Ep 71: Entities not keywords are key to search, Google Offers shows playbook, Data privacy even more important

The key to SEO is the Knowledge Graph so embrace entities, Google Offers shows Google’s playbook for dominating transactions, in light of the Supreme Court decisions data privacy has become even more important

Ep 71: Entities not keywords are key to search, Google Offers shows playbook, Data privacy even more important
Photo by Nguyen Thu Hoai / Unsplash

Part 1 Video start 0:13 - Entities, Not Keywords, are the key to SEO

Part 2 Video start 9:51 - New Google highlighting of SMB offers shows Google’s plan to conquer product search

Part 3 Video start 17:26 - In an era of ever more conservative rulings, data privacy has become even more important

Reference Articles:

  1. Oh, My MUM. Or how to think SEO in the era of algorithms based on AI
  2. "Deals" tab in the Google Business Profile on mobile
  3. Google Search Tests Shopping Filter Button
  4. We Need 100% Data Opt-in

Transcript Ep 71:

Greg: Okay, here we are Episode 71 of the Near Memo where we talk about the weeks events in search, social and commerce through a local lens. David Mim is on vacation and we're very, very excited to have the illustrious Cindy Krum sitting in for him adding her perspective to our own. As always Mike Blumenthal is here with his opinion.

Mike Blumenthal and his opinions. No. Anyway so we're, we're, there's just been a, a lot of stuff as always. I  feel like I'm a broken record. I say this all the time, but this has been very momentous period of time with the Supreme Court ruling in Roe V Wade and other things that are going on in addition to all the normal stuff that's happening in the digital world.

And I'll be talking about data privacy, but first we want to go to Mike who's gonna talk about entities and Google's formulation of the messy middle and, and a pretty interesting article that happened this week around how to reorient how SEO should really think about these, these items. And Cindy will be talking about deal search and Google's larger objectives.

And then we'll get to me and data privacy. So Mike, why don't you take it away? Sure.

Mike: So this was an article by Gianluca Fiorelli from I love SEO and it was based on a talk he gave in Europe several weeks back. And I just thought that it really encapsulates one, how local has functioned for the last eight years, 10 years, but also how SEOs need to be functioning in a world of artificial intelligence, entity based search.

The title of the article is, “Oh my MUM, or how to think SEO in the era of algorithms, based on AI”, he points out that think with Google often provides tells about how Google is actually functioning and they write these articles for their primary audience. And then an article that we talked about extensively, I think it was a year ago, or maybe it's two years ago.

Now was the article in which they talked about the Study where they talked about how the, the messy middle was the

Greg: name of it. It was, it was an article about, it was an article about reframing the customer journey and how to think about the customer journey. Exactly.

Mike: And how people, once they got triggered, moved into this really sort of infinite loop between exploration and evaluation and that messy middle has largely replaced the traditional funnel.

And Gianlucca’s point is that Google is now, instead of sending people away from the site to deal with that messiness, where people move between exploration and evaluation. Positioned their knowledge graph to allow people to move back and forth between the various exploration and evaluation states, they may be in using entities and that it is the core now of Google search and all the various algorithm updates from MUM and all the others are dealing with this problem by presenting knowledge, graphs, complete knowledge graphs, or narrow knowledge graphs, and ultimately.

Guiding people through these complicated, messy, middle till they make the purchase decision someplace, an eCommerce site, a product, a local business, all of which are entities. And he points out that that thinking about this as zero click search is a reflection of the behaviors of SEO of years past where we thought about SEO as a reflecting keywords, as earch through keywords.

And he suggests that if you think about it from an entity first viewpoint, you can build a much more effective model. And he mentions that Google's also ask is largely an entity based understanding, and it reflects that. And there's a tool that he mentions called “alsoasks”, which once you put a query in will then show you the people also ask queries.

And he said, it's a great place to look for the questions that Google is answering to understand the entities that you need to deal with, that you then need to build a model of entity first content. That will address this and that. I just, I love the article because it reframes SEO, it reframes this. If this is what Google is doing, you can no longer sort of keep banging on the zero click drum.

