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Jason Barnard on Taking a Deep Dive into Brand SERPs

It’s not a coincidence that we mention that there are a lot of Jason Barnards out there. In this episode of the Yoast SEO Podcast, you will learn why it’s important to know if you have namesakes, just like Jason does. The Jason Barnard Joost is talking to in this episode is a digital marketer, but also a musician and cartoon blue dog. He specializes in Brand SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), which are the first thing people see when they search for your brand online.

This is what you will learn by listening to the podcast:

  • The importance of the About us page
  • How to discover if there’s a Brand SERP for your own brand or if one is starting to form
  • How to explain to Google that you are a certain entity and your namesakes are not you
  • Maintaining your knowledge panel
  • The importance of Rich Sitelinks in your Brand SERP
  • That Knowledge Panels differ around the world

Introducing Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) Who Traveled the World to Talk in SEO Conferences

[00:00:00] Joost de Valk: Hi and welcome back to The Yoast SEO Podcast. Today I’m joined by a friend of the Yoast family. He’s actually been to our offices, which is not something a whole lot of people can say because we’re in a very weird part of the Netherlands. Today with me is Jason Barnard, who you probably might have known if you have gone to any SEO conference in the last few years, because it looked like you were everywhere and then suddenly travel stopped. 

[00:00:39] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. Well, I went full digital nomad with the idea of just going from conference to conference. And it was really good fun. It was, as you said, I just kept pitching up and even when I didn’t get invited to speak, I would just pitch up anyway and record the podcast which was the reason, in inverted commas, for traveling around the world. It was an excuse rather than a reason, let’s say. 

[00:01:06] Joost de Valk: Any excuse is a good excuse to travel the world, if you can allow yourself to. 

[00:01:11] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. My daughter pointed out the other day, I was lucky that I got a year and a bit in before the lockdown and that I should count myself lucky that I got that. And she’s right. I got a good years of traveling. I went around the world a couple of times, in fact, in the end, which was absolutely awesome. I came to YoastCon, came back to Yoast again a second time, Yoast HQ a second time. What I love about it, you say it’s a tiny little town, it’s a lovely little town. And what it reminded me of when I was a rock musician, we actually toured Holland quite a lot. We had a tour, a guy who organised the tours called Bert Belchma. And he organised these loads of gigs in these tiny, tiny bars in these tiny, tiny towns and it was really, really lovely.

Talking About the Population of the Netherlands and How a Large Part of the Country Is Underneath Sea Level

[00:01:56] Joost de Valk: Yeah. And when I say tiny town, it’s also a bit of, so the Netherlands is, in reality, mostly one big town. There’s 17 million people on basically a stamp. But yeah, no, our town has 40,000 people, so it’s not nothing, but it is relatively small.

[00:02:22] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Isn’t it a stamp of which a third has been pulled back out of the sea?

[00:02:27] Joost de Valk: That’s actually a French saying, which is also always so funny because French people will always mention this to you. 

[00:02:33] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Oh shit. Sorry. I’m French. 

[00:02:35] Joost de Valk: And no, it’s funny. My French isn’t good enough to do this in French, but I hear the saying, as God created the world and the Dutch created Holland. It’s true. A large part of our country is underneath the sea level, which is very weird to many people around the world if they travel around here. 

[00:03:01] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): It’s unique, isn’t it? I can’t think of another country where you’ve got large swathes of it under sea level. I never felt uncomfortable, but it seems weird.

[00:03:10] Joost de Valk: No. But if you land on Schiphol, the entire area that you’re looking around at is two or three meters below sea level. So, yeah, large parts of the country are. Yeah. It is weird in that regard, one of the major wonders of technology, I think, in many ways.

People Starting to Be Interested in Knowledge Panels and Brand SERPs 

[00:03:30] Joost de Valk: But, you’ve been doing a lot of speaking at those conferences and the thing you speak about almost all the time it seems is about Brand SERPs and Schema and everything to do with that. The reason you are on the show is because you’re one of the few people that I see in these times that are still experimenting a lot and playing a lot with how stuff works and are trying to or to break Google. 

[00:03:58] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Trying to break Google.

[00:04:01] Joost de Valk: Yeah, in a good way, like game it. SEO is a game for those who’ve been doing it for a long time, even though it’s a game that has very real impact for a lot of people. 

[00:04:16] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah, no, a hundred percent. I agree with you a hundred percent. For me, it’s a game, saying we’re breaking our toy as it were. We’re seeing how far we can push the toy. I don’t know how much Google appreciates it or not. But from my point of view, it’s playing with something as well that I don’t think people have been playing with before, i.e. Brand SERPs and Knowledge Panels.

[00:04:36] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And when I was at YoastCon a year and a bit ago, I was actually talking about Knowledge Graphs. And that was the kind of, I’ve been working on Brand SERPs but nobody wanted to hear about it, but people wanted to hear about the Knowledge Graph. So I started talking about the Knowledge Graph, moved that onto Knowledge Panels, which people can see and then started saying, well, actually think about where that Knowledge Panel for your brand is appearing and it’s on your Brand SERP. Now let’s start looking Brand SERP.

