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SEO Interview: The Impact of World Events on Organic Search Performance  — with Angelo Cosma Galluzzo

SEO experts Jamie Indigo & Angelo Cosma Galluzo discuss how news events impact organic search performance, the use of big data in SEO, linguistic analyses, and much more.

SEO interview on big data, world events, and organic search

Lumar’s SEO & digital marketing interview series continues this week with a conversation between Senior Technical SEO, Jamie Indigo, of Lumar’s professional services team, and Angelo Cosma Galluzzo, SEO Executive at AIP Media (and a recent first-time speaker at last month’s BrightonSEO conference). 

The two speak about big data in SEO, sociolinguistic analysis, Google’s MUM updates, and Angelo’s newly developed tool for conducting analyses of major world events’ impact on organic search results.  

Listen to their full interview below, or read on for an abridged transcript.  

Jaime: You are being recorded and monitored right now.

Angelo: Wow.

Jaime: Isn’t this a great way to start off an interview? Lovely to meet you. 

Angelo: Lovely, lovely. And so technical — as we are usually, SEOs, right? Measure fast.

Jaime: Measure Fast. So technically, a fringe Brighton speaker. 

Angelo: Indeed. 

Jaime: But your first time?

Angelo: Yes, first-time speaker. Actually, my anniversary yesterday was of my first job in SEO. What a great way to celebrate it.

Jaime: Wow! That’s a heck of a first year.

Angelo: I know. 

Jaime: For folks who don’t know you, please introduce yourself.

Angelo: My name is Angelo, I’m the SEO executive at Anything is Possible. For those of you who don’t know, it is a local agency in Brighton. We are a media agency with a lovely SEO department. We’re based in Brighton and in London. I have a background in academics; sociolinguistics. And a year ago I went into SEO, and here am I.

Jaime: So, an anniversary in SEO. First time speaking here at Brighton. And the trophy for shortest commute to the event. You are winning!  

So you’ve given your talk, and you’ve traveled about 14 feet to get where you are. You’ve done your talk. How nervous were you?

Angelo: Oh, I’m so glad, actually, this interview is after the talk. I don’t know what my nerves would have been before.

Jaime: I feed on that. Yes. Give me your excitement. It’s beautiful.  … And your topic actually is incredible. Tell me about your panel. What was it called?

Angelo: So it was called, “Understanding How Big Events Impact Search Behavior.” It was really a talk about a methodology and a tool. Actually, a free tool that Anything is Possible are going to put out for everyone to use, that’s based on this methodology that we’ve developed to measure how big events impact search behavior. And then, by default, the organic performance.

So it all came to fruition when I was [doing SEO]  reporting and I was noticing that my clients’ organic performance was impacted by the war in Ukraine. And I wanted to find an automated and quick, swift method to gather the data, assess the correlation of the data, and then visualize how that was. 

I thought that clients needed this sort of database to actually understand and agree that was the case. Because, you know, it is a bit of a harsh statement, right? To say that something like the war in Ukraine has impacted organic performance in terms of digital marketing. But it’s true. And it’s really interesting how there are a lot of secrets behind how [world] events impact search behavior. But if we can prove that they impact organic performance, then we can also prove that, to a certain extent, it probably impacts the [search] algorithm and how people search during those days.

Jaime: I mean, the freshness aspect—rapidly changing SERPs. There’s now an alert that will pop up when it’s something big and new to even give that kind of context. So we’re clearly seeing the markers that they’re changing how they adapt around very real-time, impactful events. What were a couple of things you really wanted those visitors, people who came to your session, to walk away with?

Angelo: I think I wanted them to go away feeling that, first of all, we can be creative around the way we think about gathering and using data for our clients. So this is a creative approach that came from my background in linguistics. 

I wanted to create something that maybe wasn’t—not necessarily not done before, but took my input from a linguistic point of view and put it into SEO, because I’m so passionate about that as well.

And then the second thing I wanted people to come away with was that, with this methodology (and the idea that it’s going to be a tool), possibly in the future they’ll be able to just go in this tool and use this methodology to create a forecast for their clients, or for themselves, related to their organic performance and big events.

So, you know, with recurrent events such as the World Cup, being able to understand how you’re organic performance was impacted four years ago, and what you can do in the coming-up games.

Jaime: So tell me about your role. You have a linguistics background. You’re now in SEO. What is your title?

Angelo: Executive. So I’m an SEO executive. I know digital marketing titles can be varied, but in my role itself, I mostly deal with the day-to-day. So I strategize, I roadmap, and then actually execute, which is the best bit of the job for me. I love having this relationship with clients and building trust and being there on the account. So, really, doing the work for them and reporting to them directly. You can say I am the person that they see most often when it comes to their SEO. I really enjoy that. 

