We’ve talked a lot recently about Google’s major algorithm update earlier this year and how their focus has now shifted towards user intent. If you haven’t read our coverage (why not?) then what this basically means is that Google (and other search engines) are focusing on providing users with the best available search results for their queries based upon credibility and understanding. The rise in popularity of voice search is certainly driving this, and we believe that big changes in search are coming, and these are going to affect SEO strategy, content marketing and social media. But what are these changes, and what’s driving them?
The State of SEO now
We have been working in the world of SEO for many years now, and we have noticed that major changes in search seem to coincide with major changes in technology. For example, the rise in popularity of smartphones has led search to be less about desktop results and more focused on mobile – remember the phrase ‘mobile first anyone? – and now the rise in smart speakers is moving the focus away from mobile and onto voice search.
When people use Alexa or Google Home to search for information they will phrase the question in a different way than they would online, and this also has an impact on how the search engines provide them with the answers to their queries too. Searching with your voice is a more natural way of searching, you ask a question and expect the speaker to reply with a single answer to that question – rather than a page of results. This is huge. Huge.
In the early 2000’s when the internet was in its infancy, achieving a ranking of up to 20 on the SERPs was acceptable as users may still click on your link, although achieving a 1 to 5 ranking was best. As mobile phones rose in importance in 2010 and onwards, then the ranking on the first page (up to a position of 10) was acceptable but 1st to 3rd was the best. Now, as the search engines are evolving from being places where you searched for information towards being answer engines then you really have to rank first in order to guarantee that you will get in front of the user performing a voice search, although 2nd and 3rd is acceptable as the user may not accept the first answer necessarily.
Share of the Search Market
First things first, this is not a doom and gloom prediction. If you don’t rank at 1st for any of your keywords you are not going to drop off the face of the earth (straightaway!) The evolution of search engines to answer engines is not going to happen overnight. This is just a gentle poke in the side to say hey, you need to start thinking about your content, your website and your target audience and start thinking about what changes you need to make to optimise for voice search.
Let’s take a step back and think about this logically. Yes, as we said above, the use of smartphones has risen dramatically in the past 10 years, but people do still use laptops and desktops. They exist in harmony and both are still used for searches. Smart speakers are the same – they are not going to do away with smartphones and laptops, rather they will be something that is used as well as the other options. And nobody has any idea yet really of exactly what share of search any of them will end up taking.
Search in the Future
The recent algorithm changes that we have seen from Google have been focused on understanding and credibility.
Google is aiming to understand what your business is and what you offer to searchers so that when a relevant search comes in they can present your website or page to searchers as the best solution to their query. Google is not starting from zero with this understanding, as it has a good understanding of most business websites already. What Google doesn’t have yet is the confidence in what it understands about your business – so there is a great opportunity here for you to help Google to do that by using high-quality content and web development to help it to fully understand your business in detail.
Once Google has a good grasp on what it is your business does and what it has to offer, then it will decide how credible you are. Again, it is not starting from scratch with this, it already has a lot of information to base its opinion on.
How do we need to adapt?
As a digital marketing and SEO agency, Zool works hard to make sure that our SEO campaigns are helping clients to move up the search engine rankings, and so any major changes like we talk about above means we need to adapt our long-term SEO strategies. That is why we have been talking to our SEO clients about the need for them to tell Google exactly who they are and what their business offers, and convince Google that their products or services are the most credible around.
How do you let Google know exactly what your business is about, and make sure it completely understands it?
- Use Semantic HTML5 to structure web pages so that Google and Bings bots are more easily able to read them
- Use a structure Schema markup to create an enhanced description which will appear in search results (commonly known as a rich snippet)
- Post quality content which uses the vocabulary that your target audience use
- Get backlinks from high-quality relevant websites
Convincing Google that you are credible is a bit trickier and is largely based around reviews:
- Ask existing customers to post reviews on the review platforms that appear on page 1 and 2 of the SERPs
- Try and generate positive client reviews on social media – and make sure you reply to any reviews posted
- Obtain peer group endorsements if you attend conferences or exhibitions
At the end of the day, the future of search is about brand authority. Google wants to understand your business and be confident that it is credible. We can help you to do both of these things, so book in a meeting with us today to get started.