Have you ever thought about how your business appears on a Google search? If you haven't you should.

Search is the means through which the information that you place on the web is organized, placed in categories and given value. For that last bit to happen information has to appear as a relevant answer to a search query. 

This is exactly the means through which an online business finds relevant leads and converts them into customers willing to purchase its products or services and become part of its online audience.

Simple as this may sound, it is a much harder thing to do than most people realize. During the Congressional Hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, December 11, 2018, Google CEO's, Sundar Pichai, offered the general workings of search every website owner already knows:

"Any time you type in a keyword, as Google we have gone out and crawled and stored copies of billions of [websites'] pages in our index. And we take the keyword and match it against their pages and rank them based on over 200 signals -- things like relevance, freshness, popularity, how other people are using it. And based on that, at any given time, we try to rank and find the best search results for that query. And then we evaluate them with external raters, and they evaluate it to objective guidelines. And that's how we make sure the process is working."

Sudar Pichai's testimony made it painfully clear that search queries are far from being always direct, knowledgeable or even clear and during his explanations to the Congressional panel's questions, Pichai mentioned that 15 percent of search queries Google sees have never been seen or heard before.

That's a figure that has been mentioned before, most memorably at Google's recent I/O conference and, during most interview or question and answer sessions where Google is given the opportunity to brag about the massive number of search queries it serves each year.

It's important for us to remember however for different reasons: First, it highlights the difficulty of actually matching information held in Google's index with a particular search query. Second, it provides a perfect example of the cat and mouse game between Google's search engine indexing existing information it can find and the ever evolving need for information of an increasingly connected online population. That need is reflected in search queries that Google search may struggle to answer which is why its technology requires the collection of as much data as it can find.

To the question of how exactly you manage to rank high on Google search, have positive mentions, be perceived highly and have content (and a brand) that resonates with your audience however it is US Rep. Ted Lieu who made the news (and ranked high on Google search) for his succinct summation of Pichai's explanations: "If you want positive search results, do positive things."

Pichai's explanation on "relevance, freshness, popularity" provides a key even the most search engine optimization agnostic business can use to unlock the secret of better performance in search.

1. Relevance

Work out what your business does that is directly relevant to the needs of its audience. Then devise a way to show this on your website and promote it on the social media platforms where you maintain a presence. Whenever you create content make it about those you want to reach instead of focusing on what's important to you to broadcast as a message.

2. Freshness

Don't just produce content on autopilot. Every industry does new things, even when it's a seasonal business. Focus on the new, the exciting and the innovative. Show how that is relevant to your audience and its needs. Explain just how you achieve the excitement and innovation. When Mercedes produced its "invisible car" as part of its legal requirements to reduce emissions in the cars it produces what went viral was its video of how it actually made the advert for the car.

3. Popularity

To have your efforts resonate, your activities talked about and your brand mentioned again and again online you need to be in tune with those you want to reach. Ted Lieu's "positive things" admonition is a prime example of this. In explaining something that is complex he used an example that immediately resonates with our own intuition of how reputation works. The 2017 Coca Cola recycling campaign in the UK is a classic example of how this works for business.

Search is a complex subject driven by algorithms and artificial intelligence but the question and answer nature of its interface reflects human nature where need and curiosity meet actionable information. Solve that and you're well on your way to ranking high in search regardless of its complexity.      

Published on: Dec 21, 2018
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