Jes Scholz on SEO beyond Google Search

In this episode

If you think you know the world of SEO, think twice. Because in this episode of the Yoast SEO Podcast, Jes Scholz (International Digital Director at Ringier) will provide you with a view on SEO beyond Google Search. She will show you the value of tools like Google Discover, Google News and Google Lens, but also share her experience outside the Google ecosystem. What if your target audience is located in a market that only knows the internet as Facebook or where Opera Mini is the main browser? She will share her global experience and simultaneously make you aware of the small and much closer to home SEO tactics that will lead to owning a topic. Yes a topic, not a keyphrase! That’s one key takeaway from this episode for you already.

These are the topics that Jes and Joost talk about in this episode, with minutes indicating when that topic comes up in the recording:

  • 1:55 – What the online marketing looks like in markets without Google and Apple
  • 4:50 – How Jes sees and uses Google Discover and Google News
  • 9:10 – The perfect knowledge graph is the one that connects your brand’s entities to topics that interest your audience
  • 16:40 – Influencing the knowledge graph (and the perks of being a publisher)
  • 19:30 – Is investing in Google Discover worth it?
  • 23:47 – How to deal with all different image sizes on platforms like Google Discover and social media?
  • 27:44 – What role does Google Lens play in the Google ecosystem?
  • 34:25 – The importance of Schema and API for news and e-commerce sites, but also sites in other industries in the future

Transcript of this episode

Joost: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the Yoast SEO podcast. I’m joined today by my good friend Jes Scholz who has a job title that I keep forgetting, so she can explain that herself, for a company that I can’t even pronounce properly, which is even worse. So Jes, can you do all that work for me? 

Jes: Sure, I’m international digital director at Ringier. Which essentially means that I help set out marketing strategy for our media brands, our classified brands and bunch of other miscellaneous ones.

Joost: Ringier is quite a big brand, but I think not a whole lot of people that listen to this podcast will actually know what it is. So can you explain? 

Jes: It’s kind of the brand behind the brand. So where the mother company of Blick, which is one of the large news portals in Switzerland, we have operations in Africa, in Asia and Eastern Europe. So it’s around 200 brands that we’re in the background of. 

Joost: Yeah, basically classic media gone online, right?

Jes: Yeah. We take the newspaper and we put it online. We take the classifieds, we put them online and then we do some smaller startup stuff and e-commerce stuff, but the bulk of it is news lifestyle publishing and classified portals. 

Joost: Okay. If I think about your competitors, which is probably not something you want to talk about, but who should I be thinking about?

Jes: Naspers, Schibsted. Axel Springer is not a competitor, but it’s a similar business model and we have partnerships together, those sorts of companies. 

Online marketing in markets without access to Google and Apple

Joost: That means you’re active in a whole lot of countries all over the world. Does that change your view on how you do marketing?

Jes: It adds complexity to the way you do marketing. Because when you’re working in developed markets, you’re thinking Google Chrome, and you’re thinking Apple. Then you get to Africa and all of a sudden there’s a thing called Opera Mini, which is the bane of every developer’s existence ever, but you can’t ignore it. Or you go to Myanmar and people say, no, I don’t have the internet, I have Facebook. And you just want to facepalm a little bit at that. 

Joost: Yeah because they have the Facebook Basics or whatever is that called that Facebook has rolled out there?

Jes: Yeah. Like 90% of your sessions will come from Facebook. It is their internet. They don’t really didn’t have that Google phase that everybody else has had. So they’ve leaped far off social media as a primary search engine, and then kind of coming back into the space of Google and discovering you can have websites and there’s other platforms there. It’s not all just content on Facebook, which is very interesting, that helps you shape how you’re interacting with those platforms and how they then factor into your distribution strategies. 

Joost: It is an entirely different world. It’s funny because even for us, and we do a lot of languages and countries, I think the large part of the way that we look at the world is still very Google like. I mean, it might be Yandex, but it’s still Google like and that’s very different from Opera Mini which I hadn’t thought about for quite a while. And I was very happy about that. So thank you for bringing that back because it does horrible things to HTML. 

Jes: Oh yes. It’s an absolute nightmare.

