Announcer: 00:01 On this episode of EDGE of the Web.

George Nguyen: 00:04 Really finding that sweet spot of where our audience is, what they actually care about, the size of the enterprise that they represent or the agencies that they work for, what kind of toolsets they use. Being in tune with them without all those things is probably the most important consideration for us. Yeah, that’s, I would say, the toughest part, but the new cycle that you spoke about, I would say that that’s actually not been as bad as trying to figure out what’s appropriate to cover for our sites.

Announcer: 00:40 Your weekly digital marketing trends with industry trend-setting guests. You’re listening and watching EDGE of the Web, winner of best podcast from the Content Marketing Institute for 2017. Here at Seymour, at

Now, here’s your host, Erin Sparks.

Erin Sparks: 01:02 All right. So this is EDGE of the Web, Episode 337. I’m your host, Erin Sparks. Every week, we bring you amazing guests to chat about digital marketing trends and news and unpack key marketing topics for our digital marketing audience. Thanks for joining us in the live stream. You can always check us out

We air 3:00 P.M. Eastern every Monday and we certainly appreciate you joining us in our first show of 2020. We’ve been doing this show for nine years now. We got a few shows under our belt and there’s certainly a way to listen to us and watch us in your preferred method of consumption. So you want to go check out everything over at We’re cranking a podcast, or transcripts or video content as well as blogs, so much more over there at EDGE of the Web Radio. So jump in there and deep-dive with each show.

So if you’re new to the show, welcome. You need to know the ropes here, is that every week, we’re actually talking to top experts in their field, in the digital marketing space and we’re broadcasting live stream. And then just pour a number of different curation pieces of transcripts like I said, social media and all the video pieces regarding our new segment, as well as our focus interview.

So if you’re wanting to see everything all at once, just jump into the YouTube live stream, and also hit that bell. Get reminded whenever we go live. And we’re also really imploring our audience to jump in there and ask questions of our guests because that’s what makes it really unique, is to be able to have that inner activity and learn from you, our audience, as we’re digging into these different topics.

EDGE of the Web is actually brought to you by the title sponsor, Site Strategics. They’re a pioneer in the agile digital marketing front. Their core specialties are SEO, SCM, social media conversion rate optimization and omnichannel media. In fact, we’re broadcasting from the Site Strategics studio here at EDGE Media Studios.

So if you’re interested in what results-based agile marketing is, give them a call at 877-SEO for web, or SR-8777-364932, because I hate spelling those bloody things out. We have a vanity number, but I never translate that. That really kind of pisses me off whenever I have to go translate that and work through the letters. So why do we even have it, Jacob?

Jacob Mann: 03:25 I can remember it. I know. I’m guessing you probably got this when you’re actually on the radio and you thought people might be in their car so you can get them to remember something.

Erin Sparks: 03:35 Absolutely.

Jacob Mann: 03:36 But yeah. Now, I don’t know.

Erin Sparks: 03:38 Actually, if you’re new to our show, that’s where everything originated. We are running a local radio show here in Indianapolis and spring-boarded each level of broadcast and digital output. And we said, “Hey, you know what? You got to take it livestream,” and so we are here.

Jacob Mann: 04:00 Yeah. And now, we should just put an antenna on the building of this roof.

Erin Sparks: 04:03 I think that would be fantastic. Actually, we almost put a rocket ship up there whenever we-

Jacob Mann: 04:09 [crosstalk 00:04:09] radio station.

Erin Sparks: 04:11 That’s Jacob Mann in the booth. He is the Creative Director. We also want to introduce Allie Coons, she’s also the associate producer in the show.

Jacob Mann: 04:19 She’s refusing to wave.

Erin Sparks: 04:21 She’s refusing to wave now. She’s actually eating. My Lord.

Jacob Mann: 04:25 Late lunch.

Erin Sparks: 04:29 Well, as we’ll swing back around to her, we wanted to make sure that you knew about some housekeeping for the show, each and every show. We want to let you know who is going to be on the show next. So we have a slew of really great guests. We’ve got Timothy Jensen coming up on the 13th. Jay Acunzo for his third visit to EDGE of the Web, and that’s going to be on the 20th. Dawn Anderson is going to be on the 27th. Kim Scott is going to be on the 3rd of February, we believe.

If you’re interested in being part of the show, being interviewed as a guest, or if you’re interested in us talking to somebody that you want to hear from, just let us know. If you email over to, we’ll hunt them down and we’ll be nice about it, but we’ll get them on the air so you can ask the questions that you have.

Also again, set your reminders for the YouTube channel so you can get notified when those shows are live. All right, so that’s the show housekeeping. We certainly appreciate you joining us for our first show of 2020. All right, so we do want to thank our sponsor, Ahrefs, for being a continued sponsor on EDGE. Ahrefs, or Ahrefs in common tongue, makes competitive analysis very, very easy.

Their tools show you how your competitors are getting their rankings from Google and why. You can see the pages, the content that send the most traffic from the search engines, find out the exact keywords that they’re ranking on, and which backlinks are actually helping them rank. From there, you can replicate and improve on their strategy.

So if you haven’t checked out Ahrefs, go over to www … Nobody says www nowadays, do they? Holy crap. Am I just showing my age here? I really am., and you can sign up right there for a free trial. It’s a great tool. We love it over here. Literally, I’ve got maybe four tabs to open on my desktop right now. So we’re using it constantly. Go check it out. It’s one of the best inbound link analysis tools that we’ve ever come across here and they’ve certainly matured over the decades. So go check out dot com today for that free trial. We love it over here, and so will you.

All right. There is the gratuitous plug. There’s the news for the day. So we want to get into even more news with our news industry expert. So let’s jump into this week’s deep dive.

