In our last episode, we discussed how Google can use semantic frames to verify claims and build trust. We talked about how linking out to other authoritative sources works in a way that is similar to citing your sources in a school term paper. There are some other things going on here that don’t relate to that.
Constantly Fluctuating Results – Everflux Enhanced
In the early days of Google, things stayed the same for a long period of time. Once every month or so, they would inject the new pages and information that Google had discovered about existing pages into the results. It was so much information that it would take several days to merge the old stuff with the new stuff gathered from the previous month’s deep crawl. These (somewhat) monthly updates were called the Google Dance.
Eventually, Google started taking “fresh” things that it found and inserting them into the results on a daily basis. Different from the “dance,” the fresh results would start to keep Google in a constant state of “everflux” (a term originally coined by me over at Webmaster World, though I couldn’t find the thread.). I came up with the term based upon the fact that suddenly the once static results at Google were suddenly “ever fluctuating” from day to day. Everflux and what GoogleGuy liked to call “Minty Fresh Results” really changed things. For some years, we still had our monthly Google Dance, but everflux meant we had to start watching our rankings daily.
Down the road, as the ranking system evolved, Google was able to inject things into the search results as they were discovered and the Google Dance was no more. Before too long, the term Everflux went out of fashion since constant fluctuation was now the norm.
What’s New Now, Then?
I’ve seen a lot of reports from people saying that their search positions are changing wildly from hour to hour. They are also reporting that there are huge differences between searches made from a smart phone and ones made from their desktop computer. Almost all of these were sites that were also listed in Google Local search. (For the new folks, Google Local is that list of businesses with the map that comes up on certain searches which shows you places you can go which match what you’re looking for based upon their Google My Business listing.)
For quite some time, the normal list of organic search results has been influenced by location. If I search for “window replacement” and I’m in New York City, chances are that a contractor in Los Angeles isn’t going to be much use to me. Google accounts for that for industries which it knows can only service a limited area. It knows where I am and it knows where the companies are, so the ranking of the pages reflects that knowledge.
Now people are starting to see results for the same search term made from the same location be different at different times of the day. Why would that be? The answer is, once again, semantic frames.
Okay Google, I’m Hungry
In the latest update there is considerable evidence that Google is using what it knows about various entities a bit more efficiently. The following example isn’t necessarily something you can specifically check, rather it is designed to explain the concept of what’s happening so you can understand it and use it to understand result fluctuations in your own industry niche. Location, time of day, and even density of potential results in your area seems to have a bearing on how much of this comes into play.
Let’s say I’m sitting at my desktop computer and I search for “restaurants.” Google doesn’t know exactly where I am, but it can get an estimate by the location of my IP address – something that is usually within 10 miles or so. At least it has a starting point and, for a while now, Google has been able to show me restaurants in that area without me needing to type a location. If I’m on the phone and doing the search, it’s even better because it knows exactly where I am and what is nearby. This isn’t new.
What is new is Google’s better and expanded understanding of my intent. If I’m at my desktop computer, it knows I’m likely to be either at home or at work. When I search for “restaurants” I might be looking for a place to eat right now, but I might be looking for somewhere to eat later – maybe to have lunch, or dinner that night, or even a nice place to go eat this weekend. When I’m on the phone, though, it’s far more likely that I am hungry right now and am looking for somewhere close to eat. Google’s understanding of what people want (through the frames it has built around certain search terms) allows Google to alter the results to better provide what I want.
In addition, the frame says that if I’m on my phone and looking for a restaurant that I want to “eat.” Based upon the time of day, it can alter the results a bit to aid in that, too. If it’s morning and I want to eat, there is a good chance I want “breakfast” – so Google can adjust the results a bit to favor breakfast places and also even take into consideration whether or not they are open. Sure, other restaurants will still show up in the results, but the top listings are going to favor the ones that are useful to me right now and that have the things I’m most likely interested in.
This can be applied to a lot of different types of businesses. If I’m at home and search for “auto repair”, Google knows I might need my car fixed, or I might be price shopping for local mechanics in the future, or I might be trying to find the cheapest place in my area to get an oil change. If I’m on my phone, though, there is a much higher probability that I actually need a repair right then, right now. It’s looking for close and available now and will want to favor those results over the wider variety it might give me on my desktop.
Though I don’t think it’s happening just yet, it’s probable in the future that Google will expand this even more to the point where I can guess by my location (the side of the road in the middle of nowhere) and my speed of travel (zero mph) that I not only need an auto repair shop, but that I need one that also offers a towing service. There are all sorts of patents flying around which describe how Google might understand searcher intent in ways like this. We’ll delve into those at a later date.
As an interesting side note, I went to grab a few screenshots of this effect in action and right now (7:15am, Saturday) my mobile and desktop results are identical. It’s frustrating (I was seeing it the other day when I studying for this article) not ultimately not all that surprising. There aren’t currently any restaurants open within 5 miles of me – so Google can’t really give me any of the “instant gratification” type results.
Filling the Frames to Help Google Know you
Again, this is not an entirely new phenomenon, but it’s one that this update seems to have made work a lot better. In the screenshot here, I searched Google for “Macaroni and Cheese Collinsville”. Without the “Collinsville” – the town I live in – portion, Google can’t be as sure what I want and it tends to show recipes more then places to get it – which makes sense.
The results are also quite different if I search “near me.” It expands the distance a bit and looks for places that actually “feature” Macaroni and Cheese in some way – even going out as far as 18 miles (which is forever away if you live in the Northeast) to show me a restaurant named Macaroni.
For this demonstration, though, I wanted to show you some results where no one “optimized” for Macaroni specifically – but where the results are affected by what Google knows about the menu. The top section is what we call the Local Search 3-Pack. The listings below that are the start of our localized organic search results. Notice how the Crown and Hammer listing appears second.
Looking at the top part, we get a nice example of semantic frames telling Google things. The Crown & Hammer’s “website mentions” mac and cheese. Google sees that it’s “on the Menu” at Francesca’s. And the Grindstone has a positive review for Mac and Cheese. Down in our organic results, the Crown and Hammer appears naturally. Traditional SEO thought suggests that to rank for Macaroni and Cheese you need to make a page about it, slap the words all over the page, and optimize your titles, text, and keywords.
In today’s Google, that is not always necessary.
Don’t get me wrong – all the basic SEO fundamentals are needed. Lisa didn’t just magically appear for Mac and Cheese by the mere mention of the word. She spends a considerable amount of time (and probably money) working on developing and building her online presence. The credibility and trust she’s built by gaining links to her site along with all the other things give Google the confidence to say that if I’m looking for some Macaroni and Cheese in Collinsville, the Crown is a good bet.
Tune In Next Time…
Done here? Move on to Understanding the Google Update Part Three.
Missed Part One? Read it Here.
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