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Strategic Approach to SEO: Google Needs to Understand Your Content

To recommend your content as the solution to its users’ problems, Google needs to understand:

– Who you are

– What you offer

– What audience you can serve

In the latest episode, Slobodan Manić interviews Jason Barnard, founder of Kalicube on how to approach SEO strategically.

The Concept of Understanding as One of the Three Basic Needs of Google According to Jason Barnard (The Brand SERP Guy)

[00:00:00] Slobodan Manic: This brings us to the topic that we have today, the three basic needs that Google has that you need to answer. So, the three, I’ll just list them and then let’s talk about each one of them. It’s understanding, credibility, and deliverability. So let’s just start with understanding, because this is the one that, I read one of your articles, you said, if you don’t get this right, you’re stuck at the gates. So you need to allow Google to understand what you’re trying to say. So can you walk us through this concept of understanding and what you need to do really to be understood by Google? 

[00:00:39] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Right. The first thing to do is I think a lot of us need to change our mindset. And rather than say, I want to rank number one in Google, say, I want Google to recommend me to its users as the best solution to their problem or answer to their question. And as soon as you are saying, I want to be the best answer or the best solution, you’re immediately focusing on the client or the customer or the user, your user. And as soon as I want Google to recommend me, you start thinking about what are Google’s problems in order to be able to recognise that I am in fact the best answer or the best solution.

[00:01:12] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And those three problems, understanding, credibility, and deliverability. And if it can’t understand what it is you’re offering, it obviously never will be able to recommend you as the best solution. And it’s as simple as that. And you need to educate it. So, you think about a child, and you’re saying, I need to provide the information in a format that this child can understand and will believe.

How Do You Educate Google to Understand: Structured Data Plus Clear Copywriting

[00:01:35] Slobodan Manic: Okay. And how do you do that? 

[00:01:38] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): It’s actually thinking about how this machine is learning, how it understands. And that means understanding Knowledge Graphs. It means understanding how Google, a lot of this is not necessarily where it is today but where it’s going tomorrow. And even if it doesn’t fully understand today, it’s definitely moving that way. So we need to start thinking that way.

[00:01:59] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): It doesn’t mean to say you can’t do some things to have some quick wins. I’m not saying don’t go for the quick wins if you can get them. I’m saying you need to build those quick wins into a larger strategy, a wider strategy of understanding. And that understanding goes through clear, simple copywriting. It goes through Schema Markup, which is basically, if you don’t really know much about it it, it’s saying to Google in a structure it can understand exactly what’s already in the page.

[00:02:25] Slobodan Manic: Right.

[00:02:26] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And I like to say it’s Google’s native language. You’re feeding the machine with its native language. So, structured data plus clear copywriting. And I think we’d be surprised, a lot of us would be surprised at how unclear we tend to be. I think you have to remember that the machine reads and understands, but it doesn’t have imagination, it doesn’t understand poetry, and it doesn’t have a sense of humor and no sense of irony.

[00:02:53] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And when you read your text, all of those things pop in. Because as human beings, we can skip over them, because we’ve got that imagination, we’ve got culture. It doesn’t have any culture. So, it’s this kind of neutral machine. It’s the most boring friend you could possibly imagine. And you are trying to explain everything to it.

Google Understands on Both Page Level and Brand Level; You Need Google to Reflect Who You Are, What You Do, and Who Your Audience Is

[00:03:11] Slobodan Manic: Right. One follow up question here. Is this understanding or ability for Google to understand you and who you are and what you offer and what kind of audience you can serve for Google, is this a page level thing or a website level thing? 

[00:03:26] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): It’s actually both. You actually almost said one of my catchphrases, which is who you are, what you do, and who your audience is. That’s what you need to get across to Google. It understands on a page level, but it also understands on a brand level. And John Mueller started saying, in the context of E-A-T, which we’ll come to with credibility, but it cannot understand, if it cannot understand who you are, it cannot possibly apply the criteria, whatever they may be, of E-A-T. And if it cannot understand who you are, it’s going to have a great deal of difficulty understanding what it is you offer.

