What happens when you conduct a Google search?
Allen: Obviously, Google is a really smart search engine. It has billions of pages. When you enter your search phrase or query, in a fraction of a second, Google will go and search its huge library. It’s going to pull back the most relevant pages for that query. It can be done so quickly because they have multiple data centers throughout the world. It’s super fast, it’s super smart, and it knows exactly what you’re looking for. Even if your query doesn’t make sense to most people, it makes sense to Google. It’s looking at the relevance of what you’re searching for and the meaning of your search.
What are some important things to consider when creating search optimized content?
Hemphill: Because there are so many different types of content, if you want to play the full hand with Google, you need to have written content, visual content, video content, voice search-optimized content, and local intent content. Combining all these different channels and types of content can help you be more visible based on whatever Google decides to show on that particular search engine results page for the search query. For example, if you’re searching for a recipe, you’re more likely to get visual content or video content versus a post with a link that goes to the recipe itself. We have to approach each piece of content and the audience differently depending on what the subject matter is.
What’s BERT and how does Google use it?
Hemphill: BERT was an update that came about a year or two ago. It’s a natural language processing update. Before BERT, Google would get a search phrase, and it would look at everything on a word-by-word basis. Let’s use the phrase “tips for traveling to Paris.” Google would look at each of those words individually rather than consider them as part of a whole phrase. It would try to assemble what it thought was the best result for those words. Most of the time, the results came back and were fairly relevant, but occasionally, certain things like prepositional phrases would throw off what your results were.
Now, however, with BERT, Google is looking at search phrases in its entirety, so it’s understanding semantically what each of those words means in the full phrase. It’s fascinating that it’s doing this. The AI is learning language the way we understand it. We understand everything by context. A single word, when it’s by itself, could mean anything. But when it’s in a phrase, you get more of an idea what the intent behind it is.
How does mobile experience affect Google ranking?
Allen: Come March 2021, every website will be assessed using the mobile crawler. If you don’t have a mobile presence, you’re going to be losing out on valuable rankings. Google will be looking at everything through a mobile microscope, so it’s imperative that you have a mobile presence on your website like…yesterday. And you can have a mobile presence, but it may not be optimized for mobile devices. You may still be displaying the same image you’re displaying on the desktop device, which is 10 or 20 times bigger than what you need it to be.
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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to “I’ve Heard That”, the podcast from Hurrdat marketing that discusses digital marketing trends, tips and more.
Meghan Trap (00:11):
Hi everyone. It’s Meghan Trap with Hurrdat marketing. I’m so excited about today’s episode. I have Ross, our SEO director and Bailey our content director, and we are going to nerd out about Google’s algorithm. So, tell me what happens when you do a search? Break it down for me.
So obviously Google are a really smart search engine. It has billions of pages. And so when you enter your search phrase or your query, in a fraction of a second, Google will go and search. Think of it as a library, like a huge, huge library of billions and billions of pages in a fraction of a second. It’s going to pull back the most relevant pages for that query. And it’s super smart in the way that it does it. It can be done so quickly because they have multiple data centers around the world. So if you are doing a search like here in Omaha, there’ll be a data center within a couple hundred miles, if not closer. So it’s not having to travel to the other side of the world to bring back that data. It stores multiple versions of the data all across the world.
So billions and billions of pages, billions of fragments of pages that it searches through in a fraction of a second. So, it’s super fast. It’s super smart. It knows exactly what you’re looking for. Even if your query really doesn’t make sense to most people, it makes sense to Google.
Meghan Trap (01:38):
Awesome. Yeah. What’s it looking at? So when there’s all these pages, what about these pages is it really indexing to give you the right answer?
