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Google rolled out its new search algorithm in September which focuses on semantic search and lays stress on understanding searcher query before displaying search results. It no longer banks on keywords that are indexed. This raised quite a few questions in the minds of SEOs, and here is our attempt at answering some of them:

Hummingbird, Google’s new search algorithm, along with the recent policy of ‘Not Provided’ is a kind of double whammy, unprecedented and unexpected by SEOs.

When was the last time Google attempted such wholesale changes in its search algorithm?

Quite frankly Google will struggle to answer this question. The closest it came to such changes was in 2010 when the Caffeine Updates were done. However, even those changes were aimed at helping Google gather better information rather than understanding user search queries. According to some top Google executives the company made drastic changes in the year 2001, when the whole search algorithm was rewritten.

How does Google measure improvements in its search algorithm?

Google does not implement wholesale changes. It does so for selective users and then based on user response decides if the changes are good or bad. Only when it is satisfied that the changes are improving user experience does it roll out the changes for all.

Here are some of the criteria they focus on:

Search exit: In other words this is similar to bounce rate. Google looks at how many searches a visitor makes before exiting a webpage/website.

Search Refinement: The number of searches a searcher makes after performing the initial search on a website/webpage.

Time: How long does a searcher stay on the page/site after making the search?

From all the above parameters it is clear that Google is looking for a handle on searcher satisfaction. Now this is being done even more vigorously with Hummingbird. With the new search algorithm Google wants to know how satisfied a searcher is with the information presented by Google. Is the user satisfied with the way the information is being dished out? And, is the user satisfied with the ability to navigate a website/webpage to get more information (in other words whether the user happy with the site structure/architecture)?

It is clear from all the above that for Google searcher satisfaction is paramount and we as marketers will now have to stop focusing on whether certain keywords are succeeding or failing in SERPs. The results will now depend on the aggregate success of all search keywords which a domain represents.

What does it mean for you?

You will have to put searcher satisfaction right at the top of your agenda and for that the following is essential:

Content Quality: Comprehensive content that addresses all the issues a searcher is interested in. Problem solving is more important from now on.

The look and feel of your website: The site should please the searcher both visually as well as intellectually.

Structure and Navigation: You will have to ensure that visitors find information beyond your landing pages. In other words your entire site has to be easy to navigate and all pages should offer unique and relevant information.

The quest for searcher satisfaction is not a new thing; however, the recent changes effected by Google will help SEOs put things in perspective and help them go in the right direction.

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