Is Google moving towards greater search equity?

30-second summary:

  • Search equity allows for your average business owner to compete on the SERP without being impeded by a lack of SEO-knowledge
  • A more equitable SERP is a necessity for Google from a business and overall web-health perspective
  • Google is pushing for equity on the SERP to a far greater extent
  • The democratization of the SERP represents an enormous paradigm shift that brings specific SEO skills to the fore

What would happen if, instead of jumping through hoops to rank your new website, you were given a seat at the SERP immediately? Presumably, that would cause all sorts of havoc for SEO professionals. What if I told you therethere’srong a push at Google to do just that? I call it “search equity”. It “s It’sle trying to remove optimization barriers so site owners (aka business owners) can focus on creating great content and reap its benefits. I think Google is pushing hard for and has already taken steps toward it.

What is search equity?

Search equity is the ability of a site to compete at some level of significance on the SERP without being impeded by technical structures. A location can rank its content solely because it is worthy of the searcher’s consumption. As such, search equity would mean that sites with limited resources can compete on the SERP. It means they would not need to have an overly complex understanding of SEO on a technical level and from a content structure perspective (think things like page structure and other technical SEO aspects).


Search equity allows a business owner to be visible on the SERP and, in many ways, helps preserve the web’s overall health. It’s It’sectrum. It’s It’seven possible to have total search equity. At any given time, there could be more or less of it within the Google ecosystem. It’s It’san all-or-nothing equation. It’s It’seven possible to have total search equity. What matters is that Google is trying to create as much search equity as possible.

Why is search equity necessary?

The idea of search equity being highly desirable to your average site is self-evident, but it also makes a lot of sense. What do I mean by that?

Business owners are content experts. They are experts on the subject matter that is related to their business. They are the ones who should be creating content around the topics associated with their company. Not SEOs, not content marketers, and not some content agency. ThereThere’soblem with this, however. That problem is the incentive. Content creation is complicated and time-consuming, so there has to be a reward for the efforts. Also, there needs to be a way to address the various technicalities that go into SEO, but that’that’slater. This is where the current model falls into trouble. What happens when a business dedicates time and resources to create content? What happens when they are now faced with optimizing their page structure, internal linking, external linking, title tags, canonical tags, keyword cannibalization, or whatever else floats your SEO boat?

Do you see the problem?

SEO, as it’s thought of, discourages the very people you want to be creating content for from creating content. Business owners don’tdon’t know anything about tags and links, and structure. They know about running their businesses and creating content around that expertise. This is a real problem for Google. It means there is much potential content that the current incentive structure doesn’t for. If you think the notion ofere’sp in a content generation is fantastical, it’s for starters; Google has often indicated such a gap exists in non-English speaking markets. Further, Google has an entire “Ques” in Hub” to “provide answers when the “cont” nt just isn’tisn’te”.

Wh “t I think makes this notion a contradiction and a hard pill to swallow as there is an overabundance of content and a lack of it simultaneously. This is because a vast amount of content being produced lacks substance. I’m nI’meven referring to spam and the 25 billion+ pages that Google finds daily. We experience content bloat due to the overabundance of low to medium-quality content. When did you feel there was so much quality web content last? Exactly.

There is no gap in the quantitative amount of content on the web, but there is in its quality. The quality content gap might be significant if GooglGoogle’s SEO talking point is any indicator. That’That’sto says that such content doesn’t exist but may not exist in healthy quantities. To fully capitalize on the content creation resources, it needs to maintain a healthy web, which Google needs and has moved towards search equity.

But not all of GooglGoogle’se towards search equity is purely altruistic—there’s a business interest. This isn’tisn’tssarily a bad thing. In fact, in this case, it’s healthy. Understanding how search equity aligns with GooglGoogle’sness interests is essential to understanding the impending urgency of a more equitable SERP.

