On Episode 87 of The Edge of Innovation, we’re talking with Jeremiah Smith, CEO & founder of Simple Tiger, about SEO, Google, and Artificial Intelligence.

Sections

SEO Recap
Creating Personas: Gathering Demographics
Collecting Data: Asking Customers Questions
Understanding Your Customers
The Holy Grail of SEO
How Does Google Find Content?
Google and Artificial Intelligence
What Exactly is Artificial Intelligence?
Understanding How Google Searches for You
Closing
More Episodes
Show Notes

SEO: Google & Artificial Intelligence

SEO Recap

Paul: Welcome to another edition of The Edge of Innovation. Today we’re talking with Jeremiah Smith of Simple Tiger.

Alright so, we’re talking about SEO with Jeremiah Smith from Simple Tiger. And you’re located in Florida?

Jeremiah: That’s correct. I’m located in Sarasota, Florida.

Paul: So, we’re talking with lots of different aspects of SEO. Everybody comes to SEO and what they think is that it’s the Rosetta Stone or the Holy Grail of the internet in that I can manipulate or strongly influence the ranking on Google so that my hamster food company is going to be the first link after the ads for people that have bought ads. And hopefully, when people see that, they will click on that link and come to my site and buy my hamster food. That’s the scenario. Or engage in the way that I want them to engage. So, there’s a lot to that. I’ve got to have a good page that they come and land on, I’ve got to make sure that its easy to buy. I’ve got to make sure that I communicate easily about my site.

And you advised us to say, when we get a phone call from one of our hamster aficionados, and they say “My hamster likes this food and this food. What should I do?” And I write a blog post that basically talks about what I taught that person on the phone or in that experience. Or the expertise.

Creating Personas: Gathering Demographics

Paul: You had mentioned about developing personas. We have the cat lady who has multiple hamsters or the one hamster family. Do you actually write these personas down or are they just sort of, hey we just flipped them off the top of our head and that is it? What does a persona look like?

Jeremiah. So, the whole idea with personas is we actually do want to write them down because I do think it is important that over time we’re going to come back to these, and typically we’re going to come back to them so frequently for such a long period of time, that you’re going to want to make sure you’re paying attention to them. They’re going to be kind of like goals written on a board that you’re going to want to refer to over time. So, it is important that we come back to them and write them down ahead of time.

But typically, what they’re going to look like is, we want to get some demographic information together. So, who is the type of person you’re talking to? Say that I took your business friends on QuickBooks, for example, and you’ve got a hundred sales and that’s valuable for you guys. So, I look at your Books and I find out “Alright, what portion of your audience is male versus female. The buyers.” Maybe sixty-seven percent of your sales came from females. Alright cool. I’m going to look into that really quick because that’s a majority.

So, I’m going to look into it. Now, out of the females, what are some patterns? Maybe we have half of the females are CMOs, so they are the chief marketing officers at fortune five hundred corporations. And they tend to be, we’ll just say thirty-seven years old. So that’s your average. So, we’re going to go ahead and create a persona around that demographic.

But we need to know a little bit more. Now, why did that CMO purchase from you? Maybe you are a marketing automation platform company like HubSpot or something like that and your language really appealed to the female CMO at a fortune five hundred corporation. And the reason is her concerns were about some of the cutting-edge innovations in the marketing automation space. Marketers tend to be really attracted to that innovative stuff and so she was just really drawn to that and that’s why she tended to make that conversion on to your platform. So, we’re going to write that down and we’re going to call her CMO Mindy. Alright? And that’s just a pretend name that we made up to help us quickly imagine who CMO Mindy is in our minds. Now we’re going to write down “CMO Mindy,” we’re going to say she tends to be thirty-seven years old, works for a fortune five hundred corporation and makes purchasing decisions based on innovative language around your product and innovative features around your product. Now we know what to say to her.

Now the other half of the equation, other females that purchased from you might largely be in the, we could say, in the CFOs base. So, Chief Financial Officers of an organization. And these people tended to be a little bit older so probably in their fifties but at the same time they weren’t as attracted to the innovative language. They were more drawn to the ROI that we said we could generate.

Paul: How do you know that? How do you guess that?

Collecting Data: Asking Customers Questions

Jeremiah: So, a good thing to do is to actually, when you start pulling this data together and you get your demographics together, go out there and ask them. Have good conversations with them. And if you do this early on, when you’re selling to customers and they’re closing on your platform or they’re closing into your business, early on, asking them ahead of time “What made you decide to move forward with us?” That one single question can do worlds of wonders for you collecting data for you over the long haul, because imagine if those one hundred people, let’s say fifteen of those one hundred people actually answer that question, you can still use that data. And if you’re CMO Mindy typically said we like the innovative features you guys offer. If you get that answer two or three times from CMO Mindy then we’re going to say “Okay, here’s the deal, CMO Mindy wants innovative features. We know that.

