DAN_SHAPPIR: Hi, I'm doing very well. As I told you before, it's raining today, more or less for the first time this year, but it's also 80 degrees outside. So it's interesting as it tends to be here.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Otherwise known as a steam bath. And also with us, we have AJ O'Neill.
AJ_O’NEAL: Yo, yo, yo, coming at you live from a 14 fluid ounce bottle of old fashioned chocolate milk.
STEVE_EDWARDS: And for you listening, that was him swallowing that right when I introduced him. And as our special guest today, we have Morty Overstein also ringing in from Israel. How you doing Morty?
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Not wet, because it barely rained.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Not wet, that's good.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: It's okay. Yeah.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Oh, okay. So you must, you're, you're separate from Dan.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Yeah. Why? You know, I was also, I was mostly all day long.
STEVE_EDWARDS: So that's one way to avoid from being wet unless you're plumbing breaks or something. They have bigger problems.
DAN_SHAPPIR: Less wet when more the is.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Yeah. Right.
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STEVE_EDWARDS: So we are here to talk about SEO otherwise known as search engine optimization. So before we get dive into that exciting topic, Morty, why don't you give us a little background on yourself, who you are, how you got into coding, why you're famous, all the important questions that we asked developers.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Oh, why I'm famous. Well, I can't talk about that on a podcast rated PG, but I got started, let's see. I got started on the content marketing side of things. I used to do a lot of writing for an educational software company. Started doing web content for them, eventually moved over to a SEO tool called Rank Ranger. I was their CMO for a while then. Just to run through my entire career in like three seconds flat, I ended up working with Danover at Wix, which was quite a pleasure. I'm actually still on their SEO advisory board. Lo and behold, about three or so months ago, I moved over to a tool called SEMrush, which is the largest SEO platform on the planet where I currently serve as the Head of Communications and Head of Organic Research. That's my career on one foot. Does that help?
STEVE_EDWARDS: Well, that was longer than three seconds, but yes, that will work. So what is an SEO platform?
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Oh boy. So SEOs need data. Well, there's a fundamental problem that SEOs have and that's Google's not telling you squat or where they do tell you is very surface level or very generic, not to say that Google doesn't try to be helpful. They definitely do. They have search advocates like John Mueller and Martin Split who are very, very, very helpful. But Google is not going to spill the tea, so to speak, on what's going on algorithmically. I just saw just before coming on this very podcast that there's a site that's now, I think, going to be suing Google, not the first one to do this, basically saying, hey, your algorithm updates have caused us to lose organic traffic, and now we've lost revenue, and it's all your fault because you haven't shared anything with us. So SEO tools as a general rule are trying to fill that gap by giving you data not just your data, because your data, you do have tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics, although those tools do have their limits, but the SEO tools are trying to give you insights on your performance around your own rankings, but also around your competitors. And that's data that you don't have access to unless you're hacking their Search Console and Google Analytics data, which I don't recommend because that would be illegal.
DAN_SHAPPIR: It's really funny. I kind of like to liken SEOs to psychologists or psychiatrists who try to understand how the human mind works without really understanding how the human mind works on the inside. So it's just by banging on from the outside. I don't know, kind of trying to figure out maybe how computers work by banging on them with a hammer or something like that. So it seems to me like that for SEOs, that you're kind of dealing with this really complicated thing that's getting ever more complicated and ever more sophisticated. And you're trying to like figure out how to kind of game the system maybe a little bit. And it keeps on changing on you as well. So, so is that it or is it something different?
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: No, that's basically it. If you want to, you know, round it off a little bit. So you mentioned a good point. Google, Google is changing very rapidly. So they have machine learning properties, BERT and mom and RankBrain. That really started in around 2016 when RankBrain, their first major I think that's actually the first machine learning property that was ever put into the algorithm, or it's really meta-algorithm if you want to be more specific, came onto the scene. And Google's getting really, really good at understanding things. That, of course, means that things are changing. Now, SEOs are not good with that sometimes, where you have things that are changing, and SEOs don't want to maybe admit that they're changing for various reasons. Either the things that are changing make what they're doing a little bit less relevant, although not completely irrelevant by any stretch of the imagination. Also, there's another issue with that is that, look, things are changing and what Google might be doing with your kind of site might not apply across the board and that's another big issue that SEOs have. Whatever it is you're trying to figure this thing out and you're doing it with a very very small data set. I was talking to there's a fellow named Barry Schwartz. Barry Schwartz is one of the old-time SEOs. He's a news editor at Search Engine Land and we were talking about something that Bing was doing or wasn't doing well. And he said to me, you know what, they probably have too small of a data set. Like Bing has too small of a data set. So yeah, well compared to Google, their data set is just too small. If Bing's got a data set that's too small, you as an SEO working, even if you're working on a hundred different websites, what you're trying to figure out and pull out of that, you know, the data from the 100 websites that you're working on is really a hit or miss. It might work for these particular sites in these particular circumstances, but it's hard to create a hard and fast rule by a data set that's fundamentally flawed. But you have no other choice. And that's kind of where the SEO tools come in, because they're working with a much larger data set and trying to explain what's happening. And even then, it's always taken, you always have taken with a caveat because they're like, SEMrush is the largest SEO tool. Our data set compared to what Google's data set is, it's like comparing like the Dead Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. So there's no good way to go about doing this. And you're sort of taking the best thing that you can and try. And this is where it gets tricky, is trying to apply what you're seeing. Whether it be from your own data, from a data provider, and applying it to your site, and that's where critical thinking comes in. Instead of relying on the crutch that is data, you sort of have to think, well does this make sense to apply here or not apply here? And that also is very hard for SEOs, because for people in general, if I can play Freud for a second, because you don't want to have to do that. You want to be able to have a hard and fast rule, but there's really no good way to do that, no matter how you slice it.
