Online Marketing in 2014: How Google Has Changed

Did you know that 89% percent of consumer purchase decisions, and 71% of business, started with a search engine? It’s difficult to escape or even ignore the impact online marketing has on a business. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Mobile and social habits have changed how we use the internet so much that Google rewrote their search algorithm. Tags and keyword “stuffing” are no longer easy tickets to Google’s first page; content marketing has now become the #1 marketing strategy of 2014.

How Google Has Changed: The Evolution of Search

seo in 2014

Ever since its launch in 1997, Google has continuously been fine-tuning its search algorithm. The latest evolution of the code that powers its search engine, named “Hummingbird,” is so extensive, it may as well be considered a total rewrite. What’s different? The shift to “conversational search”.

What is Conversational Search?

search example

Prior to Hummingbird, searches were largely broken down into individual keywords. This often led to undesirable results, because keywords could mean different things in different contexts.

Now, Google infers meaning from your entire search query, instead of looking at each keyword individually. Hummingbird also pays better attention to social and location cues, as well as prior search history, to serve up the most customized and relevant results possible.

The Shift Towards Mobile

Sharp-eyed desktop and laptop users will also notice the addition of a microphone on the search bar. Voice search is now possible, and serves as another reminder of how more and more people are interacting with the internet via mobile devices — by this time next year, more people will be using tablets and smart phones to access the internet than traditional computers. And since users on mobile devices naturally gravitate towards voice search, Google has made sure to integrate this into their algorithm.

De-emphasizing Keywords


Google Hummingbird’s shift to the more natural, conversational search also serves as a nudge for website owners to focus more on creative, engaging content and less on trying to game the system via keyword manipulation. “Keyword stuffing” as an SEO technique has been waning for years, and the nail in its coffin could very well be another of Google’s changes — the loss of keyword data in Analytics reports. Google has made “secure search” a priority, meaning incoming keyword searches are no longer consistently recorded.

Currently, keyword data is hidden for up to 60% of incoming searches, and some website owners report this figure is even higher. Fortunately, we at Appleton have been preparing for this shift toward user privacy; we focus on other stats that correlate strongly to website conversion in order to paint a picture of a website’s demographics and customer behavior.

Google’s Message to Web Marketers

Ultimately, Google Hummingbird has two major lessons for website owners and marketers:

  1. Optimize for mobile users; they are increasingly becoming your website’s primary audience.
  2. Focus on good content marketing that is valuable to your audience, instead of attempting to “outwit” the search algorithm.

Is your website meeting the needs of mobile and other visitors?
Check out our article on responsive web design and why it’s an important technology to adopt.

What makes good content marketing?
That’s a topic for our next blog article, so stay tuned!

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