In fact, over the past 21 months, Google has made at least ten major updates to how their search algorithm works, each one causing angst for SEO professionals. And that’s only the major changes.
Google is constantly working to keep their matches relevant because they know they can be beaten. People are searching for more answers on Facebook these days, on Twitter too, there’s an array of options and tools users can access to help them find the most relevant information for any given query.
If Google stops updating their process, and their platform gets over-run by spammers, for example, people just won’t use it – and worth noting, the majority of Google’s $75 billion annual profit comes from search-based advertising. They need to ensure they remain the best search option.
But an element of particular interest in this is Google’s increased reliance on artificial intelligence to help fuel better results. As of last year, Google has been using an automated system called “RankBrain” to help provide better search results.
According to Google, RankBrain is now used in a very large proportion of search queries, and is the third most significant factor in deciding what websites are displayed (while Google don’t communicate the details of their system, the top two most important factors are believed to be links and keywords).
And while that’s great – and somewhat amazing to think that many of your Google search responses are coming from a computer learning system – the implications of RankBrain will be significant, if they’re not already.
As RankBrain’s system “learns” more about how people search, it gets smarter and better at delivering the most relevant results. As it does this, Google’s reliance on it also grows.
What that means for your search engine optimisation efforts is that over time, it’s likely that the ways in which you can manually influence those rankings may become less apparent.
Of course, there are going to be some things that even Google’s AI will need in order to ensure your business shows up for relevant queries – online data, for one, computers can’t assess anything without inputs.
But the emphasis on specific SEO factors like URL parameters, specific keyword density and header tags may decline over time as RankBrain takes into account a wider range of factors.
The elements that will always remain relevant are keywords, backlinks and consistency in name and address info – those elements will help Google’s systems understand what your website is about and whether it’s relevant, based on some measure of popularity and proximity.
But as RankBrain gets smarter, it’s also going to learn more about audience intent – essentially, the better your site serves your specific audience, the more likely it will show up for relevant search queries.
You can never discount SEO – search traffic is still a key driver for pretty much all websites – which is why having SEO professionals help you is crucial for the success of your marketing. Regardless of how powerful and smarter RankBrain becomes, what will never change is that you need to concentrate on serving the most relevant content to your audience.