How Jes uses Google Discover and Google News

Joost: I know you’ve been playing a lot with Discover, Google News and things around that. It’s what I really wanted to talk to you about because there’s so few people to actually get to play with that a lot. You have to be a fairly big publisher just to have enough traffic to play. And then you need multiple brands to actually be able to play within because otherwise you can’t really risk losing stuff.

So you’ve probably had a fairly unique chance of playing with it. Is that what is Discover for you?

Jes: I would say Discover is one of the key parts of the larger Google ecosystem. And I would weigh Discover in terms of our strategy almost as equally as important as optimizing for traditional keyword search.

Because when we look at the actual sessions that are coming through and the conversions that are coming through, Discover is much more powerful than most people think. It’s not the only platform in that ecosystem that’s important. We use Google News a lot, we have Google Lens in there, Google Maps plays a strong role as well, but Discover is the big hitter out of all of the ecosystem products. Second to only search. 

Joost: Would you classify Google News as search at that point?

Jes: Not necessarily because search implies there is a search term. With news you can enter a search term, you can choose to do that, but it’s not the primary experience. The primary experience is you go there and they give you a personalized stream of content. It doesn’t require active interaction from my part. That’s the whole point. It’s providing you answers before you search. 

Joost: And Discover goes one step further and even gives you alerts.

Jes: Yeah and it goes well outside of Google News is limited to news and articles, if you know what you’re doing you can get lifestyle content in there. Discover is all content on the web that Google has indexed. So you’re going to get your news in there. You’re going to get lifestyle articles. You’re going to get products. You’re going to get jobs. You’re going to get anything that Discover thinks you’re interested in. And that includes not just text content, it shows up videos as well. 

Joost: Cool. As you said, it’s all web content. One of the things that is interesting that I don’t think a lot of people have noticed is that there’s a team of Google engineers that works on WordPress. And one of the things that they are doing at the moment is working on WordPress core so that it automatically allows in its robot settings for indexing large images.

Because by default, WordPress would not always output the best version of the image in its metadata. And Google wants to have that version of the image in its metadata so that it can use it in Google Discover. I was wondering, why would they want this? But because Discover is all of the web’s content, it does make a bit more sense in that regard.

How would you optimize for that? What is the stuff that you would do as a site owner?

Jes: Well, I can go through all the obvious things that if you read Google Discover optimization in search, you’re going to get stuff like: make really good engaging content and have fast site speed and use Schema to mark up your articles.

Joost: That’s the stuff we tell people every day, yeah. 

The importance of entities and topics to the knowledge graph

Jes: What you really need to know about Discover is that it’s based on the knowledge graph. It’s about the topic layer of the knowledge graph. So if you don’t have an entity in a knowledge graph, you’re never really going to get good traction in Discover. If you do have an entity, but it’s not connected correctly in the topic layer to the user’s interests, then you’re not going to get the right coverage within Discover. 

I find it mind blowing that so many people spend money on keyword rank tracking tools, but very few people take the effort to integrate with the knowledge graph API, to see their results score. To see if they’re even in the knowledge graph in the first place.

Joost: This ties back to a show we did with Jason Barnard a couple of weeks ago where we talked a lot about brand search, which ties into this in a way, because for brand search a lot of that is knowledge graph and how you are related to other stuff. But this goes a level deeper.

You’re not just building your brand and making sure that the brand shows up in the knowledge graph. You’re also tying it to a topic.

Jes: Brand is just one form that an entity could take. You could have multiple entries in the knowledge graph for your business. Your brand should certainly be one of them. It might be that your CEO is strong enough to be another one. It could be that you have products that are strong enough to be another one. So you should be thinking: what entities do I have that connected to my business? And how can I optimize for those entities in the knowledge graph in terms of connecting them to what my audience is interested in.

Joost: And also disentangle them. It’s one of the things that for us is very funny because everything we do is called Yoast and that makes life very hard. You have Yoast BV the company, you have Yoast SEO the software and you have Joost the person, and they’re all in the knowledge graph and they all have their separate entities. Getting them right and give them each a separate home is actually hard enough as it is.

But you said attach it to the right topics. What do you mean by that? What would it look like to a user?

