In this week’s episode of Growth Interviews, we invite you to join our podcast conversation with Barry Schwartz, the CEO of RustyBrick and founder of the Search Engine Roundtable, covering search for over 16 years.

Barry Schwartz is also the News Editor at Search Engine Land, being the former News Editor at Search Engine Watch as well. He hosts the Search Marketing Expo in Israel and is a speaker, moderator and coordinator at various search marketing conferences, such as Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, La Red Innova Madrid, Spain, PubCon and many other marketing and technology events.

Barry has been providing an advisory role for Google, Yahoo! Search, Microsoft’s Bing, and several other Internet companies and startups. In 2019, he was awarded the Outstanding Community Services Award from Search Engine Land and in 2018 by the US Search Awards the US Search Personality Of The Year.

Welcome to Growth Interviews!

Welcome to Growth Interviews, the fun, stimulating and engaging series of conversations driven by digital business growth. Our mission is to provide valuable insights from the eCommerce arena, and each episode is a fascinating quest into the best-kept business secrets and money-making strategies of an insightful world-class expert.

In today’s episode, Barry Schwartz shared with us his thoughts on improving your ranking with SEO, RankBrain, the latest trends in SEO and the secret key to growing your online business this year.

Here are the biggest takeaways:

  • What doesn’t work anymore in SEO – 02:29
  • Growing in 2020: SEO and user experience – 06:48
  • The recipe for a good mix of channels – 11:35
  • RankBrain and the influence of AI – 17:04

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What doesn’t work anymore in SEO

“Back in the really early days, the late 1990s, you used to be about just keyword spamming and injecting as many keywords as possible into your page. Obviously that stuff doesn’t work at all [today]. You can’t just stuff keywords in a page and expect to rank well!”

Barry makes a strong point here. The old habits of SEO experts doing low-quality keyword stuffing in their website content and the manipulation of the link structure – considering trade links or link purchasing from different networks –  in an attempt to “inflate” the page rank and link authority are no longer easily accepted by search engines. 

“Google’s really good at figuring out what links are real, which are authoritative. In general, the theme is spamming. It’s something that’s really hard to do these days and it’s something that went out of fashion probably like five years ago.”

Growing in 2020: SEO and user experience

How should eCommerce websites grow from an SEO perspective in 2020? The answer is quite simple, as Barry points out.

“You want to make your website so good that it’s kind of embarrassing for Google not to rank you well!”

What he means by this is that you should definitely concentrate your efforts on user experience. Make sure that your users clearly understand what makes your eCommerce website unique and above your competition. He advises everyone to think about what you could do to make your website unique, valuable and a place where users, searchers and your customers want to return to because they found it on a Google search.

He adds on a funny note that if Google sees that your website is not ranking well for some relevant keywords, they should ask themselves “Why isn’t this website ranking well when it should? We need to go ahead and fix our algorithms!”

On a more serious note, Google has been indeed communicating about their Google quality core updates. The most important aspect is, however, that Google does not take into account data such as CTR (click-through-rate), the place where people click on a website, Google Analytics data or Chome Data for ranking purposes. He then continues:

“At the same time, Google has some type of correlation of understanding if a website is built in a certain way, has a sort of level of content, of user experience with it in terms of the layout, site architecture, the internal linking. Maybe the content has a certain depth level and maybe that correlates to websites that just got a lot of traffic, that have a high conversion rate and engagement with their users.”

Barry concludes that “you want to make sure your website is doing well on everything it needs to do to convert the user, to make the user, your customers, happy. Google will figure out the rest.”

The recipe for a good mix of channels

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!” Barry strongly recommends. In the early days of Google updates – such as the Florida update – there were countless businesses that would simply disappear because their website would no longer appear on Google. The reasons revolved around penalizations, the lack of content or the fact that their website would be visible on maybe the third page in search where users do not reach.

Situations such as this one were a lesson for SEO specialists not to put all their efforts into one single channel, be it organic search, social media or PPC (pay-per-click). You have to make all the necessary preparations to avoid an unfortunate situation where you would suddenly suffer a drop in traffic and there would be no solution in sight.

At the same time, if you think about it, if you’re getting 90% of your traffic from Google – organic search –  and your website just ranks so well, you’re not going to go ahead and say, ‘I want my website not to rank well!’ and start to not invest to continue to build your website up.

In other words, never lose sight of your website optimization!

“You probably do want to spend some time looking at how you can diversify your traffic. It might be making YouTube videos and spending more time on Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook, or maybe you have a tic tac audience. […] In this way, if something happens where [one] channel starts to fall down, you have other channels to drive your traffic from. That’s general business advice.”

RankBrain and the influence of AI

Introduced in 2015, RankBrain is a machine learning algorithm that filters search results to help give users the best answer to their query. On another note, RankBrain is a processing algorithm that uses machine learning to bring back the best match to your query when it is unsure what a specific query “means”. Consequently, if Google is sure of the query meaning, RankBrain has very little influence. RankBrain serves its purpose to help when Google is unsure of the queries’ meaning.

However, is RankBrain adjusted or completely unsupervised? Barry answers:

“RankBrain by definition is a machine learning AI algorithm. So, it is obviously evolving by itself. That’s how machine learning works and how AI works. But Google has said numerous times, over and over again, that when it comes to machine learning and AI, they have some control over it so they could debug it if it goes bad.”

The key here is that Google keeps a close eye on how they implement their algorithms so that you do not have to “worry about these algorithms just running off and do their own thing”.

How will AI and machine learning evolve in time? Barry believes that in the short term, good SEO experts will bridge creativity and art with the data and algorithms. If they bridge them at least the short term, they will be winners in the long term.

“It’s very important for everybody in the SEO space, at least, to understand these algorithms, to be on a high level of understanding and see what they’re trying to do, where they’re trying to go. Everybody’s trying to say ‘What can I do today to tweak my rankings to be better in search?’ But it’s really about where are these algorithms trying to get to? What are they trying to do in the future? And you want to be there with your website so that when the algorithms catch up to where they want to be, your website’s already there.”


Barry Schwartz is always on par with the latest news on SEO, Google algorithms and website optimization to satisfy even the most difficult users out there. And remember one important keyword: user experience.

We hope you enjoyed our podcast interview with Barry Schwartz!
For more valuable insights, make sure you come back to check out our next Growth Interviews as well.

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