February 13, 2017

Machine Learning And Artificial Intelligence Improve Search Results

New technology that is being used by Google has improved the mechanisms for understanding search intention and could render traditional methods obsolete.

US research company Searchmetrics recently published its latest study on Google ranking factors, and these support what your local SEO agency has been saying for some time – that the latest technologies used by Google are revolutionising the way it understands and analyses what users are looking for when they search.

This means that results are better and more relevant than ever before, and has major implications for anyone looking to improve their SEO in 2017.

The whitepaper is the latest study on annual ranking factors to be published by Searchmetrics, who have been producing these reports every year since 2012. However, they have commented this this will be the last such report they will issue, as ranking factors and correlations are no longer seen as such important benchmarks for webmasters and online marketers – further evidence, if any were needed, of the changing face of SEO.

In their study, Searchmetrics analysed the top 20 search results for 10,000 keywords on Google. They used this data to identify common factors among consistently high-ranking pages. Some of the key findings of the paper are as follows:

User Intent Is Key To Relevant Content

Anybody with even a passing interest in SEO knows that its main objective is to create content that is relevant and targeted towards satisfying the user’s specific needs.

Relevance, however, very much depends on the intent behind a user’s search, and it is this aspect that AI and machine learning seeks to exploit. For example, a user typing “British Prime Minister during World War Two” is seeking a specific piece of information. The query “Italian restaurants in Cambridge” should, however, elicit a list of options, and the search “replace screen on iPhone” could be best served with video content, or a local repair shop.

Mark Tober from Searchmetric remarked, “Our research suggests that Google is getting better at interpreting user intent to show the most relevant content.”

Ranking Factors Are Becoming More Complex And Personalised

Individual ranking factors are now applied to each industry, and even to each individual search query, and these factors are constantly changing due to the Machine Learning algorithms that Google uses to evaluate websites and search queries.

Understanding how these algorithms process and analyse data is the real touchstone for successful SEO in 2017.

Increased User Signals

The amount of data that Google can now access regarding user behaviour is truly mind-boggling, and one can only imagine what George Orwell would make of Google’s ability to analyse our every action when searching the internet.

This data enables Google to understand how satisfied a user is with their search results, through where they click and how long they remain on a specific site. When combined with information about user intentions and Machine Learning methods mentioned above, it is easy to see how effective the system for evaluating the relevance of results can become – and bear in mind that all this can be done in real time.

Backlinks Are Less Important

Of course, a well-established internal link structure is still a primary foundation of SEO. However, backlinks are no longer the primarily factor to determine search engine rankings. Indeed, in certain circumstances, some websites can achieve a high Google ranking despite having far fewer links than their competitors.

There are a number of reasons for this decline, not least the rise in mobile search queries and the increasing number of apps ranking high in searches. In these circumstances, it is likes and shares that are important, and active links are of less relevance.

SEO is constantly changing and what you may have learned five years ago will likely now no longer be effective. In the future, we expect to see further moves away from desktop searches, and mobile text searches are likely to see a decline as more voice activated search apps are developed. All of this is providing users with a better experience, and it is the responsibility of businesses to update their digital marketing strategies to remain competitive.