Barry Schwartz is the CEO & President of RustyBrick, who specialize in software development and customized online technology that helps companies decrease costs and increase sales.
Barry or RustyBrick do not provide SEO services, however Barry has been reporting on SEO news since way back in 2000 and has written over 20,000 news articles on the subject of SEO and has spoken at most of the top SEO conferences around the world..
You could say that, if Barry doesn't know it, then it's not worth knowing.
You could very well say that Barry is one of the most knowledgeable people in SEO.
The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast with Barry Schwartz
Watch the interview
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Listen to the podcast
(53 minutes long)
The unscripted questions Mark A Preston asked Barry Schwartz
What does your day to day work life look like, Barry?
How did you get into the SEO industry and when was that?
Do you do you have a background in journalism?
Do you prefer to cover SEO news stories rather than write about SEO techniques?
How do you split your time between running a software development company and being an SEO editor?
Since you started reporting on SEO, what would you say is the one big mind-blowing thing that has happened in the industry?
Is there any specific area of SEO that excites you the most?
What do SEOs need to do in order to future-proof themselves in the industry?
What are your personal thoughts on ChatGPT and AI within SEO?
How do these AI content tools actually work?
Is there a way for SEOs to train AI tools to make them better?
Do you speak at many SEO conferences these day?
What has been the most impactful thing when you have attended search conferences?
Do you think there needs to be more advanced SEO dedicated conferences?
Do you think career progression paths within SEO needs to be a bit more streamlined?
Should SEOs fully read and understand the Google guidelines, if so, why?
Are you always in work mode as you still write and share SEO news when you are on vacation?
What do you think needs to change within the SEO industry?
Has the launch of DigitalPR been positive for the SEO industry?
What should businesses be doing to boost their organic growth who just don't have the budget to work with an SEO agency or freelancer?
Does improving your brand awareness directly impact SEO?
Does getting people to search your main keyword plus your brand (Keyword Brand) impact your SEO in a positive way?
How does brand fit into the world of SEO?
Is having a detailed knowledge panel important for a brand?
Do big well-known brands have an advantage when it comes to organic search results?
How long after you first started sharing SEO news articles, did you notice that your name had become well-known within the SEO industry?
Taking into account future predicted SEO trends, what direction should SEOs be thinking of going down to secure their future?
What should SEOs new to the industry be reading?
How can SEOs get their content indexed if they have the 'Discovered - currently not indexed' status?
What can the SEO community do to help you with anything?
Why are you so passionate about the SEO industry?
<<< Back to The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast
The unscripted conversation between Mark A Preston and Barry Schwartz
Mark A Preston: Welcome to the Unscripted SEO interview. I'm your host, Mark A Preston. And today, joining us, we have a very special guest, the president of RustyBrick and the person that keeps us all updated on all the SEO news. I'm absolutely mind blown to welcome Barry Schwartz with us. Hi, Barry.
Barry Schwartz: Hey, thanks for having me. Great to be here.
Mark A Preston: Good. I was going to say, well, people who are watching this obviously might know who you are, right? But for those who aren't aware of what you do, can you just explain what it is your day to day looks like at the moment?
Barry Schwartz: Sure. I'm Barry Schwartz. I write a lot about how search engines work, SEO, PPC specifically covering mostly Google, Microsoft Bing and the old days (1:01 not clear) Yahoo, search engines as well. I've been writing about search engines for almost 20 years now. I think this year will be my 20th year and I'm fairly well known in this world for that. I also have a software development company called RustyBrick that's based in New York, and we do a bunch of other things as well. But most people know me in this context in terms of they ran a lot of search engine stuff kind of on a spam level, content, spam level where I write so much.
Mark A Preston: Brilliant. How good is that? So how did you actually get into the industry raft at the beginning and when was that?
Barry Schwartz: Yes, so probably I don't know, I don't know. 2000, 1999, 2000, 2001 something like that range where we were building websites. And one of our clients is like, what are the search engines? How do we get our sites to rank in? Like, I don't know. Back then, maybe it was like (1:52 not clear). I don't know. I started researching it online. I found some online forums, I've read some books and I just became fascinated by the topic of how search engines work and SEO and stuff like that. I think it was before even the term SEO was out.
And I remember reading books from Sharif (2:10), Mike Graham, all these types of things, and going to the online forums like the old ones, like Jim's World and Webmaster World and some of the newer ones back then, like SEO chat, digital point forms. And I just became engrossed with it. I started to basically say, wow, all this stuff is changing. I remember the Google changes every 30 days, which is super fun to watch. And I would basically be like, oh, this is interesting information.
I started to learn more and more. I'm like, you know what, maybe I should keep a journal or some type of log of what the community and SEOs are talking about. And I started like, I'll make a blog called “Search at the Roundtable” where I keep notes on what everything is going on. And people started to read it because they found it helpful. Instead of scrounging through thousands of little posts in a forum, which is really hard to find, I would highlight what I found and what they found to be the most interesting stories or interesting posts.
And that's kind of the way it is today. Even on surgical round table, I just literally cover what the community is talking about. Obviously see that conversation which has kind of like migrated from the old fashioned forms to social media like Twitter and so forth, but it's the same premise. And then I also write a search engine Land and I started that a few years later. Actually with Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Watch, and then going to Search Engine Land, where I cover more of a news centric aspect around what's changing at Google and Microsoft and so forth.
Mark A Preston: Good. Do you have a background in journalism, or is it just something subtraction and you've picked it on?
