Google for Content Creators with Paul Bakaus | Mediavine On Air Episode 36

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What’s better than an ugly holiday sweater party?

A whole lot of education for content creators — while wearing ugly holiday sweaters.

Back on Teal Talk in 2021, we closed the year with a bang, prizes and an extremely good sport: Google’s Head of Creator Relations, Paul Bakaus.

He joined Senior Director of Marketing Jenny Guy to discuss everything from Web Stories, resources for content creators, how creators can sustain their career and much, much more.

You don’t want to miss it!

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Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] JENNY GUY: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Teal Talk, and happy holidays to one and all. Welcome, welcome, welcome. Believe it or not, we’ve reached our final episode of 2021, and I have been fortunate enough to be with you for every single one of them. I’m your host for this magical hour, Mediavine’s Jenny Guy. And today we’ve got ugly sweaters, although in the case of my guest, I wouldn’t call it ugly so much is just fascinating and amazing. But more on that later. We have great prizes, and we have another incredible guest that is generously sharing their wealth of essential knowledge for content creators.

And speaking of a wealth of essential knowledge for content creators, have you heard of Google? Maybe. Possibly, once or twice in your life. They have a plethora of resources for us that, frankly, it can be tough to know where to begin, where to jump in, where to tackle all of it. Not to worry, though. That is where my next guest comes in. Please welcome Paul Bakaus to Teal Talk. Paul, thank you for coming.

PAUL BAKAUS: Thank you for having me.

JENNY GUY: All right. I’m going to not be mesmerized by your sweater and I’m going to read your very impressive bio. One moment, please. Paul Bakaus is an entrepreneur, creator, advocate, developer, and product manager. As the head of Creator Relations at Google, he and his team are helping content creators, designers, developers, and decision makers to create better, faster, more immersive and more convincing digital content. I think we all want that.

Prior to joining Google he created jQuery UI, the world’s most popular tool to build user interfaces on the web, and the Aves engine, the first interactive HTML5 game engine later acquired by Zynga. That is quite impressive. Again, Paul, welcome. Thank you for coming to Tealk Talk. We’re so glad to have you.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.

JENNY GUY: We’re so excited to talk about all the different things. I’m going to get through a couple of announcements. Also one of our audience members just asked if it was a teepee on my head. It is not. It’s like a stocking hat, but it’s like a rigid stocking hat. So I don’t know. There’s a lot of movement happening there. OK, so reminder, audience. You guys submitted so many questions in advance for Paul that we are not going to be taking questions live. We have a lot to talk about. But if you do have questions for Paul, keep posting them and we can maybe entice him back for another episode.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah.

JENNY GUY: So we’re just saying that–

PAUL BAKAUS: I’ll try my best.

JENNY GUY: Thank you, Paul. We appreciate it. OK, and everyone else keep your eyes on the screen for chances to win prizes during the episode today. But without any further ado, let us get into it. Google. As you– I saw you nodding when I was talking about this in the intro, Paul. You have an incredible vast array of resources for content creators. And as we said– as I said in the intro, it can be overwhelming. Where would you recommend we get started?

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, I guess we– in some ways, we made it more overwhelming, because we added another one. But to be honest, I would say the content– the reasons that we have today, so we have– I would say everything that the Chrome DevRel team outputs. These are overly technical resources. So if you’re a content creator and you’re not overly technical, that might not be what you’re looking for.

And then we have the output of John Mueller’s team, who you had on another episode, of course. And they’re creating a lot of great educational content on Search Central, which is where we put all of our SEO guidance. And that’s great if you’re working with Google Search, and it’s great. But again, these resources are sometimes quite technical. They really depend on you already having a technical background.

And so we actually– I don’t know if you’re familiar with resources that I don’t know, but as far as I know, we never had resources for non-technical content creators. And so we created this new program called Google for Creators that actually brings new resources to market for those that need help in all sorts of areas, whether that’s pricing your brand deals, or how do you create a good content bundle, or how do you create timely content, how do you not burn out. There’s a whole treasure trove of content that we want to create that help creators become more sustainable and more successful in the long run.

And so you can find us on YouTube, on Twitter, on Instagram. We just launched a new website called creators.google. So please check it out and sign in and personalize your learning experience. And there’s going to be more content coming with that site soon. But yeah, we’re trying our best to make ourselves useful to content creators in ways that we haven’t done before.

JENNY GUY: And we love hearing that. When did you– when did Google first unveil this, and what was the impetus behind it?

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, so we unveiled it last year in, I think it was September, October. But initially the whole thing was called Google Web Creators. We have since expanded scope to also have creators that don’t primarily have the web at its center. Because it turns out most people don’t call themselves web creators, they just call themselves creators or bloggers, right?

And so we removed the web, which shifted it to Google for creators. But last year we largely launched with the social channels and with a section of the official Google Blog. And the website, for instance, is brand new, the website we launched, I think, two months ago.

JENNY GUY: Brand new.

PAUL BAKAUS: So it’s really fresh in the whole journey, I would say. And overall this team is a new team. Or this effort is a new effort, at least. We haven’t done this in a long time. To be honest, we probably should have done it 15 years ago.

I mean, you would imagine that the content creators that are really the bread and butter for Google should have better support networks and better educational channels coming from Google, but we never really thought that that was our role to play, because we figured, look, the web is, of course, not ours. The web is already there. It’s an open ecosystem. And we estimated when we created our products that there would always be great content on the web, and that it would just magically appear out of nowhere.

Well, it turns out that’s not necessarily the case. You do need to educate creators. You do need to help them. You do need to offer support. And we want to be good citizens and good stewards of the web and leave it better than we found it, basically. So that’s why we’re doing it now. Much too late, but hopefully not too late.

