07:00] SEO today, it's been more in terms of the ways the users are searching that's really changed a lot, as well as obviously Google's algorithms updating a bunch and adding new features in. It does make it very difficult to stay up to date, though.

Jorie Munroe: It's literally a full-time job in some ways.

Matt Howells-Barby: It literally is. And I think that's one of the things about SEO that's the best and worst thing about it. There are very high barriers to entry to gain substantial [00:07:30] amounts of knowledge around SEO. When you get past those barriers and you're actually doing and testing stuff yourself, you kind of start to realize that a lot of the conventional, best practices don't always apply to every situation. This is amplified when you think about different industries as well, where whole different things come up that you'd never faced before.

Jorie Munroe: Right. That makes a lot of sense. Let's dig into that a little bit more and how complicated this whole SEO world has gotten. [00:08:00] We're going to actually do a quick search and ... Okay. Let's walk through what we're seeing here.

Matt Howells-Barby: Okay.

Jorie Munroe: We're searching for, for reference, just skiing, right? And this is a really good example. So let's walk through what we're seeing here. There's a ton going on if you just search skiing on this page. Let's walk through what we're seeing.

Matt Howells-Barby: Yeah, I think one of the most important things here is that anyone that's listening, you're going to be seeing [00:08:30] very different results to what me and you are seeing, Jorie.

Jorie Munroe: Right.

Matt Howells-Barby: One of the big things that is immediately noticeable is the localization of search results. This is one of the biggest changes that happened over probably the past 10 years. Go back 10 years time and what you would find is actually the results here would not be personalized based on your location. You would have what we would classically call the 10 blue links of the search results [00:09:00] which would not change depending on any location that you're actually in. Because what Google would rely on to populate these results, would always be what we would call explicit search factors. It would only look at the word skiing to determine results.

Jorie Munroe: So I would see the same results as someone in California?

Matt Howells-Barby: Absolutely.

Jorie Munroe: We're in Cambridge, Massachusetts right now.

Matt Howells-Barby: Right. We're probably a bit closer to skiing than they are.

Jorie Munroe: Maybe.

Matt Howells-Barby: [00:09:30] But what the main thing that is the big differential here is, go back a number of years, Google isn't necessarily factoring the fact that you're in Cambridge, Massachusetts when you're searching. There's a whole hidden layer to what someone's actually searching for in the search engines that Google sees and this is what we call implicit query factors.

A few things become very apparent when you search for something like skiing. First of all, [00:10:00] what you're actually saying is, "Show me places to ski in or near the location of Cambridge, Massachusetts." Now if you're searching this on wifi versus using cellular data, Google could ascertain that you're probably not on the move, so you're probably planning something that maybe has a larger radius in terms of distances as well. Searching this on cellular data may indicate to Google, "Hey, [00:10:30] this person's on the move and they actually want to see something in a shorter distance."

There's all of these things that have been determined, but all you have done as a searcher is write skiing.

Jorie Munroe: Skiing. Right.

Matt Howells-Barby: This becomes really apparent as well, in particular with searches for restaurants, food, lunches. The thought of someone typing into Google 10 years ago, "Where should I eat," is insane. You would never do that back then. People [00:11:00] would just think you don't know how to Google. But the reality is, that you can do that now and this is why we're seeing other platforms come in, like voice and other such platforms, where queries are becoming more conversational.

Jorie Munroe: Yeah, and it's interesting too, because I'm seeing different pieces of the page as well. There's this images area. There's some videos, and then there's even this box on the side that links me to new searches. Could you walk me through some of these components on this page [00:11:30] besides just that localized piece?

Matt Howells-Barby: Yeah. This is what we would call a blended search engine result page. The early stages of this concept came about several years ago now, but one of the first things I remember entering into the results page was alongside local listings was images. Images never used to appear in a carousel kind of in the results page. Then we started seeing what is now known as [00:12:00] the knowledge graph. So if you search for a brand name, for example HubSpot, you'll see on the right-hand side, the knowledge graph, which contains information about specific entities and this is largely vetted information that Google have in what is literally known as their knowledge graph about certain entities. They pull a lot of this information from Wikipedia, Wikidata, and a number of other sources. They used to use Freebase, a company they acquired at one point.

