Our guest on this episode of the Data Stories: Leaders at Work podcast is Jason Barnard, Founder/CEO of Kalicube and SEO expert. Through his own experiences, he found out the importance of utilising Google as a business card and he now specialises in optimizing exact match brand SERPs (search engine results pages) for his clients using the Kalicube technology. A former teacher, he enjoys educating others in the space about SEO through a traditional marketing lens, including bringing their offline activities online.
The son of a college professor and a jazz musician, Jason has always had an interest in music and storytelling, and while he was getting his degree in economics, he was a part of a blues band. He then moved to Paris where he became a teacher and joined a punk-folk band. To be a part of this band, he had to learn the double bass in less than a month.
Jason had a very helpful lesson from the double bassist from another band who told him to focus on the rhythm of the music and not about what the people in the audience think. He was taught that forgetting about past mistakes frees you up to keep playing without fear or regret. The double bassist also told Jason that if you smile the whole time you’re playing, then people think you know what you’re doing. After producing 4 albums over the course of 8 years, that band split up and Jason and his wife began a new endeavor…
Presenting Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy) As a Search Engine Specialist and Digital Marketer Coming From the World of Teaching, Music, and Cartoons
[00:00:00] Rahul Jerome: On our 12th episode of Data Stories: Leaders at Work podcast, I have Jason Barnard, founder and CEO of Kalicube, a groundbreaking digital marketing agency that pioneered the concept of exact match Brand SERPs. Brand SERP is what your audience see you when they google your brand name. Unlike our previous guests, Jason is a search engine specialist and digital marketer. He has over two decades of experience in digital marketing starting the year Google was incorporated with a website for kids that he built up to become one of the 10,000 most visited sites in the world. He’s a regular contributor to leading digital marketing publications and speaks at major marketing conferences worldwide. Without further ado, I present Jason Barnard on our podcast Data Stories: Leaders at Work episode 12.
[00:01:01] Rahul Jerome: Jason, welcome once again to our podcast Data Stories: Leaders at Work. What I really find interesting is that when I interview guests is that they come from a very diverse fascinating backgrounds and somehow end up in the world of marketing or marketing insights, advertising insights. And your story is no different. When I looked at your profile, you have fascinating background that you’ve started off as a teacher and musician. And I’d love to hear your story how you’ve come to be who you are now in the influencer, in the world of digital marketing. But let’s go rewind back the years, Jason, and tell us what interested you in arts and music, and your first job was a teacher. So, how did the world of music and arts and cartoon storytelling come about?
[00:02:03] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Well, that goes way back in fact. You’re really going a long way back. My parents, my father is a professor of English literature and writes a little bit, and my mother is a jazz singer. My stepfather is a jazz pianist and reasonably well-known in the British jazz scene of the ’70s, the modern jazz scene of the ’70s. So, you should drag me around concerts when I was a child. And I think that probably inspired some interest. I then went to Liverpool to do a degree in economics, which doesn’t sound like it’s anything to do with the arts, and it isn’t, but that’s probably the connection to the digital marketing side of things later on.
Being in a Band and Being an English Teacher at the Same Time
[00:02:44] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I was in a band, and I just loved playing music. I’m a guy who played the guitar, and we’d create a band called Stanley the Counting Horse, which is the silliest name of a band ever. And the drummer in that band in fact, was Ben Gunn from The Sisters of Mercy who wrote the riff of Alice. He left The Sisters of Mercy, went to Liverpool University, and joined the band as a drummer instead of a guitar player. So if anybody was a fan of The Sisters of Mercy and they’re wondering where Ben Gunn went, he went into my blues band.
[00:03:17] Rahul Jerome: All right.
[00:03:17] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): We actually played the Cavern Club which doesn’t really mean anything, but it’s cool to say, oh, I played the Cavern Club, where the Beatles played. And then, moved to Paris. And I became a teacher simply because in Paris at the time, in France at the time, companies had to spend, I think it was 3% of the revenues on training and education. And a lot of the companies had too much money to spend that they had to spend it. So, they spent it on English language lessons. As an English speaker, it was the job you could get, and it wasn’t a proper job. It was basically, they’d give you an hour here or an hour there, and you would try and fill up your week with work. And I made a living doing that whilst playing music in the street with another band that I joined.