Barry Schwartz: Good question. If you would have asked any of my teachers in elementary school, high school, university, they would be laughing if they thought that I would be writing and people were reading what I'm writing. I have no background in journalism. I went to school for mostly statistics and business, like a more of math aspect. I run a software company. I never thought I'd be writing, but it tends that I write. And Danny Sullivan would spend a lot of time fixing what I wrote in terms of the grammar and typos and stuff like that.
And I still write very, very fast, I'm making less errors, but there's still some lot of typos in my stuff. So I'm not like what I wouldn't call myself a journalist, although I've written 40,000 plus stories, hundreds of thousands of people read my stuff every week or so. So I do write a lot, and people read it. So I guess by that definition, I may be a journalist, but I consider myself just a blogger, an old fashioned blogger.
Mark A Preston: All right. Do you prefer to cover stories and news rather than write about techniques in the industry?
Barry Schwartz: I prefer to write about what the community is talking about. I don't like writing about, like, for example, Department of Justice sues Google. I don't like that type of new stuff. I rather talk about what people are saying, how Google is responding to that in terms of tactics, or I don't say like, writing how to do what, or how to make a title tag, or how to rank better. That type of stuff is like, you make a video ten ways to rank better in Google Search. That's not my style. My style is more about Google says this, SEO say this and take it for what you want. So it's basically more of like or I found some little new Google experiments, or all this ChatGPT.
This morning I found Bing testing a new interface for integrating ChatGPT on their website, or maybe this SEO found this new feature that really is cool in Google. Those types of things I like to cover more than the big news around, like Android upgraded to this version, or Google got sued by this company, or whatever. I don't like covering that type of stuff right now.
Mark A Preston: You do like you said, you run your own software company and you do all this writing. How do you mix them all together? How do you find the time? Or do you split your time between everything?
Barry Schwartz: So they're not really mixed. They're very, very separate. Very little correlation between the two. In fact, we don't do any SEO for our clients. I refuse to. We mostly build software for our clients, so it's not a big deal. Some of our software has front end websites to it because sometimes you need that. But we really don't do any ongoing SEO stuff. Yeah, we'll make pages search engine friendly, but every CMS does that now. In terms of how I usually get up around now, like in the 04:00 a.m. time, I just start doing my research between, I don't know, usually around five something and eight something in the morning, so a few hours in the morning. And that's where I do my writing about search. Generally, I try not to do too much of the SEO stuff, SEO related writing.
After that, I try to focus on RustyBrick. But thankfully, I have a really great team at RustyBrick, and I'm able to do things like, go to conferences if I need to or take one of these calls in the middle of the day if I need to. So it's not a huge deal. But I tend to try to focus the morning hours generally on the search engine stuff, like the early morning before the day starts, before 8 a.m. And then the rest, hopefully RustyBrick.
Mark A Preston: Right. You've said you've written a mountain of things. Now in the industry over the years, What would you say has been the one mind blowing event that's happened for you personally that you think that, “Wow! This is a big deal in the industry.”?
Barry Schwartz: That's a hard one. I've written so many things and that's really hard. Mind blowing. I mean, the biggest thing that got me on TV was the universal search launch, I think in 2007 or something, and Google just stopped showing ten blue links and started to show images and video and local results all in the same interface. That got me on to channel Four, Brian Williams in the United States, in New York City, where I spoke to him at Rockefeller Center, probably for like an hour or so. And I had maybe about 4 seconds of fame on TV after they cut it all out and just put up 4 seconds. But I think that was the same night they killed Osama Bin Laden, they got Osama Bin Laden. So I think the whole segment changed, but I still got the 4 seconds, even competing with Osama Bin Laden. So that was probably the biggest thing that I may have written that had a chain effect of me getting onto news. I've been on news before as well. I don't know, it's hard to say.
Probably the most shocking thing early on was when I covered how a girlfriend was so upset with her boyfriend that what she did was basically spammed Google Images with memes about the boyfriend. And I'm like, wow, this girlfriend used Google Images as an SEO technique to go ahead and get back at her boyfriend. I wrote about it from an SEO perspective, and it got on crazy, it got on TMZ, it got on all these major publications, like a crazy amount of traffic. Then I get an email or a phone call from the parents of the boy saying, the kid is so upset, what do you do? I'm like, I didn't think anybody outside of our little SEO world would see it. I didn't think that. And TMZ would pick up on it and so forth. So that kind of like made me like, “Oh wow.” The general public and even kids are interested in how search works and so forth. There's a lot of stories, I don't know, literally over 40,000 stories, so it's hard to pull that out.
Mark A Preston: Brilliant. Is there any specific area of SEO you personally prefer or excite you more than, you know that?
Barry Schwartz: Right now the whole buzz is around chatGPT like answering questions. Google just confirmed yesterday in the earnings and calls Sundar Pichai, the CEO, Google confirmed that they're working on a lambda version of OpenAI's chatGPT. We'll see what happens there. I know Microsoft is having a big event on Tuesday that it might fly out for, so I'm curious if it has to do with that feature. Google has a big event on Wednesday based in Paris, which is being live streamed and it's about AI, Search and Maps.
Curious if that's their version. So I think right now the thing that's most interesting is this whole question-answer AI thing, which I think is really kind of being maybe I'm wrong, but I think it's really being blown up a little bit more than it should. But we will see. I mean, I think that's pretty interesting in how AI is really answering questions for people. And it can be very interesting to see how Google and Microsoft Bing less specifically with making sure the site sources, because chatGPT really cite sources, but the site sources, because we want those links and marketers, we want to be able to say the answer came from this website. The answer came from that website.
