Search observers will understand what we mean when we say Google’s going through something of a long-term transitional phase at the moment.

It’s fair to say Google’s having a bit of an identity crisis.Whether it’s huge algorithm updates, changing the scope of its local search results or shifting its focus to content instead of links it’s fair to say Google’s having a bit of an identity crisis.

A number of webmasters and online marketing agencies aren’t happy.

They feel that Google is shifting the goalposts in regard SEO, in how to rank, and tackling a culture of what they believed at the time to be ethical link building practices.

But in the long-term Google is looking to provide searchers with better-quality information and knowledge than ever before.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at three of its most recent movements:

1: Greater transparency

Google’s transparency has always been a problem with webmasters, especially in light of massive algorithm changes such as Penguin and Panda.

Google has therefore introduced a Manual Webspam feature that shows webmasters if they’ve incurred a manual penalty on their site.

Google says that under two per cent of domains submitted to its index are affected by a manual webspam action, but that still contains a huge number of webmasters eager to know if they’ve been subjected to a manual penalty or not.

Don’t forget, Google isn’t just some big search robot. It has a team of humans working for it that can assess websites according to Google’s guidelines.

 

The manual action will also provide troubleshooting assistance to help webmasters fix their issues and improve the user experience.

 

And now webmasters can see if said humans have penalised them if they enter Webmaster Tools, just click ‘Search Traffic’ and look at the ‘Manual Actions’ section.

So, if a Google employee feels a webmaster has violated the search engine’s guidelines, they can personally affect a site’s rankings and leave correspondence informing the site owner of what action needs to be taken.

The manual action will also provide troubleshooting assistance to help webmasters fix their issues and improve their own site’s user experience. Once the webmaster has fixed the problem they can submit the site for reconsideration with ease by clicking the ‘Request a review’ button.

It’s a feature that the web community has been crying out for, and offers online marketers that base a lot of their campaign work around Google with a more transparent search service than ever before.

2: More detailed information

While Panda and Penguin may be able to penalise sites that offer low-quality information, a poor user experience, and sites that have tried manipulating search results by building unnatural backlinks, but that still doesn’t necessarily mean that the very best sites will feature at the top for certain search queries.

Google is adding what it calls ‘in-depth articles’ to its search results.

One way Google’s looking to combat that problem is by adding what it calls ‘in-depth articles’ to its search results.

Long-form articles that are recognised as high-quality sources (think big magazine-style features, or specialist white papers hundreds of pages long) will appear in the centre of search results. Google says:

“Our goal is to surface the best in-depth articles from the entire web. In general our algorithms are looking for the highest quality in-depth articles, and if that’s on a local newspaper website or a personal blog, we’d like to surface it.”

This will be especially useful for searchers that want specialist, accurate information for a broad range of topics.

The clever marketer will also be able to take note of who produces such content and recognise them as influencers in that particular field, as we covered in our influencer marketing blog last week.

Having detailed content as part of your overall long-term content marketing strategy will help show people how knowledgeable your brand is in a particular field.

3: A greater focus on mobile

Mobile’s emergence over the last five years shows no signs of slowing down. As such Google has introduced a new set of guidelines to its mobile requirements to make sure that searchers get the best experience possible when browsing on the move.

One of the most important movements is that Google wants mobile sites to load incredibly fast – less than a second, in fact, with the server ideally rendering the response in less than 200 milliseconds.

Another important thing for webmasters to take note of is that mobile user experience is still one of the most important issues. That means content above the fold.

For those still finding their feet in the world of mobile optimisation Google is offering advice and providing benchmarking testing tools for webmasters and developers to use to properly configure their sites.

Other things that need to be considered are:

  • Servers need to quickly render the response (< 200ms)
  • Minimise the number of redirects
  • The number of roundtrips to first render need to be minimised
  • Above-fold content needs to avoid external blocking of CSS and JavaScript
  • The reserve time for browser layout and rendering ideally needs to be at 200ms
  • JavaScript execution and rendering time should be optimised

The overall theme though is that user engagement is key. Fast-loading pages packed with accessible content for the user on the move.

The future of Google?

While Google may be trying some different techniques in bringing information to the masses, from the savvy-looking Google Glass project to the bizarre Project Loon, its core mission to bring quality search results to the general public is still being refined.

Google’s corporate site officially says:

‘Google’s mission is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’

 

Google's core mission to bring quality search results to the masses is still being refined.

Since it was founded in 1998 the search engine has introduced a number of changes and algorithm updates, but they always insist that it’s to relay a quality search experience to the user.

Offering greater transparency and promoting more long-form content is in line with that goal, while laying down the law for mobile sites to deliver information to a growing medium shows that the company has its finger on the pulse, optimising for emerging trends as well as creating their own.

 

If you’d like to learn more about how to get your site to gain greater search visibility in a positive, ethical manner contact the Webpresence team today to find out more.