Interview with Bill Slawski


Internet marketing landscape has become so demanding and highly competitive these days, while the almighty Google still keep tweaking their algorithms in their constant strive to improve the quality of search results.

To have a closer look at the industry trends, we have invited Bill Slawski for a chat. Any introduction of this highly respected industry veteran would be redundant as the name Bill Slawski is associated by the majority in the filed with infallible expertise, acute interest and understanding of Google patents and special preference towards Google’s semantic search growth.

So here he is, friends, the president and founder of one of the leading SEO blogs: SEO by the Sea, the friendly soul that ruthlessly dissects every new patent Google attempts to apply for or to add to their vast patent library, give it up for Bill Slawski!

What’s your secret sauce of managing on-site user experience?

Bill Slawski: Confidence is one of the key elements in managing on-site user experience.

Do you make it easy for a visitor to find what information they might be looking for, with a well thought out navigation, do you address frequently asked questions (not necessarily though an FAQ page, but rather answering questions on your pages themselves)

Do you make a visit to the site a pleasant and comfortable experience, with quick loading pages?

Do you make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for on the site, by exploring site-search logs to see what they tend to look for, and where they tend to go on the site?

[bctt tweet=”“ If the click totals are low, you may not be setting great expectations for your pages…”]  by the use of the words in your page titles and snippets.

Do you look at the terms people use to find pages on the site through Google’s Search Console, and the amount of search impressions those terms get compared to actual clicks – if the click totals are low, you may not be setting great expectations for your pages by the use of the words in your page titles and snippets.

How do you tend to evaluate the success of a content marketing campaign in terms of monetization?

Bill Slawski: There are a few different impacts you might see from a successful marketing campaign, but sometimes marketing gets confused with sales, and it shouldn’t be.

[bctt tweet=”“Limit the metrics you are using to define success to things you can actually measure…”]

Marketing is raising awareness of a product or a service, educating others about it, making it more visible, making people feel more positive about it. It could lead to more sales, but often you want to limit the metrics you are using to define its success to things you can actually measure, such as more positive attention in social settings, in marketing channels, in links acquired to your website, in numbers of people acting as evangelists for you brand.

These are types of things that might work to increase the opportunities that you may have to monetize. but other factors may need to be addressed that go beyond the quality of the content marketing campaign itself.

What do you think of Google’s hummingbird update? Do you think it’s fair to scrape websites data without webmasters’ consent and how can a SEO make the most out of it?

Bill Slawski: Google Hummingbird brought the ability to Google to parse out queries and to better understand the use of words within the context of those queries, Which enabled Google to better rewrite longer and more complicated queries of the type that one might see as part of a conversation. This better understanding of words within context also means the creation and use of rules regarding the substitution of words within different contexts, a better understanding of the meanings of questions being asked of the search engine, and an increased likelihood of a relevant answer that fulfills the intent behind the query.

A search engine attempts to understand and analyze the content found on pages it might index, so that it can return that page in response to a query about it. I’m not sure that I would refer to the indexing of data upon a website as “scraping the data of that site” since that’s what a site owner is hoping a search engine does – returning their page in response to a request for that data from a searcher’s query. What’s important to SEOs is a search engine providing attribution for a response to a query, that uses that data.

The hardest part of my job is to forecast weekly or monthly results. How do you forecast it for your clients?

Bill Slawski: Forecasting requires a knowledge of the industry you find yourself working within, and if there might be trends that influence within that industry.

Forecasting depends upon models that you might use to understand historical data and project future changes and growth depending upon it. You can get some clues from considering past data in sources such as analytics, and previous campaign experiences. When it comes to SEO, certain types of actions tend to have certain types of outcomes.

In focusing upon [bctt tweet=”“Things that create positive experience for visitors can have a positive effect for you as well …”]

For instance, optimizing pages for terms that people tend to search for more frequently is a step you would take towards getting those pages to show up more frequently in searches. I try to make positive improvements that are likely to earn more traffic to a site from people interested in what it offers, exact numbers of growth may be difficult to forecast, but in focusing upon things that create a more positive experience for visitors, that can have a positive effect for you as well.

