Bullhorns & Bullseyes Podcast

Advanced SEO

Guest: Nick Swan
May 14, 2024
Play Video about Nick Swan

Episode 24

Curtis and Tom interview Nick Swan, the founder of ⁠SEOtesting.com⁠, about the state of SEO in 2024 and the importance of tracking and analyzing website user data. They discuss the recent algorithm updates by Google, the impact of helpful content on search rankings, and the potential changes in the search engine results page (SERP).

Nick explains how ⁠SEOtesting.com⁠ helps SEO professionals automate data collection, track changes, and measure the impact of their SEO efforts. Curtis and Tom discuss their experiences with SEO testing and the impact it has had on their clients’ websites. They share examples of successful SEO tests, such as improving website speed and optimizing page titles and meta descriptions. They also discuss the importance of human involvement in content creation and the potential future of search engine results.


  • Algorithm updates by Google can significantly impact search rankings, and it is important for SEO professionals to stay on top of these changes.
  • The preference for helpful content in search rankings has been observed, and SEO professionals should focus on creating valuable and informative content.⁠
  • SEOtesting.com⁠ provides a comprehensive tool for tracking and analyzing SEO data, including accurate data from Google Search Console.
  • The tool allows users to monitor trends, compare benchmarks, and run experiments to improve search rankings and demonstrate the impact of their SEO efforts.
  • SEO testing can have a significant impact on website performance and organic traffic.Improving website speed and server response time can lead to increased impressions and traffic.
  • Optimizing page titles and meta descriptions can improve search engine rankings and click-through rates.
  • Human involvement in content creation is essential for creating engaging and relevant content.
  • The future of search engine results may involve AI-generated answers and changes in search behavior.

SEOTesting.com: ⁠https://seotesting.com⁠

Connect with Nick on LinkedIn: ⁠https://www.linkedin.com/in/nickswan/⁠

Tom Nixon (00:03.315)
Okay, Curtis, are you ready to start the podcast?

Curtis Hays (00:07.282)
I’m ready to start. Yeah.

Tom Nixon (00:08.651)
Okay. You complained last week that I was doing too many cold opens and you weren’t ready for it. So I just want to make sure you’re ready.

Curtis Hays (00:15.142)
I got to be on my toes with these opens and you, uh, but yeah, today’s going to be a really exciting episode. It’s the, uh, the most asked for a topic when I surveyed, uh, our followers on LinkedIn. So.

Tom Nixon (00:18.367)

Tom Nixon (00:28.067)
That’s right. Yeah, you put out a little poll and you ask people what they wanted to hear about and today’s topic was at far and away the preferred topic of choice. Cool.

Curtis Hays (00:36.138)
Far and away, yep. Surprising, I was a little surprised by the results, but we’ve got quite the expert, I think great expert to bring in today.

Tom Nixon (00:45.195)
Yeah, I’m going to let you introduce him because I can’t even spell SEO. So I want you to take us a guide us in here. So for people who don’t know what SEO is actually, uh, cause I do get that question from time to time search engine optimization.

Curtis Hays (00:57.106)
Is this the, yeah, this is not an episode where we’re going to explain what SEO is. I’m hoping our audience, uh, either, either pause now and go do a little bit of research and come back and listen. But, uh, no. So actually, uh, just speaking of learning SEO, uh, Nick Swan, um, is the founder of SEO testing.com. I met Nick, I think it was 2017, 2018, taking a Brian Dean.

Tom Nixon (01:04.071)
Okay, I think I just did.

Tom Nixon (01:11.661)

Curtis Hays (01:26.798)
Uh, SEO course, Brian Dean, I would probably say is one of the top 10 personalities, uh, if we want to call them personalities and sort of the SEO space. And, um, we took his course to learn how he was approaching SEO. Definitely one of the experts in the, in the space. And, uh, we, I think we had a little Facebook group, private group of all the people that were taking the course and met Nick and I think, uh, Nick was in the process of kind of working through some thoughts and ideas he had with.

data collection and those types of things and how we could better use Google search console to make better decisions with our websites. And the, uh, he came up with SEO testing. I think I was one of the first beta testers. So it’s really exciting to bring Nick in on this, uh, podcast about SEO. Nick, welcome.

Nick Swan (02:16.174)
Thank you very much for asking me on guys. It’s, I feel a bit of pressure as SEO is the most requested topic. We’ll try and do a good job on the podcast today, but yeah, thanks for inviting me on.

Tom Nixon (02:26.255)
don’t worry, you are the expert in the room. So, as long as the room stays, the three of us, you’re the leading authority. Tell us a little bit about SEO testing, what you do and what the company does, beyond what Curtis just described.

