Is “Searcher Task Accomplishment” 2018’s Most Powerful Ranking Factor?

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Is “Searcher Task Accomplishment” 2018’s Most Powerful Ranking Factor?


Move over RankBrain, content and links – a brand new ranking factor has just landed in town, and it is really unique. All jokes aside, the concept of searcher tasks accomplishment is a persuading argument for how SEOs should optimize sites. Do they really solve the problems and questions searchers seek answers to? Today I will explain how searcher tasks accomplishment is what search engines, are ultimately looking for and rewarding. 


For starters, I want to set the record straight, search tasks accomplishment isn’t a direct Google algorithm, its only that they are measuring many things that point to that direction, thus leading the WebStreet team to that direction. This is basically what Google is working towards if all their ranking signals are anything to go by, and consequently searcher tasks accomplishment is a concept that SEOs must mull about optimizing for.



What am I driving at? When a surfer searches for “how to disinfect a cut,” there is something they want to accomplish. Actually, regardless of what a user is searching for, they are just not after a bunch of results. They want to solve a pain and/or problem. For search engines, and Google in particular, the results that genuinely solve that problem best and fastest are what they want and are striving to rank.


Over the last few years, Google has had to develop and experiment on all types of algorithms in an attempt to achieve this goal from obtuse angles. However, recently, with the tons of data they are receiving via android and chrome and with the huge task that they’ve been doing around evaluating engagement, they are getting a lot closer to what constitutes accomplishing a searcher’s task. This is because Google wants to give searchers’ results that fulfill their tasks and satisfy their queries.



Now, for every transactional and informational type of search, I’m telling Google, “Look, I have expressions of need.” Behind that are tens of underlying objectives – things and issues that I desire to resolve.  I want to complete a task. I want to complete a goal. I want to know some information.


Therefore, when I search, I have this kind of evaluation of search engine results. Will they help me accomplish what I want? I go ahead and chose one, click on it and figure out if it actually helps me finish my task. Now, if it satisfactorily does, it might lead me to discover additional needs, for example, once it answers how to disinfect a cut, my need may graduate to, “that’s cool, I now want to know how do I prevent infections because the result instructed me on how to use a disinfectant and how infections are scary.” So I now want to look up how I can prevent an infection. More often, a result will lead a searcher to a discovery of extra needs. On the other hand, the result did not assist me complete my goal and I have to go back to evaluation stage or alternatively, I may decide to take a step back and once again express my need via an alternative search query.


That is the data that informs Google to say, “This result assisted a searcher accomplish their goal,” or, “Nope, this result failed to assist them.”


Examples of Real Time Searcher Task Accomplishment


To bring to the fore what am talking about, I’ll take you through some practical examples.



If you searched for “how to publish a book, that’s a direct expression of need. However, underneath it is a cluster of goals like, ok, you will be finding out about self-publishing versus traditional publishing. Moreover, you want to be inquiring about publishers and agents and the entire publishing process and finally the pith process, which is quite involved. It doesn’t end there, you will want to look into book marketing, appropriate covers and then tracking sales and any other different stuff that you may find important. Now, once you get to evaluation and you start discovering additional needs, that’s how you find all the other information that you have to know.



A guy searching for “how to invest in Ethereum” maybe knows enough and has enough information to start investing immediately, but maybe, especially in the last month because there’s been dozens of search queries around it, could be he wants to understand: what is blockchain and cryptocurrency?  What about this famous blockchain - powered currency system? What about the market, what is it like and how has it been performing recently? What’s the purchasing process and where is the exact place I can buy it? Finally, what should I do to finalize the transaction?



If I Google for “Seattle event destinations” I’m probably searching for a list of several event venues after which I can then narrow down the list by the criteria that appeals most to me like amenities, price, capacity, region. Once I settle on a specific venue, I’ll need contact info so that I can call them or go to them.


Now, in all the 3 examples I’ve given Google has to reward the result that helped me accomplish my goal and tasks, discover and solve the additional needs, rather than reward results that gave me a slice of my needs and made me click back to the search results to choose an alternative result or even change my query with an aim of hitting my target.


Google will also want to reward the result that gave me all the info I needed, those that assist me accomplish my goals and tasks without first asking me for a something in return. Results that are nothing but a landing page that says, “Seattle event destinations, enter your name and email address, and we’ll get back to you with a list of destinations that are awesome for you.” Guess what? Regardless of how many links such a result features, IT WILL NOT RANK.


