Episode Overview: Google’s trend of transitioning toward zero-click SEO in its search ecosystem is changing the way SEOs acquire and interpret data. Join host Ben as he continues his conversation with MobileMoxie CEO Cindy Krum about the impact of zero click SEO on mobile analytics and how to best interpret data in the changing search landscape.
- The emergence of zero-click SEO has made it more difficult to quantify brand reach, exposure, awareness and affinity.
- Aggregation causes loss of details in data, as language, location and device change the way results look and rank in mobile search.
- Ranking in the No. 1 spot isn’t the most concrete data point as Google’s featured snippets, Knowledge Graph or carousels often supersede your content, reducing your impact and visibility.
GUESTS & RESOURCES
Ben: Welcome to Mobile Marketing Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day discussing what you need to know to optimize your mobile SEO efforts for max impact.
Ben: Joining us for Mobile Marketing Week is Cindy Krum, who is the founder and CEO of MobileMoxie, which is a mobile centric set of tools and APIs that help SEOs gain better insights into their mobile experiences.
Ben: So far this week we’ve discussed Cindy’s view about the overall mobile landscape, how the lifestyle changes related to coronavirus are impacting our mobile adoption. And we talked yesterday about what’s a fraggle, and why Google’s natural language processing is impacting how we search on mobile. And today we’re going to continue that conversation, talk about the rise of the zero click and how that’s impacting mobile analytics.
Ben: Here’s the fourth installment of Mobile Marketing with Cindy Krum from MobileMoxie. Cindy, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.
Cindy: Thank you. Happy to be here.
Ben: We’ve covered a lot of ground, always a pleasure to talk to you. Yesterday we were talking about what’s a fraggle, a fragment of a handle, which is essentially a nice way to say Google is essentially creating their own anchor links, dropping their users onto specific passages of content when there is a click. If Google is able to understand what part of your page they’re going to drop somebody off to, they’re going to be able to understand what the answer to the question is shortly, if they don’t already, which means they’re probably going to be creating more zero click content.
Ben: It’s a brand new world out there where SEO is not only being evaluated on the click and the conversion, but really visibility in more brand terms. Talk to me about what you think the impact of the rise of zero click is having on mobile analytics.
Cindy: It’s making mobile analytics less accurate or less useful, I think, and that’s unfortunate for a lot of the analytics companies because they want us to live and die by the numbers and the analytics. But the reality is that as SEOs we were originally, or ultimately maybe, marketers and marketers have to look at analytics, but also understand things that are harder to quantify, like brand reach and exposure and awareness and affinity. And those are much harder to quantify in a number. And so Google is counting on websites to want to be in a search result whether or not they get the click, and SEOs are not a fan of that mentality. Would you say that’s true?
Ben: I think what I paraphrase, what you’re saying is that we can’t only consider SEO to be a direct response channel. If we’re not getting a click, you can’t necessarily say impression, to click, to conversion, here’s how I’m attributing value. And so what that means is that to understand the true impact of SEO, we do need to start thinking about evaluating brand metrics, reach, impressions, affinity.
Ben: So as we think about mobile, what are some of the data sources that we are able to capture? What would we like to be able to capture to understand some of the context around how people are searching if they’re not actually clicking?
Cindy: Sure. So there are a lot more factors that go into a query than many people realize. And so what I encourage people to do is to look at real search results that pass all the same information that a real user might. And most analytics platforms cannot do this. They’re aggregating. In the aggregation, you’re losing a lot of details that can clarify what’s really going on. So things like language, location, and device, those can all change the way a result looks and even what ranks in a mobile search.
Cindy: So obviously we know location is important for location-oriented queries, but it can also change the query results even if it doesn’t seem to have local intent and things that many people don’t think about is the difference between an iOS and an Android device. That’s especially prominent for apps. If you’re searching to see does my app rank, is there an app pack, who is in the app pack? All of that, of course, changes between iOS and Android devices because the results are specific for the device, and I have also seen other kinds of differences between Android and iOS, as well as just between large phone screens and small phone screens.
Cindy: So that means you can really get bogged down in the weeds because you have so many differences. And so analytics in some ways try and do a good job of aggregating that, but if you really want to know the reality, I do suggest people test real results and that means not just on your own cell phone. Lots of people are still just testing landing pages, testing searches on their phone and assuming that everyone else sees the same thing as they do, but that is false. It’s false reality. Not everyone sees the same results on their phone as you see on yours.
Cindy: And so that’s why we have tools like the MobileMoxie separator, so you can put in an actual address and put in a search language and choose from a bunch of different phones to see what does this look like. And that can be helpful in a general sense, just knowing that there are differences, or it can be helpful in a really specific sense, like your boss comes in and is pissed off because of something that you’re not seeing in the search result. You can likely replicate their phone and their search settings and see and say, that wasn’t showing up in my searches, but I see it’s showing up in yours and now I understand why you’re angry, or whatever.
Ben: Yeah, it’s interesting, I think in an ideal world, as we start moving towards more brand evaluation metrics, understanding the user’s state, and a lot of that has to do with what device they’re on, where in the world they are. It gives you a sense of what they’re actually trying to accomplish. If I am Googling restaurants when I am at home, I’m not necessarily on my way to go find the place. If I’m Googling restaurants and I’m on a street that has lots of restaurants, I’m likely trying to find the location or actually make my selection, as opposed to doing research. So understanding that context is very important. From understanding the research versus buying versus customer retention phase.