Learning a New Instrument to Join a Band and Realising It’s the Instrument of His Soul
[00:04:03] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, basically, it was partly music and partly being a teacher. And I played double bass in fact in that band because they didn’t need a singer. I said, oh, I want to be in your band. And they said, all right. I said, I can sing. And they said, we don’t want a singer. Because I was a singer in Stanley the Counting Horse. So, what do you need? They said, we need a double bass player. I said, I don’t play the double bass. And then I said, if you want to be in the band, you have to play the double bass. So, I bought a double bass with the last money I had in the world and learned to play it and joined the band playing a double bass. And it turns out I’m actually a much, much, much better double bass player than I was. I played a little bit of guitar too.
[00:04:40] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): But as we say in France, it’s the instrument of my soul. It turns out it’s my most natural instrument. I was incredibly lucky that they chose that as the instrument that they wanted me to play. That was a great career. It was great. We did make four albums, four studio albums, sold maybe 40,000 copies. So, it was unbelievably successful. Then the band split up, which is a phrase I love to say because that’s what all the rockstars say. But what was interesting is that during this, it was eight years. It’s astonishing. I look back now. We were all absolutely convinced that we will be playing stadiums a few years down the line. It’s completely unrealistic. Of all the bands in the world, why would we be more successful than the other, but you’re convinced of it. And I think if you weren’t, you wouldn’t keep up the music career, in inverted commas.
Transitioning to Making Cartoons When the Music Career Ended
[00:05:32] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, the music career ended when the band split, and I went and started making cartoons for kids with my wife. I was a blue dog. She was a yellow koala. And that was just the start of the internet in 1998. And when that band split up as it were, I had to find work. And because the site had been phenomenally successful and we got a million visits a month from Google alone, I sold basically my services as an SEO consultant, and that’s how I got into the SEO world and then from there into the digital marketing world.
How Did Jason Learn to Play Double Bass in 30 Days?
[00:06:06] Rahul Jerome: Jason, going back to the band and you learning to play the new instrument that they asked you to play the double bass, did you self-learn that? I’m assuming back in the day, there was no YouTube. How did you manage to learn a new instrument yourself or did you find someone who played it?
[00:06:28] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): This is actually 1989. It’s a long time ago. I’m quite old now. But in fact, what happened was that the band musicians in the street in Paris at the time had a system, what we called pitches, and different pitches where you would play. Some of them were very valuable because you would make a lot of money, and others were less valuable because you wouldn’t make so much money. And there was a rotation system. It was all terribly fair. And they swapped the best pitch in Paris for a day with another group and in exchange their double bass player, who was a very small German guy. And the reason I say very small, it’s interesting because the double bass is so big. And he was so good at playing double bass.
[00:07:13] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And they swapped that pitch for that day for two hours of lessons for me. And he gave me a two-hour lesson and said, he gave me the best advice I’ve ever had. So, I think I didn’t really learn the double bass in 30 days. They said, you’ve got 30 days, then there’s a gig. And if you’re good enough, you’re in the band. And if you’re not good enough, you’re not in the band.
Some Advice He Acquired While Learning to Play Double Bass
[00:07:34] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): He basically said several things to me, which I think probably are good lessons in life. He said, the double bass is all about rhythm. So, you hit it in rhythm, and you make sure that you’re always hitting it in rhythm. If you hit a bum note, if you hit the wrong note, it doesn’t matter. There are two types of people in the audience. One is musicians, and the other is non-musicians. Non-musicians don’t know you play the wrong note. Musicians will hear the wrong note and think that you must’ve done something really clever so they wouldn’t dare ask you about it. So, you don’t need to worry about what people think about you playing a bum note.
[00:08:09] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): The next thing is as soon as you’ve played the bum note, you forget about it. You make sure that you just put it on the side. Because if you think about it, it just gets worse. And the fact that you can’t take it back, you can’t change it, that bum note is out there. It’s gone. And it’s finished, and nobody knows about it anymore. So if you can forget about it, you’re willing to just free it to keep playing. And the next, the third thing he said was just smile all the time. If you’re smiling all the time, everybody thinks you know what you’re doing.