So it’s looking at things like the relevance of those pages to what you’re searching for and the meaning of your search, like the intent, what is the intent of your search? What is it you are looking for? So it’s looking at those kind of things, and then it will assess your website in terms of like the quality of the content, the usability of the web pages, the speed of which those web pages are loading, like the context of those web pages too, because there’s a lot of things that can mean something else. So like the word, like change can mean several different things. It could be like a loose change in your pocket and it could be the change in the weather, or it could be a million different things. So, Google really does a great job of, of like processing the language and understanding what it is that you’re trying to search for.
Meghan Trap (02:39):
Mm – hm. Context.
It’s also pulling… When Ross says content, it’s not just pulling text from websites across the web obviously. It’s also pulling photos, videos, all kinds of other types of content.
Meghan Trap (02:56):
Yeah, and I think that’s a good point because I mean, what we’re talking about today is the Google search algorithm, because there’s a separate algorithm for paid search. The ads that are served up at the top, there’s a separate algorithm for the local search pack, like the maps and like the Google “my business pins in the middle”. So, they all have similar features at some level, but because they’re all trying to serve the right answer. But they are actually different algorithms.
Yeah. So, the search result pages are built of tens of different kind of sections. Back in the old days, they used to be ads and they used to be organic search. That would be it. Now, when we look at the search, we’ve got different features, there’s image carousels, there’s video carousels, there’s local packs, there’s featured snippets. There’s “people also ask sections.”
Yes, ads are still there, but they’re now at the top and at the bottom. So they’re kind of either at the forefront or at the very end, whereas they used to be along the side. So everywhere you look, there was ads. But in saying that, most of those features that I mentioned local packs or the carousels will also now include ads too. So they’re not just situated at the top or the bottom. They’re actually scattered throughout and that’s making the organic search much more difficult because we don’t have the visibility that we used to have when we were optimizing websites, because we had those 10 blue links and they were prominent. You could see them, you would do the search and on the screen, you’d have the 10 blue links. Now you do the search and on the screen, you’ve probably got two, and you have to scroll down to see the rest of them.
And when you’re looking at a mobile device, that’s even worse. It takes you about five minutes to scroll all up, to get the organic results because of all the different SERP features that are on there.
So yes, a lot of those come from their own individual algorithms, but they all link into the main core algorithm. That’s the main one. That’s the one that’s always running, but yes, a lot of the other things are displayed because they have their own kind of side algorithms that help to generate that content on the, the servers or pages.
Meghan Trap (05:04):
Well, yeah, and because the bottom line is Google wants to answer the question the best in the best way, in the best form of content. So if that’s showing you a video, if that’s showing you a local business, if that’s showing you a website, if that’s showing you a “people also ask” or a, like an FAQ that, that drop rabbit hole that you can go down, it’s just trying to give you the right answer. So that, of course, I mean… Obviously Google has the majority, like way past the majority of search-share market-share, but they want to keep it that way and monetize it. So it makes sense that they’re super smart.
And often times it’s multiples… options that are displayed, it’s not just a single option. Google has an option for everything. So you do a search, you’ll get a video, you’ll get images, you’ll get organic, you’ll get “people also ask” you’ll get one… all of those search features on vast majority of the searches that you do.
Meghan Trap (05:57):
So what are some of these things, for you Bailey, that are important to consider or optimize around when we’re talking about creating content that is SEO friendly or optimized?
Yeah. I think it’s exactly what I was kind of touching on earlier. Just the fact that there are so many different types of content. Now, really, if you want to play kind of the full hand with Google, you need to have written content, visual content, video, content, voice, search, optimized content, local intent content. It’s, it’s just a matter of like combining all of these different channels and these different approaches to content that can help you be more visible, based on whatever Google decides to show in that particular search engine results page based on the search query. Cause obviously we know if, you know, if you’re searching for a recipe, you’re more likely to get visual content or video content specifically for recipes versus a post with a link that goes to the recipe itself. So it kind of just depends on what it is. And we have to approach each piece of content and the audience differently depending on like what the subject matter is.
