Demystifying Google Search Results
Remember the story of the elephant and the 7 blind men? That’s what the SEO specialists were. Until Google decided to prick the bubble of the so-called SEO Specialists.
Almost 10 years to date, Google published a blog about its Algorithm – Algo for the new age digital marketers. This was the beginning of the change and the unravelling of the mythical Google Algorithm and ever since Google SEO has never been the same.
1. The beginning of change – Panda Algorithm Update
The first ever update was the Panda Algorithm. This dealt with plagiarism in web copy among several others. In the past, well actually even now, several Agencies & SEO Marketers believe they are creating links by farming out low quality articles and creating back links.
This is exactly what the Panda Algorithm abhors. The Panda Algorithm almost humanized the Algo to evaluate every single piece of written content as a human being would. Some important questions Panda Algorithm answered were things like:
a) Is the article written by an expert?
b) Will I trust the views expressed in this article?
c) Will I share my CC information with this website based on this article and so on?
This also means that the quality of content needs to be high for Google to reward you. The quality is not about filling up pages with huge pictures and increased leading, but real informative stuff. The articles can be short and crisp or long, as long as it holds the reader’s attention and adds value to the reader, Google will reward it.
Oh, by the way, the Panda Algorithm, was purportedly named after its author Biswajit Panda. Although, Google has never confirmed it or denied it.
2. More is not necessarily better – Penguin Algorithm
In the olden days (it does feel like the previous gen) more links was always equal to higher search ranking. This was an anomaly that Google corrected with the Penguin Algorithm.
Google realized that, clever marketers were spamming the web links game. Just that, they were too clever by half.
Penguin Algorithm update was indeed a follow up of the Panda Algo update. While Panda took care of quality of the content, Penguin gives you a chance to cleanse the system of bad back links.
The bad links can be due to multiple reasons. Like a great high authority website can have a link to your website and still be deemed bad quality because of the intricacies involved. These links could come from an ad of an unscrupulous advertiser selling links from that website.
So that is the next lesson. All links are not equal even if it comes from a high authority site.
A good Search Marketer will need to keep watching the backlinks and their quality constantly and keep flushing them at regular intervals.
Google recommends that, one speak to the Administrators of websites from where these bad links come from and ask them to unlink it. While it is not legal to get paid for removing links, some administrators might demand it. Instead of paying them, one should just disavow the link.
Disavowing links is an addition and not a replacement of the earlier disavow file. That’s what Google does. Google will still crawl the whole website and replace the earlier one with the new disavow list. This means that one cannot create a new disavow list but add to the earlier one and upload it as a new list.
Finally, while bad quality links can pull the ranking down, removing them need not reverse the ranking. One needs to continue adding good quality links. After all, when good outnumbers bad, good should start winning. Right?
That’s what the Penguin Algorithm is all about.
3. Context is King – Hummingbird Algorithm
One of the things they say about advertising is that they promise a horse and deliver a donkey. Search results were never as bad as this before Hummingbird. But generally, the search results were too pat and delivered exactly what you searched for. So, the website with higher links ranked higher in the search results, not necessarily the one with the higher relevance.
That’s what changed with Hummingbird. Suddenly Search became intuitive and intelligent. This is being done with the help of Google’s Knowledge Graph. Knowledge Graph is an equivalent of a mind map.
Think of it like this. People, Places & Organizations and their relationships to one another distinctly and colours, concepts & feelings are intangibles which can also be connected back. So, when you start connecting the dots, you start getting an intelligent search result. As they are connected to each other distinctly, Google is able to identify the searcher’s intent and deliver the result based on that intent. In addition, Google also prods you further by listing the related search intent queries based on historical data that are also connected by the same knowledge graph.
What this effectively means is that you can search with the knowledge you have of a certain thing. Let’s say we search for “the person who came from an alien world and learnt hindi” the result will be PK – the Aamir Khan hit film.
We never mentioned PK or Aamir by name, but Google still connected this to the movie PK because the distinct dots of Alien + Person + Learnt + Hindi was connected by Google to deliver the search result.
This is not just limited to written queries. Try searching for “Which actor played the role PK? as a Voice search and you will hear Aamir’s name and almost all other cast in the film PK. Remember once again, we never used the word movie. Once again, the power of the connected dots in the Knowledge Graph.
This is what Hummingbird is all about. Identifying the context in your searches.
4. Mobile First
Some six years ago, Google moved to a Mobile first era. The reason for this is to make sure that they kept pace with the change in consumer behaviour. As more and more consumers started using their mobile phones for searches, Google wanted to make sure that the world responded to it.
After all, a lot of Google’s revenues come from search advertising. And they just needed to be a step ahead once again. While initially, it was thought that this will have a huge impact, most Websites started adapting to the Mobile First principle.
After all, mobile phone processors are a lot slower than desktops and the connectivity may not be top shelf material all the time. This means that Websites need to recognize this and load faster.
In the last few weeks, Google has also announced that, parameters like First Contentful Paint, First Input Display are going to play a larger role in search results.
Mobile First is not necessarily a change in Algorithm but how do we change to shifts in consumer behaviour.
5. Search Strings to Search Things – Rank Brain Algorithm
Rank Brain Algorithm is in a way an extension or next gen of Hummingbird Algorithm. While Hummingbird connected the dots as unique things, Rank Brain identifies each one as a machine id and supplants the device and location of the searcher.
While Rank Brain was originally rolled out because Google believed that it wasn’t aware of 15% of the search queries and therefore might return irrelevant results, it quickly changed. Rank Brain is pretty much used in every search query.
Google says, don’t optimize for Rank Brain. Instead optimize for the user or the searcher. That pretty much is the truth.
6. Change is the only constant – Core Update from Google
Do you know that Google updates its Algorithm almost daily and sometimes twice a day? Well, it is true.
These updates are not targeting any set of websites as it is generally rumored, but it is more about making sure Google delivers a superior search results to its users.
The Core Updates are always focused on understanding the Search Intent and understanding the content. Google has no time to research on low quality websites to penalize them or alienate them. They just don’t have the time on such sites.
So how do we rise in the rankings game? One pointer is within all of us. We keep solving multiple problems every day. From finding a solution to beat the peak hour traffic on the way to work or managing the boss, so he doesn’t fly off the handle once again.
This is actually the key. A searcher is not merely searching something. He is seeking answers that would solve his problem. If so, websites should solve a searchers problem.
So, websites shouldn’t go after KWs instead they should go after solving problems. At least this way, the world will become a better place.