How Google Search Works the Inside Guide You Need
- By Suzza Silver
- Updated on September 5, 2021 10:38 am
Google Search is a living, breathing, dynamic creature. There is a lot we need to understand about Google’s mission, its bottom line, and how SEO content writers fit into that picture. It is a shaky partnership and one that could be upset at any time. In your decision making process, make time to think about how you can make the best of this arrangement.
The Promise of Google Search
This isn’t a question because the answer is dead simple. It’s in the mission statement. ✔️
“Our company mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Breaking it down:
Organize 📝 – This means to bring some order to the information that Google Search recovers. So it isn’t random. That ordering of course is done by the Google Search Algorithm.
World’s Information 🌎 – Okay folks, we have to say this. Google Search is the largest content scraper there is. They will surface many public documents. They have extended this to cover academic papers and even books. This is probably one of the most controversial aspects of Google’s mission as it sometimes bumps into issues of copyright ownership. Google is also subject to takedown notices which remove some search results from the index.
Universally Accessible 🌌 – Perhaps the most important thing is who gets access to the world’s information. Obviously, because Google Search is made available free to the public that everyone has access right? There are limitations. International law means that Google Search could be censored in some countries or outright banned. Infrastructure is also a barrier to access as well as income disparities (not everyone can afford internet, a computer, or a mobile phone.) We should also remark on how people using assistive devices can navigate Google Search.
Useful 💯 – From reading the mission statement, it seems clear what Google means is more from a usability perspective. Providing the information which it believes is most appropriate for your query. Like if you are asking for directions to show you a map. Or looking for a restaurant to eat at and showing you starred reviews from Yelp. I think this is what SEO people mean when they talk about search intent. I believe this is also the issue that featured snippets are trying to solve.
What decision makers also have to contend with is Google’s profit motive.
Google Search is Also a Product
When Google decided to sell advertising with its search results it became a product. That means there is a trade-off to search engine optimization. Yes, getting a Google Search rank is forever free. At the same time, you are also contributing to competition for those rankings. This drives up the price that Google can charge for those keywords when people buy advertising.
I cannot speak much on this because I am not trained in Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC.) I’ve never had a budget to try ad-buying although I do want to learn more to offer this to clients. In reality, a good search engine optimization strategy is to engage with an SEO plan and to also buy PPC ads. Both will bring you the traffic you want. While PPC ads have the advantage of being shown above search results when people are ready to buy.
I think that is the reason why Google is willing to work with SEOs. It is because of their search advertising product. When those ads are shown above the top results it gives them more credibility. Remember, Google made a promise to users in its mission statement. That they would provide the most useful information. That is always going to be the content that wins even though what is deemed useful may change over time. This is why the Google Search Algorithm is not stable for long. 🦘
Google Controls the Medium
Google holds so much power in shaping the way we use the internet. What they promote becomes a new standard. We should pay careful attention to changes in the algorithm as it also indicates what Google, as a company believes, is most valuable to its end users.
Mobile First Indexing
One of the biggest changes to Google Search came in 2019 when its index became mobile first. Meaning, mobile experience was now the dominant ranking factor over desktop.
This has to do with the way consumers use their mobile devices to look up information on purchases. Google refers to this as the Zero Moment of Truth. You could also refer to this as commercial intent for SEO purposes. But yeah, those devices in our pockets are now the best tools for getting people to purchase our products.
Featured snippets have been around for a hot minute now in Google Search. This is when the top search result is a quote from a website usually displaying a direct answer to a query with a link for more information. In SEO, people refer to this as position zero or a zero click search.
As a content writer, this trend is a little disturbing to me. As it gives little incentive for anyone to click over to a website. The purpose of this is to provide “useful” information to the searcher but to also keep them on Google longer. This is why we also see more search results that look like this.
People are jumping on the bandwagon. SEO professionals are debating their worth and simultaneously writing featured snippet bait articles. The only study that I haven’t seen is how getting featured snippets increase revenues. It’s the only thing that I want to know.
Core Web Vitals
This is a change to the Google Search index coming this year. Core web vitals have more to do with the technical side of your website. Unfortunately, I only dabble in design and I build very minimal websites which avoid most of the pitfalls this update focuses on. I am linking to a more authoritative resource for you until I can piece together more of this for myself.