This way the people who are creating the content get the credit and get the traffic and ultimately get any sales or conversions that they're looking for. So I think that's going to be the most interesting change with search in this year because of all this stuff. Because how Google is lay it out, how is Bing to lay it out? How are you going to how our marketers are going to take advantage of it? That is the most interesting thing I think, coming up right now.
Mark A Preston: What do you think SEOs need to do in order to future proof themselves in the industry, especially with all the AI, ChatGPT stuff going on? I mean, I've had a lot of conversations with SEO saying, well, is it going to replace my job? What does SEO do you need to do, in your opinion, to actually future proof themself in the industry?
Barry Schwartz: Yes. So I wrote an article on Search Engine Land, I don't know, a few weeks ago, talking about how I think the new AI written content is like the old way, where during pre-panda, people would write higher low quality writers to write in masses like higher low quality writers. I think that's the same thing. I think right now, Google has been very murky about what they feel about AI written content. They said written for, it's written for search engines, bad. If it's written for users, good. But they're not specifying who writes it. And Danny Solomon's mention content by the people, for the people, but it's really about for the people.
And if AI can write, John Mueller said, if AI create better content than people could write, and it's good content, why shouldn't we rank it? The question is, again, if you could just press a button and generate crazy amounts of content for absolutely almost no cost, everybody is going to do that. Google is going to have a wealth of content that they could rank. How are they going to figure out what to rank? And I think Google will be like at some point we have a policy saying, no, we're not going to go ahead and rank or index AI written content. That's my gut feeling. I just think it's going to be way too much for Google to handle.
At the same time, I also think that the AI that's ranking the content also gets to be the same AI that the text AI that is writing that content, I know Open AI just came out, I think a week ago or so, with a tool to say is this content written by AI, and there's other tools out there that do that as well. So assuming again, and then you spoke to them, you learned about the helpful content update that Google launched several months ago. That's also about that Google figuring out who's writing the content, why they're writing it, and then adding on the E to EAT for another additional e expertise. They want people who have experience, not just expertise, authoritative and trustworthy, but also experience.
Does AI have experience with anything? Probably not. So I think Google is going to be like, all right, we want experience. Not just expertise, not just trustworthiness, not just authoritativeness. We also want people who have experience when they're writing about a certain topic to actually write about their experiences. AI doesn't have experiences, maybe, I don't know, maybe, you could probably experience with AI.
So I think we'll be interesting to see how. I think you're going to see a lot of marketers, and they are doing it right now, using a lot of AI for the past. They've been using AI for a while to create content. It's a cheap way of doing it. I think it's going to get hit hard, and I think to future proof yourself, yet you could use these tools to give you ideas, come up with creative ideas on how to write stuff, or maybe additional supplemental information that you may want to say, “Oh, I didn't know that.” Let me research it more and write it myself. But I really think SEOs really shouldn't look to cut corners by having the content written fully by AI or even partially by AI. I think they should read the content that's generated by AI to help them with ideas on how to make their content better. But I don't think they should produce the content using AI, if that makes sense.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, surely AI and these content tools, they basically scrap the web in order for information and write it based on that. Is that the sort of gist on how they do it?
Barry Schwartz: Yes. So specifically with OpenAI's chatGPT, which is the biggest buzz right now, they have a corpus of data from 2021, not recent stuff from 2021 and previous. I guess, of crawling the web and accessing content and then using that as their purpose to learn. The problem is, what about new stuff the past year and a half, they don't have that information. Now I assume, Google and Bing may have more recent information because that's what they do constantly. You publish a piece of content usually within seconds, especially on a new site like the Wall Street Journal and so forth, it gets indexed.
Google has a corpus of data that's literally real-time. Google could incorporate that and make stuff more real time with this question answer solution. And that really solves a lot of issues. But with OpenAI specifically, it's older content that is being fed. So when you do a query and you want to ask about something specifically recent, whatever topic you might want to do, it's not going to have an answer for you and it's going to say, 'sorry, No, we don't know because we don't have recent information in OpenAI'.
Mark A Preston: And people who want to use chatGPT and everything. Is there a way of training the AI?
Barry Schwartz: I don't think so, No, I think OpenAI controls that. I don't know. I assume Microsoft has a better deal. I think Microsoft has poured billions of dollars into OpenAI, so maybe they're able to have exclusive type of training sets they could put into it. But I don't know. I'm not sure. I don't think so. I haven't looked into that. But think you could train it yourself? I think the AI itself is, what is, I don't know if it's Open source. I don't know. I’m not sure.
Mark A Preston: Okay, well, going off further subjects of AI now on to conferences, do you speak at many conferences these days?
Barry Schwartz: Mostly online. I'm actually starting, I'm going to speak in London at a Blue Array conference, I think, in May. I do mostly conferences online and I'm going to start flying again soon. So yeah, I mean, it's pretty much been dead in terms of conferences since COVID hit, but I do think we'll see a lot of things happening in person in upcoming hopefully months or so . So I do plan on flying a lot more often.
Mark A Preston: Do you like speaking in-person conferences?
Barry Schwartz: Do I like to? Sure. I don't prepare presentations anymore. If you want me to speak at a conference, I will speak like this, unscripted. I'm really good at unscripted. I prefer unscripted. I write all the time about search engines and I generally, typically often remember what I've written so I could go on and on for days and days. Like we could do this literally for days if you want, and keep going and going and we can touch on every single topic that you can imagine around search, paid search, you name it. I love doing unscripted Q&A style types of events and I'm more than happy to do that. If anybody is listening and they want me to come to their event, happy to do that for you guys.