Jes: At the end of the day, when we’re talking about Discover, users can follow brands, but they follow brands as a topic. So I could be interested in specific brands, like I could want to follow the Yoast podcast. That’s why I follow Yoast. Or I could be interested in SEO or I could be interested in WordPress or a myriad of other topics.

So the same way that we understand that when you’re writing an article, you’re not trying to optimize for a keyword – if you are, you should probably catch up to the rest of SEO – you’re trying to focus on a particular topic or topic cluster. Through your internal linking, you’re linking back subtopics to your primary topic and then that topic to your brand. So that when people type the keywords into a search engine, you’re going to rank number one. 

It’s the same concept for Discover, it’s just a different layer of separation. There’s still topics, you’re still going to create content, whether that’s article content or video content or podcast content, or image content around a certain topic. And you’re trying to then make sure that your entity is often associated with that through your own activities and the activities of other entities on the web, where they’re giving their recommendation. Yes this brand, yes this person knows a lot about topic X. 

Joost: A brand can be knowledgeable about a lot of topics, I guess.

Jes: A brand can be an influencer.

Joost: But that means that you don’t have to, if you have a lot of blogs for instance, you don’t have to be focused on one topic the whole time, you can have multiple. You probably have that on a new site.

Jes: Yeah. I have a lot of mass market news sites. It goes from everything to investigative journalism to Kim Kardashian’s latest outfit to recipes for cooking during the pandemic. So trying to clearly establish what we want to be primarily associated with can be a challenge when you have such a topic range. It comes back to how we establish these entities of a brand in relation to others. We’re paying much more attention to the journalists that we hire. If they are journalists who have their own entity. 

For example, one of our lead editorial staff is known for her knowledge of sports. That’s her thing, she has written about it forever. She’s extremely well-known in that industry. Then we connect her, the sports journalist to our brand. Through that, we can start tapping into this knowledge graph understanding of this is somewhere where we are an authority on this topic, because we’re associated with editors A, B, and C. Or we have investigative journalism pieces X, Y, and Z. Or we have podcasts which have their own entities.

So it’s about building up that community of entities, which is beyond links. 

Joost: Yeah. But it’s very much sub brands at that point that you’re building or is it basically just categories within the site?

Jes: It’s just making connections along the relevant things. As an example, we know that Wikipedia is a strong driver of understanding of the knowledge graph. If you have hired someone who is an entity, the logical thing is to make sure that that is reflected on your Wikipedia entry. A lot of people set up their Wikipedia 10 years ago and then never looked at it again. It’s being edited 50 times by 40 different people and it’s not even on brand anymore. Who in your company is responsible for your Wikipedia entry, for your Crunchbase entry, for Wiki data, for your Google My business listing? These are the sort of questions that SEOs need to be asking themselves. 

Joost: Wikipedia is a nice example. Recently, the Yoast BV page on Wikipedia was repurposed into a Yoast SEO the software page by the editors. That sort of thing is horrible because it basically messes up your entire knowledge graph. But it did make me aware that I have not paid enough attention to this over a long period of time. And that’s when we started talking to Jason again, we should really look at this a bit better.

You can’t really edit your own Wikipedia page. There’s a bit you can, but it’s not really looked well upon always. How do you go about that? You just ask someone to do it?

Jes: You can. Not to say it’s the simplest process, but you certainly can. When you read the documentation, Wikipedia actually says, look, if you are the authority on it, which you are as the brand, you should be maintaining your page.

That being said, you should be maintaining it with a clear profile so they understand who’s doing what. It’s not like anonymous SEO team login or something like that. And you cannot be using it for promotion. You’re not sitting there and writing your about page. You’re writing a factual article based on references. That’s your opportunity to build up that authority, because if you cannot justify why you are an expert in the topic through external sources, maybe you really should be considering if you are an expert in the topic. 

Joost: If nobody has ever asked your opinion about it, then maybe the rest of the world doesn’t really look at you like that.

Influencing the knowledge graph

It must be a bit easier when you’re a publisher yourself and getting the references published is fairly simple. 

Jes: Yes and no. See, this is the challenge of the knowledge graph. When we do our job well, Google understands that Ringier is connected to our brands. So that hinders us when we, as Ringier, try to be the reference for our brands. It’s still a matter of us needing external corroborative sources for that. 

