Search off the record – episode two summary

Episode two of Search Off The Record sees the return of John Mueller, Gary Illyes and Martin Splitt. They made it clear that the podcast series is still very much in testing and may not be with us for the long-term, but while we have it we will enjoy it! 

This month’s podcast discusses the impact of coronavirus on our beloved industry, the recent crawling issue and a shout out to Mr Mueller’s new ‘hair’.

Below is our summary of the second episode. We will be back next month with an overview of the third episode, that is, if there is one!

Best quote of the podcast: ‘I saw a blog post recently about the hair outage.’

The impact of coronavirus on the SEO industry – a survey

You can’t beat a good survey, especially one from the Google Search Relations team where a significant response rate is pretty much guaranteed. This survey aimed to see how things have changed in SEO since the pandemic hit. However, they didn’t anticipate the answers.

1. SEO workload increased

With the number of businesses struggling and teams being furloughed, they expected less work for organic teams. But the opposite seems to be the truth.

One theory behind this increase is that businesses that traditionally focused on footfall have had to move online so they could continue trading during lockdown.

2.  SEO’s aren’t pitching for businesses any more than usual

So, with all of these additional business opportunities floating around, it would make logical sense to assume that pitching opportunities increased alongside workload. 

But that doesn’t seem to have been the case. Businesses are pitching at the same level before the coronavirus hit. The survey didn’t ask for additional information, so the reason for this is unknown.

3. Relationships between SEO’s and developers stayed the same or got worse

The guys seemed surprised by this statistic. They assumed that the move to communicating online and to video chat would improve the working relationship between SEOs and developers. While it may not have gotten worse in some cases, relationships certainly haven’t improved.

SEO events moving online

One benefit of the world going insane are national and international SEO events moving online. Especially as most of them have stopped charging for tickets. Martin Splitt was…again…surprised at the success of these. 

John, Martin and Gary all agreed that they would like to see more experimenting with audience/presenter interaction outside of the Q&A’s at these events. And Martin teased us by stating that he will be doing just that very soon.

Online SEO event challenges

Martin commented that the challenge of online events is figuring out how to help audiences maintain focus when there are so many at-home distractions. Whether it’s popping to the kitchen to grab a coffee or popping to the loo, it is much more difficult to keep audiences’ attention at the moment. 

What a fantastic opportunity for another poll! He asked people whether they usually take notes when they attend offline events, then compared this to whether they typically take notes during online events. The majority of respondents are note-takers at offline events but not for online events. 

Psychologically speaking, there are retention benefits to note-taking, so it was suggested that people aren’t getting as much from online events as they could if they treated them as offline events.

Diversity in speaker lineups

John noted that since SEO events moved online, there seems to have been an increase in diversity and new speakers. The guys shared why they think this increase in new speakers may be:

  • More events are running at the moment; therefore, there are more opportunities to speak
  • For events that pre-record their presentations, new speakers might feel more comfortable knowing they can go back and edit sections
  • Presenting online is less intimidating, as you don’t have hundreds of people staring at you

Regardless of the reasons, opinions that this was a welcome and positive thing was unanimous.

The day something went wrong with Google

Many of us use Twitter for information and early signs of rumblings in the SERPs. It turns out that the team at Google do the same.

When they see an increase in comms about potential problems, the team follows protocols to confirm whether there is an issue. And Twitter comms from SEOs are usually pretty accurate.

This is the second time they have hinted that they rely on us too. It’s an odd concept as it can sometimes feel like they hold all the cards. But it seems that maybe they need us as much as we need them. 

Gary went into detail about the recent outages. He confirmed that last year there were more outages than this year and that those outages humbled the team to the point where they put protocols in place to resolve any future outages they faced swiftly. 

These protocols involve ascertaining what, when, to whom and where they should communicate these issues when they arise. One example given was that if there were X number of tweets per hour regarding a search problem, it should be escalated internally to be investigated.

A few weeks ago, they had the opportunity to test these protocols. Twitter was, well, all a-twitter about Google indexing ‘misbehaving’. Gary confirmed that while this looked like an indexing problem, it was actually a crawling issue. Essentially, Googlebot was overwhelming indexing to drowning-point, which meant Google couldn’t rank new pages.  

Don’t worry, the problem has been resolved, and all’s right with the world – at least in regards to crawling.

John Mueller’s new hair

And finally, the team ended the podcast discussing John Mueller’s lockdown hair. 

And there you have it! Another fascinating instalment of Search Off the Record. We can’t wait for next month’s episode.

Listen to the full podcast here