Wellspring Digital Chats – Danny Goodwin, Managing Editor of Search Engine Land & SMX

Danny Goodwin is one of those SEO resources that you can trust. If you’ve read anything informative, useful, or even entertaining on Search Engine Land, chances are that Danny had a hand in writing or editing it.

And while he isn’t an SEO O.G. like our own Karl Hindle, he is one of the most respected and trusted names in SEO today. Since 2007, Danny has been in the SEO industry with a mission to help marketers, business owners, and other SEOs try to make sense of this thing we call Search Engine Optimization.

OK, enough gushing. I know you are going to love this interview where we discuss…

  1. The legacy of Google Patent Legend, Bill Slawski
  2. Who carries the SEO torch in Bill’s absence?
  3. Mile-wide, inch-deep content vs. mile-deep, inch-wide
  4. RISE, E-A-T, and Google’s content recommendations
  5. AI-Generated content, good or bad?

Let’s do this!

Digital Transcription (Edited for Readability)

Introductions

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Welcome all, welcome to this trusted space, this space of learning, growth, and all sorts of good things. I am Jon-Mikel Bailey and welcome to the Wellspring Digital Chat where we’ve invested a lot of money in technology. Through the dark web, we’re able to access the brain synapses of our guests and really dive deep into all of their cranial knowledge base. Pluck out what we need, and then they’re on their way. And it really doesn’t cost that much in crypto, but it’s all good. It’s all been approved. It’s all legal-ish.

Anyway, don’t worry. I warned Danny, that I would be doing a goofy intro. So anyway, David Goodwin is one of those names that to me is synonymous with SEO. If you’ve read anything lately on Search Engine Land and learned anything from it, it’s safe to say that you have Danny to thank for that in one way or another. I know I thank you for it, Danny. So Danny, welcome. Please introduce yourself to these wonderful people.

Danny Goodwin: Hi, Jon. Yeah, and I guess I take all the blame, too, if anything’s okay. Yeah, the only good one. I am the managing editor for Search Engine Land and SMX. And I’ve been around since 2007, I started a site called Search Engine Watch, which you’ve probably heard of. And then I was also at Search Engine Journal for a little while there as well. So yeah, I basically hit all the, what I call them the big three. So that’s like, I don’t know if there was some term for those that like the Triple Crown or something.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Maybe the Holy Triumvirate of Search Engine Magazines? Yeah, there’s probably all kinds of things we can come up with there. So you, as you said, you’ve been an editor at, you know, three of my go-to SEO resources. And now I get it finally get a chance to pick your brain. So yes, I know I’ll learn something. And I know our viewers will learn something so you know, no pressure, but you ready to break us off some knowledge?

Danny Goodwin: I’ll do my best.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: All right,  let’s do this.

The Legacy of Google Patent Legend, Bill Slawski

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So, unfortunately, we recently lost Bill Slawski, who was one of the most respected, still is, SEOs around. And it’s hit the digital marketing community very hard. So I know you’ve written some posts honoring the legacy of Bill Slawski. You know, Bill was an invaluable resource for SEOs and digital marketers everywhere. So for anyone here who didn’t know, Bill, which would be shocking. Do you mind sharing your thoughts on his impact on this industry?

Danny Goodwin: Yeah, I was almost thinking, you know, if we had our Mount Rushmore, Bill would probably have to be there, you know? Yeah, when I came in, he was one of the places, you know, way back when, 2007 or eight, when I started really reading a lot about SEO and learning, because that’s when I did a lot of my work when Bill was, his site, SEO by the Sea was huge.

I just sort of think back to how many people he influenced through that site and all the other sites that he contributed to. And Twitter, he was so active on Twitter all the time. It’s just, it’s crazy to think about, but, yeah. Bill was like, he’s a legend. You know, it’s a huge loss. Like, where do I go for my patent knowledge? And where do I go next time “this is a myth or not” because Bill will tell you?

But yeah, he was just such a nice guy too. I only had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times at conferences, but very soft-spoken guy, very generous with his time. He was just one of those people everybody wanted to meet when they went to a conference. Very accessible.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Very accessible too. I’ve never met him. I never met him in person. But you know, I’ve had some interactions with him online. It’s just an all-around great guy. Yeah. Not your, you know, your typical SEO who, who has to some sort of mean spirited-ness to him. He was an anomaly in that way, which is good.