[00:08:38] Rahul Jerome: Interesting advice then.
[00:08:40] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And it worked.
Where Did the Idea and Inspiration for Making Cartoons Come From?
[00:08:44] Rahul Jerome: I’m sure. I’m sure it did. I’m sure it did. So, Jason, where did the idea for the cartoons come from or inspiration, I must say?
[00:08:55] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Well, we were actually a punk folk band, and we released these albums. So, I knew everybody in the music industry in France, not everybody, lots of people in the music industry, let’s not exaggerate. And I thought, oh, I think I’ll make some songs for kids. So, I wrote these songs for kids, recorded an album, and got a sound engineer, friend of mine, to mix it. And I thought it was pretty good. And then, I went around record labels and said, can you release this? And they said, we can’t because your reputation as a punk folk musician, we’re not going to be able to so you as a children’s artist.
[00:09:28] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And so I thought, oh, that’s not fair. So, my wife then wrote a story around the songs called Around the World in 12 songs with Boowa and Kwala. The characters were called Boowa and Kwala. And she created the characters. I was a blue dog. She was a yellow koala as I said earlier. And then, we tried to get the book publishers to release it as a book with a CD. And we got Sir Tony Robinson to read the story, which was we thought Sir Tony Robinson reading the story in English and a guy called Dreyfus, who’s a very famous French actor, reading in French. We did it in French, in English. We thought we’re going to get this into the bookshops, and we’re going to make a fortune, and it’s going to be wonderful, and the characters are going to be fighting with some. Life is going to be Bozy. And they all refused it. They all refused it.
[00:10:14] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And I realised afterwards that the world of children’s entertainment, books, and records and even TV series, we ended up making a TV series for ITV international, but it’s a very closed world. And I hadn’t realised. It’s this mafia is the wrong word, but you definitely can’t get any if you don’t know the right people. So, we got refused again. And I’m the kind of person who just doesn’t give up. If I think something good, if I think my wife and I created something valuable and that positive for the world, I just keep going.
Building the Animation Program, Releasing the Site for Kids, and Having a Million Visits a Year
[00:10:47] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And so, I got a copy of Macromedia Flash in 1998, which is Adobe Flash, which has now died. They don’t use it anymore, but basically it’s an animation program for the web. And I’d just built animations and games and put the songs into the animations and push it out onto the web and started promoting it. And that was the time when you had search engines like AltaVista and Excite and Magellan and Lycos and HotBot, all 22 years ago, they’ve all disappeared.
[00:11:17] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And in fact, we started, we launched the site two months after Google was incorporated. And I built my first game in the month, September 1998 was the month Google was incorporated. I actually built my first Flash game and really slow. It was a phenomenal success. In 2007, we had 5 million visits a month, a hundred million page views a month. This is a site for kids. Now, it’s up to 60 million visits in a year, and this is in 2007 when the internet wasn’t as popular as it is now. And a million of those visits per month came from Google.
[00:11:55] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And so, obviously, that segue I mentioned earlier, Rahul, was the logical segue when the company failed, basically a long story, very boring story of bad business partners, basically. And that basically saying to potential clients when I was looking to pitch for jobs as an SEO consultant was saying, if I can get a million visits a month for a site for kids, I can make your business work just with Google.
The Self-Learning Process Until Finding Success
[00:12:22] Rahul Jerome: Yeah. I can see how that skills and experienced transferred into your digital marketing services, isn’t it? And again, Jason, did you self-learn all these using the Flash, the Adobe tools and technology? Did you do that all by yourself?
[00:12:43] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yep. I basically just sat down and figured it out and spent days and days and days banging my head against the wall when it all went horribly wrong. And what’s interesting is that at the time there weren’t any online resources. In 1998, if you had a problem, today, if you’ve got a problem with digital marketing or code or how to write something, you can just look it up, and all these people have posted all these solutions to all these problems. And Google is incredibly good at finding which is the solution that’s most appropriate, which is part of my job is packaging the content to ensure that Google does understand that my answer or my solution is the relevant one for its user.
