For episode 411 of the award-winning EDGE of the Web podcast we spoke with Carolyn Lyden, Director of Search Content at Search Engine Land as well as Third Door Media. Host Erin Sparks spoke with Carolyn about FLoC, zero-clicks and women in SEO.


FLoC, Google’s Federated Learning of Cohorts

In order to protect the privacy of its users, Google is phasing out third-party cookies. Instead, they’ve developed a system of cohorts to bucket users into anonymously. It’s a shift in advertising strategy that changes the way both consumers and advertisers think about how each side reaches the other. 

There’s some contention against FLoC, but Lyden sees this as a good step forward. Studies show that anywhere between 40-60% of people desire to opt-in to a third-party cookie system, but they don’t currently have much of a choice. 

When it comes to covering these topics for the public, Lyden explained that it’s part of a larger conversation about consumer trust and desire for privacy.

“We’re obviously used to third-party cookies,” Lyden explained, “If Google is moving forward with these [changes] and other browsers are also getting rid of third-party cookies, how are we adjusting? How do we need to adjust? Do we need to adjust at all?”


Zero-Clicks Allegedly Account for 65% of Consumer Behavior

With changes in Google’s interface and user experience, the majority of people allegedly aren’t clicking through to websites, according to a study from Rand Fishkin. This, notably, has SEOs up in arms and concerned.

“We get data from Rand [Fishkin] & SimilarWeb, we take it to Google and ask if it’s true,” Lyden said, unpacking the push-and-pull search marketers have with Google, “Google says ‘no, but we’re not necessarily going to refute it,’ so I think there’s a frustration there.”

“People don’t necessarily hate that this truth exists,” Lyden said, ”It’s less about the actual numbers. We wouldn’t exist without Google, but Google wouldn’t exist without us.”

Google’s goal is to serve the user, first and foremost. Lyden believes it’s best to take Google out of the equation and dive straight into the heart of the matter: what do consumers want? Understand the intent, search for what you’re building for and see what’s coming up. She recommends people see what Google’s choosing to serve up to the consumer and creating the best version of that content.


Women in SEO are Outnumbered by Men, and are Likely to Freelance via Content

Back in the day, the trajectory of SEO careers started in technical aspects; largely development or database. These fields were predominantly populated with men; thus, as SEO has matured it’s been seen as a bit of a “Boy’s Club.” And the current data reflects it.

This led many women in SEO now to come from a background of content marketing rather than the technical side. 

“I know so many super smart and super amazing women on the technical side,” Carolyn said, “Frankly, when they come out with things there are men who say ‘I know more about this topic than you’ or ‘yeah but you didn’t cover this.” She describes the circumstances that women in the field often have to face; one where they’re discredited after posing thoughts or ideas on the basis of automatically assumed ignorance.

Although there are safer spaces away from this criticism through Women In Tech SEO and a medley of Facebook Groups, it keeps great ideas outside of the public forum on the basis of gender. Lyden explained that some women are less likely to share their ideas and postulations because they don’t want to face the backlash that gets baked in.

“Hopefully we’re moving toward a more equitable balance in terms of SEO,” Lyden said, “Mentorship is a big part of that.”

The backlash isn’t the same experience for every woman in tech and SEO, as there are many female voices rising to the top of thought leadership. But, there is a fear for some women in the community that deserves correction through inclusion.

“You don’t have to take someone down to make yourself bigger,” Lyden elaborated, “We’re not taking slices from the pie, we can just make a bigger pie. Everyone can be part of the picnic.”