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Darwinism in Search ft. Jason Barnard

This is the final episode of our 3-part series about why only the strongest survive in the search game. Joining us again is Jason Barnard, who is an author, speaker and consultant at Kalicube. So far this week, we talked about the power of owning your brand, the Brand SERP, and then also some of the other pieces of the page that Google is going to display when it comes to someone searching for your name or your brand’s name, the Knowledge Panel being the second. Today, Jason and I are going to wrap up our conversation by talking about the survival of the fittest, Darwinism in search.

[00:00:00] Benjamin Shapiro: Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro. And today we’re going to talk about why only the strongest survive in the search game. Joining us is Jason Barnard who is an author, speaker, and consultant at Kalicube, which is a groundbreaking digital marketing agency that pioneered the concept of exact match Brand SERPs.

[00:00:19] Benjamin Shapiro: Joining us again today is Jason Barnard who is an author, speaker, and consultant at Kalicube, which is a groundbreaking digital marketing agency that pioneered the concept of exact match Brand SERPs. This podcast is brought to you by Previsible. Look, I’ve been doing the Voices of Search podcast for about four years now and if I know anything, it’s how to spot a good SEO. So, let me introduce you to the people that taught me everything I know about SEO. And today, Jason and I are going to wrap up our conversation by talking about the survival of the fittest, Darwinism in Search. Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with Jason Barnard: author, speaker, and consultant at Kalicube. Jason, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast. 

[00:01:10] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Thank you. Third day, third interesting conversation. All topics I absolutely love and I’m happy to talk about for hours. 

Jason’s Story About the Survival of The Fittest, Darwinism in Search

[00:01:17] Benjamin Shapiro: Excited to continue and wrap up our conversation so far this week we talked about the power of owning your brand name, the Brand SERP and then also some of the other pieces of the page that Google’s going to display when it comes to someone searching for your name or your brand’s name, the Knowledge Panel being the second. Today, we’re going to talk a little bit more about the theory of search and why we’re thinking of it as a survival of the fittest. Talk to me about what you consider to be Darwinism in search. 

[00:01:50] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah, this actually happened a year and a half ago. And I was traveling around the world, going to conferences, giving talks, like everybody else I was thinking, okay, we’ve got this algorithm. It’s Google’s algorithm that pushes things up to the top because Google thinks that they merit to be at the top. And I started to think, okay, what Google is actually doing is saying, what is the question that my user is asking, what is the answer or the potential solution, and which one will I recommend? So, if we look at it from the point of view of Google saying which is the answer or solution I’m going to recommend to my user for the question or the problem they have expressed. Then, immediately change our point of view and it makes it much easier for us.

Gary Illyes on The Blue Link Algorithm as the Fundamental Foundation of Everything to be Able to Put You at The Top of The SERP

[00:02:31] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And then I landed in Australia and I was allowed to ask Gary Illyes one question as an expert and I was with Greg Gifford, amazingly intelligent local search guy who asked him a question about local search. And I said, okay, is there a separate algorithm for this featured snippet? And I had the misfortune that Gary laughed in my face and then said, no, there isn’t, but here’s how it does work. And then he explained to the whole room, there were about 30 people in the room, what they explained to engineers when they arrive at Google. And basically it’s that you have the blue link algorithm, which is the fundamental foundation of everything. The blue link algorithm will take all these factors, we call them factors, and maybe that’s not a fair assessment of what they are, but it will rank these results. And it will give you the top 10. Then, parallel to that you have the videos, the images, all the universal stuff, all the extended search stuff and they all have a similar system whereby they will present a set of candidates for that first page, and they are all based on the same data that comes from Googlebot and I’ve had confirmation from Fabrice Canel at Bingbot who says, yeah, we collect all this and that’s the foundation of everything, it’s Bingbot, Googlebot. But what they do is they then say, okay, how valuable is this video or this image or this People Also Ask to the user given their query and they each put in a bid.

