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Google Misconceptions Part II: The Truth About Lag Times and Click Data

Here’s another set of misconceptions web marketers have about Google. We think we’ve figured out the world’s biggest search engine only to realise that... the more we know, the more we don’t know.

The Truth About Lag Times

So how does Google process websites, pages and online documents once they’ve crawled them? Does it take long?

Web marketers may not realise it but Google’s URL Inspection Tool is not what it seems. Sure, you can submit URLs through the Search Console and within a few minutes, Google will confirm that these URLs have been indexed. This may be the case, but the truth is that URLs are only partially indexed. It will take time for Google to completely process the document or page.

How long does parsing, indexing and analysation take? Google’s system allows a few milliseconds to carry out such tasks on one URL or web document. A single program is just a fragment of a complicated set of processes. Each program will handle millions of URL or web documents on a daily basis.

The documents will subsequently be sorted into various sub-processes. Some documents, if found to fall short of Google anti-spam inspection, will be flagged and not be crawled by the search engine. A URL may appear in several indices and not just one.

Click here to read part 1 of Google Misconceptions.

It’s Not Rocket Science

The key takeaway here is that Google indexing takes time. Give or take a few days or weeks before Google integrates everything into all databases, taking into account amalgamated scoring systems. Indexing has rarely been instantaneous.

Algorithms follow a queue and each queue will be bound by specific rules. Some processes may produce offline data that need to be belatedly added to scoring and ranking systems.

As a web marketer, your role is to mediate between Google and the clients who depend on your services. Let your clients or business partners know how Google search works. When talking to them, carefully explain the crawling process and the reason why it’s no real-time.

Explain to everyone that you have no control over Google – especially when it begins processing web content, or the exact duration of such activity. You do not have a say on how much of your website’s live content is utilised by Google’s algorithms.

As if adding insult to injury, the SEO tools available – even SEO techniques or analytics report – cannot measure or predict the effects of web content on search results. Moreover, no SEO tool, method or resources is actually capable of telling you how much of your traffic is affected by defunct or expired web content.

Regardless of the circumstances, when do your usual Google search today, WHY it reacts the way it does is a clear mystery.

The Truth About Click Data That Scares Web Marketers

Once upon a time, web marketers wholeheartedly believed that search engines were all about link-building. The belief was supported by many even if it wasn't exactly correct. This belief was self-destructive, however. By placing too much importance on the power of links, many websites were penalised or banned instead. These days, online marketers rave about the Click Fairy. Similar to the Link Fairy, this magical tool delivers the ideal search results always, without fail and without negative backlash.

* Search engines don’t tell you everything 

So as to affect ranking, a search engine needs to gather click data for every URL associated to particular keywords or queries. But users only click a few sites on the SERPs for each keyword, which makes it difficult for search engines to gather sufficient click data. Essentially, it doesn't matter if you rank high on the search results. Your website may not be getting the clicks it needs. But you may think clicks affect paid search results. Well, where paid advertising is concerned, more clicks mean more money. Organic search results do not automatically translate to cash. No one pays Bing or Google to display information no one may click or spend money on.

* Google Search Console may reveal something about your clicks

Getting more than 50% click-through rate is indeed an achievement. But this doesn’t apply to every keyword query that appears on the 1st page of Google, however. Some top-ranked queries have really bad CTR. If you get as much as 78% CTR, then that would be quite impressive but queries with top click-through rates are quite competitive if not very rare. But such statistics are not set in stone. You should be able to find queries that allow your content to rank within the top 5 in the SERPs. But there's no guarantee you'll receive a lot of clicks. Are you willing to take the risks anyway? Google didn't tell you that ranking and click-through rates have no definite correlation whatsoever, but now you know. If hardly anyone clicks on a site or page even if you manage to rank well for a sought-after keyword, it's a mystery why Google would want to put such a URL on the first page when there are thousands of listings with regular CTR and traffic. In the context of Google algorithms, click data is apparently not a useful ranking factor.

* People will click on URLs they once ignored but previously saw

When you decide to use a different keyword so as to see new search results, and you happen to come across the same website you encountered in a previous search, studies show that you’re more likely to click on it. Familiar URLs can encourage clicks. While users tend to change their queries every now and then, search strategists would do well to anticipate user behaviour and understand search behaviour. As a digital marketer, you'll have a better grasp of the reasons why searchers change their query preferences by understanding the Situational Context. Examined by search enginers since 2007,  Situational Context covers these components (in no particular order): 1. time of day 2. device 3. search history 4. geolocation 5. service provider 6. screen resolution 7. browser 8. incidental data  A major source of frustration is when search engines save a record of your browsing history in the guise of a search session. Engineers and researchers could study your browsing history to try and understand your preferences. 
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Arthur Choi

Arthur Choi

SEO Strategist

70% technical SEO, 30% offsite optimisation. Loves to strategise and build organic SEO campaigns for plumbers, excavators and e-commerce clients.

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