Featured Image for "4. Brand SERPS & N-E-E-A-T | Jason Barnard Kalicube | Part 1"

In this episode of the Raking Revolution podcast, host Doug Cunnington continues his insightful conversation with Jason Barnard, the founder of Kalicube, discussing advanced SEO strategies, the importance of entity understanding, and optimizing online presence for better Google recognition. 

Delving into specific entity types such as companies, CEOs, reviewers, and authors, they explore how Google’s understanding of these entities influences SEO and organic growth. 

They discuss the shift towards prioritizing authorship and expertise in Google’s Knowledge Graph and how this affects E-E-A-T signals. 

The conversation also touches on strategies for achieving authoritative Knowledge Panels on Google. 

00:00 Welcome to the Ranking Revolution Podcast!
00:13 Diving Deep into the Knowledge Panel with Jason Barnard
02:55 Jason Barnard’s Journey: From Music to SEO Mastery
06:56 Understanding Google as a Child: A Unique SEO Perspective
13:15 The Importance of a Strong Digital Footprint
20:29 Entity Optimization and the Power of N-E-E-A-T
25:53 Wrapping Up and How to Support the Show

[00:00:00] Doug Cunnington:

Welcome to the Ranking Revolution Podcast, your go-to source for strategies and ideas for SEO, organic growth, content creation, and business. I’m Doug Cunnington, your host, and today in this episode we’re gonna talk to Jason Barnard… and we’re gonna go deep into the weeds of the Knowledge Panel. We’re gonna talk about N-E-E-A-T-T.

There’s some extra letters in there. And this is a super fun interview. I had a blast talking to Jason, and I think he’s one of those guys where I can talk to him about a bunch of other stuff unrelated to marketing, SEO, and in fact, we did that. We ran out of time. Like many of the other episodes, I’m dividing this interview into two different parts.

So they’re a little bit shorter and bite sized, and hopefully I’ll get some data out of this to understand if just having more episodes and more downloads is a positive thing algorithmically. And if you’re listening to this show, we like testing things with algorithms. So without further ado, let’s talk to Jason and hear a little bit more about Kalicube.

I’m pumped today to do this interview. We’re gonna go over a few topics. We’re gonna talk about how Google is a child. We’re gonna talk about Entity optimization for N-E-E-A-T-T. NEEATT. And we’re gonna get into what that is exactly. I feel like there’s some extra letters in there. We’re gonna talk about Knowledge Panels too.

And I have my new buddy on here, Jason Barnard. He’s an entrepreneur, a writer. He’s a musician, which we’ve been talking about for a few minutes, and he has an upright bass sitting behind him, and a smaller acoustic bass as well. He’s also the CEO of Kalicube. With over 25 years of experience in Digital Marketing, Jason transitioned from music and TV to a Google whisperer.

Jason published his first book, The Fundamentals of Brand SERPs for Business in 2022, and he’s been featured almost everywhere. A multitude of industry publications, including Forbes, Search Engine Land, Trustpilot, Wordlift, Semrush, and of course, Kalicube. So Jason, welcome. 

[00:02:19] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard):

Thank you so much, Doug. That’s delightful.

Of course, Kalicube. Who wouldn’t write for their own website? 

[00:02:25] Doug Cunnington:

And I’m pumped that we connected here pretty recently. I’ve seen your name around and I’ve heard of Kalicube of course, but it’s kind of the first time that we’re speaking just one-on-one. And before we get into all the details, I do wanna hear a little bit about your history getting into SEO, and we can keep it brief.

I know you, you’ve told this story many times, but talk about the transition getting into Google and kind of the timeframe as well. 

[00:02:53] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard):

Right. Yeah. Well, I mean the double bass doesn’t even come into this story, so it’s sitting there just to look pretty. But I was a professional double bass player. Then I got into the internet in 1998.

Because in 1998, my ex-wife and I created cartoon characters called Boowa and Kwala, and we couldn’t get a record label or a book publisher or a TV company interested in the characters. So being incredibly determined, I created a website for Boowa and Kwala, the blue dog and the yellow koala for kids, and started building interactive games for children, songs, activities, animations.