[00:04:04] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Now, he uses the word bid and it’s not a bid in a financial sense. It’s a bid in terms of value to the user. And if the video is then put in a bid that’s better than the blue links, it gets a place on the SERP, which means that it is the fittest. It has the vibe or it has gained its place and it kills a blue link. That was already mind-blowing because that explains exactly the mechanism behind how these elements such as images and videos and People Also Ask and carousels and Featured Snippets get their place on the SERP. And if you look at Jason Barnard Darwinism in Search, you will find an article on Search Engine Journal, which explains exactly what he told me.

Nathan Chalmers Talks About Whole Page Algorithm in Bringing Users to Satisfaction As Efficiently and Quickly As Possible

[00:04:46] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Then, I talked to Frederic Dubut from Bing who basically explained exactly the same thing to me about Bing. Now, it’s fairly obvious when you think about it, that Bing and Google are functioning much the same manner. They have the same data set. They have the same aim. They have the same user base, even though it’s not exactly the same users, the same type of people. It’s the same idea, which is recommending the best solution to a problem or the best answer to the question. And he said, Oh, come along to Bing and let’s do some interviews, it’d be really good fun.

[00:05:19] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, I went to Bing and I did an interview with the guy for the videos, Minhaz Merchant, the guy for Featured Snippet, Ali Alvi. Brilliant people, really really interesting to understand how it works. But what really killed me was Nathan Chalmers when he talked about the whole page algorithm and I just said, what, where does this come from? Completely failed. We were thinking, okay, but it’s Darwinism in search. The videos provide more value, therefore they will get a place. And he said, well, actually no, there’s a whole page algorithm that sits on top of the whole lot that overrides this if we don’t feel that that video will truly bring value. It might appear to bring value, it might appear to be relevant and valuable to the user, but in fact, we know from user data and we were talking about that yesterday, we know from user data that it actually doesn’t satisfy the user. It doesn’t bring the user to satisfaction quickly and efficiently, which is the one thing that comes back every time I talk to Google or to Bing: what brings the user to satisfaction efficiently, quickly, and if they can’t do that, there’s no point in having the results.

At Bing, The Whole Page Algorithm is Called “Darwin”

[00:06:25] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): The irony of this whole thing, that whole mechanism now makes total sense to me. You’ve got these different variations on the algorithm on the basic fundamental blue link algorithm. So, it is one algorithm, but its iterations of it which drive all these different Rich Elements, what I call Rich Elements, universal, extended search. But then you have the whole page algorithm that overrides if user behavior does not confirm what they are showing and the irony of it, is that at Bing, the whole page algorithm is called Darwin. 

[00:07:02] Benjamin Shapiro: So, the interesting thing to me about this is that there is competition between the blue links and the blue link algorithm that you mentioned and all of the various pieces of content that Google is putting on the page, there is no sort of static or here’s the number of links we’re going to put on and here’s the number of additional modules, but how do you think Google evaluate what creates more value for the user when they’re deciding whether to link someone off to a given page or direct them to a video and image, right, something that might be consumed on page? 

[00:07:39] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): The whole aim is to say, how can I get the user to satisfaction as quickly and efficiently as possible? Sometimes that’s on the SERP. For example, 1+1=2, you don’t need to visit a site to find that out. It’s going to put it on the SERP. That’s an extreme example for a Featured Snippet. If you’ve noticed they don’t have the ellipsis anymore at the end, they tend to try and get the whole answer in the Featured Snippet or they don’t put it at all.

You rank #1 on your Brand SERP. Make the most of it. You own it. Brand it.

jason barnard (the brand serp guy)

[00:08:02] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, you end up with a situation is Google very much saying, and Bing the same, if we can give the answers on the SERP, we will, if we can’t, we’ll send them through to the site. And in terms of the content you’re creating, that’s a good way of looking at things is some of the answers you’re going to be giving are going to be givable on the SERP as it were in which case you just need to brand it. That’s the only choice. If you want that place, you take the place, you brand it. It makes all the people see your brand name and it’s a branding exercise. And if the answer is reasonably going to be on your site, you need to make sure that Google is convinced that you can deliver that content in the format and in a manner that’s going to satisfy the user. So, that’s maybe two different types of content that you could look at in different manners. And then if you take that further, you can say if I’ve got a video or a tweet or another piece of content that isn’t necessarily on my site, perhaps I can optimise that and get some brand visibility through YouTube or through Twitter or through Facebook or through LinkedIn.

