Google’s Algorithms Are Not Your Customers

The recent article by Amanda Chicago Lewis on The people who ruined the internet touched nerves with a number of marketers worried about their brands, SEO gurus worried about their incomes, and business owners worried about what to do next.

Add in the opportunities and concerns about the impact of AI on marketing, content especially, and the debate was always going to be interesting.

The way through, or around, this debate is, as always, to focus on two things: the importance of what matters to customers, and the impact and value businesses seek to create in response and through every touch point. 

This seems obvious, but SEO and SEM investments need to make both of these easier to understand and deliver, more so than they currently are. This can end up being a never-ending game of chasing the Google algorithm.

Never forget to market

The job of marketers is to create the best match between what someone searches for, and what businesses have to say about solving their needs, or in answering their questions.

SEO is only the task of optimizing effort and resources deployed to create content designed to answer customers’ needs and attract them to websites. The relevance and value of content are the most important parts of the digital marketing mix

Everything else around it is designed to help map and match consumers to that content, and deliver it in ways and volumes that also make the CFO and CEO happy.

Removing complexity from search

Google’s acronym E-E-A-T – for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness – still rules. 

What’s most interesting though is the complexity that sits just beneath the surface of understanding search ranking and search query tracking. Google’s own general guidelines run to four pages of content alone.

Removing that complexity resets how search adds value to any digital marketing campaign. 

Websites should be designed, built and optimized for human customers, not for the Google algorithms. That means exploring the actual natural language and queries of the way people search, and designing sites that make it easy to access information, products and services, and measuring performance against those criteria and benchmarks. 

Performance measurement for all – not just the experts

This becomes increasingly important with the continued rise of AI, which can influence how search optimization and search query tracking might be deployed in two ways. First, how AI can be used in the actual creation of content. Second, how AI can be used to expose how others might be gaming the algorithms.

In both examples, measurement of performance becomes essential. For that to be as effective as possible, search query tracking has to be as accessible, easy and affordable as possible, to as many people in an extended marketing ecosystem, without compressing the validity or accuracy of the results.

That means removing the reliance on experts for data analysis. They are experts, but they are also expensive, and often siloed. They can only do so much. And since the role of creating relevant content falls to many, and the job is to increase the authority of the entire website, marketers and business owners can’t wait, nor  leave everything to a single source of expertise who holds all the data.   

That means giving in-house marketing teams, external marketing agencies, CMOs and CEOs access to the same organic search query data. And that means making the insights as easy to interpret and action as possible.

Then, the safety net and obstacles of complexity are replaced with accountability and collaboration.

At the start I said that there was a way through or round the debate about whether search had gamed the internet and, as a result, broken it. Ultimately, it’s the wrong conversation. 

One thing is certain: Google’s algorithms are not our customers. The better conversation is really about plugging data, including search query tracking, into strategy development and program performance management, to see the data and then make faster, better decisions as to how best to action it.  

Organic search results provide incredible insights into how customers are actually trying to discover  how to solve their needs. With personal social media posts becoming increasingly private and unable to be measured, search provides the largest open set of natural language data to inform strategy, marketing and content programs.

Organizations who will win in search will be making that information as widely available as possible, to every stakeholder inside and outside the organization.

A version of this article also appears at