DAN_SHAPPIR: But you keep talking about doing things and about rules and about figuring out what to do. What is it exactly that you as an SEO do? What is it as an SEO, aside from getting the page up higher on the Google search results? I guess that's the end goal. You want to be like in the first page, otherwise you effectively don't exist. But if I try to break that down into actual actionable items, what are they?
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: So I would argue that if you don't rank above the fold, you probably don't exist, but that's not split hairs. So this is a great question. It goes, how do you define SEO? Which is in and of itself a huge argument within the SEO community. You have the more technical SEOs who are probably closer to you guys, who think, okay, so it's all about indexability and crawlability. Can Google crawl and index your pages? So they're doing things to make sure that everything on the page is perfectly optimized. Well, there is a perfect optimization, but everything is available for Google to easily crawl and index the pages and clear signals. Meaning, you're canonicalizing the pages properly. Your redirects are not as infinite chains. Things that make it really easy for Google to crawl, index the pages, and understand which pages should be crawled and indexed, which is a science unto itself. That's a very, very strict definition of SEO. From there, you can get into the whole ranking side of it. Right now, we're trying to do things that impact rank, and that's where it gets a little bit messier because obviously the technical aspects play into it. If you have a no index tag on the page, you're not going to rank. But now you're starting to deal with content. And then once you throw content into the equation, then it gets really messy because now there's all sorts of overlap between the, say, SEO and CRO, conversion rate optimization. Is your job as an SEO just to get the page to rank? Well, yeah, you can, you can rank number one, but is anybody clicking on you? For example, a great example is it actually be the, um, the travel websites during the height of COVID. Yeah. So I rank number one for, you know, best flights to New York, but who the hell is flying to New York? It's kind of a, it's ranking can be a vanity metric. What you really want is clicks and conversions and traffic. So in my personal opinion, and SEOs will argue, you'll have a whole subset of SEOs arguing on this. The SEO's job is to consider the overall health of the website from an organic perspective. So that does include obviously crawlability, indexability, rankability. But that also means you want to make sure that you have a proper user experience for the website also. And that's actually the technical side of that is catching up is now you have Core Web Vitals, of course, which is trying to consider the user experience. But I mean, even just beyond the technical aspects of that, you want to consider how usable the page is. You want to consider how well it discerns information in a way that the user will enjoy the experience, find trust in the experience, and then ultimately convert. So your own head or lead technical SEO, not the only one that said this best, SEO touches everything if you really want to get down to it.
STEVE_EDWARDS: So quick clarification question here. We're talking about SEOs as a noun. I've always understood SEO as a process. So when you're saying for a problem for SEOs, what are SEOs? Are they search engine optimizers versus search engine optimization? Or what exactly do you mean when you refer to those?
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Yes, pardon my, the editor's fingers in my vernacular and industry physiology. So yes, SEOs do SEO. So the search, or you can call them search marketers, do SEO. When we're not selling snake oil.
STEVE_EDWARDS: That was gonna be my next question, but you beat me to it. Okay, good.
DAN_SHAPPIR: Now I do wonder, how do you actually become an SEO? I mean, you know, there's a whole debate about how you actually become a web developer. There's a lot of ways these days to actually get into web development. But at least, you know, usually it might be bootcamp, it might be university or college, it might be self-learning on sites like Free Code Camp or whatever, but there are usually, we know the usual paths. What are the paths that SEOs take to get into this field?
STEVE_EDWARDS: Is it something like maybe they couldn't cut as the dev, so they fall back to SEO or?
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: I take offense to that remark, but maybe. Well, there's a whole hazing process that involves all sorts of horrible, horrible things that I can't discuss here. But no, there's no official process. There are digital marketing courses or programs at universities that might have an SEO course. My experience is interacting with the people who are running these courses or the students within them. It's very, very basic. It's really you kind of just fall into it. My personal story was I was working for an educational software company doing writing. I have a teaching background. I've always had a very heavy content writing background, and they asked me to write web content because I was one of the only native English speakers who worked at that company. I'm like, well, I love writing. I use the Internet, but I kind of need to figure out this whole thing of web content. So I just started diving into SEO from there and very much self-taught and self-learned and I fell into it by accident. If you ask most SEOs, there's some sort of story like that where they just kind of fell into it by accident.
DAN_SHAPPIR: And most SEOs work as freelancers, work within companies, as employees. You know, what's your experience with this?
