The Evolution of Google and SEO: What Businesses Need to Know

23 November 2019

Search engine optimization is one of the youngest and fastest-evolving industries out there, and there is a good reason for that.The thing is, SEO is driven by the most innovative company of today's world: Google.
So what should businesses need to know about the evolution of the search giant and how to get your business ready?


No More Consistency or Predictability

Search engine optimization used to be much more straightforward. Just about ten years ago, we were optimizing for "ten blue links" which remained the same for months.Back then, we had to wait for so-called "Google Dances" for Google's search engine result pages to change."Google Dances" were mini updates when Google would update its PR (page rank) system and move pages around in search engine results.
These occurred on average every 35 days, or 10 times per year.

The best thing about "Google Dances" was that they were very predictable. Nowadays Google's SERPs are dynamic and versatile. They "dance" on a daily basis (or even multiple times a day). This results in chaos in monthly SEO reports.


Google is Turning into an Answer Engine

Google's algorithm is never stale: It is growing ever smarter and more complicated. There are many more search signals affecting Google's index and rankings than just a decade ago.
For example, Google can now understand search intent and natural language much better.

Back in 2013 Google announced a new update called Hummingbird which put a stop for exact-match query processing and marked the era of semantic SEO. Ever since Google has moved even further and it can now perfectly interpret conversational search and give immediate answers to both written and spoken queries.


In its recent patent called Question-answering system Google discusses the need for an ultimate answer engine bringing all various sources into one that is not only able to give immediate answers but also "coach" their users to urge them to learn more:

information gaps are prevalent as users try to piece together relevant information that they can find during the information searches... To facilitate such information searches, recent research is directed to generating question-answering (QA) systems that may take a user inputted question, analyze it, and return results indicative of the most probable answer or answers to the input question.

...include a question-answering system capable of "coaching" users that are unfamiliar with a field of study..., by suggesting concepts and associated questions to explore, even if mentors or a community is not available...

Furthermore, Google claims that their natural language processing algorithm took more than five years to perfect. These days it takes into account:

  • synonym interpretation,
  • query categorization,
  • search intent understanding.


Ever-Changing SERPs

Google had many years to improve their search algorithm beyond exact query matching.

Nowadays Google SERPs vary based on:

  • the searcher's location
  • seasonality
  • currently relevant context (i.e. current events, political climate, etc.)
  • emerging brands (competitors) that may quickly become trends, etc.


Penalties and Updates Are Harder to Diagnose

Just a few short years ago you could diagnose a possible penalty by a drop in organic traffic. Nowadays Google's penalties have become much harder to diagnose. Google wouldn't drop your traffic right away, even if your site was affected by an update. Instead, there's a slow and gradual decline in organic search visibility.

As a result, brands usually aren't aware of anything weird happening until it's too late. Looking back, it's often impossible to understand whether the decline happened due to any possible (and often retrospective) penalty or whether their site was simply falling behind more active competitors. Furthermore, Google algorithm updates are getting more challenging too. Major Google Updates (e.g. Panda and Penguin) are now integrated into the core algorithm, hence they are never officially confirmed anymore.


Use MozCast to monitor Google updates and changes.


SEO Is Still Important

Search engine optimization has changed a lot over the past decade, but only one thing remains constant: SEO is still important. In fact, SEO is crucial to digital marketing success.
Online search remains the most effective source of online traffic and visibility, and it's not changing anytime soon.

Consider some stats:

  • According to NetMarketShare, Google generates between 80% and 90% of mobile search traffic.
  • Based on BrightEdge survey, organic search is the major source of traffic for websites globally.
  • Consequently, according to HubSpot over 60% of brands claim working on their site search friendliness and improving their organic visibility is their top marketing priority

This means that the demand for high-quality search engine optimization services is high while SEO challenges are steeper.


So What to Do?

SEO remains extremely polarized with Google owning more than 90% of the market, but this doesn't mean the industry is stale.Google is willing to adapt to emerging technologies too catering to the new ways consumers are using search to find answers and discover products. Specifically, Google has to develop its algorithm to accommodate mobile and voice searching.

With the fast growth of mobile and voice search, Google's algorithm is evolving presenting even more challenges to digital businesses struggling to maintain their search presence.In order to accommodate Google's fast advancement, digital businesses need to embrace an up-to-date marketing technology stack.

The good news is, SEO technology is advancing quickly helping businesses keep on top of Google's evolution.

When looking for SEO software and an SEO agency, pay attention to the following features and services:

  • The ability to optimize for and report on both local and global rankings
  • Cross-location and cross-channel compatibility (i.e. the ability to monitor search results across multiple search engines)
  • Real-time reporting as well as customizable alerts notifying you of anything that deserves attention

In the era of ever-smarter search algorithms, it is next to impossible to keep up with SEO trends without finding a reliable SEO partner that is ready to innovate.Now that optimizing and SEO reporting are becoming even more challenging, an effective SEO strategy requires advanced tools that can effectively work around Google's ever-changing algorithm.

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