Who Carries the SEO Torch in Bill Slawski’s Absence?

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So you know, of course, we still have some industry veterans carrying the SEO torch of people like David Harry, Roger Monty, Dawn Anderson, and Ammon Johns.

Danny Goodwin: Oh, sure.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: But what about the new blood? Who do you have your eyes on? Or is there anyone you know, you’re particularly paying attention to these days? I have some names in mind. And I’m curious what your answer will be.

Danny Goodwin: It’s interesting because I came in at a time where it’s like, for people who starting now I’m probably an old school person, but I still feel like I’m not old school enough for this industry.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: You’re the youngster.

Danny Goodwin: So like, you know, I came at, like, maybe the second wave of SEO, right? If you want to call it that. But yeah, there are a lot of really talented people out there. Man. You know, obviously, I think Lily Ray is probably one of the big, big people to emerge.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: I had an absolute feeling you were gonna make up her name for sure.

Danny Goodwin: She’s amazing. I don’t know if you consider her new-new, but Marie Haynes, you know, she’s been around for a decade, which, you know, in our industry is kind of new still. But, you know, I read her, her tweets are so informative, and she’s so helpful. And, we just had SMX with her, she did a great presentation on semantic search and E-A-T. And, you know, we did this bonus coffee, it was called a coffee talk. There were so many questions and choose us. She’s so eloquent.

And she has a doctorate, too. So it’s like, she takes a very academic approach, which is, again, that sort of like, Bill, you know, it’s very kind of like an academic, like, I want to do my research. And very giving of her time, you know, she does a lot of research and shares all her findings. So I’d put her up there. Man, yeah, there’s a bunch of names. And I’d probably, you know, I’ll probably upset people if I don’t mention them.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: No, I did kind of put you on the spot. Yeah. But ya know, those are two great names.

Danny Goodwin: Oh, I didn’t say one of them. I’ll add one other one, Kevin Indig. You know, I don’t agree with everything he says. But I really kind of appreciate his approach to a lot of the things he discusses. Again, I don’t always agree with everything. But that’s, that’s so yeah, we’re not, we’re never all gonna agree on everything.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So, how can we Google doesn’t tell us anything?

Danny Goodwin: Oh, yeah.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: And when they do, it’s misleading.

Danny Goodwin: So yeah, it’s tough. But yeah, there are a lot of great people out there. So and I’m, what’s interesting, too, is I’ve become a lot more active on LinkedIn. I’m just starting to follow more people because there’s a lot of more interesting discussions. And, you know, I feel like Twitter used to be the place to go for SEO discussions. But I think that’s shifting to LinkedIn right now. So I’m starting to follow people and trying to sort of figure out who are the legit people versus, oh, here’s an SEO secret that everybody’s known for 20 years. So you know, like, there’s a lot of that too, that you have to weed through. Because it was annoying.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: But it’s funny, because, you know, LinkedIn is like, the dumpster fire level is like at smoldering, whereas Twitter and Facebook, it’s like, you know, out of control dumpster fire. It’s a nice, sort of rational business-focused space. For now. We’ll see what happens.

Danny Goodwin: Oh, yeah. I mean, yeah, LinkedIn is not perfect by any stretch. But I have been enjoying reading without a lot of the toxicity that you’ll see on Twitter, or it’s like, I have an opinion. Now, let me tell you why it’s wrong from everybody else in the world.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Mile-Wide, Inch-Deep Content Vs. Mile-Deep, Inch-Wide

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So you recently read an article about Jaimie Clark and her work migrating The Wirecutter over to New York Times. And there’s one specific thing I want to kind of focus on here. You talk about how The Wirecutter had a mile-wide, inch-deep approach to their content that starting in 2018 with Jaime was transformed into a mile deep. I get what you’re saying. And I believe this wholeheartedly, but I wonder if you can explain what this mile deep means and maybe elaborate a little bit on its importance.

Danny Goodwin: Yeah, super important. It’s actually kind of funny. I just stumbled on an article I edited way back in probably 2010. That was basically saying the same thing. And I don’t know how I stumbled across it, but I did. And yeah, you sort of realize a lot of this stuff that you think is new is really just a new face. And it’s really the same thing.

