Joost de ValkFounder & Chief Product Officer
Jason BarnardFounder and CEO of Kalicube
In this episode
Jason Barnard (founder and CEO of Kalicube) does a lot and there are a lot of Jason Barnards. It’s not a coincidence that we mention this here because in this episode of the Yoast SEO Podcast you will learn why it’s important to know if you have namesakes, just like Jason does. The Jason Barnard Joost is talking to in this episode is a digital marketer, but also a musician and cartoon blue dog. Having multiple namesakes and multiple careers confuses Google. But, Jason would not be this Jason if he wouldn’t have a way to help Google understand your (product) name or brand with the goal of improving your brand’s representation there. That’s what this episode is mainly about: making sure your brand or name is represented in your Brand SERP on Google as you desire it to be.
This is what you will learn by listening to the podcast:
- What Brand SERPs are
- The importance of the About us page
- How to discover if there’s a Brand SERP for your own brand or if one is coming soon
- How to explain to Google that you are a certain entity and your namesakes are not you
- Maintaining your knowledge panel
- The importance of rich site links in your Brand SERP
- That knowledge panels differ around the world
Transcript of this episode
Joost: Hi and welcome come back to the Yoast SEO podcast. Today I’m joined by a friend of the Yoast family. He’s actually been to our offices, which is not something a whole lot of people can say because we’re in a very weird part of the Netherlands. Today with me is Jason Barnard, who you probably might have known if you have gone to any SEO conference in the last few years, because it looked like you were everywhere and then suddenly travel stopped.
Jason: Yeah. Well I went full digital nomad with the idea of just going from conference to conference. And it was really good fun. It was kind of, as you said, I just kept pitching up and even when I didn’t get invited to speak, I would just pitch up anyway and record the podcast! Which was the reason it inverted commerce for traveling around the world. It was an excuse rather than a reason let’s say.
Joost: Oh any excuse is a good excuse to travel the world. If you can allow yourself to.
Jason: Yeah my daughter pointed out the other day that I was lucky that I got a year and a bit in before the lockdown and that I should count myself lucky that I got that. And she’s right. I got a good year of traveling. I went around the world a couple of times in fact, in the end. Which was absolutely awesome. I went to YoastCon, came back to Yoast HQ again a second time. What I love about it – you say it’s a tiny little town – it’s a lovely little town. And what it reminded me of was when I was as a rock musician, we actually toured Holland quite a lot. We had a guy who organized the tours called Bert Belsma. He organized loads of gigs in these tiny, tiny bars in these tiny, tiny towns and it was very very lovely.
Joost: Yeah and when I say tiny town, it’s also a bit of.. So the Netherlands is in reality mostly one big town. I mean, there’s 17 million people on basically a stamp. Our town has like 40,000 people, so it’s not nothing, but it is relatively small.
Jason: Isn’t it a stamp of which a third has been pulled back out of the sea?
Joost: That’s actually a French saying, which is always so funny because French people will always mention this to you.
Jason: Oh shit. Sorry I am French now.
Joost: It is funny. My French isn’t good enough to do this in French, but I hear the saying as God created the world and the Dutch created Holland and it’s true.
I mean, a large part of our country is underneath the sea level, which is very weird to many people around the world. If they travel around here,
Jason: It is unique, isn’t it? I can’t think of another country where you’ve got LOBs, suedes of it under sea level. I mean, I never felt uncomfortable, but it seems weird.
Joost: No, but if you land on Schiphol, the entire area that you’re looking at around there is like two or three meters below sea level. Large parts of the country are. It is weird in that regard. It is one of the major wonders of technology I think in many ways.
But, you’ve been doing a lot of speaking at those conferences and the thing you speak about almost all the time it seems is about brand SERPs and Schema and everything to do with that. The reason you’re on the show is because you’re one of the few people that I see in these times we’re still experimenting a lot and playing a lot with how stuff works and trying to break Google.
Jason: Trying to break Google?
Joost: In a good way, like game it. SEO is a game for those who have been doing it for a long time.
Jason: Hundred percent, yeah.
Joost: Even though it’s a game that has very real impact for a lot of people.