Mark A Preston: Brilliant. I'm going to say, when you are at these conferences, what do you say is the most impactful thing at a conference you go to that you see it from being involved in the conference. So as a speaker and as somebody who is very well known in the industry, when you go up to the conferences, do you sort of see things that maybe you just don't see?
Barry Schwartz: That's rough for me because literally I feel like I'm so involved and so deep in search on a constant basis where I'm constantly writing about the latest things. I generally know what people are going to say before they say it. Plus, I spent so many years, I don't know, back, you know, 15-20 years ago, live blogging these conferences before they were like streaming videos and stuff like that, but I tend to know what people are going to say. So it's hard. I mean, it's really good, these conferences, for, you know, people who are doing SEO on a day-to-day basis and don't necessarily have time to keep up with everything, or new people that are new in industry, or even just people in the industry for like three or four years.
The real good stuff that comes out of these things for, like, people who are in the business for as long as I have, that's possibly in the after hour events, the networking, making connections, learning, like, little tricks and tips that you may not have heard beforehand. So I think that's for people who are really more advanced, it's more about the after-hours stuff, making connections and sharing knowledge. But there's so much information there. I know recently we had a keynote with HJ Kim from Google, who basically leads up on Google Search, their core rankings and so forth, and nobody's heard him speak before.
The wealth of information that even the most advanced SEOs got from that and the tips that he left in terms of what to expect in the future for Google search is something that an advanced SEO could say, all right, this is what he's saying. This is the direction Google is going now. I want to be there, right before Google gets there, because I know what he's hinting at. And I think that's what you also learn from these more when you hear Googlers Talk, specifically those who are actually programming the algorithm itself.
Mark A Preston: Do you think there needs to be more specific advanced SEO conferences rather than just generic SEO conferences?
Barry Schwartz: Yeah, I mean, for example, because I'm part of Xmx, so we have Xmx Advanced and we have a bunch of other Xmx, at least historically. We also now have Xmx Next and think about what to think about in the future. So Xmx advanced is more about tactical, like implementing technical stuff around HRF length, Canalization, Pagination, Advanced PPC structure set up and so forth, a lot of advanced tactical stuff, whereas, Xmx Next is more about what you need to think about in the future to make sure your website is there in a higher level. Like probably talk about chatGPT and AI and all this other stuff, or what features you could use to go ahead and make your website better so that you're there when Google is there in the future.
So I think every conference really should be about not thinking about what happened in the past, but more about thinking about what's happening now or in the future and how to implement that stuff on your site now. So I think generally that stuff is more advanced. I mean, I'm not sure it's hard to classify what advanced is and everybody's at their own level. It's funny. So you can have a conference and we get the feedback and you can have, 20 people say, you know, it was too basic and then you have this another 20 people in the same session say it was way too advanced. I don't know what you were talking about in the same exact session.
So it's really hard to leverage that. What we try to do more is like give people tactical takeaways that they can bring home on a piece of paper and implement today or make sure they're implementing correctly. So maybe it's all you need to have JSON, you need to have structured data, you need to have rich reviews, you need that to do X, Y and Z, but are you doing it the right way? Or maybe you need to have an audit list. So there's lots of things that you might consider to be beginner, next person might be considered to advance and so forth. And that's why we have a breadth of different sessions that we offer as well as different levels of how the content is being outputted. Maybe it starts off more high level and then goes down into the leads later.
Mark A Preston: Do you think the industry and career progression needs to be a bit more streamlined rather than at the moment it seems to be you go into the industry, technical upgrade, you do this, that and other. Should there be like a set sort of structure and things or is it good to be diversifying?
Barry Schwartz: Excellent question. So should SEO for his career and benefit either be encompassing all SEO topics from content marketing to technical SEO to whatever those spectrums, or should an SEO just focus on one thing? I had these conversations with different SEO. Some believe in SEO needs, especially in a higher VP level, needs to know everything and some of her like no, you need to focus in and be the best at Google News SEO, or the best at local SEO, or the best at just doing HrefLang or Canonization.
There's a big debate about it, either way if you are really, really good at one thing, you'll be sought after. If you're really good at like I know certain people are really good at algorithms and certain people are really good at localization. You'll be sought out if you want to be like a heart doctor who specializes versus a general doctor. This is very generic. So there's jobs for all and there's a big debate about which is best. I don't know personally, I don't know what's best. I personally, am more on the technical side, I believe, but I also understand the direct contact, so I know content marketing. Also, I write about the future of search and the history, I love talking about the history of search. Yahoo searches look like they're making a comeback with Jim Lanzone who used to work at (23:53 not clear) in the old days. So there's so much I enjoy around search, both on the history side, the future side, the technical side, the higher level stuff and content and so forth. So it depends on your personality.
If you are very technical, maybe stick with technical. It really depends on your skill sets and should you always be improving 100%, you should never sit back and be like, I know what I know, and that's bad recipe for anybody in any industry. But I always say there's one thing like, oh, you have to be focused or you have to be high level. I think it depends on the personality.
Mark A Preston: In your opinion, should SEO fully understand the Google guidelines?
Barry Schwartz: Yes. Simple answer. Yes. Rather than do anything and you want to rank well at Google, definitely go ahead and read the guidelines. Do you have to implement everything according to the guidelines? That is your decision as an expert in SEO to say, how far do you want to push those guidelines, and are you communicating those lines to your customers that you're performing these tactics on? Yes, but you should definitely, every SEO should understand and read those guidelines every several months or so just to be on top of it.
