This is the most commonly asked question I hear. Every. Single. Week. “What is going on with Google search?”
Here’s an in-depth overview of the search engine changes happening and how we’re helping you prepare for them as well. Without this awareness and understanding, you’ll wind up being as out of touch as the two guys in the picture. Don’t be those guys.
Search engine optimization is rapidly becoming more of a significant strategic element of the marketing and communication efforts of today’s business. SEO is no longer the lone responsibility of an overly aggressive web marketer simply looking to rank a website for basic keyword terms. Integrated search efforts now involve multiple disciplines and departments; product marketing, copywriting and even web development are contributing to successful search marketing initiatives. We’re experiencing another massive shift within Google as it moves from being a web of links towards a web of linking people.
The newest portion of content on the Internet is user generated (social) and this helps create new opportunities for trusted, helpful content. Google is working tirelessly to add the information contained within this layer to the search engine results by linking and ranking our social connections as well. This will help usher in a new age of implicit trust between strangers as they search for what’s most important to them online.
Another item contributing to this change in behavior is the mobile device segment; 58% of the US owns a smart phone now. Mobile devices have expanded the buying spectrum by introducing new scenarios such as subconscious shopping behaviors further out in the buying phase while also introducing new heights of instant gratification closer to the final decision making stage. Google also knows that it must provide the most accurate and helpful local search results as well.
Local directory optimization is among the most neglected elements of a marketing plan and it’s quickly becoming one of the most effective ways to connect users and convert them into customers. Content that addresses both technical and social needs among local citations will have an immediate positive impact. Consistent business names, addresses and phone numbers are vital. Other key elements such as business categories, new images of the business and positive reviews not only help create customer actions, they are also specific items Google looks for to create local search authority.
The final piece of this shift is the manner in which Google can understand the connection between words and actually understand the context of a page within a website. Google’s ability to understand the meaning of words is helping build the Semantic Web. This will create an Internet which provides even more specific results when a user is seeking answers and information. It’s this change that will push a new wave of marketing integration as companies see the opportunities to develop internal media departments who exist for the sole purpose of developing incredibly rich content.
Google’s largest search engine update, Hummingbird, is just the tip of the iceberg for their ability to help understand the context of pages and match those results to our specific intent. This will shape conversational search and creates even better user experiences versus Google serving us plain vanilla marketing content. The content provided will be truly beneficial as the personalization will speak to us clearer than ever and eliminate ineffective and irrelevant content. Add layers of social content being injected into the Internet every day and you have another major contribution factor with the introduction of content that is conversational, influential and trusted. So, what does this all mean for the future of search engine optimization?
As long as there are search engines there will be a need to categorize, rank and serve up content within the search results to users. The methods in which this is done needs to change to provide a better, trusted user experience for Google’s user base, while taking into consideration our changing device behaviors and including more personal connections within the search results. (IE: Reviews from local directories)
Changes Contributing To The New Search Ecosystem:
- Natural language search behaviors will continue to increase and improve, creating the need for more expert, authoritative and trustworthy content that will answer specific questions users have. Google’s ability to understand the content via machine readable data and Semantic Web technologies will shape this movement.
- Personalized search results will also continue to grow as Google connects social content to provide greater results using by understanding context better. This will also help marketing messages speak directly to user intent even faster. Specific needs and desires will be spoken to directly, speeding up the decision making process while also reducing the number of final sources needed to make a buying decision.
- Topic Modeling will replace the focus on keyword phrases and individual rankings as Google aims to provide more specific answers to our search queries.
- The best SEO efforts going forward will also include more proactive web development and technical abilities referring specifically to mobile speed performance and more efficient site structure. Improving the user experience will include more than just content improvements, providing technology enhancements per Google’s recommendations will also reward your search efforts.
- Expert, authoritative and trustworthy authors will reign supreme when it comes specific topics.
Current Recommended Strategies We’re Working On For You:
- Proper on-page optimization is still a primary ranking factor – every page must be organized properly. Google needs to know what the page is all about, if it is a valuable resource and if it links to other relevant content.
- Secondary content is a must! Helpful, entertaining & informative content speaks to a user’s intent; your site isn’t one-size fits all. IE: Q&A, Step by step instructions, recall information, vehicle comparisons, reviews, ratings, etc.
- Reviews and testimonials should be a mandatory element of your delivery and post sale follow up process. Reviews are a local ranking factor- give Google what they want. This content should also be part of your website content.
- Local directory optimization efforts are a high priority – Google’s recent Pigeon update changed the local ranking criteria to include more elements we can control and improve.
- Backlinks are still the most powerful off-page ranking element; We’ll keep building backlinks until this changes as it’s the largest contributing factor to the increase in rankings you’re seeing.
- Site structure is key – look for more solutions for us to eliminate duplicate content, improve URL structure, organize content better and adding more local elements.
- Site usability improvements – Does secondary content link properly? Are CTA’s being used properly, is page speed a factor on all site versions?
- More great content. The next wave of successful dealership will adopt a media company/content publishing mentality. Creative topics, unique videos, helpful & unique website content, etc.
One thing is certain: Google will continue to evolve as search technology changes. All we can do is be prepared – and I believe we’re positioned nicely by understanding the search ecosystem as best as possible for the changes coming.
Have specific questions? Please, let me know!
2014 Google Ranking Factors Whitepaper