JENNY GUY: Well, first, just it’s so refreshing to hear anyone from really anywhere say out loud, we should have done something and we didn’t. And now– and we appreciate you saying that. Whether we agree or not, it’s just like I said, very refreshing to hear. And two, I think that content creators, we want to know what Google wants because, essentially, performance in terms of SEO or in terms of finding an audience, all of that comes from Google.

So hearing from Google what you’re looking for and how to create content that will perform well for you, but then in turn, it’s cyclical, because content that performs well on Google is content that is good for your audience. That’s all of the metrics that you come out with are meant to improve and enhance the experience for people on the web. So love hearing all of that and the way that it goes around. So that’s exciting.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah. I mean, if you look at the current trends in content creation overall, you’re seeing a lot of it’s shifting towards more visual content. Most new platforms, most walled gardens focus heavily on visual content. And that shift, I think there’s a lot of inertia on the open web. So that shift hasn’t really happened on the web yet.

There’s a lot of text content. And a lot of it is technical nature, too. For instance, putting a video onto your self-hosted website is a whole world of pain, and there’s a reason why YouTube exists and why YouTube was popular. And I’m not recommending anyone to put a video, like a long video, on their own site. I mean, you probably uploaded it to YouTube, then. Or Vimeo, or whatever. I mean, but really, there’s a reason why those services exist.

That being said, I do think we need to shift more of the content creation to make it richer, to make it more visually appealing. And that trend will probably continue. And so our team, of course, has produced Web Stories for this, but we will keep iterating on this. We will try to find new ways to do this. And hopefully the whole web will keep iterating.

I think one of my pet peeves is that I’ve been in several developer relations teams over the years. And in the past 10 years or so, I would say much of our focus when it comes to advancing the web as a community on the technical side was towards e-commerce and applications. Everyone was interested to bring Photoshop to the web. And don’t get me wrong, it’s great that we have Photoshop on the web. But I do think that we could have spent more attention on innovating and blogging, and making content more rich in the same amount of time.

I don’t know how you feel about this, but personally I am a little sad that 10 years ago we saw this wave of art-directed blogging. Do you remember that?

JENNY GUY: Yes.

PAUL BAKAUS: With The Verge and others creating these really fancy articles. I’m like, wow, this is amazing. Can we have more of that? Can we make this easier to do for everyone? Can we, like– and then nothing came. And it just stopped. And I haven’t seen really big content innovations on the web in a long time, and it’s a little bit sad.

Back to your question, I do think that we need to get towards more visually appealing content. I also think we need to bring community engagement back to websites. I think for many bloggers, comments are kind of dead, and that’s really unfortunate. The indie web movement is trying to bring some of that back, but I think we need to turn it into real products that bloggers want to use.

And then also one thing that I’m particularly concerned about is what I call the generational divide on the web. And I often call this– I often try to compare this with cable TV. It’s not that cable TV is going away. It’s still there. There’s still a lot of people subscribing to cable TV. There’s no one in Gen Z that subscribes to cable TV. I mean, that ship has sailed.

JENNY GUY: It’s true.

PAUL BAKAUS: I do fear that the content web is turning into cable. And I do fear that maybe not everyone is seeing it. It’s sort of this boiling frog that doesn’t realize that it’s boiling. And I’m very concerned, and I would say Google is also concerned that new generations are simply skipping the web altogether and not using it for content consumption. And I think that’s something that we all have to think about and face. If we don’t create the content that Gen Z wants to consume, then Gen Z will simply not use the web. And so for every blogger that’s listening to this, think about what your core audience is, but also how to expand it going forward, and how to bring fresh audiences in.

JENNY GUY: Absolutely. I completely– at Mediavine, we have been pushing video, video, video, video. And it’s not just because it’s what advertisers want. Obviously, that’s part of it, but it’s because it’s what audiences want. And that, I think, is a great way to bridge the gap and connect with people who are loving TikTok and the different forms out there, that how can we bring that style of storytelling to blogs? I think it’s a great question and very important.

So you have already talked about some, but I wanted to expand. Sylvia with Wapiti Travel wanted to know what is the Google for Creators platform, and how can it help us? And you’ve talked a little bit about that, but where can people start?

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah. Basically, we want to create a program that helps content creators succeed on the web. And in this case in particular, non-technical content creators. There are tons of resources out there to help developers. This is not a program that is primarily aimed at developers, it’s aimed at creators.

And what does that mean? Well, it means that we want them to succeed, either creating content on the web, becoming a blogger, and I think the ideal path here is to– either you’re already a blogger. What does that mean then? Well, we want to help you, as I just pointed out, reinvent yourself to make sure that your content is still relevant, and that you still get traffic from new generations, from new traffic sources, et cetera. And that you live a sustainable life. And so we want to help you maintain this cadence and this profession.

And then we want to bring new creators in. I think there’s the– my stereotype here is the burnt out short video creator that is creating three videos each day about something educational, not realizing that maybe a blog would be better. And I’ve met a lot of these people, actually. I’ve met a lot of young people starting out as a content creator not realizing that blogging is still a viable career.

And so we also think that’s part of our educational mission, to teach creators that blogging is not dead, and that it can be a very valuable career. And so that’s the other thing. One part is education to new creators. One part is education to existing creators. Education in the broad sense, to be honest. Right now, we’re just trying to make ourselves useful in any way we can.