So it’s sort of like if you go back to the pre-panda days or a lot of content farms out there. The goal is just to rank for every conceivable term. Monetize the heck out of it. And, you know, rank and go to the bank. Okay. But yeah, then Panda came along, a lot of people’s business models if you want to call them that, were wiped out. And that’s really kind of the best way to explain it.

It’s like, you can rank for all these terms, but I don’t think Google is going to reward that in the long term. You can try and rank for everything under the sun. But what they really want to see is that you have depth, I like the term depth and breadth. So it’s not just, you know, her example is a vacuum. So, you can have the best handheld vacuums, best push vac, and like all the different types of vacuums, there are. It’s basically, you know, you want to think of all the possible user intents that would come to a broad topic, and then provide that depth.

Which type of vacuum you’re trying to buy, is it a name brand, or sort of that? So, yeah, it’s very much just thinking about the user – all the possible questions and answering them and directing them to other resources on your own site. And just being very transparent about how you do things as well, I think is super important now.

You know, because there’s so much kind of pay-to-play stuff that happens, or, you know, people pay for reviews to say, “hey, here’s the top five products” and like, number one is a sponsor, but they don’t tell you that it’s sponsored. So yeah, it’s pretty much just think about at the highest level you want to rank for, obviously, the big terms, but once you get people there, you want to niche down.

Go longtail if you’re supporting content, link it all together, because internal linking is the thing, you know, that’s sort of the secret. I’ve said that for years. I know it’s not a secret. But you know, people don’t do enough internal linking. Support your pillar pages, or whatever you want to call them, your money pages, all the supporting content, and just go deep. Go into all the cases, do your keyword research, look for “people also ask” questions, answer all those questions and just be the source.

Whenever people are searching for whatever it is that you either sell, or you know, if your informational site and give them the information they want.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: I think it kind of takes the guesswork. You know, it might on the surface seem like a lot more work. But to me, it seems I feel like it would take the guesswork out of your content planning if you do that upfront due diligence and research and planning. And really, you know, I love the idea of answering their questions. You know, there’s a hole They Ask, You Answer, the Marcus Sheridan thing, but yeah, I think a mile deep to me meant exactly what you’re saying, which is, you know, get to their needs in a deep and meaningful and thoughtful way.

Danny Goodwin: Right? Yeah, it’s sort of like, you know, if you think about this, there’s always this talk about Generation Z, or Millennials or Gen X. So it’s just like a homogenous blob. All the people in that generation are not the same. Then, it’s the same thing with a broad topic like that. Not everybody who comes looking for information on a vacuum is looking for the same vacuum or the same brand.

You have to think about everybody as an individual, but they have shared interests. And it’s just a case of pointing them to that interest so that they buy from you or get the information from you and look to you next time they need a thing on something else. Yeah, that’s basically it.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: It’s so true. I think it’s, you know, any marketing department that is sort of starting fresh, it’s like, there’s where you begin. Yeah, that’s your marching orders.

RISE, E-A-T, and Google’s Content Recommendations

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So, to continue with content, You wrote a piece about Google’s assessment of good content as being content that is relevant, intellectual, sensorial, and emotional. I don’t know where they come up with their adjectives sometimes. So, this was more about YouTube, but you argue that it applies to all content. Do you see any correlations between this and Google E-A-T and the importance of content for SEO efforts?

Danny Goodwin: I mean, not necessarily for E-A-T. Potentially, yes. But it’s I think it’s more just kind of, it’s kind of like E-A-T. It’s just a way of thinking about content. It’s not like a checklist item, you know, so I think it’s more like the user intent. It’s like, are you fulfilling what you promise? That’s what I always, that’s sort of my personal benchmark, you know, does the thing that makes them click on your article? Do you deliver on it or not? Are you teaching them something new? Are you informing them? Are you entertaining them? Whatever your sort of end goal is there?

That’s the key. That’s not really like an E-A-T necessarily. It’s more just kind of a user experience or, you know, yeah, I guess user experience is right word for that. Did they enjoy your content that they learned from it? Was your content helpful? Or was it just there? Because there are just so many things that get published every day, I’m sure there’s some crazy stat about it. But you know, a lot of people just push out the content really fast, they don’t really think about quality, it doesn’t do anything.

And they go, why doesn’t my SEO work? Why doesn’t my content strategy work? Because you’re not doing quality, quality work. So, and even if you are doing quality work, I have found this so often, it’s like, the stuff you’re doing today, may not pay off for six months, maybe a year, maybe 18 months, but when it starts to, that’s when kind of the magic starts happening. It’s not like paid search, so you’re not gonna get the instant thing. It’s like you’re building the audience. And that takes time. You know?

