CMC Interview Series: Chris Silver Smith
[00:00:08] Welcome everyone. I’m here with Chris. Chris welcome. Thank you. Great being with you for the first time. Thanks for being a speaker this year.
[00:00:15] Yes. Thanks for inviting me Byron. Yeah it’s fantastic it’s very dynamic conference.
[00:00:19] Thank you very much appreciate the compliment we’ll take it and run with it. Tell me a little bit about RJ median. You have a very prolific background in search marketing and you know we can talk about that more. But tell me about your agency. What are you doing what you’re focused on.
[00:00:34] Yes. So I opened my agency a little bit over seven years ago and I focus on search engine optimization and I was known for a long time as a local NCO because I had done SEO work for Verizon’s super pages dot com which was one of the biggest online yellow pages. So I Segway down doing. local seo type stuff but I got more and more interested in doing online reputation management and so I still do a little SEO straight up SEO for folks but I’ve increasingly done more and more online reputation management which is kind of a euphemism for online reputation repair. And as part of that I also do quite a bit of social media management. Got it. Yeah. And the two of course go hand-in-hand. That’s right. Very complementary. You kind of need one for the other.
[00:01:27] So what in your opinion is the state of the Union of VCR. You know you’ve been speaking at for example popcorn for many years and we’ve seen a dynamic change with optimization Matt Cutts sort of retired the voice of CEO if you will that you and I would remember way back when popcorn was just crawling perfect name for and the Web was just crawling.
[00:01:48] But what’s the state of CEO now in your opinion.
[00:01:52] That’s an interesting question. So you know some folks like to say that a CEO is dead. I don’t think I’ve ever said that. But you just did.
[00:02:01] There you go. You can take that sound bite. It. Ok.
[00:02:06] So I think it was maybe 12 years ago that I kind of predicted that usability and user experience would eclipse MCO and eventually overtake it. And I’m kind of vindicated in that because Google’s development over the years has included more and more elements of usability and user experience like incorporating page speed to improve the experience for users and incorporating HD G.P.S. and emphasizing mobile usability and also taking a very negative look at a very obtrusive advertising like overlays and interstitial. So indeed to some degree not the way I expected but usability and user experience are more and more important and people are calling those SEO factors now. But they’re really just good web site design.
[00:03:09] Yeah got it. Many people have seen this transition happen with there was originally search engine optimization but we also have landing page optimization and conversion rate optimization. And wait a second. Everything should be optimized. I mean don’t you feel like that’s really where it’s gone. I mean is it really about optimize on multiple levels and multiple fronts maybe with the user being the same thing that word users by the way it’s a native term. The reader I guess but that’s kind of funky as well but whatever this person is the person you know are they the centrepiece of it all. And how does that fit with with with what you’re seeing now from a performance basis. What’s working with search engine optimization.
[00:03:50] So it may have seemed for a while that Google actually did want to get rid of CEOs. You know there was you know early on a whole lot of conflict between CEOs and Google and then Google kind of you know incorporated us and educating the Web community and how to do good web site design so that search engines and crawlers could find and write and ranked stuff properly. So you know from that kind of evolution there is still and you know unfortunately maybe from some of Google’s engineers a need for CEOs that even though you can have the very best content in the world if you have some little technical hiccups it can keep that stuff from appearing and being used by people. And so there’s still a need for CEOs but Esko has become you know super multidisciplinary so there’s so many different little niches of it. And that is partly because there are so many different possible ranking factors. Google says they have over 200 ranking factors with up to. 50 vectors in each one. That’s you know hundreds and thousands of different things that can be changed that would affect web rankings. And it seems to just get more complicated with the advent of rank brain and artificial intelligence. Yeah. So SGI has gotten far more complex. Some of the folks that just wanted to do little technical tricks have kind of fallen by the wayside. But those of us that have kind of followed the evolution along are still doing it. Yeah. And in many cases doing it effectively. Yeah. Google itself is doing things much more effectively so they can ignore a great many errors that people make. Yeah they try to overcome those challenges to make stuff available for people. Yeah but there’s still areas where they need webmasters and SEO people to help them fix it.
[00:05:55] What are the what are the signals that you see or most easily adjusted to greatly impact traffic listing positions. What are the newest latest and greatest and low hanging fruit if you will that you look for maybe give at least five of your twenty five secrets that you. want to give it all the way. No but seriously what what are the new signals that you’re seeing.
