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Is Google Getting It Wrong or Is It Smarter Than We Think?

New Semrush research on the state of search suggests that content marketers and consumers aren’t getting the answers they expect from Google. Robert Rose of the Content Marketing Institute digs into the data and concludes that Google’s true purpose is being misunderstood. 

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Aired November 4, 2022

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Hello there and welcome. Well, as the famous song by band U2 once said, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. This week brought a new research study from search engine software provider Semrush that shows that content consumers are getting mighty frustrated with Google. What does that mean for our content marketing efforts? This is the news you need to lead in content marketing  

Hello everybody. Robert Rose here with the news – it’s what’s new, but – more importantly –what’s important in the world of content marketing. (For the best in best practices, you can always go to 

This week, search engine software company Semrush dropped part of their larger State of Search research into a new content hub and called it the Zero-Clicks Study. 

The company looked at clickstream data, from a sample of more than 20,000 unique users spread across mobile and desktop, to analyze patterns in classic Google searches.   

They found some surprising – and perhaps some not-so-surprising – results. 

One of Semrush’s more interesting observations involved the distribution of clicks (or no-clicks as the case may be) after a search was performed. The company found that almost 30% of people are either editing and refining – or extending their searches in some way. 

The SEO-focused platform Search Engine Journal took this finding to a logical conclusion and ran a post where the headline was that 30% of users are re-doing their search queries in order to find what they’re looking for. It concludes that many users are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Google results. 

Search Engine Journal goes deeper into this topic, noting that a number of consumers – as well as SEO experts – are increasingly dismayed at the state of search on Google. 

One user compared Google to a “dying mall,” where, as they put it, “you still go out of habit, but once you get there, none of it is what you want.” 

Another user quoted by Search Engine Journal shared that a Google search for the calories in a bottle of wine – returns the answer for calories in a glass of wine – even if you put the word “bottle” in quotes. The user’s point is that Google is actually giving the wrong result. 

Quick side note here: I can get behind there being only 123 calories in a bottle of wine, if you know what I mean. So, if Google is powerful enough to make that so, well I’m here for it. Don’t judge.  

Okay all of this, as Search Engine Journal points out, means it’s simply getting harder to find good answers on Google and that the product, indeed, may be in need of a serious overhaul. 

Related article: Does SEO Still Matter to Content Marketing When Google Takes Your Clicks? 

What’s our take at CMI?  

Well, honestly, the declining value of google organic search is something we’ve seen developing, anecdotally, over the last few years. And it’s certainly good to see data from Semrush starting to validate this in a quantitative way. 

But, as we see it, it isn’t that Google is getting dumber. It’s actually that Google is (perhaps in a bit of an awkward way) attempting to get a lot smarter. 

@Google isn't getting dumber. It's actually attempting to get a lot smarter, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Share on X

What we should continually remember is that Google is not in the business of helping us, as content practitioners. It’s not here to help us build our audience. It’s here to use us to help build its audience. Google’s whole goal is to be a paid intermediary – separating us from our audience. A useful tool is only useful in Google’s eyes if it helps maintain that distance. 

There’s no doubt that our consumption (as consumers) of content is shifting. In so many ways we’re getting to a point of saturation on the web, where there is more content than there are new ideas. Thus, the focus (or onus) isn’t on how to help audiences find something, but rather on how to get relevant content to them before they even know they need it. 

You can see this trend in content discovery – or to put it really simply, we’ve all been TikTokked. Content discovery is content recommendation. But, most importantly, this discovery is delivered to you without having to explicitly ask for it.  

The theory only holds true if we A) have enough content, and B) start to know enough about the audience to be able to glean actual intent (or what we’re really asking for). 

So, when Google serves up the number of calories in a “glass of wine” when you asked for calories in a bottle of wine, it’s not technically wrong. Statistically speaking, for most people who are doing that search (and aren’t trying to trick the search engine), what they really want is the calories in a glass of wine. Because, let’s be honest, most people really don’t value what the calories are in a bottle of wine.      

Now that’s a simplistic version, of course. But this is Google trying to evolve from giving you the most accurate result to your keyword query, to anticipating what you’re really looking for and enabling you to discover the content that’s actually satisfying your desired objective.  

It’s early days for this, but you can see how it will begin to affect everything. It’s certainly becoming a big topic in content marketing platforms as well.  

Our discussions on intent data and dynamically targeting our content based on audience intent (or buying journey stage) will become an increasingly important part of our content strategy. As will, by the way, grouping content in a way that provides Google with the ability to serve us up AS that next logical or emotionally relevant step. That has big implications for search engines. 

If you’ve got questions about this, let us know. We can talk in more depth about all the implications for our content marketing and the way we structure our content platforms.  

But for now, that’s five minutes of the news you need to lead in content marketing.  

I’m Robert Rose. Remember, it’s your story. Make sure you find it easily and tell it well.  

 I’ll see you next week. 

 Related article: Worried About Your SEO Future? Yes, You Will Survive the Google Helpful Content Update 

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