[00:04:59] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And now, the last year or so, people have started listening to me. It’s not saying they weren’t listening at all before, but people have become interested in it and started, I think, agreeing with me that it’s incredibly important and incredibly insightful and a lot of fun. It seems really boring and simple, but it’s actually fun and complicated.

The Importance of Branding, the Visuals, Colours, and Images That Appear in Your Brand SERP 

[00:05:22] Joost de Valk: Yeah, no, I agree. We did some things while at Yoast. That’s how we became who we are. And I think one of the things that we did do well is our own branding. So I’ve always taken our own Brand SERP as something that I consider important, but at the same time, you know more about how to play with my Knowledge Panel than we do. So, that’s what we’re here to talk about. 

[00:05:48] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. No, sorry. I didn’t mean to say nobody took Brand SERPs seriously for themselves. I think… 

[00:05:53] Joost de Valk: No, I understand that. The thing is that I think branding is often a very underestimated part of marketing in general, I think. It’s one of the things that only the really big companies seem to invest in largely, but the question is whether it’s only the really big companies doing it or only the companies that become really big invest in branding. 

[00:06:21] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Which came first, the chicken or the egg? 

[00:06:24] Joost de Valk: And I think that is something that people don’t think about enough that how important branding is, how important is what you look like on, well, everywhere. And the Brand SERP is one of them. 

[00:06:37] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I was talking to Cindy Krum yesterday. And she’s talking about how much of the SERP you actually control and where your brand is actually present on the SERP. And one nice thing about the Brand SERP is it’s a snap view that’s all you. So it’s this snap view of entirety of your brand or the whole thing is about your brand. And I had the experience, you’re talking about the branding, your visuals, and your colours are incredibly strong and they’re really striking and they stand out. Wherever you see them, you know it’s Yoast.

[00:07:05] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And I looked at my Brand SERP for Kalicube when the images appeared and it was rubbish. I’d just been creating images here and there and I hadn’t really thought about it. And I sat down and my ex-wife is a graphic designer, chose the colours, did the designs, and now it looks really good. And I think when you see our colour set and our visuals, it’s similar to Yoast in the sense you know that it’s us, not similar to Yoast in the fact that you don’t see it half as much.

The Simple Stuff People Can Start Doing Straightaway to Influence Their Knowledge Panel 

[00:07:35] Joost de Valk: Yeah. But if you’re a company of any size, what can you do to influence that Knowledge Panel? What’s the simple stuff people can start doing straight away? 

[00:07:46] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): For the Knowledge Panel in particular, that thing on the right rail. I was talking Nathan Chalmers from Bing about the whole page algorithm and how that runs. He calls it the right rail. I think that’s a great way of calling it. I’m now saying this to everybody and anybody who will listen, give your entity a home. Your brand is an entity. And Google will take your site to be its home by default, but it needs reassuring. It needs to make sure that home is comfortable. It needs to make sure that that home is realistic and honest. And that’s really important is that your brand is honest about your brand on your website over time. And Google will become increasingly confident.

[00:08:26] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Now, when I say give it a home, I don’t mean your website. I mean a web page, one single page on your website, your About Us page. Say, that About Us page is going to explain who we are, what we do, who our audience is, and why we’re the best. And then we will start from there and then we will corroborate and convince Google that we’re telling the truth. And so the starting point, and we’ll move on to other points later, but the starting point is think of where the home is, create a clear, concise, accurate, honest view, expression, explanation of who you are, what you do, who your audience is.

[00:09:13] Joost de Valk: And that in itself is hard for a lot of people, I guess.

[00:09:17] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Phenomenally difficult. I read About Us pages all the time and they’re rubbish. We do this, our mission statement is that, we love butterflies and bees and flowers, and nobody cares. Not when your clients don’t care that you like butterflies and bees and flowers and Google gets confused. So it really isn’t healthy. We are a company who sell this, that, and the other.

[00:09:36] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And the other thing, it’s actually related but not related at the same time, is companies speak from their own point of view more often than not. And I challenge clients to say, okay, you’ve got 20 we or us in this page. Let’s try and reduce that to five and try and get some use. So we’re talking to the audience and from the point of the audience. And they say, but it’s about us, how can we do that? And in fact, you can reduce the number of we’s on your entity’s home.

Being Empathetic to Who Your Customers Are, What They’re Looking For, and How They Perceive You 

[00:10:09] Joost de Valk: Yeah. And then does that also mean thinking about what your customers and clients call you because that relates to basic keyword research, right? It’s almost a start of who are we in the eyes of our customers. 

