Much has been said and written about Hummingbird’s impact on Google SERPs. As Google moves towards becoming an “answer engine”, gauging intent and even predicting queries, it is presenting more and more information, and most importantly, answers, on its results pages. These take the form of knowledge graphs and other information displays and are pushing other web links further down the page and promoting a Google-only experience. A user no longer needs to click another link once they perform their search, at least in some cases.
So, is this Google abusing their monopolistic power? Well, honestly, I’m not sure. Google wants to provide the best answers for users, to give them what they’re looking for. This is fantastic for users, and happy users mean it’s fantastic for Google – people will continue to use their product and in most cases, only their product.
But what about webmasters and business owners? Well, this is tricky. Most importantly, Google does NOT owe them traffic. Too often we hear people complaining about Google’s algorithms or updates affecting their rankings. The short and blunt answer to this is you shouldn’t rely on Google searches for your business model. It is important to find other ways of generating business, both online and through other avenues. However, what if it is your information Google is displaying? You’ve worked hard to become an authority in your subject area, so much so that Google trusts you enough to endorse your information and present it to users. This is a different scenario and one that I think is debatable. Even if Google presents this information as coming from a particular site, a user won’t necessarily click through to that site if their query has already been answered. This means that website owners can either protest and complain (who knows, just maybe?) or they can come up with other ways to drive traffic to their sites and other types of content that makes it worthwhile for a user to find or seek out their sites.
As has been said many times and as I wrote about previously, we can no longer rely on keywords. We need to get creative with our content and think about users. It’s what Google is doing.