Joost: Okay, so you need to call your journalists, friends from other..

Jes: There are benefits of being a publisher. I will admit that. 

Joost: Yeah, I think so. This was all easier for me when I was still working for The Guardian too. I’ve often explained doing SEO for The Guardian is sort of doing SEO with god mode on, some things are just too simple when you work on light sites like that.

I don’t know Ringier well enough but I guess that in Switzerland, you have a similar size in terms of impact. 

Jes: Yeah. There’s a fair amount of rage there. We have numerous news brands, lifestyle brands, jobs portals, car portals, horizontal classifieds. A wine shop, which is always nice.

Joost: Do you get to taste yourself? 

Jes: I’ve never had the pleasure, but next time I’m in Switzerland. I should probably ask about that. 

Joost: Yeah. So in this whole COVID period, you’re based in Berlin, right? Has that changed your company much?

Jes: It has changed the wider company that was doing a lot of in-office work together quite a bit. We’ve had a lot of adaptation to make in a short period of time. But then for my team, we were already working with multiple brands around the world in remote environments. Just in my direct reports, we have people from South Africa, Kenya, England, Eastern Europe. We’re not normally all based in the same office, so it was somewhat simpler for us.

Joost: But now there’s no opportunity to ever see each other, which is sort of sad.

Jes: Yeah. Not being able to fly to the place and sit with the people and talk through the strategies, especially when you’re doing more innovative things that aren’t documented and clearly understood as a best practice, certainly presents challenges. 

Is investing in Google Discover worth it?

Joost: I can totally imagine. Going back to the whole Discover thing. You’re spending a lot of time on it. Is the investment there worth more than the investment in other areas?

Jes: I think it’s two-fold. On the first side I can see where it’s going because we have these news portals. Where right now, when I look in my analytics, anywhere from 30% to 60% of our sessions driven by Google are already Discover based. Ignoring 60% of your traffic is never a smart idea. 

That’s not the case when I look at the classified portals or the e-commerce portals. But you see the increase in traction anywhere from 50% to 200, 300, 400% year over year. When you’re seeing that growth in something from another business model, you know how impactful it can be. I feel you ignore it at your own risk, because Google doesn’t even position itself as a search engine anymore. So if you’re thinking Google and you’re thinking organic keyword search, in a few years you’re likely going to be in a very difficult position. 

Joost: Yeah, because you’re not building out the wider thing. 

Jes: Yep. So it’s best to test and learn now and start establishing those entities now, especially when it’s a little bit wild, wild West out there. Remember back in the days, when SEO was about putting keywords into keyword tags and then you shot to the top of the search results. It’s really similar right now with Discover to the point where sometimes we do things, we don’t know what we did and we still get traffic for three days and it disappears off the face of the planet. We’re left scratching our heads, but that’s what we need to be doing now. Before everybody else that’s really smart gets on this train and makes it much more difficult. 

Joost: As soon as we start adding features into Yoast SEO for it, the game is done. 

Jes: Maybe I shouldn’t be talking to you. 

Joost: The funny thing with these things is, because it’s still relatively hard to grasp for a normal user, to understand what to do and to know where this goes. I think for you, that’s in many ways a good thing, but I think it is Google’s challenge as well. How do we help people navigate this? And make them understand how this works so that people will actually create content that they want to serve to their users.

Jes: Well, Google’s making clear steps towards helping you understand that right now. There’s a reason why over the last year within Google search console, we’ve now got Google Discover broken out. We recently got Google news broken out. Just last week, we got an update saying that they’ve improved the data quality and the Google Discover reporting because they’d left out an entire section of it. So the writing is there on the wall. They’re saying this is coming into your reporting. We’re making this visible, we’ve made this important. I don’t see how, as the SEO community, we can’t read that and go: okay. Yeah. it’s scary, we don’t understand it. It’s new. There’s no keywords! Just jump in and do it anyway. 

Joost: Yeah. We are quite keyword driven, still in many ways. And at the same time, realize that a keyword is only something that relates to a topic. That’s what it is. It’s not more, but it’s also not less. It’s still relevant, but the relevance is slowly shifting.  You’re looking at it and you’re going like, okay, so what do we do?

