Google has become one of the world's largest companies for a good reason. With their grand ambition of “organizing the world's information,” they have helped spur the democratization of data, empowering consumers like never before.
The technology giant accounts for roughly 82% of search engine market share. This translates to an average of 40,000 queries per second, 3.5 billion searches per day, or 1.2 trillion searches per year from users all over the globe.
With this data alone, the call-to-action is clear: Companies must participate in the game of search because that is where their customers go. Visibility and presence are key, or else, brands risk being left in the dust—no matter how established they are.
This then begs the question: How? With Google's ever-changing standards, which rules still hold? Here are a few principles to get you started:
Treat Google like a relationship.
Google built its search engine with one goal in mind: to match queries with answers of the highest quality. Since they achieve this with their famous search algorithm, it is natural that they are also very secretive about how it works.
Given that many people have tried to take advantage of it—through reverse engineering or illegal gamifying—the search engine has learned not to trust easily.
This is why a key principle to search is to treat your website's interaction with Google like a relationship. Since it is a smart tool that keeps changing, the best route that any company can take is to practice the empirically proven tactics shown to build the engine's trust despite its many iterations.
According to experts, there are three key components conducive to this trust.
The first is indexed age or the time Google discovered your domain or web page. The company itself has stated that new websites will always struggle to rank in their first few months. Since they are famously tight-lipped about why these things are so, your best course of action is to keep refining your site even during this initial struggle so that it will be ready to rank once the trial phase is over.
Next up is authority profile. Google determines the credibility of a site based on its links. There has to be a healthy amount of links directing people to your site or page, these links should come from a diverse set of sources, and they must originate from websites of high quality themselves. There should also be an increasing rate at which these external websites direct to your own.
Lastly, there is underlying content: The substance of your website determines your relevance for Google's algorithms. Content has to be lengthy, include keywords, and compel users to spend a long time on your site.
Focus on the user experience.
Ultimately, search engines were built with the user in mind. Their experience trumps all other factors and always informs how the engine's algorithm is refined.
This algorithm does three things once a user asks a question. First, it crawls through billions of data points. Second, it returns only the relevant data points that answer the query. Third, it ranks these data points based on how popular their source websites are.
In essence, relevance and popularity are the names of the game. Hundreds of factors influence each of these metrics, and there are endless approaches to each one. To cut through the fluff, one strategy remains clear: focusing on the user experience will get you closer to your goal.
Since the algorithms are always optimized for the best user experience possible, search engines like to reward websites that do the same with higher rankings.
One well-established tactic that improves your user's experience is high-quality content marketing. When executed well, you create a wealth of branded content, increase your chances of quality backlinks from other sites, and position your company as a credible source on the web.
A few rules of thumb for creating quality content are as follows:
- Keep it lengthy—2,000 words usually rank better.
- Maintain a consistent publishing schedule, such as two to three times a week.
- Pick three primary keywords to use frequently.
- Maintain an internal linking system that connects the content within your site.
One interesting case study that demonstrates the values of both popularity and relevance is a simple search for hair care products in the Philippines. A Google query of “best shampoo for dry hair” shows products sold from the Zalora Philippines website as the top result.
Instead of big-name fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands owning this space, the rest of the results were mostly Top X listicles originating from lifestyle domains (such as Stylecraze.com) or international media sites (like Marie Claire UK, Elle US).
Clearly, despite the Philippine market having deep hair care penetration, there is still ripe opportunity for shampoo brands to be visible and present in the search.
Since research shows that 84% of consumers trust online reviews, FMCG brands would do well to be top-of-mind once consumers inevitably take their pre-decision research online. This is just one of the countless instances where search matters in the customer's moment of truth.
The search for search
At the end of the day, the power of search goes well beyond the impact of a keyword or the ranking of a site. In principle, search empowers consumers with information that has never been this accessible before. In turn, companies can ignore this democratization—or they can use it to their advantage.
Fully embracing the new and exciting ways that the information age is changing the game for the better is key to adapting strategically.
We, for one, are looking forward to this new chapter in the digital marketing journey. The search is on for the best tactics and tools that you will need. And at Globe Business, we will surely be there every step of the way.