Jaime: The face behind the rankings!

Angelo: It’s a really proud moment, when you achieve something, and you’ve done it working with your clients as a team, and then you go to them and you report it to them. There’s this general feeling of team-building, which I love because I don’t work necessarily for the company directly, but I do. 

Jaime: So how do you make allies across these teams? You are in an agency. You are the face of rankings. How do you make allies? Inevitably, we run into things that we can’t achieve by ourselves; we need others to help us make changes to the site, or with a strategy piece. What are your tips?

Angelo: I think that, from a general vantage point of view, we really believe in teamwork. And the access I have as an SEO to all other departments and all other types of expertise is really key to what I can do. Obviously, we do so many things. We do media, we do tech.

This presentation came from the fact that I could bring my background in SEO, but then expand to the other teams and ask, “What’s your expertise in this and what’s your expertise in that? Can we work together? Can we join forces?” 

Actually, my colleague Rob, who’s a developer and an expert in automation, collaborated on this project to teach me to use R language, which is a code language, and then he built the automation side of the tool.

Jaime: Oh that’s wonderful. I think there are always such vast repos of knowledge when you’re willing to sit down with other team members because we have the same goals. A lot of times, there’s just a gap in language; we’re both working with the same thing or looking to measure the same thing, but we call it X instead of Y. So taking that moment to map your schema — your linguistics — to other teams is so useful.

Angelo: Exactly, And they might have completely different backgrounds too. We all get into marketing from such broad perspectives. Some of them might be doctors, some of them might have worked in completely different fields. Some of them might have traveled and experienced amazing things and they can bring that experience, or some of them have different language experiences. And I think the key is really tapping into this opportunity because if we start working in silos, it’s very hard to get anything creative out of it.

Jaime: Absolutely. I think SEO has evolved in a way where it’s no longer just one person in marketing finding a bunch of keywords in that copy; it’s just not how we work anymore. That collaboration is key. 

Tell me about how linguistics led to you being in SEO.

Angelo: There are similarities out there, at first sight, and actually when you go deeper into it, there are lots of similarities. I studied sociolinguistics, for the most part. It’s a field that looks at language as a descriptor of social issues. I think that’s a good way of putting it. 

So for example, in my case, I was really interested in gender theory. So there are different ways to approach gender theory: there’s the politics, there are the health-related issues, there’s the cultural and anthropology aspect. But one really key aspect is the language part. Because every time you look at something, it goes back into language at some point. It’s the way we think, not just the way we speak.

Jaime: Our language defines our reality.

Angelo: Absolutely. And so that was my broad perspective, coming from sociolinguistics. And I was lucky enough at university to have these lecturers, like Dr. Federica Formato and Dr. Chrystie Myketiak  they’re both experts in both gender and big data analysis.

Federica, I believe, studied her doctorate in research at University of Lancaster. Now, Lancaster University is one of the flagship universities for corpus linguistics, which is the field of linguistics that uses big data to analyze language. And so she was teaching me how to use big data, like search data and keywords, to actually get linguistic analysis out of it.

So we used tools to gather a corpus. So you would quite literally, gather text, words, and then you can run software on the text to try and compare it to other standardized versions of the language. So there are corpora for web English — there are people who have spent lots of time and have done the dirty work of bringing this corpora together. It’s a lot of work, so really appreciated. And then by comparison, you can get the keywords and the outstanding n-grams or the sentence strings.  

Obviously, the approach of keywords is different because that is an analysis in itself, where maybe, from an SEO perspective, we research it for market purposes, right, for targeting purposes. But at its core there are similarities. And so I always thought, how can I bring that into my SEO world? And the connection there, for me, was that if I wanted to discover the keywords that were used related to an event on search, then it made sense for me to gather [data relating to] a news event, or news-related events, and form a corpus, and then do linguistic analysis on it to know the keywords, rather than assume them.

Jaime: That is brilliant. Where do you see this tool that you’ve built being used? What is your ideal use case for folks that are like, “This sounds really intriguing. I want to be able to go ahead and scrape a SERP with the news of a breaking event and understand the entities that are embedded with it in the relationship.”?

Angelo: First of all, I see it growing even more. Even being here, I’ve had so many people interested and having ideas. And I’m so curious to hear what people have to say on Twitter about the tool. It’s really interesting. But in terms of usage, I foresee this tool as being a prime source of analysis. To ‘now-cast’ really, I think that’s the power. And also to really try out things that you think might not be related at all to an industry. That’s the power of the tool. 