We’re kind of trying to be the Fred Rogers of the creator economy, or Switzerland of the creator economy, because Google– and you might laugh at this, because you probably think so much about oh, Google overlord SEO, whatever. But I think we are still probably more impartial than some of the more walled gardens. And the reason why is because we’re the only Fortune 500 company that I know of that is monetizing the open web to its full extent.

And so if you look at all the other companies out there, they all have their walled gardens, they all have their vertically integrated platforms. But they care about sucking you into their platform. We built products for the open web, and Google, in many ways, is an aggregator, not a platform. We are sending traffic to content.

And I like that, because that means that if I convince somebody to create a website and they don’t use Google Analytics, and they don’t use AdSense or whatever– I mean, of course I want them to, but even if they don’t, even if they use competing services, we still win. Because that creates new content for the open web corpus that Google Search benefits from, that our advertisers can benefit from, and so that helps everyone. And I think that’s really good. This was a long winded way to– long-winded way to answer the question. But really, our programs are here to make ourselves useful to all creators on the web and in all sorts of categories.

If you look at our YouTube channel, we have a series about sustainability and burnout. For instance, you have topics like how to deal with haters. We have a series around monetization. So there’s– we’re still figuring out every day how can we make ourselves more useful. So if you check out our resources, and please do, and you feel like, OK, actually this is information that I would like to have from Google that nobody has talked about, please, please let me know. One thing that I will say is that the number one thing that of course everyone asks for is SEO guidance, because they think Google, yeah, of course.

JENNY GUY: Always.

PAUL BAKAUS: I just want to rank better, right? That’s an area that we haven’t focused on so much so far, simply because John Mueller’s team is already doing a lot of this. That being said, we are thinking about ways to create new SEO guidance that is less technical and that is more beginner friendly. I think there’s certainly a need for that, and stay tuned for more on that one.

JENNY GUY: I think that will be music to everyone’s ears. What I was going to say is that it was a beautiful answer and it included your phrase, “Google overlord SEO whatever,” which is now the new title for your garage band. It’s very exciting.

But the audience that we’re talking to now, first, yes, let’s get some Gen Z’s investing in blogs, investing in content creation, and off of social media as their only form, totally agree. Getting them to– because I think that’s a big part of the answer to having them invested and wanting to be a part of it is seeing themselves reflected on the open web, as you said.

Two, the audience that you’re talking to today are all people that have been content creating for quite some time, or various different lengths. But these are all website owners for the most part. So what I would like is, unsolicited from Paul, I would love if some of our bloggers that are watching would post in the comments what they’re interested in seeing on that Google for Creators platform. Let’s do that.

And then in a pause, you might have seen a moment ago that we posted a little ticker at the bottom of the screen that said, what is your favorite holiday movie? And Jordan Smith responded, and he was quick on the draw, and he said Elf, which is a great, great choice, which makes him our winner for our first giveaway. So Jordan, please send us an email to marketing@mediavine.com, and we will– send us with your email address and all that and we will be able to give you your prize. But moving forward, everybody post in the comments what you want to see on that Google for Creators platform.

In the meantime, yes, we are starting to see the questions roll in and they are about the thing that we knew they would be about, which are Web Stories. Paul, we are ready to– we have a whole section for this. So let’s talk about it. Are there niches that see better performance than others with Web Stories? And do you have advice for someone who’s maybe been creating them consistently and not seeing traffic increases?

PAUL BAKAUS: Yes. So there are some niches, and we actually published a blog post about this a couple of months ago. The first one that I would say is– yeah, by far the one that gets the biggest engagement is lifestyle content. So any lifestyle content with aspirations–

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

JENNY GUY: Mediavine bloggers are lifestyle bloggers. What do you know?

PAUL BAKAUS: There you go. Yeah. So that gets a lot of engagement, and I would say if you do that, then continue to do it. For instance, that includes things like how-to info, relevant product partnership opportunities. And so that really fits the story format really well.

Then I would say right after that, the one with the most online impressions– so lifestyle is the one with the most engagement. The one with the most impressions is art and entertainment.

JENNY GUY: Interesting.

PAUL BAKAUS: So art an entertainment. If you blog about the latest Marvel movies, for instance, that will probably give you a lot of eyeballs. Again, you’re trading impressions versus engagement. Both of them are obviously important. But yeah, maybe you need to do Marvel lifestyle stories, I don’t know. You combine the two and you win. But art and entertainment is the other very, very big one.

Now I don’t only find interesting the ones that are doing really well, because it doesn’t tell you about the saturation of that vertical. You could be thinking now, OK, I’m just going to also do an entertainment Web Story and hopefully it’s going to do super, super well. But if 1,000 others will do that, you just have a small part of the slice of the pie, I guess.

JENNY GUY: Yep.

PAUL BAKAUS: And so I find it interesting to look at where the gaps are. And so where are the biggest supply demand gaps? And we analyzed this a while back and we found out that well, actually art and entertainment, there is still a supply-demand gap. So definitely create more of those stories, celebrity and sports, and gaming content. With new TV and movie and game releases rolling out all the time, these verticals really offer a lot of potential for growth. I would say those are the biggest ones.

JENNY GUY: That is very interesting to hear. OK, we have a question from Jenni Field. She’s Pastry Chef Online. What are your current best practices for Web Stories? And her follow up question, should we house them on a page on our site or not?

PAUL BAKAUS: Well, I’m going to answer the second question first, because–

JENNY GUY: Perfect.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yes. That’s a very easy answer. Yes–

JENNY GUY: Easy.