[00:12:30] Then you also have in this result around skiing, Google is also being able to determine that this is a sport and that there are other related sports, skiing being some kind of topic that you may want to dig into in more detail or find more information about. Similarly having local ski areas, there's an image area, all of these things. Then you've got people also ask, which we started to see coming [00:13:00] up more and more and more. Featured snippets, something will come on later in the season, but one of the things that has been probably the toughest thing from an SEO point of view for people to adapt to, is even knowing how and where in this results page do I actually end up ranking. That's particularly difficult to know.

Jorie Munroe: Yeah. I know from experience that these days and sort of what we've talked about before is, it doesn't always look the same. What are [00:13:30] some of the different forms that this knowledge graph can take?

Matt Howells-Barby: Yeah, depending on the type of thing we're searching for, what will appear will vary quite a lot. A good example of this would be searching for a business or brand. That will show very different things. You'll usually have links to the brand's website. If it's a physical location, maybe even [00:14:00] suggested opening hours, contact information, related businesses from the same thing.

Search for HubSpot, you're probably also going to see Salesforce, MailChimp, and a few others. This is Google doing things to try and provide useful next steps for searches. Then when you look at things like, all right, different entities where they can pull in various data points, for example, books. You search for a specific book, it will be able to pull in and tell you the date of its publish, who was the publisher, [00:14:30] who's the author, all of these things can take you further down the layers of Google's knowledge graph where you could search for everything by a certain publisher, everything that was published around a certain day, etcetera, etcetera. What this is, is this huge semantic graph of information that makes up pretty much the large value proposition of Google as a whole.

Jorie Munroe: Right. It's very contextual then.

Matt Howells-Barby: Very much so.

Jorie Munroe: Awesome. Let's try this out. I'm [00:15:00] going to type in something healthy. Let's just say spinach, for example.

Matt Howells-Barby: So healthy.

Jorie Munroe: So healthy, I was going to say kale ...

Matt Howells-Barby: I can feel you struggling to find a healthy thing.

Jorie Munroe: Let's try some spinach. Wow. It even lists things like nutritional facts. Here it says, spinach, one cup is only seven calories and a lot of vitamins. So yes, it's very healthy. Eat up. Yum. So yeah. But on the flip side, let's take [00:15:30] a look and Google Snickers. I love candy. Okay. A whole bag of Snickers is pretty unhealthy. So I guess that's not so surprising.

Matt Howells-Barby: Are you speaking from experience or from what Google's telling you?

Jorie Munroe: You know, Google is telling me Snickers are not healthy.

Matt Howells-Barby: Right. Okay. You cannot confirm nor deny.

Jorie Munroe: I've never eaten a whole bag on Halloween. Who would do that? Yeah, so it's changed how information is displayed clearly.

Matt Howells-Barby: [00:16:00] Yeah. This is such a really interesting one with some of the ingredient level stuff in particular. My wife actually runs a food blog, so this is particularly relevant to me. I remember watching this over the space of the past few years, especially around ingredient-based searches. And Google has taken tons of different forms.

So you can see right now certainly in google.com, we're seeing in the knowledge graph pane, that's the pane to the right hand [00:16:30] side, all of these different values, nutritional information being shown. At one point, they actually showed, and they may show this for different queries, they had a table that would show in the main section of the search results and you could actually have dropdown menus that would show you stuff for fat content, for ... and you could even compare. Struggling for other healthy things right now.

Let's just say, Snickers and spinach, [00:17:00] those two core fundamental ingredients in the food pyramid.

Jorie Munroe: Welcome to my world.

Matt Howells-Barby: So there's been a lot of ways that Google, in particular, have tried to rework and change up the way things are displayed. It's ultimately all the same information, but they're just representing it differently. A great example here, when we look at a search for Snickers. You've got this carousel that is the recent Tweets [00:17:30] from Snickers. Google spent quite a bit of time working directly with Twitter to integrate their tweets. I think, I'm trying to remember when this was but, I'm going to hazard a guess and people are probably going to tweet at me and tell me I was wrong now. But around about 2014, 2015 they did this, right about the time when Google Plus was dying.

