According to one recent study, the vast majority of all people still find a brand for the first time in the exact same way: via a search engine. A massive 93% of all online experiences still begin that way, which is why concepts like search engine optimization are so important.
More than that, the same resource indicated that about 70% of the links that users click on when they make a search are organic. This means that while PPC (pay-per-click) advertising alongside the search results do make somewhat of an impact, they can’t match the power – or the reach – of ranking organically.
Google uses an algorithm – the mechanics of which are a closely guarded secret – to determine which pages rank highly for which terms. If you check enough of the algorithm’s proverbial boxes, your content is deemed both valuable and relevant and you rank highly as a result. If you don’t, you might appear near the bottom of the page or even on page two – which is a location that roughly 95% of all users will never reach.
So if you’re a business that wants to connect with as many new customers as possible, ranking as highly in Google as you can should always be a top priority. It’s also why it’s critical to pay attention to whenever Google updates their algorithm – as they’ve recently done once again.
The Situation With Google’s Algorithm
Again, the precise way that Google’s algorithm works tends to be kept from the public to keep people from gaming the system. It’s a little like how keyword implementation used to work in previous years.
Once people figured out that keywords mattered and that Google used them – and their volume – to determine how a page should rank, everyone began the practice of keyword stuffing. This means that the quality of the content itself didn’t matter – so long as you had the right keywords inserted into the page as many times as possible, you were virtually guaranteed to rank highly.
Once Google tried to put a stop to that practice, people got tricky. They would hide keywords on the page that were the same color as the background. Your average reader wouldn’t ever see this – but Google’s “spiders” would. Once discovered, Google updated their algorithm to put a stop to this as well, penalizing pages that practiced it in a way that saw their average traffic rates eviscerated.
Indeed, that’s why Google updates its search algorithm many times per year – in part to help provide more accurate results, and in part to try to catch people who are “cheating” their way to the top. Remember that Google makes the vast majority of its money via ad revenue, and that number is so high because it has a 90% marketshare on all searches around the world. If Google continually returns low quality or spammy links to searchers, those users will soon look for alternatives. That means ad revenue will drop.
Google doesn’t want that. Which means that you can’t want that, either.
The Recent Update: Breaking Things Down
In September, Google confirmed that it had rolled out an updated specifically related to product reviews. Essentially, Google is now “rewarding” high quality product reviews that “share in-depth research” about a brand’s products and services.
Those product reviews where someone is overwhelmingly positive or overwhelmingly negative? The ones where someone is either so happy you think they must be a bot, or so upset that they clearly aren’t recognizing that they didn’t know how to use the product and made a mistake and should be embarrassed? Those don’t matter as much anymore compared to the ones in the middle.
The product reviews that matter are the ones that include photos and videos. That provide detailed breakdowns about the benefits and disadvantages of a product. The ones that compare how something works with competing products. The kind that you’re most likely to see on a site like Reddit. The list goes on and on.
What you’re thinking is correct – your average customer or user of a mobile app like Robinhood app absolutely does not want to do any of this. They don’t have time. It’s just not a realistic idea. They have lives to lead, mortgages to pay. Kids to feed and play with. But Google, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that all of this is important. Which means that if you’re looking for an opportunity to supplant your larger competitors, you need to encourage your own customers to leave reviews that are as detailed as humanly possible.
Note that you’re also not allowed to offer them anything for free in exchange for them doing so. You need to hope that your average customer is someone with enough time on their hands to want to do this all on their own. Is this a tall order? Sure. But again – if you want to play the game, you have to play by Google’s rules. At least for the foreseeable future.