PAUL BAKAUS: You should have them on a page, for a multitude of reasons. The first reason is that having them on a page somewhere, or linked to somewhere on your own website means that the potential for crawling and indexing is much higher. The retrieval is going to be much easier for Google. Of course, you can also submit your sitemap directly to submit those Web Stories, but linking them anywhere on your site will definitely improve your chances. That’s the first thing.

The second thing is that I don’t think it’s very smart to rely only on, let’s say, Discover or search traffic. I think ideally, if you want to create Web Stories, you also create them to improve your what we call O and O experience, your website experience itself. Ideally you want these Web Stories to improve your site itself. So I think it makes a lot of sense to link them.

Now I understand that that’s not always a very easy decision when it comes to, let’s say, monetization. If your Web Stories compete with, let’s say, your existing blog post, and that blog post as much more aggressive monetization that is doing really well, there’s a trade off to be made. But sometimes also you can think of a Web Story as an embed, like a YouTube video in an existing blog post.

I’ve seen this pattern work really well where we actually have a thing called– What’s it called? Story Embed Play, or something along those lines. But for instance, if you use the WordPress plugin, you can easily embed stories into your blog posts and they become secondary content that just improves the overall blog post. And that’s a good pattern, and it doesn’t really eat away. It doesn’t really cannibalize your monetization on your website. So that might be a nice thing to think about.

JENNY GUY: And actually a follow up question to that is, is Harry with Blend with Spices wants to know, can you create multiple Web Stories for the same blog post or recipe? And if that is OK, what are the things we should consider when multiple Web Stories are linking to the same URL?

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, totally. Absolutely do that. I think the only thing that I would avoid is really duplicating the content. The same way that having a duplicated blog post would raise some flags, you don’t want to just paste the paragraphs directly into the Web Story that you had on your blog post.

But then very oftentimes you have, I don’t know, like 5,000 web blog posts, of course you can’t pack all of that into a single story. I mean, you could, but then it will be a 500 page long story and nobody is going to read that. So absolutely isolate some of the talking points in your blog post and then turn them into expressive visual stories.

I mean, you also have to keep in mind that somebody who is reading a story, or consuming a story is in a different mindset, different state of mind than somebody who’s reading a 5,000 word blog post. They are probably in some train station trying to consume something really quickly. They’re not going to read your 5,000 word blog post in that train station. So yeah, make them bit-sized as much as possible. And then absolutely if you have a long blog post, create multiple.

JENNY GUY: That’s great to hear. OK, I wanted to– this is a little off script. Well, first I’m going to announce our winner of the second prize before I jump into this. Jen Powell. We asked, what is your favorite holiday song? She said, “White Christmas,” which is a beautiful song. I do love it. And she is the winner of that giveaway. Keep your eyes peeled. We got some great ones. We’ve got “Santa Baby,” we got “Jingle bells,” we got all sorts of great songs for your holiday playlist. Check those out.

In the meantime, Paul, you were talking about making them bite sized. Can you give us some additional insight on what performs really well within those, if it’s more music, what type of titles, how long are you letting this slides stay up? How many slides per story are the most successful?

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, absolutely. I’m trying to do this off the top of my head. So I hope these answers are correct. But I think we saw that above 12 story pages, you see diminishing returns, which means that ideally keep your stories below 12 pages. Or not much more than 20. It depends on the type of the story, though. You can make a story more engaging the same way that you can make a YouTube video that is 30 minutes long engaging if you do it the right way.

This is not a hard and fast rule, but overall I would say the average is about 12 pages. Other than that, I would say the stories that don’t do well are the ones that are really text heavy. And so make sure that you use a lot of high quality imagery, ideally moving images. We see a lot of– and I know this might not be easy, because you might not have the same amount of stock footage available in video as opposed to images. But if you can, add video to your stories. Add effects to your stories. Don’t make them repeat too often, but really make them visually interesting.

Yeah. If it’s just looking like a static slideshow of paragraphs and it’s not going to be super exciting to audiences. And we have measured that and we have confirmed it. Yeah. I don’t know, this is probably not the most detailed advice, but I would definitely–

JENNY GUY: It’s helpful.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah. I would definitely say that. And then the other thing is try to experiment with the features that are unique to stories. For instance, one of the things that stories can have– that Web Stories can have that other types of stories cannot have is really powerful CTAs. So you can add links in areas where on competitor’s stories you cannot. And so make sure you use those features to your advantage. Yeah.

JENNY GUY: A lot of strong CTA, and the ability to give one of those. Can’t beat that.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah.

JENNY GUY: Claire with The Ladybird’s Adventures asks, will Web Stories be rolled out to the UK?

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, I get these questions all the time, and I wish I had a better answer to them. I don’t know.

JENNY GUY: OK.

PAUL BAKAUS: And I think the aspiration– first of all, I don’t know when. OK, let me clarify it. I think it’s not an “if” but it’s a “when” question. So yes, they will be rolled out in the UK and probably worldwide, but I think it really depends on a bunch of different factors, like how many stories do we see on a weekly basis published in that country, to really ensure that users have a great experience on, let’s say, Google Discover in the carousel. Because let’s say if there are five creators– not saying that’s the only we have, but just as an example, let’s say there’s five creators in the country that are creating stories, that’s awesome. But then if we just unlock the carousel, the carousel will have the same five creators every week, and that would be really sad. So it really depends–

JENNY GUY: Yeah, a tiny carousel. Just a little, tiny– It would be hard to get on it.

PAUL BAKAUS: But really, it is a supply-demand problem. So the more supply, the sooner we can launch stories in more countries. Sadly, I don’t have anything to announce right now.

JENNY GUY: That’s OK. We understand that. OK, so we’ve had some people saying that when their story went viral, the majority of the traffic came from India. Is there any way to target specific areas with the Web Stories?

