Starting in 2011, Google has made a series of regular updates to its search algorithm to determine exactly how sites appear in a results page for a particular string. Gone are the days where the site with the highest volume of relevant keywords “won.” Panda penalized spam-filled sites that offered little in the way of actual content in favor of valuable information that actually satisfied a particular search. Google’s changes have also focused on things like maintaining a proper balance between genuine content and advertising and pushing sites to offer social media integration and more. They’ve even given an edge to local businesses, leveling the playing field and essentially making sure that even small businesses can evenly compete with large, national corporations that can outspend them day in and day out.
What Does the Future Hold?
If you take a look at all of the high profile changes that Google has made to its ranking algorithm in recent years, what is the one, underlying thing that you see in common? Google has regularly focused on not just the volume of content that marketers are putting out into the world but the quality of content.
Simple: Google is focused on creating the best user experience possible. This means that you should be focused on this, too.
Google is Trying to Train You To Value UI
Google doesn’t just want to make sure that people can find the information they’re looking for – they want to make sure they have a pleasant experience while they do it. Therefore, it’s easy to see where this is probably all going: user retention. It’s easy to picture the world just a few short years from now where having high-quality content doesn’t matter as much as content that people are actively consuming. Google can easily start paying attention to site statistics like bounce rates to glean more insight into how its users behave when interacting with the content they’re being served. Did you write an objectively great blog post but, for some reason, users are still leaving your page after just ten seconds? Google could easily rank your site lower than a competitor with a higher session length as a result. Why is your bounce rate so high? You’re not sure, but you’d better find out – and fast.
Many of these changes that Google and other engines have implemented to their algorithm are designed to lean more and more on the users themselves to provide the information needed to identify high-quality content and weed out low-quality alternatives. It creates something of a symbiotic circle between search engines and internet users – the users identify the content worth experiencing, Google recognizes it, rinse, repeat. Because of this, the key to marketing in this type of world becomes clear: pay attention to what the users want and do whatever you have to do to give it to them. Google wants to give its users exactly what they want when they want it, how they want it. If you’re a marketer with any type of presence in the digital age, that should be your goal, too.