Unwrapping Google's SEO secrets at BizExpo 2020: 4 things small businesses should know about digital marketing
Christina Steder, Trivera’s EVP; and Cassy Richardson, search marketing director, took over the spotlight Wednesday at BizExpo 2020, a virtual event presented by Milwaukee’s Biz Times to reveal some of Google’s SEO secrets. Almost 55 people logged on to watch the presentation. We’ve highlighted the main takeaways below, but you can view the whole seminar here.
Secret 1 — Google’s ability to understand is better than it used to be
Google knows you better than you know yourself. That’s only a small exaggeration. According to Steder and Richardson, Google now has an extraordinary ability to understand language. A major algorithm change last year, nicknamed BERT, has allowed Google to better understand sentence structure and queries as complete thoughts, rather than a string of words Google also can see and understand how your thinking evolves as you search to solve a problem. In its effort to offer you the most helpful search results, Google learns more and more about you as you move around the internet. With every search to take, every click you make, Google’s watching … and learning. It’s constantly evolving and changing its algorithms, trying to understand what you want to know, where you want to go, do and buy and then shows you personalized results based on your location, search history, device, language and intent. It works to show you the best, most useful, relevant and accurate result possible to suit you and your intent. That’s why everyone sees different results. You might have heard this secret before, so it shouldn’t sting to read it now.
This constant algorithm tweaking makes it imperative for small business to make sure the content on its website is strategic, targeted, unique, topical and helpful to users. This is hard to optimize for, but there are Search Engine Result Page (SERP) opportunities for businesses who create content that helps users at every stage of the sales funnel.
Secret 2 — Ranking in a top position does not mean what it used to
Organic search traffic CANNOT continue to be your top performance indicator and the way you measure your success. Google is working hard to give the searcher what they need directly in the SERP and is in a way stealing part of your customers’ journey.
Google and its Chrome browser dominates search. In fact, 95 percent of all searches are handled by Google and about 50 percent of searches end right there on the results screen. These zero-click searches are quite prevalent; Google has come up with more than 35 mechanisms that provide results over and above the usual link. SERP features include answer boxes, featured snippets and maps. Google surfaces answers so sufficiently that users don’t need to visit a website, and if they do, Google sometimes sends them (15 percent of the time) to a site it owns such as YouTube. Bottom line: Google is changing so digital marketers need to change along with it. Start updating your goals and the way you measure success. Being #1 on Google is not what it used to be.
Secret 3 – You can’t optimize a broken site, a.k.a. the need for technical SEO
For Google to rank a site and its content, says one of the presenters, it must be able to crawl and index it. This is where technical SEO comes into play. Plus, with the recent algorithm changes, it’s now more vital than ever to pay close attention to the technical health of your website.
Technical SEO includes a mobile-first mentality, site security, site structure, page speed, schema, accessibility, solid metadata and more. With so many websites being crawled regularly, small businesses must make it easier for Google and ensure their sites are in optimal health.
The juiciest part of this secret? Google plans to introduce a new Page Experience ranking factor in 2021. The new algorithm will condense individually weighted ranking signals into ONE factor that is likely to have greater weighting. The presenters encouraged getting a head start on this by reviewing the Web Core Vitals section in Google Search Console.
Technical SEO cannot be neglected. Once technical SEO is in order, you can move on to optimizing your site content for keywords.
Secret 4 – Algorithmic bias exists; rely on humans to research and monitor for it
Users should be aware that there is a possibility of bias in artificial intelligence and machine learning, both of which are counted on to help improve performance of digital ad campaigns, voice search, websites and social media. You can’t change the algorithms, but you can change what and how they analyze the data provided. If the algorithm gets off course and you don’t make changes, the algorithm will think it’s doing a great job for you and will repeat the adjustments it makes. It can’t catch the same mistakes a person can. Performing a few manual adjustments and regular monitoring will help. If you want Google to know your business is female-owned, for example, show it. Making slight variations to headlines, text and image can have a significant impact on who sees the ad or post. As long as you understand your audience, you can work to align the goals the algorithm measures with the actions available for the user to take and your company’s actual goals. By combining platform metrics with on-site metrics, you can help prevent bias.
SEO continually changes. It is extremely important for businesses to understand how it works in 2020 vs. how it worked in 2015. If you’d like to review our presentation deck from the BizTimes Expo, visit our Expo resources page to learn more about the latest in SEO.
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