Google is constantly working to apply enhancements to its organic ranking algorithms which are designed to present the most relevant businesses to a consumer, based on the keywords he/she uses.
This comes as no surprise and is common knowledge. However, in May of 2020, Google announced big changes are coming but due to COVID, the changes will be activated in early 2021. This was also done to give businesses time to prepare.
What is the change?
Put simply, organic rankings will be based on the standard of relevant experiences businesses provide a consumer who has intent. Though this is a critical change for retailers, it applies across everything. Banks and Financial institutions need to assess their experiences when consumers search for "mortgages" or "car loans".
These changes will dramatically change the SEO landscape for all businesses wishing to be at the top of the Google search results pages (also known as "SERPS"). These changes will also rock the foundation of all SEO agencies.
Greg Randall has been predicting this sea change for the last 3 to 5 years, but now Google is (finally) publishing their approach. This approach can be found in "Google Search Central": Google's blog.
Below is a summary of key statements Google has made about this change. Click on this link to read the entire article in Google Search Central to gain the full explanation of what Google is doing and why they are doing it.
This from Google:
The Chrome team recently announced Core Web Vitals, a set of metrics related to speed, responsiveness and visual stability, to help site owners measure user experience on the web. Core Web Vitals is a set of real-world, user-centred metrics that quantify key aspects of the user experience.
We're combining the signals derived from Core Web Vitals with our existing Search signals for page experience, which are mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines, to provide a holistic picture of the quality of a user's experience on a web page.
The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile. We believe this will contribute to business success on the web as users grow more engaged and can transact with less friction.
This new holistic picture of experiences will be incorporated into our ranking criteria.
We plan to incorporate more page experience signals on a yearly basis to both further align with evolving user expectations and increase the aspects of user experience that we can measure.
This information was released in May 2020.
Google's UX Playbook:
To further emphasise how serious Google is approaching this change, in mid-2019, Google released "UX Playbooks" for multiple industry types: Retail, Lead Generation, Travel etc...
This content comprises guidance designed to provide a high-level summary of the best practice principles needed to be in place to drive online engagement.
What's interesting is Google's Retail playbook is strikingly similar to Greg Randall's eCommerce Best Practice business books published over two years ago. Click here to see a high-level summary of the five books Greg published on the same subject matter. The fundamental difference between Google's Playbook and Greg's books is, Greg provides a greater layer of detail as to what best practice looks like along with the data that proves how and why these principles will drive engagement and a higher volume of online sales.
What are the top digital subject matter experts saying?
An article has recently come out from eConsultancy titled, "Search trends: how will search marketing and SEO evolve in 2021". This research talks to these changes and quotes some of the top digital brains in Europe on what they think these changes will bring.
UX and SEO: an ever-closer union:
The section of this article which is of high interest is the section titled: "UX and SEO: An ever-closer union".
This section interviews the top Digital subject matter experts in Europe (some are colleagues of Greg Randall) providing statements echoing the comments Greg has been saying for the last 3 to 5 years.
“Google has a concrete idea of how a perfect user experience has to look for different industries. In 2021 and beyond, SEOs and marketers will need to focus even more on getting the user experience right.
"If you want your site to perform well in search, you need to get to grips with what users want to achieve on your site – and make those things as straightforward and easy to do as possible."
"2020 marks the end of an era for SEO. 2020 will see the end of SEO as we know it, and usher in a new era for Search Experience. This is due to the string of announcements Google made this year, which will change how the user experience is optimised.”
Google will be flagging experiences in (SERPS - search results pages):
As an extension to this "experience update", Google has gone on to state how it plans to inject specific "Flags" on search results pages for those businesses who delivery amazing online experiences.
The "Flags" will identify those sites that offer great online experiences based on the search terms the consumer entered.
This is significant.
Once consumers understand what this flag represents, it will be an influencer to prompt consumers to click on those links where flags are present.
Imagine a consumer searching for "noise-cancelling headphones" and while reviewing the search results, the consumer sees a "badge" which says "this retailer provides great "Noise-Cancelling Headphone" experiences?!
Google has not yet announced what this will look like or the wording to be used, but this is the idea and intent of Google.
These changes to the organic presence in Google are not a one-off.
Google finishes this article with the following statement...
Because we continue to work on identifying and measuring aspects of page experience, we plan to incorporate more page experience signals on a yearly basis to both further align with evolving user expectations and increase the aspects of user experience that we can measure.
The days of stuffing paragraphs with keywords at the top and bottom of category pages are over.
Businesses who want to drive SEO in the future must activate customer-centric change. They need to work with a "CEO" - a "Chief Empathy Officer" who can help them listen to their customers and design change that enables the business to digitally engage with their target market with a high degree of relevancy which can scale.
There is a science to achieving this and over the last 20 years, Greg Randall has perfected it.
If those reading this understand the gravity of what's coming, the two next steps you need to take is, first learn more about Customer Experience Design and, second, collaborate with a Customer Experience Design Specialist.
2021 is going to be an exciting year in the digital commerce space.