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Talking Google MUM & Enterprise Culture With Conductor’s CEO

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Talking Google MUM & Enterprise Culture With Conductor's CEO


We’re constantly hearing about new updates to Google’s algorithm, and some are more impactful than others. It can be difficult to separate the buzz from actionable insight.

This past year, Google’s unveiling of MUM created quite a stir, and it’s no wonder. Google itself says MUM is 1000x more powerful than BERT.

But what does that mean in real terms for your enterprise SEO strategy?

And what other underutilized facets of enterprise SEO can brands look to capitalize on in the months ahead?

I was fortunate to grab some time with Seth Besmertnik, CEO of Conductor, recently to discuss MUM and other upcoming enterprise SEO opportunities.

Besmertnik has been in the enterprise space a long time, first co-founding Conductor as a marketing services firm in 2006.

In 2010, Conductor began its evolution into the enterprise technology brand we know today with the launch of its SaaS product, Searchlight.

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Today, Searchlight is a cloud-based content and SEO platform used by over 450 enterprise brands to improve organic search performance.

And Besmertnik is a busy man, what with having rebuilt his company after WeWork acquired it and then collapsed, as well as recently closing a $150 million round of funding for Conductor.

Below, he shares his insights on how enterprise marketers can prepare for MUM, where new opportunities exist, and what Conductor has been up to lately.

1. Getting Ready for MUM

Miranda Miller: “Google’s introduction to MUM caused a lot of buzz in the industry this past year. What should enterprise marketers do now to prepare for MUM and other search updates?” ​

Seth Besmertnik: “There are four things marketers can do to prepare.”

When building content, consider the searcher’s journey and intent.

“MUM is all about the interest and intent behind the inquiry.

With MUM, we are able to process huge amounts of data and relate it to connected topics in seconds, in comparison to the weeks it used to take.

Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes and assess related questions and topics they may have when starting their search journey or when preparing to buy.

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This is no longer about exact keywords – we have to anticipate needs and think holistically about what the searcher is pursuing.”

Drive a multimedia SEO approach.

“As MUM seeks to grow visual search, video, and Lens, having a multimedia content strategy is vital to stay relevant in search results.

Think about optimizing your entire digital presence – including images, videos, and audio files – and not just your website to boost your brand.

Strengthen your written content and have descriptive tags so Google can best recognize and interpret your information.”

Evaluate the new language features.

“MUM can analyze search content in over 75 languages, breaking down language barriers and bridging the gap between your content and new markets.

To maximize this opportunity if you are working in multiple markets, incorporate multilingual SEO as part of your content strategy by focusing on location-based priorities and local interests.”

Focus on tried-and-true SEO best practices.

“User experience is at the heart of MUM.

The better Google can evaluate your site and get relevant results to users, the more opportunities your content will have to rank.

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Ensure your site is optimized, healthy, and using ethical, white-hat techniques.

Don’t underestimate the power of reliable authoritative, high-quality written content like blogs and articles, as MUM will rely on these to deliver the most relevant content to users.”

2. Discovering Untapped Enterprise Opportunities

Miranda Miller: “Which facets of enterprise SEO are underutilized and present the best opportunities for brands?” ​

Seth Besmertnik: “If you have a local component to your business, local SEO is a great area of opportunity this year. Sometimes we err on casting too wide of a net, while local SEO can have lower competition and higher conversion.

Searchers expect fast, specific, and relevant content. Be what they are looking for. Find local keywords to target and revamp your page to serve these search terms.

Create specific content for each region that you conduct business.

Right now, we are also seeing a growing demand for real-time site auditing, monitoring, and alerts.

Marketers want to know what’s going on with their sites at any given moment – and not risk finding out about an issue weeks or months too late.

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We want to have the most up-to-date information now. Thankfully, recent technologies lean into that to deliver insights quickly.”

3. How AI Is Changing Search

Miranda Miller: “What are some of the more unique or exciting ways you’re seeing AI being used in SEO and marketing?”

Seth Besmertnik: “MUM has been such an exciting advancement for search because of the sheer volume of data it can process in seconds. Its impact has already been demonstrated through improved searches for vaccine information.

This is just the beginning of the transformation of how critical and timely information is exchanged; it’s truly exciting.

Another interesting AI improvement to the search experience is Passage Ranking, where Google delves into your content, identifies a question or specific point in your query, and retrieves a highlighted passage for review.

Passage ranking makes search faster as you are presented with highlighted answers quickly, and no longer have to hunt for content on a page.”

4. Optimizing Your Company Culture

Miranda Miller: “The Conductor Foundation has long been an extension of your organization, and I see that you created an Ethics Committee internally a few years ago, as well.

What tips do you have for leaders looking to improve their company culture?”

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Seth Besmertnik: “I have three tips for leaders to consider as they aim to improve company culture.”

Make space for everyone to be heard.

“When we initially explored what our Customer Policy would be, we invited all Conductors to raise their hands to join the discussion.

From there, we hosted small group talks led by a facilitator to maximize the chances for people to truly express their thoughts and be heard, and to ensure that no one voice dominated the conversation.”

Optimize for diversity of thought.

“When we broke out into smaller discussions, we didn’t want echo chambers.

We surveyed people to understand their sentiments.

Using those results, we balanced each group with a mix of people with diverse viewpoints to foster healthy and effective dialogue.”

Don’t boil the ocean.

“Start small and understand that building a strong ethical culture is a continuous and evolving process.

Our initial Customer Policy is just a starting point, and we have made that clear to our organization.

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Use surveys and employee feedback channels to determine which issues are most important to your employees – and then start working with them to address those priorities.”

5. What’s Next For Conductor?

Miranda Miller: “Conductor recently raised $150M in your first round of funding, making you an independent startup once again.

