Interview With Barry Schwartz

Lets Talks SEO: Interview With Barry Schwartz

If you are into Digital Marketing, regardless of how long you are in the industry, you must have visited a few sites, and one of them must be this. I call it a Newspaper of the search industry, and I am so happy that I am interviewing today the person behind this website. He is smart, talented, and a person who always has its positive hat on, Mr. Barry Schwartz.

If you haven’t visited the search engine roundtable yet, I don’t know what rock you were living under, but this should be your bookmarked website, and you should check this website pretty much every day, if not multiple times a day.

Other than search engine roundtable, Barry is also a Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm.

Barry, thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. I will try not to bore you with repetitive questions so that you have fun answering the questions, and our readers can get tons of new information and knowledge out of this interview.

So, here are my questions:

Question: As I said earlier, your blog on search engine land is the number one source when it comes to digital marketers getting the latest updates and news about the industry. But, I want to know a little bit about the other side of the table- how do you collect news and updates, and what is the typical day looks like in the life of a news editor at SEL/SER?

Answer: I collect my news through many different sources including subscribing to a lot of RSS feeds of various search blogs, I follow a lot of industry forums, a ton of people on social media and I have various check lists I check daily for changes. So I am constantly monitoring change in the space. Plus, since so many people know I track these changes – many people tip me off to changes via email or on social media – that is always a huge help.

Question: With the latest updates in Google with regards to SEO like passage-based indexing, core web vitals, and others, do you think in the coming years, the importance of link building/link acquisition will drop significantly?

Answer: No, I do not.  Links, in my opinion, will always be an important ranking signal at Google.  I do think that the page experience update (the one that will look at core web vital metrics) will not be a game charger.  Passage indexing is going to be big but that isn’t going to hurt sites that are well optimized, Google said it helps sites that are poorly optimized.  But the core algorithm updates are always the biggest changes we get from Google from an SEO perspective and links will probably always matter in the foreseeable future.

Question: In a high-level overview, according to Google, what is the most important ranking factor, according to Google? Is it content, technical SEO, or link building? Or anything else, if any?

Answer: I hate these types of questions because Google has so many factors and for each site, what each individual site needs to work on is different. But if are twisting my arm, I’d say

  1. Content,
  2. Links and
  3. Technical SEO – making sure your site is crawlable and indexable.

Question: If I ask the top 3 tools you use daily or your 3 go-to tools when it comes to SEO?

Answer: I don’t do SEO but if I did,

  1. Google Search Console
  2. Bing Webmaster Tools and
  3. Google Analytics.

Question: John Muller, in his videos, discusses about several things and tactics that have a low to no impact on rankings, but if you ask SEO experts, they seem to have a different opinion, so my question is, how much we should trust John Muller?

Answer: I say you should trust John Mueller.

Question: what is passage-based indexing and let’s say if you are addressing the content creators, will you suggest they create their content differently? Or what should be their takeaway from this news?

Answer: Passage indexing is really nothing to do with indexing, it is a ranking change. Google is NOT indexing differently, it is going to rank differently. In short, Google knows there is a ton of really long pieces of content that might be poorly optimized but contain really good information. Currently, Google has a hard time surfacing a passage of content deep inside a really really long piece of content.  So if you write about the history of SEO, and you have one section on passage indexing in that story, Google will now be able to show that in the main results for a query on passage indexing.  SEOs don’t really need to do anything differently, I mean, you are already optimizing content to be found by Google. This is about Google finding content that is not optimized.  Think of pages not well structured with anchors, header tags, etc – this is Google’s way at solving the broken web.

Question: You must have seen a lot of ecommerce stores (big and small), and many of them have issues in common. If I ask you to suggest 3 things to ecommerce stores that they should fix in order to see a measurable impact on their conversions, what will they be?

Answer: Again, this depends on the specific site, so there really is not a top 3 list.  Back in the old days it was having session IDs in the URLs, that was a big one. Or Google having a hard time finding and indexing all the product pages.  Or even not doing title tags properly.  Today I guess the biggest concern may be things around site architecture and pagination, as well as out of stock products and how to handle those with Google. 

Question: HTTP vs. HTTPs: We get it that Google wants the website to be on HTTPs, it’s somewhat a ranking factor too, but my question is, is it ok to get a link back from a non-HTTPS website? Or do you think it’s ok to get a link from any website that is relevant to your subject audience regardless of HTTPS or not?

Answer: Yes, it is fine to get links from HTTP URLs, you do not need links from HTTPS links.  It won’t hurt you to get those links.  Even more, it does not benefit you more to get links from HTTPS vs HTTP URLs.  Just make sure the links are natural links, earned normally.

Question: What is the 1 on-page ranking factors that, in your opinion, most webmasters/business owners underplay but have a significant impact on rankings?

Answer: Title tags?  SEOs know about it.  But business owners have no clue. Changing your title tag from “home page” to your main keyword phrase is always fun.

Question: As this is the last question, if someone is making a digital marketing movie and reached out to you to name it, what would you name it?

 Answer: There have been a few of these actually.  I think one was named SEO – The Movie.  There were others, I forgot their names.  If I had to name an SEO movie – um, maybe something like “Behind The Search Results” would be a cool name

We thank Barry for taking out time to give us his insight into the industry. He surely has added to our understanding of how SEO works in practice.

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