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One thing that’s been on our radar since Grow the Dream was first launched as Epiphany Marketing more than 20 years ago has been search engines. Specifically, Google and its ever-changing algorithms. Despite the fact that Amazon and YouTube have become more prevalent as means of searching the Internet, Google is still the dominant force in search.

Well, they’ve announced major changes coming in May of 2021 – the first time, to my knowledge, that they’ve been quite so open and specific. There have always been changes, some major, more minor, that the geniuses at Alphabet have instituted over the years. The majority have been for the purpose of making Google more valuable – presenting better and more relevant results. This update is different in that respect too. Google appears to be making the changes, not just to bolster their own effectiveness, but to give their users what they want, even if they struggle to express themselves.

It’s a welcome change, if it truly works the way they say it will – one of the biggest hurdles of the Internet these days is just the massive overload of information. It’s harder to find the exact thing you’re looking for, because there’s just so much else out there.

And Google’s efforts so far haven’t really effectively curbed that problem, and often sometimes have even exacerbated it. From AI-aided autocorrecting, to adding additional words to search, to altering the search string based on location and previous user search trends – all of these have backfired at some point. The hope is that the new algorithm roll-out is “smarter” than past efforts and truly helps.

Oh, and some bright news, if you’re like me. When the new update rolls out, Google AMP is going away.

Putting the UX in Crux

If you’re not a retail-oriented business, UX might be a new term for you. But it’s one all small businesses need to learn and understand. UX stands for User Experience and, as I hinted at, comes out of the retail business – previously it was termed CX, or Customer Experience.

But UX is so much more than customer service, store layouts and reward card functionality. Google has already been testing and partially implementing what they call “UX Signals.” When the new rollout hits, they will become Core Web Vitals – and be across the board.

I’m not going to go into the technical details, you can click the link for that, but essentially Google is going to rank higher websites that load faster and more efficiently. And they’re also favoring – no surprise here – sites that work best on mobile devices.

Think with Google found that 39% of people are more likely to browse or shop with a mobile app, while half won’t buy from a poorly designed site. 33% will go somewhere else if they can’t find what they need easily. And 60% will reach out from the search results.

I hope this gets back to some major retail and grocery chains, and most of the restaurants, who, while adapting their apps for COVID-19, have made it nearly impossible to just shop or price compare, without jumping through hoops.

Just as a real world example, I was looking for an app for my iPhone to cast to my GoogleTV. I downloaded maybe a dozen. Of that, two worked – and only after I’d upgraded to the paid version. Statista found that 25% of mobile apps were downloaded and used once before they were abandoned, presumably because of their poor user experience. Rather than continuing to frustrate searchers, those results will drop to the bottom of the search results.

Fighting Over Semantics

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes Google’s attempts to “help” you search just become irritating. The hope is that semantic search can improve on the idea of searching in context, without giving back a lot of useless results.

I talked about the trends briefly a few months back when I discussed how voice search is affecting the questions people want to get answers to. Specifically, even more so than in the past, the average person isn’t searching for a string of keywords and phrases – they’re literally asking questions.

There’s been an 85% increase in searches starting with the phrase “can I.” And the phrases “should I” and “do I need” have both increased by 65%. Conversational questions. And while my Amazon Echo Dot still gets confused when I say “please,” there’s no putting this genie back into the bottle.

Almost 70% of all Google searches, according to Think With Google, are expressed in natural language. And Google execs say that 15% of all of the billions of daily searches are still phrased in new ways. The next step in semantics is not just overcoming bad spelling and grammar, but language barriers. Just watch.

This is the Way

The most interesting development coming out of this Google reworking is that now major SEO companies are turning away from keyword hell and starting to embrace the very principles Grow the Dream has been teaching for almost 25 years.

I’m going to quote from an article, just to prove it’s not me – this is the advice now being given by SEO-based digital marketing companies to their clients.

“First and foremost, how and why do your users search for your content? What answers, information, content, or even experience are your target audiences likely looking for? How can you create authoritative, enriching content to meet the demands of these prospects, customers, clients, and partners?”

If that looks familiar to you, then you’ve been paying attention. That is almost word for word the strategy I have recommended in countless articles, and that we teach every week on our #StrategyStream (when we’re not on holiday hiatus).

When it comes to semantic search, the major SEO companies now recommend people-targeted content that answers questions; topic optimization; and internal linking. Add in measurable results, and you have the Grow the Dream strategic approach in its simplest form. While others are scrambling to catch up and rediscover dwindling organic search results, our clients are still thriving during this economic downturn.

If you’d like help walking through the steps of strategic digital marketing; identifying and targeting your ideal customers; or creating consistent content that draws ideal searchers to your website, please reach out. We’ve built our business and reputation on helping small businesses grow and thrive and we’d love to help you do the same!