[00:10:26] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah, incredible. Being empathetic to who your customers are, what they’re looking for, and how they perceive you. I think, once again, we are all the star of our own films as individuals and also brands tend to be the star of their own films. And maybe as a brand, you should start looking and saying, right, I’m the star of my own film, but I’ve got to understand what the audience perceives of me and start to adapt to what they want rather than just doing whatever I feel like, which a lot of companies do too. Blogs are a great example of people posting blog posts, one after the other, just what they feel like talking about, which is one of the reasons so few blog posts actually get much traffic or any traffic for that matter.

The Effect of Linking Out to a Mention of Your Own Brand to Google’s Confidence in the Understanding of You

[00:11:11] Joost de Valk: Yeah. And this has changed a lot over time as well. I remember starting to blog 15 years ago where we would also link a lot more to each other. And now most of the linking seems to happen on Twitter, where we throw our arguments at each other or sometimes in the form of blog posts, but often in discussions there. And it’s not just, the whole blog thing seems to not be as lively as it used to be in the past where there was a lot more interlinking. And with that, it has lost a bit of its value. A whole lot of it has become just adding more content. 

[00:11:53] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): You’ve been in this world almost as long as I have and I started with the blue dog in 1998. And I remember back then it was you link out and people link back because we’re sharing and we’re building a community. And the idea of linking was this kind of I want to point people to other great stuff. And it was all terribly friendly and terribly hippy. Then Google came along and started measuring all that stuff. And then people started getting stingy, scroogy with their links. And they’d say, well, I’m not going to link to you because I’ll lose some of my super juice. And it all contracted very extensively to the point where hardly anybody would link out to anybody else. And it was just stinginess. And now, isn’t it coming back? 

[00:12:37] Joost de Valk: I don’t know, is it? We’re trying to still tell everyone to link out at least once in their articles.

[00:12:44] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. Well, I tell people to link out. I link out. I’m happy to link out because I think that’s, one thing I try to point out to my clients, at least, is think about the bot. What it hates is a cul-de-sac. So it goes, it’s whole point in life is to just keep going through links. So if you give it a cul-de-sac, I’ve got this image of Google bot sulking, sitting in this cul-de-sac soaking, because it’s got to turn around and go back again.

[00:13:08] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And the other thing, interestingly, is linking out to, if you’re linking to a mention of your own brand, that’s incredibly important because Google’s seen it from the other side. It’s come to your site. And you link out to it. You’re confirming to Google that mention is actually about you. So although it’s already probably understood it, if your name isn’t too ambiguous, you’re explicitly pointing out that it is about you and you’re making it more confident. I think people forget that there is a question of understanding, and then there’s a question of confidence in that understanding.

[00:13:44] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And part of the Knowledge Panel, if we come back to that, is building that confidence that Google has and look at it as educating a child. You’re explaining something to a child. The child hears and understands. Then you need to get it corroborated and build its confidence that it has correctly understood and that you’re telling the truth.

Three Aspects That Affect Your Knowledge Panel: Understanding, Confidence in That Understanding, and the Probability That the Person Is Looking for the Brand

[00:14:02] Joost de Valk: So is that also the trick in getting the Knowledge Panel to even show up for your brand? Because a whole lot of people will be listening to this and think if you google my local shop, whatever it might be, I don’t even get a Knowledge Panel. 

[00:14:18] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. I think one thing people get mixed up with is Wikipedia and Knowledge Panels. Wikipedia, you need to be notable. It’s a human encyclopedia that’s useful for humans. And the idea is that human beings go and look things up because they’re actually interested in that thing off their own back. Spontaneously is the word. Whereas Google doesn’t care about notability. It just wants to understand everything it can. So, there isn’t the concept of notability. 

[00:14:45] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So if you don’t have a Knowledge Panel on your Brand SERP, it isn’t because Google doesn’t think you’re notable enough. It’s because Google hasn’t understood or isn’t confident it’s understood or it doesn’t feel that it’s probable that the person is actually looking for you. So there are those three kind of aspects is understanding, confidence in the understanding, and then the probability that the person is actually looking for that specific brand entity. 

[00:15:12] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Dawn Anderson talks a lot about that. And I think it’s incredibly important to remember that if your name is ambiguous or your brand name is ambiguous, there’s a big factor of probability. And if we use personal names, you don’t share a personal name with anybody as far as I know. 

Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) on Having His Wikipedia Page Deleted Because He Kept Changing Things

[00:15:28] Joost de Valk: Yeah, I actually do. So I used to have a similar problem as to your problem way back in the past, but I’ll tell mine if you tell yours. You can start with yours.

[00:15:38] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): It’s like being back at school. Yeah. Well, my problem, in fact, with my Knowledge Panel, I spent a long time building it up and making it, in inverted commas, solid. In fact, there are a couple of stories. One of which is Wikipedia. I had a Wikipedia article because I was in a rock band in France that was reasonably famous. And then I’d made a cartoon for kids. I was a blue dog. And it was produced by ITV International, aired in 25 countries. We had a website with 5 million visits a month from kids under the age of 10. It was phenomenally successful. And I’ve written 120 songs and released six albums. So, notable. Yes, fine.