Ben: Are there any other mobile specific metrics that you can think about that SEOs need to start taking more into consideration?
Cindy: Yes, so of course SEOs care a lot about ranking and ranking is often represented numerically, as is in position one, two, or three. But with the increase of no click searches, or what I call hosted inclusions, which is Google stuff jumping in the search result, often above you, but not counted in analytics and not counted especially in Search Console. That’s things like Knowledge Graph. Now featured snippets are there, but they weren’t for a long time, but also map packs. Anything that Google hosts that Google will put above you in position zero or just pepper in throughout the search result, those things are often more interactive than a regular blue link search result would be and they’re usually more graphical, more pictures, and they steal attention span so they get more clicks, even if they’re below you.
Cindy: But remember that if you are ranking number one for a search result and you’re just using that numeric number one to tell yourself you’ve done a good job or you’ve done enough, it might be a false positive, because just because you’re ranking number one anymore doesn’t mean that you’re above the fold, especially in a mobile scenario where Knowledge Graph is always pushed into position one instead of off to the side, like it is on desktop, and everything, including maps and whatever, it’s all pushed above you in mobile. And so if you were ranking position one when it was more of a 10 blue links scenario, and you’re still ranking position one now, but you’ve lost a lot of traffic, it’s likely because something has jumped ahead of you like featured snippets, Knowledge Graph, maps, and any kind of carousel that Google might want to show, disambiguation.
Cindy: There’s 27 different identified things that can show that are not blue links, that could be happening right above you that are taking your traffic, even though you’ve maintained your top ranking. And so we’re actually working on a new kind of proprietary score at MobileMoxie that’s going to show you how much opportunity is actually on this search result versus how much is it really just owned by Google and there’s not much you can do.
Ben: That’s interesting. To me, one of the major metrics that I would be looking at is, even when I’m ranking in position one, am I actually above the fold. Actual visibility, not necessarily just whether the impression is being served. But on a mobile device, is somebody actually going to see my ranking and I don’t know if that’s something that necessarily can be tracked at this point.
Cindy: Right. And a lot of people are maintaining position but losing traffic. And this is why.
Ben: So Cindy, here’s the thing, when we come to analytics, yeah, sure SEOs can look at brand and wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually start to understand whether, even if we are ranking in some of the top positions, whether we’re actually being shown above the fold, that’s obviously something that is more of a mobile concern than it is on a desktop. When you think about some of the other things that are impacting our ability to measure SEO, specifically in mobile, what are some of the things that you think about?
Cindy: Sure, so I think a lot about what would I do if I were Google and what is in my best interest versus what is in Google’s best interest, and as SEOs, a lot of us think of Search Console as maybe the single source of truth. That’s where Google is actually reporting on themselves and giving us what they know in terms of ranking and clicks and traffic and stuff like that. And so we use that heavily as a place for getting Google’s assessment of how we’re doing. But the thing is there’s so much happening in the search result that’s not being shown in Search Console and I think it’s probably just not important for Google to give us that kind of information. I think to them they’ve probably deprioritized showing us in Search Console, when Knowledge Graph is available for a query or when a map pack shows or things like that.
Cindy: Number one, it’s harder for them, or it’s potentially extra work for them. But number two, it’s not in their best interest to tell us when they’re stealing our traffic. And so they have a disincentive to do it. And I have a talk that I love that’s all mapped themed, and what I say is the map is not the terrain, and so if we think of an analytics platform as a map, which is to say that it’s an abstraction of reality, it’s not actual reality. It’s an aggregate and it glosses over the details. And in a lot of cases, the details are what’s really important to us as SEOs because it’s the details that we’re fighting against that we have to overcome, or it’s the details that are keeping us from getting the traffic that we want.
Cindy: And so for instance, one of my favorite stories is related to this map talk is Exxon, which used to be Esso, when people first started getting personal cars, they weren’t buying enough gas, and so Esso started publishing maps. And the maps would show all of the destinations that you could drive to in a location and all of the Esso stations where you could get more gas, so you would feel confident that you could get all the way where you were going without running out of gas.
Cindy: And these were free and they were helpful, but they were marketing material and because they didn’t show the competitors gas stations, they only showed theirs, and so what’s included in the map, or what’s included in Search Console, is not an accident, and what’s excluded is not an accident. That’s how I like to think about it and I do think that it’s not in Google’s best interest to give us some of these things that smart SEOs feel like they desperately need.
Ben: Little Cindy Krum mobile analytics conspiracy theory that Google is really going to hide the data that they don’t want you to know, which is, hey, of the places where you’re ranking, here’s how much stuff we’re packing above the page. Probably not a metric SEOs really would appreciate seeing, so why bother the reporting it? Interesting theory.
Ben: I don’t necessarily disagree. I also think that Google heavily favors their own content and that probably impacts your mobile analytics as well. #YouTube #top ranking website on the planet. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Cindy Krum, CEO of MobileMoxie. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Cindy, you can find a link to her LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact her on Twitter, where her handle is MobileMoxie, M-O-B-I-L-E-M-O-X-I-E, or you can visit her company’s website, which is MobileMoxie.com.
Ben: Just one more link on our show notes I’d like to tell you about, if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast head over to voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast.
Ben: Of course you can always reach out on social media, our handle is VoicesOfSearch on Twitter and my personal handle is BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. If you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, in addition to part two of our conversation with Cindy Krum, CEO of MobileMoxie, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So hit that subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning when we discuss why language settings matter for mobile optimization.
Ben: All right, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.