Getting Smarter with SERPs
Modern SERPs require advanced understanding. National SERPs are a myth — these days, everything is local. And when we’re basing major decisions on SERPs and ranking, using the highest quality data is key. We explore the problem with SERPs, data quality, and existing solutions.
Exciting might be an extravagance, but it is important to me because today we’re going to talk about data quality. I know I harp on this a whole lot. It’s just, as a data scientist, quality is very valuable to me, we’ve made it a priority of the last many years, from improving the quality of DA score, improving SS(Spam Score), totally changing the way we identify the search volume on every keyword.
Today I want to talk about quality and probably the most essential metric in search engine optimization, which are search rankings. Now I know there’s an aforementioned contingent of SEOs who say you shouldn’t view at your search rankings. You should just concentrate on creating better content and doing better outreach and just let it happen.
But for the vast majority of us, we look at our rankings to determine how we’re doing, and we make assessments based on those rankings. If a site stops working as well for a very important keyword, well, then we might spend money to improve the content on that page or to do more outreach for it.
We make major decisions, budgetary decisions on what the SERPs says. But we’ve known for a while that there’s a great problem with the SERPs, and that’s personalization. There just is no social search anymore, and there hasn’t been for a large time. We’ve understood this, and we’ve tried many ways to fix it.
What's Wrong With SERPs?
1. Geography is King
Let’s just take a move back and talk a little bit about what’s wrong with SERPs. Many years back I was an adviser and I was helping out a public-service organization that wants to rank for the keyword “Influencer.”
They offered rewards and coaching and all sorts of material. They deserved to rank for the term. Then one day I examined for the term, as SEOs do. Even though they value track, they still check it themselves. I noticed that several restricted universities to where I live had popped up into the search results because they were now offering Influencer programs and Google had geolocated me to this area.
2. Centroid Search Sucks
The idea is much simple. You take a town, a city, a state, or even a country. You find the latitude and longitude of the dead center of that location, and then you maintain that to Google in the UULE parameter so that you get a search result from what would happen if you were reaching right there in that specific latitude and longitude and perform the search.
But the problem with that is that these blue circles that I’ve drawn represent areas of increased community density. You see most cities, have a populated downtown, but they also have around the outside suburban areas which are just as population-dense or close to as population-dense.
At the same time, they don’t get served because they’re not in the middle of the city. So what do we do? How do we get a better representation of what the average person in that city would see?
3. Sampled Search Succeeds
Well, the answer is what we call sampled search. There are lots of ways to go about it.
Right now, the way we’re doing it in particular is looking at the centroids of clusters of zip codes that are overlapping inside a particular city.
But this just isn’t a local problem. It isn’t just for companies that are in cities. It’s for any website that wants to rank anywhere in the United States, including those that just want to rank generically across the entire country. You see, right now, the way that national SERPs tend to be collected is by adding a UULE of the dead center of the United States of America.
The Future of SERPs
If we continue to rely on this centroid method, we’re going to continue to deliver results to our customers that just aren’t accurate and simply aren’t valuable. But by using the sampled model, we’ll be able to deliver our customers a much more quality experience, a SERP that is blended in a way that it represents the traffic that they’re actually going to get, and in doing so, we’ll finally solve, to at least a certain degree, this problem of personalization.
Now I look forward to Moz implementing this across the board. Right now you can get in Local Market Analytics. I hope that other organizations follow suit, because this kind of quality improvement in SERP collection is the type of quality that is demanded of an industry that is using technology to improve businesses’ performance. Without quality, we might as well not be doing it at all.
Thanks for hearing me out. Hopefully, we’ll be able to talk through some more ideas on quality. Looking forward to it. Thanks again.