You have to accept reality and do an entity first approach to SEO. So, so that was a really well done article and useful way of thinking about SEO top to bottom.

Greg: Cindy, did you wanna add anything to.

Cindy Krum: I totally agree. I think Jean Luca does a good job of, of breaking this down and explaining it. And I think it is he's right about the future and where things are going with entities and it fits into the larger goals that Google has with mom and their deeper understanding of, of the world, but also of mobile search and.

No click search, which I think. There are always fewer clicks from a search result on mobile. And that's true for us as you know, websites, but also I think it it's true for Google. So even though there are now more mobile searches, people are getting the informa information directly from the so SEO has to adjust and not be a keyword play, but be more of a regular marketing and awareness and everything else.

Greg: Yeah. I mean, and we're seeing sort of related to that, we're seeing just the, the se become this kind of cornucopia of images and different kinds of information. I mean, it's, it's, it's almost to the point of kind of, I, I, I referenced in a, in a tweet the other day that we have to sort of Marie condo the SERP, because I mean, I think Barry pointed out that we're now seeing these sort of 16 Barry Schwartz pointed out that we're seeing these 16.

Image blocks for product search. You know, it's just really, it's really dramatically different than when it, when all of this started. And, and at the GML, Jerry, Disher talked about it becoming a, a, a, I forget the metaphor he used, but it was just. They were emphasizing more and more and more visual information, especially in the mobile se.

So and this

Mike: visual information is something that Google understands at at entity level, parses it at any level and then categorizes at any level. And, and Jan Luca pointed out that you can use the image categorization as one of the other clues as to how Google, like, if you do a search, for example, for engagement rings, you'll see at the top, the image categorizations of men's women's gold diamond.

So you can use images as another way to understand how Google is, is organizing this information.

Greg: So we don't, we don't usually ask for sort of actionable advice at the end of these segments, but I, but because this is really a kind of fundamental shift in thinking, what would you guys say is, are the things that SEO should be doing beyond sort of conceptual reorientation to entity search?

Mike: Well, first is if you're dealing with products, he points out in the article and I agree that you have to have your product feed down, pat. Automatic really clean so that Google can understand it because Google is not only going up in the entity search, they're going way down way granular, and you need to be there.

Likewise, you need to be there with entity based images. I think at the SEO strategy level, you need to be. Doing, instead of doing keyword research, you need to be doing entity research and then building pages around the entities to fulfill the need of these different levels of query. And then the final thing he pointed out, which I agree with is barnacle SEO, where you, if you can't show up in that SERP, attach yourself to somebody who can.

Cindy probably have other ideas

Cindy Krum: agree on that. And I think building out the entity, including the product feed is a really good way to start. But even if you don't have a product feed knowing that Google may be processing the images that are associated with your business profile to understand better what you do or what services you offer and knowing that Q and M may also be something that Google is looking at, what.

Mike: Q and N

Cindy Krum: or any kind of responses and reviews or questions that are associated with the business profile could be something that Google's using to learn about your, your business. And and also just thinking about the business profiles as. Kind of a direct feed for you to be able to give Google the information that you want them to know.

Whereas in SEO on regular websites, we're just kind of hoping a lot of the time that Google finds what we think is important in GMMB you have a mu a much more direct way of giving them and exceeding them, your content and, and being active. Products and posts and, and communication with your customers directly there.

Greg: Okay, great. That's that's excellent. So and you know, there is, there is the idea that some of this could be disrupted. If any of these antitrust regulations make their, make their way through. To to law, but that's a question for another, another discussion. So Cindy, I wanna move on to you. You had raised the, the deals tab or deals button that appeared as an interesting development and reflective of where you think of, of Google's larger.

Strategic objective. So why don't you elaborate on that?

Cindy Krum: Yeah, absolutely. So I think this piggybacks off what Mike was talking about with entities and just shows that Google is trying to understand things at a larger conceptual level, but then they're also trying to further their effort to become the, the presentation layer and the transaction layer of the.

