The Evolution of Search Engine Behavior

Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Marketing [ 0 Comments ]

The evolution of search engine behaviorBorn in the late 90’s, Google has dominated the search engine market since its start. Google search engines use spiders and crawlers to survey the web and index the pages that they find. PageRank is then used to determine the relevance of a website based on the frequency and location of keywords, the page history, and the number links attributed to the page. While this is only a small part of their algorithm, it has had a huge impact on website organization and search behavior.

Related: How Many Keywords Should My Business Focus On?

When typing in a search query, the keyword phrase is known as an explicit query. In the past, explicit queries were the main indicators used to determine search results. If you searched for the word “Italian”, you would get the definition of the word “Italy” or “Italian Language”. The more frequently  the word “Italian” was mentioned on a website, the greater chance it had of showing up #1 on the search results.

Now, search engines are putting a greater emphasis on implicit query data to determine search results. Implicit queries take into account your location, device (PC, mobile phone, tablet), search history and time of day. Using implicit queries, Google is able to accurately predict what the searcher is looking for. Google is continuously improving the relevancy of search results, and as a result, search behavior is evolving as well.

Related: Think Like Your Target Audience When Choosing Keywords

While Google does rely on keywords or explicit queries, implicit queries are becoming the more dominant factors in search results. Searching for the word “Italian” now considers an array of possible results. Local restaurants, definition sites and Italian news stories all have the opportunity to show on the first page of Google. Restaurants that optimize for both explicit data and implicit data have plenty of keywords, referral links, social media presence, highly rated reviews and close proximity. Keywords are no longer the center of the search.

What does this mean for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

  • Measuring rankings is becoming more difficult
  • The same search could yield completely different results, dependent on your location
  • Keyword research model of SEO must adapt to the changing search climate
  • Businesses must begin to understand user intent and the information they are looking for
  • Businesses must understand how to optimize their content based on implicit data

Moving forward, companies and businesses must better understand what a person is searching for and take their implicit queries into account. Change the way you think about keywords, because keyword science is becoming even more difficult and complicated than it was in the past.

Related: 4 Keyword Research Tips for Business Owners

Looking to the future, Google has been developing Google Now, a program that predicts your behavior in real-time. For example, if you are in a subway station it will find you the next available train. If there is traffic on your normal route to work, Google will have an alternate route waiting for you. Learning from user behavior, it will deliver the information that it deems relevant before it is even asked for. This begs the question, what is the future of search behavior in a world where Google is accurately predicting the information before you need it?

Author Bio: Mark Schmukler is the cofounder of Sagefrog Marketing Group and leads Sagefrog’s marketing planning and brand strategy. He brings more than 30 years of global marketing and consulting experience to his work. Follow him on Twitter @sagefrog.

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