Using Macromedia Flash back in the day when Macromedia Flash was an animation tool before Adobe bought it and before it was killed by Steve Jobs. So I love Flash and if anybody doesn’t know what Flash is, go look it up online. Macromedia Flash or Adobe Flash generally hate it. I love it. I still love it.

It was so much fun. We could make interactive CD ROMs for Kids streamable online, streaming in 1998. I mastered the art of streaming cartoons over a 14 K modem. So that was the start of the internet adventure. Then what we did is to build, interest and traffic. We obviously went to schools. We got schools coming in.

We got recommendations from babysitting websites. But most of all, we got a lot of traffic from Google. So from 1998 when Google was incorporated and we started our website, I built up alongside Google our amazing SEO, the point at which we ended up with 5 million visits a month from children aged up to 10 in 2007. We delivered 1 billion page views in 2007. A billion pages for a website for kids age up to six competing with Disney, PBS, and the BBC. That was fun. 

[00:04:57] Doug Cunnington:

Wow. From your background and a couple of things that you mentioned, it sounds like you have more of an artistic background than a technical background, like a lot of people in the SEO industry.

Can you talk about that a little bit? I mean, do you consider yourself an artist first and then you do some SEO on the side? 

[00:05:12] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard):

I think a lot of what we do, and number one, I don’t consider myself to be an SEO. I used to be an SEO. Now I’m a CEO and in between I was a digital marketer, so I’ve gone from blue dog in a cartoon using Google to get traffic to a full-time SEO to make money to discovering Brand SERPs, the search engine results page for your exact match brand name or personal name.

To understanding that the search result for your name is actually huge insight into your entire digital ecosystem, your digital strategy. What you’re doing right and wrong when you’re trying to engage with the audience across your entire digital ecosystem. Not just the website, but also your social media, your PR, your reviews, the government websites that talk about you, and that you can use your reading of the search engine results page for your brand to fix everything about your digital business.

That’s huge. So I’m not an SEO anymore. I am a digital marketing CEO entrepreneur who happens to use Google because it’s a free insight into exactly what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong for your business. And that’s what we do at Kalicube. That’s what we sell as a service, is come to us and we can set your digital business up in a way that makes business sense first and SEO is, if you like bonus. Because all SEO is is packaging your branding and marketing for Google. Simple as that. Sorry to all the SEOs out there. Doesn’t seem to be so very important anymore because you just package for Google. 

[00:06:51] Doug Cunnington:

Great transition there, Jason. So you often say that Google is a child and it’s kind of funny with your background, right?

So you had how like a billion, . . Like you were delivering content for kids and you’re doing it again. It’s just the child in this case is Google. So can you elaborate on what you mean and how it shapes your approach for, I guess, branding SEO as a bonus and all that stuff?

[00:07:23] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard):

Yeah. I mean, I started off with what you would call reputation management, but pro proactive reputation management. I was looking at the search engine results base for your brand name as your Google Business Card. A representation of you to your audience who are bottom of funnel, searching your name just before they do business with you.

Those are the most important people to your business, whether it’s a client, a prospect, a partner, an investor. All of these people will Google your name before they do business with you. So that search engine results page is the single most important search engine results page for your company. Or your person that then for me, showed me that Google misrepresents people. It misrepresents companies, which led me to understand or realize, sorry, that Google simply doesn’t understand.

Then I realized actually with Entity SEO, Google is a child who wants to understand the entire world and it’s really struggling because the internet is a total mess. What I see with our clients is they think, they say to me, well, it’s not a mess. Look, I search for this and I get these great results, and it’s pretty cool.

And they forget that Google’s actually organized the web for them, and if they had to look for it themselves, obviously that’s not gonna happen. It’s not gonna, it’s not possible. So Google’s understanding of the world is pretty good, but it’s an understanding traditionally based on keyword counting and link counting.

That now when you say it like that, that’s been SEO for work since 1998 and links were a revolution when Google brought them in. But it sounds so simplistic. All it does is count words, count links, and today it wants to understand the world. And when it can understand the world like a human being does, it can start to judge who does what, how good they are at it, how well they serve their audience, and to what extent the solution they’re offering is actually relevant.

That’s where we are. 

[00:09:23] Doug Cunnington:

That, well, and you mentioned, you know, treat Google as a child. So it might be early to get into some of the nuts and bolts, but can you give a couple of examples? Because it sounds, you know, simplistic, but let’s get into some of these details. 