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: My general experience at most SEOs work at either Wix or Shopify these days. But no, I'm just kidding. There's basically, you have SEO freelancers, then you have consultants who are very similar to freelancers, but they're more formal. Then you have agencies, almost like digital marketing agencies, then you have digital market agencies that do SEO, but generally speaking, like their version of doing SEO versus what actually doing SEO is can be very, very different. And that's where the whole snake oil reputation comes about, where you have people who are saying, yeah, I can do SEO. It's not that complicated. It's part of digital marketing, but it really is complicated once you get into it. So you have agencies that focus specifically on SEO. That's just what they do. Then you have in-house SEOs. So, you know, if you're at Adobe or if you're at Microsoft or if you're at whatever, you know, Realtor.com or Disney, they have people working on optimizing their site. And they work as part of large in-house teams. They're not as visible as someone working for, let's say, an agency or a consultant because they're always, you know, jiving and hacking away trying to get more visibility in business where if you're an in-house team, you're just, hey, I work at ESPN. I'll just do my job. I don't need to, you know, speak at a conference or anything like that. But there's a huge amount of them. Maybe the majority of them would be on in-house teams. I don't know what the split is actually, but it's definitely a lot of people you don't see who are working at these large companies or not large companies, hacking away, making the site function better, optimize better, have better content. And that's where your sort of content strategy, content marketing and SEO sort of overlap. And those teams very much, I would assume, on an in-house team would be very, very synced together. But that's basically the demographics of SEOs. Consultants, freelancers, agencies, better or worse agencies than in-house SEOs.
DAN_SHAPPIR: Based on the way that you describe it, it seems to me like SEOs are kind of straddling the middle ground somewhere between the developers working on making the site work. So in the case of SEOs, it's making sure that the site works properly in the way that both search engines, obviously, and also users can properly access the website and get a good experience while they're doing it. But on the other hand, also working with the copywriters, with the marketing department, making sure that the content in the site and maybe even the designers, making sure that the structure and content of the site is such that it can actually achieve, you know, its goals, that it's indexed for the right, the correct things, and that once users get to it, that they actually are able to achieve what the site owner wants them to achieve or the call to action or whatever that's called.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Yeah. And I think that's where you're going to experience as developers the SEO in two ways, because there's a sort of a split within the SEO. You have SEOs who are more on the technical side and you have SEOs who touch more on the content side or organic growth. When you see someone, you know, they're the VP of organic growth. My cousin used to be the head of organic growth at SurveyMonkey. He's an SEO, he's doing SEO, they just call it, or you know, growth marketing or organic growth. A lot of people will be focused more on the content side, and the content side is very tricky. It's not just, okay, we gotta write content. Where's the opportunity, what strategy makes the most sense, how do you write content in a way that the search engines will appreciate it, understand it, and respect it? There's understanding intent and strategies around, and what's the right intent at the right moment that you wanna target. There's a lot that goes into the content side of SEO because fundamentally the commodity that you're dealing with on your website is not your robot.txt file. The fundamental commodity is the content, whether that be images or whether that be actual text. People are coming to consume content, whether it be a blog post or e-commerce site, the content is the fundamental property that you're dealing with. So those kind of SEOs are going to need a lot of technical help from developers. So they are going to run site audits. They are going to see, you know, there's all sorts of issues with my HF Lang, or there's asynchronous CSS issues, and I need help with that. And they're gonna come to a developer. You do have more technical SEOs, and they're not so much focused on the content. Those SEOs, I don't wanna speak in generalities, if someone from the SEO world is listening to this, I'm sure they get ticked off. Those SEOs I generally find don't understand the algorithm as well. When they do talk about it, I find it to be a little bit outdated as if it's, you know, 1999. Okay, that's not, I'm being hyperbolic. They're a few years behind in that sense. But they're more involved in the tactical side of things. So you'll experience that more. So they may be more hands-on, but they're going to hit a brick wall. And this is something that SEOs don't readily appreciate. If you're a developer, it's something to maybe keep in mind. If you're dealing with an SEO that's not as technically inclined, they will defer to you as a developer. If you're dealing with an SEO, and I see this all the time with Core Web Vitals, who is more technically inclined, they might feel that, well, no, I got this. I can handle this. It's on me. Stay out of my lane a little bit. Even though my personal opinion, they are in your lane as a developer. And I see this all the time with Core Web. Core Web Vitals to me is fundamentally a developer issue. You might as an SEO see the problems, know the problems understand what has to be done. But fundamentally speaking, this is a developer. When I had conversations with Dan about corporate vitals when I was at Wix, my understanding of it and what I thought and you know, I really understand corporate vitals. I've done my homework. When I talk to Dan about it, it's a totally different level. The developer perspective on that is so much richer and I, SEOs don't, if they're on the technical side of things, might not necessarily appreciate that. And it's something that you might have to at least initially deal with when working with them.
DAN_SHAPPIR: I'm not so sure. It's a bummer. Oh, go ahead, Morty.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: No, no, no, go ahead.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Why do you even care if Google is going to pick up the related articles on the page anyway? Who's going to read the rest of the page?
DAN_SHAPPIR: To be honest, I have no idea. It's how would I put it? This is, I'm not, I'm not the SEO. This is not my call. But I totally agree with you. It's the same reason that, for example, a lot of gemstack type solutions add a blog comments in a delayed way on the client side, because they're not supposed to be even part of what gets indexed. So, you know, there's no reason to delay this content and to render it on the server side, you can add it asynchronously on the client side. But again, at the end of the day, both as a web developer and to an extent, even as an SEO you don't call the shots. It's the site owner that decides, I think. It's the business.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: But that's a good point because what you're bringing up is an issue that if you're our developer interacting with SDOs, you're going to encounter, and that's this idea that the page needs to be 100% optimized.