Announcer: 06:53 Now, it’s time for EDGE of the Web featured interview with George Nguyen, Associate Editor at Third Door Media.

Erin Sparks: 07:04 And for those of you listening, you got to check out the video because George has quite a smug expression on his avatar there. He even jumped in there and told us that, you’re a bit more excited than what that picture showed.

George Nguyen: 07:20 Yeah, I’m generally smiling. I just needed something for slack that day and I was like, okay, this is going to go across the board here. And I am excited to be here and excited to speak with you.

Erin Sparks: 07:35 Appreciate it, man. Well again, like we said before is that we’ve been covering George with his articles over Search Engine Land Marketing Land for about a year, year and a half now. And you’ve certainly been forthcoming with some great insights, some great information. You’re covering a heck of a lot of things in our industry.

Let’s introduce you to our audience. George covers breaking search news over at Search Engine Land, like I said, as well as podcasting over at Marketing Land. Both are fantastic portals of information over the last decade, and they continue to be an authoritative place for information in the digital marketing industry.

George moderates a number of conferences from Third Door. That’s SMX East and West, as well as the advanced conferences. He’s also got a long history in podcasting and spent nearly nine years in Korea. Half the time, you’re on radio as a writer and personality on the radio. That’s very cool. That’s where he got started in journalism.

So there’s the small story. George, tell us the big story. How in the world did you get where you are, and that you got to Search Engine Land because it’s a bit of a competent space you got there?

George Nguyen: 08:46 Yeah. And I didn’t actually know that. So I guess I’ll just lead with the very, very short answer and hopefully, it will just keep people listening. I applied on Indeed.

Erin Sparks: 09:01 Just like that, man. You just burst the bubble. It was so mystique, this ethereal plane.

George Nguyen: 09:05 There was no hookup or industry insider thing. I saw this listing for Third Door Media. I didn’t know what Third Door Media was, but I was familiar with their property search engine land because I was working at a content marketing firm prior. And I was like, yeah, this place puts out pretty good stuff. I read a few of their articles.

I’m sure Jimmy is watching this right now, my boss, which I have to say thank you to all of my colleagues because for all the praise that you’ve just given to me, it should really go to them. It really does take a village to turn me from what I was into whatever I am now, whatever opinion you might have of me now.

Erin Sparks: 09:45 It’s probably going to change by the end of this show. Just kidding.

George Nguyen: 09:50 But anyway, I saw the listing, it was four weeks old and I was like, all right, well I’m just going to send my resume, I’ll one-click it. I’m not going to spend much time on it. And then I got a reply the next business day. They happened to need somebody with my particular skill set, something in journalism, but also one foot in marketing.

And then it turned out, this is where things got interesting because my VP, Henry, actually knew somebody who hired me at one of my former jobs. And before I even really had a chance to speak to Henry, he asked that person about me and they provided a nice little reference for me all without my knowledge. So I’m very, very fortunate.

I feel like sometimes, the universe just pull you into certain directions and you just have to lean in, and that’s how I got here. I can’t give you any tips, if you’re watching for tips on how to get on to Search Engine Land.

Erin Sparks: 10:45 Wow.

George Nguyen: 10:46 You’re just going to have to contribute [crosstalk 00:10:49].

Erin Sparks: 10:49 All right folks, that’s a show. Appreciate everybody for watching and listening. All right. All right. It does happen that way. And over the years we’ve been doing this show, every once in a while, there’s a story like that, that all of a sudden, something just happened and my gosh, what a windfall moment, right? So-

George Nguyen: 11:07 But I would say that everybody’s windfall is different for everyone else, so I’m sure what you would define, Erin, as a windfall for yourself might be something that maybe somebody else doesn’t want to do. Like my partner, she doesn’t want to do anything related to marketing. She’s in the fitness sector.

But for years, I was a teacher for half of my time in Korea and that really wasn’t what I wanted to do when I started saying yes to things, that just seemed interesting. And radio was one of those things. And if you just keep saying yes to those things, you see that everything gets fragmented. You’re like, I like this and I like that and I like this. How are they all going to come together?

But if you keep doing them and you keep progressing at them, one day, you’ll find an opportunity where they do come together and that will be that big windfall for you. And you’ll have a hard time explaining it on a podcast, like me right now.

Erin Sparks: 11:57 I’m just looking for a windfall where all my kids get up at the same time without me taking a cattle prod to get them up. That’s my windfall moment, to be honest with you. But you’re absolutely right, everybody has their own unique scenario. And serendipity aside, is that you still have to move the needle. You have to be open and find opportunity.

You just can’t allow and you just can’t wait for something to happen. You’ve got to be able to take a risk and jump into a space that’s uncomfortable for some. So you’re absolutely right. So I reached out to you at the end of the last year to see if we could actually sit down and have a talk. I’m wanting to start up a new area on the show, on this podcast, just talking to contributors such as yourself because there is kind of a unique side of the equation in this industry that doesn’t really get that much attention, and it’s literally having to cover all the things that are changing so bloody much in this industry.

It is ungodly. It is literally a 24-hour news cycle on some of these things, especially like we were talking about from updates and volatility in the search ranking realm. We are hyper reactive as marketers, wanting to pay attention and to be able to capitalize on unique scenarios on a regular basis. But there’s so much to pay attention to that we need individuals to help sift through this and give us a little bit of backstory and picture of relevancy in reality. So that was a very long-winded role.

Just trying to tie into understanding what it’s like in the space to be able to bring forth this information. You certainly are astute in the industry and the services that we’re talking about, but what is it like having to report on this and separating fact from fiction? Now, start with that.