Meghan Trap (07:06):
Yeah. And I think that’s a good point too. One, two things come up for me is like, what if you and Ross were to do the same search, you’re going to get different results because you guys have different search history and you’re like engaging with D type content. So it’s like important to understand that we’ve had clients ask us like, Hey, I’m doing the search and I’m not coming up. And it’s like, okay, there’s so many things that go into a search, your proximity, what your search history is like the person personalization and like, what keyword are you using? Or what’s your search phrase? Yep. So it’s not just the like, Hey, I’m optimized. It’s what audience do we want to reach? And then what are, how are they searching? Can you kind of expand on that Bailey, like when you’re doing keyword research, like what are you looking at to target? Like, I mean, if I wanted to be found for, I don’t know, restaurant, it’s a lot more comp, so how do we kind of find that sweet spot?
Yeah. So, obviously we want to know, like if you’re the restaurant, who your target audience is, I’m assuming it’s a local audience, because you’re not going to be pulling in people from out of state, like, “Hey, come to dinner tonight.”
So the biggest thing we’re going to look at is optimizing around local intent there. So, best restaurants near me, best restaurant in Omaha, Italian restaurant in Omaha, whatever it would be, focusing on the specific type of food that you serve, the service that you offer and then the local area. So as we’re doing research there, we’re looking at keywords and search phrases with a local term attached to it. That’s more likely… it’s more likely that you’ll show up for that term, if you are optimizing for your local area.
Meghan Trap (08:55):
Yeah. That’s right. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I mean, I think what we’ve also seen is there’s like really large industry players. And so if you’re trying to beat like Allstate and you’re a local insurance agent, you have to set the correct expectations.
Meghan Trap (09:11):
Okay, you might, you probably won’t beat at Allstate, like bottomless pockets for advertising and for SEO and for optimizing their site. But, how can you be found when someone’s looking for their local Allstate agent? And that’s you, and so how do you build your brand around that and your own page, that’s about you and how to contact you and what like listings you have or whatever.
Yeah, and it goes back to one of the points Bailey just made about optimizing for locality, for the local intent. Trying to go up against the big boys, you’re not going to win, especially like Allstate or whatever it is.
But, a lot of the time you can look for some of the more longer-tail keywords that maybe have a little less search volume, but they’re much easier to rank for and putting together a bunch of those. So like 10 of those long-tail keywords can often bring you more traffic than trying to attain that single keyword that is a head term that has the most search volume because they’re the ones that the big boys are optimizing for.And they, like you say, they have bottomless pockets.
So part of the strategy is looking at some of those longer term, longer-tail keywords that you can actually rank for, trying to get a strategy around those and building out pages that use that longer-tail effect to try and get the traffic. Whereas trying to throw your eggs into one basket, try and rank for that head term. It’s not going to be a sustainable strategy for a smaller, more localized business.
And what Ross was saying too, about the more competitive keywords, what he means by that is based on monthly search volume, the more monthly searches a keyword gets, the more competitive it is. So if you are just looking for insurance company, that keyword probably has hundreds of thousands of searches, possibly millions, whereas adding like affordable insurance company in city state is a longer keyword that has fewer monthly searches because it’s more specific to a local area and a particular intent. So it’s easier to show up for terms like that.
Meghan Trap (11:11):
And because it’s super relevant, if you’re one of 10, instead of one of 10 000, you have like a higher probability of getting that, that view or that click.
And especially as a lot of the searches now are done using the voice you can optimize for those longer-tail keywords because people are actually speaking into devices rather than typing it.
When you’re typing it out, you want to keep it as short and succinct as possible. But when you’re speaking, you, you can obviously use way more words and with much less effort.
So, it kind of plays hand-in-hand with using your mobile phone or home assistance. When you use your… speaking your queries, it really does fall, hand=in-hand with those longer-tail keywords.