Mark A Preston: Yes. I know it sounded a silly question, but the number of times I've asked that in training sessions and nobody's ever actually read them. It's a bit crazy. Now, why is it Google tend to release the major updates when you're on vacation?
Barry Schwartz: I don't think they do. Generally. I think it's,
Mark A Preston: I've noticed a couple of times you say, oh, yes, I'm on vacation, and something big drops, and literally.
Barry Schwartz: I'm always nervous. Actually, Google actually has held some announcements and updates because I told him ahead of time I'm traveling on this date or something. It's mostly not vacation. I don't mind covering. I always cover stuff while I'm on vacation. It's more about the Jewish holidays where I'm completely offline. I'm not all that time on the computer for religious reasons, so I have to be offline.
Those are the dates where I literally can't even if I'm on vacation, I could open a computer in this type, and it'll be a second. My wife knows I'm always working even on vacation, but when it comes to the Jewish holidays, I have to be offline, and for those things, I generally communicate. I'll be offline on these dates, and if something breaks, I'll cover when I get back. But yeah, Google doesn't necessarily hold stuff because I'm on a holiday or whatever it might be.
Mark A Preston: What do you think needs to change in the industry?
Barry Schwartz: What needs to change in the industry? I don't think it's specific with this industry, but it's more about I think its general, like people need to work to get the results. I think that's in everything. But everybody, especially in SEO, is looking for the shortcuts. They're looking me for, what is the simple Meta tag I can add to my website to rank number one? What's the keyword density I need?
It doesn't work that way, especially with all the AI and all the so many ranking algorithms that are constantly shifting by query and by topic, by whatever it might be. It's not that simple as it used to be simple back in the old 20 years ago, but now it's just not that simple. And there's no simple trick. Even if there is a simple trick that you find that trick, it will for X amount of months and then go away and then burn it to the ground. And that might happen. But again, there is no simple trick, and you have to really work. I think there's a bigger myth in SEO that even today that SEO is some type of magic or something that only certain SEO magicians know.
And that is just a myth. And you really need to get the work done, write the content, get the content to be found by people. You have to get people to link to that content. You really can't take shortcuts and people are always, always looking for shortcuts.
Mark A Preston: Well, talking about linking to content, and I feel as though like the link building sort of industries turn into digital PR. Have you found that to be a very positive thing for the industry?
Barry Schwartz: It's interesting. So yeah, I mean, it's funny. Once link building became taboo, they started calling it like content marketing, and now they're calling it content marketing, it is becoming a little bit taboo and now they're calling it like internet PR and so forth. Ultimately, so I know link builders now are building content that they tried to get links to. It depends on how you do it. Again, you start hiring really low quality content writers that don't really add value to the content and we just write the content just for the purpose of getting links. Again, what's the purpose? I think Google put it really well when it came to the helpful content update.
Are you writing that piece of content to help users, or are you writing that piece of content just to get rankings, to search, to convert those search rankings to results and so forth into revenue or whatever it might be if you're writing the content? EEAT- experience I mean, expertise. I'm sorry, experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness for that purpose, to help a user that's the type of content Google wants, right? Can you trick them? Everyone said, oh, how does Google know? I don't know. Their algorithms are pretty good. And how does Google know type of thing. How does Google know that this is a link that I built versus a link that I bought? That conversation has been going on forever. Google is pretty smart.
They're pretty good at this type of stuff, and I think ultimately they'll get it. Will you be able to take it for a while and rank well, probably, but ultimately I think they'll get it. And I think it's really about the long game. So again, I mean, yeah, I think it's that aspect where people are still trying to take shortcuts and get away with stuff, when that kind of gives us SEO kind of like a black eye, if you want to call it that, because it makes us look bad because we're just trying to, like, Google or manipulate Google and so forth.
Mark A Preston: Yeah,
Barry Schwartz: I'm not sure that answers your question because I probably went off with a tangent there.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, it pretty much sums everything up, I was going to say. Now, for businesses that really don't have a budget, and for businesses that basically can't afford thousands of dollars and pounds to invest into an SEO agency building everything, what do you think those businesses and individuals should be focusing on?
Barry Schwartz: Yeah, usually those businesses that don't have a budget for SEO are the same type of people who are out there working in their space really, really closely and really understand their space. You might have, I don't know, somebody who's really good at building. I don't know. I have a Jenga set here. So they specialize in building Mini Jenga set. Right. And they may be able to create YouTube videos on how to build these Jenga sets. They may be able to review other Jenga sets that may have not been built right. Or maybe do come up with some creative cool things. I remember with the guy who sold Blenders, will it Blend? He's like blender. Big deal. What are going to do about Blenders? He basically blended everything from iPhones to hockey sticks to whatever.
That’s great. Got him crazy amount of press. So these people who don't have budgets to hire somebody else to do it for them, honestly, they probably have their own, they're probably really good at what they do. They probably really understand their product or their service. And they probably come up with cool, clever ways that they can build out their own content. If they really get a video, they could put their iPhone or Android phone video themselves doing something either like how to fix a toilet or whatever it might be. Or if they're really good with writing content, they could do helpful content stuff. You don't have to be a technologist to go ahead and or a marketing person to create a website anymore. You can just literally build a website in 5 seconds using any of these tools. So that's not the challenge. It's really about coming up with stuff that's useful for people and helpful for people.