George Nguyen: 13:56 One of the things is first of all, deciding on what to cover so obviously, there are topics that the entire industry cares about like any core algorithm update, but then, there are minor releases like Yoast might put something out. When they first started doing their structure data thing, I was covering that. And then eventually, it teetered off and I stopped covering that.

But really, finding that sweet spot of where our audience is, what they actually care about, the size of the enterprise that they represent or the agencies that they work for, what kind of toolsets they use, being in tune with that, with all those things is probably the most important consideration for us. Yeah, that’s, I would say, the toughest part, but the new cycle that you spoke about, I would say that that’s actually not been as bad as trying to figure out what’s appropriate to cover for our sites.

And for me, it’s the level of SEO because not everybody has 10-plus years in the industry like Barry has. Some people need more of a beginner level introduction to things and usually, I’m the one to do that because I have much less experience than a lot of my colleagues do. But finding that fine line is really important. And also, trying to put it in language that people can digest without actually having to look up the original source and start using a dictionary and search engine, just finding all these other different words, like, wait, what does this mean? Explaining BERT was pretty much a nightmare.

Erin Sparks: 15:33 Yeah. Try to have a podcast trying to describe that for a couple of shows. It’s like, all right, for those of you that want to get smacked upside the head with this technicality, here we go. No, you’re absolutely right. You tend to be a translator of source, especially in the more technical side of the digital marketing realm, right?

George Nguyen: 15:52 Yeah. And the thing that people don’t really think about when they think of journalists or anybody covering, a reporter, is that if you’ve been there a long time, then you have this amazing wealth of knowledge that you can draw from. If you don’t, then you are literally researching every time you’re at the keyboard.

You have to learn what it is. You have to learn its history so that you can provide a nuanced article that your demographic will actually care to read. And that happens to me a lot because I just want to be thorough, but also, because I think the histories matters. Everybody will tell you I have a tendency to over-write things.

So something that could have been done in 200 words, I might go to 600 and then I have to aggressively cut. So I waste a lot of time that way. But-

Erin Sparks: 16:43 Not really though, but because you’re also … As much as that’s good content, you’re also educating yourself along the process. So whether it falls on the cutting room floor, you’re going to be more apt to be able to give a better review of a particular issue the next time this particular issue comes around, right?

George Nguyen: 17:03 That’s what I meant to say, thank you.

Erin Sparks: 17:05 No problem. In a certain vein, we do that here, is to cover these topics, cover the discussions that are going on. It helps us enormously to have our staff educated in these different spaces because there’s a constant flow of new information and just being able to process it, curate it, getting into different spaces. It’s by its very nature disciplining us to learn and stay on top of things, and it delivers right to our clients in one way, shape or form.

So it’s good to be able to deep-dive. You just have to be able to pull back and translate. And sometimes, I fail. I fail to get that point across because I have seen eyes roll back in their heads and foaming at the mouth as I go into my rants. See, they’re actually rolling their eyes.

Jacob Mann: 17:59 Yeah. I’m thinking I need to get this window tinted over here.

George Nguyen: 18:04 Yeah, I have to agree especially because all of us who work in the same sector and just do the same job with multiple clients, or have the same familiarity with a platform, a company, whenever that company does something. Since we talk about Google so much, that’s low-hanging fruit. Whenever they do something, we already have it pegged.

We pigeonhole with everything. They introduced a FAQ schema. Well, they want to steal our clicks. Did you really have to zoom in there when I did that? That was perfect timing.

Erin Sparks: 18:44 That’s going to turn into a GIF here [inaudible 00:18:46] show.

George Nguyen: 18:47 But what I was saying is we have the context and that can inform us, but also sometimes, it can hinder us. And for me writing, I have to make sure my writing is more objective than my speech. Hopefully it is.

Erin Sparks: 19:00 Well yeah. What I was saying earlier, we are such a reactionary bunch, in SEO especially, because it’s about getting that traffic. And as much as we understand what really their mission is, is to provide a better experience for its customer. Yeah, we are a bit skeptical of anything and everything that carves away, or at least is perceived to be carving away traffic and impressions that mean commerce to us, right?

George Nguyen: 19:37 Yeah, exactly. There’s that. But also, I know it’s hard for people at agencies, but I try to deliver information so that people can make an objective decision, whatever is right for them, so you have to deliver it objectively and deliver that cost benefit analysis. But when you work in an area where clearly, you would benefit if they went one way instead of the other, that’s really hard to do.

And you have to weigh your own biases with whatever new product or whatever the client is asking for, all those considerations in mind when you present that information.

Erin Sparks: 20:15 Because this skews perspective very, very, very quickly. So this is why shows like this exists so you can actually vent and rant and it doesn’t get back into your publication. So I want to cover a few more things in that space, but I do want to take a quick moment and actually refer to some of the articles that you’ve just recently released.

Just quickly, we’re just running through some of the headlines. Online tax filing services can now no longer hide free services, Google search results being revived as cash program with rebates, SEO year and review was a really good recap, in which you covered BERT, local spam in a number of different things in 2019.

Search engine patents with Bill Slawski. Being partners with a flight booking size, the big list of 2019 search algorithm updates. There’s a lot of information that you’re continually rolling out and you have to be quite aware and quite knowledgeable about all these different things, man, because one, it’s coming from a lot of different sources and you have to be able to hone this in and codify correctly what you’re really hearing, what people are hearing.

But there’s a lot of information that your publications shore up as some clarion calls or some good wrap-up material of what someone needs to know to make sense out of this space. So it’s a really important place that you’re taking on there. What are some of your favorite stories that you’ve written here over the last year that got some good traction?

George Nguyen: 21:52 I would say that the ones that came up to mind, but also, I did not include in my SEO year-in-review was the subdomain leasing. Did you speak about that on the podcast?

Erin Sparks: 22:09 Yeah, we covered that a while back. Yeah.

