John: Welcome folks. Welcome back again to another Ezoic podcast. This time, well I’ve got Piper here again.
Piper: Hello again.
John: Hello Piper. So Piper, what are we talking about today?
Piper: This is one of the most important questions we get asked and it’s “how does Ezoic affect SEO”?
John: A-ha. So search engine optimization.
John: How does it affect SEO? Well depends on how you view SEO. I don’t want to be slightly awkward about it. I mean, for most people SEO is “will it affect my rankings in the search engine” and search engine optimization came about when people discovered that they could get up the rankings by doing certain things that would get them up the rankings. It always used to be content, navigation and back clicks and so people would go out and say “you’ve got a high page ranked site. Can you give me a back link and let’s do a little deal. I’ll give you $500 and you give me a deal” and then a few years later people found that that was a bad idea because Google found them out and so then they had to go back to that site and say “hey, can you un-SEO that link for me. I’ll give you $500” so it’s been a really lucrative industry for people SEO-ing and un-SEO-ing their sites, but for how Ezoic affects your rankings, well primarily it improves your rankings and we have built a platform of usability testing and income improvement testing based on if you look after the users and you have good quality content and it works really well on mobile, those three things will all improve your rankings. Now can I prove it? I don’t think anyone can prove these sort of things, but the vast majority of sites that have been with us for over three months have seen positive improvements in the search rankings and it’s because all the big search engines, let’s be honest, Google is the number one thing, can’t think of any others. There are some others, like probably before your time, but bounce rate is a really important factor so you’re looking at one term. They will monitor how many people come back to this search engine within a few seconds of going to that site and Google very recently have brought out the mobile friendly moniker that goes next to a search engine result. That means you can see is this going to be easy to see on the phone or not and I am forecasting, not that I do that very much, that it’s sites that do not go down the road of making the usability a priority for mobile users are going to get punished and such in the rankings. So to kind of un-pickle that, layout testing improves usability and it improves it by reducing bounce rate and improving time on site and improving the page views visited. It does that by testing different layouts and trying for many styles. It will try content recommendation. It will do things, the Ezoic system will try to improve page load speed and user experience, particularly mobile hand sets that have weaker CPUs. Those are all really important things and if you can for the same content, the exact same content, improve the ability and you will gain ground. Do we change the content? No. We, it’s actually the system. The system, all it’s doing, all of the measured data is the same, the back links the same, the navigation will change, but in terms of spiral-ability, it’s exactly the same. Big long answer to a short question. That is the John Cole way. There’s a lot of upside to usability improvement. There isn’t any down side because the original content is still indexed in the same way by Google as it always has been.
Piper: So if you guys are testing a bunch of layouts at once, won’t that have some sort of negative affect on SEO because undoubtedly there’s going to be some that perform really well in terms of usability and there might be some that don’t perform as well?
John: I think everybody understands that SEO or rankings, let’s call it rankings, is a long game. Everyone knows. You can’t instantly go to the top of Google for a key word. You have to prove over time that your site is dependable for that kind of content. Is it good quality content? Do people like it? Do they look up lots of pages? Let’s be honest. Nobody knows exactly how Google ranks a site. You don’t know that. What you’ve got to do is try to produce the best quality original content you can, make it useful, make it easy to find and you’ll do that. If some of the layout experiments produce a worse bounce rate and that’s what you’re saying, then those get dropped from the testing process. So you’ve only used up a small proportion of your traffic on the poorer performing versions and overall, when the poor performing version gets dropped from the testing and another one gets tried, then over time it improves. So if you match just the bounce rate and I’ve seen this on loads of sites, bounce rate coming down 1% in a month. Another 1%, another 1% and sometimes it’s much more drastic than that, but bounce rate is probably one of the hardest things to move and you’ve got to be good at it and that means trying lots of different layouts, using that user data and just over time chipping away at it. If you can get 5% change in bounce rate for a particular key word, you’ll get more traffic. It kind of stands to reason really.
Piper:Right. So I know that most publishers integrate using the name server method. Ezoic sits in between My Content and My Users so it’s adding a third party and is that going to affect SEO at all? Is that going to slow things down? It just seems like there’s another jump.
John: Good point. Good question actually. Well look on content delivery networks like CloudFlare. They have like a proxy as well so content delivery networks that know about it, it basically sits in exactly the same way as Ezoic does between the original content and the user and serves them the content that is cached for that page. That means that you can get a faster load time and better user experience. Everybody, the world needs more CDNs. Let’s put it that way, good things. Does Ezoic produce a negative reaction with search engines? No it doesn’t because we’re acting the same as CloudFlare and in fact we are a certified partner with CloudFlare. We use CloudFlare. We also use CloudFront, which is Amazon’s CDN. We try to speed up, the system tries to speed up the load times and improve the user experience on mobile particularly so we do some really cool stuff like some domain sharding and keeping and lazy loading for mobile, which means that you’ve got an icon at the bottom of the page that will be loaded last. It’s better to have all the content load and the ads, get everything in the order of loading that it should be because CPU’s on phones are still weak and they can’t load a page super quick unless they have help, so that’s what the Ezoic system does. Does having lots of different layouts of the same content, does that in any way produce some sort of negative reaction from Google. The answer is no and we have nearly over four years and many thousands of sites with 100,000 million visits a month. We’ve got loads of evidence to show that Google does not penalize websites for testing their layouts. They just don’t. There would be no reason for Google to do that. I mean, it’s actually in line with what they keep saying, which is improve your usability, refresh your site, make it better.
