The 800-pound gorilla that had been hiding in Google’s closet for the past 20+ years was finally exposed last Friday during the federal government’s antitrust lawsuit against the dominant search company…
Evidence released by the U.S. Department of Justice last Friday prove that Google Search relies on user clicks to determine rankings. It’s a landmark moment in search engine marketing history because it changes our core understanding Google’s ranking algorithm, it ushers in new SEO strategies for website owners, and it also exposes Google as, quite frankly, a liar.
Ever since Google Search was launched in 1998, the company held steadfast that its ranking algorithm was primarily based on quality signals such as inbound links, use of headings, authoritative content, semantic HTML, proper spelling and grammar, etc. However, professional search engine optimizers suspected that user clicks had a significant role in how websites were ranked. Google disputed these suspicions, even going so far as to hire “search liaisons” to interact on forums and social media to dispel these claims. But federal prosecutors presented documents written by Google search executives themselves that the algorithm is incapable of understanding documents, but rather human interaction…
“Let’s start with some background..
A billion times a day, people ask us to find documents relevant to a query.
What’s crazy is that we don’t actually understand documents. Beyond some basic stuff, we hardly look at documents. We look at people.
If a document gets a positive reaction, we figure it is good. If the reaction is negative, it is probably bad.
Grossly simplified, this is the source of Google’s magic.”
Search Engine Land has published the full set of documents, all written by Google executives, along with notes.
But to sum this all up, Google puts more emphasis on how people interact with their search results to determine how websites should rank. The more a website gets clicked on, the higher it ranks. This is a very broad statement, but the evidence makes a pretty compelling argument that “user interaction” on search results is the primary driver of their rankings.
So What Does This Mean to You?
If you look at all the facets of how Google fits into your online marketing strategy… your website, your Google Map listing, your YouTube videos, your Google Ads… the tactics have shifted to a game of “just get more visibility, fast!”
- The more often your website is clicked on Google Search, the higher it’s going to rank.
- The more often your Google Map listing is viewed, clicked, or interacted with, the higher it’s going to rank.
- The more often your YouTube videos are watched and liked, the more visibility it’s going to get.
The reason why “just get more visibility, fast” is now the new battle cry is because Google is incapable of understanding content by their own admission. Rather, it has to first see how other people react to your content, before it can figure out how to rank it. Thus, the more visibility you can get early, the faster Google can figure out how you should rank.
Unfortunately, for many businesses and publishers, this may going to mean having to pay for visibility.
But What if You Don’t Want to Pay for Visibility?
We don’t blame you, who does? But here’s our best advice…
- Write more content, more often. You can (should) write more blog posts on your company website. Blogs are still Google’s favorite way of finding news and updates about a company’s products and services. We recommend at least one new blog post each week. But, we understand that’s a lot of time out of your week, and time is money. As long as you can do one posting per month, that’s still good.
- Post content on Google Maps listing. This is officially called, “Google Business Listings”. Your listing comes with posts which you can use to announce deals, events, advice, news, just about anything. Your Google Business Listing is an actual website that lives exclusively on Google Maps, so post often.
- Make use of YouTube. Believe it or not, but YouTube is the world’s second most popular search engine. And because it’s a Google property, it’s intricately tied into their ranking algorithm. So, set up a creator profile, add your website link to the profile, and start uploading videos. Don’t do any editing work, rather shoot the entire video in one shot, which means having to rehearse a little. Recruit a co-worker to hold the cellphone as they shoot you talking and demonstrating. Just get straight to the point, no long introductions, no background history, just make it succinct.