Jon-Mikel Bailey: I mean, you know, what would be your advice to a marketing director trying to sell that to a boss that has zero patience, and is always focused on the bottom line? I mean, is it even possible or how do you frame that? So they go, “Oh, okay. Yeah, that makes sense.” Not to put you on the spot.

Danny Goodwin: I luckily, don’t have to solve that. But, you know, the thing is, it’s just like, Yeah, I’ve just seen it so often that the growth comes. And when it comes, it’s just big. And it’s not, it’s like extra. The famous metaphor is exercise. You can go to the gym every day, you may not see the results right now. But, if you keep at it, you’re gonna find that you have more breath, and you can lift stuff more easily. And like, all those things, and then if you stop, it goes away.

So it’s just basically that, you know, if you don’t, there was a great quote from Keith Good. I put it in one of our newsletters, he shared it on Twitter. It’s like, you know, you can pay for it now, or you can pay later, and you’re gonna pay more later. I think it was like some reference to an old Midas ad from the 80s. So that one too, for me. But yeah, that’s just like paying now or pay later.

If you want to be competitive, you have to start doing this stuff. Unless you want to just dump a whole lot of money into the paid search. And the other stuff, which I don’t think a lot of people have the budget for, especially right now. Seems pretty, pretty insane prices for Google ads, and the like.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Do you think the kind of content we’re talking about has a longer shelf life and can you know, produce for a longer period of time? And it seems like it would to me.

Danny Goodwin: It can, the key part and that this will sort of more into E-A-T, is you have to keep that content updated. If things change, you want to make sure that you change your content, especially if this is like something specific to your industry. Like, if you’re in healthcare, and there’s some new law that comes out, you’re going to need to update a bunch of content on your website.

Whatever the case may be, you have to really watch the news, as things change, update fast, as fast as you can. Maybe even I found the, you know, a good thing to do is even get a list together of your maybe you pick your highest traffic pages, just keep track of them. Go, “Okay, this is a page that needs to be updated, or at least checked every quarter, every six months or a year” or whatever the case may be.

Again, it’ll all depend on your industry. It depends. But yeah, just like, I would just definitely make sure you’re keeping track of content, especially around core updates too. Make sure if you see any of those key pages start to drop in traffic or rankings, update them. Because I’ve seen that, I’ll call it a correlation, but a lot of older content tends to get hit around core updates. Because Google obviously wants to put out or wants to feature the most up-to-date information in its search results. It doesn’t always, but that’s the goal.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: I mean, it seems like the whole you know, the underlying theme of all of this is that trust is a huge part of user experience. And that goes for content, SEO, design, and on. But, you know, if you’re maintaining quality content that is helpful, you’re also maintaining trust, which I don’t know how Google would even, you know, sort of track that, but it seems like they’re trying.

Danny Goodwin: Maybe, yep, I think you know, links are probably part of it. If you get covered from a relevant, authoritative site, that’s always a good thing for a trust signal. I don’t know what all of them are, obviously. But yeah, I’m sure at this point, they have a way to do it. It was interesting too. If you go back to Jamie’s keynote, I know that E-A-T is much more than author bios.

But it was interesting how they were thinking about it. It’s like, in your author bios, you want to say, who this person is, how many years of experience they have writing about this specific topic that they’re covering, any relevant awards, and whatnot. So, you know, all those little things matter.

And it’s like, what am I going to trust more though, you know, a bylined piece or a piece by like, “admin,” which I still see, like every once in a while. Something ranking by “admin” with no picture, no information, like, how does it still rank in 2022? I don’t know.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Man, that admin is a great writer.

Danny Goodwin: He’s everywhere. Or she.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: They’re, just, you know, they’re just crushing it.

Danny Goodwin: Prolific, very prolific.

AI-Generated Content, Good or Bad?

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So, you know, one of the biggest frustrations I think, a lot of SEOs and marketers have is that Google keeps asking us for the kind of content that we’ve been talking about, but then rewards thin AI-generated content with favorable rankings. So, you know, this is a hard question probably for anybody to answer. But when will good content completely trump the thin content? Or will it? In other words, are we doomed?

