19 Nov How did searches and Google evolve over the years?
Back in the day, we searched differently than we do now. We were all new to the Internet. And we learned. And evolved. So did Google algorithms. To improve your healthcare content marketing and website ranking, it’s best to understand how.
People used to search by typing keywords or short keyword phrases with the hope of finding answers to their healthcare questions. Then, a search might have been, “Orthopedic surgeon, Los Angeles.” Now, searches are more sophisticated. People pose longer, more conversational, more complex queries (often called semantic search, which considers the intent of the search, not simply the exact phrase or keyword being searched). Now, that same search might be, “Which orthopedic surgeons in Los Angeles have the most experience in knee arthroscopy?”
So search queries are getting longer. Today, 64% of searches are four words or more.
Part of this is due to the popularity of voice search. Google reports that 20% of mobile queries are done by voice search via Siri, Alexa, Echo, and Google Home.
Another reason people are posing longer queries: there’s a lot of content out there. And much of it is, well, not very helpful. (Read: worthless.) So people’s queries are more specific to help them find relevant answers more quickly.
The evolution of Google (or Googlelution)
When Google first arrived, search results were pretty much based on exact keyword matches. Marketers who produced keyword-stuffed content ranked high on the results page.
Then, Google began making updates to its system.
Following are Google updates year by year.
Google released Panda to deal with thin, duplicate, or plagiarized content, keyword stuffing, and other quality issues and reward websites with high-quality content. Panda scores every web page, which is then factored into how each website ranks on the SERPs. The higher the quality of content, the higher the search result.
Penguin was released to combat “black hat webspam,” techniques that use shortcuts or loopholes to help pages rank higher than they deserve to be—but don’t benefit users. Penguin helps ensure that only high-quality, trustworthy, and relevant links are rewarded.
Also, the Pirate Update combatted the illegal spreading of copyrighted content.
In 2013, Google released an important new search algorithm called Hummingbird. Why the name Hummingbird? Because Google said the algorithm was “fast and precise.” Rather than just recognizing keywords, it enabled the algorithm to perform “conversational searches.” Hummingbird looks at the entire search query—and interprets the meaning behind the words to serve you the answers you are looking for.
Google introduced Pigeon, which rewards local businesses that have a strong organic presence with better SERP results.
Google had two significant updates in 2015.
In April, they released the Google Mobile Update (nicknamed Mobilegeddon).
This update offers higher rankings to mobile-friendly websites on mobile SERPs. Websites that aren’t are either penalized or removed from SERPs.
In October of that year, Google introduced RankBrain, a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that learns things about you based on past searches. It also finds pages that don’t exactly match certain keywords in your query. Let’s say your query is “Who are the best orthopedic doctors in Los Angeles?” Google will now also serve you pages with the best orthopedic surgeons in Los Angeles.
Possum further improved local search results.
Google’s Snippet Length Increase Update increased the length of the Google meta description—the brief copy that appears below the blue link in a search engine result—from 155 to 300 characters, almost doubling the character count. The goal: to provide improved descriptions of web pages to help searchers click the most relevant link.
But in 2018, Google rolled back the length about 150 characters—about the same as the original length.
Like Mobilegeddon, the Mobile-First Indexing Update uses the mobile version of webpages to help mobile users quickly and more easily find the content they’re looking for.
The Google Medic Update targeted “quality” issues like thin, duplicate content, slow load times, inaccurate title tags, and bad user experience.
Google BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) Natural Language Processing Update was Google’s attempt to better understand the language in which people search to help them find useful and accurate information.
The Page Experience Update has been gradually rolling out throughout 2021. It introduces a new ranking signal that Google says includes “metrics that measure real-world user experience for loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability.” Although these new Page Experience factors are important, it’s still more critical to have great, relevant content.
And the updates continue
Coming soon: the MUM Update (short for ‘Multitask United Model). The name hints at the power of this new algorithm: it can handle multiple tasks simultaneously. Stay tuned!
You can be sure that Google will continue to update and improve its algorithms with one goal: to generate more relevant results for users. And that’s accomplished by producing relevant, topic-based content.
That’s why pillar pages and topic clusters are an effective way to improve your brand’s SERP ranking.