Nick Swan (02:38.818)
Yeah, well, Curtis has got a good memory, actually, a very good in terms of remembering how we met. And it’s interesting thinking back to then. So I’ve been doing SEO since 1998. So this was pre-Google days, backing out of Vista, all that kind of stuff. But it’s interesting, Curtis, that we met on someone else’s course about SEO. And it kind of shows that SEO is always changing. And although I’ve been doing SEO for such a long time already, I’m still investing in courses and learning and all that kind of stuff. And I’m sure we’ll get on to

how much it’s changing directly at the moment as well. So yeah, I’m based in England, live in a small seaside town called Bud. Got three kids, dog, wife. We moved down here about six years ago to live by the sea. Like probably most of the people on who listen to podcasts, as long as I’ve got an internet connection, I can work quite happily on my computer. And so yeah, we’ve lived down by the sea and it’s a great life down here, really love it.

In terms of work stuff, I got into SEO kind of accidentally really. So I’ve had an older, I’ve got an older brother who’s 10 years older than me. Um, and he, so I’ve always had a computer around the house when I was growing up. I kind of, uh, 10 years old at school and all that kind of stuff, hacking around, joining computers together via ethernet cables and stuff. Um, and just as I was going off to university, he, um, he has his own business or had his own business at a time selling car parts, remanufactured car parts, and he was like,

Well, if you build me a website, I’ll pay for your accommodation while you’re at university. And I was like, this sounds like a great deal. After I built the website for him and so on, he was like, well, can you get me to write into Alta Vista and can you get the emails and phone, phone calls coming in and all that kind of stuff. And so while I was going through learning, learning the more formal side of computing and software engineer, and I was also kind of learning internet marketing as well. And hacking around and keyword stuffing and.

It was a lot easier to build links in those days. I tell you, cause literally anybody you would ask for a link with a, would reply in, in the nineties and say, yeah, no problem. I’ll add you to my blog role and my list and all that kind of stuff. Um, so yeah, so that’s kind of how I got into, um, kind of internet marketing SEO side of things. Um, had done various other bits and pieces consulting, uh, working for the people, um, but then back in 2013, 14, I guess.

Tom Nixon (04:39.995)
Oh, it’s a hot roll. Wow.

Nick Swan (04:58.518)
I was kind of running a coupons site. So we call them voucher codes in the UK, but coupons in the US. It was almost as much as a fun project just to see, cause it’s really competitive rank inside of things. It was almost a fun project to see if we could kind of crack into it. And we made some good progress, but I was doing lots of testing around page titles, meta descriptions, trying to improve click-through rate from the search results and so on. Manual looking up data.

from Google Search Console and tracking the results in a spreadsheet. And I was kind of thinking there must be a better way of doing this rather than looking at all that manually every day. And so from the software engineering background, I was like, well, there’s an API. Let’s hack together a tool, archive some data from Search Console because that wasn’t much available at the time. And kind of like it started off as a free tool just sharing with Curtis and other people in Facebook groups I was in. And kind of everyone gave some positive feedback.

and it’s kind of taken on a life of its own then and become its own tool and own business. So quite a long intro, but hopefully that gives you a taster.

Tom Nixon (06:00.727)
Yeah, I’m having flashbacks though. Alta Vista blog roles. I mean, these are things that I remember when I was a younger man. So let’s fast forward past the 90s into 2024 something Curtis and I have been keeping an eye on are the updates Google like there was this concurrent update with LinkedIn and Google in layman’s terms showing a preference for helpful content, which was music to my ears as a content creator.

But what else or do you want to expand on that in the state of SEO in 2024? What’s moving? I know things are moving really quickly, but is there a significant sea change that you have seen happen in the I don’t know past two, three months, six months?

Nick Swan (06:43.818)
Well, there’s been lots of, there is an algorithm update still rolling out at the moment. I think I don’t think it’s been confirmed from Google yet that it’s finished as we talk on the 10th of April. So there’s a big algorithm update that’s been rolling out across March that affects kind of, there’s different algorithms going on in the background in Google at the same time. Usually, for examples, around links, around content, around other factors, all that kind of stuff. Quite often they’ll update one of those algorithms at a time.

whether it will be looking for spam content, looking for spam links and so on. This particular time in March, they decided to roll out multiple algorithm updates at the same time. So first of all, it’s difficult for people to pinpoint perhaps which algorithm has affected them if they’ve dropped in the search results. But yeah, there’s a lot of movement in the search results right now in terms of, we can get into the type of content that perhaps is being more effective than others if you want to.

But there are other sites that are obviously doing well, perhaps like Reddit and LinkedIn, as you’ve alluded to, that are seeing short-term gains right now. Whether those gains will still stick around, we’ll find out. But yeah, certainly lots of movements from algorithm updates. And then also around chat GPT and AI and how that’s gonna affect all the search results, how Google are gonna kind of come out with their version of search generative experience, whether we’ll still have.

10 blue links on the page as people are questioning. There’s certainly a lot of changes and things happening in search right now. I think there’s a lot of doubt and worry from people that things are gonna happen really, really quickly and there’s gonna be a big change. I think there will be a big change, but I don’t think it’ll be as quickly as people are quite expecting. It’s kind of my quick summary we can dig into.