Jorie Munroe: Gotcha.

Matt Howells-Barby: So they started adding this stuff in. Again, it's just giving information directly to the user [00:18:00] one click sooner, which for a lot of people would argue that's a good thing for them. A lot of people would argue that might not be the good thing for the web in general. But we'll see.

Jorie Munroe: One thing that I've heard you mention a lot actually, is this concept of the carousels. What controls this carousel? Because in the previous search about skiing, we saw one about images. But in the search engine results for Snickers, I'm seeing it about Twitter. What's controlling [00:18:30] the search engine to display this carousel?

Matt Howells-Barby: This is the best example of Google's natural language processing at play. The reason why Google is the best search engine certainly in my opinion in terms of delivering results, let's forget about market dominance for a moment. But the reason why most people will say that Google has the best results is because it's not necessarily that they have more results or a larger index, which they [00:19:00] do. But that's not the point. The point here is that they understand intent behind searches so much better than many other search engines.

The best way of showing this a lot of the time can actually be with shorter queries in particular. A really good example is a query like CRM. This is something that I, a query that I know a hell of a lot about. But someone that's just typing in CRM, [00:19:30] it would genuinely baffle me if someone decides I need to buy a CRM and they start by just typing CRM into Google. If there's one thing I've learned in SEO, it's that nothing ceases to amaze.

Jorie Munroe: Don't make assumptions. Okay.

Matt Howells-Barby: Yeah. Well, you know what they say about assuming.

Jorie Munroe: Step one. Right.

Matt Howells-Barby: The thing that would have been very difficult for Google to understand probably say, let's just use 10 years ago. They would show just the simple results of 10 blue links and it would probably be every [00:20:00] CRM provider in a row of their results. Actually, let's think about it. What are you doing if you're typing CRM? The main reason why you're searching that is because actually you want to know the definition or what those acronyms actually stand for, quick information. What shows when you do that? A very quick featured snippet that's giving you what the acronyms actually mean in a brief definition.

It's like Google can programmatically understand [00:20:30] this information in the exact same way that someone typing Snickers. They'll go through and they'll have information about Snickers, but actually, you may want to know nutritional information. They understand that that is a type of food, if we can call it that.

Jorie Munroe: Okay. Whoa.

Matt Howells-Barby: Look, I'm not hating on Snickers. They could be a potential sponsor for the podcast at one point in time.

Jorie Munroe: You've got some protein in Snickers, okay?

Matt Howells-Barby: Right. Well, spinach isn't going to sponsor [00:21:00] us so ... The thing with this is just being able to determine that Snickers is a chocolate bar is pretty interesting in itself. Actually to bring this back to SEO in particular, one of the things that I hear people say a lot is, "SCO is changing so much. Google's always changing their algorithm. Google's always changing x. SEO is moving too fast for me to understand." One thing that I actually like to [00:21:30] talk about in amongst all of that is, I actually disagree a lot of the time.

The thing that's changed the most about SEO actually hasn't necessarily been just that Google is changing their algorithms. Actually, the way Google ranks content hasn't changed a whole lot over the past few years. Where they have invested all of their time is understanding intent and being able to serve the right results based on the right query. Natural language processing has been the biggest thing that they [00:22:00] have made developments in, but what that's meant is it's enabled searches, people like me and you, Jorie. The way that we search has completely evolved and changed more than anything.

I talked about previously, it'd be very, very strange for someone to just type, "Where can I eat." I don't know anyone other than maybe my grandmother that would have done that 10 years ago.

Jorie Munroe: That needs to learn how to use the Google.

Matt Howells-Barby: [00:22:30] Right. Exactly. That would have been a very strange thing to do. But now Google can understand that. Then, so you would get crappy results. When you get crappy results, you have a bad experience and you don't do that again. Now if you type that now, you get pretty good results and you instantly get gratification that actually this was the right thing to do, I'm going to continue this kind of pattern.