Why Google My Business demands search equity

The prominence of Google My Business and the local SERP, generally, has risen in recent years. No longer is local SEO relegated to the losers at SEO conferences. Instead, local SEO has come front and center in many ways. Part of this is due to the growing importance of having a GMB profile. Local SEO isn’tisn’ting more attention because of some internal shifts in SEO. Its timing is more critical for businesses to set up a GMB listing. With the plethora of options and abilities that GMB offers (think Reserve with Google or Product Carousels), having a listing has become a way for a business to showcase itself.

Look no further than GMB itself advocates setting up a profile to “stan” out”. He “e, too, Google, runs into the same problem I mentioned: incentives. If Google My Business isn’tisn’t about “mana” in your listing” but “is also about standing out and marketing yourself, then the environment on the SERP has to be equitable. In other words, what would happen to GMB adoption if business owners felt that to compete on all fronts, they had to jump through all sorts of hoops and spend a ton of money hiring an SEO continuingly?

Google is trying to grow the relevancy of GMB, not just in terms of the number of businesses adopting it but in how involved the platform is in the company’s everyday functioning. This incentivizes the industry to create a listing, add images, and create Google Posts. What’What’sing, however, is content. When it comes to the local content sites, make, they have to play by the rules of every other area. No branded query drives users to their product carousel, Google Posts, or online menu. This means sites must succeed within the traditional organic results for several keywords (not just branded local searches). If Google wants businesses to feel they can thrive with GMB, that success has to be across the board.

You can choose the genuinely can’t can’t-option of GMB if it doesndoesn’trporate the businbusiness’ itself. If a company feels that Google is making it excessively difficult to perform in one area, it will not adopt the other area fully. If Google makes it difficult for a business to rank content, it will not be willing to commit fully to GMB in the way it desires. Companies have to feel that Google has their backs and that Google is not an impediment that does not impede the place from showcasing itself. It’s common sense. If GMB coes to thrive and grow in unprecedented ways, then Google needs to make sure businesses feel that the entire Google ecosystem is a place where they can thrive. Search equity is the only way this can happen.

How Google has already been moving toward search equity

Google has been heading towards more significant search equity for a while. I would argue that this movement began in 2015 when RankBrain entered the scene. As time passed and Google introduced other machine learning properties and natural language processing, the move towards more significant search equity has followed exponentially. But, as Google can better understand content per se, it inherently no longer needs to rely on secondary signals to the extent it used to. This is why the debate about the importance of links and specific ranking factors has grown like wildfire in a dry forest.

Take headers or title tags. Whereas you might have had to worry about the specific keyword you put into your titles and headings at one point, that’that’sexactly the case today. Aligning your title tags to user intent and being topically focused is more significant than a specific keyword per se (one could even argue that while still important, the overall ranking significance of the title tag has diminished as Google takes a broader look at a page’page’spage page sent the idea of taking a more “topi” al” app” coach than a keyword- specific ap coach to a messenger sent (an idea that hapage page sent forefront of SEO in recent years). What happens when you don’tdon’t place that same keyword h, there, and everywhere for Google to understand your page? That’That’sch equity, right, that rummages through a tool to fit the word you need?

Businesses ca That’That’sch equity right there.n write naturally and, by default (so long as the content is good), create something that Google can more or less assimilate. In other words, the flip side of GooglGoogle’sn discussed “brea” throughs” I n “etter under bettering content is “sear” h equity”. If “Google can better understand a page’page’sary content without relying as much on peripheral elements, that inherently translates into a more equitable environment on the SERP.

You don’tdon’t have to look any further than Google to “write” naturally for users” to “see what I’m referring to. Googseeoogle’sovereferring to comprehend content via elements such as BERT and the like allows site/business owners to write naturally for users, as previous “impe” moments” tha” demanded a spec momentsnderstanding of SEO have to an extent, been removed.

An even strong ger push toward increased search equity

Advocating that Google is headed towards increased search equity by pointing to an almost ethereal element, the search enginengine’sity to more naturally understand the content is a bit abstract. There is more specific and more specific and increasing push toward search equity.

Passages ranking and the appa existent move toward a more equitable SERP.