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MORDY_OBERSTEIN: And that doesn't exist. There's no page that's 100% optimized. There's always going to be certain trade offs that you have and it's a matter of prioritizing this trade off versus another trade off. Like I was speaking to somebody today. He has a, he has a site, it's a landing page, and on the landing page is an image that is so generic, it has nothing to do with anything. It doesn't really help you understand the product. So I told him, like, look, you have to put an image there. It's a complicated product, maybe put a video there, you can put a GIF there. You need to put something there that helps better, you know, users better understand what they're looking at because the visual is so important here to understand what the heck it is that you actually offer. And their biggest concern was, well, yeah, my Core Web Vitals. But we really optimized for Core Web Vitals. I'm like, that's great. But when I land on this page, I don't understand what the heck you're offering me. And what's the trade-off? Yeah. Okay. Let's make it a zero sum game. If you, if you implement this and you make this change, your Core Web Vitals will tank. Is that really not worth the fact that your users will now understand what it is you sell? And SEOs are very bad at this, these trade-offs sometimes.
AJ_O’NEAL: When was the user understanding what you sell important to the sales process? Those most, those must be low ticket items.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Yeah. Well, you know, every once in a while you could see it comes up in conversation. So if you can guess, I guess if you can figure that out on your website, it's probably a good idea.
DAN_SHAPPIR: There's so I can't, I can't tell you the number of, I'm not even an SEO, but because I work with performance, I often take a more holistic view these days of what a website actually tries to show when and what it's trying to achieve, then I would usually take if I was just doing plain old web development. And so many times I see websites that I'm like, it exasperates me. Like when the name of the business and what they actually do doesn't appear anywhere above the fold or appears in like a pop-up box box that appears like three seconds later and then you close it. I remember a website where the customer decided that they did not want any text on the homepage. Not at all. Just pictures. You know, that was like, what are you doing? You know, forget about performance. I mean, I don't know.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: My sister's website is like that. All she has above the fold is our images and they have just text on the image and that's what she's using. Google doesn't understand a word that you have there. But unbelievably, so I was doing a project a little while ago. I was running through hundreds of websites and trying to categorize what they do. So name of the website, what the website does. I thought this would be a very simple project. I can't tell you the number of websites where I had to start, you know, perhousing, perusing through the website, trying to figure out what exactly is it that you do. You would think that would be so simple. But to this point, by the way, there's a whole there was a whole fiasco in the SEO world recently where Google started to change title tags. So Google's always done this, but the volume that they were doing it has increased exponentially. Google, if it doesn't like the title tag that you add to the page, will rewrite it for the search results. Well, Google started doing that like crazy. I'm thinking, what is it? End of August. Google started really going off with this.
DAN_SHAPPIR: Just to wrap you up for us. Just to interrupt you for a second, I want to clarify to make sure that our listeners understand what we're talking about exactly. So obviously in the HTML, we've got a title tag. And normally in a web page, all it does is it determines the text that appears in the tab title above the actual page. And nobody hardly ever looks at it because you either actually read what's on the page or you've got so many tabs open that you can't really read it anyway. But it kind of shows up in the tool tip when you float over the tab. But it turns out that Google actually used to use this at least when creating those blue links in the Google search results, the text there, most cases used to be the title tag more or less. Right. And then they changed it.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: I just pulled data on this. It's like a 60 40 split.
DAN_SHAPPIR: Yes. Okay.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: So Google where they were showing the title tag 80% of the time. Now they're showing it, from what I remember from the data I published, or probably remember it better, around 60% of the time. And now that made SEOs go ballistic. And to a certain extent, there's a good point there. When I write a title tag, forget the SEO advantages or disadvantages of having that optimized or not optimized. When I'm writing that, you're trying to get a user to click from the search results. That's a different way, as a writer, that's a different way of writing and enticing than it is as the H1 on the top of a blog post. Now SEO started freaking out about this, but the point to remember is that we're talking about, there's so many, how many websites are at, hundreds of millions of billions, whatever it is, how many are actually optimized for search? Probably that's the vast minority of pages. And just going back to what we were talking about a minute ago, going through all these websites that I was going through and seeing how many don't even get the fact that you need to be very clear about what it is your site is offering on the top of the fold of the homepage. So of course Google's gonna be rewriting title tags. If you're not getting what your site does right, what are the chances of you getting your title tag right? So Google's gonna use the headers you have on the page to rewrite them.
DAN_SHAPPIR: So basically I would say it like this, Google sees their primary commitment not to you, the site owner, but rather to the people who use their search engine. And they want to raise the probability that when the visitor to a Google search result clicks one of the links, they'll be pleased with the page that Google sent them to. And if there is a significant disconnect, I guess, between what's written in the title and what they actually find in the page when they get there, they won't be happy about it. And Google, per my understanding, is trying to kind of remedy this to an extent, reducing the probability that this happens by trying to be smarter about what it decides to put in the link, correct?
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Correct. The only thing I would add to that is I do think that Google does care about the site only in this, or not only in this sense, but primarily in the sense that there is a content gap out there. And I know that may sound a little bit absurd, but if you think about it, when you search for outside of searching for very top level things, like best places to go on vacation, you're going to get, you know, whatever decent content or not decent content that you get back from the search results. But when you start digging into more minutia or subtopics or really specific topics or very particular niches, there is a content gap. Certainly Google has admitted this. There's content gaps in languages outside of English. But even in English, I think there are certain content gaps that exist. And Google wants websites to feel that if we create content, we will be successful in getting organic traffic from this content. If a website is going to create a title tag that basically for their homepage says, home page, even if that site ranks well, if Google's showing the title, home page on the search results, no one's going to click. And that site's going to say, why am I writing all this content? I'm not getting organic traffic out of this. And this content gap that I think does exist in certain verticals or niches will continue to grow exponentially. So Google wants the sites to be successful and was saying, hey, if you're not going to do it yourself, we'll take matters into our own hands here a little bit.
