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How Google’s algorithm changes have hit the technology sector online

by Abbey Jordan

August 27, 2020

All sectors can be subject to very rapid and seismic change and certainly when it comes to search and ecommerce, those changes can bring very sudden challenges. One sector where we have seen a significant amount of change in recent years is the technology sector which counts Oracle, Cisco, Intel, RS Components, Texas Instruments and Farnell amongst it’s alumni.

Not only has the technology within the sector led to notable shifts in consumer behaviour, but it has also been subject to the changing nature of search engine ranking algorithms. That has certainly been the stand-out finding from the Stickyeyes Group 2020 Technology State of the Market Report where we benchmark and analyse the activities of 50 of the best and well-known technology brands online across website content, technical platform, UX and offsite authority.

Brand strength makes way for user experience

The technology sector is one that has historically relied heavily on brand strength, awareness and authority when it comes to performance in organic search. Typically, major tech brands have adopted a “brochure site” approach to their digital presence, instead relying on resellers and retailers to provide their product distribution. In that context, brand arguably plays a disproportionate role in the search rankings, particularly in product segments where a small number of brands or manufacturers are the dominant players.

But that is starting to change, with Google expecting brands to offer much more to internet audiences.

Google’s November update placed a much bigger emphasis on user intent, with the aim to centre the search results that a user sees around their mindset and the motivation for their search at that given moment. Consumers with an informational intent, such as those looking for product recommendations, reviews and comparisons, would expect different results for those with a commercial intent – the intention to buy something.

It meant that those pages that clearly served specific intents were rewarded in the search results, whilst those that didn’t answer specific pages were pushed down the page. Suddenly, brand weight and authority weren’t nearly enough to maintain key search ranking positions - and it made content more important than ever.

The question is, therefore, how does the tech industry deliver content to service those different user intents?

Functional Content Depth & Relevancy

Functional content depth and relevancy is perhaps the biggest area where the digital presence of many brands in the technology sector falls below the new expectations for success in organic search.

With the exception of a couple of brands, content across category, sub-category and product pages is often sparse (if not non-existent) and mainly only features content that helps users from a navigational perspective. This content tells Google nothing about what’s on the page and its purpose.

Our competitive landscape analysis plots out the brands in terms of ranking keywords, visibility and clicks from a set of around 5,000 keywords which suggests there is a real opportunity for improvement.

We found that whilst the majority of brands rank for specific product terms, this meant that customers not only have to know what they are looking for but, in many cases, also know the correct name for that product. What is often lacking is content for other phrases within the customer buying journey, such as alternative names or equivalent products, meaning that brands are missing out on valuable traffic who could be nurtured down through the funnel into those ‘I want to buy’ moments.

The technology sector is also one of those industries where there is a greater expectation from both Google and consumers for more detailed, in-depth content. In many cases, these brands are selling highly technical, complicated products and what Google wants to do is show the content that provides the level of detail and information that allows consumers to make an informed choice.

In our content analysis, we found that product category pages needed at least 300 words in length. Service category pages needed to be much longer, at around 1,000 words in length whilst more detailed pieces of thought leadership and resources content needing to be at least 2,000 words in length.

User Experience & Helpful Content

Content detail is certainly important, but it is also important that consumers can access and make sense of that content.

Brands in all sectors need to ensure that their content is easily accessible and delivered in a way that delivers a positive user experience across different devices, and the technology sector in particular has the challenge of making often highly technical content easily digestible and understandable.

What we’ve seen from our research is that whilst most technology brands do a brilliant job at setting out their categories, sub-categories and products from a navigational perspective, users then have to put in a lot of work to do what they want to do once they reach the product or service level content.

The lack of helpful content such as FAQs and clear CTAs to helpful informational content, product guides or ways to get in touch is something that is crucial and should be the focus on these commercial pages to help the user make a final decision and ultimately, convert.

Thought Leadership & Informational Content Assets

It’s safe to say that while there are content challenges within the technology sector, it isn’t for the lack of content assets that brands have. Most have a range of technical and thought leadership collateral that is authored by experts within their field, a key requirement of Google’s EAT update. (you can read more in our post on how to write content that's perfect for Google's EAT update) .

The main challenge is that these assets are often buried within the site on PDFs, large JPEGs and on videos that have no introduction, transcript or optimised supporting content. This makes them uncrawlable and doesn’t adhere to Google’s E-A-T principles. As a result, it will make pages appear thin and low quality, directly affecting their ability to rank.

Another challenge is that in many cases, the content is so niche and specific that it becomes very difficult for users to find that content when searching for “pain points” or so-called “micro moments” – trigger moments that initiate a user search.

The good news for these brands is that, with more strategic alignment around their content, they could utilise what they already have and see benefits from small and quick changes. Content doesn’t work if it isn’t seen and brands in this sector have a choice to make; do they actively promote and distribute their content, typically through paid media, or do they make their content more discoverable, optimising for the search terms that consumers are using?

In conclusion

What we have found from our analysis is that the technology sector is one that is facing significant challenges when it comes to content, but these challenges are certainly fixable. There is a huge opportunity to drive traffic from organic search that is currently going untapped, partly because brands have historically relied on brand power in their respective niches.

There is a huge amount of room for improvement for even the biggest of tech giants to ensure that their content is following best practice and is as best-in-class as some of their technologies, products and service offerings.

By understanding how consumers are looking for their products, and the intent with which they look for them, brands can capitalise on Google’s shift towards rewarding those brands that deliver the best possible content in the best possible way.

Request your personalised analysis of how your technology brand ranks online against your competitors for visibility, trust, relevancy, UX and engagement.

Tags

SEO
SEO rankings
technology
Oracle
Cisco
intel
Texas Instruments
RS Components
Google