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How is Big Data Changing SEO?

March 9, 2018 No Comments

Featured article by Calvin Paige, Independent Technology Author

Big data is the latest buzzword on the scene, but what does it mean, and how will it impact the world around us? In essence, big data is information that provides insight, ultimately leading to more strategic business decisions and a greater understanding of consumer behavior. We see it all the time, from the ads that pop up in our search bar to remind us to purchase something we’ve just browsed online, to the way our iPhones store data about our health and fitness. The growth of data is having a phenomenal impact on how we work, shop and live, but what does it have to do with search engine optimization (SEO)?

Firstly, here’s a quick overview of what big data is, and what it does. As the term suggests, “big data” refers to large volumes of data that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. It can be either structured or unstructured, but the nature (and size) of the data is not important – it’s what organizations do with it that matters.

Although the term is relatively new, businesses have been gathering and storing large amounts of data for years. Nowadays, organizations collect this data from an increasing number of sources, such as online shopping habits, in-store business transactions, and social media profiles, to name a few.

Big Data Helps Organizations Solve Problems

If the purpose of a business is to solve a collective need or problem, then big data is instrumental in that process. Data helps companies assess and solve problems more quickly and accurately, allowing them to hone their offering and give consumers what they want or need. There are several reasons why big data has played such a major role in business decision-making over the last few years, but the main reasons are as follows:

- The growing acceptance of transparency online- Cloud storage makes it easier to preserve data
- There are more tools designed to help us analyze data
- Growing use of social media platforms create more data than ever before

Big data will make search engine results more precise, but what will this look like in action? First, let’s look at the role of search engine optimization and what it has to do with big data.

Big Data Feeds SEO

Search engine optimization relies on vast quantities of data – which is, in a nutshell, what big data is. SEO is the acronym given to the activity that attempts to improve search engine rankings for an individual or organization by re-arranging online data. Search engines like Google link users to pages it deems either relevant or authoritative – the latter measured by the number and quality of links from other web pages. The job of an SEO specialist (or anyone who wants to increase their visibility online) is to create content that becomes “authoritative,” so it ranks highly in search engine results.

Most people are aware of the importance of SEO in today’s online marketplace, but the practice continues to change and develop thanks to the growth of big data. Here are just some of the ways big data is changing SEO.

Online Content Is Becoming Quantifiable Data

In a general sense, the word “content” means a piece of published information. However, as we now know from Google, a global company that curates content, every page of content that emerges online is now quantifiable. As a result, search engines are able to analyze online content and deliver more relevant search engine results according to the individual. This can have both positive and negative impacts on a business, as what Google deems the most pertinent piece of data for a search engine query about your company may not be the most favorable. This is where online reputation management services come into their own – their job, as SEO experts, is to create or improve a company’s visibility and make positive online content more accessible, hiding any negative press from view.

Social Media Data Is Emerging in Search Engines

In the age of social media, big data players like Google cannot afford to ignore the vast amounts of data that these popular platforms create. Facebook, for example, now boasts over 1 billion users, while Twitter has 500 million; as a result, the social signals generated by these sites are appearing increasingly in search engines. This is excellent news for businesses that have a significant social media presence, as the latest research on search metrics indicates that data from Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Twitter correlates with better rankings.

Machines are More Intelligent

Big data, in its essence, is less about search engines and more about people. In laymen’s terms, the only reason this data is useful is that it gives us insight into the buying and browsing habits of our customers. Not just that, but the increasing acceptance of transparency online means people are more inclined to put their information out there – to accept cookies on websites, “check-in” to certain locations on social media and put information about themselves on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

As primary user data becomes more impactful, computers become more like human beings than machines, giving increasingly accurate information in response to search engine queries. In an ironic twist, this could mean that the journalists and editors who make a living by engaging and entertaining readers become obsolete in the future.

Big Data Keeps Getting Bigger

Over time, our hesitation to limit what we show Google will fade, as big data becomes our new normality. Our skepticism about online adverts tailored to our needs will disappear, and we may even come to trust in this data to make our lives more convenient. We will rely on our digital devices more than we do so already, and as a result, big data will become more accurate, more tailored to our needs. Thus, today’s big data will grow even bigger. This doesn’t mean that spamming will somehow become acceptable, but our threshold for marketing information will undoubtedly change.

Customer Experience Will Improve

It is perhaps an obvious point to make, but the flip side of big data is that it improves the experience of the customer as well as the business. By leveraging more and more information, search engines like Google will be able to deliver more targeted results, perhaps by location, tastes, preference, and even more intimate details like clothing size or dietary requirements. We’re already seeing this happen on some e-commerce sites, but over time this data will increase and become even more specific.

Analytics are Becoming More Precise

The more we analyze data, the more precisely we can hone in on primary consumers. It is the job of SEO specialists and online marketers, after all, to collect and mine data and turn it into conversions – i.e., sales. With analytics tools like Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster and other analytics systems, SEO experts and business owners alike can see more accurately how web content is situated in the largest network of data and make adjustments based on their unique performance. With these tools, businesses can keep track of page views, clicks, time spent on a web page, backlinks, conversions and other relevant factors, and use them to enhance customer experience.

SEO Insights Are Deepening

The role of Google and other search engines is to turn web content into quantifiable data. Google’s increasing ability to do this accurately makes it easier for marketers to find insights from the types of data users search for. Thanks to big data, keywords, on-page optimization and backlinks all fall under the umbrella of SEO. Local SEO, mobile optimization, and content marketing all help to create more precise user insights, none of which would be possible if it weren’t for the rise of big data.

SEO Companies are Using SEO to Improve Their Services

Big data has emerged as the ultimate tool for SEO companies. Now, companies can quickly isolate data and view it more precisely, allowing them to change and focus on key performance indicators (KPIs) that are valuable to their organizations. SEO companies can essentially enjoy a 360-degree view of the customer from a search perspective and better understand their habits and behaviors. For companies where digital marketing is a major part of their strategy, big data can be incredibly fruitful. Ultimately, the job of big data is to help businesses find patterns in their data that allows them to vastly improve their customer experience and target their services to a specific consumer market. Ultimately, when harnessed correctly, big data can improve an entire operation and boost its resultant ROI.


Because data analysis typically takes place behind the scenes, most marketers (and businesses) fail to realize the impact big data could be having on their SEO. Make no mistake, however: big data is changing Internet marketing all over again, making it easier for search engines to analyze content and deliver relevant, authoritative results. As technology continues to adapt and artificial intelligence (AI) enters the mainstream, the role of big data will only become more instrumental.

You don’t have to understand big data to benefit from it, however; those who keep creating valuable online content and sharing it via popular platforms can only benefit from the impact of big data on SEO.


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