[00:06:20] Are they are the best signals still maybe some of them haven’t changed some of the best signals still are the title web page titles so many people have poorly formed titles or titles that don’t match up what consumers are searching for. Yeah. And so that’s just it’s a no brainer but it’s also one of the most influential factors that there is. You know we also like to say meta descriptions very useful because it can increase performance and it can increase click through rates from search results. Links are still highly influential but it’s you’re not giving me anything new here because we’ve been talking about these.
[00:06:59] Do you really believe that though that those are still cornerstone elements or give us a few new ones. I mean social signals must be having a factor.
[00:07:08] So it’s number four on your list. I can tell. Yes.
[00:07:11] So social signals are more important but not necessarily proprietary social signals. And I spoke about that here at the conference today. How Google says and has said for many years they don’t use proprietary signals like the number of followers that you have. So how do they do it. Well they do it through link analysis. So within each of the social media platforms whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest they can perform link analysis within the platform for the pages that they can access and they rank content according to that. So links are still a big piece of it but a lot of people have said oh you know there’s a correlation between having high follower counts and having high rankings for those particular account pages. And the reason is that they also get lots of internal links within those networks.
[00:08:05] Here’s a completely radical question. But as we know Google is the largest scraper of content and. arguably invasive of privacy which suggests they’ve built their entire business model. Do you think that anyone will ever challenge that given the value of course that Google brings to all of us. Which of which I am the biggest fan like everyone else. But don’t you think there’s a day where that could be challenged.
[00:08:30] I think it’s inevitable. I think that we’re seeing that in Europe where individuals and even companies have greater rights than they do here in the United States. And here in the United States it’s a whole lot of Google’s content is far more protected and they don’t have to make changes because they can say that it came from other sources. But when I have worked on a number of cases and online reputation management I’ve seen up close and personally how devastating those search results can be and how Google in some cases is the only entity out there that we could effectively use to get rid of content that’s unfair and damaging people. So it’s inevitable. You know privacy rules are going to be on the increase. The other part of it though also as publishers you said that Google is the biggest scraper. Well some of the concerns are that Google takes more and more content with while giving less benefit. And we can see that sometimes in the featured search results. Now the featured snippets where Google calls out answers to give consumers exactly what they’re looking for in the search results. Yes. And in some cases they’re not giving links back to the sources of the data.
[00:09:43] Don’t you think that’s the first assault that will happen against Google. They are clearly profiting off of that information. And exactly. Yeah yeah.
[00:09:52] So you what you would worry about that if you were a major stockholder which I’m sure you aren’t Google.
[00:09:59] So no comment on whether I have.
[00:10:01] Or not but Google has always been very proactive about trying to protect their interests and all of these things and they’re usually pretty good. I would say about playing fair or trying to play fair. They want to cost reduction so they don’t want to incur overly large liabilities. Yeah. So I think that they’ll try to address some of those criticisms so that it doesn’t reach a point where legislators will deal with it for them. Yeah.
[00:10:31] Got it. Well tell us about the next thing you’re my final question is What do you think is next for for your agency and what you’re doing and you do some interesting work as well some legal representation and trademarks and you’ve been authors over Search Engine Land and you probably know Danny on a first name basis.
[00:10:49] How would Google you know so what’s next for your agency are you doing anything interesting or unique for your customers or clients or is it more sticking to the guns of what you know and grinding it out.
[00:11:01] Well a lot of it is sticking to what I know and grinding it out and the customers themselves for reputation management are fascinating. Yeah. So I sometimes turn down ones that I think are potentially harmful to other folks. I have had Russian oligarchs come to me. I have had you know one of the world’s major religions came to me about an image ranking problem I have faced Google in court and against them I assume. Yes. Wow. And there is I mean the stories behind online reputation management are really dramatic. I’ve had you know mafia dons and their children try to come and have reputation management you know should the children of you know a criminal be held accountable for their parents. Wow. You know since google is you know kind of neutral about that but their system sometimes do some things they’re sort of unfair to people. So the next big thing for my agency though is it’s kind of exciting. I’ve always tried to help people that can’t get help with reputation management to some degree. So my big company clients help fund some of the stuff that I do pro bono. So I’ve helped human trafficking victims porn revenge victims et cetera pro bono. What I’m looking to do is to help a niche that most of the reputation industry hasn’t helped and that is people that can’t afford to pay the fees. There’s a lot of work that goes into online reputation management. I’m trying to roll out something that’s close to do it yourself online reputation management. And I think I may have the formulas to do that.
[00:12:42] Well so be software based or more.