PAUL BAKAUS: Unfortunately not, not that I know of, no. Geofencing, as we call it, is unfortunately not a feature that you can add to your stories simply because they’re published on your own website. And then on Search, and on Google, generally. We also don’t have a feature to geofence search results. Unfortunately not an option.

JENNY GUY: OK, thank you. All right, Kristie from Holiday Hoopla asks, when creating Web Stories, how unique do they need to be from other non-story content on my site? I’ve had trouble getting some of my stories to index, and from the available support, this seems to imply that Google thinks the content is a duplicate, or Google is assuming I don’t want the content indexed. It doesn’t happen with every story, only a few.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, I think I went into this a little bit before, but in general, we recommend not copy-pasting content directly from your blog post. I mean, at least not multiple sentences to your story, because then it could trigger a duplicate. But usually– I mean, I haven’t seen this to be a big problem with those that really just take the topic of a blog post and reuse some images, reuse some talking points. If that’s the case and you still get duplicate flags, then it would definitely be interesting to hear from you, because that’s not supposed to be the case. We have been recommending people to turn their blog posts into their stories and if that doesn’t work for you, that’s something we have to fix.

JENNY GUY: That’s actually a great follow up, a segue into this question from Sarah from Major Hoff Takes a Wife. Is there a person to contact with issues with Web Stories or questions?

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, there is. I would say we have our general handle, actually, webcreators@google.com I don’t know if– this is probably not very well known, but yes, there is a Google email address you can reach us at.

JENNY GUY: Wow. That isn’t– [INAUDIBLE] I didn’t know that. Good to know.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah. And I think you often hear how a lot of people have trouble contacting Google, well, there you go.

JENNY GUY: There’s an email address right there.

PAUL BAKAUS: There’s an email address.

JENNY GUY: We’re going to post it in the comments.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah.

JENNY GUY: We’re going to put it on our handout. You’ve got it, guys.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, and I can guarantee that I see those emails, and my team sees those emails. So this is not going to some third party vendor, and we are looking at– we might not be able to reply to every email, but at least with the emails that talk about Web Stories, we will forward them to the right teams. And oftentimes we do get back and we look at the issues that are happening.

Of course, we can’t help every individual content creator unblock their SEO problems because we have to do it for everyone at the same time, we can’t just do one-off solutions. But anyway, please send us your feedback. Please send us what’s going wrong, because it helps us understand is this an issue that just you have, and maybe it’s just isolated to your blog, or it is an issue that everyone has and we have to look at it more closely.

JENNY GUY: We appreciate that a lot. And again, that’s phenomenal to know that is a thing that exists. So Jordan with Jordo’s World asks, I’ve been making Web Stories for about nine months now and notice they get a ton of traffic, which is exciting and over half the battle. Congratulations, Jordan. However, I’ve been watching my Web Story income closely with the Mediavine team and realized that because of the ad placement and how many people don’t make it to the part in the Web Story where the ad is located, the viewability is actually really low.

I realized the low number was dropping my overall viewability to less than 70%. All of this to say, do you have any solutions moving forward with this? Is there a solution for people experiencing this? I’d love to have about over 70% viewability and keep Web Story ads for the best of both worlds. And before I unleash Paul on that one, I wanted to say that we talked about this one before we started. And the viewability, that’s more of a Mediavine ad issue. But what I wanted to do this to segue into was talking about overall monetization for Web Stories. And I know that Paul has some things he can offer for that. So, Paul.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah. I probably can’t talk too much about the ad stuff. I think this is probably more your expertise. And then I have some product managers on the Google site that will be a better fit to talk about it. I do know that we often get requests for being able to change the auto ad placement, for instance, and space it out more, or do stuff like that. So I do know that the team is very aware of the shortcomings and we are iterating, which I know is a little bit of a non-answer. But I just wanted to do it anyway.

JENNY GUY: But they’re new.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah.

JENNY GUY: I mean, how long have Web Stories been out there? When you guys first– when they first came out, there was no way to monetize them. And now we’re already moving forward in a new direction. So that’s the way things happen.

PAUL BAKAUS: And it turns out that creating a moving ad ecosystem is surprisingly slow. There’s a lot of inertia on the–

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

JENNY GUY: Who knew?

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah. Yeah. But yes, we’re trying hard. That being said, I think you definitely need to look at the other ways of monetized stories as well. And I think one of the most interesting ways of monetizing stories is shoppable content. Affiliate links in particular, but not just random affiliate links.

But as I mentioned, lifestyle is doing really well right, you see a lot of products out there in the markets that essentially have shop-the-look functionality. And you can create that very easily in the Web Story. You post a picture of you wearing something, you put a link there, and that’s it. You put an affiliate link to some product that you’re trying to sell.

And affiliate links, as you might know, are forbidden in many places where you can post these things.

JENNY GUY: True.

PAUL BAKAUS: And then not forbidden on Stories. So I would really encourage you to try out monetizing with links, because I think could be an amazing income source.

JENNY GUY: That is a great– and we are all about multiple revenue streams. So utilize as many as you can. We’re going to pivot a little bit to discover and general content creation. I want to start with just a basic, which is what is Google Discover? Can you tell us in your own words, please?

PAUL BAKAUS: Yes. Google Discover is Google’s feed of content that you can access, either in the Google App for Android or iOS. Or if you are using Android, there is a screen that arrives when you swipe to the right, that’s right. You swipe to the right and you get this negative one screen, in some ways, and it includes your feed of content that we think you might be interested in.