George Nguyen: 22:11 Yeah. That was in the middle of the summer. So that was a big deal. I’m not really sure how to feel about it all the time because if you’re unfamiliar with the topic, it’s essentially third-party coupon-like sites partnering up with major publishers that have … they generally have some sort of online presence that’s been established, like CNN has one, that’s like

And I guess to oversimplify it, people have said that these third party coupon sites are using the carried over goodwill and all the signals from the main domain, CNN, to rise higher up in the ranks, beat out established sites like Groupon. And I actually talked with one of the CEOs of one of the companies, the coupon sites that does this. And it was a very interesting discussion.

But I feel like that is something to keep an eye on just because it begs the question, is it an unfair advantage? But it’s not so simple because a lot of people say, “Hey, you open a newspaper and there are ads in it,” right? And they’re using that newspaper’s visibility to get in front of the reader. How is that different?

I would say that is different because you’re on a website. And when you go to get the New York Times, you are buying the New York Times-

Erin Sparks: 23:42 You are a subscriber, yeah [crosstalk 00:23:43].

George Nguyen: 23:43 Yeah. When you’re going on a search engine, that’s not the same thing.

Erin Sparks: 23:47 Nope. Absolutely not. You’re literally poaching some of the clout of that brand you’re exploiting the clout of that brand and the domain authority to be able to … This is literally link-buying, right?

George Nguyen: 24:02 I wouldn’t say it’s literally link-buying. It’s a much more nuanced discussion than that. That’s why I have a hard time myself figuring out where I’m at with it. But I would just say that it doesn’t seem completely white hat. But I feel if you read my article, I come off that way. I think people told me, “Yeah, this comes off as bias. Did you really want people to feel like they can make their own decision on this?”

And I looked back on it, and I felt like, no, I went at it with an angle of, maybe you are doing something that’s a little bit elicit here.

Erin Sparks: 24:37 So that brings up a perfectly good question. How many I’s you get on your articles that you guys write over there? And do you have a bit of an internal policing policy, okay, fresh eyes. Do I sound cynical? Do I sound a bit skewed or biased? Any editorial junk that has that type of process. I’m assuming you guys have something like that in-house as well.

George Nguyen: 25:02 Yeah. My editor-in-chief makes sure that I don’t go way off base with anything. So when we do a news brief, it’s generally just, here’s the news and this is why it’s important. That’s that. It’s as direct as we can possibly make it with everything you care about. However, when we do a feature, we might try to get voices of the community.

Some of the people that you featured on this podcast. I try to get in touch with Lily Ray whenever I can because she’s an excellent voice in the community. She’s very well-informed. And her opinion carries a lot of clout, and I always want to hear it. So whenever there’s a given topic that’s pertinent and I feel like she’d be knowledgeable, I try to include voices from the community there.

And that’s one way to insert more opinions that can inform how the reader views a subject matter, or the controversy as a whole without actually getting in there myself because I still have to maintain my integrity and try to be as unbiased as possible. Sometimes, I might come at things with a certain slant because you just know they’re wrong.

Like I did a piece of coverage when the New York times or the Wall Street Journal, I can’t remember which publication. They had this huge article about all these spam local listings that Google had millions and millions of them of course. But you have interviews with local business owners who see their rankings get pushed further down by a flood of spam listings. And then the only way to regain their visibility they feel is to buy those ads.

So if Google doesn’t do anything about the spam listings, they still benefit from those local service providers buying ads. So no matter what, Google is positioned to win, and that just feels very, very wrong. Like you’re not a platform so much as … I think one of the people interviewed in that original piece by the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, forgive me, calls it extortion, and you could see why they would feel that way. If you were a business owner, you’d feel that way as well.

So there’s not really another way to go about it other than Google. You need to be better about this if you want people to use your platform.

Erin Sparks: 27:14 Absolutely. It’s good to be able to have that plum, so to speak, of how to approach an article. You and your editorial staff have another obligation, to be able to translate this outwardly to other media platforms who don’t get it. And we covered the Wall Street Journal review of Google rankings and the black hat side of things, so to speak, that came out the latter part of last year.

And immediately, Barry was out there just burning down the Wall Street with some legitimate points of, you have no idea what you’re saying in this paragraph or this paragraph. And it was legitimate. Unfortunately, the mainstream media, for lack of a better description, doesn’t have context, doesn’t have knowledge. And it’s such an easy thing to just throw a flaming bag of crap in the middle of the public sphere of understanding what Google has done because the people are thinking continually that there’s a monopolistic antitrust perspective there.

And we talked to Bill Slawski just about this, is that there’s a lot of different takes that you can have, but if the media decides to march up, they’re not going to fact-check. They’re not going to even understand the beginning of nuance, right, in this space.

George Nguyen: 28:48 Are you calling it fake news?

Erin Sparks: 28:54 Actually, with way too many words, yeah, it could very well be. There’s political slants, there’s so many different scenarios.

George Nguyen: 29:04 I would say that that particular piece, it could have been and it should have been done much better for how influential it will be for the general public. That having been said, they should own up to that. And to my knowledge, nothing has been done to remedy the situation.

But I would say that overall, they do quality reporting and sometimes, a reporter just gets really attached to a certain angle. So before I was in the glorious world of digital marketing reporting, I was a culture journalist and I would create my stories and I try to have something really tangible to take away, but sometimes, there wouldn’t be.

And then you have to decide for yourself, well, do I abandon this and all the time and energy I put into it, or do I try to make something of it that doesn’t necessarily uphold all the integrity of whatever publication that I work for? So you really have to weigh that out for yourself when you’re the person creating the story.

And I think that maybe this person actually almost certainly, the author of these articles, they just didn’t do the right thing.