Danny Goodwin: Yeah, I think so. I don’t know. Obviously, Google’s been around for two decades at this point. And it’s still a problem. So let’s say at least two more decades, maybe they’ll figure it out by then if they’re still around, and they haven’t been broken up by the government at that point.

But yeah, I mean, you know, again, if we go back to Bill Slawski, I did an article on how there was all this obituary spam. I was searching, you know, I wanted to see if there was an obituary, an official one for Bill. And I found all these awful websites that are just spinning content about his death and stealing. They were obviously spinning content through AI from stuff that we had published on Search Engine Land. And I think from Search Engine Roundtable too, and they were just sort of like spitting out all this garbage.

I’m like, “How is this ranking?” I tweeted at Danny Sullivan, I even reached out to Google, you know, nothing’s gotten changed. So I don’t know, I guess it can still work in certain verticals. And it may always, unfortunately, unless it’s, I hate to say it unless like Google has a financial stake in, like investing resources into doing that. Or it could just be you know, they have an enormous queue.

I don’t know how long their queue is of things they need to fix on search. I would imagine it’s fairly long at this point. Because, you know, I don’t remember what the example was. But there was something that just got fixed. Oh, it’s Chris Silversmith had just recently published an article on our site about how that old hack for like adding near me to your names. Like, they finally fix that problem, for the most part in local search. And he was noting he had brought that up to Google two years ago, and they’ve just fixed it now.

So you know, maybe they’ll fix the oldest spam issue in two years, I hope. But yeah, it’s just there’s always gonna be junk out there. And there’s always gonna be tricks to make it rank until Google catches, it’s this endless game of cat and mouse. I don’t really know. Yeah, I’m gonna hope for two decades from now.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Yeah, what would you say to, you know, a marketing director or VP of marketing, or CMO, or whatever, he’s going, all this AI-generated thin content, some of it is ranking, you know, why do we need to bother creating good content? You know, when we can get the rankings we want with this quick. What would you say to them? You know, how would you argue to them that they need to still fight the good fight?

Danny Goodwin: I would say the, I would take a minute to think about, but it’s really just, you know, whenever I come across that stuff, I, I’m angry. And, you know, I’ve always had this sort of personal thing, where it’s like if I land on any page that I’ve published, would I be happy with it as a searcher? That’s sort of my personal bar. I want to make sure that if I’m getting people in there, they’re happy.

And that they got the answer to the question they wanted. That stuff does not do that, you know, I’ve looked at tons of tools. You know, not personally, but you know, I’ve just explored them a little bit. And the stuff that they pump out is not quality, and I wouldn’t trust, if you’re trying to sell stuff to me, I would not trust that stuff.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Yeah, I think, yeah, because it comes back to user experience.

Danny Goodwin: Yeah, it really does to the user experience. So it’s like, you can do it and I would even say I’m fine with that as kind of a first draft, but you need to have a human reviewing it. And the other thing too, you need to think about, I don’t, I may be stealing this from someone else, I’m sorry. But if you’re basically just relying on an AI tool to go out and regurgitate stuff from other websites. You’re not showcasing who you are as a company or brand or individual. And that’s ultimately a losing strategy.

It’s, you know, what’s your take? What makes you experienced in this area? Why should I trust you? That’s what I want to know. So and that’s a hard question to answer.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: No, I think you answered it perfectly. And I think we can sum up kind of the whole theme of this talk here with the word “Trust.” You know, I think that’s what we’re generally, whether it’s, you know, someone like Bill, who can, you know, who was just such a trusted resource to, you know, building trust within your own organization. So, you know, yeah, that’s great.

Danny Goodwin: I love it when a theme emerges.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Right?

Danny Goodwin: Yeah, we planned that totally.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Oh, yeah. It’s in my notes. Yes. Well, Danny, thank you so much. There’s a lot of good stuff in here. I can’t wait to share it. And yeah, thank you very much for joining us.

Danny Goodwin: Thank you very much for having me.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: All right. See you, everybody.

Jon-Mikel Bailey is the Chief Development and Marketing Officer for Wellspring Digital, a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in SEO, PPC, Marketing Automation, and Content Marketing. He has been published in MarketingProfs, Business2Community, SpinSucks, {Grow}, Social Media Today, and more. He has spoken at the Digital Summit Series, MarketingProfs, ITE, Grant Thornton, and others.