If CFO Francis, we’ll call her Francis, I’m just making up names here, she’s in finance so she was more concerned about the ROI, return on investment, because she’s got to answer according to numbers. She’s more concerned about the ROI figures. So now we walk away from having done that internal analysis of our existing clientele knowing that there are two things we need to talk about when we talk about stuff on our website.

One thing is the innovative features that we offer. And we need to have a whole section of the site dedicated to how innovative our features are and our labs and things we’re testing and how if you want to be a beta tester you can sign up here for free and you can beta test our newest most cutting-edge technology. And boy, CMO Mindy is going to be all over that. And then you could take another section of the site and talk more about ROI, return on investments, and case studies showing the numbers we were able to yield for our companies or our clients. And then CFO Francis can be attracted to that.

If you have that same kind of personification segmented in your email lists, this is where it gets really juicy, and you know that you’re emailing CFO Mindy, then you can email her the innovative language and you can email CFO Francis the numbers language. And you’re actively pursuing them using their own languages and really helping communicate your brand promise to them in their own language. And that really helps you drive better conversions and things like that.

Understanding Your Customers

Paul: Okay, so, you’ve brought up, I think, a very insightful point here that I think a lot of people look at SEO and think “Okay, I’ve got to write a headline that’s catchy and I’ve got to write some content that’s relevant to that.” And that’s possibly one aspect, but what you did was sort of stepped back before that to say, “Who have we successfully sold to?” Where’ is that message that has been identified as valuable by the people that we already know. So, you did some really in-depth analysis that you don’t hear a lot of people in SEO, and certainly not in the spam emails, but when you talk about SEO its really understand you customer.

Jeremiah: Correct. Right. Yeah. It’s probably the single best thing you can do, I think in SEO because within SEO we’re actually dealing with live pain points. And what I mean by that is we’re going back to keywords here. When I search for something, Google, at that moment, that is my number one pain point. If I don’t Google that, I’m going to sit there a little frustrated, a little irritated. I don’t know if any of you or your listeners have ever sat there in the car and then thought “Aww man, I need to Google that but I’m driving and I can’t.” And it’s just like this little nagging scratch at the back of your mind, whenever you get where you’re going. “Oh, I needed to Google that thing. What was it?”

You’re addressing those pain points for people through SEO so you’re actively helping the community by producing content that answers their questions and answers those pain points. But doing some deeper analysis and looking into those pain points and where the pattern starts to emerge and who tends to ask those questions and things like that, that’s what makes you a really smart marketer. Marketing is all about intelligence and data so if you’re intelligent and intuitive about the data you’re receiving and collecting and you’re actively collecting data, then you’re going to be able to make some very smart decisions on who to appeal to.

The Holy Grail of SEO

Paul: Right. So, let me ask you this. There’s an adage, you have only one chance to make a first impression.

Jeremiah: Right.

Paul: So, we have Francis sitting at Google and she types in whatever she types in and she sees the link to your company that we’re developing SEO for. And she clicks on it, but that link clipped to the g-wiz features as opposed to the ROI features, benefits I guess, is what we would say. So, she sees this thing about g-wiz features, beta testing, all that different stuff and she’s like I don’t want to deal with that. I’m not interested in that. How do we make sure in the SEO worldview and model structure that get the right people to the right place?

Jeremiah: So that’s where I think website design is actually very critical. And not enough people are actually talking about just website design and user interface, user experience. But they should be because Google has already made a play towards that. Now this is really a gold nugget for your audience who may know a little bit about SEO but want to know more. For the longest time in SEO, the Holy Grail of SEO has been links. And what I mean by links is wherever you have links pointing back to your website, that’s what kind of offsets Google’s trust algorithm to where they don’t to trust what you say about yourself as much anymore because other people are saying the same thing about you. And now they trust everything that’s being said about you and you’re able to rank well. And what I mean by being said about you is that links are pointing back to your website from other reputable domains. So that was the Holy Grail in SEO for twenty years.

Well recently, the one thing that has usurped that in Google has been user engagement metrics, so how users actively engaging with your website. Now, that’s a huge deal because what that means is if users are coming on to your website like CFO Francis sitting at a coffee shop and she looks up some stuff about marketing automation platforms. She comes to my site, but she comes to the innovative sections of the site, she sees all the crazy, edgy language that actually scares her a little bit because she’s more about control and wanting the ROI and things like that. Then she’s likely to bounce and what that means is just back out of the website, hit the back button or go back to the search results and look for a different one that speaks more her language. So, what that’s going to do, Google sees that she bounced and that’s actually going to hurt you in the rankings. Google says “Wait, maybe the site isn’t relevant to what she just searched and so we’re going to demote that in the rankings.”