Jason: I agree with you a hundred percent. For me, it’s a game. We’re breaking our toys at where we’re seeing how far we can push the toy. I don’t know how much Google appreciates it or not. From my point of view, it’s playing with something as well that I don’t think people have been playing with before, like brand SERPs and knowledge panels.
When I was at YoastCon a year and a bit ago, I was actually talking about knowledge graphs. I’ve been working on brand SERPs, but nobody wanted to hear about it, but people wanted to hear about the knowledge graph. So I started talking about the knowledge graph. Move that onto knowledge panels, which people can see and then started saying, actually think about where that knowledge panel for your brand is appearing and it’s on your brand SERP.
Now let’s start looking at brand SERP. And now the last year or so people have kind of started listening to them. It’s not saying they weren’t listening at all before, but people have become interested in it and started – I think – agreeing with me that it’s incredibly important, incredibly insightful and a lot of fun.
It seems really boring and simple, but it’s actually fun and complicated.
Joost: Yeah, I agree. We did some things well at Yoast. That’s how we became who we are. And I think one of the things that we did do well is our own branding. So I’ve always taken our own brand SERP as something that I consider important, but at the same time, you know more about how to play with my knowledge panel than we do.
So that’s what we’re here to talk about,
Jason: Right! I didn’t mean to say nobody took brand SERPs seriously for themselves. I think
Joost: No I understand that! The thing is, I think branding is often a very underestimated part of marketing in general. It’s one of the things that only the really big companies seem to invest in largely. The question is whether it’s only the really big company’s doing it or only really big companies that become really big invest in branding?
Jason: Which came first? The chicken or the egg?
Joost: I think that is something that people don’t think about enough. How important branding is, how important it is what you look like everywhere. The brand SERP is one of them.
Jason: I was talking to Cindy Krum yesterday. She’s talking about how much of the SERP you actually control and where your brand is actually present on the SERP.
And one nice thing about the brand SERP is it’s a snap view. It’s all you. So it’s this kind of snap view of the entirety of your brand or the whole thing is about your brand. I had the experience – you’re talking about the branding – your visuals and your colors are incredibly strong and they’re really striking and they stand out wherever you see them you know it’s Yoast.
I looked at my brand SERP for Kalicube when the images appeared and it was rubbish. I’d just been creating images here and there and I hadn’t really thought about it. I sat down with my ex-wife who’s a graphic designer, chose the colors, did the designs, and now it looks really good.
And I think when you see our color set and our visuals, it’s similar to Yoast in the sense that it is us. Not similar to Yoast in the fact that you don’t see it half as much.
Joost: If you’re a company of any size, what can you do to influence that knowledge panel? What’s the simple stuff that people can start doing straight away?
Jason: For the knowledge panel in particular, that thing on the right, the right railway. I was talking to Nathan Chalmers from Bing about the whole page algorithm and how that runs. He calls it the right rail, I think that’s a great way of calling it.
It is.. I’m now saying this to everybody and anybody who will listen, give your entity a home. Your brand is an entity. And Google will take your site to be its home by default, but it needs reassuring. It needs to make sure that home is comfortable. It needs to make sure that that home is realistic and honest.
And that’s really important. That your brand is honest about your brand on your website over time. Google will become increasingly confident. When I say give it a home, I don’t mean your website I mean a web page. One single page on your website, your about us page. Say that about us page is going to explain who we are, what we do, who our audience is and why we’re the best.
We will start from there and then we will corroborate and convince Google that we’re telling the truth. So the starting point – and we’ll move on to other points later – is: think of where the home is. Create clear, concise, accurate, honest views, expressions, explanations of who you are, what you do, who your audience is.
Joost: That in itself is hard for a lot of people, I guess.
Jason: Phenomenally difficult. I read about us pages all the time and they’re rubbish. We do this, our mission statement is that, we love butterflies and bees and flowers. Nobody cares. Not when your clients don’t care that you like butterflies and bees and flowers and Google gets confused. So it really isn’t helping. We are a company who sell this and that
The other thing, it’s actually related, but not related at the same time, is companies speak from their own point of view more often than not. I challenge clients by saying: okay, you’ve got 20 we’s or us on this page. Let’s try and reduce that to five and try and get some use. So we’re talking to the audience and from the point of the audience. And then they say: but it’s about us, how can we do that? And in fact, you can reduce the number of we’s on your entities home.