How to deal with different image sizes

One of the things that I look at a lot is the images that people have for their posts, because that’s something that Discover heavily uses. A normal author will usually only have one image for their posts that they use on both Twitter and Facebook and Discover and everywhere. And they all have different sizes. I’m like: why can’t they just come together and decide on one proper size for this stuff where it’s not a 50 pixel difference in one way or the other? It’s so stupid.

How do you deal with that? Do you just make 10 different versions of all those images?

Jes: I spent a week of my life, that I really want Google to give me back, reading through all of their technical documentation and noting down these must have requirements for certain Google ecosystem platforms. So whether that’s Discover or News or whatever it might be. These are recommended, which you may as well take as mandatory because if you don’t fulfill them, somebody else will. These are general guidelines. And then this is where they give no guidelines. We’re a large site, we have hundreds of thousands of pages and that’s millions of images. You can imagine the cost of storing all of that. We’re not going to times that by 10 to meet every single requirement. But what we have found is there’s a key size for landscape images, there is this key size for square images. And if you hit those two, then you’re likely going to be fine in most platforms. I don’t have that written down anywhere right now. I suppose I should probably do that at some point. 

Joost: That would be a good blog post to write Jes.

Jes: Okay. Next time I have to write a blog, I’ll write out that one. Of the pain I went through to discover these are the optimum sizes for Google.

Joost: I have people to do that for me. That people is called Jono and you know him well. He does this every once in a while. The even worse part is – we have a service that we run that screenshots all of Google’s documentation every night, because they just changed stuff without telling anyone – this just changes all the time. Then you’re looking at, for instance, podcasts what we’re doing right now and suddenly the image requirement for a podcast goes up. Literally becomes double the size of what it was before. You’re looking at it and thinking how can they do this without even announcing it somewhere?

Jes: You met Google, right?

Joost: Yeah, I know. They’re trying to do better. We talk to them regularly and when I do I complain about these things. 

Jes: My two year old tries to put on his own clothes in the morning. He has the best of intentions, but it doesn’t result in him actually being dressed well.

Joost: Haha yeah but Google is a bit older than two years old. That doesn’t really change the behavior I guess.

Jes: They act like a toddler half the time so I think the analogy stands. 

The role of Google Lens

Joost: I can see how you’d feel that way. I have to say that it’s weird because at the same time they have such amazing technology. And then sometimes it’s just so utterly bizarre how stuff works. talking about amazing technology, one of the things you mentioned when we talked before the show is Google Lens. I want to touch on that because I’m intrigued by it.

What role does Google Lens take in this ecosystem in your view?

Jes: When you look at the ecosystem, Google has tried multiple times and failed multiple times to build a social network. I think they finally come to the realization that to get the networking effects they need for traction it’s not about making a new product. It’s about their existing functionalities becoming a social network.

So when we talk about Google Lens, what it’s fulfilling in that role of engaging beyond search for Google it is Pinterest for them. It is this ability that I have my phone, I point my camera at something and it translates that offline into digital recommendations. Or I have something digital and I want to zoom in on a certain part of it and through that zooming in, it uses that new section of the image as a search query to bring up visually similar but important recommendations. It has a very strong understanding there. 

If I take a picture of strawberries, let’s zoom in on strawberries on a plate, it doesn’t give me results of the facts about strawberries. It’s going to say: okay, what are most people actually trying to do? They’re probably looking for strawberry recipes and it gives me the most common intent and then asks: was this the right intent? It keeps all the machine learning feedback and joys that is the Google algorithm because it is still new. Whenever I think of Lens, I think if Pinterest is important for you and if you don’t have Google Lens as part of your strategy, you’re an idiot. 

Joost: That’s a specific group of sites, but if you’re doing anything with recipes or stuff like that, then you probably should be looking at that.

Jes: Yeah. More and more people are using visuals to search. We also see this coming through really strongly in e-commerce. It’s something where I see a handbag, I want that handbag. I don’t want something similar to the handbag, I want that one. This is what I can do with Lens. I might not know the keywords to describe it, cause I don’t know the brand, but if I just take a photo of it that acts as my search query. I find that exact handbag from multiple suppliers. That’s coming up in Google Images, which Google Lens always populates into.