Curtis Hays (08:31.626)
Yeah, we’ve, we’ve seen a lot of change, um, with some specific websites. And I would say more so the bigger sites have significantly seen changes. And, um, with a few it’s, it’s been detrimental to traffic because where you might have two or three blog posts that currently have a number one position and just get dropped like two or three spots because they lose a featured snippet or something like that. I mean, it could be hundreds of, of users per day.

And it’s just one of those things that you have to stay on top of if you’re in this world of, of SEO, because, uh, Google can change something overnight. If it’s an algorithm update, or they change how they present, uh, the information on the search engine result page, which we would call the SERP. Uh, so let’s say they remove featured snippets for something. Now all of a sudden you just lost, uh, and you can’t get it back because they’ve reviewed, removed that snippet from search results. Um.

So yeah, it’s just something you really have to stay on top of. And the beauty of your tool that I love, Nick, is it allows us to do that. It allows us to monitor specific pages or specific keywords and then add to that changes that you’re making so that you, you can, you can go back into a change history and say, Oh, well on February 22nd, we updated our menu navigation. So what changed did that update to the menu navigation?

Make to the website. You could, you could track and measure the entire site, specific pages, groups of pages, specific keywords. I mean, it’s it, as, as things rapidly evolve, the requirements to have tools like this are so important. Um, and then you keep an archive. Like how long are you keeping data, Nick? Because a Google only keeps data for 16 months. Correct.

Nick Swan (10:24.822)
That’s right, yeah. So in terms of search console itself, it only keeps, it allows you access to 16 months worth of data. So for the site overall, we archive data on a daily basis. So as soon as you start using our tool, we’ll have 16 months plus a day plus two days and so on as you go on and on. When you’re looking at individual pages and queries, we use the API live then, so we’re limited to 16 months too as well. But when you’ve got content groups running or tests and so on, the data is archived from that point of view.

Curtis Hays (10:53.482)
And when you got into this, it wasn’t 16 months. Google search console, Google data was less. If I remember right, like six, seven years ago.

Nick Swan (10:59.586)
That’s right. Yeah. So it was only, yeah, back 2017, it was only three months worth of data available. And that was really part of the reason for building the tool initially was to just archive data to make it available to people. And then when I had the data in a database, that was like the point of saying, well, actually, I can do some interesting stuff with this data now in terms of pre-built reports, the testing side of things.

Curtis Hays (11:04.127)
Yeah, three months.

Nick Swan (11:23.39)
Yeah, so it’s really come out of like building stuff out of my own need as much as anything. And then other people have found it useful too.

Curtis Hays (11:30.502)
And then as far as these algorithm updates, you guys actually keep track of those and then annotate those on the dashboards for your clients as well. So you don’t have to go and be like, oh, there was an algorithm update March 5th. And try to keep up with that or make mental note of it or, or put it in a spreadsheet somewhere, you guys actually draw that line on the graphs within, within the reporting dashboard. So, you know, when there was an algorithm update, you could go and research it, figure out what happened. But also the ability to.

Look at how that may be affected your website, right?

Nick Swan (12:03.402)
Yeah, so we annotate algorithm updates, as you say. Just a really nice thing that we do in the tool is just aggregate the data by week and by month as well. So the daily plots in Search Console, it kind of zigzags around and stuff, it makes it a lot harder to spot trends. But when you’re looking at your website data on a week, aggregated week basis or month basis, it makes it so much easier to see whether there has been a big drop or a drop or whatever.

Curtis Hays (12:13.099)

Nick Swan (12:28.794)
But then from the point of annotating the algorithm updates, you can then click on the algorithm update and we preload the data for you a week before the algorithm update and a week after. Now with month long algorithm update rollouts like the last one, you might have to move the dates around a bit to exactly when your website has been affected.

But with that comparison report, you can quickly be able to see then which pages have gone up. If the algorithm update has positively affected you, which hopefully it does for some people, but most people are scared or worried about algorithm updates. And so you can quickly see which pages have been negatively affected and which ones have dropped. Then you can start to dig into what, if there’s any patterns on those pages that have dropped, but then also on an individual page basis, which queries have been affected and start to dig into those. So you can start to then do your…

Curtis Hays (12:54.54)

Nick Swan (13:14.014)
research you were mentioning in terms of have you dropped three places? Did you have a rich snippet that has perhaps gone away or been given to someone else now or a featured snippet? Sorry. So it is kind of really digging into the data or giving you the ability to dig into the data to find out what has happened and what you can do about it.

Curtis Hays (13:32.054)
So yeah, Tom, I think this is key because it’s like, Google keeps changing stuff on us, as we’ve seen with LinkedIn’s changing stuff on us, you know, all these platforms, so the ability to kind of, you know, keep track of what’s happening with your website and how you’re being affected by these changes is really critical, whether you’re using SEO testing or, you know, some other tools, or you’re just inside of Google Search Console trying to keep track of stuff. Because we don’t know what’s coming, but we know historically, changes, you know.

