SEO News AND Is Google Leaving Australia?
February 19, 2021
Bec: All right. Hey, everybody. I am here with a special guest. We have a new SEO director here at Mash Media. Can I get a warm round of applause that none of us can hear for Vanessa Tobias, our new SEO Director? How are you?
Vanessa: I’m really well. How are you?
Bec: Not too bad. I’m actually back in lockdown here in Melbourne. So, it could be better.
Vanessa: Yeah. So, you don’t even know how long that’s going on in full day?
Bec: Well, hopefully by the time this is published, we will be out of it, but no who knows, who knows?
Vanessa: Fingers crossed, guys, fingers crossed.
*Note, at time of publishing, Melbourne DID emerge from it’s 3rd Lockdown (but… for how long?)
Bec: Yeah. So, you are our new SEO director. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
Vanessa: Yeah, sure. So, I’ve actually been working on SEO for quite some time now. It’d probably be eight or nine years. I actually started eight or nine years ago working for one of Sydney’s biggest SEO companies and I was working as account manager at the time and that’s how I got introduced to SEO. And then from there, I, kinda, followed my own path a little bit. I realized at the time, SEO was a lot to do with content. And I’m a writer as well. So, I ended up having my own SEO content agency for five years and then joining another agency to going back to full-time work.
So, it’s been really quite interesting on, you know, just how much has changed even from when I started because when I did start, SEO was actually really quite new in Australia and it wasn’t even, you know, well-developed in America or anything like that. So, to see the changes that have happened in those last eight or nine years has been absolutely fascinating. And, you know, it’s a very, very interesting, but a very complex industry. So…
Bec: Yeah, I mean, I remember when I started, it was, you know, 50% voodoo, 50% link building.
Vanessa: Yeah. And 50% haha, or any other percent spent on dodgy things that you would never even contemplate doing today, but…
Bec: No, no.
Vanessa: You know, actually going in there and keyword stuffing inside. And that’s just things that we used to do because at the time, we were told that’s what you could do, and they work. So, it’s just, yeah. Definitely, things have changed.
Bec: Yeah. I mean, I think even as recently as maybe two years ago, I was asked by a client, “Hey, what would happen if we put keywords on our website and just change the colour of them to the same as the background so people can’t see them?” And I thought, “Are you tricking me? Did you read this on an SEO black hat blog? You’re trying to say what I’ll do?”
Vanessa: Yeah. Well, the thing is would have worked, would have worked eight years ago? So…
Bec: Yeah. And I remember a big thing that was, I think around like 2012 or something, my blog guest was this excellent resource for finding places to put guest blogs, but there was zero quality. It was just spun articles and huge link farms, but the thing is, yeah, for a good five years, it totally worked.
Vanessa: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And it will, but you know, when those things get discovered, that’s an automatic manual penalty, and you know, that’s probably 10 years work down the drain after just doing something like that. So, it’s just not worth it these days. We know now what is accepted by Google. Google is extremely clear in their guidelines what they want us to do. And, that’s the good thing about doing SEO these days is that, you know, if you do muck up, it’s kind of on you because there are very clear guidelines now. So…
Bec: Yeah, absolutely. So, have you ever had to recover a website from a manual penalty? Like, have you ever sat there and tried to actually get them back into the listings?
Vanessa: Yeah, I have. I won’t mention the client, but it was a massive travel insurance agency in Sydney and they did have a manual penalty and it was from doing similar things that we were just discussing, like, you know, back in the day, like keyword stuffing, like link farms, or everything that Google would say not to do, the previous SEO guys were doing. And, you know, at the time as well, like I say, like, you know, it was kinda known that it probably wasn’t the best thing to do, but it wasn’t like, “Wow, you were doing the complete wrong thing.” So, it was quiet, yeah.
And then what happened is we did get a manual penalty for that site and they lost nearly all their business because it was an online travel insurance agency. It wasn’t something that you could walk into and book travel insurance. It was all online. So, essentially, we ended up creating a content strategy at the time and it’s quite interesting because this is when things were, like, moving towards content and people understanding that content on websites was important, but not really understanding, you know, what would happen. So, we ended up building, like, all these travel guides for every country you can think of, like, all this information for every single place that you would travel to. And, you know, just lots of really good information for people. And it was hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of pages of content for the website and it took, you know, a good six months or so to implement, but they did actually recover all their rankings and, you know, obviously got rid of the manual penalty. So yeah. And, you know, it turned the business around. If that didn’t happen, that business would not be around today.
Bec: That’s just amazing, though, because I’ve often said to clients or even prospects that, look, you don’t have to sit here and, you know, think of blog posts or things like that. Just think about what your customers already want and their resource for it. And that’s a perfect example.
Vanessa: Yeah. Yeah. It’s exactly right.