Joost: That means that Google is tying it back. What it’s doing is recognizing what’s in the photo, looking up if there are products that match that photo. So it is matching it to the product. 

Jes: It’s acting similar to an e-commerce store. It’s saying: hey, come through Google merchant center, give us all of your products for free. Now it’s not a paid service anymore. And the reason that they’re doing that is that they can then come up and say, here is the exact handbag you found walking down the street. Here are the offers from seven different merchants. Choose which one you want. They’re doing that organically and when people see traction organically, similar to what we do with search, there’s certain brands that will always pay for that.

Joost: They’ll pay to put their brand on the number one ad position that they’ll throw up above that, inevitably. Okay. So in many ways what Google Lens is doing there is a bit like what Google Maps has been doing for years. Trying to gather all that data from everywhere and just distributed back out. It is a weird process because a lot of that also means that they have to acquire that data to match against from other sources and what they’ve had in the past. 

Jes: Remember Google’s not one brand. There’s so many disparate teams, disparate systems, even disparate visions that they don’t always get along. But for each product I think they’re very clear on where they’re trying to get to. What works well with search was: give us all of this stuff for free, we will give you back value. For the brands who want, you can capitalize on top through ads. They’re taking that same approach when it comes to Maps. Everybody can put in a Google My Business listing for free. If you want this certain service you can pay on top. Everybody can put in Google merchant center for free and you can pay on top with Google shopping. Everyone can get their content into Discover for free, whether you want to or not. If you’re in the Google index you are eligible for Google Discover, but lo and behold, they roll out Google Discover ads. When you run Google Discover ads, just like Facebook, magically you get more coverage! Shocking! Even though it has officially nothing to do with their algorithm, they know exactly what they’re doing.

And the more we integrate, the more power they have. Which is obviously a double-edged sword. But I’m very much in this camp of: treat them as a frenemy, leverage what you can, but understand that at the end of the day, if your brand is fully dependent on one massive supplier, whether that’s Google, Facebook or someone else, you’ve got a competitive risk.

Joost: It basically means that if you can be disintermediated, you will be disintermediated. 

Jes: Yeah. So have real value.

Joost: It’s something I almost never worry about, but the people that worry about this often have very little actual business and are just affiliating in a way. There can be real value in affiliate, but there are very few big affiliates that do real value. So there’s a lot of that where I look at it and go, I’m not worried for my business, but I can see how this would hurt a lot of people. 

The importance of Schema and API for websites

It’s funny though, this ties back to Schema, because I was hinting at it. They have to get all that data from elsewhere. All that data that they’re matching against they need in a structured way. It sort of makes sense why they are pushing so hard on the Schema side of things so that they can actually do all of this a lot more efficiently.

Does that mean that you’re also setting up Schema for all those e-commerce sites that you’re working on? Or the classified site probably even more?

Jes: We do make sure we have basic Schema in place. We also make sure we take advantage of any API. In whatever logical way possible, whether that’s officially covered by the documentation or not, it’s worth testing.

For example, we integrate with the Google API to get our job listings up there directly. Which Google is super happy about because it helps them understand where to direct their crawl budget much better, because it must be in a structured format. There is no other choice with an API. You can’t be half compatible. You can’t have errors. I think more and more we’ll see, because Bing is already going that way and Google’s making hints, API going back to 15 years ago. API indexing is likely where we’re headed. 

Joost: We talk about this with Google semi-regularly, because we keep asking when are you going to open up the API so we can actually use it? I think it will take some time, because they just can’t handle the influx yet. 

I look at it from a web perspective and I wonder if this is the most efficient way of dealing with this? I think actually it’s not. I think XML sitemaps are actually fairly efficient in terms of getting them to index stuff that they need to index. If they only used stuff that they added in there, but then never used. So priorities, stuff like that, that was in the XML sitemap spec would have made life a lot easier. Because getting a ping for an individual URL when it changes on a very large site is going to be an enormous amount of signals for them to process as well. Where there’s no internal coherency on what’s more important than what. 