Erin Sparks: 30:19 Authors, plural. There were four or five heads there putting together this tome on these 23 pages. It killed my printer. Literally.

George Nguyen: 30:28 It’s really tragic actually.

Erin Sparks: 30:30 It was-

George Nguyen: 30:31 … for the visibility.

Erin Sparks: 30:32 But organizations such as SEO and Marketing Land and Marketing Tech and TechCrunch and all of these different organizations have a role in public understanding. And unfortunately, it’s a scenario where our industry is just not very well-known and it’s very easy to try to make some uneducated arguments. So you have another role, not only interviewing experts about a particular topic, not deep-diving for our listeners, so to speak, but you also have to be cited, or citable, by the mainstream for their understanding, right?

George Nguyen: 31:20 Yeah. And I would say that most SEOs are in no rush to go and defend Google. So when we say, “Hey, you’re coming at this with the wrong angle,” you should maybe issue a retraction or something like that.

Erin Sparks: 31:35 Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. All right, a quick announcement to our listeners. You always wanted to jump in and hit that bell on the YouTube channel to make sure that you’re getting reminded when we go live, because we want to see you here in our conversations on a regular basis and ask a guest like George some pointed questions because this is your forum as well. So make sure you jump over there and smash that bell. That’s what the young folks say, correct?

All right, swinging back around. All right, so talking about reviewing the experts here for a second, George, is that there is a huge amount of clout and value to be cited as an expert in one’s field. Before we get into conferences, just talking about that. There’s a PR play for speakers and experts to be cited in the industry articles of merit and go into the speaker circuit.

Do you find that influencers are trying to regularly pitch you ideas or stories or their take to you?

George Nguyen: 32:39 I find that there’s always somebody who wants to pitch something in terms of getting it published on the website. We get tons of spam, and that’s hard to filter out because sometimes, something might be legitimate, but I’m not the one who looks through everything, but I feel like the person who does have to look through everything has a really tough job because some people, they just want to write something that’s kind of self-serving and that’s why we have guidelines in place.

We strictly monitor all the links that go out from every article and things like that, but I think that also getting published and speaking at conferences is a pretty big thing for any marketer’s personal brand.

Erin Sparks: 33:17 Absolutely.

George Nguyen: 33:18 Yeah. For their company, sometimes, it’s also really good because if you’re familiar with the space, then you’re familiar with the people within this space and that brings business to that company. But it’s mostly about your personal branding. But I feel like within the community itself, if you’re speaking, if you’re writing and you don’t know what you’re talking about, you don’t have the level of experience or it’s blatant that you’re in it for yourself, you’re not going to get very far.

The people that you’ve had on this podcast, the people on Search Engine Land, our contributors, you have to do it for the right reasons, and that’s pushing the industry forward, finding the best ways, the best techniques to do whatever your job is. And that has to come first and foremost before anybody will respect you, before you’re going to get on any conference stage.

Erin Sparks: 34:11 Absolutely. We’ve had our own fair share of spam, trying to get on the podcast here. And you do have to make sure that they’re legitimate, that they’ve got a good wake behind them of contribution. And what we’re seeing is that over the years, there’s been so many people publishing top 10 ways to do this, the top tips for this and it’s just a glut of noise out there. But-

George Nguyen: 34:41 People love listicles.

Erin Sparks: 34:44 On top of that, you can also get a rich snippet every once in a while, right? But-

George Nguyen: 34:48 You won’t believe what number eight is.

Erin Sparks: 34:50 Click bait. But along with that is that we’re seeing a lot of contributors, experts that are wanting to legitimately put forth good education here. Marie Haynes is a perfect example. Granted.

George Nguyen: 35:05 Absolutely.

Erin Sparks: 35:06 She has her agency business, but that podcast is bar none, one of the best, if not the best, SEO podcast out there that’s just unpacking key concepts on a regular basis and it’s got practical execution there. And these are starting to bubble up. You’re seeing more and more of these wanted contributions, these people that are truly wanting to educate.

George Nguyen: 35:35 Yeah. And you’re now looking everywhere to figure out what the best techniques are. They come to you. All you have to do is follow a few publications, sign up to the Search Engine Land newsletter.

Erin Sparks: 35:44 There it is. There’s the plug.

George Nguyen: 35:46 Subscribe to this podcast.

Erin Sparks: 35:46 Thank you. I appreciate it. It’s a twofer.

George Nguyen: 35:47 And it’s easy to stay on top of things now. It’s not like what it once was where you’re struggling to find out how other marketers are approaching a similar situation to you.

Erin Sparks: 36:00 It is starting to stabilize. There’s no certifications in these industries yet, still, but that’s another bone to chew on that.

George Nguyen: 36:11 Or, there’s too many, maybe. There’s too many small ones.

Erin Sparks: 36:14 Yeah. Too many small ones that are software-oriented as opposed to true organizations, like [inaudible 00:36:22] or what have you. All right. So it is very important for contributors, or editors, to be able to cite good experts that are not in it for themselves. And you got to be able to sift through that and understand how much they’re contributing.

And you do have to have a wake of good, legitimate content. You just can’t be on the speaker circuit and jumping all over the place. And that gets me to my last point, George, is really understanding about conferences. Now, your organization, Third Door Media, hosts regular conferences, SMX West, East in advance. The conferences are awesome. We’ve been to one of them a couple of years back in San Jose.

Hopefully, we’re actually going to be at this new one coming up here soon. Who goes to-

George Nguyen: 37:08 I’ll be there.

Erin Sparks: 37:09 Yeah. Absolutely. Well, who goes to these conferences?

George Nguyen: 37:12 I would say that I haven’t really run into any people totally new to the industry, so I would say people with at least like one or two years’ experience generally come. But that having been said, you can totally come relatively new to East or West. And no matter what level you are, you’re going to learn something. Everybody is super friendly.

