Search engines have become so ubiquitous it's hard for most people to remember what finding information was like before they existed. According to Google's latest estimates, the global population conducts an average of 40,000 searches per second (or 1.2 trillion searches annually).
Their extensive usage is all thanks to the numerous search engine algorithm updates that have, over time, made the internet a more user-friendly and informative place for all.
With that in mind, this article will explore the ever-evolving landscape of SEO and how people's search behaviour has changed over time.
We'll outline how the increasing sophistication of search engines has influenced content marketing strategy. We'll also provide tips for ensuring your SEO content draws in clicks and conversions. Read on to learn more.
Timeline of Google’s algorithm updates
Google was launched in 1998 and altered its algorithms many times in the early 2000s. However, we’ll skip over the platform's early developments and simply summarise some of the Google updates from 2011 onwards - as this marks the start of the SEO era as we know it today.
- 2011: Panda – This update prevented low-quality, spammy websites from ranking well in search engine results pages (SERPs)
- 2012: Venice – Search results became based on the user’s location
- 2012: Penguin - High-quality backlinks were favoured over paid-for links
- 2012: Pirate – Copyright infringement rules came into play
- 2013: Hummingbird – Natural language processing tools began to understand the searcher's intent better
- 2013: Pigeon – Local search results were refined
- 2014: HTTP/SSL – Websites were encouraged to adopt HTTPS
- 2015: Mobile – Sites were penalised in SERPs for not being mobile-friendly
- 2015: Rankbrain – Google developed its understating of user intent in search queries
- 2016: Possum – Local results ranked independently from main search results
- 2018: Mobile Speed – Google began to rank mobile sites based on speed and optimisation metrics
- 2018: Medic – Google refined its algorithms to favour reputable sites that were closely matched to the searcher's intent
- 2019: BERT – A Natural language processing update improved Google’s ability to interpret search queries (in line with the rise of voice search technology becoming mainstream)
- 2021: Page Experience – Google favoured pages that offered excellent user experience (UX)
- 2021: MUM – Google's language interpretation abilities improved to provide precise results to complex queries
- 2022: Helpful Content – Google favoured high-quality content that was truly original and helpful
- 2023: Core Algorithm – This update further refined original, high-quality content ranking factors
- 2023: Reviews – In April this year, Google updated its evaluation criteria, favouring authentic reviews and credible opinions
Please note that Google doesn't publicise full details on its updates because it doesn’t want people to game the system. The above summary outlines features of the algorithm updates SEO content experts have observed.
What Google's algorithm updates have taught us about searchers' intent
Creating content marketing for your audience's needs is paramount
Google's natural language processing capabilities have vastly improved over time to coincide with people using the site to find precise answers to their queries. This means that marketers have shifted focus from creating purely keyword-focused content, and have instead centred research on understanding their audience's specific needs.
For example, creating buyer personas enables content marketing teams to identify the questions and pain points potential customers may have about a product or service.
To use a specific example within the tech industry, the blockchain data exchange company ByzGen approached CopyHouse to develop a content marketing strategy highlighting their platform's benefits.
“One noteworthy interaction was sitting in a workshop and deeply reflecting on who we were as a company and what we wanted to achieve. It was a great exercise to help piece together our audience and use it for our rebrand.” - Matthew Birks, COO at ByzGen.
With the help of our buyer persona workshop, ByzGen discovered that their target audience searched for queries like: 'Is blockchain compatible with my existing data management systems?' and: 'How can blockchain help me solve my business challenges?' As a result, we created helpful guides to help users get the most out of the ByzGen platform.
Careful consideration of content design pleases Google’s algorithms
Companies looking to boost their organic traffic must pool their efforts into creating totally original, well-researched blog articles, reports, white papers and more, as Google favours content that links to related pages on-site and references to studies, in-depth articles etc., from trusted sources.
This is because, over the years, Google has learned that searchers spend more time on pages that deliver insightful information alongside accurate answers to their highly-specific queries. They also learned that searchers prefer copy that looks visually appealing (and optimised for mobile, of course).
At CopyHouse, our experienced tech marketing team has a wealth of experience creating engaging, thought-provoking B2B content on a wide range of industry topics. We also have a talented in-house content design team that can present information beautifully as infographics, social media graphics, eBooks, etc. To learn more about our content design services, click here.
Internet users are looking for SEO content with the human touch
Finally, one of the most critical lessons marketers have learned about the art of SEO is that internet users search for content that ties into the real human experience of using a product or service.
Studies reveal that 93% of people read reviews before purchasing. So, if you want your business' marketing collateral to shine, gathering customer testimonials and case studies that showcase your products in action is essential. Read our previous article for more tips on creating credible case studies and testimonials.