Update: About a week or so after publishing this, Google posted this blog about why they make certain choices like the ones I outline below. Remember: as the headline suggest, Google is in it for them, not for you. Always be aware of this.
Google isn’t a search engine anymore.
Google is an answer engine.
The way that people search has changed – and this change has created an assumption that SEO pros need to know about.
The other day, I was coming back from the mall with my wife and we were trying to decide where to eat.
It was later (about 8:30PM) and we weren’t sure what was open on a Sunday. After all, Myrtle Beach is slowing down as we approach Labor Day.
As we waited at the stop light, she searched for
genos pizza hours
and waited for Google to return a result to her.
Right on the SERP, Google’s knowledge graph box told us that Geno’s Pizza closed at 9:00PM, leaving us enough time to call in and get our tasty pepperoni.
Of course, it was great.
But the search got me thinking how regular users (I’ll call my wife a regular Google user) think about search engines and how they return information. Users expect search engines to not just give them 10 links, but the answer. Google and Bing have shifted to be answer engines.
For some webmasters and site owners, this could border on annoying at best and business-threatening at worst. After all, what if your website used to be the answer platform? If I’m a website like iMore, I’m a little upset at this search result below. Where before, I wrote content that fit the searchers intent and gave the exact answer they were looking for, I’d be rewarded with a pageview. In the context of web-based publications that make their revenue from ad dollars, this was a pretty fair trade.
Google would crawl the web looking for the best resource on the query
how to reset an iphone and if my content was the most relevant, easy to understand and came from an authoritative website, I’d be sent organic search engine traffic. Google won because the search result returned what the searcher was looking for – leading the user to come back again and again to continue to use Google and click on AdWords related queries. iMore won because they wrote great content that was relevant and helped the user.
This is a great ecosystem and relationship.
But then this happens:
and it throws everything for a loop. Now the users have the expectation that answers will be present on the search engine results pages, not within a website.
This shift is important to note – it’s a fundamental change in how we use search engines and it could have a profound impact on the bottom line of thousands of websites.
It’s great that Google is looking to make results higher quality – and I’m all for that. It’s even better that Google has the ability to send you traffic in the first place – I’m all for that too.
But, it’s very important to understand that traffic from search engines will always be a privilege, not a right. A company like Google could, at any time, purchase a startup that puts you out of business. Google getting into an industry like real estate, travel or others could potentially put a search box above your organic results or stuff so many AdWords ads and sponsored content above the fold that your first-ranking website won’t get a click. You could build a million more links and it wouldn’t matter on this result.
I don’t mean to sound tinfoil hat here.
I’m just being honest – Google and Bing are looking for ways to their companies to profit, not yours. I don’t truly think that they are evil, but they are acting in their best interests.
Seize the opportunities that you have – if you are successful and profitable with organic search engine marketing and making tons of money with your efforts, do that.
But don’t forget there is an entire world out there that wants easy, fast, cheap and convenient answers and solutions. Just because Google is your friend (sending you free traffic) doesn’t mean they always will be.
Connect information to your clients, customers or peers when they need it.