And the best kind of people that can do that are the ones that are in the game, doing it on day to day basis, speaking to customers, understanding their challenges and then hey, how could I take the thing I did today to help this customer? How can I go ahead and help people online with that? Maybe it's running a piece of content, maybe it's making a video, maybe it's doing a TikTok, I don't know. But these guys generally are able to pull out maybe a half hour a day. And if I would recommend them schedule a certain slot, maybe it's the morning, maybe it's when they get home or they finish up the day to spend a half hour, 60 minutes, whatever it might be, to create that piece of content on a daily basis. If it's on their calendar, they could probably get it done. And I think if they schedule it, I think it would be a pretty cool thing that they could actually benefit a lot. They're not going to get immediate results tomorrow. It will take several months, but they will see the results over time.
Mark A Preston: Brilliant. Now going on to brand. Now, does brand awareness impact SEO directly?
Barry Schwartz: Directly. That's interesting to put the word directly there. I'm not sure how Google would measure brand awareness directly. I guess you're saying people do a lot of searches for the brand, Google knows it is a big brand.
Mark A Preston: I know there's a few people, especially in the digital PR space now are focusing on getting people to search keyword plus brand. And I think that obviously Jason Barnard focuses on brand search and so, the correlation between brand and what SEOs CSX's do. So if you work on boosting the brand awareness, the positivity, the trust in that brand itself, not in the service or keyword, does that have a positive effect for all the keyword ranking better?
Barry Schwartz: I don't believe that people doing searches in Google for their brand name and their keywords is going to have an impact on their rankings. I do think that improving your knowledge panel, getting people to do that. If people are savvy enough to your brand and they're searching for you, I think there's an indirect correlation with that. I don't think there's a direct correlation with people searching for your brand or if you're having a big brand. But I think generally big brands that people search for generally, just have more resources, have better content writers, been on the Internet a lot longer with a lot more links to their website. How do you compare an Ebay or Amazon to somebody who has a little storefront across the street from me that sells the same thing?
That storefront has a tiny fraction of the number of links and number of signals around links that another company might have, like Amazon might have. So it's kind of hard to say. You can't compare a massive brand like Macy's or Amazon or Ebay to a small (34:40 not clear) pop shop because those bigger brands, they can announce anything, and every single newspaper on the planet will cover it. Google announces that they're scratching their nose, they get publicity about it like insane because they announced it. So, yeah, brands have that power just to say do anything and get crazy amounts of links and press around them, whereas small companies do not. Nobody cares if a small company does anything. So I really don't think there's a direct correlation between brands, but it's significant. It's hard to say direct versus not direct because I'm not sure if that makes sense. How do you do that? How do you say directors is not direct on that level?
Mark A Preston: Do you say the SEO part of what they do needs to be to help push positive brand awareness, pushing the brand positively to help what they do on a day to day?
Barry Schwartz: I think it helps to build up the brand so that people are aware of it. So that when you do write something or you do come out with something that people are know that brand, I trust that brand, I want to cover that information that company is saying. I think there's a huge positive to that because it makes the job of marketers and link builders and SEOs much easier for them to go ahead and get their content out there and to get links to their content. So I think it helps. It's a long term game. Just like any company that wants a new brand that comes out of nowhere, that needs to build up their brand. It's a really long term game that takes a lot of time and effort. So you're not going to go ahead and be able to build a brand overnight.
But those small steps like, “Oh, when you do a search for that company,” do they have a knowledge panel that builds some trust? I think people trust that, especially SEOs want to link to stuff. Can I trust that brand? They have a knowledge panel. Maybe they have a Wikipedia listing. I guess they're valid enough that they're notable enough that they have a Wikipedia listing. So those types of things, I think do help. So, yeah, it's just a long term game. It really takes a lot of effort and money and it takes a long time. So smaller companies that generally can't afford it, generally can't afford it, and they generally don't know how to build up a brand themselves. So it's a hard thing to say. Yes, they should work on it because they don't have the money to work on it per se.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. Does that give the brands monopolization menu search?
Barry Schwartz: That's the big debate going back to Aaron Wall days. Yes, but anybody could do it. There's been lots of brands that have come up in the past since we've been complaining about this since the sandbox days of Google in 2005. Right. That oh, well, new sites can't rank well because they're sandboxed by Google, even though it's kind of like a myth, but not, whatever. But yeah, I mean, of course the brands do have some type of benefit. They're ahead of the game already. So can anybody do it? Yes. Is it easy? No. Could he cry, just crying about it and complaining about it and calling a little evil for that? Does that help you?
No. So what are you going to do? You got to work on building your brand, and even though it's not fun and it costs a lot of money, it takes a lot of time. You got to do that. But if you do that, in 5,10 years from now, you're going to be really, really happy you did it. You know, I mean, my little brand in the SEO community, RustyBrick, it's pretty well known. My name is pretty well known in this niche. Did I build it overnight? No. I've been literally writing. I wrote 40,000+ stories over the past 20 years. You know. On day one when I started writing, did anybody hear about me? Did anybody know about me? No. It took years and years, and I keep doing it. I'm consistently doing it. And I could have slept a lot. I probably could have made more money building software stuff.
But I think it's important in the long run because it builds trust and authority and all that EEAT stuff that call whatever you want. It helps in other ways out of site of search to actually go ahead and get me on NBC, get me on CBS, get me on in the Wall Street Journal, get me on TIME, you name it. I've been written up and been quoted in all these places because of that over the years and has it helped me get new business? Maybe I don't really sell SEO. Has it helped me rank better? Probably. And I'm a small nobody. Literally started this when I was, like, 20, and I think ultimately it takes a lot of time, but it's worth it.
