Schema App’s CEO Martha van Berkel interviews Ryan Pitcheralle, VP, Organic Strategy from Acronym on the topic of, “Search Result + Metrics Evolution”
Ryan shares his observations about how the features and results in search engine result pages have moved from being link-based to being powered by a structured data set. A self-diagnosed “search nerd” he also shares how the metrics are changing as a result of these new search experiences. Ryan touches on Discover, re-using structured data in analytics, and specific examples to support these changes.
If you’d like to listen to this interview in Podcast form, check out Connecting the Digital Dots, Interview with Ryan Pitcheralle on Spreaker or search for it on Google Podcasts. Enjoy the conversation!
Martha: Hi, it’s Martha van Berkel coming to you live from Canada and Schema APP to share our next connecting at the digital dots. And I’m absolutely delighted today to have Ryan Pitcheralle from New York joining us. Welcome, Ryan.
Ryan: Hello Martha. Thank you for having me. I’m super excited as well.
Martha: Well, the topic today is really going to get into, you know, really the theme of the changing landscape as search, but specifically what we’re seeing change in the search engine result pages, especially when you add structured data. But before we go there, Ryan, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Ryan: Okay. I work formally as a search marketing executive, um, specifically within that I am a content strategy lead for an all search agency, kind of born and bred only in search. That’s our specialty. We’re located in New York, and formerly from the 65th floor of the Empire State building at that. So, a little bit about myself. I’m admittedly a search nerd. I love data as a result, and one of the symptoms of that, I’m also a horse player or handicapper rather. So, I love sport horse racing and, yeah, that’s where I spend the majority of my time. It’s search, kids and horses for me.
Martha: Sounds like numbers is like playing into the horse racing. And now I kind of see perhaps where its sort of you loving to get into the search engine results and the analytics make sense?
Ryan: It certainly does. I think it calms my nerves so to speak. I stare at numbers all night long and I can’t wait to get home from work to do it. Yes, there might be something wrong with me, but it’s working.
Martha: Excellent. Well, let’s dive into today’s topic. So, we’re going to talk about sort of how search is changing and specifically in SERPs. Maybe you can kick off by like what are some of the high-level themes that you’re seeing today or what’s also getting you excited?
Ryan: Yeah. I mean, high level, simply what we’ve been accustomed to seeing in the SERP, is now answered instead of options like we’ve seen in the past. And I think that that’s kind of the biggest fundamental change at that. There’s plenty of reasons for this, but the big ones are certainly being powered by structured data. It’s a kin to all the different search features and specialized snippets and different result type format, universal result inclusion, the knowledge graph, all of that. It’s being powered by structured data set. So associations are no longer entirely link based, which means Google instead is preferably reliant on the fact-based graph instead of this traditional indexed work database. So again, structured data power to all of the excellent and that’s what’s got me really excited about this fundamental change.
Martha: You and I were talking a couple weeks ago and you were mentioning something you were seeing in mobile as you were looking for a family holiday. Can you talk a little bit about some of the things that you were seeing when you’re doing that research? Because to me that was something that was really specific about how we’re seeing SERPs change and how perhaps structured data is impacting it, but how it’s also different on mobile versus desktop.
Ryan: Yeah. It, again, we’re just accustomed to this constant volatility, if you will, in these different features that roll into the SERP. A lot of them, you know, when I brought that up, originally, it’s related to the search carousel. So in mobile search, a good practice of mine is actually adding a browser plugin so I can switch my device type, to the tablet or mobile device view. And that’s great. You know, when I spend a lot of my time examining the SERP, um, so you want to pay attention to that mobile view even though you’ve spent the majority of your nine to five off of the tablet and off of the mobile device if you could help it. Um, so one of the things that you’ll notice by spending a lot of time in the mobile SERP, and it’s interesting to see a mobile SERP view on a desktop dimension. Because you see the true kind of impact of that carousel.
So, on a mobile device, you’d have to scroll to kind of engage of the depth that carousel from left to right. On the desktop, it kind of accordions it all out for you. And it kind of exemplifies, okay, what is really changed here? So structured data, is powering a lot of what Google uses and they’re carousel rollout. So, I would, have a very specific example. I’m searching for dude ranches out west, um, to bring my family and kind of discovering when, you know, it’s the entry point in terms of their age to kind of take that plunge and the Mobile SERP did it justice. There was a lot of, as you could imagine, these smaller type boutique hotels or not even really a hotel, they’re almost ranches if you will. They may not have the digital maturity to go after such a competitive hospitality or travel type search space.
