Everything Google does these days is aimed at benefiting their users and delivering the best result possible to them.

It sounds altruistic of course, but the ultimate goal is to keep people coming back so they can serve us more ads. That is where they make the bulk of their profits, even today. And with so much money riding on search, things have to constantly improve.

By focusing everything on users and what they want from search, Google knows they will have a better product. But what exactly have they been doing?

Google Is Focusing On Your Behavior

Google have found a way to figure out whether they have the best results on page one. They watch how we react to their results.

press-buttonThey can monitor us doing things online such as:

  • Do we hit the back button
  • How long do we stay on the page
  • How far do we scroll far down the page

Google has access to a massive amount of data. Perhaps even more than you would at first believe.

Let’s list some of them (because there are certainly a lot of them) to give you a quick idea:

  • Google Search
  • Android Phones
  • Chrome browser
  • Google Maps
  • Gmail
  • Google+
  • Google Analytics

So, if you add these on to the basics of “our reactions to content from search”, you get things like: location, mobile search, browser history and search personalization (which we will touch on later), as well as website data and much more.

It all adds up to a huge amount of user-based information that Google can use to see what we honestly think is the best result for a given query. A result that even we may not consciously know that we have a preference for.

The data does not lie! And Google’s focus on more things human is bringing you an even better search engine.

Google’s AI Has Taken Things To The Level

Google has developed their own AI for Search that will help them deliver even better results. Previously, it was all about more macro-level changes that had to be applied on a massive scale (links, keywords etc). So, there were bound to be mistakes when working on such a broad level.

Now, the “machines” can scale changes more rapidly and tailor results to users and their search queries a lot more easily. The AI (called Rank Brain) is constantly learning and tweaking as it goes along. Not even Google knows why it will move one result above another in some cases. It is out there on its own helping us get better results.

It is not yet the most important part of Search, but it definitely has a high priority.

As far as anyone knows:

RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query

Again, the user is at the center of it all for Google, and they are always honing what they do to deliver the best result.

Keywords Are Turning Into Topics

Everyone still talks about keywords in SEO.

Keyword research. Keyword tools. And on-page SEO using keywords. And even keywords when adding images to your website. (Always make sure you are using free and non-copyrighted images of course)

But, in reality, keywords are having less and less impact on search as Google continues to tweak their algorithm.

As Julia McCoy said in this Search Engine Journal article

do keywords even matter in modern SEO? In short: yes. But they matter significantly less than they used to.

In fact, it would be safe to say that today getting ranked on search is no longer about specific keywords at all. Today, it’s all about topics!

Any SEO worth their salt knows that when you write content to rank on Google you have to take a more holistic approach. One that actually makes it more human.

After all, we have entered the era of user-focused search results so having the best articles on a specific topic (not just a keyword) makes sense.

Let’s look at a random example on Google – “how to wash a dog”. I have never searched for this, so I am also interested to see what comes up…

google-search-resultsAs you can see there is a range of results on the topic, many of which do not match the search keyword exactly. Such as:

  • Ask A Vet: How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?
  • Simple Tricks to Make Dog Bathing Easier, Faster and Neater
  • Cleaning Your Dog’s Face and Eye

Google knows from experience that people are not always looking for the exact thing they asked for. It’s based on “experience” and interactions with their users (and AI), as well a broad analysis of the words and content in the results.

Content that matches the query in a broad sense and covers topics in detail is more likely to rank than crappy content that is keyword focused. That old technical SEO world is dying a slow death.

Google wants people to be happy with the results they find. They should be the best results that answer their query. Not one that just matches a specific keyword (as it used to be).

Sure, the keywords should (and probably are) still in these results. But the results are more than likely topically-focused and helpful than anything else.

This trend towards delivering the best results to us “humans” will only continue into the future.

Your Personal Search

If you use any sort of Google products you are probably logged in to Google right now. I know I am.

This influences your search results, which many of you will probably know. Google tracks what you are doing, what you have done in the past and predicts what results are better for you in the future.

There are actually four main areas Google looks at for search personalization:

  • Search history
  • Web history
  • Location
  • Social networks

For example, knowing the kinds of searches we have made and the websites we visit more often has an affect on what they show us. And it is definitely helpful. After all, we have shown a preference for something, so why put “less preferred” results above them.

The effects are not always positive, as we learned during the last US election. And sometimes you might want to log out of search (or use an Incognito browser session) to get a clean result. But, for most people, it makes search more human because it focuses on the user rather than on what an algorithm decides we should see.

And as Google gets its hands on more and more user-based data, this will likely increase in the future. Especially since more and more search is coming from mobile where GPS and location play a strong role.

The Results Are More Human

Of course, when it comes down to it, Google search is still based on a computer algorithm. And for now, AI is not smart enough to mimic us reliably.

However, it is clear that Google understands that we need to be served the best result, the most helpful result, the most human result.

And as far as I am concerned, that is a good thing.

By: Ashley Faulkes

Ashley is an SEO and WordPress specialist and Founder of Mad Lemmings. He loves helping people win on Google and get more clients as result. When he is not deep in thought about SEO he can be found hiking or mountain biking in the Swiss Alps.

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Ashley is an SEO and WordPress specialist and Founder of Mad Lemmings. He loves helping people win on Google and get more clients as result. When he is not deep in thought about SEO he can be found hiking or mountain biking in the Swiss Alps.

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