Think Like A Search Engine

Think like a search engine by Sean McGinnis

Think like a search engine.

This is one of those mantras we’ve had for a while at 312 digital.

SEO can be seen as very complicated. Because it is when you look at it as a complicated set of math problems.

Google and Bing each use hundreds of different factors to determine how to rank pages. And each engine makes dozens if not hundreds of changes to those algorithms each year.

As we consult with clients about SEO and about how to compete for search traffic, there is inevitably a point at which the discussion turns to “how can we beat the algorithm.”

It’s this mindset that leads down the path of destruction.

To be sure, an algorithm is a rule-set and search is a game to be won. And you definitely want to do what you can to understand those rules and to optimize your web site to follow those rules and win the game as best you can.

But those rules were constructed as a means to an end.

Google is a recommendation engine

In order to be successful in SEO you have to understand that Google is NOT a search engine. Google is a recommendation engine. And just like any human that you would ask for a recommendation:

Where should I go for lunch today?

Is the Hunger Games a good movie?

What do you think about that Econ 235 class, is it worth taking?

Google wants to be able to consider the same factors your next door neighbor would if you asked one of those or a billion other questions.

Google: your next door neighborThe Google algorithm is designed to break that decision down into its constituent parts and to come up with a black and white, mathematical answer that approximates a human decision. The fact that the recommendation is algorithmic does little more than provide scale.

So, stop trying to BEAT Google. And start humanizing the algorithm.

Pretend Google is your next door neighbor. What are the things your next door neighbor would like to see in your business that would drive them to recommend your place to a friend.

Then start doing THAT! You’ll be far better off in the long run.

Would a next door neighbor recommend a company that spun thousands of similar articles that looked the same and then uploaded those articles to content farms purely for the sake of building links? What about a web site that was filled with ads from top to bottom, trying to “monetize” their blog or web site? Would that get a recommendation? Or a site that is filled with pop-up ads? Or one that takes forever to load in a browser?

As Google and Bing take greater efforts to make recommendations appear more human, it’s a perfect time for you to take a more human approach to SEO. Think like a search engine. It will pay huge dividends in the long run.

Don’t you love this post? I did, which is why I asked Sean to let us republish it here on the V3 blog. If you’re in or near the Chicagoland area and want more of Sean’s wisdom, be sure and check out his January class, Introduction to Digital Marketing, which will feature great speakers, lots of actionable information and strategies that you can put to work immediately for you, your clients or your business.

Image built upon via creative commons courtesy of kevenlaw.

This post first appeared on the 312 Digital blog.

Sean McGinnis is a long time friend and a super smart guy. I love the way he thinks and figured you would, too, which is why he’s here. Sean is the founder of 312 Digital and speaks, consults and blogs about SEO, internet marketing, social media and a variety of other topics. He’s based in Chicago and shares my love of cold beer and great food, so we hang out often.

  • http://soulati.com/blog Soulati

    Yep. Together, you’re the dynamic duo. #That.Is.All.

  • http://www.312digital.com Sean McGinnis

    Hahaha. Thanks Jayme. I’ll be sure to wear the red tights today. I’ll leave the black booted superhero role to Shelly. :)

  • http://rhogroupee.com/ Rosemary ONeill

    Now visualizing Sean in red tights….seriously, great way to look at SEO.

  • http://www.312digital.com Sean McGinnis

    Do these red tights make my chicken legs look muscular? LOL!

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  • http://twitter.com/SocMedScientist Ron Callari

    Love the opening visual Sean – gr8 post – humanizing the algo -hmmmnnn – who would have thunk? But given some thought makes all the sense in the world! Except when it comes to new websites and Google’s Sandbox – where the Big G becomes more like a bully than the school mate you’d like to be playing with!

  • http://www.312digital.com Sean McGinnis

    I hear you with the bully analogy Ron. I suppose that extends well beyond the initial “sand box” period for new sites. No doubt Google can exhibit some very bully-like behavior.

    That said, bullying is also very human behavior and can easily be diffused by giving the bully what it wants.

    In the schoolyard, most bullies act out due to feelings of fear, inadequacy and lack of trust. In the web environment, Google is just looking to be able to TRUST you and your site – and just like the in the real world, trust is built over time by exhibiting actions that are deemed trust-worthy.

    Trust isn’t built overnight between humans – there’s no reason to expect any other type of recommendation engine that is looking to mimic a human to be any different.

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