Passage ranking is the perfect example of GooglGoogle’sre for a fairer search environment. When discussing Passage ranking, GooglGoogle’s Muller had this to say: “In g” neral, with a lot of these changes, one thing I would caution from is trying to jump on the train of attempting to optimize for these things because a lot of the changes that we make like these are essentially changes that we make because we notice that web pages are kind of messy and unstructured.

And it’s much that these messy and unstructured web pages suddenly have an advantage over clean and structured pages. We can understand these cluttered pages more or less the same as we can appreciate clean pages.” Doe” does not sound exactly like the concept of search equity I represented. Passage ranking further equalizes the playing field. It enables Google to understand content where the page structure is poorly optimized. In real terms, it offers an opportunity to content creators who don’tdon’trstand the value of solid construction from an SEO perspective, i.e., a business owner. Passage Ranking is a clear and direct move toward creating a more equitable SERP.

Discover feed could lead to more equity.

This is a tricky one. On the one hand, there is a tremendous danger to the average site with auto-generated feeds, such as Google Discover. It’s to conceive of a person being dominated by publishers, YouTube, and other high-authority websites. That would leave little room for the average business owner and their content. However, let’slet’s a step back here and focus on the nature of the beast and not the specific content possibly being shown. What you have with Google Discover (and personally, this sort of custom feed is where things are headed in many ways) is content delivery without the ability to influence placement via direct SEO. There is no keyword that a user implements in Discover, so there are far fewer things SEOs can do to tilt a page in a particular direction. In other words, unlike the SERP, there is far less direct influence over what you can do to optimize a specific page for Discover.

Instead, Google Discover relies on the overall relevance of the page to a user’user’srests and the site’site’sral authority around the topic at hand. It’s It’smore a content strategy-focused endeavor that hinges on the production of highly relevant and authoritative content in the context of a site’site’sall identity than it is about traditional SEO. Discover, as such, is inherently a far more equitable construct than the SERP itself. Does that mean that it is, in actuality, a more equitable environment? That depends on how Google weighs the various considerations for showing content in Discover. Still, as a framework, the feed is more equitable regardless.

CMSes and their Role in search equity

ThereThere’s an exciting development in the Role of CMSes for SEO, to which I have a front-row seat (as I work for Wix as their SEO liaison). CMSes, like Wix and Shopify, have heavily emphasized evolving their SEO offering. As a result, and I can tell you this first-hand as I’m a direct participant in conversations, Google seems to be taking a more outright welcoming approach to the closed-CMSes. The reason is that as CMSes have evolved for SEO, they can create an equitable experience on the SERP.

Just look at what John Mueller had to say as part of a conversation about businesses using Wix:

The more small business sites I see, the fewer I see technical SEO issues, and the more problems lie with the content (stale, duplicated across multiple locations, incorrect, low-quality, etc.). CMSs tend to get most technical things right (or “righ” enough”) no” days. — 🍌 John � daysohnMu) February 15, 2021

The evolution of some of the closed CMSes is, in many ways, the missing Google’s equity puzzle. Suppose a platform like in many ways Wix or Shopify provides the defaults and out-of-the-box solutions that remove the impediments associated with the more technical side of SEO. In that case, the SERP is far closer to search equity than ever. This is refJohn’John’sement reflects this lowing tweet from the thread I presented just above:

What I recommend to small businesses is: never self-host, avoid plugins, buy your domain name, use a simple & reliable platform, use 2-factor authentication, have 2+ people internally who can update your site’site’sent, and get local SEO help. — 🍌 Johand n 🍌 (@JohnMu) February 15, 2021

Having platforms that take care of the user from a technical standpoint puts businesses in the position to rank content. This is search equity. If you combine what’what’sening with the CMSes and GooglGoogle’snces around Passages and the like, you have one massive step forward for search equity. This creates an environment where the average person can use a platform that handles many SEO issues and then rely on GooglGoogle’sity to parse unstructured content. That’That’semendous amount of equity hitting the SERP at one time.