How would you convince a new prospect to trust your services provided he does not recognize you as the industry expert Bill Slawski?

Bill Slawski: Creating a past history and past proof of effectiveness can help new prospects to trust your services; these can include case studies, references to existing and past clients. Showing off a plan of action that is carefully measured and balanced can help reassure them as well.

[bctt tweet=”“Creating a past history and past proof of effectiveness can help new prospects to trust your services”]

What if you have a chance to interview a Google quality rater, if you could ask a few questions, what would they be?

Bill Slawski: Google has had a couple of past editions of their Quality Rater Guidelines released to the public. These were fairly comprehensive documents, filled with a large number of different types of questions and information about why certain types of questions where being asked. I’m not sure letting us know more about the individuals who might be asked to apply those guidelines would be as helpful as knowing what those guidelines might be.

With your experience and devotion to studying patents, have you developed a sixth sense as to whether the essence of the given patent is already applied in real life or how it will fit the big picture if it is yet to be incorporated in the search engine’s algorithm?

Bill Slawski: Google is publishing a really wide range of patents lately that go beyond just ranking of search results. I can’t claim any sixth sense as to whether a particular patent might be published or used in real life. I have been reading and writing about Google patents for over a decade now, and there has been a lot of variety offered within them.

If Google has applied for a patent on something, that is a sign that they did research on topics it is related to, and want to protect their efforts there. There are patents filed that are related to previously filed patents and seeing how some of those might fit together provides a possibility of hints as to possible usage of processes within a patent.

[bctt tweet=”“Google is publishing a really wide range of patents lately that go beyond just ranking of search results. I can’t claim any sixth sense as to whether a particular patent might be published or used in real life.”]

What do you think Google’s next patent is going to be?

Bill Slawski: It’s almost impossible to guess what Google might file a new patent about. In recent weeks, I’ve seen more than 150 pending patent applications published by Google, each week. Here are the titles of a random number of recently granted Google patents:

  • Automatic device mode based on physical location of user in a vehicle
  • Techniques for using software application-related metadata in near field communication transmissions
  • System and method for displaying both multimedia events search results and internet search results
  • Data logging for media consumption studies
  • Methods, systems, and media for media playback
  • System and method for identifying viewers of television programs
  • Cameras and image processing methods for respecting recording restrictions
  • Fixed focus camera module with near-field image recognition
  • Devices and methods for providing multi-aperture lens functionality
  • Decentralized system and method for voice and video sessions
  • Portable device with image sensor and quad-core processor for multi-point focus image capture

In your recent article at GoFishDigital you mention the three types of scores (interest,confidence and resource) that play a role in customized content ranking in the knowledge panel. Aren’t those applied to the mainstream organic ranking algos just as well?

Bill Slawski: Those categories for scoring of items that might be contained in knowledge panels were developed primarily for use with the process described in that patent, by the inventors of that patent. Those are limited in that they reflect the kinds of content that might be shown in knowledge panels, but they could reflect aspects of other ranking algorithms as well:

  1. Interest – Is this a topic that a searcher has shown an interest in before, much like personalization of content and topics?
  2. Confidence – Have there been explicit signs in a searcher’s historical data that shows they are definitely interested in this topic, like an interest in Baseball being reflected in a daily visit to a baseball forum?
  3. Resource – This is a score based upon how important a particular resource might be to the place where it was taken. For instance, is it a Picture? If so, is it the only picture from the site where it is from? If not, is it the top-most image from the page it appears upon?

So these aren’t necessarily examples of how other algorithms may work, they are interesting examples of how this one works to determine how to rank what might be displayed in an answerbox.

Creating contextual heart of a site is important. Do you think an SMB owner could manage on his own with the task or nowadays only a professional should manage the challenge for him?

Bill Slawski: The difficulty of answering this question is that a SMB is often considered a subject matter expert in the topic their website might be about, but that doesn’t mean that they are an expert communicator, and having such a communicator to work with may enable them to present what they do in a way that is helpful to both search engines and visitors who arrive at their websites from search engines. So, if the “professional” you are referring to is someone with those communication skills, then ideally the two working together is an ideal situation.

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