Joost: Does that also mean thinking about what your customers and clients call you? Because that relates to basic keyword research, right? It’s almost a start of who are we in the eyes of our customers?
Jason: Yeah, incredible. Being empathetic to who your customers are, what they’re looking for and how they perceive you. I think, once again, we’re all the star of our own films as individuals and also brands tend to be the star of their own films.
Maybe as a brand you should start looking and saying: right, I’m the star of my own film, but I’ve got to understand what the audience perceives of me and start to adapt to what they want, rather than just doing whatever I feel like, which a lot of companies do too. I mean, blogs are a great example of people posting blog posts, one after the other, just what they feel like talking about. Which is one of the reasons so few blog posts actually get much traffic or any traffic for that matter.
Joost: Yeah and this has changed a lot over time as well. I remember starting to blog like 15 years ago where we would also link a lot more to each other. And now most of the linking seems to happen on Twitter, where we throw our arguments at each other. Sometimes in the form of blog posts, but often in discussions there.
The whole blog thing seems to not be as lively as it used to be in the past where there was a lot more interlinking. With that, it has lost a bit of its value. A whole lot of it has become just adding more content.
Jason: You’ve been in this world almost just as long as I have. I started with the blue dog in 1998.
I remember back then it was you link out and people link back because we’re sharing and we’re building a community. The idea of linking was I want to point people to other great stuff. It was all terribly friendly and terribly hippie. Then Google came along and started measuring all that stuff. Then people started getting stingy, screw G with their links. They’d say, well, I’m not going to link to you because I’ll lose some of my super juice. It all kind of contracted very extensively to the point where hardly anybody would link out to anybody else.
And it was just stinginess and that.. isn’t it coming back?
Joost: I don’t know, is it? We’re trying to still tell everyone to link out at least once in their articles.
Jason: I tell people to link out. I link out. I’m happy to link out. One thing I am trying to point out too to my clients at least, is think about the bot. What it hates is a cul-de-sac. It’s whole point in life is to just keep going through links. So if you give it a cul-de-sac.. I’ve got this image of Google bot soaking, sitting in this cul-de-sac soaking. Cause it’s got to turn around and go back again. And the other thing, interestingly, is linking out to.. If you’re linking to a mention of your own brand, that’s incredibly important because Google saw it from the other side, it’s come to your site and you link out to it. You’re confirming to Google that mention is actually about you. So although it’s already probably understood it. If your name isn’t too ambiguous, you’re explicitly pointing out that it is about you and you’re making it more confident. I think people forget that there is a question of understanding, and then there’s a question of confidence in that understanding.
And part of the knowledge panel, if we come back to that, is building that confidence that Google has. Look at it as educating a child. You’re explaining something to a child, the child hears and understands. Then you need to get it corroborated and build its confidence that it has correctly understood and that you’re telling the truth.
Joost: Is that also the trick in getting a knowledge panel to even show up for your brand? Because a whole lot of people will be listening to this and think if you Google my local shop, I don’t even get a knowledge panel.
Jason: Well I think one thing people get mixed up with is Wikipedia and knowledge panels. For Wikipedia, you need to be notable. It’s a human encyclopedia that’s useful for humans. The idea is that human beings go and look things up because they’re actually interested in that thing off their own back. Spontaneously is the word. Whereas Google doesn’t care about notability it just wants to understand everything it can.
So there isn’t the concept of notability. If you don’t have a knowledge panel on your brand SERP, it isn’t because Google doesn’t think you’re notable enough. It’s because Google hasn’t understood, or isn’t confident it has understood, or it doesn’t feel that it’s probable that the person is actually looking for you. There are those three kinds of aspects: understanding, confidence in the understanding, and then the probability that the person is actually looking for that specific brand entity. Dawn Anderson talks a lot about that.
I think it’s incredibly important to remember that if your name is ambiguous or your brand name is ambiguous, there’s a big factor of probability. If we use personal names, I mean, you don’t share a personal name with anybody as far as I know.
Joost: I actually do! I used to have a similar problem as to your problem way back in the past, but I’ll tell mine, if you tell yours, you can start with yours.