[00:16:19] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): But I went in and I kept changing things because I was experimenting on, as you said, breaking the toy, Google. And the editors came in and said, you can’t change your own Wikipedia page that much. And so they deleted it. And that was where it really hit home to me, the importance of the home, because my site, jasonbarnard.com, was the home, but I panicked and I moved the home from the homepage to an About Me page in an attempt to clarify. 

[00:16:52] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And what then happened is my entity disappeared from the Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Panel completely disappeared and I had to rebuild it. And that was back in July. And it’s taken me six months to rebuild it and get it back to full glory. It took me two months to get it back to reasonableness and six months to, and that’s a second story, to being actually what I really wanted. And what’s important there is they also deleted the blue dog page and they also deleted my music group page. So, I actually had three examples and three different approaches. I took three different approaches.

[00:17:29] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And what was interesting is once you’re in the Knowledge Graph, if you don’t mess with the home, the Knowledge Graph keeps you. If you’re clear on your home, the Knowledge Panel doesn’t get mixed up because Google will tend to believe Wikipedia. So, the Knowledge Panel will tend to echo Wikipedia. Once Wikipedia disappears, if your home is the crutch that Google will then lean on, if your home is unclear, the Knowledge Panel will get mixed up with ambiguities. If your home is clear and Google’s understood and Google is confident it’s understood to start with, everything stays in place. That’s a lesson, not so much in Wikipedia, but in once Google has understood and is sure it’s understood, it’s your home, it’s the entity’s home that is the single most important aspect of your entire Knowledge Panel and Knowledge Graph strategy. Don’t ever forget it.

Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) on Getting Rid of the Ambiguity in His Name in the Span of Four Months

[00:18:21] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And then the second story, and then you can tell your story, is the namesake, Jason Barnard. There’s loads of them. There’s a guy who rides a unicycle in a circus. There’s a guy in prison in America. There’s a dentist. There’s a clergyman. There’s a footballer who’s actually quite famous. There’s a hockey player who’s getting quite famous. It’s slightly worrying. He keeps scoring goals and getting in the news, which is unfortunate for my Brand SERP. And then there’s a guy who does a music podcast. 

[00:18:53] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, we’ve got this duplicate of being podcasters and we have different topics. And so, his guests appeared in my Knowledge Panel. Google was getting them mixed up. So I kept having all these mad musicians in my Knowledge Panel. The thing is because I’m a musician to Google, you can understand. It’s going, but it’s logical. He’s a musician. It must be the same person. And it’s taken me four months to convince Google that I’m not the same Jason Barnard and to get people like Rand Fishkin and Cindy Krum, Hamlet Batista and Bill Slawski and Andrea Volpini appeared this morning were up from WordLift. So I’ve got, basically, now I’ve got digital marketers there.

[00:19:34] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Google’s understood and I’ve got rid of that ambiguity. And it took me four months. So, I think you’ve got to remember with Knowledge Panels, it takes a long time to remove that ambiguity. So, there you go. So, lots of Jason Barnard around the world and that’s the point as well. If you search in South Africa where the footballer and the unicyclist live or function or get in the news, they will tend to appear on my, in inverted commas, Brand SERP. So you’ll see Jason Barnard, digital market, blah, blah, blah, and then towards the bottom, you’ll see them. And that’s a question of the probability that people in South Africa are looking for those Jason Barnards is much higher than it is obviously in the UK. So, it’s going to change this quite a lot across different countries and for brands as well.

[00:20:15] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): For example, Yoast, I haven’t looked at your Brand SERP. But in Australia, you would tend to have the Sydney Times News article about Yoast, whereas in New York, you would have the New York Times article about Yoast. So, you’ve got to remember that these Brand SERPs actually do vary enormously across the world. And that depends on a) in my case probability that they’re looking for the other Jason Barnards and not me and b) pertinent and value to the local audience for the example about Yoast and the super article that you got in the Sydney Times and the other one in the New York Times. There you go.

The Problem of Joost de Valk With the Ambiguity in His Name and the Profession Attached to His Name 

[00:20:47] Joost de Valk: Yeah. Makes sense. No, that was really good, actually. So, I have a similar story. And now my namesakes are not as spread out across the world, because my last name and my first name are quite typically Dutch. But there’s an alderman of the city of Amsterdam who has the same name as I do, which has made it quite hard for a while for me to actually rank for my own name because he was in the news all the time. And there is an architect as well who carries almost the same name. So, my last name is de Valk and his last name is Valk without the de, but his first name is the same. So, Google would get all of those mixed up all the time. And one of the funny things that I have had trouble with over the years is getting myself as an entity disconnected from Yoast the brand as an entity.

[00:21:49] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. Yeah. 

