15.07.2015 What brands need to know about Google’s algorithm update and how it affects content strategy

Google announced yet another update this week, to the way it searches and ranks content. The ‘Phantom 2’ algorithm update seems to be focused on recognising and rewarding sites with high-quality content and especially content that actively encourages user engagement.

 We’ve all become fairly familiar with the fact that Google regularly challenges the brands that become adept at reaching the No.1 spot on Page 1 of a search, apart from those that have clearly paid to be there of course. As communications consultants we can be expected to monitor very closely what’s happening next when it comes to Google’s search parameters and how our clients can capitalise on it. But this latest development brings a little more joy and cause for celebration to us than some recent updates.

This time the update means that the focus for content is firmly on quality, and simply being clever with keywords doesn’t guarantee as much ‘optimisation’ as previously seen.

So the brands that are producing content that gets people to stay on a page and stick around and even perhaps click through to another linked page, and hopefully comment, are the ones that will receive better kudos via their search engine ranking.

New search behaviour

The devotion to key words driving online sales is also to be sniffed at it seems, as brands start to increasingly see the benefit of raising awareness first amongst audiences about things they care about, with content that is more for those researching online, than those in buyer mode.

With the development of mobile device personal assistant services such as Windows’ Cortana and Apple’s Siri, users are getting used to being able to ask more developed questions that enable them to enquire why and how, as opposed to just where and what.

Google’s director for agency performance, Matt Bush, highlights that there has been a shift from product and brand searches, to more purpose based searches.

The example he gives is that whilst a search for running shoes could unearth a wealth of information about what they are and where to buy them from, the number of people searching for ‘marathon running’ and looking for tips and advice about it is much higher.

Impact on online transactions

Some see this new search focus as a function that now happens much earlier in the sales cycle for online users. The result is that some brands are rethinking their online product sales strategies and instead of talking about product features, they’re talking about the earlier drivers to purchase – key benefits for example, and focusing on raising awareness of linked topics and offering a complete experience. This all happens well ahead of actual purchase but can lead to longer-term relationships.

The key to understanding what people are actually searching for, is still based on being able to access reputable data and analytics, monitoring industry trends and then creating content based on all of this research, as well as ensuring you’re targeting the right people.

It’s not just a matter of loading up each webpage with a host of key words and hoping you’ll get picked up on a search somewhere. It’s also not just about creating content, any content, random lists or too obvious hints and tips that provide little additional value for the customer. Google it seems is still on the warpath, and will continue to update its algorithms to hopefully ensure that what we search for is responded to in the most relevant and helpful manner.

Brands could do worse than thinking long and hard about not just what customers want to buy, but what they will think about and need to know, long before they actually press the ‘Buy’ button.