What Google has been doing is systematically changing the search behavior of [00:23:00] people, and the way we search has evolved so much so that we went through this stage where it's almost been like a bell curve of you would have to get very, very specific in outlining. For more granular results that you want, the more granular your search query would be. Sometimes, it would be a bit of a jumbled up sentence, just adding keywords in to get to it. You'd be like, restaurant Boston Mexican-

Jorie Munroe: Open.

Matt Howells-Barby: Open, right. Yeah. And you're [00:23:30] hoping that that shows up for good results. Then what you realized is, you could you just type really short results like, where to eat, and it shortened down the query path. But what then we're seeing more of now is that people actually trust speaking more conversationally. That means that queries are much longer, but the volume of queries and the diversification of queries is much more populous.

If you had to look at the total number of [00:24:00] searches that led to a result in going to the Snickers homepage for example, the long tail, which is the longer queries, there'd be more of them. That creates a real challenge from an SEO point of view because you're not just ranking for a keyword anymore. It's like you're ranking for thousands of different phrases. This is kind of something that we'll probably come onto later on, where it started to [00:24:30] shift. A lot of people focus on SEO and to more how do we focus on ranking for broad topics that encompass all of the range of these more conversational queries?

Jorie Munroe: That's a really good segue into my next question, where let's start talking about the flip side of this. How do you actually make content for this world of complicated results where you're trying to rank for multiple queries? Images and videos might seem like the most logical if I [00:25:00] was trying to start optimizing content beyond text, but where do you really start with this new world of SEO?

Matt Howells-Barby: Building robots through AI and having them do it all for you.

Jorie Munroe: So not just links but?

Matt Howells-Barby: If you can't do that, then the way that I would tend to start is ... Let me caveat this by just taking one step back. One of the biggest mistakes that I often see people do that's become [00:25:30] even more problematic in this new search landscape, is they'll try to ... Let's just say someone wanted to rank for the word, Snickers. Let's take that example. And they said, "Okay, what we want to do is to try and outrank the current pages on the site. We want to do something very different. We want our page content to stand out and we're going to do it in a completely different format, and we think we're going to get [00:26:00] that ranking."

Now when you think about it from a content marketing point of view, you're always being told, "Do something different. Do something better. Do something that's going to stand out." But you know what? Sometimes and a lot of the time in SEO, that is the worst thing you can do. Google is determining the intent behind the keyword and it's very specifically showing the results that it believes are the best types of content to show to a user. What you're saying by saying, "We're going to do something different," is, "Google's wrong and actually we're right and you [00:26:30] should just listen." I can tell you from experience, Google doesn't listen.

Jorie Munroe: Google owns Google.

Matt Howells-Barby: Google does own Google. That is fact. So what you want to try and do here is do something better, but maintain some boundaries of what ... you want to serve up what Google wants to serve up. The first thing I often do is run a quick query for the kind of topics that we're going to try and rank for and see what formats are showing. Is there video content [00:27:00] showing already? Is there an image carousel? Is there a featured snippet? Is there all of these different types of content?

Look through the first page of Google. You will always see common threads. It's very rare, other than for really abstract search queries, that you don't see uniformity in the results. Even when I'm looking through a branded query for Snickers, you're seeing a lot of product page content [00:27:30] within there. That's actually a bad example of a query, but it still conforms to this. You should always use what is existing within the search results page to inform both the format, the direction, and ultimately, the problem that the user is looking to solve.

There is never a moment when you ever, as a person searching in Google, where you search when you don't have a problem that you need to be solved. Even if you are just typing the word Snickers, [00:28:00] you are looking for something. Otherwise, you're running on autopilot and you actually are an AI-driven bot. That's like you've got bigger problems right now.

Jorie Munroe: You want to start off with similar content and then over time if you want to diversify after you started ranking, that's when you would start to lean into those other formats? Or should you stay away from those different formats altogether?

