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What is Google Really Looking for?

We see everything through Google-tinted lenses these days…

A few weeks ago we shared a post on social media inspired by the article, “Content Is King, But Page Experience Is Now Queen.” For those of you in the “TL;DR” camp (that’s “Too Long; Didn’t Read” for some of my friends, and many of us over the age of 40), the gist of the article is simple. When considering SEO, all of the technical factors still matter, content that answers the questions of the person doing the search matters, and the experience of the user on the page matters.

Did you just say that technical data doesn’t matter? 

No, I absolutely did not say that. According to some research, the Google algorithm looks at approximately 200 factors. In our monthly reporting, we generally address around 50, though it changes. These factors include a variety of items that you may or may not have considered like:

  • Domain registration length – are you buying your domain in short term increments?
  • Keyword in H1 Tag – you know this one.
  • Entity Match – does the page content match the “entity” a person is searching for? We’ll be coming back to this.
  • Mobile-Friendly Update – this was “Mobilegeddon” a few years back.
  • Excessive 301 Redirects to Page – this can dilute some rankings.
  • Schema.org usage – if you’re a client of ours, you have this, and it is beneficial.
  • Site has Facebook Page and Likes
  • Official LinkedIn Company Page
  • Meta Tag Spamming – if Google thinks you’re adding keywords to title and description tags, they can penalize the site.

Do you believe that’s Google you’re searching?

As a reminder, Google owns approximately 93% of global search when we include mobile, Google Image, YouTube, and of course, the regular Google search. It’s why we focus on their parameters in these discussions.

Next, a quick discussion of intent. We will have a longer post about intent in February, but for now, this will serve as a useful primer.

What do you mean by intent?

I have no idea where to find information on alpaca dairy farmers…

Explaining intent is relatively simply, but it has some detail associated with it when it comes to web searches. 3.5 billion searches take place a day and they almost all begin the same way. A user has a question or a goal they want accomplished, and they need an answer. With that in mind, intent breaks down into four areas.

  • Informational – user is seeking an answer to a question or information on a specific topic.
  • Navigational – the user is looking for a specific resource, page or site.
  • Commercial – the user knows what they want to buy, they are performing research prior to making a purchase.
  • Transactional – the user is looking to buy something.

Of note, a user might, and probably will, have more than one intention in mind when performing a search. Keeping this in mind and ensuring that your content addresses the intent of your buyer persona, will improve the chances that your site is discovered by users, and improve rankings in search results. Again, we will come back to Intent with more detail soon.

Page Experience seems pretty obvious, frankly…

You’re reading this blog, so I was hoping that would be the case. We explain this to our clients in simple terms. Essentially this, “Will your prospective customer find the information they are looking for in as few steps as possible, and will they then take an action (call, make an appointment, use the contact form, etc.)?” Page Experience has a specific meaning to Google, and certain signals that are considered. These include:

  • Mobile friendliness – related to the above note on mobile responsiveness, consider that it’s possible that over 60% of searches are now done on mobile. You want your page to function well when a user arrives. 94% of people with smartphones use them to search for local info.
  • Safe Browsing – is your site HTTPS secure? The ‘S’ literally stands for…Secure. Safe pages rank higher.
  • Core Web Vitals – relatively new and important, we will get technical at a later date as well. These care about loading speed, interactivity and visual stability. Google also would like to see pop-up ads avoided, they are considered annoying and interrupt the user experience.

Core Web Vitals is going to increase in importance during this year, and we expect to see an update where this is a focus this Spring.

Which brings me to my point – what does Google REALLY want?

First of all, Google wants all of the above, and more. It is one of the reasons why ranking is such a challenge to accomplish without the support of an experienced firm. We’ve mentioned previously that the number of Google updates each year has increased steadily, and there were over 3,000 in 2020 (we’re rounding down).

If you can take one thing away though, it’s this: Google is a service, and they need customers. Most of their revenue comes from advertising (as in Google Ads). When you are performing a search, if they don’t provide you with results that answer your question, that address your intent, and that help you achieve your goal, they are not providing you with a quality service. This means that it is important for them to consider everything we discussed above, AND whether or not a business’s website is in fact solving the problem that caused the search to occur in the first place. If search results start offering options that don’t address the intent of the user, the user can consider one of the 70+ other search engines in the hopes that one of them will provide more useful results (making it harder to maintain ad rates).

If you want to perform well for Google and your prospective customers, research the common questions your customers ask. What are they concerned about, and how do they find you? What gets them to take action on your page? Write your content in a way that answers the common questions that your prospective customers are asking. Google notices this, and they will rank you higher for it! If that is too much of a challenge, or you lack the bandwidth, talk to us, we will do it for you.

I think you know what I was going for here…

Solve a problem for someone in the easiest way possible, and you solve a problem for Google. And that is a path to Page 1.