For our March digital marketing newsletter, we’d like to introduce the Google Survival Guide.

If businesses want to survive and thrive on Google, it is important to understand what drives Google and the direction Google is headed. While Google has always strived to be the best search engine on the planet, this quickly escalated in 2011 when new competition entered the search engine market and hasn’t let down since. Living with Google today doesn’t seem much different than in 2011, but for business owners the devil is in the details.

In June 2009, Microsoft made the surprise announcement of their own search engine: Bing. Bing caught Google by surprise, sparking its determined effort to become so good and so complex that no other search engine could dethrone it as the search king.

Since 2011, Google has launched dozens of major algorithm changes that significantly impacted the quality of search results. Many algorithm changes have names and specific purposes including Panda, which penalizes websites for duplicate or low quality content, and Penguin, which penalizes websites for low-quality inbound links. Since then, major updates are launched several times a year, helping Google display higher-quality search results and making it more difficult for those trying to cut corners to prosper.

In late 2015, Google confirmed RankBrain, a groundbreaking artificial intelligence system capable of extracting deep user behavior insights. RankBrain is a complex learning machine and a very good one. RankBrain can understand the content on your website, as well as the intention behind a user’s search query, but more importantly, it also understands how people react to the search results that Google presents.

What does this all mean? Google can understand the user experience on your website. Does the website’s content and capability satisfy visitors? Do they like your website, or do they leave quickly and find a competitor’s site? Does your website load quickly and does it look good on a cellphone? These and other human factors are now a major part of your website’s ability to perform well on Google, all thanks to RankBrain. In Google’s eyes, may the best website win.

This investment in the user experience makes sense. Would people like Google if it delivered bad search results, or slow websites or websites that look like they were built in 1990? Would you shop in a grocery store that was always filthy? How about dine in a restaurant that always had bad food or service? Google shouldn’t be any different, and thousands of Google algorithm changes, including RankBrain, ensure this doesn’t happen.

So what does a business need to do to survive on Google? Simple: you need to respect your website just as you would your storefront, your business cards, your brand and reputation. The internet is a serious marketing channel; Google is serious about delivering quality results and your website is the front door to all of it. Improvements will come from a place of honesty. Are competitor’s websites better than yours? Does your website have unique, quality content? Does it load quickly and is it aesthetically pleasing? Is it secure and will it function well on a mobile device? Businesses with sites designed as a quality resource for Google will be handsomely rewarded. Whereas, businesses with a minimal digital presence will see minimal results.