That’s a huge difference right there from how it was some years ago. Do you remember how it used to be? You were allowed to have a contact form, fail to solve a searcher’s query, basically strive to be as much conversion rate focused as is possible, and as long as you could nail the right keywords, use the correct anchor text and have as many links whether bought or labored for, and guess what? You shot up in rankings. Those days are coming to an end. I’ll not categorically say they are gone, but an end is coming and do you know what? The new era of searcher tasks accomplishment is right here.


The Conflict between CRO & SEO



There are real time challenges. I’ll be damn straight from the onset; there is a problem and a challenge between the definitive era of “we want conversions” and the other era of optimizing to nail searcher tasks accomplishment. Thus, the Conversion Rate Optimization expert in your company, who might be your Search Engine Optimization expert or he might be your CEO, or if you work for a large organization, you might have an in house CRO specialist on hand. They are thinking, “I have to achieve the highest number of form completions possible.”


Therefore, when a searcher gets to this page, I have to get from three percent to six percent. How do I get six percent of guys landing on this page to fill in and complete the form? It translates to not giving information up front. It means removing as much distractions as is possible. It translates to featuring a great teaser like, “Hello, we can offer this and that to you, and look, we have testimonials that prove we can give this information. But we don’t want to give it up to you right up front because we can’t give away the golden goose right away. We badly need these conversions. We want to get our leads into the funnel,” as opposed to the SEO, who in this day and age has to figure out, “How will I achieve searcher task accomplishment? I.e. how will my searchers complete their tasks without friction?” Isn’t that lead capture form a friction?


Now, to avoid this friction, every organization has to decide which direction they will go. Will they opt for long-term SEO, to solve the searchers’ tasks and later on figure out ways to capture and monetize value?  Or will the organization lose in search results to users who are ready to go the CRO route?  Maybe the organization may opt to develop a multi-pronged strategy where they may try and do a bit of barnacle SEO and earn links from guys who rank at the top, or pay for their traffic or attempt to rank with different pages and send some users to these pages. These are choices at our disposal.


How do we breeze through searcher task accomplishment?


Great, so how do we nail this? All right, you’ve decided to go the SEO path. You are like, “Yes, Curt, I’m in. At the top of my priority list is to help searchers accomplish their tasks. Yeah, I am well aware that in the process I will have to forfeit a bit of conversion rate optimization.” Very well, there are 2 critical things here.


  1. Understand extensively what makes searchers to search
  2. The causes of searchers’ dissatisfaction


Once searchers have performed a query, what causes them to click the back button? And why do they click a different result? And why do they, in some instances, change or modify their query? You have to figure out both.


For number 1 try:


  • For starters, talk to people who are doing those searches and who actually face these problems. If you find users that have performed these searches several times, they are your best bet. Through in-person conversation, powerful and invaluable information can come out of searchers unlike through emails or surveys.


  • Certainly check up on competitors to find out what they are doing and saying that you may have missed.


  • Also, put yourself in your searchers’ shoes. What if I am searching for how to disinfect a cut? What information would I be seeking for? What if I am searching for FHA loans? What would I be looking for if I’m a first time home buyer? I’m thinking about the neighborhood and price and a bunch of other things. So, how do I nail all that in my content or how do I help searchers navigate through my content so that they can accomplish their tasks without clicking back to the search results page?


To nail number 2 try:


  • Strive to gain a deep and wide understanding of what makes searchers come away dissatisfied.


  • Related searches and auto-suggest are a great starting point. Actually, related searches, which are to be found at the bottom of a SERP (Search Engine Result Page), are the alternative searches users performed after clicking back from the initial search. For example, a user’s initial search could be FHA loans and then he could search for mortgage rates or 30-year fixed loans or jumbo loans or those kinds of things. So when developing content you can use related searches to anticipate people’s next step.  So you’re saying, “Hey you know what? I am sure of what you want next. I’ll go get it for you.”


  • Use internal search analytics. It’s great for users who landed on a page on your site and searched the site or clicked on a next link. What were they looking for? What was their next step? This is an ideal way to tell the needs of such users.


  • There comes a time to have a conversation with searchers who only got halfway through your funnel. Therefore, if you collect emails or had a lead capture at one point, you can reach out to users who at the beginning visited your site for an answer, but who didn’t complete the process and find out what the problem was.


  • Tracking SERPs and noticing who falls vs rises in the rankings. If you dared to track the results what you will notice for all the results is that your competitors who do an amazing job at nailing searcher tasks accomplishment are rising in rankings and those folks who ignore it are falling. You can also see the type of content that the winners are developing and what King Google is rewarding.


That’s it for today, I’ll see you next week right here. I and my team at WebStreet Strategies look forward to your comments. It’s your suggestions, critiques and opinions that have made us the best SEO Company in Toronto, Canada.

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