Meghan Trap (11:49):
Meghan Trap (11:50):
So Bailey, do you want to dive in, tell me about Bert and Google’s changes to how they process that as Ross mentioned, if you’re typing in something it’s like Google speak, you’re like, “Your insurance agent near me.” And that’s not something I would actually ask like, “Hey sir, can you find the nearest Allstate agent in Omaha?”
Meghan Trap (12:12):
Can you explain a little bit about how Google’s using Bert in the context of what we’re asking it?
Yep. So, Bert was an update that came about, I’m going to say a year or two ago with Google, and it’s a natural language processing update. Now I’m sure you’re probably like, “I have no idea what that is.” “How do you even begin to understand that?” So I’m going to break it down really simply here for you.
Before Bert Google would get a search phrase and it would look at everything on a word-by-word basis. So let’s use the phrase; tips for traveling to Paris. It would look at each one of those words individually without considering them as part of a whole phrase. So it would be tips. Okay. That could be the top of something that could be advice. Traveling. Is that to, is it from Paris? Is that Paris France? Is it Paris, Texas? We don’t know. And it would try to assemble what it thought was the best result for those words.
And most of the time the results came back and were fairly relevant, but occasionally certain things like prepositional phrases would throw off what your results were. So, you might get “traveling from Paris” and you’re like, “No, no, I’m, I’m going to Paris.” And the search engine didn’t understand that. Now, however, with the Bert update, Google is looking at search phrases in its entirety. So it’s understanding semantically and contextually what each of those words means in the full phrase. So when I say “tips for traveling to Paris”, Google now knows I am looking for advice specifically for traveling from wherever I am, which it knows my location, of course, to Paris. And based on what… My search history, I’ve probably looked at some Paris, France like, guides and travel sites. So it knows I’m looking at France. And it’s fascinating that it’s doing this because it’s essentially… the AI is learning language, the way that we understand it, we understand everything by context, a single word, as Ross pointed out with change could mean anything.
But when it’s in a whole phrase, you get more of an idea of what the intent behind it is. And that’s, what’s fascinating about optimizing, especially for what we just talked about with voice search, like full phrases are now being used to pull information. So if I ask Siri or Alexa or Cortana any of the voice assistants, like “What temperature is it today?” That phrase tells the search engine and the algorithm, what is a question is as a state of being temperature is my thing I’m looking for and today has given it a time parameter. So it’s understanding that in the whole context of what I want, and it gives me the best result for that, which is telling me what the temperature is today.
So I could geek out about this forever. It’s so fascinating to me from a linguistic perspective, but it’s also making it really interesting for us, like as SEOs and content marketers. How do we continue to optimize around a language processor that’s getting smarter every day?
Meghan Trap (15:29):
Well, I think you brought it to a good point, you’re optimizing around the intent and not just like keyword stuffing, like, “Okay, we need tips and we need Paris in this article.” It’s… you’re building content around the sentiment around the context of what somebody might be looking for if they were looking for tips to traveling to Paris.
Meghan Trap (15:54):
Awesome. What other factors do you see changing? Like it’s 2021 now, Google’s always dropping new algorithm changes, daily. [inaudible 00:16:03] runs, but yeah. What are your thoughts on what’s in whole… in store this year?
[inaudible 00:16:09] for me, page experience, user experience is going to be key for this year. Google’s already announced that in May what their turning page experience is going to be part of the core algorithm. And what that means is basically how people actually interact with your site is going to be measured. So how long does the page take to load? How long does the person stay on the page? Do they interact with the page or do they just scroll? Are… do you have interactive features on that page? Do you answer the intent? Are people staying there long enough or are they bouncing back to the SERPs to find the next answer? So the user experience and the page experience is going to be key.
The major update on that… UX has always been important, but the major update on that is now speed. The page has to load quickly, with those being core algorithm factors now. So if your page takes too long to load, you’re not going to rank as high as somebody else’s page at length that ranks like two milliseconds quicker. We are talking in terms of milliseconds here, and it’s going to be that important. So squeezing every millisecond out of the page load speed is going to be crucial. Certainly come second half of this year, but if we can do that now and be prepared for that and get things as quick as possible in this first six months of the year, then we’ll be in a great position come May when the algorithm updates and page experience becomes part of that core algorithm.