Tom Nixon (13:57.367)

Curtis Hays (14:01.782)
Change is going to happen. Change is expected. So there’s going to be a change at some point.

Tom Nixon (14:06.591)
Yeah. When Nick said we might finally move away from the ten blue links on a page, I was like, that’d be a huge sea change. Probably a good one. Who knows? We’ll see. I can see why people are afraid of it though, especially SEOs like yourself. So, Nick, I’m assuming that most of your users are people like Curtis who are fairly knowledgeable about SEO and they wanna get super granular with the data. Is that right?

Nick Swan (14:30.698)
Yeah, so we target kind of, I’d say SEO professionals. So it’s people who are spending the majority of their day thinking about SEO. Um, and we’ve kind of, we’ve really given, I guess, perhaps a new name to what, what people have been doing for decades anyway. So we call it SEO testing. Um, but really kind of search engine optimization is what people have been doing for, for 20 odd years and what they’re continuing to do now. So they would make a change to a page or the site and then generally historically.

you’d use something like a rank tracker to see whether your ranking has improved for that page and the keyword you’re targeting or whether it goes down and kind of refine the strategy from there. What we do and why we kind of call it SEO testing is that we can automate the collection of the data for you but we can also provide you lots more data points as well so rather than just looking at the rank of a page we can show you the number of clicks you’ve got before and after a change we can show you the impressions you’ve got in the search results before and after.

click-through rate, and then also average position, and also the number of unique queries that a page has started to rank for as well. And so from our time-based testing, we show you that before the change was made compared to after the change was made, so you can see if it’s been a positive one. We used to say to people when I was doing demos, we’d say, well, if the change hasn’t been positive, you can then roll that change back. But actually from speaking to our customers, what people more do is they iterate. So if they see a drop rather than…

Because as SEOs, it’s all an experiment. And we don’t necessarily know what’s, we have ideas and best practices and so on, but you never know exactly how a change to a page is gonna work out. So, but then rather than rolling back a change, people generally, if they see a drop, they’ll iterate and try and improve it again, improve it again, and so on and so forth, until they see the positive result that they’re kind of after.

Tom Nixon (16:18.459)
Yeah, Curtis. I’m going to ask you both a question. I want Curtis to go first and then Nick, you have a chance to clean sweep whatever Curtis leaves out. If there’s one tool that another SEO professional like yours, or like you doesn’t know that exists within SEO testing that you rely on like maybe a new feature or something that you think is kind of the coolest and most useful. Can you think of one that would really perk the ears up of a colleague of yours?

Curtis Hays (16:44.026)
I only can use one, I can only mention one.

Tom Nixon (16:47.056)
You can mention one and then Nick will mention another.

Curtis Hays (16:49.478)
Okay. Well, I would say the most important thing to point out, um, other than the fact that you have this whole change history and you can log all the changes you’re doing is that the data you’re collecting is from Google search console. So a lot of these other tools you would use, I would classify as more of like competitive research tools. So you have like an Ahrefs or an SEM rush that they’re doing their own.

Uh, sort of search results themselves, and then querying what Google’s showing in the search result to show your average position or maybe expected clicks. But it’s all hypothesized. And I would say in many cases, um, that data could be 40 to 60% off where you might look up a keyword that you have and it says, Oh, you’re, you’re expected impressions for that keyword is 1200 a month, but in reality, you go into your account and you’re getting.

3000 impressions. So the, the beauty from my perspective, using the tools like Nix is it’s pulling that data directly from Google. So it’s from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, you know, it’s accurate. And so now you can take action from accurate data. I would use the SEM rushes or the AHRFs to now sort of compare benchmark to competitors.

So I think, I think that’s one of the biggest things. And again, when we got into this, I, uh, and Nick showed me the tool. It was like so brilliant because we used to only have three months worth of data. So I was exporting spreadsheets to be like, well, I want to show year over year progress. So let’s export January. And then the next January we’d do an export and now I could have that comparison, but otherwise Google never gave you that data. So just simply by Nick having the tool at that time, I was like, well, now I have seasonality.

I could actually show seasonality to my clients. And I used it initially more as like a reporting tool, but it, yeah, it does way much more than that. So you probably have the data from all the users, Nick. What is, what’s the question, Tom? What’s, what’s the best feature sort of out of the tool?

Tom Nixon (19:05.506)
you know, a feature or feature to Nick this way, something yourself like you have been but wildly applicable to other

Nick Swan (19:15.322)
Yeah, so I will say as well that all the stuff that myself and Curtis are talking about, the features in SEO testing, the data is available in Search Console for free. So you don’t have to make use of SEO testing. I don’t want this to be like a product podcast type thing. You can get all the data out of Google Search Console for free. It takes more clicking around and is more time consuming. And that’s kind of where our focus is in terms of automating it and saving you time. But yeah, the data is there for free in Search Console if you want to make use of it.