However, let’s say she looks up marketing automation platform with good ROI or best results from marketing automation. Those might be keywords that she looks up. And now we’re pulling up our case studies section that highlights some of the results and some of the ROI and she sees that instead of all the flashy stuff. That will actually help us because she sees it, she gets more engaged with it, she scrolls a little farther, she clicks on a couple case study links. Google sees her actively interacting with that page, engaging with that page, so Google says “You know what, maybe this page is actually relevant to what she just searched.”

And so, the more we have that segmentation automatically playing out, through the keyword, again the keyword is the bridge between your content and your ideal customer and your ideal persona. Their pinpoints or their keywords are the bridge. If you can meet them where they are which is currently in pain, and address that pain, that keyword, with some answers, you can really win their hearts and win them over. So, Google is trying to monitor that because they want to ease that interaction. They want to provide value where people are able to find content and information online. So, that’s the idea there, really trying to design your site and structure it in a way where you can speak to those different audiences as needed and then Google is going to see that, they’re going to find that and they’re going to help your users connect with your brand.

Paul: I think, just to reiterate, is it’s very clear once you say it, but you’ve gotta remember that you have got to have those personas and see how the keywords that you’re targeting match up to those personas. That drives the people in.

How Does Google Find Content?

Paul: Is it fair to say that Google is driving that relationship between what the person engaged with? So, they type in some keywords whatever they are, and Google presents it and then they click on this link and then they engage with that site. So, Google has now tied those keywords to that content. I know they’re also parsing now, but is that a fair correlation?

Jeremiah. Yeah. That is a fair correlation. And Google is getting more and more intelligent about that too. It’s actually kind of shocking how good they’ve gotten at it. And a lot of people say that Google has probably gotten worse because they’re finding bad content out there all the time. But I would not blame Google for that. Google is doing their best to organize the content that we as a people are producing. So, if you keep finding bad content out there, guess what? It’s because people are producing bad content. But the idea there is that Google is getting more intelligent with trying to deduce what your intent is in your search and what you mean by what you say and then returning a good result.

One that I love to kind of play with, if I tell you for a moment, if I say, “Remember that video game from the 80s with the plumbers that go through the pipes?” You know right away what I’m talking about. You could even say the name, right? Well now if you go type that same query in Google, “video game from the 80s with plumbers.” You’re going to be shocked what comes up. Google knows exactly what you’re talking about. And you’re not using keywords that relate directly to the brand name or the name of the game that we’re even talking about. So that’s what’s interesting is that google is trying to figure that out.

Google and Artificial Intelligence

Paul: Does that come in to artificial intelligence or is that just Google being really good at what it does?

Jeremiah: The two are the same really. So yeah, you’re getting into fun territory for me. That is exactly what it is. We’re moving into artificial intelligence now. Google has made a huge move in the past year or so to acquire more, or utilize more machine learning technology and artificial intelligence. They’ve got the largest data set probably known to man that they can work with and so they’re able to really quickly deduce and make some interesting decisions and conclusions based on what people have searched in the past. And so, we see a lot more happening due to artificial intelligence now and that’s exactly what’s going on there when we type that search in. They’re actively deducing what we mean when we say all of these different things and all the pieces of content around the web that talk about the Mario Brothers being plumbers and it being a cool game from the 80s and it being retro and stuff like that. And so, they’re tying all that language together and saying you probably mean this one subject that people actively click on and look at when they search things around what you just searched. So, there’s a lot of decision making that Google is actually doing to serve up a result like that.

What Exactly is Artificial Intelligence?

Paul: So, let’s talk a little bit about artificial intelligence. It’s a little bit off the topic of SEO but the SEO police aren’t here so we can. The podcast police aren’t here at least. So how would you define artificial intelligence? Because science fiction has defined it for us and most of us don’t live in a complete vacuum. You have the example of sentients. Is artificial intelligence sentient or is it a step on the way to that? How do you define artificial intelligence?

