How Google kindly reminded me on its Rankbrain’s definition of relevance.

When you are constantly confronted with the newest trends and tools it is quite possible to forget the most elementary principles in our digital environment. That’s why a very impressive thing happened during my last corporate related search query on Google. In the kind and restrained character, this company simply appeals it reminded me how relevance on their search engine results page (SERP) really works.

As some of you might have seen, I recently joined the Electronic Design Automation (EDA) industry as a proud member of the gorgeous team at OneSpin Solutions. Since I’m responsible for their digital marketing, I obviously take care of our search engine optimization, too. One key thing here is a seasonal strategy based on several important exhibitions all over the year. Especially, the so-called Design Automation Conference in Austin, Texas is the key event in our industry. For this reason, I was heavily searching around for some good ranking opportunities when Google suddenly reminded me on its Rankbrain’s definition of relevant.

Search engine insights by accident

Before this very surprising search query, I had searched for the mentioned conference a lot of times. Then one day I saw a completely new SERP and directly felt the urge to research about this discrepancy. Normally, I’m working from Düsseldorf but I was on a short trip Rhineland-Palatinate for the weekend and did some work on the go. My browser cache was full of visits on EDA related news portals, several direct hits on the official DAC site and obviously a huge amount of personal search queries around. Despite this fact, Google decided to simply throw them all away in order to deliver me their definition of relevance. But how this could happen? Here three potential assumptions from my point of view:

1. Location based SERP not only on mobile

It seemed that in the nearer region to me another conference with the acronym of DAC the “Deutsche Anästhesiecongress 2017” has been taken place. This congress was based in Nürnberg which was 300km away from my current location then. In contrast, the distance from Düsseldorf to Nürnberg is about 450km and that’s probably why I didn’t see any of these results on previous search queries. On mobile, it is well known that Google is heavily valuing your location as a core indicator of relevance but my searched was done via my Macbook. Therefore, I have to admit that I had never expected this huge difference for desktop devices between locations with a distance of only 150km.

2. Timing is a huge relevance indicator

The page of “Deutsche Anästhesiecongress 2017” mentioned an event duration from 03rd to 5th of May 2017. My search query was done almost one week after the end of this conference. Nevertheless, as you can see above the search volume for the “DAC” in Nürnberg heavily peaked in the particular field of health in advance to the exhibition. Therefore, based on these search queries Google obviously assumed that this event is pretty relevant to its users. In combination with the location indicator, the results of the German DAC ranked better than the exhibition I initially searched for.

3. Network language before operating system

My whole MacOS including all applications are set on English but obviously, I’m using German time zone by default. Additionally, all my business related tasks through the day including researching on search engines will be also done in English. For this reason, it’s quite obvious that most English sites rank higher for me than others. But in this particular case, the acronym “DAC” was not directly referable to one specific language. Now, instead of ranking the “Design Automation Conference 2017” Google showed me for some reason the German “Deutsche Anästhesiecongress 2017”. It’s quite interesting to see that my current environment as for example the network language is more relevant than my actual OS settings.

Rankbrain propagates the “here-and-now”

When you combine the three mentioned ranking factors that could have affected my SERP then you can easily figure out the clear vision behind Google’s definition of relevance: Across all devices, your current environment including your location, timing and language is a key factor in delivering the most relevant results. For my understanding of search engine optimization, this conclusion means that even the best keywords don’t guarantee your visibility. I would go even further and claim that since the era of AI-driven search engines there are potentially 3.5 billion different SERP combinations possible — approximately the amount of people who access the internet.Instead of only focusing on keywords, putting yourself into the perspective of your potential target becomes increasingly important. One exceptional approach could be to artificially build persona related browser history and then stay awake and search relevant topics for your business whenever you can in order to figure out variations in the result based on location, timing and language. I’m not directly saying this can replace a proper keyword research based on relevance indicators and search volume. But after several years you’re simply trapped in the external marketing perspective that easily prevents you from expecting the unexpected sometimes.

Hi, I’m Nicolas, based in Düsseldorf in Northwest Germany! Mostly, I’m interested in new trends in digital marketing. When it comes to communication strategies, I really like all kind of online channels due to their traceable reliability. My articles are more likely for open knowledge exchange and therefore reflect my subjective point of view. For further professional exchange, let’s just get connected on LinkedIn & Twitter.