Mark A Preston: Yeah, just touching upon that. If anyone's thinking of starting something, basically, how long did it from the moment you wrote your first story to the time you suddenly sat back and thought, oh, people know who I am?
Barry Schwartz: I honestly don't remember that, per se. I did go to a lot of conferences when I started the blog also, and live blog their stuff. So if they were on speakers, on stage and I will cover what they were saying. So obviously, when you cover what somebody is saying, it does get their attention, especially in the early days. So if I cover what this interview or somebody covers, this interview mentions, you or me, you and I will both notice it, probably, because we probably track what people are saying about us. Every SEO probably does that. They want to track what people saying about them on the web. But that will get my attention.
And I'll say, I'll see your name come up here and there, and I'll see more and more. The more people see your name come up for a certain topic, the more they trust you. How long does that take? The things you can do to escalate, a lot of people do these. They will go ahead and praise another person and write out, like, top 20 list, top 10 list, top 150 list. I can't stand those lists anymore. But it does get a lot of links. It does get a lot of attention and get your name out there. People know who you are. So those are cheap, low value ways of building up, building your name by going ahead and mention other people, especially these top 100 lists. Those are just kind of annoying. But they do work, and they do get your name out there, and you do read it. So if I had to guess, especially, I was one of the first SEO blogs out there, and SEO was a really small industry back in 2003, the blogging.
It probably took me a year or so, maybe. I don't know. But I didn't stop. I mean, when did Google start knowing me? When did people at Yahoo, probably a couple of years after that, to hear the CEO of Yahoo or Microsoft or Google, or person who really writes the helpful content update, who's in charge of that, know who you are? I don't even know who this HJK was, to be honest. I've heard of him through the rumblings, but I never really met with him. And say he reads your stuff every day. The VP of Google, one of the VPs of Google stops you at a Google event. Never met him before. He's like, I love your stuff. I read it every day. We pass it along internally. That's shocking. I don't expect that, but when did I hear that first? Maybe ten years after I started writing? I don't know. It's hard to know for sure. And some people do stuff that and we've seen an industry where people would do stuff too, in a negative way to bring a negative light to certain key personalities. Like, say, this personality SEO space is incorrect because they said why, and this is why they're wrong. And then trashed in.
That's another avenue some SEO have taken to get publicity. I don't know if that's a good strategy, but people do that, so it really depends on how much you're writing, how you write, what you're producing is getting a lot of good stuff. I know Rand Fishkin, did a lot of cool stuff in the early days to get a lot of attention. I know a lot of people have done this over the years. Even this video you're doing, these videos you do in these interviews, they bring you taking up an hour of your time out of how often you do it. And there's obviously some value in that to build doing your brand along with the people you interview. So tell me, how long did it take your name to get out there where people start to learn about you and so forth?
Mark A Preston: For me personally, I started in the industry 2001. My early days was just me, just basically doing lead generation affiliate marketing. But I spent a lot of years in the one label space. So for me, I'm like a late starter with people actually knowing who I am. So that's a different story. For people new coming into the industry, and they've been in the industry a couple of years, but not sure what direction to go in. Where do you think, knowing what's happening now and looking at the future, which direction would be best suited to go down?
Barry Schwartz: So that really depends on the person. Again, I am going back to this in terms of the person, but if you're really good at coding, get involved in the technical SEO stuff, maybe look at how you could code AI to do certain things for you. Do what you love when you're really good at if you love writing content, do the content marketing side. If you love people, you're big into outreach, you love networking and stuff, and you do the link building and PR side. It really depends on your personality and what your personally good at. We have a software company here. There's certain people that are good at certain things within building.
Some people are really good at database, some people are really good at the front end, some people are really good at building newer technology around. Or some people go to API integration. You find people's strengths and you kind of have them go above and beyond in those strengths. So usually you're not going to find a developer that's really great at web design and probing APIs and doing a lot of integrations and so forth. It's usually hard to find that one person that does everything. But if you can find people that are really good at certain types of things and have them really go off and branch out into that. So I would recommend people do what they love most.
Mark A Preston: Yeah. And this might seem a silly question asking you, but where should SEOs actually be going to understand SEO? What should they be reading? What should they be doing to actually progress themselves in the industry and to make sure that they're doing the right thing? Because there's lots of things online, and what I'm finding myself is there is lots of things, but there's very little context around those things.
Barry Schwartz: Right, you're 100% right. So you're getting into SEO right now, there's lots of good SEO beginner guides from Google's own SEO beginner guide to the (45:48 not clear) SEO Beginner guide to, there's tons of them. Just search for SEO beginner guides. Read them all. You're not going to really hurt yourself by reading those types of SEO beginner guides because they're more abstract. Basically, you want to understand how searches work from how they start to crawl the web, index the content, rank the content. People start getting into SEO just have no clue. They think you post a piece of content and Google immediately will see it without them being able to. Google has to crawl the content. Google has to index it, decide to index it.