[00:21:52] Joost de Valk: So now when you search for Yoast the company, you’ll get a Brand SERP that is actually, well, is the company because we have a Yoast Wikipedia page now. So it uses a lot of that as well it seems. And I do still have my own Wikipedia page luckily, so it does disambiguate between those two now. And the funny thing is that it calls me, rather persistently, a software developer, which is something that I need to talk to you about off the show, because I am a software developer, but I’m also an entrepreneur. I think in many ways more an entrepreneur than I am a software developer, but it doesn’t really seem to want to give me that name. That is good fun. 

[00:22:40] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): It is good fun. And it takes time and it takes belief in the sense that you have to believe that you’re doing the right thing because you place all the information. It’s a question of placing the information in the right places and then using your home to support or to point out, signpost the corroboration.

Using the About Us Page as the Home for Your Entity Instead of the Homepage and Looking at Yoast’s Knowledge Panel as an Example

[00:22:57] Joost de Valk: One of the things you’re saying is you should make the home your About Us page and not your front page. 

[00:23:04] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. I now go for that because the problem with the homepage is that it can be ambiguous or it is ambiguous. It represents your company and your website potentially, and potentially your product. Yoast is both a product and a company, which means there’s ambiguity there. You actually have a Knowledge Panel for Yoast the software, and you have another Knowledge Panel for Yoast the company. 

[00:23:26] Joost de Valk: It’s even worse. We used to have a Wikipedia page for Yoast the company, which was renamed to be a Wikipedia page for Yoast the software which messes it all up.

[00:23:42] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): That is incredibly confusing for Google. You can see the difficult messages it’s receiving. It understands now that Yoast BV is a company and Yoast is a software. And I’m assuming it’s associating you more with the software Knowledge Graph entry than with the company Knowledge Graph entry.

[00:24:00] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): But in fact, if you look up Yoast now, everybody who’s listening, look up Yoast. You’ll see the Knowledge Panel on the right-hand side, in the right rail. And an interesting way to see if Google has a Knowledge Panel for you but isn’t showing it on your Brand SERP is to click on the, for example, founder Joost de Valk or Marieke van de Rakt.

[00:24:22] Joost de Valk: Yeah. 

[00:24:22] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): You click on them. You will see that behind it you have these Knowledge Panels that don’t necessarily appear on the exact brand search. And Yoast BV down at the bottom there, you can actually see there is a Knowledge Panel behind it. That’s a really good way of discovering what I now call sprouts. It’s the beginnings of a Knowledge Panel. And you’re in a situation where Google’s understood what the entity is. It isn’t confident enough or doesn’t have enough information about it to actually want to show it to its users because it isn’t useful if it isn’t full of information. And if it isn’t confident, then it isn’t going to show up because it isn’t confident. It’s actually the correct entity. So, that’s a really nice way to see if you’re actually moving forwards with what you are working on, finding sprouts.

Finding Sprouts Through the Help of Kalicube, Adding and Corroborating Information, and Maintaining It

[00:25:07] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Another way to find sprouts is to look up on the Kalicube tool. If you go to Kalicube.pro, there’s a tool there, the Knowledge Graph Explorer. You can search that online as well and it will come up number one normally. And you enter it in there and it will show you what’s in the Knowledge Graph itself. It pings the API and then you click on, then you’ll see loads of sprouts that you don’t ever see online.

[00:25:27] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And then the idea is you say, I get my sprout, I add more information, I corroborate that information, I build the home, I build Google’s confidence in that home. Little by little, I’ll build up this Knowledge Panel. And at one point, you’ll come to the tipping point and Google will say, that is useful information in which I have great confidence. I will now start showing it on the Brand SERP of the person or the Brand SERP of the company. At which point, basically, it’s then a question of maintaining it. And I think that’s something people underestimate is even when you’ve got your Knowledge Panel, you need to maintain it. You can add to it, you can adapt it, you can heavily influence what Google shows. And if you’re an international brand like Yoast is, you’re going to have things like call center numbers across the world that are going to be different and it will add those.

[00:26:20] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And recently, there’s been a blooming of what I now call entity statements, which are People Also Ask but in the Knowledge Panel, but they’re not questions. It’s things like pricing, customer service, get a job, things like that. It’s all statements. And underneath, you have the answers in the People Also Ask format. And brands need to be looking after those, a) claiming or claiming them, making sure that they’re ranking and that somebody else isn’t answering that question or that statement. So, there’s a lot of maintenance to be going on, that’s just one example, call center another. Social accounts across the world for different departments or different countries, that’s another example. Google gets mixed up and it’s up to us to explain and to educate.

Explaining Using Text and Adding Schema Markup to Clarify and Make Explicit What’s Already in the Page 

[00:27:09] Joost de Valk: And all of that explaining and education, is that done in text, in content, or is that done in Schema on pages? 

[00:27:17] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): It’s done in both. You need to explain in text the things that are really important, then you add the Schema. A Schema Markup is supposed to simply clarify and make explicit what’s already in the page and you’re not really supposed to add additional stuff. The exception I would argue is, in this case, for an Entity Home. There are some things you would put in the Schema Markup that you don’t necessarily want to put in the page. For example, the signposts to all this corroborative information will typically not be links in the page. They will just be signposts in the Schema Markup. So, Schema Markup, phenomenally important.

