The continued evolution of online search technology and the end-user’s experience is one that marketing companies and webmasters have been focused intently on for the last few years.

While Google, Apple and Bing (among many other companies) aren’t able to rely on anecdotal feedback from users to help guide their algorithms, they can rely on massive amounts of data.

In fact, according to Michael del Castillo at Upstart, Google’s 2,200-word privacy policy shows that it openly collects six types of information from users, including device, log and location information as well as the applications you download, local storage data and cookies.

Basically, Google knows as much about your online activities as you do.

 

From the General to the Specific

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The upshot of this convergence of technology and data is a greater focus on the user and their personal habits.

As the internet has evolved and advertisers have been given more options, such as pop-ups, interstitials and video adverts, ads have become a much larger part. Indeed, the Internet Advertising Revenue Report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau says that spending on digital ads in the US hit a record high of $12.4 billion in Q4 of 2014.

Naturally, this surge in spending has led to the industry becoming crowded with ads of all shapes and sizes. Relevant to the user or not, ads are now an integral part of the internet but they aren’t always welcomed by users. This point is underlined by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, which found that 47% of people surveyed in the US now use ad-blocking software.

Fortunately, this is something Google is looking to address with its current user experience campaign. Designed to make browsing less busy and more personal, Google is now rolling out policy changes and new algorithms to make the user feel less intruded upon and more comfortable online.

 

Google Now Penalising Intrusive Ads

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Indeed, as noted by Greenlight Digital, the way in which ads are projected to us is gradually changing. As of November 1, 2015, the use of interstitials (ads that block the main page content) would incur penalty points and be deemed not mobile-friendly.

All part of Google’s user experience campaign, this decision to negative rank mobile sites using interstitials is just one example of how the internet is becoming more personal. SEO expert Mike Templeman claims digital marketing is now becoming more about the user and less about fulfilling a set of overarching principles.

Search Experience Optimisation (SEO), as he refers to it, is the process of tailoring a product with the user in mind and not a series of quotas and percentages. Instead of filling a site with keywords and metas just because that’s what “the book” tells you to do is no longer the in thing.

 

Ignore the User at Your Peril

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Webmasters and marketing companies must now consider the user at every stage of the design process. Will this feature slow down browsing time unnecessarily? Does that image or advert have relevance to the user? Is the content targeting a specific demographic?

All these questions now need to be answered by those on the development side of a website. If they’re not questions that are answered, then Google will be there to ask you why not.

The recent policy change regarding interstitials is just one example of how Google is trying to move webmasters away from intrusive adverts with no relevance to a more subtle form of personalised advertising.

Whether that’s personalised PPC (through Google’s Customer Match) or more refined keyword placement, the user’s experience is now key and that’s all thanks to evolution of online technology and the power of Google’s information database.