They have to understand the fundamentals of how search engines work. Once they understand the fundamentals of how search engine works, they have to understand how search engines understand the piece of content that you produce, how they understand links versus the on page and off page SEO. So once you get those fundamentals going and you really understand it, then you can get that from, again, just googling different SEO guides or Google SEO guides, or whatever it might be that you could read. You might want to buy some books. There's lots of good books out there. You can see their ratings on Amazon and buy some books on that, just to give you the fundamentals. Because the fundamentals of SEO really hasn't changed, probably since 2001, I would think it's going content elements and crawling and stuff like that, how to go about it, all the strategies and stuff like that. And you want to follow people like yourself, you want to follow people online. Obviously I write a lot about search, and if you know nothing about search and your first time getting into it, reading my tweets, my articles will mean absolutely nothing to you. But once you know it enough, you're intermediate type of SEO, you'll probably gain value from what I post on my blog , where I posted my newsletter. This is a search engine.
There's search engine journal, there's Googlers themselves. There's people who are constantly producing content on the internet. I have a newsletter that literally links to almost every piece of SEO content or every single piece of PPC content that's produced on a daily basis. It probably has like, I don't know, anywhere from 50 links in it on a daily basis of new content. So there's really so much to read out there, unless and if you need one place to get it all on a daily basis, once you understand the basics, then subscribe to my newsletter or just read my posts on the website or you can subscribe to it as an email newsletter. It's up to you. But I think that's probably biased. But I literally put almost everything that's produced. If I miss stuff, email me. I will subscribe to (48:00 not clear) feed. But I try to put everything into one document on a daily basis.
Mark A Preston: Brilliant. As a final question, discovered but not indexed. I get a lot, I mean, a lot of questions saying Google's discovered my content, but they haven't indexed it. How can I get indexed? What do I need to do?
Barry Schwartz: Yes, that comes up a lot. So discovered, currently not index and so forth. Google has talked about this as well. Sometimes this is about a sign that your content is not up to par in terms of quality. Google doesn't think it's worth indexing it. They found it, they looked at it. Maybe it doesn't have links. Sometimes it's at the edge of indexing. Google calls, meaning Google says it's not quality enough for us to go ahead and say we crawled it, but we don't want to put in our index because there's so much other stuff out there on the internet that we think that's more deserving to the index. What you could do to get an index is either improve the content itself, beef it up a little bit, put more recent stuff in there, or make more links to that content, or link to it more internally from your website. Maybe the content is so deeply embedded on your website where there's only one or two links to it on your whole entire website, and that's you telling Google, hey, I don't think that content is worth linking or indexing because I only have one or two links to it from my website.
So I think a lot of it is around Google saying it's not worth being indexed, it's not worth and it's like that attitude where Google is like, we don't index everything, we don't want to index everything. Back in 2001, when you first started, it was the base around Google. And Yahoo has a bigger, bigger index size. They were like joking with each other, we have a bigger index size, there's not indexing everything back in the old days, but now there's so much content on the internet. Forget about even the AI, at a point where there's going to be so much more content soon. There's so much content in there that Googles can be very particular about what they index. And that's kind of Google's way of saying, we discovered it, but we don't think it's worth indexing.
Mark A Preston: Fantastic. Now you've given your time freely to be here, giving all this advice to everyone, for anybody watching this, what can they do to help you?
Barry Schwartz: What can they do to help me? They can send me. I don't want anything. I don't know if they want to learn more. I'm very active on Twitter @RustyBrick, R-U-S-T-Y B-R-I-C-K would like to get more YouTube subscribers. I do produce a weekly SEO video recap or podcast where I summarize the more important things. I write a lot, but I summarize the most important things in a ten to twelve minute video and audio thing on Spotify as well. And the major Google podcast, Apple podcast, et cetera. So if they want to subscribe to that, I definitely want more YouTube subscribers. Just check out my site, Search Engine Roundtable and Search Engine Land, or if they just want to follow one place, that's up to them. But I'm pretty active on all the social channels, except I'm not active on TikTok, I'm not active on Instagram. I don't think people want to see me dance or do cool dance moves, but they want to see my content, I guess. So definitely subscribe there. And I appreciate the community.
Without the community and sending me all this stuff, I would not be able to produce as much as I do. And I love this community. I'm sure you do too. You've been in the industry for about 20 years as well, and it's just an amazing community. So thank you and for everybody out there for listening and for sharing and keep sharing, that's all I want. Keep sharing your content.
Mark A Preston: Why are you so proud, passionate about the industry?
Barry Schwartz: Early on, it was more about the change, how quickly things were changing in the space, watching rankings fluctuate, watching people make a lot of money, people lose a lot of money. It was just a fascinating, exhilarating place to be. And now the community was pretty small back then. We were all pretty friendly. I know you were behind the scenes, but yet you knew the lot of people in the industry. You went to the conferences and so before. So it's just something special about I mean, certainly anybody who's very involved in any community probably say the same thing.
But I think there's something very special about the community where people share so much. People are sharing with the competitors. People are sharing with everybody. And of course, that has to have content marketing play with it, where they want to get links at the same time, they share stuff because they really want to help each other. It could be somebody's complete enemy and complete biggest competitor. And you can share something with somebody just because that's what SEOs do. I think the sharing is something that I find really valuable and really meaningful in the industry. So I appreciate everybody sharing stuff constantly, and I love covering it. So keep sharing it, and I will highlight whatever I see. I definitely miss stuff, but I'll try to highlight them. So hit me up if you find anything cool, and I love to highlight what you find, what you guys find.
Mark A Preston: Okay, well, Barry, many, many thanks for joining me. I know you're very busy, and we appreciate everything you're doing.
Barry Schwartz: I appreciate community, and thank you so much for having me and looking forward to speaking to you in the future. Thanks so much.
Mark A Preston: Thanks. Bye.