[00:04:01] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So you need to start at the top with the main entity, which is the brand, the company, and explain, educate Google who you are, what you do, and who your audience is. And part of that what you do is what you offer as well. And then explain it from the brand downwards, which is why I now work from the Brand SERP outwards, because the Brand SERP is a representation of what Google thinks the world thinks about you and how Google understands who you are, what you do, and who your audience is. If it doesn’t reflect who you are, what you do, and who your audience is, Google has misunderstood and you need to explain it better.

The Importance of Focusing on the Users If You Don’t Want to Be Dead in the Water

[00:04:33] Slobodan Manic: And even though Google is extremely important for a lot of websites, it’s one of the key channels of organic traffic. What you’re trying to do here is use Google as a vehicle to deliver what you have to say to your customers.

[00:04:45] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Brilliant.

[00:04:46] Slobodan Manic: And it’s ultimately about your customers or users or whoever is searching for you online being able to understand what you’re trying to say. If they can, almost certainly Google will as well. Does that make sense? 

[00:05:00] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): It does, totally. I think a lot of us think that John Mueller is being trite and unhelpful when he says focus on the user, but he actually can’t say anything else because that’s what Google is doing. And whether they’re there or not is actually partially at least a moot point because that’s where they’re going. So if we don’t start doing that, we’re going to be dead in the water in a few years time.

Google Is an Independent Judgment of How Good or Bad You Are Presenting Your Offers to Your Customers

[00:05:22] Slobodan Manic: That’s a good point. A very similar example is let’s mention Core Web Vitals and page experience update because it’s just about to be launched. Yes, Google is doing this so they can probably save on their electricity bill, crawling the websites, and make that process more efficient, and who knows what else? But ultimately, don’t do that for Google. Do that for your user, who will be able to access your page faster, have a more pleasant experience.

[00:05:49] Slobodan Manic: I think SEO and content have the same logic. If Google can do it in a more efficient way that, if a machine can understand it in a good way, a human certainly will as well. So, Google is just a proxy to your customers. And if you look at it that way, that should work. 

[00:06:06] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): Oh, I like that. That’s lovely. Yeah. Google’s trying to judge whether you’re a good match for their customer, whether they can recommend you. So it is actually a proxy. It’s an independent judgment of how good or bad you are actually presenting your offers to your customers and how good they are.

The thing about understanding, credibility and suitability is everything you do in SEO needs to serve at least one of these pillars.

jason barnard (the brand serp guy)

[00:06:23] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And the thing about understanding, deliverability, and credibility is everything you do in SEO needs to serve at least one of these pillars, possibly multiple pillars. And so, basically, if it doesn’t serve one of them, and as we go through them, you’ll see that everything fits into one of these pillars. And some of them fit into multiple pillars. For example, Schema Markup will also fit into credibility and also deliverability for that matter.

[00:06:47] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And inbound links also help with understanding. If you’ve got inbound links from relevant sources, that will help Google understand that you are in the same sector as the other source. So, inbound links, the idea that an inbound link needs to be, all inbound links are not equal. A relevant inbound link will help understanding, credibility incredibly. And an irrelevant link will help neither very much at all.

The Role of Schema Markup in Helping Google Train the Machine

[00:07:13] Slobodan Manic: That’s a good point. And you mentioned Schema as something that helps with all three, understanding, credibility, and deliverability. Talking about understanding and Google being able to understand you, do you suggest ever trying to go without Schema or without structure markup? Does that ever make sense? Or how much are you hurting yourself if you’re not implementing structure data markup? 

[00:07:35] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): I think Google’s using Schema Markup to train the machine.

[00:07:40] Slobodan Manic: Absolutely.

[00:07:40] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): And Google’s aim is to get the machine to learn as quickly as possible and as efficiently as possible and as accurately as possible as we’ll see later on. So if you are not helping Google help its machine to learn, Google isn’t going to do you very many favours.

[00:07:54] Slobodan Manic: Okay. So, I help you, you help me kind of thing with Google.

[00:07:57] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): That kind of thing. Yeah. Scratching backs and all that stuff.

[00:08:00] Slobodan Manic: Right, right.

[00:08:01] The Brand SERP Guy (Jason Barnard): So, I think Schema Markup is a fundamental tool in both tactical and strategical tool set.

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