For, for small businesses. It, well, for all businesses, not just small businesses actually think that they're they're, it shows that they are worried about the impact of Amazon. And this is just another way for Google to try to protect the, the market share that they have against Amazon and perhaps build it out is by Filters features, buttons and testing out to see what, what is gonna work and what are users gonna like the most.

But also what are business owners gonna like the most in terms of being able to easily upload a product feed, manage it along with it, a GMB profile and potentially build out their business much more in that way, rather than having to pay developers to do it on their side all the time. I do think that Google wants to make The, the GMB to build it out as if it could be a website.

And, and if you'll recall, many years ago, I would say probably four or five years ago, Google someone at Google produced something about posts before posts was a thing in GMMB and it was originally designed to be a WordPress killer to make a website design within Google much easier. And now they have the, the tiny little Google websites that you can build.

But I think this whole idea of enabling small businesses to do their thing without having to pay for development and allowing Google to ingest the information as directly as possible is the direction that Google wants to go. And of course, you know, attaching the product feed and the deals filters and the ability to put posts and deals.

Together is, is all this test to do something that they think Amazon won't be able to do in a faster, more efficient way. Does that make sense? I feel like that might have been a little bit word sound. No, no,

Greg: no, no, no, not, not at all. I mean, I, I, Mike, we can hear you.

We still can't hear you. So I'll say what Mike was gonna say, Mike, you can move your mouth and I'll provide the sound . In fact, as we discussed before we started the, the podcast Google in the frenzy of all the daily deals, sites back, it may be as much as eight or nine years ago. Now, maybe, maybe not that many Google bought the deal map and they integrated deals in a big way into, into the.

Whatever the local entity was at that time, whatever they were calling it, I don't even remember at this point and then they killed it and then they, and then they walked away from it and deals are a perennial consumer favorite, especially in a, in an economy which may be going heading toward recession or some version of recession.

It's, it's a, it's a consumer pleaser, but I think I agree with you, Cindy, that Google is trying to find advantages. Amazon can't replicate. And they, I mean, we saw this week that bill Reddy, who had been their VP of commerce, I believe was his title who had come from PayPal left for Pinterest. And he's now the CEO of Pinterest.

And I don't know, to what extent the strategy of combining e-commerce and local inventory was his alone or to what extent is part of a larger, you know, perspective at Google. But. This feels like a big loss for them, although I don't think they're gonna, there's gonna be any strategic change for them in the, in the immediate future.

Mike, are we still go ahead, Cindy,

Cindy Krum: because of the, you know, Google also testing the filter buttons in image search, and if you've done an image search recently for a product, something that seems like a product, what you'll notice is probably more than half of the images in image search are actually product.

And they're slipping in shopping carousel and product carousel. So they're trying to monetize image search as a shopping search and to see him go over to Pinterest tells me that, you know, Pinterest is likely trying to do the same thing, but also looking at some of the announcements out of Twitter.

This week in the past couple of weeks, there is allowing businesses to have open hours and to integrate with Shopify for product feeds. So I think that there's across, across the behemoths of the internet, there is a an attention to. Shopping product feeds getting people the best deals, but also getting people E making it easier to interact with smaller and local businesses in, in a more Direct way through social media and, and interact about products that they sell and potentially that they could just go pick up at the store or buy online and pick up at the store or buy online and have delivered from the store rather than always having to ship things from an Amazon warehouse in a half empty box, you know, there may be an environmental marketing aspect to this down the road where it's like, you don't need to.

This small, you know, piece of makeup or whatever shipped from across the country, or even from 20 miles away at the Amazon distribution center, a store, a mile away has it. Right. So

Greg: no, there's a, there's an entire, I mean, there's a much larger discussion about the whole commerce revolution going on. I mean, it's, it's, it's, you know, we heard a lot during the pandemic about the, you know, every people were buying more and.

Different kinds of things online that has leveled off as people have gone back into stores. But the, the commerce revolution is a much broader discussion that we've touched on here with local inventory and directing people to local businesses. But the social. All the social commerce that's happening. The, the augmented reality tools that are being brought into retail apps and websites, the, the way in which local stores are being used for e-commerce fulfillment by online pickup in store, all of that stuff is part of a larger.

