Latest Google updates

Quick update on what’s been happening in the world of Google. I say world as Google has for a while now, provided around 90% of global search traffic.

Two major developments have slipped in almost unseen by the internet population at large. Unless you are in the business of SEO, Web Design or an avid Google follower these two monumental changes probably won’t have meant much to you . . . . yet.

The first major change is that Google are now forcing all searches through secure servers. What this means is that when you make a search though Google, the websites which you then click on will not know which terms you typed in to find their site. Previous to this, analytic programs running on those websites were able to capture the search terms you used. Website owners and SEO consultants used these extensively to measure how the site performed against the terms which they were targeting as well as identifying potential opportunities to target other terms. SEO consultants were able to specifically target these so called “key words” and engineer pages to rise to the top of the search engine results. Removing this ability means in practice that if a website owner wants to target particular words and terms, they will now need to put a lot more emphasis on pay per click advertising. The net (excuse the pun) result of this is that the actual search engine results should be more natural.

On top of this, Google has recently recognised the existence of a new search results algorithm. This is a major change, although the effect of it will be a slow burn. Over the past few years, Google has been releasing updates to its old algorithm, targeting spam websites and big corporate retailers who paid vast sums to buy links to their websites to try and manipulate the results. This new “Hummingbird” algorithm goes much further than this. Two years ago, if you typed into Google “How do I replace the filter on my Dyson vacuum cleaner” the algorithm would have picked up “replace”, “filter”, “Dyson”, “Vacuum Cleaner” and provided a range of sites selling replacement filters or even just vacuum cleaners. What the Hummingbird algorithm attempts to do is recognise not only these terms but the fact that you have asked “How do I replace”. This means that the algorithm will be trying to return results from pages which instruct you on how to fit the part, rather than sell the part to you. Good stuff eh? Well basically yes.

So what is Google trying to achieve by these changes? Firstly it’s about their revenue model. They want to push all of those websites who are trying to jump the queue to pay them for it through their AdWords pay per click program. Secondly, and here’s the exciting thing for the ordinary internet user, they are trying to create an artificial intelligence which attempts to understand not only what you mean by what you ask, but how you ask it and furthermore to deliver in results those web pages which are really about that, not those which have been stuffed with key words. The upshot in theory should be that internet search results should become a more honest place. Part of this move is down to the emergence of mobile search and the beginnings of wearable voice activated technology. Google is trying to build a search engine which knows what you mean when you say it as well as type it.

For website owners this means a return to the old maxim that “content is king”. Stuffing keywords into web pages and buying links is no longer going to be a profitable way to promote your website. What is going to be profitable and successful is producing worthwhile, meaningful content which is consistent with the products or services and the audience for which they are intended. Personal, non retail sites will also get a look in the search engine results.

All in all Google, carry on the good work separating the paid for advertising from the meaningful content which some of us are searching for!

by John Millward

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