‘Searcher Task Accomplishment’: A Possible Ranking Factor?

Written by Phil Birss: Group CEO.
· 4 minute read

There’s been a disturbance in the SEO force over the past few months, and in a recent Whiteboard Friday Rand Fishkin explained how this could all be down to a possible new ranking factor – ‘searcher task accomplishment’. Although it’s not (yet) explicitly part of Google’s algorithm, we can safely assume that they are measuring various metrics that will indicate whether or not the user has got what they intended from their search.

Searcher task accomplishment (STA) is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s recognising that someone has typed in a query into Google with the intention of getting a solution, then using various factors to determine if the website they click on has helped them ‘accomplish’ this task.

This is what every digital marketing strategy should aim towards. Not just getting to the top of the search engine, not just winning the click, but satisfying the user’s need as quickly as possible.

And sites that do this well are exactly the types of site that Google wants to ‘rank’. After all they are constantly striving to serve users the most useful, accurate results and so it’s no surprise that STA is the newest ranking factor.

With intelligence such as RankBrain, Google is getting a clearer picture by the day of which sites are providing this accomplishment. Rand Fishkin has summed up the process of a search from initial query right through to the end, where Google will then make a decision as to whether or not the site has helped the user fulfill their task. It looks something like this..

Behind every ‘expression of need’ that is typed into Google are underlying goals, ie what the user wants to achieve from their search. The user will then evaluate the SERPs and determine which result they want to choose. They will then work out whether or not their chosen site helps them to achieve what they set out for. If it does, they might then have some additional needs that arise as a consequence of them. If it doesn’t, the user will either go back to evaluate the SERPs or re-think how they ‘expressed’ their need in the first place.

Google processes this information as ‘searcher task accomplishment’. It’s no exact science, but it’s a powerful indication as to whether or not a site is providing value.

searcher task accomplishment process


(image: moz)

Should you adapt your search strategy?

Every content marketing strategy should already have STA in mind. It should consider users at all stages of the search journey – those at the initial browsing stage, those researching more specifically, and those directly in the market to ‘buy’. It should consider your audience, the types of questions they would be asking and their overall objectives.

Have all of this in mind when planning your content and the rewards should come naturally..

Although it’s now apparent that STA is becoming a powerful ranking factor, optimising towards this shouldn’t be a new concept for businesses and marketers. At the end of the day it’s about providing value, and it’s great to see that Google is working to make the search landscape an even more credible one.

We can help you devise a search strategy with searcher task accomplishment in mind. Just give us a call and we’ll be happy to help!