[00:27:56] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And the example I gave earlier of switching from the other Jason Barnard’s mad music guests to, actually mad music, that’s very unfair, lovely music guests to the delightful people from the SEO industry, digital marketing industry that I managed to get to switch across is based on my podcast. I’ve created an entity based content model with WordLift, absolutely great, lovely tool, really smart people. And we’ve built an entity based content model around the podcast with the podcast series as an entity. Each episode is an entity. Each guest is linked to that episode with a topic. And all obviously linked to me and my company. And that’s been, I think or I believe, the driver behind that switch from the music to the digital marketers, because all the people in that Knowledge Panel have been on the podcast. 

[00:28:49] Joost de Valk: That is awesome. Yeah. So, it’s actually tying those two a bit more together than you’d actually think from the front.

[00:28:57] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah, it is. I’ve actually got a database of 70,000 brands and people, that are 35,000 people and 40,000 brands, I think. And I collect the entity boxes and I’m trying to build the code to link it all together and see how all of this links together, but that’s a story for a future day.

Solving the Problem of Differentiating Between the Brand and the Product With the Same Name by Having an About the Product Page and About the Company Page  

[00:29:18] Joost de Valk: Once you’ve done that, you should come by and talk about it absolutely. So, one of the things I’m wondering, and you might be, so in Yoast SEO, what we do is we add a lot of this Schema already, but one of the things we don’t allow you to do at the moment is change where we point your organisation to. Basically, it always points to your homepage. Of course, you can change that with a tiny piece of code. It’s not hard to change that, but would you rather change that? Should that be a setting? 

[00:29:51] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): To be honest with you, I think it’s dangerous for a lot of people. I tell you, use your About Us page. 

[00:29:58] Joost de Valk: But for us, that might make sense, but our problem of being Yoast to brand and Yoast to product is a relatively unique one. Although I guess it happens more often than you’d think. 

[00:30:10] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Well, I actually have two clients who have exactly the same problem. The company and the product have the same name. And so what we’re now doing is setting up an About the Product page and About the Company page and pointing to each of those and using the homepage simply as a passageway to the rest of the site, which in my opinion, I seem to remember you saying that at one point years ago, I’ve been following you which is slightly creepy, is it the homepage is there. It a) represents multiple things potentially and certainly, but b) it’s also simply a stepping stone to the rest of your site. It isn’t a destination in itself. 

The Homepage Going to Be the One That Ranks Number One for the People Who Are Searching Your Brand Name

[00:30:49] Joost de Valk: No, it is one of the most horrible things when I was still doing consulting was to have to sit in on meetings where 10 hippers all were fighting on who got the biggest placement on the homepage. When all I was thinking was most of the traffic comes in somewhere else. I don’t care about the bloody homepage. The only moments in time when I care about a homepage is when you are doing a huge brand campaign on radio or TV. And you are sending that traffic to your homepage. At that point, it becomes important what’s on your homepage, but then it’s important what’s on your homepage because you want to sell stuff, not because for, well, because of any other reason. So, yeah, a homepage is, it should be probably the best site map of your site in many ways.

[00:31:46] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): That’s a very good point. 

[00:31:50] Joost de Valk: If someone comes in to a post and then goes to your homepage to see what else you’ve got, that would be logical browsing behavior. Then after that, your homepage should be, well, should give them a clear way of where to go. 

[00:32:06] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. From my perspective, being obsessed by Brand SERPs, that’s a brilliant example. And people go to the homepage to see what else is on offer. But also people who are searching your brand name, your homepage is going to be the one that ranks number one. So the people, they’re going to be prospects, they’re going to be clients. And I think we underestimate the number of clients who actually search our brand name simply to navigate to the site.

Not Having Rich Sitelinks Is a Sign That Your Homepage or Your Navigation Is Badly Organised

[00:32:27] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And that’s what Rich Sitelinks are there for. The big sitelinks underneath your homepage on your Brand SERP are so that your users, your existing clients, and your prospects can navigate directly to the login page or to the About Us page or to the About the CEO page or the blog homepage. And that’s vastly underestimated. In my data, I’ve got 50% of brands have got Rich Sitelinks and 50% don’t. That’s rubbish. Those pages, those Rich Sitelinks have to be interesting and useful and valuable to your audience who are navigating to your site. If you don’t have the Rich Sitelinks, you’re forcing them to go through your homepage which isn’t necessarily designed in a lot of cases. It should be designed to help them find what else you’ve got to offer, find these places on your website that often isn’t. So, that’s a very good sign that your homepage and your navigation and your siloing or your categorisation is badly organised as if you don’t have those Rich Sitelinks.