[00:12:45] I think it’ll be a few efforts all a cart services that people can purchase individually while they do the rest of the stuff themselves or they can do from a to see the whole thing. So I’ll have instructions and methods and basically a formula that helps people huh.
[00:13:05] I’m an idea guy. So I’m very intrigued so let’s talk about it offline but quick question on that couldn’t a marketplace that you backed or this organization backed to help people that have been wrongfully accused of something that you could validate that they’re wrongfully accused. Couldn’t you push cert negative or false search results down by likes and links and shares with an organization that got behind these people that you’re trying to help.
[00:13:28] Absolutely. I think there’ve been a few little. Very limited projects like that. It’s like yeah some folks have tried to do.
[00:13:38] Yeah you know I’ll help you if you help me Google less than the other way around with evil bad brand everyone. Oh yeah. And I mean there’s there’s a few of those.
[00:13:46] Oh yeah. Well you know Google I don’t know whether it’s intentional or not. I tend to think that it was just happenstance. But one of the the most difficult sites for many people in many brands is Rip Off Report and Google has reduced their rankings dramatically since October of last year. Interesting. They’re just not on the radar screen for the most part for a great many queries that they used to rank on page one. Wow. So Google’s changes.
[00:14:14] I think it’s part of their quality update algorithm has reduced the ranking of some of these kind of bad players out there and that’s why I continue to think that sentiment scoring which of course and reputation management is a big deal but can’t you know can’t google begin to pick up on those sentiments and exact consensus that a site like that is just bad and evil and they’re just perverted by a bunch of garbage out there. Can they pick up on those signals and ideally they they can’t.
[00:14:40] Obviously in fact you know in my most recent article on Google’s quality ranking algorithm stuff I theorized that they may indeed be using sentiment. They’ve used it before. Yeah. With local search results they have the patents for it. It could well be part behind the scenes. Yeah. Years ago when some of the bad players out there were just. Doing all sorts of illegal things and still getting good rankings. Google was embarrassed by that and said we’re going to take some action about that. Yeah. And I think they have. I think their system is better. There’s still a lot of cases there’s still individuals who don’t have any content about their name. And so Rip Off Report still shows up there’s still some individuals that mug shots will show up for.
[00:15:24] Interesting. So you probably saw that the news flash of we get lots of flashes. But the CEO of Twitter in a TED talk I believe was talking about a transition from people you know following people on Twitter to following topics and ideas as a way to get better information out and what are your thoughts on that. And that’s Boy that’s that’s really interesting and we should all be talking about that a content marketing conference like that to me that was good news like wow that makes complete sense to me.
[00:15:55] Let’s get supportive of not just people because people have multiple ideas and you know that you know I don’t believe in your philosophy of politics and economics or whatever he is. But but it doesn’t mean that I stop following you. It’s just that I have to follow you because some of your ideas are good. Why can’t we just follow topics. What are your thoughts on that.
[00:16:12] I think it’s a very interesting approach. I think it’s part of the big mix. They’ve social media platforms have been criticized so much for stuff that happened in the 2016 presidential election and stuff. You know there’s a tendency that you know bad stuff can reinforce itself and sort of snowball in social media. Yeah and they’ve been criticized for that even though at the same time they’re supposed to support free speech freedom of speech. So if they’re supporting freedom of speech do they still allow stuff to fly without any restrictions. And Google’s recent quality evaluators guide back in the summer of last year that they released openly stated that they’re trying to limit things like conspiracy theories and bad information. So they’re clearly creating kind of an algorithm judgment on stuff like that and that makes freedom of speech you know supporters uncomfortable. Yeah there’s gonna be this tension and I don’t I don’t know where it’s going to fall out yet.
[00:17:17] Yeah and who could ever know that how can you judge.
[00:17:21] You know there’s so many I mean I wrote a paper when I was in college and undergraduate and it was that he was on the concept of essentially contested concepts right. So democracy for example is an essentially contested concept there isn’t one type of democracy right. There are multiple types of democracy. So how do you make judgment calls on what to list. Like will only get a list. You know democracy and Google listing positions that set this certain type of say you know it’s like democracy it could be multiple flavors.
[00:17:50] You know we need right. Express them all. Great conversation Chris as you could tell I could probably ask about 200 more questions but we’ll let the audience be relieved of that burden and in a great nice nice interview with you. Thanks for coming out to talk to educate some people that were various to hear what you had to say.
[00:18:06] Well thanks for inviting me out. Indeed appreciate it. Look forward to the next. Thanks again. Next Right on. Thanks Chris.