And so the big difference is that Google, of course, is intentful. You need to start with a query with some question that you seed it with and you arrive at the results. Google Discover doesn’t have that, so it’s clearly less discovery of content. The big difference between Google Discover and other content platforms and algorithmic feeds is that it’s all web content. All of that is– again, it’s an aggregator. It’s bringing content back to the web and to your websites, and links users to your websites.

And the irony here, I guess that’s the elephant in the room, is that it’s called Google Discover and a lot of you have not discovered it yet. We’re not doing a very great job at promoting it, to be honest.

JENNY GUY: OK.

PAUL BAKAUS: But it does have more than a billion users. So it’s not a small product by any means, and it’s really great to take a look at it more closely, I would say, if you haven’t taken a look at it yet.

JENNY GUY: So what you’re saying to all these content creators that are watching is that there are people there. You need to be there doing something for those people. There’s an audience waiting for you.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yes. Absolutely, yeah. And that’s also of course where Web Stories are the most prominent. So if you go to Google Discover, unfortunately not in the UK yet, as we just figured out. But if you’re in the US, in India, or in Brazil, you’ll see a pretty fancy Web Story carousel in Discover that highlights the cover– the poster images of stories in a really interesting visual way. Yeah.

JENNY GUY: So if– we just had one of our audience members– we have the most hilarious audience on Earth, said welcome to Google Undiscovered, which is–

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah.

JENNY GUY: Maybe it’s a new title. We’re workshopping here. So to find Google Discover as a user, if you’re on your phone, you need to have the Google App. Is that accurate?

PAUL BAKAUS: Not– well, yes. Absolutely. Yeah, you need to have the Google app, but then, let’s say on Pixel phones on stock on Android, that Google app is already built into the stock version of Android. So again, in that case, you literally just swipe from your home screen to the side. Not where you find more apps right, that will be the, I guess, left swipe.

JENNY GUY: Yes.

PAUL BAKAUS: But no, to the other side, and you basically get that feed right there. On Android it’s much easier to get to it. On iOS, you have to download the Google app and then enter the Google app, and then right there you see that feed where you scroll down.

JENNY GUY: OK. Get the Google App. OK, so now that we’ve discovered that Google Discover is undiscovered by many content creators, we have Jordan from Inspired by Maps. And he said, what is the best practice for Google Discover? How can we create content optimized for it beyond the image size requirements? There seem to be no concrete guidelines.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah. There are no concrete guidelines. We have a single page on Search Central that talks a little bit about Google Discover and gives advice. But I agree, there’s not a lot. And I think some of this has been by design in the past, because we’ve been intentionally thinking of Google Discover as an additional traffic source to bloggers where search might be your main traffic source, but then Google Discover is an additional traffic source.

And the reason why is because it’s very hard to predict traffic on Discover, and that’s because it’s personalized. You might like things that I don’t like, and so we’re not seeing the same Discover feed. It’s highly personalized. And that also means that as a content creator, unfortunately you can’t expect the same traffic from, let’s say, every Web Story, or every article you publish, and you get the same traffic from Discover. We don’t– it’s a little bit difficult, because we want people to embrace Discover, but we also don’t want people to rely yet on Discover as their only traffic source, or only income source. Because that sets people up for failure as well.

That being said, I personally would love to write more articles, more help articles about optimizing content for Discover and go a little bit more in-depth. I don’t have anything to announce yet, but this is a problem that we’re very aware of, and we’re trying to bring you more content.

JENNY GUY: That’s great, and it’s great to hear. Well, we’ll be interested. We’ll be watching. And maybe we can have you back in 2022 and hear more about it.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, hopefully I’ll I have more news then.

JENNY GUY: We’d love that. So you recently spoke at VidCon in Abu Dhabi on becoming a sustainable creator, and I have to say I am in love with that term. I think it’s fantastic. Could you tell us what it means to be a sustainable content creator in 2022?

PAUL BAKAUS: Of course. One of the things that I– maybe one step back here is that I started scripting this talk and I talked about independence. I thought what creators really want is to become more independent. And then I realized that after talking to more and more content creators, that’s not necessarily what they want, at least not in the technical sense.

Nobody wants to recreate social media, or recreate the whole stack in the same way that nobody wants to do on taxes. Creators largely want to do one thing, and that’s create. Unfortunately, oftentimes life gets in the way. And so you’re realizing you need to either create too much and then it becomes really a chore, or you need to create things that you don’t want to create, or you need to look out for content deletions in the algorithms that control you and whatever. And so there’s always something that stops you from simply being creative.

So I shifted from Independence to sustainability, because I think that’s something that we all need to talk about. I’ve seen some recent reports from Vibely and from other studies that showed that more than 70%, 80% of creators think that they’re burned out. And I think that’s really unfortunate. It depends on which vertical you’re in, of course, as well. Right before I came to Abu Dhabi, I was at Traverse travel blogger conference and it was excellent. But you could really feel like it was very important for that group to meet again after two years of no travel. And so that vertical in particular was hit really badly, of course.

But there are many other reasons for why creators are burned out, for why creators are in a bad state of mind, maybe. And that’s middle man, for instance. Like the fact that you don’t own the relationship to your audience and to your fans. That’s a big pain point if you’re realizing, OK, I have a million followers on some social media app, but then I want to sell an online course and I can’t do it.

This is more of a wake up moment of course, for people who don’t have a website yet. For those of you who already have a website, you understand that very well, the fact that somebody who subscribes to a newsletter or subscribes to your RSS feed is more valuable than a social follower. And so sustainability, I think, also relates to stardom. Many creators today think they need to break out and become a celebrity on the internet. And I think that’s actually very detrimental to mental health, especially for young creators and for kids.