Because when we first started testing the methodology we were thinking, you know, Covid, right? And our case study was a travel provider.

Jamie: Oh, they definitely had a rough time.

Angelo: Exactly. We put Covid keywords, and it was like, “yeah, it shows an impact, but is anyone surprised?” Not really. That was something that qualitatively could have been thought of and analyzed in different ways. However, testing an event that doesn’t seem to be connected to the industry in any way, and finding the insight there — that’s the power of the tool. It’s not necessarily explaining the correlation, but it’s finding it. Sometimes with big data, it’s not a case of knowing why things happened in big data, but just knowing that they happen.

Jaime: Being able to see that when entity X is present, entity Y is not far away. We don’t necessarily have to map how their footsteps work together. But in simply being aware, when this appears, this other thing isn’t far. Or giving context to a larger view. Those are very powerful pieces, especially as we see those breaking news searches being changed by Google’s MUM. It’s going to be a big one. It’s changing the game.

Angelo: Yes. It’s also, I think, going to be interesting because there’s a lot of mystery as to the why. And this methodology might not necessarily give you insights into the why as much as the qualitative analysis of it and maybe the human experience as well. 

And as MUM will start rolling out — I mean, we don’t know whether it’s already being rolled out; it’s been obscured to a certain extent —and what features are being tested. When it all happens, I wonder how this sort of data gathering will change and how much the algorithm will be responsive and autonomous in making those connections. You know, indexing and ranking, even for news events. My hypothesis is that the algorithm might get tweaked, even manually, to accommodate news or particular snippets related to events. But what if it doesn’t? What if it’s autonomous enough to understand the context around that?

Jaime: That’s called Skynet, Angelo. That’s what Skynet did.

Angelo: I love that.

Jaime: I mean, I’m sure everybody can pull off the sunglasses and leather jacket. Sarah Connor was a hero of mine as a child. It’s just a matter of time.

Well, I have just a couple more questions for you. … Do you have any advice for folks who are considering pitching for Brighton or another SEO event? They’re listening right now. What would you tell them?

Angelo: I would say do it. You know, I had lots of support. Just don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There are people who want to see you thrive and want to see you make it and want to support you. I can assure you there will be people that will support you. So, reach out for help. And it will be your accomplishment as the speaker, but it’s very often a team’s accomplishment in terms of making the work, and making it happen, and refining it. And, you know, there’s pride in that. It’s a lovely team effort as well. And more than that, it’s really just a lovely experience, getting to meet all these people. 

And Measure Fest… so many supportive people! These are people that are there to hear what you have to say, support you, take key learnings, and share their knowledge with you as well. So you’ll just come out enriched, really. And honestly, there will be a few nervous days. But that’s normal, right? If you care.

Jaime: I’ve been in many a green room with people doing their fiftieth talk, their hundredth one, and they will still have days where it’s like, “Whoa okay, deep breath.” 

I think you bring up a great point. The experience of doing it, of having completed the big scary thing, almost becomes more fulfilling when you realize how many people were there to help you, support you, and achieve that goal.

Thank you so much for joining me today, Angelo.

Angelo: Thank you.

Jaime: If folks want to find you, where can they look?

Angelo: I’m always so unprepared about my handles. 

Jaime: Are you changing them a lot?

Angelo: No, I just have a terrible memory when it comes to my socials. But you can find me on LinkedIn at Angelo Cosma Galluzzo.

Jaime: And your deck is up there right now. It’s a great deck.

Angelo: Thank you very much. And the deck is on SlideShare as well. And on Twitter, I believe it’s angelo_cosma on Twitter. So please reach out there. I do love Twitter. 

And don’t forget, we’re still trying to find a name for my tool. So tweet us at aip_media. There’s a poll going on at the moment. There’s a little video of me explaining it and a poll with three options. So if people want to vote for a name, or even tweet us some name suggestions, we’re all ears.

Jaime: I’m excited for Boaty Mcboatface, the Contextual AI Tool.

Angelo: Thank you!

Jaime: Thank you!

Jamie Indigo can also be found on Twitter — and on Lumar’s professional services team. 

Our professional services team works directly with Lumar clients to provide bespoke technical SEO guidance, SEO audits and website reviews, tailored organic search strategy advice, and much, much more.

Want to work with Lumar’s expert tech SEOs? Get started with Lumar today!

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Avatar image for Jamie Indigo
Jamie Indigo

Former Senior Technical SEO at Lumar

Jamie Indigo is a Former Senior Technical SEO at Lumar and was part of our Professional Services team.


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