Optimizing For The Internet of Google™ Things
Written by Trevin Shirey and published
“The Internet of Things” has become “The Internet of Google™ Things.”
Google has gone from being the friendly concierge of the information superhighway to becoming the manufacturer of the car you use on an actual highway.
Their “expand the pie” approach has had a big impact on search marketing too. The practice of SEO has become a lot more convoluted in recent years as the lines of SEO bleed into copywriting, web design, conversion rate optimization and content marketing. Google’s expanding reach means a bigger list of ranking factors based on the data they’re collecting.
As Google continues to permeate our online life, the role of search optimizers is becoming less precise. It used to be easy to explain how to optimize for Google. The massive amounts of data we exchange via this search engine behemoth challenges even the most proficient SEO. What are we optimizing for anymore?
Internet search is an inherent part of our lives; optimizing for search in 2015 looks a lot different than it did even in 2012.
Beware of Google’s Public Relations
Google’s communication with SEOs has always been strange, but it’s gotten even more bizarre in the last couple of years. It’s not likely to improve either. Gone is the friendly face of Matt Cutts. In his place is Google’s version of Dread Pirate Roberts, a nameless head of web spam.
SEOs no longer have a point person to go to about issues with search. Instead, we will receive advice from a team of people answering our questions. With this one move, Google has become less transparent. The lack of open communication is sure to cause frustration in the future.
Google’s product launches have also been troubling to SEOs, most notably Google+. Google+ was the golden calf of the SEO industry — the long-awaited merger of search and social media. When Google hinted about the potential impact G+ would have on ranking, SEOs went wild.
“For +1’s, as with any new ranking signal, we are starting carefully and learning how those signals affect search quality.”
From a GWT support thread which has since been deleted.
In hindsight, it’s embarrassing how much emphasis SEOs placed on Google+ authorship. Tons of client dollars were wasted investing in the now defunct Google+ authorship and the hope that it would result in long-term financial gain. Many marketers spent countless hours blogging, updating meta tags and sharing content on Google+, which is all for naught.
A mere mention of a potential rankings boost and the entire SEO industry is moving to SSL or adding a new meta tag. Social shares are finally a ranking signal! Build up your author rank at all costs! Increase your click-through rates with a pretty picture! SEOs are easy prey for Google.
To be sure, SEOs are stakeholders, but we’re not as important to Google as their shareholders or end users.
Google has also made a habit of launching a product only to discard it quickly. Being an early adopter loses its advantage when products are discontinued before they ever reach a mainstream audience. You can’t get back time spent on Google Knol or Wave.
Sometimes the shrewdest move is to “wait and see.” Don’t let your desire for every possible SEO advantage make you a victim of Google’s PR tactics. Google is a public company and keeps an eye on Wall Street when launching products and making carefully crafted announcements.
Make Independent SEO Decisions
Google+ isn’t the only time Google has dipped their toe into the murky waters of SEO advice. Who better to seek advice from than the search giant themselves, right? Unfortunately, Google’s best practices for SEO have been a little off from what works for most people.
A good example is Google’s recent mobile update. It was hyped to be the biggest thing ever for SEO. Take a look at some of the headlines:
- How the Google Mobile Friendly Update Will Cause Your Business To Lose Leads
- Google’s “Mobile-Friendly” Update Could Impact Over 40% Of Fortune 500 Websites
- Google Inc’s “Mobilegeddon” Could Alienate Nearly Half Of Its Top Websites
Millions of dollars were spent scrambling to make sites responsive to pass Google’s mobile friendly stipulations. A few SEOs probably lost sleep on April 20, 2015.
And it was all mostly for nothing. The massive, life-altering update didn’t even affect the majority of searches. A big update? Sure — but not worth the hysteria. Check out the post-update headlines:
- Only 11% Said There Were Traffic Changes Since Google’s Mobile Friendly Update
- The Mobilegeddon That Wasn’t. What Happened?
When you are working with clients, or running an SEO agency, it’s vital to remember that none of these ballyhooed Google updates happen in a vacuum. It costs real money to make a site responsive or to invest time disavowing links in advance of a Penguin update.
The ROI you provide from a $10,000 responsive update or 50 hours of link analysis needs to be on par with the ROI clients are getting from other marketing channels. It’s easy to fall into a trap when following Google’s SEO advice.
For example, link removal experts made a killing leading up to Penguin 3 and then nothing happened. SSL sites were promised a ranking boost but webmasters who tried to switch ran into a bunch of issues.
For SEOs, blocking all of the noise surrounding algorithm updates is key. Focus on what you see in Google Analytics (ironic, I know) and make your judgment calls from the data. Don’t recommend a responsive redesign just because Google says so; make a recommendation for a responsive redesign based on real impact to a business.
A good SEO process isn’t rocket science. You make changes, measure their impact and repeat.
Just because Google recommends all websites be responsive or secured doesn’t mean that is the best use of your time and money. Every business and every website is unique. One SEO tactic may work for one website, but your approach might be completely different for another. Trust what the metrics show you, not vague guidelines from a company who just wants you to buy ads.
A Data-Heavy Future
Yes, Google’s end game is all about selling advertising space. 95% of their revenue is from advertising. Remember, Google is an advertising company not a technology company. That should be at the top of any SEO’s mind.
Google’s number of new data collection and advertising platforms continue to grow aggressively. Google used to function primarily as a search engine but now they are a search engine that builds cars, creates operating systems, searches for the fountain of youth and designs futuristic clothing.
Google’s not diversifying for the fun of it. Their goal is to collect more data.
More information in Google’s hands means more control for Google. It means the growth of the Internet of Google™ Things — a future where everything you interact with throughout the day passes data to and from Google’s servers.
Smart people say that SEO will soon be all about brand experience or emotion. Maybe in a few years we won’t be worrying about title tags or duplicate content, but eye-tracking, warm feelings or time spent in storefronts will capture our attention as marketing opportunities.
Future Google is likely to be a platform where everything happens online. Optimizing for something that users constantly interact and share data with is much different than optimizing for a simple search engine. But by keeping a level head, using your data and keeping a close eye on Google’s expansion can help prepare you for The Internet of Google™ Things.