[00:13:26] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): But in 1998, there wasn’t any of that. And you just had to keep trying and keep trying and keep trying until it worked. And that brings back memories of deep frustration and long, long days where you didn’t achieve anything, which were terribly frustrating, but it did. I think what you’re mentioning is that self-learning process, being forced to learn on your own the double bass. Then in fact I learn to do sound a little bit, but I’m not very good at it. And now, I’m learning to do video.
[00:13:57] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And it’s that self-learning processes thing. I can learn it if I just apply myself. And if I accept that I will make a lot of mistakes along the way, and every mistake is, this isn’t terribly tripe, but every mistake is a learning experience. You don’t make the same mistake again. You move on to the next thing, and it’s a little bit better than it was before. And all of that is these incremental improvements in what you’re doing.
[00:14:19] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And the games from the site, we ended up with thousand games and songs. And I look at the first ones, and I could’ve gone back and redone them, but they represent part of the evolution of the both the characters and our acting talents and my capacity to actually pull great content out of the Flash program.
Some Lessons Learned While Living in Mauritius
[00:14:46] Rahul Jerome: And if I’m not mistaken, did all this take place in Mauritius? Have you moved to Mauritius by then?
[00:14:54] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. We actually moved to Mauritius in 2000. At the time, the internet was this thing. And I remember walking down the street. For me, the internet was just like, I couldn’t understand why somebody would be selling tomatoes, for example. I said, what’s the point in selling tomatoes? The internet is where everything’s happening. And it’s ridiculous. It’s a bit like thinking we’re going to be stars and play in stadiums. You’re saying the internet is, oh, there is any more so you might as well give up selling tomatoes and just get online. And this is 1998, but that was obviously not true.
[00:15:27] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And then, the other thing is that people were saying, you can do, if you’re on the internet, you can work from anywhere in the world. And I thought, okay, right, I’m going to do that. I’m going to move to Mauritius because Mauritius is in the middle of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar. And I didn’t think it through. When you think about it, you think, yeah, that isn’t a very smart thing, not a smart idea because the internet connection was really slow. This was the time when 64k was a decent internet connection in Mauritius. So, we paid a thousand euros a month for 64k connection. Unbelievable.
Build the Job Around the Person Rather Than Try to Force the Person Into the Job
[00:16:01] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And the other problem I hadn’t thought through was that there weren’t any qualified internet professionals in Mauritius. And that created a situation where the self-learning process just got more and more mad because I advertise for people to write PHP code with MySQL because the whole system was built around. You had the Flash games up front, but the backend was, it was a dynamic site. So, we had all this PHP and MySQL code, very boring code. And people would turn out, and they’d say, I know a bit of Microsoft Excel. That’s not code. That’s office work.
[00:16:36] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And in the end, I had to actually a) learn all this stuff myself so I could teach it to the other people, and b) I learned a very valuable lesson about being an employer is for me, the single most important thing is that I get on with the person, I trust them, and I respect them and vice-versa obviously. And then, you look at it and you say, there’s loads of things you could potentially do to push the company forward. What will you be really good at and what will you enjoy?
[00:17:04] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And if we can build the job around the person rather than try to force the person into the job at square pegs, round holes, kind of idea, we’re going to be much better off. We’re going to have a happier person working for us who’s going to enjoy their work, and they will be more productive. And so, that approach was in Mauritius is basically you saying, I can’t find the qualified people for specific tasks I need, so I need to find the people I get on with and figure out what they can do and how we can fit all that into the overall system.
[00:17:35] Rahul Jerome: Interesting.
[00:17:43] Rahul Jerome: Data Stories: Leaders at Work podcast is brought to you by Audiense. Audiense is the world’s pioneering audience intelligence platform, helping marketers and consumer researchers to be innovative and develop relevant audience centric strategies to proprietary social consumer segmentation, and providing insights on who they are and how to engage with them in most meaningful way. For more information, please go to www.audiense.com. Audiense spelled as in AUDIENSE, audiense.com.
Where Did the Entrepreneurial Spirit of Jason Come From?
