This is 2020 and we are entering the decade of machine learning and “artificial intelligence”. Today’s search engines have brains of their own. A brain that learns from mistakes, recognizes patterns of abuse, checks websites for visibility issues and tries to figure out whether the websites ranked at the top are relevant to search queries.
Today’s AI tech is still in its infancy. If an AI can’t think consciously, it’s not really an AI. True AIs don’t exist yet. But what exists is machine learning and search engines are utilizing it to learn more about the quality of websites and their UX (user experience).
Google is leading miles ahead in machine learning compared to its competitors. That’s probably why it is the best search engine. Google has around 80 – 90% of the search engine market share. This would have been higher if censorship by repressive governments such as the Chinese ban on Google didn’t exist.
Though it’s best, it’s still not perfect. Whenever Google comes up with an update, spammers quickly research it and develop counter measures. Then google’s machine learning starts working on counter counter measures. And this cat and mouse game continues.
Google’s main focus now is on user experience. There was a time around 2013-2014 when it was fairly easy to rank on Google by spamming and gaming the search algorithm. That resulted in poor user experience for us, the general consumers. Google launched the Panda 4.0 update to combat this, which affected 7.5% of results.
Google has come a long way since then. I almost never see duplicate content ranking above original content now. Google puts more focus on the intent of the searcher taking into account his previous searches to match him with relevant content.
For most users, Google keeps a record of his searches if he has web activity turned on. You can control or prevent Google from saving such data by visiting myactivity.google.com.
All the data Google collects about you is feed to the machine learning algorithm to learn about your online behavior. Search results you see is often personalized for you based on your previous online activity. That’s why user experience has become one of the most important metrics of SEO. Let me explain with an example.
Suppose John is a Google user who has web activity turned on. He is searching for “speed test” to test his internet speed. When Google showed him some results, he decided to click on the one at the top. But this page he clicked shown him a pop-up ad which he didn’t like.
So, he clicks on the browser’s back button and now he is back to the search result page. Then he clicks on the second result. The second page doesn’t show him any pop-up ads. It has only two ads at the left sidebar. Since there isn’t anything too intrusive, John decides to use the second website for testing his internet speed.
In this case, the second website has provided John with a better user experience. Google’s job now is to log this into its brain and show the second result at the top next time John searches for the same term. Here’s how Google might do this:
Google tracks John’s first click on the first result. John presses the back button in the browser because he is not satisfied with the result. This is tracked by Google and it now knows John spent very little time (a second or two) in the first page.
Google then re-crawls the website and detects a pop-up ad using image recognition. Google does the same for the second page and doesn’t find anything intrusive. Now, Google has the data to make a decision that the second result is better than the first.
Google does similar calculations that are much more complex using data such as: your voice data (comes from voice search), app activity, apps you have installed and the list continues.
The amount of personalization inherent in any one of Google’s many massive software products runs deep, based on everything from your search history to your location to every single search link you might have clicked. – The Verge
Also, there is a common myth that you need to write long 1500~ word articles to generate high quality leads or rank high on Google. That’s not necessarily true. If your content is well researched and targets a demographic of viewers who are interested in shorter content, your content will definitely rank on Google.
However, what you need to keep in mind is that your content needs to be attractive and appealing to your target demographic. Your readers’ experience on your website must be better or equal to your competitors.
Update By Google About UX
On May 28, 2020 Google announced that it will put greater importance on user experience metrics. Which basically means, Google will give a rank boost to pages with better user experience.
In recent years, Search has added a variety of user experience criteria, such as how quickly pages load and mobile-friendliness, as factors for ranking results. Earlier this month, the Chrome team announced Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness and visual stability, to help site owners measure user experience on the web.
Today, we’re building on this work and providing an early look at an upcoming Search ranking change that incorporates these page experience metrics. We will introduce a new signal that combines Core Web Vitals with our existing signals for page experience to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user’s experience on a web page.