Jason: Well my problem with my knowledge panel. I spent a long time building it up and making it – in inverted commas – solid. There were a couple of stories, one of which is Wikipedia. I had a Wikipedia article because I was in a rock band in France that was reasonably famous. And then I made a cartoon for kids. I was a blue dog. And it was produced by ITV international ad in 25 countries. We had a website with 5 million visits a month from kids under the age of 10. It was phenomenally successful and I’ve written 120 songs and released six albums. So, notable.
But I went in and I kept changing things because I was experimenting on, as you said, breaking the toy, Google, and then the editors came in and said: you can’t change your own Wikipedia page that much. And so they deleted it. That was where it really hit home to me, the importance of the home. Because my site jasonbarnard.com was the home, but I panicked and I moved the home from the homepage through an about me page in an attempt to clarify. What then happened is my entity disappeared from the knowledge graph, the knowledge panel completely disappeared, and I had to rebuild it. That was back in July. It has taken me six months to rebuild it and get it back to full glory.
It took me two months to get it back to reasonableness and six months to – but that’s the second story – being actually what I really wanted. What’s important there is, they also deleted the blue dog page and they also deleted my music group page. So I actually had three examples and three different approaches. I took three different approaches.
What was interesting is once you’re in the knowledge graph, if you don’t mess with the home, the knowledge graph keeps you. If you’re clear on your home, the knowledge panel doesn’t get mixed up. Because Google will tend to believe Wikipedia. So the knowledge panel will tend to echo Wikipedia. Once Wikipedia disappears if your home is the crutch that Google will then lean on. If your home is unclear, the knowledge panel will get mixed up with ambiguities. If your home is clear and Google has understood, and Google has confidence it has understood to start with, everything stays in place.
That’s a lesson, not so much in Wikipedia, but in: once Google has understood and is sure it has understood, it’s your homem, it’s the entity’s home, but it’s the single most important aspect of your entire knowledge panel and knowledge graph strategy. Don’t ever forget it.
And then the second story, and then you can tell your story, is the namesake Jason Barnard. There’s loads of them. There’s a guy who rides a unicycle in a circus. There’s a guy in prison in America. There’s a dentist, there’s a clergyman, there’s a footballer who’s actually quite famous, there’s a hockey player who’s getting quite famous. It’s slightly worrying. He keeps scoring goals and getting in the news, which is unfortunate for my brand SERP. Then there’s a guy who does a music podcast.
So we’ve got this kind of duplicate of being podcasters and we have different topics. His guests appeared in my knowledge panel. Google was getting them mixed up. So I kept having all these mad musicians in my knowledge panel. And the thing is, because I’m a musician to Google, you can understand, it’s logical. He’s a musician, it must be the same person. It’s taken me four months to convince Google that I’m not the same Jason Barnard and to get people like Rand Fishkin, Cindy Krum, Hamlet Batista, Bill Slawski and Andrea Volpini appeared this morning, were up from WordLift. Basically, now I’ve got digital marketers there. Google has understood and I’ve got rid of that ambiguity. It took me four months.
With knowledge panels it takes a long time to remove the ambiguity. So there you go. I’ve got lots of Jason Barnards around the world and that’s the point. If you search in South Africa where the footballer and the unicyclist live or function and get in the news, they will tend to appear on my commerce brand SERP.
You’ll see Jason Barnard, digital marketer blah, blah, blah and then towards the bottom, you’ll see them. And that’s the question of the probability that people in South Africa looking for those Jason Barnards is much higher than it is obviously in the UK. So it’s going to change quite a lot across different countries and for brands as well.
For example, Yoast. I haven’t looked at your brand SERP, but in Australia, you would tend to have the Sydney Times news article about Yoast, whereas in New York you would have the New York Times article about Yoast. You’ve got to remember that these brands SERPs actually do vary enormously across the world.
That depends on a) in my case, probability that they’re looking for the other Jason Barnards and not me, and b) pertinent and value to the local audience. For the example about Yoast and the super article that you’ve got in the Sydney Times and the other one in the New York Times. There you go!
Joost: Yeah, it makes sense.That was really good, actually. I have a similar story. Now my namesakes are not as spread out across the world, because my last name and my first name are quite typically Dutch. But there’s an alderman of the city of Amsterdam who has the same name as I do, which has made it quite hard for a while for me to actually rank for my own name, because he was in the news all the time.