Matt Howells-Barby: I think this is, it's kind of like a horses for courses. Depending [00:28:30] on what you're trying to rank for-

Jorie Munroe: I've never heard that phrase before.

Matt Howells-Barby: Yeah, I thought I'd throw in British terms.

Jorie Munroe: Okay.

Matt Howells-Barby: This happened to me a lot.

Jorie Munroe: Okay.

Matt Howells-Barby: I speak in riddles.

Jorie Munroe: Horses for courses. Explain that one.

Matt Howells-Barby: It means that certain horses will race better on different types of racecourses.

Jorie Munroe: Okay. I see it.

Matt Howells-Barby: Some will be better on grass versus sand, et cetera. For every course, there's the right horse. In every [00:29:00] search result query, there's a corresponding better piece of content. It all makes sense.

Jorie Munroe: Gotcha. So we've got some idioms.

Matt Howells-Barby: There we go.

Jorie Munroe: We've got some SEO.

Matt Howells-Barby: We've got the idioms.

Jorie Munroe: Cool.

Matt Howells-Barby: And in that respect, when you're thinking about who is my target audience for this piece of content, you would say, "Okay, on a basic level, how do my audience prefer to consume content?" I would go back five years and the answer to everyone's content question was, "Let's build [00:29:30] an infographic." And what we soon realized is that barely anybody likes infographics because everyone's using mobile devices and they don't scale very well. Some people like them, but you know what? It's not the right thing for everyone.

We've all been there and we've been down that route. It's exactly the same with Google. If you're trying to rank for various topics and there's just no tangible way that a piece of video would ever come into this search results page, you're not going to rank [00:30:00] in the search results page. Could you include video in your content that's more broader and is not like the thing that you're trying to rank in itself? Yeah, by all means. You're adding another layer that makes it more shareable, would be enjoyable for the user experience, and may help you earn backlinks, which definitely helps you rank.

But honestly this, to use another idiom, you really don't need to reinvent the wheel here.

Jorie Munroe: See, I know that one.

Matt Howells-Barby: Yeah. There we go. We'll start with idiom 101. We'll get more advanced [00:30:30] as we go through.

Jorie Munroe: Exactly.

Matt Howells-Barby: You're going to have to strap yourself in for some of these ones. Yeah.

Jorie Munroe: Learn SEO and British.

Awesome. Say there's a video showing up in the results for a keyword, what's your advice for getting a video to actually rank? Do you know any SEO best practices? I'm assuming you do.

Matt Howells-Barby: Yeah. I think for things like video content, the first thing I would think about [00:31:00] within that respect is where are people going to most likely find this video? Now taking a step back of another major Google property is YouTube, the second largest search engine in the world. Do I care more about ranking that content in Google's prior search engine or do I care more about that ranking in YouTube? There's a lot of overlap there. In all honesty, [00:31:30] the video side of things, they follow a lot of the same best practice as normal content. There's just a few other things that you want to have in.

Things like having a video sitemap is one thing that you can do which helps video content be discovered. On top of that, earning links back to the video content. A lot of the time, it's easier to rank a YouTube URL of a video versus a video that's embedded on a page, [00:32:00] just because Google owns Google, Google owns YouTube. So that's another thing. Adding transcript, so having video/audio transcribed so you've got some relevant content within there. I think we're going to move to a world where Google is able to determine this programmatically. They've been working on this stuff in the exact same way as with images where they can determine using visual imaging processing [00:32:30] what an image actually is by looking over it, which is going to be a huge benefit for SEO, especially on e-commerce moving forward.

We're a little way away from that. And I think the same is going to happen with video. You would probably treat video, in the future this is, not right now, in the same way that you think about text content. Is this a long-form video? Is this a shorter video? Do we need more ... do we need to be talking about more relevant terms, kind of how you'd be [00:33:00] talking about stuff within keywords and mentioning synonyms within content? Right now though, we're at 10 years ago Google for normal text content and it's pretty rudimentary in that respect.

Trying to just align the title of the video, making sure it's to be surfaced, getting backlinks to it, all of your 101 stuff that you would do with text content, generally applies with video.

