The internet doesn’t stand still. The way we use it, the technologies we use to connect with it and the applications that help us do things are always developing. To keep pace, Google search has to constantly innovate and, recently, it has announced what the next stage in its development is going to be. Here we’ll explain what it intends to do and how this might affect how you run your website.
Results that focus on searcher intent
When we start a search for something on the internet, quite often we are at the beginning of a journey. We might, for example, be looking to buy a new car and will spend a few weeks researching various makes and models, reading reviews and looking at prices before we finally search for the best dealership. We make similar journeys when learning how to do something, looking for places to take the kids or simply researching something that interests us.
When you undertake such a journey, all your related searches have a common intention. There is an end goal of some kind. Google’s new aim, therefore, is to understand your intention so that the results it supplies will help you achieve that goal. To do this, the Google algorithm will remember what your prior searches were, understand what stage of the journey you are at, and predict what you need to know next – perhaps showing content you hadn’t even thought of. Indeed, it might even provide that content directly in the results without you needing to visit other websites.
What does this mean for website owners? Firstly, your website might need to cater for visitors at different stages of the journey in order to be relevant for journey focused results. It also means results are going to be far more tailored to the individual searcher. Those sites which have managed to achieve high ranking for a particular keyword might find this is no longer the case for every search, even when identical terms are used. User needs will be far more important than keywords in terms of ranking criteria.
Artificially intelligent search
Google is already using AI to help with its search and one of the main features of this is its ability to understand the context of website content and the underlying concepts that are being written about. Because of this, Google no longer relies on the placement of specific keywords, instead, it takes the keywords and looks for related terms to get a thorough understanding of the subject matter of a web page and its relevance to a search. This enables it to provide the best results even if they do not contain the keywords a searcher has used or even if the keywords they have used don’t appear on your web page.
How will this affect website owners? For starters, it means the days of intense keyword SEO are coming to an end. Instead, what you’ll need to do is to make sure your pages provide the contextual detail that helps Google identify the exact topic of your content.
It’s important to understand the sophistication of AI. Until recently, the ability to understand context meant that when a user asked, “What are the benefits of using Flash?” Google could differentiate between Flash the cleaning product and Flash the software. Now it can understand web pages on a deeper level and make judgements about which articles provide the best answer. As always, this highlights Google’s drive to make website owners publish content of higher quality.
Enhancing the Knowledge Graph
Google’s Knowledge Graph is a system that understands the factual connections between people, places and things. It is used to help Google provide more relevant information which it often shows in a box at the top of its search results, above the links to other websites. You usually find a knowledge graph appearing when you ask a question, for example, ‘What is a search engine?’
In the future, Google is aiming to develop its Knowledge Graph by adding what it calls a Topic Layer. This will help it provide even better quality results as it will take into account how these connections develop over time and how a searcher’s needs change as they learn more about a topic.
Google’s Topic Layer can analyse all web-published content on a specific topic and divide this into subcategories. It can then identify the most relevant content for each subcategory to show to users. It does this by discovering the highest quality articles and by looking for patterns in how these relate to one and other.
As with the changes mentioned above, the message for the webmaster is that to stay relevant, you must publish content that shows a thorough understanding of the subject matter. In addition, you need to know how this information relates to the people who are searching for it: what are they wanting the information for?
The Activity and Collections Tabs
Two new features you’ll see in Google are the Activity and Collections Tabs. Incredibly useful for those researching a subject, the Activity Tab’s aim is to help you retrace the sites you’ve visited during a particular search and it will only be visible if Google sees it adding value to your activity. The Collections Tab enables you to collate previous searches in categorised groups so you can continue your research at a later time. Both tabs will also offer new suggestions for you to consider, based on your previous activities.
Boosting visual search
Wouldn’t it be great if you saw something you liked, took a photo of it and got Google to use the photo to find the item or similar products? This type of search has now arrived on mobile devices with the launch of the new Lens app. Using AI, it can visually scan images and any text in them and find related photographs and videos on the internet. At the same time, Google is updating its image search on PCs and laptops to give more information about the images it shows.
The implication for website owners is that as more people begin to search in this way, you’ll need to make sure you have relevant images on your site. You’ll also need to make sure they use the right descriptions and alt-tags.
As you can see, search development at Google is moving at quite a pace, using artificial intelligence to better understand the behaviour and needs of its users and, in doing so, providing them with the results they require – and without sending them to other websites if it can be managed.
For website owners, the key to success lies in providing, high-quality, detailed content on your website. This should be content that goes beyond keywords and uses the related vocabulary needed to identify its subject matter. Only when this is in place will Google’s updated algorithms be able to know that your web pages are relevant to the journey of a user.
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