And there’s an architect as well, who carries almost the same name. My last name is De Valk and his last name is Valk without the ‘de’ but his first name is the same. So Google would get all of those mixed up all the time. One of the funny things that I’ve had trouble with over the years is getting myself as an entity disconnected from Yoast the brand as an entity.
So now when you search for Yoast the company, you’ll get a brand SERP that actually is the company because we have a Yoast Wikipedia page now. It uses a lot of that it seems. I do still have my own Wikipedia page luckily, so it does disambiguate between those two now. The funny thing is that it calls me, rather persistently, a software developer. Which is something that I need to talk to you about off the show, because I am a software developer, but I’m also an entrepreneur. I think in many ways more an entrepreneur than I am a software, but it doesn’t really seem to want to give me that name.
Jason: That is fun. It takes time and it takes belief in the sense that you have to believe that you’re doing the right thing. Because it’s a question of placing the information in the right places and then using your home to support or to point out signposts.
Joost: One of the things you’re saying is you should make the home your about us page and not your front page.
Jason: Yeah, I’d go for that because the problem with the homepage is that it can be ambiguous or it is ambiguous. It represents your company and your website potentially, and potentially your product.
I mean, Yoast is both the product and the company. Which means there’s ambiguity there. You actually have a knowledge panel for Yoast the software, and you have another knowledge panel for Yoast the company.
Joost: It’s even worse. We used to have a Wikipedia page for Yoast the company, which was renamed to a Wikipedia page for Yoast the software which messes it all up!
Jason: That is incredibly confusing for Google. You can see the different messages it’s receiving. It understands now that Yoast BV as a company and Yoast is a software. I’m assuming it’s associating you more with the software knowledge graph entry than with the company knowledge graph entry.
But in fact, if you look up Yoast now, everybody who’s listening look up Yoast. You’ll see the knowledge panel on the right hand side, in the right rail. An interesting way to see if Google has a knowledge panel for you, but isn’t showing it on your brand SERP is to click on, for example, family Joost de Valk or Marieke van de Rakt.
You click on them. You will see that behind it you have these knowledge panels that don’t necessarily appear on the exact brand search. Yoast BV down at the bottom there, you can actually see there is a knowledge panel behind it. That’s a really good way of discovering what I now call sprouts. It’s the beginnings of a knowledge panel.
You’re in a situation where Google’s understood what the entity is. It isn’t confident enough, or doesn’t have enough information about it to actually want to show it to its users. Because it isn’t useful if it isn’t full of information. And if it isn’t confident, then it isn’t going to show it. Because it isn’t confident it’s actually the correct entity.
So that’s a really nice way to see if you’re actually moving forward with what you’re working on, finding sprouts. Another way to find sprouts is to look up on the Kalicube tool. If you go to Kalicube.pro there’s a tool the Knowledge Graph Explorer, you can search that online as well and it will come up number one normally. You enter it in there and it will show you what’s in the knowledge graph itself. It pings the API and then you click on that and you’ll see loads of sprouts that you don’t ever see online.
The idea is you say: I get my sprout, I add more information, I corroborate that information, I build the home, I build Google’s confidence in that home. Little by little I’ll build up this knowledge panel. And at one point you will come to the tipping point and Google will say: that is useful information in which I have great confidence, I will now start showing it on the brand SERP of the person or the brand SERP of the company. At which point, it’s then a question of maintaining it.
I think that’s something people underestimate. Even when you’ve got your knowledge panel, you need to maintain it, or you can add to it, you can adapt it. You can heavily influence what Google shows. And if you’re an international brand like Yoast is, you’re going to have things like call center numbers across the world that are going to be different, and it will add those.
Recently there’s been a blooming of what I now call entity statements. Which are people also ask, but in the knowledge panel, but they’re not questions. It’s things like pricing, customer service, get a job, things like that. It’s all statements. Underneath you have the answers and the people also ask format and brands need to be looking after those. Making sure that they’re ranking and that somebody else isn’t answering that question or that statement.
So there’s a lot of maintenance to be going on. That’s just one example. Call centers or social accounts across the world for different departments or different countries, that’s another example. Google gets mixed up and it’s up to us to explain and to educate.
