Having Drinks With a Google Programmer - What I Learned
A little more than a year ago I wrote a couple of WA blog posts about having dinner with Google. This was actually a friend and former co-worker who is now a Senior Programmer at Google. I hadn't seen him for many years prior to our meeting so I restricted my conversation from being about SEO and how Google ranks our content.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
If you were me, would you lead right into questions about how you could get better, quicker and higher rankings for your website content? I hadn't seen the guy in almost 20 years. I didn't want to scare him from wanting to meet up with me again in the future because who knows, I may just have some legitimate SEO questions to ask him.
If your friend was one of the programmers working on the Google search results and ranking algorithm, could you contain yourself and not talk SEO? It was hard for me not to but I did have help because out of the group of a dozen of us, I was the only one with a website who would find his answers revealing and beneficial.
So I didn't get too much information in my first two meet ups with my friend David. He was never much of a talker about his job, even when he and I were in the same video game design company. He would rather talk about living in California, computers, online video games, and board games like Dungeons & Dragons, he's a BIG D&D FAN!
However, I wanted to know some answers to questions I had about SEO and clues into the hidden nuggets of information that Google does not broadcast to a majority of the online world. I was determined to get at least some info that I could share with all of you, seeing how we all rely on Google for the ranking and traffic to our website content.
ALCOHOL IS MY FRIEND
Long story short, David flew back to New Jersey the Friday after New Years Day for some yearly D&D tournament that normally happens in Texas at the home of another friend and ex co-worker. One of the people from New Jersey who normally attends fractured his foot and could not travel so the D&D tournament was held in NJ. Afterwards we got together for drinks.
I totally forgot that David rarely drinks liquor. He drinks mostly beer like I do, but I will never turn down a shot or two of agave tequila, my favorite is Patron Silver. Someone asked, who wants to do shots of tequila? Seeing how I was able to walk to this pub from my home I knew I didn't have to drive so I said, I'll do a shot!
David said NO WAY! How can you drink that stuff? It burns, plus the lemon and salt? Then he had seen that I was the only one that didn't get a shot of Cuervo tequila and that mine looked more like vodka, and I didn't need a lemon or salt. He asked, is that vodka? I said no, it's really smooth tequila, no lemon or salt required. Do you want to try it?
Well he did and he enjoyed it enough to have a second shot with me about 30-45 minutes later. Then I learned how much more talkative David becomes under the influence of alcohol, at least with tequila. So I took advantage of that to see if he would share some new Google info that I had not received from our previous visits.
GOOGLE HAS CHANGED RANKINGS
Yes, Google has changed how they look at SEO and rank websites. When I started back in 2013 it was still relevant to take your target keyword, place it a certain amount of times in your content, and this would indicate to Google what your content was about and what you wanted to be ranked for. In essence this was called Keyword Density.
Unknown to many, except SEO experts at Google and those few with direct connection to the search engine giant, Keyword Density as it was known was being killed off. David says that both the Google ranking algorithm and thus SEO is constantly evolving. This in turn meant that Keyword Density in its present form had to die and be transformed.
The way people search online was drastically changing by way of voice search, and because of this SEO had to change as well. The major search algorithm core update called Hummingbird was the final nail in the Keyword Density coffin. No longer was the old way needed for ranking a website. Google was no longer looking at one specific keyword.
The concept of using multiple keywords was still going to continue but the process was going to be totally different. It is pretty well-known to those who pay attention to SEO that there is still a ton of OLD information being shared online. David says that Google is still ranking you for multiple uses of keywords but NOT the same specific keyword.
HOW SMART IS RANK BRAIN?
Are you asking yourself, what is Rank Brain? First off Google says that it is the 3rd most important ranking factor in the ranking algorithm behind content and links. My friend David says it is a very important aspect of the entire search results process which constantly gets updated. Not only does he and others update it but Rank Brain teaches itself.
