Google Shuffles Deck on Natural Search Algorithm; Retailers Should be Beneficiaries
Over the past three weeks, there's been a spate of discussion in the search engine marketplace about the reduced quality of Google’s natural search results. The discussion has centered around two key issues:
- The development of sophisticated “content farms,” which, according to The New York Times, are sites that “churn out sometimes mindless articles based on what people are searching for.” They work their way to the top of common searches, frustrating users with irrelevant content.
- The buying of web links to boost page relevancy, something Google believes promotes ranking not based on relevancy but rather on advertisers’ expenditures.
Google announced on Feb. 25 that it's made changes to its natural search results algorithm, which it reports will impact “approximately 12 percent of search queries” (for a full description of the changes, see Google’s blog post on the subject). The changes only impact the U.S. at this time, but will be rolled out internationally at some point, although no time frame was given.
Google’s goal? To improve the relevancy of search results. Findings from Hitwise revealed that users report 82 percent of their searches on Bing in the U.S. are successful, while Google came in with a 66 percent success rate. That's a damning statistic that Google takes very seriously, and these changes reflect its response. For retailers not engaging in nefarious search techniques, this is a boon and opportunity. These changes slant the playing field in natural search towards quality advertisers and away from tricksters trying to make a quick buck.
Since the change, Covario did a quick survey of 20-plus retail customers and saw that 80 percent of them had seen no change in their average Google natural search ranking for their top 100 terms. The other 20 percent saw a 2 percent to 4 percent improvement in average ranking. This is exactly what retailers should expect — so long as they aren't engaging in any of the above practices.