AJ_O’NEAL: So I guess the reason we're seeing this uptick is because more titles say create React app and so that's gone from 60% replacement to 80% replacement as we just have more generic craps out in the wild.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: I think the generic craps have always been out there. I think Google has finally gotten to the point.
AJ_O’NEAL: Craps are very new. We've only had craps for the last five years or so. Create React apps.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Oh, there's a crap. I'm sorry.
AJ_O’NEAL: Nevermind. It didn't land.
STEVE_EDWARDS: I thought we were supposed to be making this a family favorite podcast.
AJ_O’NEAL: No, it's what it is. It's craps. Create. It's abbreviated.
STEVE_EDWARDS: I got it. I get it. I get it. Here we go. I'll give you this, AJ. I'll give you...
AJ_O’NEAL: You know, WordPress sites, Microsoft front page sites. You still run into those. Lots of sites. Yeah, they have that thing where it says homepage. And the number of sites...The number of inexperienced people publishing content on the web is increasing. So the number of bad titles that are defaults, angular site, react site, homepage, et cetera, is increasing. So it does make sense that the number of sites that Google is replacing the title for is also increasing. What doesn't make sense is how it would get that wrong and where the title should be something that a person chose such as how to read a GPT-3 written article about a top 10 watchmajig and three easy steps. How is that title getting replaced? How are people that actually care about the title noticing that this is happening? That's what I'm really wondering because it seems that if somebody cares about the title, because definitely people put the wrong title by mistake. You create your blog template and you accidentally put the title across every single page when it should have been something similar to what's in the H1. So how are people getting in a situation where just what's part of the template, but how do people that are selecting a title on purpose, having their purpose picked title replaced? That's my question.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: I wish I had an answer for that. I think if SEOs had an answer for that, they would feel much more at ease. That's the issue that people who are optimizing their sites, so Juke, look, Amazon had almost all of their titles rewritten on the results page and it wasn't better. It was some generic ridiculous thing that Google picked off the page. When it first rolled out, back in the end of August, early September, it was really bad. You had some really crazy things happening and Google's not always great at admitting their mistakes. And they didn't want to admit it. Then finally, a week or two later, they said, yeah, well, we're getting better at it. But it's a great point. I don't know why. Like, I don't understand why it's at the point where it is there's so many good titles, why do you have to get smart? And this is maybe where Google's own ego gets in the way, if I can speculate, well, oh, we know better what we write. Who are you, content writer, SEO person? And that's where there's a lot of, there still is, to a lesser extent maybe than the past, but there still is a lot of bad blood between Google and search marketers. And these are the kinds of things that facilitate that.
DAN_SHAPPIR: Yeah, but it's Google's world, we're just living in it.
DAN_SHAPPIR: But there was an important question that I wanted to ask you. So we were talking about the various things that SEOs do, but at the end of the day, how much difference can an SEO really make? I mean, sure, if you've got no index on the page, if your robot text is all wrong, then you don't get indexed at all. Your server keeps returning 503s whenever the Google bot hits your website. Those Those are things that can and should be fixed. But you're saying that if you're not above the fold, then in the first page, then you don't really exist. And these days, like half the fold is taking up by, if not more, is taking up by promoted links that, you know, it's paid to play. And then there's the Wikipedia article in there that's gonna be there no matter what you do. And there's, so there's about like one row at best that's kind of left for you as an organic SEO person. Are you really going to be able to hit that? Why you and not the SEO person working for your competitor?
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Well, first off, as an SEO, only my site's gonna be optimized. And SEOs do sometimes think about it that way, and that's not true, it's a really good point. Everybody, or not everybody, many people are optimizing their sites. That's actually a great case. That's a case where you do need an SEO, an SEO to tell you, stop trying to rank for that. And that's been an issue actually within the SEO community itself for a while, that you're starting to see that turn to that corner turn a bit. So SEO tools such as Sandrush will offer search volume data. In other words, they'll tell you, hey, for the keyword, you know, tickets to the Yankees game every month, 2000 people search for that in the U.S. Wow, 2000 people. That's great. If I certify another term only gets 20 people every month. Let me go after that term that has 2000 people coming to the site each month great except those kinds of keywords generally often, A, don't necessarily relate to your particular website. And yes, they might bring in traffic. You could write a blog post about going to the Yankees game and getting tickets, but if your site sells mufflers, that has nothing to do with anything. So that's sort of a vanity traffic. But also, no, you're not, look, the best example of this would be the health industry. The health industry, I did a whole study on this, is just dominated, except for particular verticals edu.gov's Healthline WebMD Mayo Clinic. Top level health queries, you know, heart attack prevention. There might be one or two slots on the page, on the SERP, for your average website, and even if it's your average website, it's a really good average website. You're not gonna rank for that. And you have, you know, site owners, well I talk about heart attack prevention, so I'll rank for heart attack prevention. You should even try, don't waste your time. And SEO's job, In that case is to know that, understand the vertical, and try to point the site owner to ranking in this particular case for longer tail keywords or more specific topics that the web MDs of the world can't cover because they're an encyclopedia of health information. They're not gonna get into the nitty gritty of every single health topic. They can't. So that's where your opportunity is. So a good SEO will understand what's happening in the ecosystem. Will understand that Google is an ecosystem understand what's happening in the ecosystem, understand how to find out what's happening in the ecosystem, and then point the website in the right direction. Fundamentally speaking, that's where I think an SEO has the most value, outside of making sure there's no index tags on the pages kind of thing.