Rank Brain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that is a major component of the Hummingbird core algorithm. It is used to help process the search results based on the keyword query that a person types or speaks into Google. If you are wondering what machine-learning means, in simple terms Rank Brain can teach itself instead of being programmed.
The reason why it is important to optimize your content for Rank Brain, which technically is not directly possible, is because Rank Brain is responsible for ranking your content in the SERPs as soon as someone types/speaks in a RELEVANT keyword query. Notice I emphasized relevant. Rank Brain does not look for multiple uses of the same target keyword.
Instead, Rank Brain is looking for other relevant keywords that best answer the more complex search queries that people are now using when going up on Google. Voice Search makes up at least 50% of how people search online in 2020 and this trend will continue to grow and eventually replace typed in search queries. This will make queries more complex.
1st HUMMINGBIRD & 2nd RANK BRAIN
Back in 2013 shortly after the new Google core algorithm Hummingbird was activated I did a tutorial about Long Tail Keywords. In it I stated some SEO facts, one of them being that 70% of all search queries in the search engines are Long Tail Keywords. This is mainly because long tail keywords tend to be more "natural speaking" terms other than just words.
The majority of people when doing a search whether it be typing it or more so speaking it nowadays, are asking queries in a natural speaking way. "Where to stay when visiting Mount Rushmore," " the cheapest hotels on the Las Vegas Strip," "how to do keyword research for SEO ranking on Google." These are specific queries in a natural tone.
By using long tail keywords you get to target a more human audience that are looking for specific things and in a more natural speaking tone. David says that Google search wants to be as naturally human as possible and mainly get away from those short three or four word keywords because natural speaking is how the majority of people search Google.
This is becoming more evident with "Smart Voice Search" devices like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomePod, and many others. Google knows that voice search is rapidly becoming the normal way to doing search and needs a way to rank content that is optimized for this type of search. Rank Brain is a major step in that direction.
RANK BRAIN = BETTER USER EXPERIENCE
Another important ranking factor in Google's algorithm is User Experience (UX). When people read your website content they want lots of information that is unique, fresh (not rehashed content), and written in a conversational tone that is not repeating the same thing over and over. This is the type of content Google will highly rank, especially when it is long-form.
I created a tutorial a few weeks prior to this post that shows you how you need to be using your keywords in this current age of Hummingbird and Rank Brain for a good SEO and UX. You can read it here at What Does Keyord Rich Content Mean in SEO. Like the terms Keyword Density and LSI Keywords, Keyword Rich Content means something different.
David says that processes like these still get used but in a totally different way to reflect the constant evolution of how Google ranks content. Keyword Density has merged with LSI Keywords and Google calls it internally as Word Vector Approach. This becomes the new meaning of Keyword Rich Content. It is really interesting learning this stuff from David.
He says that with each future update to the core algorithm, Rank Brain is going to start lowering the rankings of content that is now ranking high if it is not properly optimized. So if you see a significant drop in your rankings, this could be a major reason why. Rank Brain is now going through more and more already indexed content looking to re-rank it accordingly.
HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR CONTENT
David gave me some information to reference for helping webmasters like ourselves to better protect our rankings against all future Google updates going forward. These guidelines come directly from Google and though they do not give 100% protection, they can prevent huge drops in your rankings as Rank Brain continues to go through already indexed content.
By incorporating the keyword techniques I describe in the tutorial I linked to above and write your content using both long tail keywords and long form content, you will give Google better optimized content for it to index and rank. The days of writing content based solely on one keyword repeated often are dead. Out with the old and in with the new conversational SEO.
The Google guidelines I showcase in the tutorial at the link below, high quality SEO content, good UX and expertise in your niche are what Google wants to see and rank you for. In the comments of my previous tutorial I was challenged that my information was wrong because the Yoast plugin has a green light when a target keyword is used a certain amount of time.
My response was that those red and green lights are only recommendations. Yoast even says in their own blog that content can still highly rank without getting all lights to green. Using a target keyword multiple times is not current SEO, using multiple synonym keywords along with relevant thorough content is what will get you long-lasting higher rankings.