Dramatic change that really brings online and offline together, which is in one way, what local has always been about. But I wanted to, to talk and Mike, we still don't have any audio on you. You can, you can use American sign language if you are con all right. Well, I, that's unfortunate because I know you'd have a lot of things to say about data privacy, which has been a topic that has come up again.

And again, it's, it's been a. An issue that has gained more and more consumer awareness and more and more people are concerned about. And there's been this debate between personalization and privacy, with the advertising industry, digital industry saying consumers absolutely want personalization and survey after survey saying, consumers are very concerned about data privacy and in the wake of the Roe V.

Wade decision, the overturning of Roe privacy takes on a whole new. Character, because the data that are captured from search histories, text messages is S P data and location data, mobile location data becomes potential evidence in prosecutions of, of women who are seeking abortions or who go outta state to, to seek an abortion.

And we realize not everybody agrees. Our perspective about the, the travesty of that decision, but what this does, regardless of what your politics are, what this does is it raises the profile of data, data, privacy, even further. And there's a current federal act pending that does not look like it's gonna pass.

And I don't, I can't reproduce the, the name of it right now, but it's been sort of a, it was a bipartisan thing. And now in the wake of row, I think there's some disagreements about it, but what I, what I, I piece this week talking about how I think all data needs to be. Opt in all personal data sharing needs to be a hundred percent opt in sort of all, all Apple's app tracking transparency.

I think that's not gonna happen at the national level, but you may see states certain states enact legislation like that to protect people who might otherwise have their data used against them in some, in some, in some context. So that's, that's kind of what I think, where, where we're gonna get, we're gonna see this go.

Which has implications for all these platforms and digital marketers across the board.

Cindy Krum: I'll just chime in and say, even if we take the health conversation out of personalization and privacy the, the. I think it's important for people and governments to understand that Google is leaning really hard on hyper localization rather than personalization and in, in many ways hyper localization.

Could be personalization or is personalization. And that's especially true if you live, let's say in a single family home. And perhaps do something that not health related, but like you go to a gun shop or you go to a gun range and then you happen to also be at a location where, you know, some violent crime is committed.

The fact that your. data, your hyper localization was here. And then the same profile also appeared here and the same kind of profile also appeared there. If, if only three people or one person is living where you live and doing searches, where you search, then that hyper localization is personalization.

Now, if you're in a high rise with a bunch of people that makes it a little bit harder Because the, the GPS coordinates are all kind of the same and stacked but in some cases hyper localization and personalization are the same. Do you agree? Or do you

Greg: disagree? No. No, to totally agree. I mean, one, one of the things that, I mean, I was, I was very involved with a lot of the location intelligence providers a couple of years ago with all the exciting things that they could do with mobile location data, you know, it's a, it's a, it's an indicator of intent and all.

Online to offline attribution that you can do, and all the ways in which you can use mobile, you know, the ad identifier or IDFA to tie different media together from an attribution standpoint, during the customer journey. I mean, there were a lot of exciting things that were possible given the, the, this, this kind of data now that could knit together the entire digital puzzle that people marketers have.

Historically difficult time doing, but now all of that becomes very sinister in the context of subpoenas and warrants and governments trying to surveil you and trying to use this data potentially against you. I mean, there's all this advice about women who. Deleting period tracking apps that will not, that will not do anything to, to, to stop this.

That's just one, one layer, but your mobile location, data, your search history, all of these things, there's, there's profound implications now. And you know, if you look at what's going on in China with the extent of government surveillance, using all these digital tools to profile and categorize and potentially preemptively Stop people from doing certain things, traveling, whatever it is.

I mean, it's pretty scary stuff. And so I think what we need in this country is we need some very, very aggressive privacy rules that are probably not gonna be forthcoming from the federal government. And I think it all has to go ultimately to opt in. It all needs to go to a very simple. Kind of app tracking transparency, like opt in where all personal data, location, everything, everything is is consensual, not opt out.

