One of the problems with any “free” service is the fact that people tend to forget how much it really costs to maintain. Google is no exception. In my opinion, it’s about time SEOs started thinking about Google like a business.
At heart, Google is a company that runs a search engine. In the past few years, they’ve made this painfully obvious and shown the world that they don’t mind upsetting the entire inbound marketing community if they need to make a business decision (hello, blocking all logged in referral keywords).
If you understand this simple fact, then Google’s recent algorithm changes and search engine decisions will make more sense, and give you insight into how Google thinks. As one of the world’s most successful businesses, it’s not a surprise that they make algorithm decisions based on their business goals. That said, let’s get specific about what those goals are and how they’re influencing some of Google’s recent changes:
Why does Google care about duplicate content, and why did they release the Panda update?
Last year, Google made 37.9 billion (mostly in PPC ads). Of that, they spent an estimated 24 million dollars just powering their servers, and that doesn’t include the cost of buying the servers, or any employee expenses for the people who work on Google’s search algorithm. Like any business, Google is looking for ways to save money, and one of the best ways is for them to reduce the workload on their servers and their employees: thus, the Panda update.
Panda was a business decision designed to save Google money. Low quality websites are everywhere, ranging from intentional black hat spammy sites to sites run by lazy web masters who create “thin content” web sites. What they have in common is that they are expensive for Google to crawl/index. By removing duplicate content from its index, Google is able to avoid the expense of having to crawl these poorly made sites and save millions of dollars in storage alone.
SEO companies (mine included) have spent a good part of this last year helping companies remove duplicate content from their websites (for example: The Decal Guru is in the process of completely rewriting their product descriptions to remove all duplicate content from its site.) A lot of e-commerce sites have been hit pretty hard, but companies like Zappos and Amazon are leading the e-commerce industry because they’ve invested in high quality content.
Why do some 301 redirects still work, and others don’t?
Before you throw out a broad generalization, stop hard and think about the statement from a business perspective. How many times have you heard an SEO say, “Google is going to devalue 301 redirects because black hatters abuse them?” Businesses have been changing their names and re-branding themselves for thousands of years. If Google suddenly decided that companies could no longer change their business name, they would break the internet.
Remember when Quantum Computer Services changed their name to America Online, and then to AOL Time Warner and then back to AOL? A search engine can’t penalize companies who legitimately change their corporate identity. It’s true that you won’t retain 100% of your link juice, but non-spammy 301 redirects still pass most of their link authority.
Why does Google care about “search query intent?”
There has been a lot written on search intent and semantic keyword research, so I’m not going to cover it in depth. The basic idea of intent is this: when you search for “apple,” Google determines whether you’re looking for the fruit or the technology company. For a user, this is extremely convenient because it provides more relevant search results. But search intent is more than just a move toward A.I. and search innovation; it is also a savvy business decision.
Going back to the bottom line – Google makes its money off of advertising. The click-through rate on relevant ads is higher then the CTR on irrelevant ads, so Google knows that displaying ads that are related to the searcher’s intent will ultimately make the search tycoon more money. If you search for “apple,” and Google knows that you mean the technology company, then it will display ads for Macbooks, iPads, and iPhones – and you will be much more likely to click those ads than if it had displayed the ones for local organic produce. Each click is more money in the bank for Google, so it literally pays for them to understand your intent.
Just as it pays Google to understand your intent, it pays you to understand theirs. The above are just a few examples of how Google’s business goals affect their search engine development. Once you understand Google’s motivations as a money-making company, you’ll be able to see why they structure their search algorithms the way they do, and start to use that knowledge to your advantage. I’d love to hear what you think about this article. You can tweet me @brewseo