Surely you’ve heard of Google Fiber by now. If you’re an SEO’er, and not certain what Google Fiber is, then this meta data that I made up might sum it up nicely:
As an inbound marketing professional, I couldn’t help but wonder what this means for SEO. 100x the speed of our current Internet? That’s a bit much for me to fathom. And I don’t want to move to Kansas City, either. But, I can try to imagine what it means. Here are a few speculations on what Google Fiber might do to the Internet, and ultimately, SEO & inbound marketing:
The bottom line for Google with high speed internet is more searches, more websites, and ultimately, more AdSense dollars. I believe that the higher speed will compel Google to prioritize sites that load quickly, so that more sites are visited, and more ads are clicked on. (It’s always about the money, right?) From a search algorithmic standpoint, I would surmise that Google would put increasing importance on the speed of a site, because if it loads even somewhat slowly, then it won’t jive with Fiber’s tagline of super fast internet. This is nothing new to SEO, but a somewhat slow loading site might get left in the dark with Fiber in town.
Rich Content + Social Shares = Better Search?
It’s probably true that Matt Cutts dreams every night about a world filled with great content and natural links. (Even if he is on leave). Now, what about a world filled with incredibly rich content? With super fast Internet, sites will have the ability to load more of that content. As we know in SEO, if something isn’t crawlable text, then it’s considered risky. In my opinion, the notion of faster-internet-leads-to-richer-content will compel Google to bolster their ability to measure rich content more than ever, and beyond the sphere of crawlable text. Sure, right now Google can’t necessarily differentiate between a good video and a great video, but there are certainly signals – building blocks of sorts – that Google is utilizing to indeed differentiate between mediocre, good, and great videos. Social shares, for example. This is certainly something which Google is utilizing as a way to differentiate.
Call me naive, but it never really made sense in my head that the almighty Google has trouble reading rich content. Is it so crazy for me to expect that they will get better at it? Social shares is one way, but perhaps the newfound speed of Fiber will be the catalyst for Google to further reform their algorithm from within. Social shares feels like a shortcut – an effective one – sure, but certainly not the end game for Google’s ability to measure rich content. (This is partly because Facebook is mostly blocked).
Richer content will allow for greater opportunities within the world of inbound marketing, and perhaps static mediums such as infographics will become a thing of the past, while richer and more dynamic elements will finally receive their due in SERPS.
Link Equity’s Complicated Future
Right now, a mediocre article with a link from a decent traffic blog is worth more than an incredibly written long form article with awesome images that has no links to it. And it might stay that way for a while.
As I argued earlier, faster internet means that sites will be able to bombard users with richer content, which I believe will further push Google to find a way to measure rich content, and begin to move away from low domain authority link building. And although counting and discerning the quality of inbound links was and is the backbone of Google’s search algorithm, and is the aspect of the algorithm which set it apart from the former premier search engines in the late 90’s, it seems like those links might have to be devalued to a degree in the coming years.
I believe that this is because not all great content has links pointing at it. Counting links was essentially a shortcut that Google developed in order to quickly ascertain what was likely a valuable site. But now? Google is getting smarter, and with more data, coupled by more and more searches due to faster Internet, they will be able to improve machine learning and probably build a better true search engine which measures content more than links. And for SEO, that means that great content will actually be a thing!
Sure, Google will still count and analyze links as a big portion of their ranking system. Though Yandex has experimented with ignoring links while ranking sites, it doesn’t seem to be moving beyond Moscow. But there is something to be said for a major search engine experimenting like that. And I think that we can all agree that Google and other search engines no longer like the idea of relying so much on link building as a core ranking factor, due to its penchant for spam and abuse. (Great content can’t be abused).
Let’s cut to the chase here: Super fast Internet, courtesy of Google, is good for Google. Sure, it’s good for the user, but it’s insanely good advertising for their brand. That means further acceptance of more Google products, simply because there will be more integration of obvious Google programs such as Gmail, Chrome, Android, and yes, Google+.
The integration of more Google programs compels me to lend credence to a strong pocket of SEO’s who have maintained that Google+ is given preference in SERPS, despite Matt Cutts’ denials. Well, with Fiber lurking, Google+ may more clearly lend the ranking boost it might already offer in SERPS, simply because Google will certainly find a way to integrate it further then it already has. By integrating it, it will by definition become more popular because of increased usage, and not the result of a conspiratorial Google search ranking maneuver. In terms of ‘forcing’ users to use Google+ more, I believe that is inevitable: Because Fiber offers 100x faster Internet speed – Google could easily find a way to “urge” users to be more active with their Google+ profiles, and users will probably be grateful enough to do just that (after the inevitable eye-roll reaction anyway). I would predict that Fiber ultimately means that Google+ should probably receive more attention than Facebook and Twitter.
More Data = Better Search
Let’s assume that Google succeeds at “convincing” people to use Google+ more. The more data that Google can amass, the better its personalized search will be, further keeping Yahoo & Bing at bay. Sure, people might complain about the sheer amount of data that Google holds over people – and it is alarming – but Google has not lost any search market share since the NSA PRISM scandal in June, proving that Americans are still sticking with Google for search purposes, despite privacy concerns.
So, Don’t Be Evil?
Did someone mention privacy concerns?
How about this quote from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who may have said a bit too much for people to stomach:
With your permission, you give us more information about you, about your friends, and we can improve the quality of our searches. We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.
Yikes. I’m guessing that Schmidt irked his Google PR people with that quote, but it definitely means something, and begs the question that AJ Kohn asked: Is Google Evil?
Google’s inescapable hold on people’s data, now with actual lines of fiber in people’s cities and homes, will probably worry some folks. (Speaking of people’s homes, the Google acquisition of Nest certainly reinforces this notion). In my opinion, Google proved that it was not “evil” when it pulled out of China in 2010, leaving a lot of revenue on the table in the name of free rights and security. Currently, I think that Google’s big black box of data creates a better user experience for life in general. Sure, much of the data hoarding that Google does is with the goal of creating more revenue to please board members and shareholders, but I think it’s cool and useful that my Nexus 5 tells me how far away I am from work in the morning, including traffic, even though I never explicitly told it where I work. Though there is something to be said for the NSA being able to demand data from Google in the wake of the PRISM scandal.
Current CEO Larry Page has a well-known vision for putting everything on the cloud, and Fiber allows for more internet consumption and subsequently more data storage with Google’s massive data warehouses. Nothing evil about that, in my opinion.
The Future is Now
Talk about a cliche paragraph title, right? It seems to me that Google Fiber is merely ushering in something that was inevitable anyhow, just a lot sooner than we expected. Verizon and AT&T have responded with their own versions of Fiber. The trend is clear: faster websites, richer content, a better search engine, and a greater amassing of data by Google is all going to happen a lot sooner than we expected. For SEO, I believe it means that rich content will become more of a ranking factor, fast sites matter even more, and that Google+ will be less of a punchline. For Google, it means an opportunity to utilize much more data than it previously had, and likely a huge effort to leverage that same data into a faster web experience with richer content than we’ve ever seen before.