[00:09:42] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard):

Yeah. Only the best example, and I like the way you phrased the question ’cause it allows me to bring Boowa back into the show.

Boowa, the blue dog. I was a cartoon blue dog. I wrote the script. I wrote the songs. I sang, I did the music and I acted. So I was a voice act. In 2012, I was looking for work as an SEO or digital marketer. And when you search my name right at the top, it said Jason Barnard… is a cartoon blue dog. When I tried to get clients, they would search my name, they would see that, and they wouldn’t sign.

So my realization at that point is the weight of evidence online indicates that Jason Barnard… is indeed a blue dog. But for me, that was in the past. So I set about figuring out how to educate Google to understand that although I was a blue dog, I am now a digital marketer. And that involved changing its focus and changing the weight of evidence.

So you have two things going on. Number one is changing the focus away from the blue dog without removing any information. And the second was creating the counterbalance, the weight of evidence that demonstrates that today I’m a digital marketer. And it was a really interesting process that took me in the end, about three months to actually get the blue dog removed from the top of the result, replaced with a digital marketer. The blue dog was still quite dominant. And today you will see it on the search engine results page. I keep saying search engine, on the SERP, on my Brand SERP. And it’s because I was doing an interview with some lawyers just before, so I had to keep saying search engine results page, and I’ve got into the habit.

So Boowa, the blue dog, still appears on the page, but he doesn’t dominate. Digital Marketing dominates. And now we’re looking at it in terms of cohorts. So a cohort is a group of people, companies, or any entity that acts in a predictable manner or will react in a predictable manner to a particular stimulus.

So it’s predictable groups and that’s how Google functions GA 4 functions on cohort analysis. The SERP, the whole page algorithm at Google and Bing work on cohort analysis as much as they work on ranking. So people in SEO or Digital Marketing would think, I just need to rank and everything’s good, forget about the whole page algorithm, which does not only click analysis, mouse movement analysis, but also cohort analysis to understand when something that should rank should not be on the page. So although you’ve won the ranking game, you’ve lost the cohort click user behavior game of the whole page algorithm.

And just to quickly explain that is Nathan Chalmers, who is the whole page algorithm guy at Bing, explained to me exactly how it works. Is that you have the different algorithms that will rank content, but at the end of the day, the whole page algorithm is designing the products that Bing is selling, which is the search results, and it has veto right on everything, and it has promotion rights on everything.

So if it decides that a result is on page two, but it should be on page one, it can simply move it up. So you might have won the ranking game, but you may well lose the whole page game. 

[00:13:12] Doug Cunnington:

Just a side tangent here in preparation for doing this interview, I Googled myself, which honestly, I do it every day.

No, I’m just kidding. I hardly ever do this. And I was like, oh, I’m just curious, like what is out there? And kind of like you said, I was like, ah, there’s some things that make sense. I have a lot of content out there. I’ve been interviewed in places, I’ve guest posted. I have my own content. It is a mess, just like you said.

And it wasn’t in my head to try to focus on any one certain area. So, like I said, I don’t have a specific sort of question here. Maybe we look at it later or I look at it later. But I think one key thing for me currently is I’m not trying to sell to clients. I’m not trying to do anything specific.

I don’t have a clear goal. So it’s a little bit harder for me other than my own personal brand where I just hope most of the stuff that pops up is accurate. Maybe some of the most recent things that I have worked on versus something from eight years ago, which isn’t relevant. It looked that way. You know, and I kind of scrolled through.

Do you have any insight or other things that I might look at just for my own personal brand and personal perspective based on what I just mentioned? 

[00:14:35] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard):

Yeah, I mean, I think kind of, it’s a bit like seeing the psychiatrist is you go in thinking, I don’t really know what I’m gonna talk about. And then the psychiatrist will bring you to talk about the topics that make sense to you, and they’re important to you and help you to sort them out little by little.

Google is your psychiatrist now. You look up your name on Google and you look at what’s appearing, what isn’t appearing, what you regret not appearing, what you think should appear but isn’t appearing, and ask yourself why. Then you can start to sort out all the problems on your digital presence, because it’s gonna make you look at those.