STEVE_EDWARDS: So I have a question, and we'll start wrapping up here and heading towards PIC, because we're getting a little low on time. Back in the early days of SEO, I guess, the common way that I can always recall for getting your page to show up and search results was loading up your meta tags. So you'd have your meta title and your meta keywords and your meta description, and people would just dump term after term, whether it was related or not into your meta keywords. And supposedly that would help. And then there was also cases where people could game the search, search engines, Google. And I don't know how it was done. I just know that they would game in a such a way so that if you typed a specific term into Google, most of these specific articles would show up at the top. And my understanding in my low level SEO knowledge is that the tags, the meta keywords and stuff like that aren't necessarily used much, if at all. And they're certainly not a primary source of data used by Google when indexing. So in both those cases, I assume neither of those are really true anymore in terms of the use of the meta keywords and fixes they've put in place to avoid gaming the system quote-unquote.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Yeah, so meta keywords in particular are not used at all. There's no sense, at least from an SEO point of view, of adding meta keywords. Meta descriptions are not used for ranking purposes. Actually, Barton Splitt, who keeps coming up, at one point said that Google could theoretically look at the meta description to have a better understanding of what the page might be talking about, but it's not an official ranking fact. They're not using it for ranking per se. That's more of a conversion thing if Google actually ends up using your meta description on the search result page, which they most often do not. But Google has, yeah, I mean, there's link building tactics.
AJ_O’NEAL: They do, they do use the meta description. And not only that, Facebook, Twitter, et cetera, use the meta description. Now, if you have an additional meta OG description, that will be preferred, or meta Twitter card description, that will be preferred. And I'm sure that a couple of other different social networks have their own, you know, so you can have the same meta tag six times. But if you just have meta description that is used in because so we're talking about SEO here, but what about the things that, and this is maybe too far for too late in the show, but what about the things that aren't necessarily a search engine that are important to your users that are scraping data? Slack. Correct. So discord. Facebook, Instagram.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Absolutely, so meta descriptions are a great example of that. First off, meta descriptions, Google will rewrite them, and you should know that they usually write them from the top portion of the content on the page. What's the data on this one? I think it's one at, like three out of 10 are kept the same from your actual meta description that you actually use. Don't quote me on that number, but they'll also rewrite it based on the query. So Google will try to adjust the meta description that the user sees if the user adjusts the query. So if you search for, I don't know best pants and then you get a whole list of results in the meta descriptions that are there but then you search for best blue pants google will try to throw the word blue in there using the content off the page i'm oversimplifying that but yeah there's a lot that goes beyond SEO that's kind of was talking about earlier as an SEO you need to be thinking about the things that are not just about seo for example meta descriptions so there are some SEOs who will say yeah most of the time google's not using the meta description anyway it's not a ranking factor who cares but for the times that Google does use your meta description, it takes you five seconds to write and you can create copy that you can control on the search results page that could entice a click. So why wouldn't you write it? That sort of thing. Or it's for Twitter or it's for whatever social platform that you're using. There's a lot of different things that go on that may not apply to SEO specifically, but are a part of the larger equation that you should be considering, of course.
STEVE_EDWARDS: And just to clarify, OG is not original gangster. It is open graph just for those who are wondering. I looked that up because there's a show called The Last OG. Did you? Not being culturally knowledgeable, I had to go look that up.
AJ_O’NEAL:Did you urban dictionary that? I did. That was exactly where I looked that up. It's a good reputable source for technical information I've found.
STEVE_EDWARDS: So, all right. So Morty, before we head into pics, is there anything else you wanted to cover that we have not yet covered?
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Well, I mean, we can go on for hours, but no, I think we...I think we covered it. SEOs are complicated.
STEVE_EDWARDS: All right, good deal.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: And you're gonna enjoy experiencing them if you're a dev.
AJ_O’NEAL: I've got one more question. What I've noticed is the sites that rank the best are the ones that are GPT generated. They're the sites where it's obvious that they're scraping Amazon reviews and then producing content from Amazon reviews. Basically any site that says top 10, as far as I can tell, none of them have ever had a person look at any of the things that are in the top 10 list, they're GPT generated from Amazon comments is best I can tell. And those are the whenever I'm searching for review content or any, any type of content that in some way can be put into a top 10. Why is it that these auto generated sites that have no useful information in them, no useful information, how are they ranking on top and do we need to replace SEOs with reverse ML so that we can start generating content that looks like a bot so that Google will place it. What's the deal there?