Advanced of course is we try to make it more advanced. So there’s more into the technical SEO side of things. At East this year, we did a tire track for local enterprises. So we’re always trying to do different things for every single conference to differentiate them. So you can check out. Are you going to link to the SMX West landing page?

Erin Sparks: 37:58 Absolutely. Absolutely.

George Nguyen: 37:58 I hope so. So people can figure out, what part of my job fits into this conference? How can I justify my employer to send me to this? And then that will make you better at serving your clients, but also make you just a stronger SEO, a stronger SEM, what have you.

Erin Sparks: 38:16 Right. So you’re not so much I-oriented, but you’re T-oriented when it comes in your skillsets, is that it may not very well be right in your lane. And we also challenge, if you’re coming in who has a particular service, take on some of the other speakers that you’re not oriented towards because you learn a lot just by jumping your lane, so to speak, right?

George Nguyen: 38:37 And there’s this whole silo of, you’re SEO and you do PPC work, so you go off in your different conference rooms and directions. But we’re also noticing that a lot of people have to do both. And that using the data from both, I believe, Will Reynolds has been very vocal about this, using the data from both to help your targeting can be mind-blowing. It can save you so much time and budget from your client’s end.

So definitely check out Will Reynolds if you haven’t heard of him. He spoke at East. I’m not sure if he’s doing West yet. But yeah, just winding these techniques makes you more efficient at what you’re able to do. You’ll both expand your skill set, but you also just get faster and better at doing things.

Erin Sparks: 39:24 Plus, you get to geek out. And actually and truly, geek out, where maybe you don’t get to do that that often at your company level, but you’re rubbing elbows with true geeks and-

George Nguyen: 39:37 It’s okay to love what you’re doing, and that’s hard when you’re … If you have a husband or a wife, what have you, children, they don’t really want to care about how much long tail keyword is converting for on your campaign, but you can sit at the breakfast table at SMX and just say it and people are like, yeah, yeah, I feel you. And this is what happened to me.

And that feeling once, twice, three times a year, as many times as you can get to a conference and be with the community is worthwhile every time.

Erin Sparks: 40:07 Absolutely. Acunzo actually tweeted today. He said, “Another season of holiday where you’re trying to explain to your family what you do.” And he pretty much just tells them that he’s a writer. And that’s the thing, is that you really can’t explain to a great degree or again, eyes roll back in the head, my kids will never listen to this show.

They’ve actually told me, on mass, is that they are tired of hearing me talk about this, and I’m not going to tune in and actually listen to more. I’m having a small revolt in my family because of this. Anyway-

George Nguyen: 40:41 Just tell them that they should always love what they do and if that makes you excited to talk about it, then talk about it. Find the right people to talk about it. But it shows that you love what you do if you’re talking about it. Hopefully not you’re overly frustrated or anything like that.

Erin Sparks: 40:58 Don’t go postal on the stage. So a quick tip for maybe the novices that are in the industry, they’ve been around for years and they want to actually step up on stage and talk about some of the things that they’re passionate about, what would you give as some tips or recommendations for those soon to be speakers, that next group coming in?

George Nguyen: 41:22 Take everything in small steps. I know that’s what everybody says, but you’re going to want to write something before you can just pitch a conference stage. But once you have that experience and you know what techniques or what insights you’re using that other people in the industry aren’t using, then you can actually create a deck or come at it with an angle where you can contribute to the industry. You don’t want to get up on stage and have everyone just look at you like, yeah, but I already knew that. That, I’m sure, would be the worst feeling in the world.

So go to a few conferences first. See what the level of these discussions is at. If anyone is talking about what you want to talk about, then discuss with other people. What do you know about this? And then you can just accumulate that knowledge and then find a way to present it in the most succinct, concise way possible.

If you want to keep getting on stage, you have to have that kind of stage presence. You just can’t have a deck with your analytics and a step by step process and expect to be on a stage again. People have to leave reviews of speakers. They have to like you. The people that put on the conferences are going to be in the room.

They have to see that you did a good job and that people got what they paid for because if you’re boring, they’re not even going to remember to look up your decks after. So you have to put all of those things together. It’s not like you’re going to start your career and then two years later … well you might, two years, later get up on stage. Some people have, but be patient with it and bring something that you’re really, really proud of.

Even though later, everyone is super embarrassed about whatever their first thing they did was, you still have to be able to say, “Well, it was really good for my first time.”

Erin Sparks: 43:04 Yeah. No, I agree. But all things being equal, our industry is full of introverts that actually don’t want to have that particular horrific experience onstage. And it’s not that horrific. Go with your passion and figure it out in small steps. And honestly, before a national conference, do it locally. Try to lead locally first and jump in there and grab a hold of a key topic and try to plug in with other speakers, other groups because it’s like the minors as opposed to going to the majors, right?

George Nguyen: 43:43 Absolutely. That’s great advice.

Erin Sparks: 43:45 Cool. Cool. Cool. Quickly, give us a behind-the-scenes story. Anything you want to share? Maybe some funny or horror stories from a conference?

George Nguyen: 43:58 The horror stories have actually been pretty bad, but they’re not funny-bad, they’re just like, something tragic happened and a speaker couldn’t show up. And that’s the thing about this community. We’ve had people who are there to attend or they only were there to do one particular session. And we asked them, “Hey, can you extend your session to this or do it at this time instead?”

And people have stepped up. I have been amazed at the things that we’ve had fall through and then people are just willing to, I’ll do this, or I can try to share what I know about this. And that’s just wowed me, and that’s been a huge part of the conference experience for me.