It’s gonna make you face up to where you aren’t. Where you should be, where you are, where you shouldn’t be, and what you’re not doing right in terms of interacting with your audience. What information don’t you have out there that should be out there? And typically for a personal brand, the first mistake people make is not having their own website.

If you have your own website, Google has a reference from you about you. And if you wanna control your digital presence, and we’re not talking about just Google here, we’re talking about Google, Chat GPT, Bing, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, all these big hitters. They all work the same way. They’re looking to find where you live online, and that’s your website.

If you don’t have a website, you have no hope of control of your digital representation. If you have the website, you can start to control it. But whatever happens, looking at that result on Google or on Bing for that matter, for your name, gives you a really nasty look in the mirror. That moment you look in the mirror and you realize you haven’t brushed your hair, which I never do.

You haven’t washed your beard or brushed your teeth. You look a mess. You don’t wanna see it, but you have to. That was it. Yeah, I was gonna say, what a terrible analogy. I’ve got no idea where I’m going with it. 

[00:16:41] Doug Cunnington:

Yeah. Neither of us have hair, so we don’t even think about it. We’ve saved so much time and money over the years, just keeping it clean, keeping it bald.

So, okay, back on topic, a little bit closer on topic. Very insightful by the way. So you mentioned that it took you about three months to get your sort of digital footprint. In a state that you were happy with back in 2012, 2013, can you talk a little bit about the process and then what it might look like now?

Things have changed in the last decade, right? 

[00:17:13] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard):

Yeah, it’s both more difficult and easier now, which is obviously one of these terrible statements that don’t really make sense, but because it’s now based on knowledge gathering. Building the Knowledge Graph at Google, it’s much easier to figure out what you need to do to correct that knowledge.

And correcting that knowledge corrects your entire digital ecosystem, or the process of correcting that knowledge in Google’s brain corrects your entire digital ecosystem. 12 years ago, it was these different algorithms fighting with each other. And each one had its different, different ideas, the different priorities.

Getting the videos to rank or images would be multiple different strategies. And today, they’re all holistically mapped together so it becomes easier. And yet the whole system is significantly more complex because we’re looking at natural language processing mixed with knowledge that don’t talk to each other, which with the mixed with the algorithms, multiple vertical algorithms for the videos, for the images, for the blue links.

And you’ve gotta take all of that into account and it becomes very quickly overwhelming. Where do I start? What do I do? I’ve got no idea. But if you start by correcting knowledge, you’re building the foundation. And as you build block by block, you realize that it’s incredibly logical, incredibly easy to prioritize, and incredibly powerful.

And so what Kalicube Pro does, which I built in 2015, I built Kalicube Pro to crawl Google, compile a list of all references to you, prioritize them for knowledge. Then you just go through the list from top to bottom and you correct everything. Making the message clear, consistent corroboration across your entire digital ecosystem.

That’s what we call the Kalicube spring clean, and everybody has to do that when they start working with Kalicube. The first step is your huge spring clean. If we’ve got a spring clean, we’ve got a foundation, we can build anything. Literally anything on that foundation, if you don’t have that foundation, anything you build will fall over.

[00:19:27] Doug Cunnington:

Perfect. So it gives you a list sort of prioritized, I suspect, so you know that you can get most bang for the buck as far as effort as you work through. Great. 

[00:19:38] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard):

Yeah, and I think it’s, sorry, the prioritization is Google’s priority in the sense that, I mean, I’ve built the algorithm, so obviously it’s my interpretation, but my little brain built the algorithm and it hasn’t missed yet.

Literally, you can go through half the list and the thing will be corrected. We advise everyone to go through the whole list. It would be like cleaning your front room, but not cleaning your bedroom. What happens if your guest look in the bedroom when they’re looking for the toilet? Oh, clean the bedroom when your friends come around.

That’s another really silly analogy that I just made up, and I’ve got no idea where it goes. 

[00:20:12] Doug Cunnington:

No, that’s the main reason we invite people over just so we clean the house. I don’t know if that’s a strategy you used to, but highly effective, right? That’s a true story, unfortunately. Okay, moving on. I think it’s a perfect time to move into entity optimization, which you talk about a lot, especially for NEEATT. And for people that are unfamiliar, can you go into the details of N-E-E-A-T-T for us. 