Piper: So speaking of Google, what about the GoogleBot? Will it still be able to crawl my site the same way?
John: Yes it does and we try to give it all the help it can get. GoogleBot, we give it what it needs.
Piper:You feed it.
John: Yeah, each site gets a certain number of milliseconds of crawl time and the bigger the site the more times you refresh your page, the more times it’s going to get crawled. For most sites it happens sporadically, sometimes six weeks, but most sites it’s quite a bit less than that. Big sites that refresh all the time, like Amazon, they get it all the time. We try to make the GoogleBot crawl rate the highest that it can be. For many sites that comes a lot higher than it used to be when they ran it themselves using their own dedicated servers and that’s one of the benefits of cloud serving. There are no down sides to the whole testing of layouts and particularly there are no down sides to technology with regards to our SEO. We are dealing with the users to try to improve things. We’re not changing any of your original content. The original content is exactly the same as it always has been. It remains the same.
Piper: So I noticed that on some of the layouts, there’s a lot of ads above the fold. I know that Google in particular has said that that’s a negative thing and can affect SEO. How do you guys deal with that?
John: That’s a good question. So we have done a little testing on this. The first thing is to remember what Google has actually said are the rules on this. They’re saying “we don’t want content pushed down below the fold because it’s a bad user experience”. They grade this on a whole site basis so they’re not looking at one page and saying “hey, you’ve got two ads above the fold. You’re going down in rankings”. They’re not doing that. They’re saying if you’ve got every single page of your site pushes content down, then you’re going down in rankings. That stands to reason. You shouldn’t be doing that anyway even if you didn’t mean to, but you should be taking care. What the Ezoic system does is it takes away all that headache and worry about what is the right ad density I want to make as much money as I can, but also I don’t want to spam the users out. How do I balance this thing, the monetization? That’s exactly what the Ezoic system is doing. It’s trying to bring the bounce rate down, it’s trying to bring the bounce rate down and time on site and page visits up and you’re monitoring how many ads there are on a page. Let’s say you’ve got an unnatural high bounce rate page. You should take advantage of having an ad that is front and center because people are naturally bouncing from that page anyway so let’s say a reference site. You look something up, you get your answer and you go. Now they’re either going the back button or they’re going to be clicking over the ad. That is the answer really. If you’re only doing it on certain pages of the site, it’s absolutely fine and we’re doing it only on the nature of the fact that the system is splitting the user base into segments of testing segments. We’re not doing it on every page of the site number one and then number two, if the usability is improving over time, then you’re giving Google what they want. The reason behind all of these updates is that it’s to do with we want you to look after the users. We do not want you spamming the users out on the search returns that we give them. So, go back to basics. The basics are great original content, great usability and it works well on the mobile device. You do those three things, which is what Ezoic is trying to do, actually you’re doing the best thing by the users and you will be rewarded by Google.
Piper: Okay. That leads to one more question. I noticed that I’m now showing five ads per page instead of three, which is what AdSense say
John: Terms and conditions, yeah
Piper: Won’t I get in trouble for having five ads?
John: Well that’s a good one. It’s because it’s to do with our relationship with Google. We’re a certified AdSense partner and we’re also partnered with them for ad exchange products. That means we have the right or we’re allowed to show five ads on the page when the pages are long enough. No you won’t get into trouble for that. It’s really a rule that they have. They only allow partners to handle five ads per page because AdSense, so many publishers are policing people putting five ads on the page. I guess it’s harder, but it’s really just their rules. We always keep within the rules. The system is designed and has been engineered to always stay within Google’s terms of service and AdSense on that exchange is really important. Obviously as we’re partners. It’s really important that we stay within those and that means that we can try or the system can try lots of different things like ad colors, ad positions, ad sizes. The permeatations that are available are huge and if you’re trying to do this yourself manually it would be really difficult. Also you could run into trouble if you were trying to put too many ads in. You can run afoul if either like you said an SEO update or being in breach of terms of their service. So the whole idea behind Ezoic is to make all of this easy and less of a headache and not to force publishers to make too many decisions. That’s the whole idea behind automated tests.
Piper: Perfect. That’s the end of my questions.
John: Okay. Thanks Piper. Please do email us at [email protected] and we will be pleased to add your questions to these lists. Thanks very much.