[00:18:30] Rahul Jerome: What clearly transpires here, Jason, is that you’ve caught this entrepreneurial spirit from very early. And did you have any of your parents or family members have that entrepreneurial trait and then that’s transferred over to you?
[00:18:48] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): No. That’s a good question. No, no. My father was an English literature professor in basically institution or university, so incredibly safe job, day-to-day, very steady. My mother was a jazz musician. She left us when I was a child. And she had a music career. She was playing in the street. She was making records. She was playing gigs, touring the world. So, nobody in my family, my sisters neither, has any kind of entrepreneurial spirit.
[00:19:19] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And we were coming back to self-learn again. I went to Paris. I wanted the band to become famous and play stadiums and sell loads of records. And we tried to get record labels to sign us. And the record label who signed The Pogues were interested. And when push came to shove, they just said, nah, we actually find that you’re not as good as we thought you were. They signed another group who I thought weren’t as good. But of course, I would say that. And so I said, yeah, I’m going to make my own record company.
Making His Own Record Company When Nobody Would Sign Their Band
[00:19:50] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, that was the start of my entrepreneurial life is I said, I’m going to either make my own record company to release the record of the group. I’m going to put my own money, and we rented a studio for three nights. And basically I said to the studio, can we have three days in the studio? And they said, that will be, I can’t remember what it was, at the time 10,000 francs or something, and I couldn’t afford it. And I said, can we make it cheap? And they said, what if you take the night time? We have a group who were paying for the daytime. You come in at eight in the evening, and you leave at six in the morning. You can have 10 hours, and it’s like a third of the price. And I could afford three nights.
[00:20:26] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, I was working as an English teacher during the day and then recording the album all night, and I didn’t sleep for three days. And the album was actually reasonably good. And then, we released it through this company that I created which was called Woof Trade because we thought that was very funny because the group was called The Barking Dogs. The company was called Woof Trade, which is a joke on rough trade, which was a famous alternative. And the joke just doesn’t fly. And it’s so bad. So, I regretted the name of the company a few years later, and we changed it to WTPL, which now sounds like a radio station, so that wasn’t any better. So, my chosen company names are definitely not up there with the best.
The Segue Into the World of SEO of Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy)
[00:21:07] Rahul Jerome: Interesting. That’s really good. So, this sort of segue your career into the search engine marketing side of things, and you decided to set up your own company and offer search engine services to clients and customers. Is that right?
[00:21:25] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah.
[00:21:25] Rahul Jerome: Okay. And was this still in Mauritius, Jason?
[00:21:28] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. I stayed in Mauritius for years after the company fell apart and then came back to France. And what I did was I was in Mauritius pitching to people who I never saw. So, it was truly remote work and pitching to clients, I made a reasonable living and then came back to France and started meeting with clients. And that’s how I segued. In fact, I was doing SEO because SEO would pay the bills. After the collapse of the company, I ended up with quite big debt side to pay it all off. So, I needed as much work as I could get, just doing consulting.
[00:22:01] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And then, what I realised is I would go into these meetings in Paris, and I would sell myself. I’d go, I’m going to do your digital marketing strategy. We’re going to pull the content out. We’re going to push it to Google. We’re going to package it for Google, and you’re going to rank number one. You’re going to be the best solution for its users. And we’re going to pull the audience in, and you’re going to make sales. And they would go, yes, we’re going to go with Jason. He’s great.
[00:22:22] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Then I walk out of the room, and I lost 50% of the sales and ask, why am I losing 50% of these sales? I’m doing a really good pitch. I leave the room. It’s all really positive. And then, I found somebody who told me why they had refused. And they said, we looked you up online, and we saw a cartoon blue dog. And we’re not going to trust our digital marketing strategy to a cartoon blue dog.