[00:20:41] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard):

Yeah, it gets confusing. There’s too many letters. Obviously, Google talks about E-A-T expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.

Then they added experience because they said, well, expertise, authoritative and trustworthiness needs experience. But they stopped there and we’ve been calling that EEAT credibility. So we just call it credibility because it’s easier to explain to clients. And then, it occurred to me that a lot of what we do at Kalicube is actually PR dressed up with SEO or PR packaged with SEO.

Notability is hugely important, not notability in the Wikipedia sense. People often say to me, oh, so I need a Wikipedia page. No, you don’t want or need. You don’t want to go near Wikipedia if you can avoid it because Wikipedia is great for your ego. But it’s really bad for managing your brand narrative.

You’re handing over your brand narrative, understanding of the facts about you, to third party faceless Wikipedians, who don’t actually know what they’re talking about. So don’t go Wikipedia unless you really have to, because you don’t need Wikipedia for managing your entity. Back to E-E-A-T, notability is notability within your industry.

Just like authority is within your industry. It’s all very, very niche. If you’re an expert in a niche, makes sense. If you’re an expert in everything, it doesn’t make sense. You’re an expert in a niche. You’re experienced it in a niche. You are authoritative in a niche. You’re trustworthy for that niche. For example, I would be trustworthy as a musician.

I’m not trustworthy as a plumber, so even trust is niche. Then notability is niche. I’m famous as a musician, but I’m not famous as plumber. Transparency is the other T at the end. If you’re not transparent, how can we trust you? So it’s notability, expertise, experience, authoritativeness, trustworthiness, and transparency.

That’s NEEATT. We call it NEEATT credibility. If you miss any of those aspects, you’re not doing your job. Interestingly enough, what Google has said is that’s what we’re looking for in the algorithms. There’s no measurement or NEEATT score. Fine. That doesn’t have to be. What they’re trying to do is evaluate how people feel about you, how people perceive you.

So don’t think about, does Google have a score for NEEATT. Think about what is Google trying to achieve by measuring it in some way. They’re trying to achieve an understanding of people’s perception, of your trustability, your credibility. So if you’re looking at it from that perspective, it becomes much, much, much simpler.

Then what we can look at is, does credibility mean anything if Google doesn’t understand who you are? The answer is no. I’ve been saying this for four or five years. If Google doesn’t understand who you are, credibility means nothing. You can’t build credibility on something that it hasn’t understood. Now what we’re looking at with the, sorry.

So you have credibility and you have understanding. With understanding of who you are, then you can start applying credibility. Credibility used to be just links, so it was links to a website equals page rank equals credibility. Brilliant. Once again, incredibly simplistic. Incredibly, incredibly simplistic.

What Google couldn’t do was apply things like awards, qualifications, reviews, history of the company, the history of my publications as a person, because it was looking at just the website. Now it’s looking for who is the author of the content and who is the owner of the website. So in Google’s quality rater guidelines, they now no longer talk about website.

In this context, they talk about website owner, they talk about author. If they can understand who the website owner is, they can apply credibility signals in addition to the links to the website that simply represents the entity. A website is just a representation of the entity. It represents the company behind the website or the person behind the website.

So if you look at links there like this much, then you add all of the other credibility signals, awards, history, articles published, happy clients, reviews, so on and so forth. You can immediately see that with links, you’re hitting a glass ceiling very, very, very quickly, and it’s a very, very solid, I said glassy.

It’s not, it’s a concrete so you can’t break. Links have got this much. If you are not working on your credibility signals based on entity understanding, i.e. Google knows who you are, so it can apply those signals, whatever they may be. You’re stuck with links and you’re gonna lose the war, the game, and the battle.

[00:25:50] Doug Cunnington:

That’s it for part one. Be sure to check out part two with Jason. We get into more of the nitty gritty details. If you dig the show, help me out. I’m sponsoring the show right now. We don’t have any paid sponsors, so right now, you could help me out by making sure you’re subscribed wherever you’re consuming this.

Leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify or wherever you can leave a review. If you’re watching on YouTube, just leave a comment. Be sure you’re subscribed to the channel and all that stuff helps out. So thanks a lot. We’ll catch you on the next episode, which is part two with Jason.

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