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: So that has not been my general experience. There was an update, it was in April of last year, called the product review update, where Google specifically went after product reviews and basically created a whole, they actually released a bunch of guidelines around it, but there were some initial not great results after the update, but in general, the update was about targeting less than reputable or thin reviews or reviews that are really meant to drive a sale. So you're just creating a review to get the affiliate not really offering information. For ISA, Google did a really good job of trying to get much more comprehensive reviews out there. That's not to say that there are not gaps in the system. I'll give you a great one. So if you search for best SEO podcast, so Google has a little carousel that there's two carousels. One is a carousel of all the SEO podcasts and then there's another one that goes through a couple of episodes from these podcasts, you know, particular episodes. There's a podcast called Best SEO Podcast that hasn't produced an episode in probably a year or so. I never listened to it because it's not the best SEO podcast, it's a pretty crappy podcast, I guess, my opinion, but it's there because it has the word best in it. So Google can do some really advanced things in machine learning and natural language processing, but there are going to be gaps sometimes. Now GPT-3, I would say it's great for writing a product or a description. But if you're talking about deeper content, Google is getting, from what I've seen at least, getting better at showing more nuanced, more specific results of higher quality overall.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Okay, one more quick term clarification. GPT is? Oh, I don't know what it stands for.
AJ_O’NEAL: It's the artificial intelligence algorithm that it writes most articles that you see. So when you're looking at an article on Forbes, on ESPN, on most articles that you see are written by GPT-3. It is now owned by Microsoft. It started out as a quasi open source project, if I'm not mistaken. Or no, I think I'm getting that mixed up with something else. But now it's owned by Microsoft and it's what powers GitHub code predictions, Copilot, and a lot of other auto-predictive texts.
DAN_SHAPPIR: And if you're wondering, it stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer. Now we are all a lot smarter.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Oh, I thought it was something like Google Power Tools or something like that. So I wasn't sure.
AJ_O’NEAL: No, sorry. Sorry. Sorry. I should have defined that one because that's not in the general lexicon. I mean, a lot of people in my circles talk about it, but yeah, it's definitely not something most people are aware of. But if you read, I think it's Rise of the Robots, he specifically names the percentages of top websites that their articles are written by GPT-3, or I guess it was GPT-2 at the time. Because GPT-3 is version 3 of the GPT thing.
STEVE_EDWARDS: I sort of figured that's what the 3 was for, but thank you for clarifying that.
DAN_SHAPPIR: It's basically a machine learning model that's based off a ton of content that they read off the web and they built this, they crunched the numbers a really long time on really fast computers and generated this model that assists with parsing content and generating content and you know, stuff like that. If I remember our episode with tab nine about how they auto-complete, use AI to auto-complete the code that you write, well, they use a GPT-2 for that.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Yeah. If I remember correctly, I think like a lot of news organizations, like, like sites like ESPN or AP will use this for generating stories about, you know, recaps of games, baseball games, football games, stuff like that.
AJ_O’NEAL: And it can generate the graphs as well. So it can generate the pie charts and the bar graphs and all that. It. I don't know how it pulls the data, but I guess it knows, but it probably knows the other sites where they list the tables and just pulls it from the tables and says, okay, judging by the way this data is, would this data be best represented by a pie chart or a bar graph or whatever, and it throws that in there.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Alrighty. With that, we will move on to picks.
Hey folks, this is Charles Maxwood from Top End Devs. And lately I've been working on actually building out Top End Devs. If you're interested, you can go to topendevs.com slash podcast, and you can actually hear a little bit more about my story about why I'm doing what I'm doing with Top Endevs, why I changed it from devchat.tv to Top Endevs. But what I really want to get into is that I have decided that I'm going to build the platform that I always wished I had with devchat.tv, and I renamed it to Top Endevs because I want to give you the resources that are gonna help you to build the career that you want. Right? So whether you want to be an influencer in tech, whether you want to go and just max out your salary and then go live a lifestyle with your family, your friends, or just traveling the world or whatever, I want to give you the resources that are going to help you do that. We're going to have career and leadership resources in there and we're going to be giving you content on a regular basis to help you level up and max out your career. So go check it out at topendevs.com. If you sign up before my birthday, that's December 14th. If you sign up before my birthday, you can get 50% off the lifetime of your subscription. Once again, that's topendevs.com.
STEVE_EDWARDS: So today we will start with Dan. What do you have for us today, Mr. Dan?
DAN_SHAPPIR: Okay. So since we were talking about search engines, I'll actually use one of my picks for that. So it turns out that there's this thing going on in Europe where the EU is going after Google for being monopolistic in the search space. And Google's lawyers said, well, that's not true. There are other search engines out there, for example, Microsoft Bing. And then it turns out that, can you guess what the top search word on Bing is? It came out in the trial or the proceedings.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Can I spoil it? It's Google.
DAN_SHAPPIR: Yeah, it starts with a G. Exactly. It's Google. So by far, the most searched word on Bing or term on Bing is Google. So what?
STEVE_EDWARDS: Yes, I did remember seeing that. I did see that the other day. That made me laugh.
AJ_O’NEAL: What that tells us is that Microsoft's not very good at auto complete and edge because if the person typed Google in the Omnibar, it should have filled out the dot com for them.
DAN_SHAPPIR: Yeah, maybe. Either that or, you know, start figuring out what people are searching on Google and then kind of drop Google from the search and then do the search on Bing, even though they were looking for Google. But anyway, it is what it is. So that was one pick. Another pick that's kind of related to some of the stuff that we were talking about today and at least in a indirect way pretty interesting talk about single-page applications versus multi-page applications, about which is beneficial when, and his vision about how they kind of need to co-exist and even kind of merge together in the future to form what he referred to as transitional apps that are SPAs when they should be and MPAs where they can be or something along these lines. It's a very good talk. Rich Harris is really smart and also knows how to present his ideas really, really well. I was also lucky enough to watch him speak in a live conference and he's great. So I highly recommend this talk and I'll post a link to it in the show notes. And those would be my picks for today.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Yeah. That's funny. You mentioned that I actually have that video, at least it's on Jamstack TV up on my browser or something to watch. I need to watch. And I heard him talking about it on another podcast too. So that that talk seems to be making the rounds for sure. AJ, you're up next. What do you got for us?