What can you tell us about your company’s goals and what your users should expect of Conductor in the year ahead?”

Seth Besmertnik: “This is a major milestone for our entire industry, not just Conductor.

For much of the last decade, SEO has been both underfunded by the investment community and in marketing budgets.

Things are changing. Companies realize there is no more important marketing investment than getting found organically in unpaid channels like Google and YouTube and, as such, investors are following.

This funding will enable Conductor to keep the pedal to the metal on innovation and develop new products. It will create opportunities for us to pursue M&A and bring a better platform to our customers.

And, most importantly, it will enable Conductor to pursue our mission of empowering brands to transform their wisdom into marketing that helps people.”

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Featured Image: Courtesy of Conductor





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WordPress Considers Historic Development Change

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WordPress Considers Historic Development Change

Matt Mullenweg, developer of WordPress and CEO of Autommatic, proposed no longer adding new features to the WordPress, pivoting instead to a plugin-first policy.

This new approach to the future of WordPress has already resulted in a new feature intended for the next version of WordPress to be dropped entirely.

Canonical plugins are said to offer a way to keep improving WordPress on a faster schedule.

But some WordPress core contributors expressed the opinion that publisher user experience may suffer.

Canonical Plugins

First discussed in 2009, canonical plugins is a way to develop new features in the form of plugins.

The goal of this approach is to keep the WordPress core fast and lean while also encouraging development of experimental features in the form of plugins.

The original 2009 proposal described it like this:

“Canonical plugins would be plugins that are community developed (multiple developers, not just one person) and address the most popular functionality requests with superlative execution.

…There would be a very strong relationship between core and these plugins that ensured that a) the plugin code would be secure and the best possible example of coding standards, and b) that new versions of WordPress would be tested against these plugins prior to release to ensure compatibility.”

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This approach to features and options is also referred to as Plugin First, to emphasize how features will first appear in the form of plugins.

These plugins are called canonical because they are developed by the WordPress core development team as opposed to non-canonical plugins that are created by third parties that might limit features in order to encourage purchase of a pro-version.

Integration of canonical plugins into the WordPress core itself would be considered once the plugin technology has proven itself to be popular and essential to the majority of users.

The benefit of this new approach to WordPress would be to avoid adding new features that might not be needed by the majority of users.

Plugin-first could be seen to be in keeping with the WordPress philosophy called Decisions, Not Options, which seeks to avoid burdening users with layers of technical options.

By offloading different features and functionalities to plugins, a user won’t have to wade through enabling or disabling functionalities they need, don’t need or don’t understand.

The WordPress design philosophy states:

“It’s our duty as developers to make smart design decisions and avoid putting the weight of technical choices on our end users.”

Canonical Plugins the Future?

Matt Mullenweg published a post titled, Canonical Plugins Revisited, in which he made the case that this is the way that WordPress should be developed moving forward.

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He wrote:

“We are reaching a point where core needs to be more editorial and say “no” to features coming in as ad hoc as they sometimes do, and my hope is that more Make teams use this as an opportunity to influence the future of WordPress through a plugin-first approach that gives them the luxury of faster development and release cycles (instead of three times per year), less review overhead, and and path to come into core if the plugin becomes a runaway success.”

The first casualty of this new approach is the cancellation of integrating WebP image conversion into the next version of WordPress, WordPress 6.1, currently scheduled for November 2022.

Plugin-First is Controversial

The shift to a plugin-first development process was subjected to debate in the comments section.

Some developers, such as core contributor Jon Brown, expressed reservations about the proposal to switch to developing with canonical plugins.

They commented:

“The problem remains that there are too many complicated plugins standing in for what would be a simple optional feature.

Plugins are _not_ a user-friendly option to core settings. First users have to discover there is a plugin, then they have negotiated yet another settings screen and updates and maintenance of that plugin.”

The commenter used the example of a commenting functionality that is currently served by mutliple bloated plugins as a less than ideal user experience.

They noted that having one canonical plugin to solve a problem is preferable to the current state where desirable options can only be found on bloated third party plugins.

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But they also said that having a settings option within core, without the need for a plugin, could present a better user experience.

They continued:

“Now, I do think Canonical plugins are a better situation than 6+ bloated plugins like exist here, but so would a single checkbox added to the settings page in core to do this. Which would further improve the UX and discovery issues inherent in plugins.”

Ultimately, the commenter expressed the idea that the concept of canonical plugins seemed like a way to shut down discussions about features that should be considered, so that the conversation never happens.

“Canonical plugins” seems like a weaponized tool to derail discussions the same way “decisions not options” has become for years.”

That last statement is a reference to frustrations felt by some core contributors with the inability to add options for features because of the “decisions, not options” philosophy.

Others also disagreed with the plugin-first approach:

“Canonical plugin sounds grand but it will further increase maintenance burden on maintainers.

In my opinion, it’s no go.

It will be much more better to include some basic features in core itself instead of further saying – It’s a good place for plugin.”

Someone else pointed out a flaw in plugin-first in that collecting user feedback might not be easy. If that’s the case then there might not be a good way to improve plugins in a way that meets user needs if those needs are unknown.

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They wrote:

“How can we better capture feedback from users?

Unless site owners are knowledgeable enough to report issues on GitHub or Trac (let’s be honest, no one reports plugin issues on Trac), there’s really no way to gather feedback from users to improve these recommended/official plugins. “

Canonical Plugins

WordPress development is evolving to make improvements faster. Core contributor comments indicate that there are many unresolved questions on how well this system will work for users.

An early indicator will be in what happens with the cancelled WebP feature that was previously intended to be integrated into the core and will now become a plugin.


Featured image by Shutterstock/Studio Romantic

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