Jorie Munroe: I know that there's some information that you can give [00:33:30] Google to help rank it. What's some of that information for video or images? What's that checklist that I would need to make sure that at least I'm following some best practices for either images or video that I would want to make sure that I had no matter what?

Matt Howells-Barby: Yeah. Let's start with video. The first thing is going to be number one, making sure that you're aligning the title of your video to something around the core topic that you're trying to rank for. Having a short description along the [00:34:00] video. If possible, having a video sitemap or just including a link to the video within your existing sitemap. I would also always try to transcribe the video. There's a bunch of good services actually. I think rev.com and stuff like that where you can get super cheap transcriptions for video content. Certainly more economical to do it yourself and you can add that content into the page where the video's hosted.

The other thing as well, is I tend to try when search [00:34:30] is the key primary objective in terms of ranking video content. Try not to have custom video players and things like that, sticking to more industry standard, like Vimeo, Wistia, and YouTube kind of video plays there.

Jorie Munroe: When you're adding this transcription service on top of your video, is it possible that like ... so Google, does it actually read the text on these videos [00:35:00] or is it kind of separate? How does that work?

Matt Howells-Barby: It would be separate. You would usually add this either if you're trying to get it ranking on YouTube, you would add it in the full description section. Or if you're embedding this onto a webpage on your site, you'd add it below or above just basically so that you're hitting both of these where you've got all of this relevant semantic information that Google can use to ascertain whether the content is actually what it's supposed to be.

Jorie Munroe: That makes sense. What about [00:35:30] images, on the other hand? I know there's some best practices there.

Matt Howells-Barby: Yeah, images are in all honesty, can be a bit of a pain in the ass to try and rank. We have a few things at your disposal to do. But let me just stack rank these out. We've got some best practices. You have an alt attribute for every image, which is a piece of text that you can assign to an image where because Google can't read images yet or at least it's not using that [00:36:00] technology to rank them, it tells Google what this is about. So have a very simple, short description probably included in the topic keywords kind of things within that.

What you want to make sure as well, is that the image isn't crazy file size if possible. Google's always optimizing for speed in a lot of respects, especially with images because they're the things that often really ruin search experiences. Alongside that [00:36:30] is backlinks, which is another really huge piece is earning as many links into the images as possible, especially if there's relevant content around it.

They're like the main things I would really say. The other thing you could possibly say as well, that people used to spend a lot more time on is actually naming the file name of images after the topic or keywords that you're trying to rank.

Jorie Munroe: To put this horse on a different course, how do [00:37:00] featured snippets fit into this trend of shrinking organic real estate?

Matt Howells-Barby: So featured snippets. This is something that is part of a much, much bigger trend within Google. Featured snippets themselves have kind of been exploding over the past few years. I think one study, I think it was from Moz, they showed around 2015 there was around about [00:37:30] 5% of queries showing featured snippets within the search results page. Then it went up to 16%. Other studies showing them at 30%. Certainly, from our own internal studies, they are everywhere. But I do think this is part of a much, much bigger trend.

Jorie Munroe: Okay. So this is where things are getting really interesting. We actually have a whole episode out about this, so I won't have us get too much in the weeds with featured snippets. [00:38:00] But this is a great time for a quick break. We'll be back with more after a message from HubSpot Academy.

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Matt Howells-Barby: Welcome back. Okay Jorie. We should probably [00:39:00] talk about some industry-specific queries. During the break, I was kind of thinking a little bit about this. We talked a little bit about organic real estate shrinking. That some respects there are arguments to be made that the organic real estate has disappeared completely in some verticals. So a really good example of this is within industries like hospitality. Instead of previously where you would go about trying to book flights, [00:39:30] you would maybe search for cheap flights to Boston, whatever. You could get a list of different sites where you could go and create bookings.

Google's been playing around with actually inserting in the ability to book flights directly from within the search results, therefore never needing to actually click through and visit a page basically. The same thing is happening with the new Google Jobs. They're pulling in information from webpages that exist [00:40:00] with job listings and actually being able to fulfill the need of the searcher without them ever leaving Google. That's a pretty scary thing for content producers in particular.