Realising That Google Is His Business Card and Improving His Own Brand SERP to Make People See Him as a Digital Marketer
[00:22:44] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And that’s when I realised that Google was my business card. However good my pitch was, people were looking me up online afterwards. They looked me up on Google, and Google was showing a blue dog. And that’s when I thought, okay, I need to make that show that I’m a digital marketer. So, I started working to improve that Brand SERP, what I now call a Brand SERP, my personal Brand SERP by pushing up companies like Semrush or Search Engine Journal, WordLift, respected companies where it would say Jason Barnard works with Wordlift, Jason Barnard works with Semrush, Jason Barnard works with Search Engine Journal, which would then push all the blue dog information off the first page. And people would see me as a digital marketer working with respected brands. And from that point on, making sales, that conversion rate went from 50% to 80%, and nobody argued about my prices anymore.
[00:23:40] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And that Google digital business card changed my entire approach to SEO because that’s obviously now what I specialise in. It’s how to make that Brand SERP, what appears when your audience googles your brand name, how to make it positive, accurate, and convincing to your audience. And a lot of brands think, well, I rank number one, what do I care? That’s in my opinion, the wrong approach because all of the rest of the stuff underneath is not only very visible to your users, to your audience, but also a great reflection of what Google thinks about you. And what Google thinks about you is the underlying information that it uses to decide if you are going to be a good solution to the problems that its users are putting or asking it.
Brand SERP as a Reflection of Google’s Opinion of the World’s Opinion of You
[00:24:25] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, that Brand SERP becomes a reflection of Google’s opinion of you, more importantly, perhaps even Google’s opinion of the world’s opinion of you. So, you’re really looking at a reflection of your audience’s opinion. And Google is showing to its users what it thinks is going to be valuable and helpful to them. So if you think about that, you think if it thought the blue dog was helpful initially, it thought my audience was children and parents, which is fair enough because that’s what it had been for 10 years, and I had to change its mind and get Google to start thinking of me more of a digital marketer than a blue dog.
Coming up With the Brand SERP Terminology and Moving From Pure SEO to Digital Marketing
[00:25:06] Rahul Jerome: Good stuff there, Jason. And is the Brand SERP terminology, did that exist or is it something that you’ve come up with?
[00:25:15] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Well, SERP, it actually means search engine results page. So, it’s any page that you see on Google when you make a search. The idea of a Brand SERP, I think I’m the only person in the world talking about it. I invented the term. I coined the phrase rather. And I call myself The Brand SERP Guy because it’s a good way to get the message across. And what I found is when I say your Brand SERP is your business card, people get it. People understand immediately. Marketers immediately understand what I mean, the SEO world less so, but that’s a different problem.
[00:25:45] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So in fact, I now moved from SEO to digital marketing. And now, I think I’m a marketer because I’m saying, we’ve got to present our brand to our audience through every channel we possibly can. And it is now for me, not only digital and Google, obviously, but also all our social channels, but also offline and bringing the offline online. And that was an interesting conversation I had with somebody. When I said to them, you need to bring the offline online. They said, no, no, no. What you mean is you need to take the online offline. I was going, no, I don’t. Everything you do offline that could make you more credible in the eyes of your audience and in the eyes of Google can be brought online, and it just isn’t.
[00:26:24] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I know in a pre COVID world, you would go to events, and Google simply wouldn’t know about it. So, it could not present that information to its users. So taking that information saying, actually I was at this event, I met this person, I have a relationship with this person, that makes me more credible because Google assesses our credibility by the relationships we have with other people, other brands, other entities, entities being things. And from my perspective, I’m really happy to have moved from pure SEO, which is technical and pure Google, to digital marketing, where you’re looking at the overall digital strategy, to marketing, where you’re looking at traditional marketing. We’re back to the ’90s.
Keeping up With the Social Platforms That Affect Your Brand SERP
[00:27:08] Rahul Jerome: And that landscape must have changed significantly since you started specialising in just search engines now with so many social media platforms out there. And every week we seem to have a new social media platform come up now. Everyone’s talking about something called Clubhouse. Few months ago, it was all TikTok and all that. And how is that impacting the work that you do and how are you managing to keep up with all of that?
[00:27:41] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): That’s a really interesting question. I was looking at the list on audience’s site. Half of these social channels I’ve never heard of. And actually, that’s a bad thing from my perspective. Because when you think about Brand SERPs, what appears when somebody googles your brand name, Google is likely to show the social channels that it sees as the most appropriate for your audience. It will show your social channel if it feels that social channel matches your audience and you are sufficiently active and you have sufficient engagement.
