What Google’s 2012 Video Tells Us about the Evolution of Search

Google’s 2012 Video Tells Us about the Evolution of Search

Following up on our earlier blog where we discussed Google’s latest “How Google Search Works” video, we look back at how Matt Cutts discussed the search mechanism back in 2012. Interestingly, we do find some differences when we compare the 2019 video with the 2012 one, that show search has evolved a great deal in those 7 years, something digital marketing services in Long Island would have been monitoring.

Matt Cutts’ video appears a lot more complex, or at least that’s how it is presented. But it does really dig deeper into the process in a technical manner and makes the whole Google search process more transparent. It does present certain key terms such as “spiders” that are mentioned as the primary means of tracking websites through a unique pattern.

The Google Web Index

Right at the start, Cutts mentions that when you do a Google search, you aren’t actually searching the entire web but an index of the web, which, as the 2019 video explained, is a library of web pages Google has actually tracked. Cutts implies that there could be pages or sites that Google might not have tracked, perhaps because those sites haven’t sharpened the features essential for Google’s spiders to spot them.

How Web Pages Were Tracked Back Then

Web pages are tracked using spiders, basically software programs that start “fetching” some web pages. The spiders follow links they find on those pages and then fetch those pages that the links point to. And the process keeps going on. So, links were the major factor that made websites detectable. That explains the importance placed on link building in SEO strategies.

Not Quite Conversational Search

Cutts then suggests an example of a search, and this is where it gets interesting. He wants to know how fast a cheetah runs. So he suggests typing “cheetah running speed”. That’s how we used to search back then, and Cutts, representing Google, even seems to recommend searching that way. But now, after all these years we know Google is prepared for, and even recommends searching in a conversational style with a question word, such as “how fast does a cheetah run”. While searching that way, you get the answer among the other related search phrase suggestions even as you’re typing the search query.

Not Quite Conversational Search
It shows how much search has evolved.

Criteria for Web Page Ranking – Keywords and Links

And how does Google decide which web pages, what Cutts calls, “documents”, to return? Which documents are relevant to what the user is looking for? While the 2019 video directly described the factors involved, Cutts first says that Google asks over 200 questions. In other words, there are more than 200 factors that determine which web pages are returned to the user and in which order. These include the number of times the page contains the keywords. In this case the keyword would be “cheetah running speed” or its synonyms or variations such as “cheetah speed” or “speed of cheetah.” Do the words entered as part of the search term, the keywords basically, appear in the title of the webpage or the URL? Is the web page part of a quality website or a low quality or spamming one? It’s after these questions that Cutts comes to the term PageRank, something the narrator in the 2019 video never mentioned.

Cutts explains that PageRank is a formula that Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s founders, invented. PageRank has to do with external links that point to a web page. The number of outside links pointing to the web page and the quality of those links determine the overall PageRank score. Ultimately, it takes just half a second for the search results to come up after the user has typed in the search query.

The Search Page Was Different Back Then

Cutts then describes what a search result contains. Each result contains the title that primarily describes what it is about, and gives the user the first impression of whether to click it or not, the text snippet that further describes the result and gives a clearer picture of whether it is worth checking out, and the URL itself. Cutts also makes a sincerity pledge, saying that Google never accepts payment for adding a site to its index or to keep updating its indexing more often, or even improving its ranking.

Finally, Cutts gives a word about ads that appear on Google’s search page. Google want to give advertisers a great audience but simultaneously ensures that it only places ads related to what users are seeing and that, Google thinks, are relevant enough for users to want to click them. Google also ensures ads are clearly distinguished from the normal organic results. If Google can’t find any ads that it believes would give searchers the information or services they need, it won’t place them. Cutts mentions that the ads show up on the right and the top. Well, there weren’t answer boxes at the top of the search page back then, or a list of People Also Ask questions at the top of the search results, as the screenshot below shows.

The Search Page Was Different Back Then
Ads were the only factors that would distract users from the organic search listing. But things have evolved now.

As search trends and the rankings page evolve, search engine optimization (SEO) strategies need to be adapted too, which is what Long Island search engine optimization companies handle.