In terms of, I guess, I don’t want to be a bit of a cliche, but the SEO test inside is probably the main feature that I would pull out, but perhaps not for the reasons that I built it for initially. And this is an interesting thing where it comes to speaking to our customers about how they’re making use of the tool. And so the SEO test inside of things of it was like wanting to run experiments and seeing how a page did before you made a change compared to how a page has done after it.

It was from a running experiment type of scenario that I built that bit of the tool for. So I wanted to figure out what worked and then potentially roll out to other pages. The way that a lot of our customers actually use the tool is they’re gonna be making changes to pages anyway, such as updating content, adding more images, that kind of thing, because they’re gonna improve the pages from a user perspective, but they want to measure how those changes are impacting search.

and their search results. So it’s more of an impact analysis type thing rather than an experimental side of things. Because I don’t know whether Curtis will agree as well. Having done lots of different types of SEO from either our own products and doing client and consultant and so on. I know a lot of SEOs don’t feel they get the recognition and perhaps love they deserve for the work that they do.

Curtis Hays (21:06.261)

Nick Swan (21:06.326)
Part of that is because sometimes SEO is a longer term play. With Google Ads, you can turn them on and you’ll start to see results within a day or two. With SEO, you need to roll out changes, publish content, build links if you’re gonna be building links, all that kind of stuff. It can sometimes take a couple of weeks, a few months to see positive results and so on. But we’re using our tool and using the SEO testing side of things, being able to measure those results. And even if they do take a week or a month to come through,

having those reports pre-built out and the test results pre-built out for you and the graphs to show to management and stakeholders and so on. These are the results that we’ve got from the work that we’ve done. I’ve had lots of good conversations with our customers that’s the way they’re using the tool. And so they’re able to show the work, the positive results they bought in so they can get bigger budgets for more work. They can run pilots of only changing a small group of pages and showing the positive results that they get for it.

And then again, getting bigger projects and buying for bigger pieces of work and things like that. So the experimental side of things is good from SEO testing, but then there’s also the showing the impact of your work side of things, which has been quite surprising to me.

Curtis Hays (22:17.206)
Can I testify to this real quick, Tom?

Tom Nixon (22:19.395)
testifying. We should before you do too much testifying, we should point out that this is not in any way a paid promotion for SEO testing. This is completely organic, natural. We are fans and users. Well, I see you’re wearing your Insight jacket too. You’re trying to get them as a paid sponsor, but that’s not working. Teasing, of course. Yeah, go ahead. Testify, brother.

Curtis Hays (22:24.691)

Nick Swan (22:24.727)
Thank you.

Curtis Hays (22:28.342)
We should have maybe talked about that though. Yeah.

Curtis Hays (22:39.07)
Yeah. So, uh, okay. I have one client, large website year ago, a little over a year ago. We’re not happy with their current host had some issues. We presented a proposal. So this wasn’t even really SEO. Those SEO kind of on the back end and down the road, but said, Hey, look, we think there are issues with your host. You’ve got a slow server, slow response time. Time to first bite was really low.

Let’s get you on a premium hosting provider with an at the edge caching solution. Let’s fix a couple of issues inside of WordPress. Let’s remove the caching plugins that were, we felt like we’re really bloating and not helping and, uh, We migrated the site. We had, you know, the date, the site migrated and then a three month time period, and I mean, impressions skyrocketed. I think they went from, uh, somewhere around.

800,000 or 900,000 impressions in a month to something like, uh, 1.5 million or 1.6 million, their, their traffic increased as well. I mean, it just showed that from a whole site perspective, Google appreciated. And put value on the faster speed that the server and the site was responding at. Right. Um, so that’s a, that’s sort of big picture example. So I was able to take to that client.

Literally screenshots out of SEO testing that said, Hey, look, this was before the migration, this was after the migration. It looks like the migration worked. Now you layer that on with Google analytics data, like are users more engaged on the website or they’re spending more time on the website because that’s a better experience. The second example you and I just did together, Tom. So I saw a video. A line about how people were using. Uh,

chat GPT to provide ideas on how to get the featured snippet position. So basically, if you had a top ten ranking, in our case, we had a website with a page and a specific keyword that was ranking about fourth. That competitor website was getting the featured snippet at the top. A featured snippet is basically where Google shows the answer to a question right in the search result.

Curtis Hays (25:03.23)
You don’t have to have the number one ranking per se to get that feature snippet. Google is basically just saying you have the best answer to this question. So I’m going to show it in the search result. So we did some prompts to chat GPT and then I gave those prompts to Tom and said, Hey, you, and cause you’re the writer, you’re the good communicator. You take this information that chat GPT gave and rewrite.

the snippet for this article, which was basically just the intro to the article. We moved the answer to the top. We gave a clear answer and we created a test and SEO testing in the first week. Our ranking went down. I think we went to like a position of 12. And then I got an alert, uh, from a different tool, but I got an alert this last Saturday morning that we had the number one position and.