But they do exceptionally well in it and it’s really a couple levers they’re pulling to do so well. So, you’re not attacking the SERP one through 10 where one is your ultimate goal. Instead, you can play into these new SERP functionalities and have other inroads into the now, I would say 40 results SERP. There are plenty of avenues to click, the normal click path that happened in the traditional SERP are all upended by these new functionalities that hit the SERP. The carousel being kind of one of them structured data power into it. A lot of these small ranches they end up showing up in articles that were written about them and using structured data, they were able to draw a very clear association between that article, their brand mentioned, all the way back to their website and that association connects two URLs, the results of the actual press itself that showed up in the news carousel and then the brand or ranch in question. And because of that connection being made by structured data, Google picks up on it and it ends up being a referral source for a ranch. It’s not digitally immature that otherwise wouldn’t have made an inroad into those type of competitive searches. So fascinating where it almost evens the playing field because the structured data at the end of the day is giving information to the search engines in a way that they prefer it. So that’s the leg up on people who are agnostic against it.
Martha: Ryan, you mentioned a little bit in there how the user experience is changing or “upended” My brain goes to how the metrics that we have traditionally measured to show success and search are also changing. Can you comment a little bit on that?
Ryan: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. So, the metrics are definitely changing. Speaking specifically to Google’s algorithm, there’s a lot of SEO and search that are out there. And in the past, you would try to chase that algorithm. Well, a couple of years ago, Google introduced RankBrain, a brand new algorithm. It is heavily influenced by what’s known as end user signals. So, you have your signals from the SERP, which are directional traffic signals. So, things like impressions and clicks and the other side of it clicks turn into visits. And then that visit has a set of behavioral metrics for what actually happens on that site. Now Google pays attention to this, most notably what’s referred to as ‘dwell time’. So, it’s kind of a derivative of time on site and bounce rate. It’s a little bit of a combination between the two. Ultimately, what they’re looking for, it’s if the user follows a whit follows a result to a page and then bounces or does not spend a lot of time on that page, bounces back in, how they would refine their query after that and, or the results they choose after pogo sticking back to the SERP goes into that end user signal there that Google is using, mmm, with what you can, you can understand it.
They refer to it as E-A-T. So, it’s the Expertise, Authority, and Trust and that’s really a manual review metrics. So, things that don’t pass the end user signals and this manual review element, they’re not preferred in the SERPs of today and tomorrow. And that’s a lot of what we’ve seen change related to kind of key metrics there. I would say related to structure data, the one that we go out after it is impressions. I mean, ultimately what we’re doing is creating rich data that Google understands to be unambiguous. Yeah. And they use that rich data throughout the SERP. So, every time a rich data element that’s linked to a domain or even not linked to a domain makes its way into that SERP, that’s a new metric that we can count up to signify kind of the impact of Google utilizing the structured data set within the results.
Martha: One of the things that I think often happens and as SEO is like things are changing so fast, like every week we see something new. What was new this week for you, Ryan?
Ryan: Well, I’m glad you asked, this was something that’s been on my mind since I saw it and it’s one of these things that that’s what I love about search so much is that still will slap you around from time to time is one of those good cherries that we were able to find looking through a Google search console report and a new feature set called DISCOVER. It is a performance based report and it’s essentially representative of a new hyper-personalized vertical. But, it’s not all inclusive. There are certain requirements that your content has to meet in order to gain inclusion into the Discover results set. Now, this mysterious result set being Discover is related directly to the Google assistant, the Google Now app, that’s on your phone. A lot of on it is kind of baked into chrome and baked into the Android devices.
When you go into that home screen, it’s like your personalized kind of launch page, Google. It’s also where you can activate your voice search for your assistant. In that homepage is I would say, powered directly to your taste and preferences. It knows where you parked. It knows where you live. It knows who are your favorite sports teams are and it knows what they’re playing and what the scores are. It knows when your doctor’s appointments are, it reads your Gmail and on and on and on. And it also shares new stories directly related to your search history. So, it’s not to say, you know, for one of our clients, I could be searching on them all day long and I do get a lot of news in my Discover vertical or by personalized kind of Google Now SERP. There’s a reason why they’re included in there. And it comes down to you know, almost splitting hairs with Google. They require an image that reaches a certain set of dimensions and that includes rich media like video results as well. So that thumbnail has to meet a certain guideline. So that’s the requirement for it to be included, so to speak. So, structured data, believe it or not, this particular client which was SERPing an article page where it was utilizing the article markup one of the entities that you mark up is associating the image to the page, thus, creating connections of context for the image. So now not only is Google aware of the image meetings are in dimensional requirements, but it also understands the context because of the content, which you were able to establish by association. So structured data in that way is the solvent, the blue, so to speak.
