September 27, 2013, 3:11 PM

Google rewrites its rules

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"We added SSL encryption for our signed-in search users in 2011, as well as searches from the Chrome omnibox earlier this year," a Google spokesman said Friday. "We’re now working to bring this extra protection to more users who are not signed in.”

What encrypted search means is that marketers and retailers will know that shoppers come from Google via organic search results, “but won't receive information about each individual query,” Kao wrote. “They can also receive an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to their site for each of the past 30 days through Google Webmaster Tools.”

Online marketers and retailers will certainly notice the change, and may end up diverting more of their budgets to paid search, which will provide more details about how consumers are getting to e-commerce sites and buying, experts say. “Losing Google’s keyword-level reporting will have a significant impact on how organic search performance is tracked, optimized and analyzed,” says Ryan Mayberry, SEO director for search engine marketing firm iProspect.

IProspect encourages marketers and retailers to better integrate organic search keyword data—for instance, how often visitors who search for a term interact with an e-commerce site—with data from paid search campaigns and other search engines, along with historical comparative keyword and conversion data.

Finally, the third recent change for Google involves a change to its mathematical formula for ranking and placing search results, a move that affects some 90% of all searches, Google says. The change is called Hummingbird, and experts, along with Google officials, describe it as the biggest revision to the company’s search algorithm since 2010’s Caffeine update—or perhaps even since 2000, Wisnefski says. Caffeine enables Google’s crawling technology to take in the web in smaller bites than the previous system, resulting in quicker updates to its search index. 

Here’s the good news for e-retailers, according to experts: Hummingbird was quietly introduced about a month ago—surprise!—which means that if retailers have not experienced a decrease in search traffic since then, Hummingbird is probably not going to cause one, at least not for the time being.

Here’s the other news, though: Context appears to be much more important in Google searches than before. While previous Google updates emphasized web page quality, including the quality of links, and fresh, original content, Hummingbird goes beyond that. That’s because Google’s update aims to improve search results by taking in the context and full meaning of what a consumer is searching for.

Here’s how it works, according to what King knows now: Searches for “cheap hotels” would result in affordable hotels “as opposed to hotels of low quality.” That will require retailers to revise web page content to reflect such a context, which will help in rankings. “This rollout seems to target mobile searchers, since these are the users that are least likely to do multiple ‘refinement’ searches,” he says. “Google has a lot of historical information, but as new items or events change the context of searches, the algorithm will change accordingly.”

Google officials also said during the Hummingbird introduction this week that search update will go a long way toward accommodating searches done by voice, which likely would be longer phrases than those consumers type. Google indicated the change was driven in part by consumers becoming more comfortable with searching by using longer questions.





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