Joost: All of that explaining and education is that done in text, in content, or is that done in Schema on pages?
Jason: It’s done in both. You need to explain in text the things that are really important. Then you add the schema. A Schema markup is supposed to simply clarify and make explicit what’s already in the page and you’re not really supposed to add additional stuff.
The exception I would argue is, in this case for an entity home, there are some things you would put in the Schema markup that you don’t necessarily want to put in the page. For example, the same posts to all this corroborative information will typically not be linked in the page. They will just be signposts in the Schema markup. So schema markup is phenomenally important.
The example I gave earlier of switching from the other Jason Barnards, mad music guests – mad music that’s very unfair, lovely music guests – to the delightful people from the SEO industry, digital marketing industry that I managed to switch across is based on my podcast. I’ve created an entity-based content model with Wordlift. Absolutely great, lovely tool, really smart people and we’ve built an entity-based content model around the podcast. With the podcast series as entity. Each episode is an entity. Each guest is linked to that episode with a topic and all that obviously linked to me and my company. That has been, I think or I believe, the driver behind that switch from the music to the digital marketers, because all the people in that knowledge panel have been on the podcast.
Joost: That is awesome. So actually tying those two a bit more together than you’d actually think from the front.
Jason: Yeah it is. I’ve got a database of 70,000 brands and people that are 35,000 people and 40,000 brands, I think. And I collect the entity boxes and I’m trying to build the code to link it all together and see how all of this links together. But that’s a story for a future day.
Joost: Well, once you’ve done that, you should come by and talk about it.
One of the things I’m wondering and you might be. In Yoast SEO, what we do is we add a lot of this Schema already, but one of the things we don’t allow you to do at the moment is change where we point your organization to. Basically it always points to your homepage. Of course you can change that with a tiny piece of code, it’s not hard to change that, but would you rather change that? Should that be a setting?
Jason: To be honest with you, I think it’s dangerous for a lot of people. I mean, I tell you to use your about us page.
Joost: For us, that might make sense, but our problem of being Yoast the brand and Yoast the product is a relatively unique one. Although I guess it happens more often than you’d think.
Jason: Well, I actually have two clients who have exactly the same problem. The company and the product have the same name. What we’re now doing is setting up an about the product page and about the company page and pointing to each of those and using the home page simply as a passageway to the rest of the site. Which in my opinion, I seem to remember you saying that at one point years ago – I’ve been following you which is slightly creepy – is it the home page? It A) represents multiple things potentially, well certainly, but B) it’s also simply a stepping stone to the rest of your site. It isn’t a destination in itself.
Joost: No it is one of the most horrible things when I was still consulting to have to sit in on meetings where 10 hippos all were fighting on who got the biggest placement on the homepage. When all I was thinking, most of the traffic comes in somewhere else. I don’t care about the bloody home page. The only moments in time when I care about a homepage is when you’re doing a huge brand campaign on radio or TV. And you’re sending that traffic to your homepage.
At that point, it becomes important what’s on your homepage, but then it’s important because you want to sell stuff. Not because of any other reason. So yeah a homepage is, it should probably be the best site map of your site in many ways.
Jason: That’s a very good point.
Joost: If someone comes in through a post and then goes to your homepage to see what else you’ve got. That would be logical browsing behavior. Then after that your homepage should give them a clear way of where to go.
Jason: From my perspective, being obsessed by brand SERPs, that’s a brilliant example. People go to the homepage to see what else is on offer. Also for people searching your brand name, your homepage is going to be the one that ranks number one. So the people they’re going to be prospects, they’re going to be clients. I think we underestimate the number of clients who actually search our brand names, simply navigate to the site.
That’s what rich site links are there for: the big site links underneath your homepage on your brand SERP are so that your users, your existing clients and your prospects can navigate directly to the login page, or to the about us page, or to the “about the CEO” page, or the blog home page. That’s vastly underestimated.
In my data I’ve got 50% of brands have got rich site links and 50% don’t, that’s rubbish. Those pages, those rich site links have to be interesting and useful and valuable to your audience who are navigating to your site. If you don’t have the rich site links, you’re forcing them to go through your homepage. Which isn’t necessarily designed in a lot of cases, it should be designed to help them find what else you’ve got to offer, find these places on the website. So that’s a very good sign that your homepage and your navigation and your siloing or your categorization is badly organized if you don’t have those rich site links.