We now still since Saturday, what’s today? Today’s Wednesday. We still have that featured snippet. So it did take about a week, but now we went from like one click per day to eight clicks is what we’re getting on that one article. It was all because of you. So that goes back to Nick’s point.

Tom Nixon (26:08.539)
you’re saying it was all because of the way I wrote the page. Yeah, thank you. Alright, good. Well, as usual though, I should, I should point out though that chat GPT just because you brought that up is a useful tool to sort of get some things going but the end products only usually 30% of the way towards good. Right.

Curtis Hays (26:24.71)
Right. So, so we basically used it to say, here’s the competitor snippet. What do you see they’re doing? That’s potentially better than us. Like what are we potentially missing out of our answer? And then allow you to write that in a, in a natural way that also meets our audience where we think they’re at. So you’re writing it specifically for our audience, which should then, you know, get a better engagement. It’s relevant, all those types of things. So I do think.

At least in our case, we always want to have a human involved in that content side, but you know, I think you’re dead on there, Nick, that it’s like, I want to show whether or not what we’re doing is working or not and show value to the client, right? And that’s, that’s difficult to do sometimes with some of these tools. And, uh, I certainly appreciate the new monthly reports, which is great, which you can compare.

The last month to the previous month, plus compare month over month. And that’s just not overall. It also listing out your top pages, your top keywords. And so, um, it really is then just in a quick snapshot show the progress. Hey, we did all these things. I actually have the client who did really well with the server change last year. They’ve now been doing a technical audit of the website over the last two months.

Ran screaming frog against it, looked for spelling mistakes, any broken links, like all these things since that time. They’re actually declining. Like all of these technical fixes aren’t necessarily helping from an SEO perspective. It was just kind of interesting to see that like Google likely is just ignoring those things and overlooking them sort of, sort of speak that sometimes those technical fixes don’t have as big of an impact as they maybe did 10 years ago. I don’t know.

We can theorize. Yeah.

Tom Nixon (28:18.227)
Back in the days of Alta Vista and Excite and yeah, I still ask G’s from time to time by the way Nick are there other examples that either you know firsthand or you’ve heard from users and clients like success stories like Curtis just shared Make using your tool to test something hypothesize fix and then the end result was exactly what they were looking to do

Curtis Hays (28:24.898)

Nick Swan (28:40.758)
Yeah, I did some research. We’ve got some good case studies on our site. We kind of just published recently, actually, we’ve been making a big push for getting customer case studies. But I had a look through a presentation I did actually a little while ago about some kind of positives and negatives or common things or themes that we see that people are doing that bring about positive results. So a few of these, I thought I’d bring up a mention and Curtis can see whether he’s seen the same kind of things. With some of the testing that we’ve seen,

Page title meta description testing is a common thing that people test across or with our tool And interestingly, I’m sure you both know about Google rewriting page titles quite a lot and it getting perhaps more common We found that a common test that people do that get positive results around are and I’ve got a theory to get back up Go alongside this

more shorter and simpler page titles see a common result of leading to positive results and my theory around this is that if you use a shorter really specific page title, Google is more likely to rewrite it which actually as we’ve seen in testing brings around more positive results

Whereas if you use a longer page title that’s got more longer tail keywords in and is more specific, Google doesn’t rewrite that. Whereas if you’re using kind of more head keywords in your thing, Google will rewrite it for more general search terms.

Curtis Hays (30:06.242)
I didn’t tell you this morning, Tom, but that article you gave me to publish. Just this morning, I rewrote that title, cuz it was too long. It was a super long title. So I, I did make it shorter and made it, I think, under 60 characters. So we’ll, we’ll see. We’ll, we’ll see, we’ll see how well that does, but yeah.

Tom Nixon (30:06.523)
That’s interesting.

Tom Nixon (30:12.716)

Tom Nixon (30:24.523)
Yeah. That’s I mean, that’s where you need to strike and we need to strike SEOs and writers a balance between the human audience and what’s going to maybe appeal to an eyeball somewhere online. So, that sounds interesting and then what’s going to appeal to the search engine algorithms that run our lives and we’ll take over the world someday. So, speaking of which, we’re almost what’s that?

Nick Swan (30:47.562)
I’ve got some more for you Tom, if you want some more. I got some more interesting case studies, if you want some more. Okay, so these are specific SEO things as well. So shorter page titles as well, but longer H1s, we found often bring around positive results. So I think that perhaps tie in together. So a shorter page title, but then a longer H1 included in terms of like perhaps including a secondary or third keyword that you’re targeting in the H1.

Tom Nixon (30:53.875)
Yeah, lay it on us before we have to wrap up here.