That’s what I know of the Bing API that’s there for indexing, they say yeah, it’s a signal for indexing. But if you talk to search engines, everything is a signal for indexing. If you give them a URL, it’s a signal for indexing. So what does that really mean? And how much priority are you going to give that URL? And the only thing I’ve seen Google do really different is where they did it with Wix. Where they’re actually giving you a response when you ping them and they actually give a response to Wix saying, yeah, it’s now indexed.

If we could have that, that would be ultimate, I think. As SEOs then we could all say, is this in the index yes or no? We would just immediately know. I think that’s a while away, honestly, because I think their infrastructure just can’t handle it yet. It’s just too much. There’s so much content. Your classified sites are probably adding tens of thousands of classifieds every day. 

Jes: Yeah, they’re big beasts.

Joost: And you’re not alone. I’ve worked for eBay myself – eBay, Markplaats in the Netherlands – large sites like that, where you literally add hundreds of thousands of classified listings every day. And you also remove them because they’re sold. There’s still no good way of dealing with that. We’re 20 years into this whole thing. We’ve been optimizing that sort of stuff for 20 years and there’s still no official good way of dealing with that that makes everybody happy.

Jes: The challenge is, it’s going to get worse. Because right now we still think of everything as the content belongs to a URL. But more and more content is being disconnected from URLs. As you’re using multiple content in multiple places, or the content is on Google Maps itself, which Google doesn’t obviously need to crawl and index the same way as a website, or if it’s an element which they embed into one of their experiences like Google Images. How does that factor in? So there’s this complexity of them still trying to figure out the URL problem from 20 years ago, while we’ve got these new ones coming in. 

Joost: Yeah I agree. WordPress has the block editor, but also every block is really an entity. I have ideas on how to deal with that, but Google has not said yes, we’re going to take all Joost’s ideas and implement them. So that’s not going to really work. No, but it is a problem that I’m looking forward to fixing because it’s going to be an interesting world when they start trying to do that. It will give a whole lot of chances for us to optimize against the new Wild West. 

Jes: I think we’ve got some time. 

Joost: We do yeah! It’s funny because, as you said, you need to play with these things now because in a couple of years you’ll have a problem if you don’t. What I’ve seen over the last five years is that we all overestimate how fast stuff goes in the short-term. But at the same time we underestimate how fast it goes into long-term. We’ll see when this is really true and when all of this is really as big as we hope. In some ways it will be, but it’s going to be fairly important. If you’re in the news industry now, I think if you’re not playing with it, you’ve already lost. But that’s probably not the same for every industry. 

Jes: I think news and e-commerce are the two that are most dramatically hit by this shift of Google from strings to things. Other industries, not so much right now. But talk to your friends who work in news, talk to your friends who work in e-commerce because it can allow you to get that edge. Even if it’s just a few years that you have a competitive advantage, I’ll still take that win. 

Joost: Yeah, of course it’s worth a lot of traffic. The example I always give, we rank number one for WordPress SEO and we’ve ranked there for I think now 13 years. It’s very hard to beat us for that spot because we’ve been there for so long. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy that just keeps on getting stronger and so it’s always good to do that. 

Jes: It’s this question of number one ranking position as well. I mean, for you guys, what’s going to happen when you type in SEO when it puts up a brand carousel as the first real result and there’s Yoast and all of the others?

Joost: Yeah, it is very real and that changes all the time. I think that’s a very real option. Also, what happens when they search for Yoast and it pops up a brand carousel with your competitors as well. Because that can happen too. I think that is one of the challenges of the coming decades that’s going to be very interesting to navigate. 

Jes: We had a lovely one recently where we fought for months to get the entity established strong enough that we got the knowledge panel. The knowledge panel came in and were really excited until we realized that at the bottom it listed: people also searched for and all of our competitors. That wasn’t the silver lining on a win. 

Joost: It’s the sort of stuff that you get to play with now. I think it’s fun challenges, but it’s also Google keeps throwing you new stuff to work against. 

Jes: You’re never bored.

Joost: Yeah and that’s good! On that note I want to thank you for being here. It’s really a pleasure to talk to you. I think we can go on for hours. I know we can because we’ve done it often enough. Thank you. For everyone listening, this is the Yoast SEO podcast. If you’re not subscribed yet, go subscribe on your favourite platform of choice. And with that, see you next time!

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