[00:28:12] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, it’s a really, really nice way to look into a) what platforms are working for you, what Google perceives to be the platform that’s working best for you, be it Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever that might be. It will rank them on that first page of results for your brand. But more interestingly perhaps is if you start to look at your competitors’ Brand SERPs and potentially see that they are getting their audiences or Google is seeing their perceived most relevant social media platform for the audience as something that you’re not currently investing in. And that’s a great way on an industry level to look at where opportunities lie in terms of social media.
Introducing the Kalicube Pro Platform Built by Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy)
[00:28:55] Rahul Jerome: Fantastic, Jason. I think this is all really, really interesting. If the listeners would like to know more about the kind of work you do and what’s the website that they can go to?
[00:29:06] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I’ve actually built a platform called Kalicube Pro. So, the domain is kalicube.pro. And you go along there, and we explained a lot about brands. If we talk about Knowledge Panels, that’s a whole different story that I won’t have time to tell today. And what you can actually do is track your own Brand SERP across the world in any locality and see what’s coming up. Track how it looks and start thinking about how you can improve that Google business card. And even more interesting then is to start spying on your competitors, seeing what their Brand SERPs looked like, seeing how you match up to them, how you compare in terms of how positive, how accurate and convincing yours is compared to theirs and which social accounts, which social platforms are ranking within your industry.
[00:29:54] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Once again, as I said, you can look in Kalicube Pro and say these are the social platforms that my industry is focusing on, and I’m getting it a bit wrong. I’m focusing on Twitter, and I should be focusing on TikTok or LinkedIn or whatever it might be. So, it’s a really good insight into your own digital ecosystem but also the digital ecosystem of your industry and your competitors.
[00:30:19] Rahul Jerome: Fabulous. I think I might have a go check on myself, Jason. I’ll throw a call, but, no, definitely I’ll put the link in the show notes for listeners as well so check it out. So with that said, I would like to go ahead with our fun rapid round questions quickly, Jason, if that’s okay.
[00:30:39] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Fun, fun, fun. Yes. Off you go. Fun, fun. Rapid.
The One Resource That Helped Jason in His Professional Career Is Kalicube Pro
[00:30:41] Rahul Jerome: I think I’m going to just select a few of them from the list I have here. So, let’s go with question number one. Name one resource that has helped you in your professional career and why.
[00:30:55] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Well, for Kalicube Pro. Kalicube Pro is the best resource in the world, simply because it’s the only one that does the job that it does. But in fact, Kalicube Pro is based on technology that is built by two companies, Authoritas and WordLift. Authoritas is a traditional tracking tool, and WordLift is semantic SEO, how to communicate semantically with Google, which is phenomenally interesting.
Naming Andrea Volpini as the One Person Who Has Helped Jason in His Professional Career
[00:31:20] Rahul Jerome: Excellent. And question number two, name one person who has had a great influence on your professional career. It can be one person or people.
[00:31:32] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Well, in fact, for the current career, people who have had a big effect on how I have looked at what I’m actually doing, Andrea Volpini, who’s the boss at WordLift, has been incredibly inspiring. I had a conversation with him a couple of days ago. And we’ve, between us, came up with two very good ideas for how to peer into the mysteries of how Google functions. So, I try and have a chat with him as often as I can because we come up with between us great ideas because he’s just so smart.
[00:32:06] Rahul Jerome: Fantastic. Fantastic. Maybe one day I’ll try and get him on the podcast as well.
[00:32:11] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Oh, you should. He’s a guy from Rome, he’s Italian, and he’s very, very smart. And what, sorry, actually now I think about it, the conversation we had, what he did a couple of days ago where we had a chat, was turn a lot of my very technical insightful ideas into how we look at Google and how we understand Google. And he said, but from a marketing perspective, this is where we’re looking. And what he’s been very good at doing, for me at least, is bring me around to a much more marketing point of view. And that transition from digital marketer to marketer has been, at least partly, thanks to Andrea.
If Money Wasn’t an Option, What Would Jason Do Everyday?