Bec: Yeah. So, what do you think is gonna be… Are there any, like, standout trends of 2021 that you can, sort of, say coming or is it gonna be a bit more localized?
Vanessa: I think, and I’ll stand by this, and this is what I say most years. I think essentially, it all does come down to the quality of content that you have on your website. I don’t think that’s going to change in the future for quite some time. It’ll just be different types of content as technology evolves. You know, voice search, all those things will be a bit more, well, what we should look to optimize websites, it’s for a bit more. But really, it’s gonna get back to the number one ranking factor is content and the second-highest-ranking factor is, you know, your backlinking. So, it’s having those good quality backlinks and having content.
Google says every single time something happens, obviously, Google releases a lot of algorithms, and updates, and all these things quite frequently. And when they do release a core update which isn’t essentially trying to penalize someone or a website, it’s just they’ve moved around some ranking factors. So, a lot of time when there’s a core update, a lot of sites see, you know, results going all over the place for a [inaudible 00:06:58].
Bec: A bit of a bounce. Yeah.
Vanessa: Yeah. Just fluctuations. And what Google always says every single time is the best thing you can do for your website when this happens is ensure you have the highest quality content on there. So, none of these, like, magic, sort of, stuff that people try and do in the background and really, essentially, it will come back to that. But, you know, trends will come this year, things will evolve, we’ll keep watching and see what’s happening, but I will always say, like, SEO is not as complicated as we think it is. We just have to go back to the basics. And if Google tells us every time, “Make sure you have good quality content,” then that’s what we need to be doing.
Bec: Yeah. When they say, you better listen because as you said before, their webmaster guidelines are pretty straightforward. Extensive, but straightforward and they are telling you what they want.
Bec: So, that’s the thing. So, anyway, speaking of Google, there’s been a lot of rumbles in the media lately of them possibly pulling out of Australia. What do you think about that?
Vanessa: Yeah. It’s quite interesting, isn’t it? So, for people that don’t know, basically what’s happened is some Australian lawmakers wanna bring in a law to say that every time Google publishes something from a news publisher, they have to actually pay that publisher. The reason they wanna do that is because essentially, having Google is eradicating the need to have a lot of these news publishers. So, those companies are hurting. And on Google side of things, they’re saying, “Look, we bring businesses so much money. We’re helping your economy. Like you’re crazy if you think we’re gonna pay you even more money.” So, I honestly don’t believe that this is something that will happen, but in saying that, it has happened before. So, Google actually, I think since Spain, so, Spain did have something similar to what Australia is trying to do here and then Google was like, “Buggy. We’re taking off this product from you.” And they also did it to China as well, but China was a more of extreme case where they found out some Google product had been hacked by the Chinese, obviously, and were like, “Well, you’re not getting our products anymore.”
So, the thing is, if it does happen, this would have a huge effect not just on businesses and not just on agencies that sell SEO products, but it would affect every individual because Google is such a big thing these days. Like it’s not just the search engine. We’ve got the Google Maps, we’ve got Google Assist, we’ve got Gmail for instance. Like, are they just gonna take, like, Google search engines? I don’t think…
Bec: Yeah. What happens to people’s data? I mean, people like myself, my entire life is stored in a Google database. I use it for everything. I use it from my life administration to my work administration. So, it’s a really big question.
Vanessa: Yeah. And it’s massive. I don’t think it will happen. I think, you know, Scott Morrison has basically said, “We don’t respond to threats, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Look, I think there will be some sort of compromise if it does come to that, but if essentially it did happen, yes, we’d probably lose all this data that we need. But secondly, we would just have to realign our strategies to the new search engines people were using. They are quite similar, but in saying that, we’d go from, you know, people currently spend, like, use Google is 95% or more for their search engine. So, it would be interesting, and it would probably be Bing or Yahoo that they would go to instead, but I just don’t see it happening. I just can’t say it, right?
Bec: Yeah. I would have to agree. It’s a pretty strong line in the sand. And I think it’s, sort of, a game of chicken that neither of them wants to lose at the moment. So… And, you know, as we speak now, I think channel Seven News has signed a deal with Google. So, it looks like things are happening to, sort of, smooth things over, but yeah. I guess we will wait and see with bated breath.
Vanessa: Wait and see. We would definitely be following that one for a while
Bec: I think maybe we need to get the Mash site ready for, do you need Bing optimization?
Vanessa: Let us know because it’s as good a time to work it out.
Bec: Yeah. Think quick. Okay. Awesome. Look, let’s wrap it up for today because that’s a lot of big stuff to think about, but yeah. Thanks so much for coming on the podcast. Thanks for taking time out of your day.
Vanessa: Oh, thanks for having me.
Bec: No worries. And we’ll get you on a couple of episodes in the future as well because there’s a lot of information about SEO out there that people want to know about. And if you’re one of those people out there, please write us an email email@example.com, and we’ll consider having a chat about it on the show.