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Technical Marketing Handbook Podcast with Simo Ahava

TMH #4: Search Intelligence with Dawn Anderson

Dawn Anderson from Bertey joins the podcast to discuss the world of search, Google's advances in algorithms, and how SEO and the academic world intersect.

I was fortunate enough to sit down (virtually) with Dawn Anderson of Bertey.

If you follow her on Twitter (you should!), you’ll know that she’s one of the most vocal and prolific voices around deciphering the operational logic of search engines and how that information should be applied to the industry of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

We discuss the world of ranking and querying algorithms, how SEO and search in general have evolved over the years, and we try to imagine what the perfect organization for delivering solid SEO results in 2021 looks like.

It’s difficult to discuss search engines without having a funny feeling in the stomach of search engineers laughing at us as we try to make sense of the obfuscated, super complicated machine they have built. But at the same time, there’s a lot of things we do know, in no small part thanks to people like Dawn who take the time to dig into the research and in that way try to reverse engineer the mechanisms of this machine.

I’m ever so grateful for this reminder that SEO is more than just about delivering links, or creating wonderful content, or figuring out the correct keywords. It’s an organization-wide paradigm which should be of interest to anyone in the organization, not just those whose job title has the “SEO” word in it.

Listen to the episode using the player or find it in your favorite podcast service.


  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:06:53 – Dawn explains what BERT is.
  • 00:09:20 – Would BERT and similar algorithmic features be something that SEOs should optimize for when doing their work?
  • 00:11:24 – Should SEOs these days focus on academic research as well as the more traditional aspects of their discipline?
  • 00:14:00 – Can you still (or have you ever been able to) progress in SEO by using just “tactics” rather than having a strategic, holisitic approach?
  • 00:17:32 – Are people actually using search in a more conversational way as Google predicts (or hopes), or is search still very much keyword-driven?
  • 00:22:05 – What is passage indexing?
  • 00:23:20 – How English-dependent are these NLP-based search features? Do they work in a multi-lingual world?
  • 00:28:32 – Are there any SEO tools to help make text more crawlable or queriable with regard to the algorithm changes in Google search?
  • 00:32:44 – Is there anything in technical SEO that should be understood or taken into account with regard to BERT, for example?
  • 00:35:35 – What should a modern digital organization look like when it comes to optimizing for search engines?
  • 00:37:40 – Could SEO be the thing that brings unity and breaks the silos within modern digital organizations?
  • 00:40:01 – There are many disciplines within SEO itself – can these work against each other?
  • 00:43:40 – “Just create good content”; has this SEO cliche ever been true or is it today less true than it was before.
  • 00:46:59 – Is there more to search than just content that is crawled and indexed from your site by the search engine?
  • 00:51:52 – If you could change any aspect of search engines at the snap of your fingers, what would you do and why?
  • 00:53:40 – Outro

Notes and references

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