And ever since, we rolled out the structure data on that page, it was days later you’d see a spike in the discover reporting, within Google search console and you begin to wonder why did this start happening overnight? What can we correlate it to? It is directly correlated to structured data. And that’s just got me jumping out of my seat because that is just the beginning,
Martha: I love that you also think this is just the beginning. We love to say that structured data is a data channel with context? So Discover’s kind of an interesting case, a new channel, right? That’s curated for the user. We talked about like how metrics are changing and how you measure, what the impact is. And I always go to the point of asking, will people land on the website in the end or at some point will we have to look at new metrics for voice and other channels. Where do you see this going? If I were to say, “Ryan, what does a conversation we’re going to have in two, three, five years?” Any thoughts there?
Ryan: Yeah, I mean I get excited about the opportunity or application rather for structured data and the measurement related to it as it appeals to eCommerce sites. I think product attributes, having spent years building private feeds for Amazon and Ebay, and the marketplaces of the world it becomes very very tedious to separate and differentiate these product attributes. They’re constantly evolving, they’re constantly changing and sometimes they get lost in the clutter. A lot of our clients try to sell online with an ecommerce model and then also utilize the marketplaces. They’re selling the same products, they’re going head to head and there isn’t a differentiator when it comes to SERP. When it comes to the search rather and Amazon wins almost every time. And if they don’t win, Ebay wins and Walmart wins thereafter. So, it’s a really tough kind of space where being able to use structure data to kind of itemize product attributes to associate them to certain products, you can measure against that. This is the type of product level intelligence that I think is missing from traditional digital retail. They all love data. It’s just the data related to the register that seems to be most prevalent. I think alternatives to that is product knowledge that can be stemmed from how your products become relevant and visible in the search based on their attributes.
So it’s kind of another way to do a focus group or to ask for reviews. This is kind of the unexplicit or arbitrary way of getting at that data set and understanding more about your products. So, I know that sounds very specific but I feel like there’s a tremendous amount of potential in the ECOMMERCE space by understanding advanced analytics related to certain attributes or known entities, or certain products skews. Organizing a large ecommerce retail site is an absolute nightmare. And the product skew is that proxy yet it is very ambiguous. So, structured data and advanced analytics related to, is another end road into making page level and product level skews more tangible, better or more reasonable to interact with.
Yeah, we’re all over that. That’s where our excitement lies, in not just thinking structured data as a tactic, but as a strategy to enhance and structure other things like analytics. We’re almost out of time here. I can’t believe it. So much fun. Talk to me a little bit about how you stay on top of it all. What do you read? Who do you follow?
Ryan: Lately, I’ve been a little bit more network based in my knowledge. So, LinkedIn, I spend a lot of time in, I was able to build a very strong network of known influencers within the space. People that I’ve already passed the mustard with and they end up writing more of the real. That’s where I get a little bit more of the business to search. You know, tactically this stuff changes. A lot of stuff gets old very quick. I find a lot of the traditional search publications to be a little bit one on one. If you will, I have, you know, SEO by the Sea is a really good read. Barry Schwartz, very good. He goes out and chase patents and that’s where you really kind of find it early on, where you can get a leg up as a first mover.
Usually as things changed with Google, you see an impact if you can act on something before the rest of the gamit does. So yeah, LinkedIn, but the other one that may surprise you is Instagram, Instagram TV.
Instagram TV is a big time suck for me, but a good one. Gary Vaynerchuk runs a very, very good channel. Obviously that medium lends very well to him. He’s not a tech space guy and he is an in your face guy. Instagram TVD power, those feeds sometimes I spend 20 minutes on one. TED talk through there as well. It’s definitely a game changer, it’s where I’m spending my time otherwise and it ends up being mutually beneficial to both of my work function and my personal interest. So yeah, Instagram does at all. Finally if you want to find me, locating me on the gram itself. So, @ryanstryin, that’s my personal feed. No real theme to it, but that’s where I spend my time. It’s where you can contact me on Linkedin as well, by my name and yeah, I’m really, really good news resources. They got me for a good four to five hours a day.
Martha: Amazing. Thank you so much, Ryan, for taking time out of your busy day and sharing some of these insights. We’ll get this posted on our Connecting the Digital Dots podcast and sharing it with the community. Again, thank you so much and have a super day.
Ryan: You too. Thanks Martha.