Just really quickly, one last thing is a lot of companies will noindex that contact page or their about us page or the about the CEO page. That’s dumb because they’re really useful. They are useful for the site links. They’re not useful for your traditional SEO strategy, but they need to be indexed and they need to be optimized for those rich site links. Because those rich site links are a big signal to your audience. It’s a big chunk of real estate on that brand SERP. Now lots of people see it and your clients see it potentially multiple times per day.
Joost: So does that include things like login pages, because traditionally I would have said noindex those to prevent security issues with that. But at the same time, it might actually make sense to have, in our case for instance My Yoast and Yoast Academy share the same access point, that login page in the index so that people can click there straight away.
Jason: Well from a UX point of view, when you’ve looked at brand SERPs as long as I have, which is far too much and far too long, the login page is actually really important. Then there’s the question of security, which I fully appreciate. You need to balance it up. But as a Yoast client, I search Yoast to navigate to your site potentially multiple times per day. That login rich site link is really useful to me because it saves me an extra click and I’m lazy and Google is happy because it’s sending the person straight to where they want to go. That’s a good user experience for the Google user.
Joost: That’s actually a good point. It might actually change my approach on this slightly. I know that we’ve historically always on WordPress sites added noindex to the login page. Because it didn’t seem like such a good idea to have sites that are not always auto updated to the latest and greatest version of WordPress, be exposing their login page to the rest of the world through a simple Google search. But on a well-maintained side, it might make sense to remove that noindex.
Jason: That comes back to what we were almost talking about earlier on, is that you have this enormous responsibility that I hadn’t really understood or Jono and yourself have really talked me through it. The responsibility that every change you make affects, let’s say 14% of the web. That’s a phenomenal responsibility. If I say to you, the about us page is your home for your entity and you change it. That’s changing it for everybody and you might mess with 14% of the web and 90% of that might go completely out the window because Google isn’t ready for it or their scientists aren’t ready for it.
So what I’m saying, and coming back to that about us question, is only do it if you do it properly, don’t do it if you can’t.
Joost: If you’re going to play with it, do it well.
Jason: Otherwise the homepage is the safe option that will always work. It’s just that you have that ambiguity that can be difficult to deal with over time. It’s not ideal, but it’s safe. I think your responsibility is safeness, isn’t it?
Joost: In a way, yes. To be honest, things like noindex on a log-in page are things that we actually change in WordPress core. So I’m not going to change it there, because I think it would be rather unsafe to change it there. As everyone who doesn’t update their site would be easy to find through a simple Google search.
Joost: That doesn’t mean that you can’t change it on individual sites. It doesn’t mean that we can’t not-noindex our own login page because that’s sensible to us. In SEO there’s a vast difference between sensible defaults for most people and changing it for when you really want to tweak.
I think most people, even most people in our audience, don’t have the time or energy to put into optimizing this to the extent that you and I have to play with this. At that point the sensible default is an important and good thing. But that is one of the things that you do quite well, make people think about it. Think about their brand SERPs as something that is very important and that can actually help a lot of your customers.
If you look at your Google search console and you look at where the traffic is coming from – for us as well – a lot of it is brand because the brand is so strong. So it actually does make sense to think about what would people be searching for? What will people want to get?
Jason: Yeah and when you think about it, I mean, I just got a new client on board and they were saying, oh well, SEO has gone out the window he wrote to me, we just changed our site. I looked at their site and said in fact you’ve just lost 5% of your traffic. That entire 5% of your traffic is non-branded, 95% is branded and they hadn’t realized.
I think that’s a really useful thing, go and have a look because it might be an awful lot and it might be very little. Whether it’s a little or a lot, it’s still important because the people who are searching your brand name are the A-list people for your business. They’re prospects or they’re clients, they’re investors, they’re partners, they’re journalists, they’re potential hires. They are all people who were going to do business with you, or might do business with you, or already doing business with you.
The other thing I love to say is it’s your business card. You know, I talked to you, you hear my name Jason Barnard I wonder who he is. You search my name on Google. What it’s showing you is basically my business card, the virtual business card. I can’t actually give you the business card now because we were online.
