What’s the real impact of machine learning on SEO?
This has been one of the biggest debates within SEO over the last year.
Google is the most successful search engine as evidenced by its number 1 status in most countries. Google wants to find pages that have extraordinary user engagement metrics like organic search click-through rate (CTR), dwell time, bounce rate, and conversion rate – and reward that content with higher organic search rankings. If other users like the content of a website and web page then it is likely that others searching for the information will also like such pages.
Some have questioned whether there is evidence that Google uses machine learning in its ranking algorithm.
Larry Kim ran SEO experiments looking at the effect of click through rates over time. He found that higher click through rates were indeed associated with increased rankings on results pages.
In a more recent experiment, Larry found that dwell time can similarly affect ranking. Larry commented that Google’s machine learning algorithms are seeing through pages that ranked well a year or so ago, but didn’t deserve high-ranking whereas machine learning is resulting in deserving pages being ranked higher.
Many of Larry Kim’s analyses looked at data on word stream. He has concluded that pages with below average time on site are vulnerable in terms of SEO. Machine learning has more of an insidious effect on ranking compared to the dramatic changes noted with the Panda and Penguin updates.
Expected effects of search engine machine learning for SEO
Google is making great strides in its efforts to reward quality pages with higher rankings. SEO involving on page optimisation (keyword placement on the pages) and off page optimisation (link power building) may help, at least to begin with, page ranking. These days the maxim “content is king” is more relevant than ever. As an example, on page optimisation and off page optimisation could move a firm of solicitors in Bournemouth up the search results pages. It is indeed likely that Google tests the water. If they site’s pages are associated with long dwell time high-ranking will be maintained.
A plumber in Wembley might appreciate that first page ranking on Google for “plumber in Wembley” would help his business. And SEO optimiser might be able to achieve top page ranking at least initially but the quality of the contents and overall presentation will affect dwell time. Fresh relevant high-quality content should be encouraged if high-ranking is to be maintained.