Erin Sparks: 44:38 Very cool. Very cool. So how has your understanding of the industry improved from being involved with these conferences? You’re right in the smack dab, middle of moderating these things, right?

George Nguyen: 44:49 Yeah. I would say that my understanding of the industry has definitely made me more cynical if that hasn’t come off like in every other sentence. But that is the industry and not the people in it. Every time I come in contact with the people in the industry, the people that are doing their jobs for their clients, they say everybody is the hero of their own story, and that’s true. But every time I talk to somebody, I’m like, wow, you are the hero. You’re doing a great job.

And that’s just great to be in an industry where you generally respect the people that you’re around. And I’m supremely grateful for that. And I think that’s something that we try to get across at every conference. I hope that every attendee feels that way.

Erin Sparks: 45:27 Well, compare this to culture journalism. Did you see that many individuals really trying to take the bull by the horn and not do something that was so self-aggrandizing, but actually from a level education, trying to just give back to the community?

George Nguyen: 45:42 I would say that I was fortunate in the things that I was able to cover in journalism. So it was culture journalism. Most of the time, people were doing things that they felt really did make the world a better place. One time though, when I was doing culture journalism thing, I actually went to go get an examination of plastic surgery clinic in Korea because their medical tourism industry is enormous.

And the company staged the interview. They said they would provide me with somebody who was a customer and they staged that whole thing. The woman told me later that, yeah, I actually worked there, full time. So everything was a lie, except for the plastic surgery I had got done. That was real. But the context was a lie. And months later, the story had already went out, we were really upset about it, but-

Erin Sparks: 46:31 Wow. That sucks.

George Nguyen: 46:34 Yeah. Podcasting though, I did want to say something about podcasting.

Erin Sparks: 46:38 Yeah, hit it.

George Nguyen: 46:39 We are inching slowly towards this place of being able to really track our podcast ad campaigns. If you have a podcast just as a publisher, what you can measure is so limited. You have maybe your average listening duration, right?

Erin Sparks: 46:58 That’s it. Yeah.

George Nguyen: 46:59 And when you’re an advertiser, things are even worse. Like Spotify gives average listening duration to publishers. Tracking the ROI has just been a nightmare. And I would like to see that change, as I’m sure you would as well.

Erin Sparks: 47:14 Absolutely. We’ve been chewing on glass for the last nine years because there’s just nothing there. The industry hasn’t matured at all, except for ad intercept platforms where you can throw breaks in and be able to have those uncontrollable ads in your broadcast.

George Nguyen: 47:37 Yeah. And there’s all these numbers that say, “In 2021 or whatever, we’re going to see over this much money in podcast ads.” I’m sorry, I wrote an article about how much the projection was, I can’t remember now, but it was some astronomic number compared to what it was a few years ago, which I believe will be the case.

People are going to pump more money into this, but I caution brands, how are you going to be able to justify it? If you’re just doing brand lift campaigns, then go have at it. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard about the Quip electric toothbrush. Oh, man. But if conversions matter in a larger extent, you really have to think this through. Are you going to be able to throw enough money at this to make it work? And if not, then what are you doing this for? Where is your audience? How are you going to be able to track things if you’re really data-driven? If you’re not, then have at it.

Erin Sparks: 48:24 It’s very similar to the influencer marketing from a brand standpoint. There’s so much in parallel, but you’d expect the technology to really be able to help and assist in this. And it just seems that it’s been just untapped and we should be able to move mountains and metrics. It’s just not there yet.

George Nguyen: 48:44 No, it’s not. I would say even in influencer marketing, generally, every influencer has their own landing page or URL. With a podcast, you’re generally requiring people to remember your URL after they hear it.

Erin Sparks: 48:56 That’s right.

George Nguyen: 48:58 And they might not convert until months later. They’re not going to remember that specific URL. You might have a, how did you hear about us? But are they really going to remember? So when you don’t have that luxury of the clicking on the link, things get a lot murkier. Yeah.

Erin Sparks: 49:14 Well, here’s to that. We certainly are looking forward to the improvements in that space. And in marginal matters, if you’re going to be advertising in the podcast realm, you need to be prepared for customization of landing pages and URLs and everything to be able to capture as much evidence of return at least objective regularly.

But you’re going to get me in a rant here and I don’t have enough time for that. So thanks for that last topic. Now, I’ve got to do a whole another show, George. Come on.

George Nguyen: 49:47 Yeah. Please, have me back for a sound bite because I have feelings about podcasts because it’s a medium I love so much. And the technology is going in all places. Like Google is trying to index them by transcribing them and things like that, but where are we really headed? Are we going to get there? To a place where this is as viable as advertising on a more traditional format like TV because you can’t really measure that there too?

But it’s seen as like, well, TV is relatively safe to advertise on, right? It’s not a waste of money, right? How do you track?

Erin Sparks: 50:20 [inaudible 00:50:20] All right. All right. I’m out of time, but we’d love have you back to talk about some of these key concepts because you know what, we don’t talk enough about podcasts around here and we honestly don’t … But I do need to wrap up our interview here.

We do have a couple of questions that we ask our guests every time we close out. First and foremost, what bugs you about your industry? Now, that’s a loaded question that could probably actually unpack an entire other show, seeing that we’ve gone down the yellow brick road of cynicism here.

George Nguyen: 50:54 I would say that there is a lot of knee-jerk reactions because we’re all people that work on the internet one way or another, right? Maybe we work in a physical office or we work remote, but when you see some news and you just want to tweet about it or you respond to Danny Sullivan’s tweet, you have to really weigh out how useful is your comment going to be?

Does it expand the conversation? Does it really generate an interesting nuance for people to think about, or are you just bemoaning something that happened? That’s something that I feel even people that I speak to that are journalists that don’t cover SEO, they’re like, wow, SEOs really get angry. And that leaves an impression. That’s not the impression that you want to have for people who work with SEOs.