[00:32:44] Rahul Jerome: Fantastic. And moving on to our next question, Jason. If money wasn’t an option, what would you do everyday?
[00:32:51] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Now, if you’d asked me that 15 years ago, I would’ve said, I’ll just be a blue dog for the rest of my life. I loved being a blue dog. Being in a cartoon and playing the role of a blue dog in a cartoon for children, preschool children is just such a gloriously wonderful job. And before that, if you’d asked me 10 years before that I would have said, I just want to be a punk folk double bassist for the rest of my life.
[00:33:14] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And now, I would say, I want to peer into all this data and information to try and understand how Google functions. And what I love about this particular job now is Google is so phenomenally complex, and it’s moving so phenomenally fast. Nobody understands how it works, not even the people building it and actually truly understand that the ins and outs and the wiring of the thing. So, it’s this gloriously impossible task that I’ve set myself. I want to understand how it works, and I never will. And I’m chasing that. And if there was no money involved, I would still chase that understanding, that knowledge that I love it. My work for me is basically a permanent PhD.
Jason’s Vision Going Forward as New Technologies and Platforms Come Out
[00:34:00] Rahul Jerome: Sure it is. That was fantastic stuff, Jason. So, what’s your vision for yourself going forward? Do you see some doing what you’re doing and just evolving as new technologies come and platforms come out then?
[00:34:14] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. I think Kalicube Pro is going to be there for a few years to come. Things are moving very quickly, and obviously, Google has this immense technology to move forward with its algorithms, but we also have immense technology at our disposal to try and understand it. What in fact Kalicube does is it doesn’t, we don’t necessarily understand how everything function. What we do with the massive data that we can analyse is understand when you do a, b will tend to happen in your industry for your specific sector. That experience allows us to provide our clients with a task list of things that they can do to improve their Brand SERP and to really nail Google’s understanding of them and Google’s belief in their credibility, which are the foundations for me of what we’re looking to do in terms of Google. Google needs to understand who you are, what you do, and believe that you’re a credible solution for its users.
[00:35:11] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And thirdly, understand and believe that you can deliver those solutions in an efficient and effective manner that satisfies its users. You have to remember the users that Google sends to you are your audience, and it’s simply a subset of its users, and it is simply trying to satisfy its users. So when it sends somebody to you, it’s actually recommending you. And if it’s to recommend you, it has to understand who you are, what you do. It needs to believe you’re credible. It needs to think that you can deliver. And what we can do in fact is leverage the technology, ironically enough, Google’s own technology. I use the Google Cloud to figure out what it is you actually need to do.
Wrapping up With Two Pieces of Advice From The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard) To People Who Want to Pursue a Career in Digital Marketing
[00:35:47] Rahul Jerome: That’s really interesting, really interesting. Good. So to wrap things up, Jason, I’ve got one last question here. What advice would you give to our next generation, the youngsters who perhaps are looking to pursue a career in digital marketing or search engine marketing or someone who is looking to do what you’re doing now? What would your advice be to them?
[00:36:14] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Can I, if I may, I will give two pieces of advice. First piece of advice is that everybody, everybody in the world take control of your digital footprint, your digital representation. You need to make sure that you control what Google and other machines, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, they’re all building these Knowledge Graphs that understand the world. You need to control how they understand you. So that’s a fundamentally important thing for all of us.
[00:36:44] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And if you’re a young person moving into digital marketing, that’s where you should start is look at how Google understands the entities, the things, the brands, the people, the music groups, the podcasts, the company, the company bosses, all of these things that Google is trying to understand. How does Google understand them? How does Google perceive them? And if you can grasp that, you can build the entire digital marketing strategy. May I say marketing strategy, on top of your understanding of Google’s perception of the brands you’re working for.
[00:37:17] Rahul Jerome: With that said, I think we would call this a wrap. It was absolute pleasure and really interesting stuff. And thank you so much for your time, Jason. It’s been a blast talking to you.
[00:37:28] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Thank you.
[00:37:35] Rahul Jerome: Thank you for listening. Leave us a rating and a review. Subscribe now to Data Stories: Leaders at Work. Available on all leading podcast platforms.