Since its inception, Google has been nothing more than a very sophisticated machine. And, as a machine, Google has grown through many phases. Its impact has changed our lives. And, as people learned how to game the system, Google has been forced to change the rules; alter the machine. Each time those who use Google the most for business purposes figure out how to take advantage of the mechanics of the system, Google changes the rules again. It is a constant game.
The algorithms that Google uses are always evolving and getting better. Often the changes are so subtle that people don’t even notice. In other cases, the updates are dramatic and give those attempting to game the system significant heartburn. By constantly updating the algorithms, it makes it easier for Google to penalize the scammers. This is great for consumers, but it presents challenges for authentic businesses to stay current on SEO best practices.
The Big Change
All the mechanical tricks are dead now. Stuffing keywords or intentionally publishing content that appeals to search engine crawlers, but not to real people, simply does not work. This is because starting around October 2015, Google integrated artificial intelligence (AI) into its search engine. Without getting too deeply into the weeds, the process essentially turns words into mathematical formulae that predict what Google thinks a searcher meant as much as precisely what the searcher typed. They call it “RankBrain.”
RankBrain allows Google to analyze the thought process behind the words a searcher types into a browser instead of just the unidimensional, obvious definition of the words they use. RankBrain analyzes the meaning behind the keywords and integrates the information learned from previous search activity in an effort to display the most accurate results possible.
What Tire Dealers Need to Do Now
So, what does a local tire dealer do with the RankBrain conundrum? The key to success in this new world is relatively simple. Be human.
It may be that your website is dedicated to deals and descriptions. This is functional and practical, but it is not marketing. To appeal to today’s consumer – to build trust and to show up organically on Google at the same time – your web content needs to entertain and educate. And, the language needs to sound – you guessed it – “human.”
For example, in the past, if you typed in “best tires for an automobile” and “best car tires” you would likely get different results. As artificial intelligence interprets the word strings, it is more likely that it would “understand” that the meaning was the same in human terms and respond with very similar answers.
Gary Illyes, who describes himself as “House Elf and Chief of Sunshine and Happiness at Google” on his Twitter page, explains the process of managing your way around RankBrain this way:
“Optimizing for RankBrain is actually super easy … write in natural language. Try to write content that sounds human. If you try to write like a machine, then RankBrain will just get confused and probably just push back. If (your content) sounds conversational, if it sounds like natural language that you would use in your day-to-day life, then you are optimized for RankBrain.”
In simplest terms, instead of trying to predict how Google will perceive your content and use structured tricks to create that perception, just focus on providing conversational information to prospective tire consumers. As RankBrain matures, it will become more intelligent and human-like. It will become even more capable of distinguishing between high-quality content and low-quality spam. Gaming that system is actually pretty easy: How would you talk to a friend?
Talking to Friends
In this new world where computers are thinking like humans, tire dealers need to think like consumers. You talk to them every day. Get inside their heads. Find out what they are looking for and tailor your web content accordingly.
This can be as simple as: speaking to the problems you hear them express to you; answering questions you hear them ask; and framing the content in terms of benefits rather than superlatives about your business.
As you plan this with your webmaster, include everyone in your dealership that has contact with customers. Gather their input. Rework it into web content.
When it is all boiled down, the key is represented by the acronym E-A-T: expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. When your content conveys these key factors in very human language, Google will reward you with high page quality, and as a consequence, higher rankings among your competitors who probably have not even heard of RankBrain – or even considered writing web content like you would talk to a human.