Once You Realised That Both You and Google are Aiming to Satisfy Your Users, It Will Convert to Google Recommending You to a Subset of Its Users That is Your Audience

[00:09:03] Benjamin Shapiro: And there’s some consternation amongst the SEO community when you’re talking about what type of content is delivered on page and what is linked to. Talk to me about how you react to the notion that, most marketers would prefer to have a click happen and drive traffic to their site, as opposed to Google doing the universal one search or the answer box or whatever delivers the information in their search. We’re saying the concept of Darwinism, the survival of the fittest, but there’s also the notion of surviving as a marketer and a brand. How do you feel that Google’s decision to display so much information in the page impacts marketers? 

[00:09:49] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I get it and it’s really really painful but at the same time it’s a market for what you are trying to do. You’re trying to satisfy your users. You’re trying to do what’s best for your users. If you do what’s best for your users, you will make money. It will convert. And what Google is trying to do is exactly the same thing. It might not seem fair. It might not be nice. It might not help you in your own marketing experience, but what Google is trying to do is satisfy its users as quickly and efficiently as possible. And I don’t say Google, a hundred percent lovely people, it’s this benevolent company that’s perhaps some of us have thought in the past, but they are trying to satisfy their users. And as long as you let them use your content to do so on the SERP, they will continue to do so. 

[00:10:39] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): After that, there’s a whole debate about whether you should allow them, whether your competition will take that place if you don’t take it. But I think if you take a step back and say, they’re trying to do exactly what I’m trying to do which is satisfy my users, maybe things don’t seem quite so unfair. I think unfair is a good word as a way that people tend to look at this. And if you take another step back and you say, actually these people are Google’s users. They are not mine. A subset of Google’s users are my audience and that’s what I’m trying to get Google to send to me. I’m trying to get Google to recommend me to a subset of its users that is my audience.

Benjamin Shapiro on Not Just Satisfying The Audience But Creating Content As a Marketing Vehicle to Engage With The Audience

[00:11:18] Benjamin Shapiro: I hear what you’re saying. I don’t know if I wholly agree with you in the sense that you know, my job as a marketer is yes to satisfy the audience, but I am creating content as a marketing vehicle to try to engage with my audience, to hopefully figure out how to build a relationship with them and deliver them products and services.

[00:11:40] Benjamin Shapiro: Now, when Google steps in and takes that content and displays it without driving them to my site, it has a business impact. And I think that’s where the consternation comes. As marketers, we can go through the process of creating all this content and this value for the end consumer and what it’s, in some level, doing is helping Google deliver answers to their consumers and it’s not necessarily sharing them with us.

[00:12:11] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): No, a 100% fair, come on. I agree. I really, really don’t want to say that Google is doing this all in the most ethical manner possible, but I’m saying what they’re trying to do is the same thing as we’re all trying to do, which is satisfy users. And an example would be if I create a content, for example, 1+1=2, that isn’t really making much of a contribution to the universe as a whole or to my audience. So, if it can be packaged into a hundred words onto a SERP, is it really useful content? Are you really contributing anything very useful? Perhaps the exception would be videos where Google started to show videos and I would start to say, yes, that’s very unfair. But beyond that, if my answer is 50 words to answer a question, how much value does that truly bring to your audience? 

In Today’s Reality, We are Not Just Competing With Other Brands and Direct Competitions, But We are Also Competing Places With The Actual Search Engines

[00:13:02] Benjamin Shapiro: Yeah, I don’t know if I can quantify the amount of value that it brings to the audience. I think that, and this is maybe just my personal, it’s a notion of competition and the thing that is interesting to me most of the time we think about competition in search being against the other people that are trying to rank for the given terms, keywords, creating similar content to us. And in reality, now you’re not only competing with the other brands, your direct competition, other people that are competing for the same keywords, you’re also, on some level, competing with the actual search engines, which is a relatively new concept. 