AJ_O’NEAL: All right. So first of all, I'm going to start off with something I put in the chat earlier, but didn't actually mention which is Project Jabberwocky. So if you've never heard of the show Better Off Ted, you are worse off for it. And you should get on that. But in particular, you should watch this three minute clip of the Jabberwocky project, which sums up pretty much the entirety of the humor of the show. So if you like this three minute clip, you will probably like the show. And they make fun of some real life events, like the time that Microsoft built the Xbox, Xbox Connect only to recognize white people. But in the show, they make fun of that and they present a different scenario rather than directly poking at Microsoft over it. But they poke at a lot of corporate blunders, much like the IT crowd or some of those other types of shows where they pull from things that are happening in the real world and then rework them. But Project Dabberwocky is buzzword bingo. And it's just, it's so relatable. And then I'm gonna pick both Rise of the Robots and the economic singularity. So Rise of the Robots is more meaty. And I believe it's the one where I got the real lowdown on GPT-2, I think it was at the time. And then the economic singularity is more It's almost not a book unto itself, but a review of 10 other books in the space, kind of, sort of. If you wanted to get the, the abridged version of books that deal with AI, ML, economics, and replacing humans, economic singularity. He quotes so many other authors that you, you kind of know which ones you want to jump into from there. And then let's see, as a dangerous wrong thinker, I have found, I think that dangerous wrong thinkers are going to need options for for web services in the future because dangerous wrong thinkers are being edged out. And two that I found that look interesting for payments are AlignPay, which is just a front in front of Veripay. So maybe it'd be better to go directly to Veripay. I'm not quite sure. And then Second Amendment Processing these are payment processors that do not discriminate based on religion, creed, political affiliation, et cetera. They are non-discriminatory payment processors, and they are also higher risk processors, meaning lower risk to you. When you use them, you are less likely to have payments canceled because there's actually an approval process as opposed to something like PayPal or Stripe where there's no real process in place. But then the moment that an algorithm gets tickled and you hear this from anybody that's organized to conference and use PayPal, the moment that the algorithm gets tickled, your accounts get frozen. So if, if you have an uptick in sales and you're using PayPal, your accounts get frozen because it tickles the algorithm and it says, Oh, this is unusual activity. We're going to, we're going to freeze it. And then you have no support to contact and yada yada. So anyway, those are two that if you, uh, if you do anything that possibly you think could tickle an algorithm or just even if you're not doing anything like that you just don't want to be with a payment processor that you know at any moment for any reason might severely limit your business. Those are two to check out and then other than that creeds of craftsmanship comm if you're interested in seeing kind of a curated selection of talks from top-level devs and and creeds of well like it says creeds of craftsmanship and whatnot and then you can follow me on Twitter Facebook Twitch YouTube all the things Either cool AJ six or at underscore beyond code. If you want to watch live streams and stuff like that.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Boom. So there's one thing that came to mind that is sort of a combination of something that Dan mentioned that you just mentioned, there's a episode of the IT crew funny show British show. That's so funny. And there's one episode where one of the crew convinces one of his users that if he uses Google to search Google, he will break the internet. I loved it. It was so funny. Anyway, so my first no laughs. Wow. So first pick is an article that I came across on stack overflow. Excuse me. Uh, not stack overflow news. Why Combinator hacker news. Thank you. Good Lord. And it's called best practices and why I hate them. It's by a guy named Charles Faval, F E V A L accent on the E. And he talks about how the term best practice usually means it's tradition. It's a pattern or somebody can't explain why they're doing something. So it's sort of short, but I found it a very interesting article. And then for the high point of the podcast, my dad jokes, my high quality dad jokes. First question is, so how do flat earthers travel the world on a plane?
AJ_O’NEAL: Oh Sorry, that was a little too forced, but I wanted to make sure it came through.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Yeah. It was fun. I'm loving these sound effects, by the way. Thank you, Riverside.
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: And then- Wait, that was second- What?
DAN_SHAPPIR: Yeah, we didn't hear any sound effects, Steve.
STEVE_EDWARDS: Oh, you didn't hear it? Oh no! I had, there's this, Riverside has this great rim shot and I played it and I could hear it. Ah, dang it. Now I'm bummed. I gotta figure out how to get that in the recording. And then second one is, what do you call a typo on a tombstone? It's a grave mistake. Thank you. Thank you very much.
AJ_O’NEAL: Are you going to be here all week?
STEVE_EDWARDS: All week, two shows a day. Don't forget to tip your weight staff. Okay, moving on, last but certainly not least is our guest. Morty, what do you have for picks for us for today?
MORDY_OBERSTEIN: Oh man, I mean I feel so lacking after all those picks. I didn't really come prepared. I stumbled on an old Apple show. I mean it's not old and how could it be old with this Apple? It's called For All Mankind. It's basically a look at what would have happened or it's like historical drama, whatever you want to call it of what would happen if the Russians land on the moon first. So there's two seasons of this. I think there's a third one coming out. I just thought about it completely by accident and it's absolutely awesome. That's all I have for you. I feel such a disappointment.
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