Jeremiah: Sure. When I talk specifically about search, artificial intelligence is semi limited to a degree because we’re talking about artificial intelligence in the scope of a purpose or a very clear goal that it needs to do which is to help me retrieve some information. So that’s not a broad enough example to talk about, maybe, sentient where we want to create a being that’s able to perceive or feel something. That’s not exactly what we’re getting into. There’s an element of perception going on there within Google’s artificial intelligence that is critical for it to work the way it does, but it’s limited in terms of its scope and what it can do. It’s really going out there and grabbing the whole of all information. It was able to index, and it was able to calculate the term in relevance and then take our keyword query and find the best match between the two and hand that back. And so that’s really what’s happening there.

The idea with artificial intelligence insofar as Google is using it though, is that they are now looking at such a large amount of ranking factors and elements to decide what is actually going to help this page versus that page rank for a given keyword. Whereas many years ago, when I first got into SEO, it seemed like Google was looking at like a handful of factors. And then over time, it seemed like another factor would show up, and another factor would show up and before you know it there were two hundred, three hundred, four hundred things it is considering. And now, I don’t think there’s a good hard number. I actually think that it evolves so much, that it actually shifts even based on the keyword query.

For example, if we search for a pizza shop near me, here in town, the way that Google intuits that and interprets that is different than if I’m looking for how to make pizza because they understand that “What a second. On this first query, he’s looking for a local thing so I’m going to show a certain type of result here. Whereas on the other thing, he’s looking for a more of a how-to so recipes might be more up his alley.” So, they do have to make some of that, sort of, intuitive decision. But other than that, I think that it still is fairly limited in the grand scope of how artificial intelligence, as a term, really works.

Paul: Right. So, I guess, to allay anybody’s fears, I think we’re quite a ways from sentients but we are at the precipice of artificially being able to correlate information in infinitely useful ways that we hadn’t anticipated before.

Jeremiah: Yeah. I would agree with that.

Understanding How Google Searches for You

Paul: That’s sort of my definition of artificial intelligence, what it is right now. It’s not like it’s going to think of something, but it will present facts to us in a way we hadn’t anticipated before and we’ll be able to see and observe new things. But now, having said that, and you touched on the local search. Earlier you mentioned the idea of a men’s suit. So, if you go into Google and type “men’s suit,” you had mentioned a specific brand, Hugo Boss. Even if I did “men’s suit Hugo Boss,” am I looking for where can buy one? Am I looking for what are the current styles? Am I looking for what’s the store closest to me? And It’s not an interview with the person. What’s interesting is, as I use Google, as I am – and this is an interesting question. I don’t know if they’re doing this. I type in “Hugo Boss” and I get an overwhelming amount of information. Then I go “Hugo Boss store.” Is Google correlating – I would imagine they would be – is correlating those two queries as me refining my question?

Jeremiah: Yeah. And they are actively watching that. It could be a little creepy to some people but at the same time it can be very useful to the point where people are willing to give up a little bit of security for convenience. Those are always at odds with each other, right?
I think that when we do something like we’re searching for a product online, like your example, and then we search for that same brand near us kind of thing. Certain information starts to really play into their algorithms and the results are going to generate. We’ve actually seen some patterns, especially in the beta realm of Google where they haven’t fully rolled out any feature yet but they’re testing something.

One of those features would be to show “Hey, here are some stores near you that have this product in stock because we can tell that what you’re trying to do is find a place to buy this product because apparently just looking at our results online wasn’t good enough. But we’re getting you in the right direction because now you’re looking for a store that has it and we’ve got to tell you, here is a store that has it and it’s in stock. If you click this link, then we’ll take you right to the right page.” And it just so happens that that link may be either a paid ad through Google Shopping or that Nordstrom puts together, or Hugo Boss puts together, or something like that.

So, there’s obviously relationship there and then that builds trust between you, myself, and Google. We start liking Google more because they’ve really made our job easier. So, we’re more likely, the next time we have an issue where we are looking up something like that, that we’re more likely to just resort to Google so it builds in this kind of utility effect in our lives.

Closing

Paul: Well, we’ve been speaking with Jeremiah Smith of Simple Tiger. He’s an SEO expert, and they’re an SEO agency. As you can tell, there’s a lot of value here in what he said. As you’ve been listening, we’ve been throwing out book names and different things you should go and look at. All of that will be in the Show Notes so I encourage you to look there. You’ll find links to Simple Tiger and a way to actually contact Jeremiah.

Well I want to thank you, thank you for spending the time with us and who knows, maybe we’ll have you back soon.

Jeremiah: That would be awesome! I’d be happy to come back! Thank you so much for everything, Paul. It was an honor to be here.

Paul: Alright, thank you!

More Episodes:

This is Part 2 of our podcast with Jeremiah Smith. Stay tuned for Part 3, coming soon! We’ll be talking about SEO & how to create good content for your business!
If you missed Part 1, you can listen to it here!

Show Notes:

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!