[00:33:25] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And so just really quickly, one last thing is a lot of companies will now index their contact page or their About Us page or the About the CEO page. Don’t because they’re really useful. They’re useful for the sitelinks. They’re not useful for your traditional SEO strategy, but they need to be indexed and they need to be optimised for those Rich Sitelinks, because those Rich Sitelinks are a big signal to your audience. It’s a big chunk of real estate on that Brand SERP. Now, a lot of people see it and your clients see it potentially multiple times per day.

The Login Rich Sitelink Is Useful and a Good User Experience for the Google User 

[00:33:57] Joost de Valk: So does that include things like login pages? Because traditionally, I would’ve said no index does to prevent security issues with that. But at the same time, it might actually make sense to have, in our case for instance, My Yoast and Yoast Academy, they share the same access point. It might make sense to have actually that login page in the index so that people can click there straight away. 

[00:34:24] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. Well, from a UX point of view, when you’ve looked at Brand SERPs as long as I have, which is far too much and far too long, the login page is actually really important. Then there’s the question of security, which I fully appreciate. So, you need to balance it up. But as a user, as a Yoast client, I search Yoast to navigate your site potentially multiple times per day. That login Rich Sitelink is really useful to me because it saves me an extra click and I’m lazy. And Google is happy because it’s sending the person straight to where they want to go. And that’s a good user experience for the Google user. 

[00:35:01] Joost de Valk: That’s actually a good point. It might actually change my approach on this slightly. I know that we’ve historically always on WordPress sites added no index to the login page, because it didn’t seem like such a good idea to have sites that are not always auto-updated to the latest and greatest version of WordPress, be exposing their login page to the rest of the world through a simple Google search.

[00:35:29] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. Yeah. 

[00:35:31] Joost de Valk: But it might actually on a well-maintained side, it might make sense to remove that no index.

Every Change You Make Affects the Web, So Only Do It If You Can Do It Properly

[00:35:36] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): But that comes back to what we were almost talking about earlier on is that you have this enormous responsibility that I hadn’t really understood and Jono and yourself have really talked me through it. The responsibility that every change you make affects, let’s say, 14% of the web. And that’s a phenomenal responsibility is that if I say to you the About Us page is your home for your entity and you change it, that’s changing it for everybody and you might mess with 14% of the web and 90% of that might go completely out the window because Google isn’t ready for it or their site isn’t ready for it. So what I’m saying, and coming back to that About Us question, is only do it if you do it properly, don’t do it if you can’t. 

[00:36:17] Joost de Valk: Yeah. So if you’re going to play with it, do it well.

[00:36:22] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Otherwise, the homepage is the safe option that will always work. It’s just that you have that ambiguity that can be difficult to deal with over time. And it’s not ideal, but it’s safe. And I think your responsibility is safeness, isn’t it? 

[00:36:40] Joost de Valk: Well, in a way, yes. To be honest, things like a no index on a login page are things that we actually change in WordPress core. That is I’m not going to change it there because I think it would be rather unsafe to change it there as that would expose it. Everyone who doesn’t update their site would be easy to find through a simple Google search.

[00:37:06] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right.

[00:37:07] Joost de Valk: But that doesn’t mean that you can’t change it on individual sites. So it doesn’t mean that we cannot no index our own login page because that’s sensible to us.

[00:37:20] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah.

[00:37:20] Joost de Valk: In SEO, there’s a vast difference between sensible defaults for most people and changing it for when you really want to tweak. And I think most people, even most people in our audience don’t have the time or energy to put into to optimise this to the extent that you and I have to play with this. And at that point, the sensible default is an important and good thing. 

[00:37:50] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah.

Your Brand SERP Is Your Business Card 

[00:37:52] Joost de Valk: But one of the things that what you do quite well, make people think about, I think, is think about their Brand SERPs as something that is very important and that can actually help a lot of your customers. If you look at your Google Search Console and you look at where the traffic is coming from, for us as well, it’s a lot of it is brand because the brand is so strong. So, it actually does make sense to think about, hey, what would people be searching for? What would people want to get to?

[00:38:23] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. And when you think about it, I just got a new client on board and they were saying, SEO’s gone out the window, oh, dearie me, we just changed our site. And I looked at their site and say, in fact, you’ve just lost 5% of your traffic and that entire 5% of your traffic is non-branded. 95% is branded and they hadn’t realised. And I think that’s a really useful thing is go and have a look because it might be an awful lot and it might be very little. But whether it’s a little or a lot, it’s still important, because the people who are searching your brand name are the A-list people for your business. They’re the prospects. They’re the clients. They’re investors. They’re partners. They’re journalists. They’re potential hires. They’re all people who are going to do business with you or might do business with you or already doing business with you.

[00:39:05] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And the other thing I love to say is, you should be able to, it’s your business card. That’s the thing is I talk to you, you hear my name, Jason Barnard. You go, I wonder who he is. You search my name on Google. What it’s showing you is basically my business card, the virtual business card, because I can’t actually give you the business card now because we were online.