Meghan Trap (17:32):
Yeah. I think like at the end of the day, it doing right by like the searcher by the client, because nobody wants to sit around and wait for a website to load. So of course Google’s going to value that your page load speed.
Meghan Trap (17:44):
What about you Bailey? What are your… some of your predictions?
Obviously we know keyword research and keyword optimization is going to be a mainstay for pretty much forever. But I think it was back in late 2019, Google updated their algorithm to really prioritize topical authority as well. So, if you are not an authority on a topic, no matter how well you optimize your content, you’re probably not going to show up in those results. It has to be relevant to what you do. So, if using Hurrdat as an example, like Hurrdat marketing, we can talk about marketing topics all day long. We can optimize for that work. Great.
But if we tried to, to talk about the best cars on the market right now, that’s not our subject matter expertise and Google’s going to be like, “Mm-mm, no, you don’t get to optimize for that. Sorry, we’re going to let cars.com and car and driver and all these other things kind of take the lead on that subject.” So that’s going to be huge. And then I think in line with what I was saying with how voice search is prominent and how the language processing is getting better, really emphasizing more semantic variations in your keyword research and keyword optimization.
So what I mean by that is finding relatable words and phrases in line with your main keywords that you’re trying get. If, if you’re not hitting those semantic variants, you’re not providing enough context for Google to understand what your content is trying to do.
So topical authority, semantic variations.
Meghan Trap (19:24):
Speak human, and not just speak Google.
Meghan Trap (19:27):
Yeah. Awesome. Well, anything else you would want to leave other marketers with or other business owners?
I think the other thing to really call out this year in terms of Google is the fact that, come March, every website will be assessed using the mobile crawler, using the mobile index. If you don’t have a mobile presence, you’re going to be losing out on valuable rankings because Google will be looking at everything through a mobile microscope.
So it’s imperative that you have a mobile presence of your website now, like yesterday.
Meghan Trap (20:01):
Yeah. And mobile, I know, right.
Meghan Trap (20:03):
And mobile=friendly is different than like mobile-optimized, which I think is like a little bit confusing for business owners sometimes.
Yep. You, you can have a mobile presence, but it may not be optimized for mobile devices. You may be still displaying the same image you’re displaying on the desktop device, which is 10, 20 times bigger than what you need to be.
Meghan Trap (20:20):
Meghan Trap (20:22):
My favorites “click to call”. I’m like, “ah, on my phone, like make the button allow… allow me to call.”
Pop-ups too, are the other ones that I just visited the website the other the day, speaking from the user perspective where it was not mobile-optimized and I was trying to scroll and so many different things were popping up and I was like, I’m sure this works great on the desktop, but on mobile, this makes my experience so much worse.
Meghan Trap (20:47):
Which is again, another signal to Google’s algorithm. Please don’t show this website to anyone else it’s so frustrating.
Meghan Trap (20:52):
And then I guess it knows when you go back just search results and pick someone else.
Meghan Trap (20:56):
So it’s like, “Oh yeah, nevermind, Bailey didn’t like that. We’re not going to show that one again.”
That’s exactly what I did.
Meghan Trap (21:04):
Yeah. Awesome. Well, thank you guys so much for sharing your expertise. I love it. So I’m sure if we have any questions, let us know in our social channels and thanks for us.
Meghan Trap (21:14):
Thanks Bailey for joining, I really enjoyed our conversation.
Meghan Trap (21:17):
Be sure to like, and subscribe wherever you get your podcast.
Speaker 1 (21:21):
“I’ve Heard That.” is a part of the Hurrdat media network. For more information follow Hurrdat at, on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram, or visit hurrdatmarketing.com.
Speaker 5 (21:30):
A Hurrdat Media production.