What do Google's search algorithms mean for marketing?

Are search giant's changes for the better? Or the worse? Photo: Screen shot, Google search page

MANILA, October 13, 2013 - Google is the undisputed top dog of search engines in the U.S. boasting a market share of 67 percent of total online searches. The company also leads the worldwide market share with a 65.2 percent share of online searches. The popularity of Google made it synonymous to online search itself when in 2006 the Oxford English Dictionary entered it as a transitive verb: 

google: verb

[with object] 

Search for information about (someone or something) on the Internet using the search engine Google:

I recently googled my 7th grade teacher and found his current e-mail address 

[no object]: She spent the afternoon googling aimlessly. 


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This phenomenon has changed the way people acquire information. According to the World Bank, there has been a steady increase of Internet users worldwide. The Internet, and more importantly search engines, have clearly changed the way we get our information. 

Need to know what mindshare is? Google it. Looking for a good Indian restaurant? Take out your smartphone, and it will show the restaurants in your vicinity. Google Places could even give you the directions for going there. 

Scouring the Web 

Online searches are categorized in three types: informational, navigational and transactional.   


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In an article published in Searchenginland.com 80 percent of searches are done because users want to find information while the remaining 20 percent are divided between looking for a specific website and finding information of a particular product or service. 

Web traffic is the life blood for any site. No matter how great the content of a given site may be, if no one is visiting the site, all the effort put into it will be entirely for naught. Websites need their pages to be found, and online searches drive that bulk of their traffic. 

The top page in a search results page for a particular search term gets an average of 32.5 percent of the over all traffic for that term. But just moving down a notch, the second result gets almost half of that traffic at 17.6 percent, according to a study by Chitka. The correlation of the search position and resulting traffic for a web page is illustrated dramatically in this study. This, in a nutshell, is why owners want to rank their sites high on search term results pages, especially in Google. 

Cleaning the system 

In the past, websites used certain tactics to get ahead of their competition. In other words, they “gamed” the system. Site owners linked to thousands of websites and produced sub-standard content which then was stuffed with key words in order to rank highly on Google. 

Around three to five years ago, for example, typing “Labrador puppies” in the search bar more would often yield results that led to web pages selling dog food. These are, in a roundabout way, relevant pages, yes. But these results were not the original intention of person using the search term who desired information purely informational in nature and not linked to a product. 

This practice led to Google cleaning up its algorithm because their product was being abused. The updates, affectionately called Panda and Penguin, have resulted in numerous sites losing their rankings because of the unethical practices (by Google standards and guidelines) they have employed to game those rankings. 

Two years after the first Panda update and a year since Penguin update, the landscape of online marketing has drastically changed. Gone are the days where the “marketing” strategy of a site was to simply game the system. Today, site owners have cleaned up their act and now do more “real” marketing. 

Case Studies: The success of Coke and Red Bull in inbound marketing

Inbound marketing is an online trend that focuses on creating informative, useful, and quality content in order to draw visitors and customers to given websites without relying on paid online advertisements. Google now focus on quality content on websites so that the site owners have no choice but to produce content that their visitors will actually read. The rationale here is to attract and engage visitors to your website and spend some quality time perusing the site’s content. Red Bull, for example, has done a wonderful job at this. Likewise, Coke is adapting this tactic to their own marketing strategy. 

The quality of the content these two brands have published is top notch, and it’s reflected in search marketing. The results for Red Bull on Google demonstrate that a lot of videos of the events that they have sponsored have been uploaded on YouTube. These videos are clearly strong driving forces to the Red Bull site. Coca Cola, on the other hand, has a long term marketing plan that aims to grow their audience by telling the company’s long and colorful story. 

One can argue that Red Bull and Coke are big brands and they have the resources to add sophistication and quality to their online marketing campaign. For that reason it would logically follow that they’d be expected to be on top of search results in their chosen categories. 

But what about small websites? The good thing about search marketing is that, as long as companies or individuals follow search engine guidelines and avoid resorting to unethical marketing tactics, they have a fighting chance to be ranked higher in the related search terms of the big brands. 

Coke pretty much corners the “cola” and “soft drinks” keywords on appropriate search engine results pages. A small site that is in the business of delivering carbonated drinks to restaurants, however, can rank highly in related terms such as “soft drink deliveries.” Owners can tweak a few metatags their sites, improve their content and site architecture, thus encouraging—ethically of course—Google to deem their sites relevant to key terms.

Inbound marketing can cover a lot in online marketing strategies. Sites can market their content, do social media promotions and launch an affiliate program just like Amazon has done. There are guides to inbound marketing for affiliate programs that preach creating useful and engaging content for the site’s audience, which is a marketing strategy in itself since one of the requisites of the updates is site visitor engagement. 

Google’s algorithm updates, if understood from a different perspective, can actually improve the quality of online marketing as a whole. The results being shown today are more relevant to the terms that people really look for. Online marketing has become more creative as a result. In turn, the quality of the content being created will continue to improve, and users will be the ultimate beneficiaries in the end.

 


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Johann Carpio

Johann has a degree in Philosophy and Human Resource. He is a business development specialist at Xight Interactive

 

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