Tom Nixon (31:16.507)
So, you didn’t mess with my H1, did you, Curtis? Because that was brilliant. Yeah.

Curtis Hays (31:18.462)
No, and that one is, and it’s long. So like I left that alone. So without even realizing it, I’m following Nick’s advice here. So this is pretty cool. We’ll see how this article does.

Nick Swan (31:24.406)
There you go. Exactly. Yeah. We’ve, um, I’m sure most of the people who are watching the podcast come across this one because it’s tweeted out on the 1st of January every year, but around our Adam years to articles around, especially if they’re review type articles. So this is perhaps around niche sites. So add in 2024 or the month, January, 2024 to indicate freshness, but to kind of

Tom Nixon (31:24.683)
Yeah. Okay. Yeah.

Tom Nixon (31:48.567)
Real quick. Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt. I was just going to say from a just a novice user when I’m doing searches, I’m always including the date on things like that because I don’t want to read like the I a review for an iPod or an iPhone seven, right? So, sometimes you get really old results. Anyways, so go ahead.

Nick Swan (32:02.209)

Yeah, I was gonna say to kind of go alongside this. So if you have got some content that was written, say in 2021, and it has the year 2021 in it, but you’re not gonna update it for 2024, just take the year out because having that year in the page title or meta description or H1 is kind of dating it for you. So by removing it, we’ve seen some customers have had some big results improvements in terms of, not putting people off clicking on it in the SERPs cause they think it’s older than it actually, than it is.

Curtis Hays (32:35.786)
Yeah. So w and we’ve actually, when we auto populate date now we’ve had blogs and I’ve got another blog that does really well there at about 50,000 visitors per month, um, in the healthcare space. And we switched and probably saw 25% boost when we did this is we switched from having the published date on the articles to the updated date, latest update date, and then that, and we can control the updated date.

Tom Nixon (32:36.258)

Curtis Hays (33:05.682)
And WordPress, and we are frequently updating the articles. So don’t have the original date of when it was published. And that, that date is the actual like calendar date that shows underneath. The H one, we have the breadcrumbs there and the author information. And then it was like, you know, published on and said, we got rid of that. And now we have like last updated and the date. And so the reader sees that right away. Google’s picking up that date. That that’s actually the date that is in the header.

Of the, the HTML. And again, you know, whether or not, uh, this was a direct contributor, but like I mentioned, you know, 25% increase since making that change, um, in traffic to the website appears to be working. And then we’re revisiting articles too. It’s another report you have Nick that I use quite frequently is called a content decay report where you see the content that’s falling off a SERP. So over time it’s been losing.

position and therefore losing traffic. And then you’re like, okay, well, this is one I need to address because we used to get 500 clicks a month and now we’re only getting 200. If we just simply went and added a sentence to this article and changed the date, you might come back up a couple of positions and start to get some of that traffic back. It doesn’t have to be major overhauls sometimes to these articles. So those are great examples.

Tom Nixon (34:25.771)
Yeah. You got one last one. Yeah.

Nick Swan (34:26.25)
I got a couple more for you. Internal links, whenever we’ve done internal linking and seen internal linking done as a test, it always brings about good results. And the last one I mentioned is video content. So we have made a big effort for the past, probably 12, 18 months, and for all our blog posts that are performing well of creating a video to go alongside them and embedding that video in the blog post. And that has always led to positive results as well

of the page itself performing better, but then also the video doing, you know, publishing on another platform as in YouTube and getting people visibility from that too, which has been good.

Tom Nixon (35:08.795)
those are great ideas. I mean the LinkedIn or internal links is like one of the easiest things you can do. I know because I do it when I write my blog post. I’m like, well, I just wrote about this and I just mentioned it. So, I’m gonna put a link right in the Google Docs. So, people like Curtis don’t even have to think about it. So, make sure you’re doing that and then video is interesting, Curtis because we’re emphasizing video just from

Curtis Hays (35:26.037)

Tom Nixon (35:29.727)
again the human side of things. It’s more immersive. It shows off more personality. There’s longer dwell times. So interesting stuff. Alright, before we let you go. So you mentioned you looked into your crystal ball at the beginning of this podcast and you said you can imagine it a day and time without the ten blue links and we’re just getting who knows what but AI again will just tell us the answer. Anything else you said that might take a little longer than people are fearing or expecting. Anything else that you are seeing on the shorter term horizon, Nick?

Nick Swan (35:59.714)
Well, that’s a good question. I guess things I’m concerned about or interested about are algorithm updates, as we kind of discussed, and it is AI type stuff at the moment. And so I guess just to kind of perhaps

explain a bit more why I think it will be slower to come along than perhaps, you know, the doom mongers, doom mongers, or a saying in terms of SEO is going to go away or life is going to change completely. I think Google’s business model is one in terms of they make the majority of their money from advertising and AdWords and things like that. So they are not going to want to change the search engine result pages massively. And all of a sudden all that revenue disappears. So they’re going to need time to iterate on their business

you know, so generative experience affects that. But also from what I’ve read, it’s a lot more expensive for, you know, the computing and compute power to generate these SG answers for people compared to search results, which when you’re looking at just one particular answer, is, you know, decimals of a cent.