As you do research in your decision making process, make sure that a WordPress theme or website designer considers core web vitals. This should be a feature that you look for before you make a purchase. A recent Google chat makes it sound like this isn’t going to upend search results overnight. But, while they are downplaying the impact, I notice that the new page speed report focuses on core web vitals specifically. So I imagine it will be a more important ranking factor in the future.
You should already be aware that the load speed of your website has an impact on your search rankings. This is one of the older search factors that Google has used. This relates to the fact that your customers will bounce from your website if it takes more than a few seconds to load. I think the best way to think of this is a data metric called Time To First Byte (TTFB.) This refers to how long it takes for the first byte of data from your website to download. You can see this metric in a tool like Gtmetrix
History of Google Search Algorithm Changes
Of course, we have to be aware of the many ways in which search results are shaken up. Remember, some of these changes reflect actions that were at one time effective ways to get rankings. Any tactic that you use for search engine optimization could one day go away. Like exact match domains which have lost some of their ranking impacts. Always think critically about the techniques that you use as an SEO content writer and be ready for change.
What can we do to hold on to our rankings? Keep good standards!
What is Quality Content Anyway?
There is only one way to stay ahead of the search engines. You have to create a set of rules that govern the way that you write content. The following are the standards that I keep when I focus specifically on the craft of writing.
Don’t Neglect the Power of Good Writing
I think that ⅔ of the process of search engine optimization work is just learning to write in a natural conversational tone. What we think of search ranking factors mimics the qualities associated with good writing. If you look at any speech in history, you will see there are words and phrases which are repeated. That repetition makes those word choices stand out from the rest of the text. They are what you remember when that speech is over.
Share Your Opinions
Writing online is the best time to be judgemental. I have often thought about what makes someone a professional at their job. My answer is to have an opinion on how things should be done.
Your audience is looking for your opinions as an expert. Don’t be afraid to express them. I think we need strong points of view so that we can avoid the curse of same-samey content writing.
Content Should have Value for your Audience
Value much like quality or usefulness is a subjective word. For reference, this is how I define these three words which are so often associated with content marketing.
Value means content that will save me time or save me money. As we know time is money and providing a solution for either will make people love your products. (video below NSFW)
Understand What Makes You Different
To stand out you must be different. Period.
That’s what turns casual readers into fans. I think Brian Dean of Backlinko understands this well. When looking at search results, create content that hasn’t been done before. If people are writing lists, create an ultimate guide with 2,000+ words.
Something people haven’t seen before for that keyword is going to create a winning content strategy. It is going to be much easier to get attention when people are doing research. I think this can also be achieved from the way you write about a topic. Something that I will go into more depth on the blog.
Lastly, for your content to be consumed, it must be crystal clear. I find too much we think expertise is using complex concepts often with a lot of jargon. And you may think while doing keyword research that this jargon is what will draw people to your content. You are wrong.
The best professionals can explain what they do to children. This is the philosophy that I’ve adopted from my favorite physicist Richard Feynman. You don’t understand something until you can break it down.
You don’t have to agree with me, but you should have standards that govern your SEO content writing.
Google Search is Getting Smarter
Google’s mission is to make the world’s knowledge more useful. With the announcement of MUM at the 2021 Google I/O, we now know that it is better able to understand complex questions.
Remember the AI on the computers in Star Trek: Next Generation? 💻
We are moving quickly into that future. Understanding that will be key to staying relevant.
I’ve already written extensively on Google RankBrain concerning keyword research and won’t repeat myself here. The most important thing to understand is that Google Search has a mind that conceptually understands language. You must always analyze search results to understand how that mind is thinking about things. See what information a query gathers and how it is represented. Make sure the keywords you use come up in the right searches.
I’m not kidding you, changing a few words in a title have changed the type of search results that the article appears in. If these results don’t match the intent of my article then I will change things on the fly until they do. I think getting the title right in this manner is super important for search engine optimization.
Future-Proofing Content 😎
There is not a 100% method that will always net you the results you want for eternity. Technology evolves quickly. To understand the future of Google Search, we need to look at the moves the parent company makes. Look carefully at acquisitions by Alphabet.
We think of search as being the primary product of Google. In truth, the company is far more ambitious in what it is trying to achieve. Alphabet allows them to organize their holdings with different companies that are focused on many areas of technology including health and AI. One of the most recent acquisitions was Fitbit.
Google is invested in the future and driving those innovations as a technology leader. That is why we have to keep in mind what they want to achieve if we want to create content that they will promote. As an SEO content writer, I want to keep pushing myself to adapt to this future and think about how what I do integrates with this new technology.