I mean, I, you know, I read an article about, T-Mobile starting to sell data it's consumers data to to marketers in terms of what apps are on your handset and what they're, what they're being, you know, What, what apps are being used. And I tried to go through the optout process and it's not easy.

These companies play hide the ball. So the idea that opt out is there, and everybody who wants to opt out can opt out is absolutely disingenuous. But you know, I can rant on for this, but I, my point is only that that the Supreme court has, has upped the stakes with data privacy and. It, we need a, we need a funda fundamentally different regime now from what we had, we need to move from opt out to opt in entirely.

And I'm sorry, Mike, Mike cannot say anything. Cindy, you have to advocate on Mike's behalf. Well

Cindy Krum: agree. And I'll point out that in, in many cases, especially related to privacy, but also related to intellectual property rights protection Europe is far ahead of us on this and is already writing laws, testing laws that for, for instance, limit GA three potentially we might see a dissolution of the map plaque and micro about this earlier this week.

Right. I think, or last week and all of that is. Because Google is such a behemoth that it, it seems like they're becoming the arbiter of who wins business based on who is at the top of the, the search ranking or at the top of the map. That's absolutely,

Greg: that's absolutely true. And it's been true for a while.

Absolutely. A hundred percent that people are. I need to cut you off. Well

Cindy Krum: people, especially in Europe and the EU are finally getting fed up with it and saying this isn't fair and Google's decision on who should be at the top. Might. Might be slightly biased or, or might be

Greg: or self fairing as the case may be.

Cindy Krum: And you can see Google trying really hard to figure out and plan for this potential. Changes that could be acted or could be a result of, of legal action. So I think that a lot of what's happening with GA four is to number one. They're gonna be modeling traffic data, which could theoretically give them an argument to say they're doing a better job anonymizing.

But also I think that the modeling data, you know, their models might be generous. And where people think that Google is stealing their traffic. When we switch to GA four, all of a sudden, I think that their models might show that people are gonna get more traffic and that

Greg: skeptic there skepticism in the, in the accuracy of the data.

Cindy Krum: Well, you know, self-serving is as self-serving does, but, but it'll also, I think that there, some of the intent is genuine, right? They wanna do a better job of attribution and attribution is hard when we have. Stuff happening in social networks and in Google business profiles and on websites and in ads.

And so if Google can tell a better story about attribution, I think they're hoping maybe people will be less litigious and less worried about them as a monopoly. Right. And also with the modeling, there's just a lot to win. You. I always say, and, and I said this, when they switch from old search console to new search console, when they scrap a platform and do a whole new platform, they don't let you just stay in there and keep things as is, there is a larger intent there, and, and we've been in GA three and then adjusting without having to scrap it.

Since the beginning, am I right? And now we have to do a whole new setup. And same thing was true. When Google went from old search console to new search console, it was along with the switch from keyword oriented search to entity oriented search. It went with mobile first indexing, which is. All about mobile or all about entities and understanding, at least that's, that's my conspiracy theory.

I, you don't have to agree.

Greg: Well, okay. On that, on that note, we're, we're kind of out of time, but I mean, I think the theme of this is that sort of dramatic change is happening both in terms of SEO and how to, how to do SEO going forward and on the back end in a corresponding way, in terms of privacy and availability of data and how marketers are gonna understand what's working.

I mean, there's been a lot. Surveys recently that have, have expressed dissatisfaction by marketers about performance of digital channels, cost of digital channels. So there's, there's a lot of people, people going on and it's not gonna end anytime soon, especially with the antitrust stuff pending in this country.

We'll see. Where that goes in the next couple of months. So Cindy crumb, thank you very much for joining us. We'd love to have you again, of course. And Mike unfortunate that your sound cut out, but you'll be back next week with full voice, so to speak. And everybody have a great 4th of July if you're in the us.

And if you're elsewhere in the world, have a great weekend. We will not be publishing on Monday. Depending on when you're listening to this because of the us holiday have a, have a great weekend, everybody. Goodbye.