And if you look up my name, I’ve been working on it, I’ve molded it to what I want. Through an awful lot of work and it doesn’t look like it, but it was an awful lot of work over a long period. It shows you who I am and what I do. It starts with my home page, then you’ve got the Twitter boxes (I’m a keen Twitter person) then you’ve got a search engine journal, author page (I write for search engine journal), then you’ve got three videos (I make loads of videos) one of them is from Yoast sometimes, not always. Which basically says he’s in the digital marketing industry and he makes videos. Then you’ve got Semrush, WordLift comes up quite a lot and Kalicube Pro, my company. You can see my story, you can see who I am and what I do.
Then you look on the right-hand side and that’s Google – I like to say the right hand side is just fact, it’s what Google considers to be fact about me. It tells my story, it says this is Jason Barnard. Here’s the description. Here’s his website. Here are some facts about him, who is his daughter, who his mother is, here’s a company he founded, here’s an album he made, his social accounts. I’m trying to remember what it looks like now. And then at the bottom.
Joost: The funny thing is that what you’re describing is what it looks like in English. In Dutch it actually looks different, I just noticed, which is also funny. So many of these things are way more local than you’d think. If I get the Dutch one, I actually see you as a musician.
Jason: Oh yes, right. It does say that and that’s a big problem for me.
Joost: The funny thing is that in English it says you’re a British French musician, which is just a distinction that I really wonder why would they make that distinction there? But yeah, it’s slightly different. It’s really funny to see the differences, even when I just do simple geolocation queries. Searching from the US versus searching from the Netherlands. The difference is huge.
Jason: Beschikbaar op.. Oh that’s find him on YouTube. I hadn’t ever looked at it in Dutch. For people listening, Joost and I are actually desperately looking each other up online at the same time in different languages. But yeah, the language differences are interesting. Sometimes you will see translations of notably Wikipedia pages for some people and sometimes you don’t. My description doesn’t always appear in English, so it does appear in other languages. In French I still have a Wikipedia page. So the Wikipedia page appears in French. I think you’re right.
With Kalicube I actually track the 70,000 brands across 11 countries, including Holland! I’ve got a database of 2000 Dutch companies that I’m tracking. So I do have some data for Holland and the differences are quite phenomenal, especially in the knowledge panels. For example, knowledge panels for German companies in Germany, Dutch companies in Holland, French companies in France, Spanish companies in Spain and Italian companies in Italy are much rarer than the English versions.
That’s something I really want to dig into more. I mean, we’re looking at 10 to 15% instead of 45%. 45% of brands have got a knowledge panel on their brand SERP in my data set which is pretty good going. But then I’m absolutely sure there were a further 30% who have sprouts that just haven’t yet appeared.
Joost: Okay. It’s almost time for us to end this recording, because otherwise people will be listening to this endlessly and as much fun as it is I think they also want other things to do. Now is there anything that you would say,if you haven’t done anything to all of this, what would be the first thing you’d say, go do this now?
Jason: That’s actually pretty easy: look at your home page. Meta title, meta description, content to make sure that it looks good at the top of your brand SERP. If you’re using it for keywords, ranking as well. That’s a fine balance, it’s playing a double role there and that’s not going to be easy to manage.
You’ve rather created yourself a problem, although it’s probably driving traffic – that’s a whole different debate. Then also look at all the inner pages. Your blog homepage, your about us page, the CEO page, your login page, the contact us page. Start optimizing those for your brand SERP. Then start thinking about your entity, where is the who you are, what you do and who your audience is.
Then you can start to mold your brand SERP to represent your business and be positive, accurate, convincing, and getting that knowledge panel, because that’s very convincing to your audience.
Jason: Yep. You’re very good at spelling aren’t you?
Joost: I try hard. Follow him on Twitter, he’s incredibly funny at times as well. It’s been great to have you, Jason. Thanks for being on the show.
Jason: Thanks a lot man, that was a lovely discussion. Love talking to you.
Want to read more about the topics discussed?
Check out these post about branding, Google’s knowledge panel and semantically linking entities:
- 5 tips to improve your branding
- Where your branding meets your keyword strategy
- Google’s knowledge panel: What is it and how to get one?
- Semantically link entities to your content with Yoast SEO