What Google is All About Now?

What Google is All About Now?

28th June 2012

“It is all about the money!” you are probably thinking. Yes, that is true, but not really the correct answer, or the only answer.

Hi, I am Gianluca and this my first post on State of Search, and I do not consider myself an anti-Google or a pro-Google SEO. I am more an anti-dumb SEO.

And one of the dumbest things we as SEO professionals may do is to get fixated with the last events, toys, and shining objects hitting the Search industry. The cause of this dumb vision of Search is in our dependency to contingency, somehow justified by more than 500 updates Google implements along the year, a Search industry churning out new products almost every week and with new platforms which can be used to market our sites on.

But that look at Search always focused on the Present has the defect of making us forget the reasons of the Present itself, and why Google is acting like it does right now.

Maybe it is my past as a student of History, but I tend to search logic of cause and effects in the evolution of something: an idea, a politics and a business, hence I tend to do the same when I ask myself what Google is all about, a question which I consider to be at the base of our job as Search Marketers.

In order to find the answer(s) to that question we should focus on a page, which is usually overlooked, but that it says (almost) everything about Google, even with its contradictions: “The ten things we know to be true”, a page where Google expresses its philosophy, and that had been updated, even though not so regularly, ever since when Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded Google.

If we could do a study of the variants of that document, we could see how Google evolved and changed its core businesses objectives along the years (for instance, around 2006 it started talking a lot about mobile, as a logical preview of the Android evolution).

The 10 points, a critical review

Google affirms these are the ten things they know being true:

1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.

Placement in search results is never sold to anyone, and advertising is not only clearly marked as such, it offers relevant content and is not distracting.

I imagined Aaron Wall and Danny Sullivan faces were distorted by an expression of disgust reading this phrase.

From a pure SEO point of view, it is quite clear how organic search results are getting displaced more and more under the fold due to all the adverts and Google products insertions in the SERPs.

Does that mean we must surrender? I do not think so. I think we should not just complain, but enlarge our vision to other channels than Google. For instance considering other tactics, like Social Media for example, for the domination of generic discovery intent keywords and focusing our SEO efforts especially in the middle and long term ones, the old lovely transactional keywords.

For instance (I am using the example used by Aaron Wall), I would not spend all my time trying to dominate the rankings for “gold rings”, where the presence of organic links are still highly visible.

Then Google says: “Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible”. As they focus on user experience for their own site, they obviously use user experience as a main factor in order to judge also our own sites in ranking. Does this not remind you of the basic philosophy of Panda and the process that was used to create the Panda algorithm? Please note that this page is unchanged since March 2009… but we all know how slow Google is when it comes to developing updates.

2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well

Again, I can imagine many grimaces right now, as there are so many things that Google did and does that seem contradicting that point: self-driving cars and über augmented reality glasses are just two examples. But let’s focus on this final phrase:

Our hope is to bring the power of search to previously unexplored areas, and to help people access and use even more of the ever-expanding information in their lives.

This phrase is important and, personally, I consider it at the base of the explosion of the universal search verticals, the mobile search and the increasingly importance of voice search (pushed also by the competition of SIRI).

If Google doesn’t provide just organic SERPs anymore, but also verticals like video, news, photos, local, the actual job of an SEO  evolved as well to something which cannot be defined, but requires an overwhelming set of skills. The problem is not the verticals, but how good we are doing SEO for all those verticals as well.

3. Fast is better than slow

Caffeine and more Caffeine. That is the meaning of this third point. But it also reveals the increasing importance of page speed as quality signal and, consequently, as a ranking factor.

We, as SEOs, should always ask ourselves how the State of the Web Performance Optimization of our site is. And sites owners as well, which is somehow leading to an obvious but mostly forgotten reality, especially in the small business arena: the age of cheap homemade websites ended a long time ago. Shame I still see so many zombies.

But Fast and Caffeine were also at the base of the Freshness Update, an update that had a boost but about what almost none is still talking about.

4. Democracy on the web works

… Or if it is not working we are trying to make it work.

This fourth point explicitly talks about links, and how the entire Google Search system is relying on them in order to structure their SERPs.