Jorie Munroe: Yeah, it's something I don't really think about until I'm using Google for that purpose. The other day, this horse is on a course for the Bahamas and I was booking a trip for this summer. It seems like this is really taking over mobile search results.

Matt Howells-Barby: Yeah. Mobile [00:40:30] in particular. I think the trend that Google is trying to catch onto is that people in general on mobile search are less tolerant to slow load times. So you've got things like, if you're going through to webpages where they're actually quite slow to load or require a number of clicks, maybe even visit an app. What Google wants to do is immediately deliver value and good search experience and they're trying to do that by reducing [00:41:00] the number of clicks.

Now, there's a lot of arguments that can be made against this around having a single source of information, a centralized entity controlling a lot or all of the information and basically purchasing power, which is pretty dangerous. And then I'm sure it's a matter of time before Google will start to heavily monetize this piece as well, which means a lot of that organic traffic those sites were previously getting, they now [00:41:30] no longer get it and to add further salt to the wound, they have to pay to get it back.

Jorie Munroe: Yeah, so do you see this increasing as a trend? Or are we really at the peak of diversification of the results?

Matt Howells-Barby: I think this is just the beginning. I think we're going to see a whole heap of change more than anything. In fact, in the past 12 months, I've seen that probably the most dramatic diversification of search results. [00:42:00] One thing in particular that I'm seeing fueling the most drastic change is the shift to voice. This is, again, where we talk about organic real estate shrinking. It's one thing saying, okay well, no longer is there just 10 links or no longer are the same results page showing for people searching regardless of their location. Or no longer are Google just delivering [00:42:30] a click to a webpage, but they're giving the results directly in the search results.

In all of those situations, there's choice. But what can happen and what we're starting to see in the early stages with voice, if anyone has Google Home or Amazon Echo, what you're then getting, or Siri as well, is a single result. So you'll be like, "Okay Alexa, tell me a good recipe for a green curry." And you will be delivered the result [00:43:00] that Amazon Alexa or Google Home or Siri determines to be best fitting to that. That's one result. Maybe you can ask for a new one if it doesn't suffice, but the reality is, not only is it shrinking but your choice has now been removed as a searcher.

That is a very daunting thing for a lot of people producing content, which ultimately makes these platforms, these search voice platforms what they are.

Jorie Munroe: When [00:43:30] you say voice, you mean voice search platforms specifically?

Matt Howells-Barby: Exactly.

Jorie Munroe: Gotcha.

Matt Howells-Barby: And I think that a lot of the stuff that Google, in particular, has been doing around shrinking the search results page or diversifying them is ultimately testing out search behavior and search patterns so that when we eventually move to a maybe 100% voice search world, which I [00:44:00] think certainly the way that we interface with such is going to dramatically change over the next 10, 15 years, whether that's completely voice, whether there's an element of AR, VR involved in all of that but things are going to change a lot. And Google's trying to test out how people react to those different changes.

One thing I would say is, we are going to have a whole episode where we deep dive into this and we can really dig into this in much more detail. But one thing I will say is [00:44:30] voice is coming and people are going to need to be prepared for it.

Jorie Munroe: The bots are coming. Voice is coming. Everything's coming.

Matt Howells-Barby: We're coming for you.

Jorie Munroe: Okay. Then it means that it might sound grim, but it's not actually as grim as we might be thinking.

Matt Howells-Barby: Not necessarily. Yeah.

Jorie Munroe: Okay. So content creators rejoice. Unfortunately, that's all the time we really have for today, so if you liked this lesson, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts [00:45:00] and tell your friends or coworkers about us. You can also follow us on Twitter @hubspotacademy and send us all of your burning SEO-related questions.

I'm Jorie Munroe and thank you Matt for all your horse, courses, SEO, and beyond.

Matt Howells-Barby: Absolutely. Really excited for this season and thank you for listening, everyone.

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