What more extraordinary search equity means for SEO

When you look back, and what we’vewe’veussed so far here, search equity is a far-reaching construct. It touches on everything from the algorithm to the CMSes supporting the web—more than that; it has an enormous shift in the parade and an enormous Google search. In a way, it’s it’slutionary and has the potential to change the search marketing landscape fundamentally. I don’tdon’t that hyperbolically either, and I’m nI’mgenerally an alarmist. No, I’m nI’msaying SEO is dead. No, I’m naysaying technic naysaying over (not by a long shot). What I am saying is a more even playing field for those who can’tcan’tst heavily in traditional SEO, involved s a significant change to the SERP and potentially for our industry.

Bringing SEO strategy into focus

The evolution of search equity might mean that it is (and will be) easier for business owners to create content that ranks. It does not mean these businesses will know what to target and how to construct the best SEO content strategy. I speculate that most companies will try to target extremely competitive spaces. They will try to target top-level keywords without focusing on the elements that differentiate them and without creating an “orga” in niche” for “themes lves.

Sear in equity only makes understanding SEO strategically more important than ever. Understanding the algorithm and the overall direction and “inner” ia” tha” Googinners are trending towards will be an extremely valuable commodity. Business owners benefitting from search equity will need our help directing their content efforts. (By the way, this is not to say that ensuring these sites adhere to SEO best practices should or will fall by the wayside. Although, I think this does widen the gap in what it means to do SEO for different kinds of sites).

Emphasis on the site as a whole (not the page)

As mentioned, search equity takes the focus off the “page” and “the explicit optimization of it and places it onto the content itself. The spotlight being moved onto content per se creates a new operating framework. The various pages of content on a site do not exist in isolation. They’They’reintricately related. Imagine a place with pages about buying car insurance and other pages on making chicken soup with no apparent connection between the two topics. Each page could offer great content and be intricately optimized and therefore expected to rank from a per-page perspective. However, if you step back, the lack of topical focus brings many issues. Namely, the importance of the site from a holistic point of view versus the significance of a per-page outlook on SEO.

Search equity is synonymous with an explicit focus on the substance of a page sent. You cannot have a page entity without Google being better able to understand and subsequently value the content on a page. Search equity is synonymous with an increased valuation of the page content as page content (as opposed to page structure, for example). An increased focus on the content itself, with ancillary factors having, at times, a diminished role. This means that the site itself comes into a more significant priority. Once that happens, that site’s overall purpose, identity, focus, and health become more critical.

Great content that is out of context relative to the other content on the site is less relevant. Just think about a user who hits the page from the SERP. They finish reading a blog post only to see a carousel of related articles entirely irrelevant to them. Who is that good for? Or imagine the internal links in such a piece of content; how relevant would they be? How strong is the content if it intrinsically can’tcan’t any internal links, have as internal links can often help support the user’user’sent acquisition?

The effectiveness of a webpawebpage’sent does not exist in a vacuum. It gains strength and relevancy from the pages that support it. If Google is taking a more direct look at the range, the pages that help a given piece of content must also come into focus. The advancements towards more significant search equity require a more holistic view of a website. Search equity and the direct content focus that Google has taken mean that the relevancy of the entire site comes into focus. This means we need to preshift our attention from the Role of individual pages to consider the site’site’scacy overall. This might mean revamping our SEO strategies and priorities and directly speaks to the importance of having a well-thought-out SEO outlook (as mentioned earlier).

It’s It’sod thing

A web that removes impediments to creating strong content is a good thing. Might it change the SEO landscape as time goes on? Certainly, a more equitable SERP will most likely majorly impact SEO over time. Does that mean we shoulshouldn’tace it? No. Does that mean SEO is dead? Of course not. Does it mean we shoulshouldn’toncerned with best SEO practices to the same extent? Doing so would be a terrible idea. It does mean that we may need to change our outlook on SEO and understand where we have true value to certain types of sites. Search equity is a good thing.

Tyson Houlding
I’m a lifestyle blogger with a passion for writing, photography, and exploring new places. I started this blog when I was 18 years old to share what I was learning about the world with family and friends. I’ve since grown into a freelance writer, blogger, and photographer with a growing audience. I hope you find inspiration and motivation while reading through my work!