Here I don’t want to talk about Google and their spam search policies, but about how much we all tend to forget that links still are the most important signal in Google Rankings. Sure, they seem to be having more traction than once, sure we see other graphs coming as possibly influencing the rankings (social graph and author rank, for instance), but unfortunately we tend to forget that we are still in the middle of that track that starts from A (only link based graph influencing rankings) to B (mix of graphs influencing them). So, sorry to tell you, social shares are still not the new link building – they simply help visibility and generating more links; correlation is not causation – neither author rank is the solution to a bad performance in the SERPs yet.

Somehow Penguin was a sad reminder of the importance of links.

5. You don’t need to be on your desk to need an answer

Mobile. This is the macro event in Search that so many SEOs are not paying really attention it deserves.

Right now people are already using more mobile devices to perform their searches or simply being connected on Internet. Therefore if you are still thinking about SEO in terms of desktop search, probably you are going to make the end of the dinosaurs.

Don’t believe me? Ok, legit… but, please, check the KPCB Internet Trends 2012 document and update your beliefs.

Incidentally, did you notice the last word of the fifth point? It is “answer”. A word that reveals, in my opinion, what the function of Search is accordingly to Google: giving answers. This, as point 7 later, can make you understand why Google (and Bing as well) are transforming from an old classic search engine to an answering engine.

6. You can make money without doing evil

Google is a business.

Is that phrase not clear? So please stop blaming about how Google is destroying its “public service” nature. Sure, it is believed – and Google itself made us believe – that it is as public as the National Library. But it is not and never was.

Being a business, Google is obviously biased by its corporate interests. We have to deal with it.

That is the reason why more and more people like me and others are preaching the fact that organic search is not synonym of Google search and that organic traffic is not synonym of Google traffic. Don’t focus your entire web marketing strategy on Google, but – let’s cite it – on your users, and you will see how they are not just on Google. This is the most important concept of Inbound Marketing (or Earned Marketing or Permission Marketing, call it as you want it).

7. There’s always more information out there

… Our researchers continue looking into ways to bring all the world’s information to people seeking answers

The Google critics may translate this phrase as “Google wants to scrape all the internet information”.

A more positive interpretation of that statement is that what sometimes is defined as Semantic Web (Schema.org is an example), Big Data and Knowledge Graph are here to stay and count even more in the future.

That means, also, that probably the most important change Google did during all these years was including the concept of Entity.  In fact, the principles behind that concept are what have caused many of the big changes in the SERPs of Google: the so called “brandization” (Brands are nothing more than very structured entities), the Knowledge graph and possibly they also have an implication in the author rank (and “publisher rank”) hence on how Google can detect some of the classic spam issues (duplicated content and plagiarism).

So, if you have a new site or if you are an affiliate, your main purpose – apart classic technical SEO implementation – should make of your site a recognized entity. Done that, you are probably going to have a solid base to really compete in the Search arena.

8. The need for information crosses all borders

In this point Google talks about its globalized presence and how it aims to offer a solution for every user in every language possible. From an SEO point of view, this point cannot but remember me how International SEO and a correct optimization for multilingual and multicountry sites is becoming for Google, and it justifies all the news about International SEO we have seen starting from late 2010 (rel alternate hreflang=”x” as the most evident example). In this sense quite a big difference with Bing, which does not seem paying the same attention to Search markets other than the North American one.

But in this point we can find the only link present in this document, which sends to the Accessibility page. Somehow – and again – a strong indication about the importance user experience has for Google.

9. You can be serious without a suit

I cannot disagree and I cannot say this is not the philosophy of Google. But more than 10 years separates us from its beginnings, and right now Google generally looks more and more as a classic Corporation. Maybe it is still wearing jeans, but a Corp. nevertheless.

10. Great just isn’t good enough

We try to anticipate needs not yet articulated by our global audience, and meet them with products and services that set new standards. […] Those are the kinds of changes we seek to make, and we’re always looking for new places where we can make a difference

From an SEO perspective, this phrase alone should be a remainder about how it is important to stay up to date with everything Google patents or about its acquisitions politics. If we pay attention to those signals, we can have the opportunity to paint potential future scenarios, therefore planning our strategies accordingly to them and avoid the dumbest mistake of all: living in an eternal Present.


Written By
Gianluca Fiorelli is an SEO and Web Marketing Strategist, who operates in the Italian, Spanish and English speaking countries market. He also works regularly as independent consultant with bigger international SEO agencies.
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