Decrypting the evolution of Google Search - Ideating User Intent

20th Apr 2020
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What do you usually do when something pops up in your mind and you eagerly want to know it’s answer? You ‘Google’ it. Google-ing a particular thing, directly translates to looking up the Internet, so much so, that it is often used as a slang these days. Such is the enormity of the world’s leading search engine that it only becomes more and more difficult to imagine life in its absence.


Google it

But have you ever thought as to how searches were performed before Google even turned up? There used to be search engines before Google too but how accurate was their search mechanism is still something very few know about! Let’s dive into some interesting details that’d possibly further the scope of understanding user intent better.


We’ll take the help of some visuals for greater understanding. Let’s move in a chronological order, shall we?

Dawn of the Age of the Millennials

1990

If you Google the term ‘first search engine’, the search result generally points towards Archie. Archie came with its own set of pros and cons but the basic algorithm that it made use of, is still more-or-less the same, in the present day. The search engine would regularly crawl the websites available in the public-domain and the users would search from the indexed database.


archieve-query-form


However, the biggest takeaway that upcoming search engines would draw from Archie was its failure to return anything except for exact-match results. Quite evidently, the user intent wasn’t taken into account.

1991-1994

With the outbreak of the Internet, multiple search engines showed up in a bid to disrupt the competitor’s markets. Veronica, AltaVista, and WebCrawler are just some of the prominent names that ruled the World Wide Web during the period.


web

However, not all of them came with the same set of elements, Web Crawlers noteworthy feature was, it could scan entire web-pages and users could perform keyword-based searches which would lead them to better results.


Starting to realize the importance of user intent yet? The search engine companies did!

1997

Slowly but gradually, the search engines companies started engineering themselves around user intent, leading to the emergence of AskJeeves, which according to some was but a little ahead of its time. 


ASK


AskJeeves aimed to enhance user connect with the integration of webmail services and active possession of its competitors. It was a search engine centred around catering to the user intent of the users but little did they know that a rival was soon going to change the course of the Internet, as we see today!


GOOGLE

Enter - Backrub AKA Google

The stage had been set and carpets laid! Google entered the market with a bang and became an instant favorite of everyone around the world. Google’s game plan was simple yet mind-blowing - ‘they accepted the fact that user intent and experience was EVERYTHING that mattered’.


Safe to say that Google played the ‘Game of Thrones’ well and within no time, dethroned all of its competitors, snatching two-thirds of all web searches performed around the world. During this time, Google came up with loads of new features like the ‘no-follow’ attribute to cut down on spammy links, ‘voice recognition’, and other features.


They segmented the search intent into two areas - first was to figure out what the user was precisely looking for with the help of a keyword, or secondly, to find more general information about the topic. 


Owing to the lingual diversity, there were many search queries that had more than one meaning and as a result, would confuse the search engine as to how to interpret it. Take for example ‘Apple’, Google could interpret this query as Apple the brand or probably the fruit.


Google responded to this problem in the coolest way possible! They further narrowed it down to interpreting queries by their intent. These were:


  • Do (Transactional/Commercial Search)
  • These type of queries indicate action, such as buying something or looking for something specific. Important for E-commerce and other sites that include transactions of any sort.
  • Know (Informational Search)
  • Indicates a user wanting to gain information about any particular subject. These are of major importance for blogs, and informational sites, etc.
  • Go (Navigational Search)
  • These are intended to direct the user to a particular website or location.


intent

As time progressed, Google took a mighty form and sarcastically enough, began to be known as the God of Information. Towards the end of 2015, Google infused some major changes in its algorithms to improve on user intent. These were:


  • RankBrain Algorithm - RankBrain is an intelligent algorithm based on Machine Learning (AI) and the third most important ranking signal after Links and Words. It basically treats your search queries as concepts rather than just matching keywords, comparing brand new, never-heard-before searches with older and somewhat similar searches to produce relevant results.


rankbrain
  • Needs Met rating - Google paid equal focus to mobile search and wanted to produce helpful search results for users. The ratings range from ‘Fully Meets’ to ‘Fails to Meet’. Queries that fully satisfy the user intent are classified as Fully Met, Broad categories, for example, ‘Driving’ whose intent is not satisfied with one single result cannot be fully met and are classified into any one of the middle categories based on user satisfaction and bounce rates.


Needs Met Rating
  • EAT and YMYL concept -


  • E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness or in simple terms, pages that have enough main content, positive reputation for intent based topics, and better functionality.
  • Y-M-Y-L stands for Your Money or Your Life and directly translates to pages which by chance were of low-quality, would severely impact a person’s life, income, or happiness. That is why Google asks such pages to be written by experts with the right strategies to get your website high in Google. These could be pages containing financial, medical, legal, or shopping and transaction pages.


eat

To the last leg!

How do you optimize data for search intent? Follow these simple steps and you’ll be attracting traffic in no time:

  • Ensure queries are directed to pages with accurate intent.
  • Leverage tools at your disposal to monitor your data and connect with the audience better.
  • Make sure your meta tags are optimized and in-line with the latest search trends.
  • Create content that caters every aspect like short Q&As for people searching information for a glance.


Just as you cannot respond to a person’s needs without understanding what he means, in the same way, Google is leaving no stone unturned to replicate human-like behavior. It is growing at an amazing rate and this is only because it understands the needs of users and executes the same understanding into its algorithms.


Can you predict the next big change? Think ‘Beyond the Obvious’!

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