Hugo Lesser is CMO and a Partner and thought leader at Bright!Tax, the award-winning global U.S. tax provider for Americans living abroad.
In the last quarter of a century, Google has changed the way we live — perhaps more than any other company.
Google set out on a mission to democratize information to a degree we haven’t seen since the advent of the printing press, and by and large, it has succeeded.
It’s hard to recall a time now when searching for information was more complicated than a 10-second interaction with a phone or PC.
There are other search engines, but only one’s name has entered our lexicon as a verb that means “to search online.” This is no accident; in my opinion, it is because Google has outperformed the rest at providing us with the information we want at the top of page one.
Nonetheless, Google has detractors. Some say it has too much power over what we do and don’t see. Others say its algorithms prioritize its own services and those of its advertisers. I’ve also heard claims that it harms small businesses with technical penalties. And others still say its business model involves collecting too much personal information to create and sell detailed targeted-advertising profiles.
But if we balance any qualms with the conveniences and benefits that Google has brought to our lives overall, I believe the net result will almost certainly be positive.
From a marketing and business perspective, meanwhile, the rational course of action is to learn how Google’s search algorithm works and utilize this knowledge to your business’s benefit.
It has been said that there’s no such thing as digital marketing anymore, as all (or certainly much) marketing is digital nowadays, and search marketing, for most businesses, should be the beating heart of a successful marketing strategy.
The details of Google’s ranking algorithm remain shrouded in secrecy. The good news is that, overall, Google says its algorithm seeks to reward content quality, which could help smaller businesses find parity with behemoths. The company does provide guidance, though. Based on its guidance, I recommend prioritizing this acronym from Google as you plan your content: E-A-T, or Expertise, Authority and Trust.
What does this mean and how can you apply this to your business in practice, though?
In terms of expertise, does your website — and more importantly, the individual pages on it — demonstrate that you and your business are experts and authorities in your field? You can enhance your expertise by publishing informative articles on topics that people search for and on which you have specialist knowledge. Then optimize the articles for search by including the specific phrases people search for in certain headings and other field locations on the page. There are technical elements to this, so seek advice if you need to.
Google provides a tool, Google Keyword Planner, that allows you to find out what exact phrases people are searching for. This allows you to create web pages that are highly relevant to actual searches. Other third-party tools can show you which phrases your competitors may be benefiting from.
Authority refers to both your business’s authority in your field and your web page’s authority compared to other pages that are vying for the top rankings positions in a search. Lots of factors are known to contribute to this, including references (and links) to your website from other websites.
Trust relates to the user experience on your web pages as it relates to search, including — ever more importantly — mobile user experience. This is important because so many people of all ages browse using their phones rather than on a PC. Again, there are lots of contributing factors that may indicate trustworthiness to Google, including a page’s load speed and page content and readability.
An informational page that is overly sales-focused, perhaps with ads and promotional pop-ups, isn’t wise. And neither is a website that doesn’t have security features, such as an HTTPS certification.
Google is pursuing the idea of contextual search, which essentially means that it shows pages and websites that provide related information as well as those with the exact information that someone searches for. For businesses, this means that it is good practice to include related, peripheral information on your informational pages or to create an ecosystem of interconnected informational pages around a topic or popular search phrase.
If your business trades in a particular town, region or other locality, making references to it on your web pages is a great and simple way to increase your site’s relevance in local searches.
Why It Matters
Search in 2022 remains an evolving landscape; however, improving your search marketing strategies, whether you’re starting from scratch or seeking to make marginal improvements, will bear fruit in terms of increased business visibility. While Google’s search algorithm may be complex, your business can reap a real benefit by learning to interpret and operate within its parameters.