[00:13:40] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah. If you look at it, search engine is no longer a relevant term just in the sense that you know, they’re trying to answer questions and solve problems, so it will be answer engine. And when you thought somebody like Dawn Anderson, she’s talking about assistive engines; and you talk to Jeff Schultz about discover, Google are now pushing content towards theirs, and then we come back to the Knowledge Panel, which we talked about yesterday. Google is trying to understand, because if it can understand who you are, what you do, what your topic is, they can start pushing that content to its users who might be interested without them even having started to think about searching for that content.

You Can Try to Create Content to Post and Push Onto Platforms That Are Not Google

[00:14:18] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So there are advantages to be taken and Google discover would be one. And it’s an interesting, how would you say it, it’s a really interesting situation. If you still think of Google as a search engine, your strategy is lagging behind because it’s answering and it’s assisting. And from my point of view, from a content point of view, I used to create blog posts and videos and so on and so forth in an attempt to please Google. I no longer do that. I create videos and content to post and to push onto platforms that are not Google, make them pay for themselves on their native let’s say platforms and then repackage it for Google’s for a bonus. Perhaps that’s the solution for the future.

[00:15:01] Benjamin Shapiro: Yeah, I think that’s great advice is that when you’re thinking about creating your content, you need to focus on not only what helps your consumers, but also think about the various distribution channels and Google may or may not be the only one that matters, right?

[00:15:17] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah and the interesting point, we’ve gone through this time, whole discussion is that Google might actually be shooting itself in the foot to a certain extent, and that if we switch our focus away from Google, it could well find itself with, how can we say it, repurpose secondary content rather than primary content.

[00:15:37] Benjamin Shapiro: Yeah. If Google starts taking so much value away from the content creators, the content creators will inevitably put their content somewhere else. I think we’re a ways away from that being the case. I think Google is the 800 pound gorilla in the content creation room, and it’s going to eat as many bananas as it damn well pleases, but that said, that’s why we call it the Darwinism of search. 

[00:16:01] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah and Google is looking 10 years down the road. It Is looking at the next couple of years, that side. But the idea, if you are saying, Google is my bonus, I’m going to create content that pleases and satisfies, and it brings value to my users on the platform that they are on, which is not Google, and Google gets to repurpose secondary content, yeah, maybe things will turn around, but obviously as you say, that would have to be massive and I’m terribly terribly optimistic and naive, and I like to think that might be the case.

[00:16:33] Benjamin Shapiro: Well we’re a ways away off from people thinking of Google as the secondary source of where they should put their content, but either way, Jason, I appreciate you coming on the show. Appreciate you being our guest. Thank you so much for your time and for sharing the knowledge with our audience. 

[00:16:47] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Yeah, that was an absolute pleasure. Thank you very much for having me Benjamin or Ben, what’s not showing, now which to say. 

[00:16:53] Benjamin Shapiro: The nonpolitical other podcaster guy that talks about search. 

[00:16:58] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Brilliant. Genius.

To Know More About This Discussion, Reach out to Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy)

[00:16:59] Benjamin Shapiro: Alright. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jason Barnard: author, speaker and consultant at Kalicube. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So, if you’re interested in contacting Jason, you could find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, his handle is Jason M Barnard, J A S O N M B A R N A R D. Or you could visit his company’s website, which is, K A L I C U B E.P R O. 

[00:17:29] Benjamin Shapiro: And a special thanks to Previsible for sponsoring this podcast. Don’t forget to reach out to our friends, Jordan Koene and Tyson Stockton for all of your SEO education, SEO consulting needs. They’re the best in the business that taught me everything I know about SEO. For more information about Previsible, you can go to And don’t forget to check out our newest show, the Revenue Generator Podcast, which tells how innovators of the revenue generation orchestrate teams that deliver world-class customer experiences through the integration of data, SAS, people, and processes to expedite demand and increase revenue.

[00:18:08] Benjamin Shapiro: So, if you’re ready to join the revenue generation, search for Revenue Generator in your podcast app or head over to That’s search for Revenue Generator in your podcast app or head over to Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about, if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, just head over to where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. And if you haven’t subscribed and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish an episode everyday during the work week, so hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right, that’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.

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