[00:39:23] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And if you look up my name, I’ve been working on it. So it’s, how can I say, I’ve molded it to what I want through an awful lot of work and it doesn’t look like it, but it was awful lot of work over a long period of time. And it shows you who I am and what I do. It starts with my homepage. Then you’ve got the Twitter boxes. I’m a keen Twitter person. Then you’ve got a Search Engine Journal author page. So I write for Search Engine Journal. Then you’ve got three videos. I make loads of videos, one of them is from Yoast sometimes, not always, which basically says, he’s in the digital marketing industry and he makes videos. Then you’ve got Semrush. WordLift comes up quite a lot and…

[00:40:10] Joost de Valk: Kalicube Pro.

[00:40:11] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And Kalicube Pro, my company. And you can see my story. You can see who I am and what I do. And then you look on the right-hand side and that’s Google. I like to say, the right-hand side is fact. It’s what Google considers to be fact about me and it tells my story. It says, this is Jason Barnard. Here’s the description. Here’s his website. Here are some facts about him, who his daughter is, who his mother is. Here’s a company he founded. Here’s an album he made. Here’s the social accounts. I’m trying to remember what it looks like now. And then at the bottom, the people… 

The Differences in the Content of Your Brand SERP Based on Your Geolocation 

[00:40:41] Joost de Valk: The funny thing is that what you are describing is what it looks like in English. And in Dutch, it actually looks different, I just noticed, which is also funny. So many of these things are way more local than you’d think. If I get the Dutch one, I actually see you as a musician. 

[00:41:04] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Oh, right, yes. It does say that. That’s a big problem for me. 

[00:41:09] Joost de Valk: And the funny thing is that in English it says that you are a British-French musician, which is a distinction and I really like that. Why would they make that distinction there? But yeah, it’s slightly different. It’s really funny to see that, to see the differences on even when I just do simple geolocation queries. So, I just say, search from the US versus searching from the Netherlands. The difference is huge. 

[00:41:41] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): What’s beschikbaar op? Oh, find him on, that’s YouTube and Deezer. I haven’t ever looked at it in Dutch. For people listening, Joost and I are actually desperately looking each other up online at the same time in different languages. But yeah, the language differences are interesting. And sometimes you will see translations of notably Wikipedia pages for some people and sometimes you don’t. My description doesn’t always appear in English, so it does appear in other languages. In French, I still have a Wikipedia page. So the Wikipedia page appears in French. So yeah, I think you’re right.

[00:42:22] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): With Kalicube, I actually track the 70,000 brands across 11 countries including Holland. I’ve got a database of 2,000 Dutch companies that I’m tracking. So I do have some data for Holland. And the differences are quite phenomenal, especially in the Knowledge Panels. For example, Knowledge Panels for German companies in Germany, Dutch companies in Holland, French companies in France, Spanish companies in Spain, and Italian companies in Italy are much, much rarer than the English versions. And that’s something I really want to dig into more. We’re looking at 10 to 15% instead of 45%. 45% of brands have got a Knowledge Panel on their Brand SERP in my data set, which is pretty good going, but then I’m absolutely sure there are further 30% who have sprouts that just haven’t yet appeared.

For People Who Are Just Starting in the World of Brand SERPs, What Would Be the First Steps to Take? 

[00:43:16] Joost de Valk: Yeah. Okay. It’s almost time for us to end this recording because otherwise people will be listening to this endlessly and as much fun as it is, I think they also want other things to do. Now, is there anything that you would say, hey, if you haven’t done anything to all of this, what would be the first thing you’d say, go do this now?

[00:43:47] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. That’s actually pretty easy. It’s go and look at your homepage, meta title, meta description, and content to make sure that it looks good at the top of your Brand SERP. If you’re using it for keyword ranking as well, you’ve got to. That’s a fine balance and it’s playing a double role there and that’s not going to be easy to manage. So you’ve rather created yourself a problem, although it probably driving traffic, which is that’s a whole different debate.

[00:44:10] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): But then also look at all the inner pages, your blog, homepage, your About Us page, the CEO page, your login page, for the example, the Contact Us page. Start optimising those for your Brand SERP. And then start thinking about your entity, where is the who you are, what you do, and who your audience is. And then you can start to mold your Brand SERP to represent your business and be positive, accurate, and convincing, and get that Knowledge Panel because that’s very convincing to your audience.

[00:44:41] Joost de Valk: Cool. So, you’re Jason Barnard, B A R N A R D, jasonbarnard.com, Kalicube.pro. Kalicube is K A L I C U B E, right?

[00:44:58] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yep. You’re very good at spelling, aren’t you?

[00:45:00] Joost de Valk: I try hard. Yeah. So, follow him on Twitter. He’s incredibly funny at times as well. It’s been great to have you, Jason. Thanks for being on the show. 

[00:45:14] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Thanks a lot, man. That was absolutely lovely discussion. Love talking to you.

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