But when you roll that up to how many search queries are run per hour and per day and so on, you know, those costs compared to just showing us 10 blue links scale up quite quickly. So until that becomes a more affordable thing for Google to be able to do, I think that’s why, again, why it’s perhaps a longer term thing to be interested and worried about than thinking away at, my business is going to go away overnight. I guess I put it back to you two. It’d be interesting to get your take on it and see how you think.

how quickly things are gonna change and how things are gonna change.

Tom Nixon (37:38.747)
you the lay person’s response and then Curtis you can wrap up with a more technical view of things but what you just described I think it’s gonna be so interesting to watch Dick because on the one hand Google needs to protect its revenue model

On the other hand, somebody is going to try to come along and displace Google, which we thought was never possible at one time, by just giving you the answer, right? I don’t want 10 blue links, I just want the answer. And I want the algorithms to find the right answer to it and deliver it to me. This is the way we’re just conditioning our lives, right? Everything’s on demand. I don’t have to wait till eight o’clock on Tuesday to watch Happy Days. I just go binge the whole series. Everything is like, gimme, gimme. So Google is smart. But they are.

up against I think a pretty interesting challenge because there’s going to be people who are going to try to change search behavior online. Maybe it’ll be Google, maybe it’ll be somebody else. Curtis, what do you think?

Curtis Hays (38:29.602)
Yeah, I’m seeing this already start to happen with my kids where they’re not, first of all, they didn’t like Google to begin with. Both my girls use DuckDuckGo. I don’t know if they just thought Google was kind of big brother. I kind of told them, you know, even as an SEO, stay off, right? So they’ve always been in private browsing and used DuckDuckGo. But now they’ve moved towards, when they have questions for things, they’ve moved to ChatGPT.

The issue has been, and this is what I’ve understood in some of the research that I’ve done is, CHET, GPT, or these like machine learning programs have, or I should call them language learning models, right? They have been taught or programmed to give an answer no matter what. They won’t come back and ever tell you, I don’t have the answer to that question kind of a thing. And even Google will always give you search results. It’s…

Never going to not, but at least you could evaluate in Google, which answer you would take as sort of truth. I mean, you had options and you could, you could compare and contrast maybe the options and you know, whether it’s on the page or you click in, read the article, click back, read a different article, you got different perspectives. You got to be really careful about. Take it, say you, you know, put a question into chat GPT, taking that as a grain of salt.

Um, and it, uh, don’t take it as truth. And my girls have experimented with this and asked it questions, math questions, you know, they’re doing, they’re in algebra now or other kind of history questions and those, and it’s actually come back with wrong answers. Chat GPT has, I mean, it’s told them the wrong formulas and all of these other things, so I think that will eventually improve, but you’re certainly right. That Google, you’re going to see this behavior towards people using

these language learning models to ask their questions and get responses. And, and, uh, what happens to the search engine result page at that time? And do we end up with ads within these programs or we’re going to have to pay for them, you know what I mean? Cause it, cause they’re going to have to make money somehow.

Tom Nixon (40:41.336)

Tom Nixon (40:45.063)
I even noticed myself as we wrap up here. Like I’ve taken to just asking Siri because I don’t want to. I don’t want to. First of all, I don’t want to type if I’m on my phone. Then I don’t want to like look at the links and do the evaluation. I asked Siri and the problem is Siri sucks at that right now. Siri is not good at answering questions. So that’ll be interesting to see, you know, Apple and Google being competitors in a lot of ways. So cool.

Curtis Hays (40:50.763)

Tom Nixon (41:07.451)
All right, Nick. Well, this was awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise. Where do people go to? Well, I’m guessing it’s just seo testing.com to learn more about you and what you offer.

Nick Swan (41:15.918)
That’s right, yeah, the tool is SEOtesting.com. I’m on Twitter, just Nick Swan is my handle, so feel free to connect on there. Yeah, thanks for having me on, guys.

Tom Nixon (41:24.811)
Yep, absolutely. All right, Curtis. Well, we’ve got some homework to do. I learned a lot today. So thankfully I have you to implement all this stuff, but it was interesting. So I appreciate you.

Curtis Hays (41:25.248)

Curtis Hays (41:33.482)
Yeah, it sounds like we’re doing a lot of the right things. So our clients are in good hands. We just keep working together and keep measuring and testing. Yeah. And you just keep marching forward.

Tom Nixon (41:36.643)
That’s because you’re…

Tom Nixon (41:42.223)
keep learning, keep testing. Yep. And uh yep and keep on rocking in the free world. See you everyone.


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Additional episodes:

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Episode 9: For All Intents & Purposes

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