And one of the main points of the talk that I made, I would say, was to get rid of that idea and to think about how do you become part of the creator middle class? How do I do this professionally and not burn out in a very quick way? Because with my friend Nuseir, for instance a while back. He’s the creator of Nas Daily, a big Facebook show. I talked about creator shelf life. And he thinks that creator shelf life is five years, which is brutal if you think about it.

JENNY GUY: That’s crazy.

PAUL BAKAUS: That’s Less than a modeling career.

JENNY GUY: It’s true. Less than an Olympic athlete.

PAUL BAKAUS: I don’t think that– yeah. So I don’t think that’s great, to be honest. And I’m guessing many of you have been blogging for more than five years, and that’s great. But we need to shift that. We need to make sure that content creation is a well-accepted profession that has a sustainable path.

And so this is what the talk really was about, how can we identify what leads to burnout and what leads to all of these breakdowns in the shelf life of a creator. And then what is the right strategy to implement in order not to get there. And for me, it was really three big components. It was instead of focusing on millions of followers, focus on your 1,000 true fans.

So many of you are probably already familiar. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the 1,000 true fans strategy, but it’s a really good one where you’re thinking of your audience and your fans differently. But your audience are those that follow you on one platform, whether that’s your Instagram, or your TikTok, or your website. But your fans are those that follow you everywhere and don’t just follow you for your content, but for you as a person.

And so they are the ones that come with you along through your career and the ones that really support you financially. And 1,000 true fans are probably all that is needed for you to sustain your life. If they’re paying you $10, $20 a month or a year, that’s great.

So that’s one. And the other one is passive income. And of course passive income is obviously a big topic with Mediavine, and you’re all about it. But not every content creator out there who is starting content creation on social media really understands this. A lot of them use brand deals as their main income source, and brand deals are great if they work, but they’re not passive. You have to actively work for them. And then next week, we have to find another one. So it’s active income, and you can’t scale it. So income from ads, affiliate links, affiliate marketing, et cetera really means that you can scale how you’re creating content.

And then the third one is going more niche. Again, I talked about this before with the supply-demand gap. A lot of times, as content creators, we think of, oh, OK, there’s this shiny new thing, or tentpole event, or something happening in industry. I need to pile on. But I had an example in my talk recently of a fan art creator. Fan art, I would say, is already sufficiently niche, creating art of, let’s say, a media property as a fan artist. But then they went even more niche and combined it with art nouveau. And so you have art nouveau–

JENNY GUY: Oh wow.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, it’s really exciting. It’s really cool, actually.

JENNY GUY: Yeah.

PAUL BAKAUS: Hannah is her name, and she creates art nouveau fan art. And I put that example out there– and she has a website too, by the way. I put an example out there because nobody in the audience would imagine that that niche could produce any results. And it’s so–

JENNY GUY: True.

PAUL BAKAUS: It’s so hyper niche. And two niches combined that you would think, well, you can’t possibly build a career out of this.

JENNY GUY: Sure.

PAUL BAKAUS: It turns out that she has over 1,000 patrons that pay for her lifestyle.

JENNY GUY: Wow.

PAUL BAKAUS: And pay for a professional–

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

JENNY GUY: I’m about to be one of them if you post the link to her website.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, no. Yeah, Hannah Alexander. You should check it out. But yeah, her art is amazing. But that was a really good example for going more niche, for really finding your niche.

Because if you pick something that millions of people like, that’s great, and you might monetize that way with ads. But then if you pick something that thousands of people love, you might be able to say merch, and subscriptions, and alternative ways of monetizing this that you couldn’t before. I think both strategies are, of course, very valid. But I encourage content creators to think about them.

JENNY GUY: Well, what you were just saying– you’ve said so many amazing things that I know that you’ve got a small fan club forming right now of people who love you in the comment section of our live right now.

PAUL BAKAUS: Thank you so much.

JENNY GUY: Yes, we love hearing all of this. I think one of the things that we hear most often about burnout, and you were actually alluding around it, which is the whole concept of FOMO, which is there’s that constant fear of missing out on the next best thing and the next biggest thing, and this person is doing this and finding success. So I have to go become an expert in TikTok, and in these different platforms in all of the different locations. And I think that like you said, the crux of the matter is that people want to just make good content. They don’t want to have to worry about necessarily algorithms, or video lighting, or all the myriad things. Email subscription services, and–

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah. And this is the other thing. And we– yeah. Creators often think they need to jump on every platform and themselves too thin. This is very, very common that I’m seeing this very often. And yeah. Actually, FOMO is a good way to describe it. You’ll feel like, OK, there’s this new platform. I definitely need to invest.

Yeah, I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think you need to. And an especially not if the content that you create isn’t well-suited for the platform. But if you are creating in-depth articles about some interesting topic, maybe don’t become a TikTok dance instructor. I mean, these are two different professions and different types of creators.

In the same way, I’m not trying to convince you know Charlie on TikTok to become a blogger, because she would probably not have a good time blogging because nobody is searching for dance articles, I guess, that are longform on the internet. Maybe some people are, but I don’t think it’s the right sort of medium. Yeah, I have a lot of feelings about that one in particular. I definitely think that content creators are spreading themselves too thin.

Vibely, in their study that they did recently with 150 influencers, they have estimated that even just for three or four platforms, in order to stay relevant, a lot of creators estimate that they need to work for about 70, 71 hours a week. And that just– that’s crazy. That doesn’t sound very sustainable or healthy.