Everybody works in a marketing firm and there’s other people. You don’t want to be known as the angry SEO person.

Erin Sparks: 51:57 Legitimately so, a lot of those creatives just don’t get it.

George Nguyen: 52:04 There’s a lot of important things to care about, and there’s reasons to be upset, but you really have to weigh out whether it’s worth being vocal about or how can you phrase it in a way where it’s useful and not just ranting?

Erin Sparks: 52:16 And just not noise, yeah. You’re absolutely right. Well conversely, what excites you about the industry? Because obviously, you’re right there in pocket and you see so many things that are happening, what are your thoughts there?

George Nguyen: 52:28 The industry right now is heading into an interesting space with all the products that are rolling out. And the way that natural language processing has had a spotlight on it because of BERT. I love language. I’ve learned two foreign languages just to see that come full circle. So remember that search is about language. It is also about your site speed and your user experience.

But primarily, it’s about your user and that’s what communication is about. So remind them that you do work at a computer, but you work to connect people and brands, right? And why do people want to connect with brands? To generally connect with more people, right?

I really like to play Magic: The Gathering, and that’s a card game, but you can’t just sit there and play it by yourself. So I might go look on for information about it online, but ultimately, it is to connect with other people and that’s something that we have to really keep the forefront. It is about user.

Erin Sparks: 53:27 Very good. Very good. Well that said, is there anything that we can promote for our users regarding Third Door? There’s a few conferences coming up. You want to roll through those dates?

George Nguyen: 53:40 Okay. So let me get my calendar out. SMX West, I’m really excited about. It is February 18th and 19th. And the reason I’m so excited about it is because it’s in my hometown of San Jose, California. Right now, I’m in Boston. It was snowing earlier. I can’t wait to be back, even though I do love it here.

Erin Sparks: 53:59 San Jose is a great city and they got some great food.

George Nguyen: 54:04 Yes, yes. Sorry, I’m really passionate about that, but that’s the one that comes up. We have SMX Advanced in Seattle in June 10th or so. It’s mid-June, and that’s another fantastic one as well. For people on the MarTech side, we also do MarTech West, and that’s in San Jose in April. So if you’re more on the MarTech side instead of Search, then that will be more up your alley. But for everybody in SEO or SEM, definitely SMX West in San Jose and SMX Advanced in Seattle. I’ll be there for both.

If you see me and you’re an introvert, you’re there alone or you’re not an introvert, just come and say hi. I’m always happy to meet people.

Erin Sparks: 54:47 Absolutely. Absolutely. And then you also have East that’s coming up in the latter part of the year, right?

George Nguyen: 54:52 That was in November of 2019. So we haven’t set a date yet. As far as I know, we haven’t set a date yet.

Erin Sparks: 55:00 Got you. And then there’s also SMX Munich that comes up.

George Nguyen: 55:03 Yes. Yeah. Our international shows. Munich, London.

Erin Sparks: 55:07 Going to rock it.

George Nguyen: 55:09 We’re coming to you.

Erin Sparks: 55:10 Fantastic. All right. So certainly, we want to put the links up on the EDGE notes. We do recommend you guys go out to these conferences. We’ve been out there a few years back. I got to be able to witness the Google Dance and we had an opportunity to get into the intercept theorem whenever Google first opened the doors to hear from the SEOs.

And boy, we were a fly on the wall on that space and I almost reached back and touch back cuts although, Tom pulled my arm back at the time. But it is a really, really cool thing to go and experience. So I highly recommend that. And we want to make sure our listeners check out the training news that we covered with George in the bonus podcast that we did, and check that out on the YouTube upload as well, probably out tomorrow.

Any final thoughts for our listening audience here, George?

George Nguyen: 56:05 Thanks for bearing with me if you’ve made it this far. I really do hope to see you at a conference. I always welcome feedback on my articles. You can go ahead and DM me. Please don’t put me on blast in front of everybody. Nobody appreciates that, but it’s an honor to serve the community and it’s just so amazing to be on this podcast.

I know the caliber of people that you have on this. So I’m honored to be here.

Erin Sparks: 56:31 Thank you very much. Really appreciate that. And keep up the good work. We want to make sure that our listeners follow you on Twitter, at G-E-O C-H-I-N … Pronounce that for me again.

George Nguyen: 56:45 It’s the first three letters of my first, middle and last name, Geo Chingu. So it’s G-E-O C-H-I-N-G-U.

Erin Sparks: 56:53 All right. I was going to botch that up anyway, so thank you for … Nothing on Facebook, but we will certainly want to make sure that they track you down, George-C-again, N-G-U-Y-E-N. But make sure you track him down. He’s got some good portfolio out there, profile out there. And track him down because he’s really giving some good information to our industry on a regular basis.

Thanks so much for being with us today on the show and I appreciate you going along with us because there was a lot to unpack. I was excited about talking about a number of these things. So thanks again George. Certainly, appreciate you coming on and we’d love to have you back talking about podcasts in the near future.

George Nguyen: 57:34 I’m looking forward to it. Thank you so much, Erin.

Erin Sparks: 57:37 All right. Well, don’t forget to like and subscribe to the EDGE of the Web on YouTube. And if you’re really feeling up to it today, go over and leave us a quick review on iTunes. We certainly would appreciate that because it gives us a bit of lift and lets everybody else know what we’re doing here on the show.

Make sure to check out all the must-see videos and much more over at That’s We’ll talk to you next week. We’re going to be talking to Timothy Jensen of Clix Marketing, talking about PPC, so do not be a piece of cyber driftwood. We’ll talk to you next week. Bye-bye.