So I would definitely encourage every creator to pick that one platform that is most well-suited for the type of content that they’re trying to create. Obviously, great if that’s your website. I mean, that’s my hope. But even if not, make sure that you pick your main platform and then use the other ones to funnel more audiences onto your main platform.

JENNY GUY: So for our last question that we had, we asked about what you– I don’t know if you saw it, Paul, but we asked about favorite holiday dinner dish, and we had Valerie Stevik come in with mince pies quick. And so she was the winner for that one. But also, we had so many different answers that now I’m starving and I need people to post their recipes if you have them for all the things that you’re talking about in our last question.

Let me see. Did we get a winner for this one you guys? I’m having trouble locating the winners thread in here. Can somebody share that? We asked, what, gingerbread or hot chocolate. Do you have a preference, Paul.

PAUL BAKAUS: Oh, man. That’s a hard one, because one is drinkable– can we combine them? I love some hot chocolate.

JENNY GUY: Gingerbread hot chocolate is a great idea, yes.

PAUL BAKAUS: And some gingerbread along with it. That would be my preference.

JENNY GUY: I think that’s a fantastic suggestion. And we are here– does anyone have a recipe for gingerbread hot chocolate? Put that in the comments for Paul. OK, Stephanie was quick there and she said hot chocolate. Stephanie Yurongray. Thank you for jumping on that.

Paul, the other thing– I had to take care of those housekeeping things really quickly. But we had so many comments when you were talking about sustainability and that we’re not in this just for five years, or even 10 years, that we’re wanting to create something that is a lifetime that you’re able to keep doing that. And that’s not something that can happen if you’re constantly chasing after the next shiny thing. And people are saying it’s so appropriate. So I would love to hear your thoughts on how a lifestyle blogger who has potentially been blogging for years and has hundreds and hundreds of articles can take your advice and niche down now.

PAUL BAKAUS: Great question. I would say first, take a look at– OK, first one is I’m going to do a plug here. We have a video about this on our channel, on our YouTube channel, How to Find Your Niche by Keiko, who is a fashion creator and blogger. So not only do we give advice from our own Google employees, but we actually bring in creators to spearhead these series to make sure that we are not saying the wrong things.

And so yeah, there’s a video on our YouTube channel talking exactly how to find your niche. But the one the first recommendation I would have is look at the comments on your blog, look at the people that are the most engaged of your fans and figure out what they engage with the most. Really take a look at not just which of your articles get the most impressions, but which are the most engaged with, and then you will probably realize, OK, this is the type of content that might be more interesting to go into as a niche than some of the other ones. So if you already have a blog, that’s what I would do.

The other really important thing that Keiko talks about as well is don’t go too niche if you don’t think you can maintain that niche for a long time. And a lot of people make the mistake that they realize, OK, I like fidget spinners, and then you’re like, a year later realize actually, I don’t like fidget spinners so much that I want to do it for 20 years. And you realize, OK, now that might not have been a good career move.

And so if you want to go niche, be careful that it’s something that you actually like, or that you have to have liked for a long time, not just a fad or some trends that you’re piling onto. Yeah. There’s a lot more advice that Keiko gives in her video that I think is really helpful that I’m not giving in that really quick explanation. But yeah, please check it out.

JENNY GUY: OK, that is– we are actually going to include that in our handout that we’re about ready to send out. Paul, this has been so wonderful. I would love if you could give all of our content creators listening just a tip, an action item. And you’ve already given so much hope, but if you want to give more, we would love to take that into 2022.

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, of course. Maybe one thing that I want to wrap up with is also sort of a reflection point for me. If you would hear the DevRel teams and the outreach teams at Google speak, there’s always something new that we’re launching. And I think that can also be a source of stress. So I want to acknowledge that.

I think a lot of you have been stressed by the Page Experience launch, as an example. And sometimes when that happens, it sounds like you need to put all attention on this, and the world will go down if you don’t. That’s not the case. Page Experience, yes, we want to have fast web pages, don’t get me wrong. It is one of many, many, many, many ranking signals. The most important ranking signal is your content, the quality of your content.

So if you stop everything in order to fix the speed of your website and you don’t publish good content for a couple of months because you’re trying to fix your WordPress theme, not going to help you, not going to help us, not going to help anyone. I would say yeah, think of your career as a curve that needs interpolation. There’s going to be lows and downs, there’s going to be outside signals like Paul coming around and saying need to do this, and this, and this. But in the end, as a content creator, you need to create the best content for your audience, and that’s something you really have to stay focused on.

JENNY GUY: Well, that– if I were the Grinch, my heart would have grown three sizes just hearing you say that. We love hearing that content is king and balance in all things, not running from one side to the other, which is so hard to do during the holiday season. Paul, that was excellent.

OK, for our four winners we have Jordan Smith, Jen Powell, Valerie Bailey, and Stephanie Yurongray. Please send us an email to marketing@mediavine.com so we can get you your prizes. Paul, this has been so wonderful. Will you come back to us in 2022 and talk about burnout–

PAUL BAKAUS: Of course. Yeah, if you will have me again. Yeah.

JENNY GUY: Will you have a different shirt, a different sweater or something else on?

PAUL BAKAUS: Yeah, good idea. I’ll have to think about it, but I will try.

JENNY GUY: We’ll give you some time. This has been amazing and wonderful. Thank you so much.

PAUL BAKAUS: Thank you for having me.

JENNY GUY: All right. And everybody, we will be back in 2022 with more great guests from around the content creation industry. I want to wish all of our incredible audience a safe and happy holiday season. Take care and we will see you in 2022. Happy holidays, everyone.

PAUL BAKAUS: Happy holidays.

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