Is the Google Search Results Page Your Next Homepage?
12 February 2018 Dan Taylor
The rules for SEO are changing. In the past, getting your brand to the top of Google’s search results was a more-or-less straightforward process. First, you’d tell Google what your site is all about using keywords. Second, you’d earn Google’s trust by gaining high-quality backlinks from trustworthy third parties linking to your site. This “tell and trust” process is still important, but Google is refining the factors that indicate what you’re telling it and how those indicators affect the level of trust it has in your website.
You can see evidence of this right on Google’s search engine results page – snippets are longer and more detailed than ever, meta descriptions have nearly doubled in length, and user experience (UX) factors contribute more to SEO results than ever. How can you reliably use the latest search engine marketing (SEM) methods while leveraging your organisation’s UX and technical resources to ensure your website stays on top of the results page under these changing conditions?
"Digital users have more options than ever and are looking for ways to make sure they’re making the right choice before they buy."
Identifying the Future of Search – Where Is Google Going?
There is no perfect solution to ensuring your site always hits the coveted number one spot on Google’s search results pages. Even if you manage to hit that position today, there is no guarantee that you will keep it tomorrow, next week, or next year. The best we can do is identify the future of search, use these trends to predict where Google is going, and stay one step ahead of the game as search engine algorithms and digital user behaviour change. Consider the following points:
1. There Are Now Over 200 Factors that Affect Your Rank
Google’s search algorithm compares over 200 ranking factors to place web pages in users’ search results. Backlinks are a top priority, but site responsiveness and user experience indicators are becoming increasingly important.
Google is counting how many seconds it takes your web page to load. It is calculating the average amount of time users spend on your site, and whether they click onwards to other pages or leave your site to search for what they’re looking for elsewhere. You can use Google Analytics to conduct speed tests on your exit pages, and use this data to identify where your SEO strategy needs to focus.
2. Search Isn’t Only Text Anymore
Google’s Hummingbird update favours conversational searches – those framed as “how to…” or “can I…” questions. This points to a general movement towards voice search, which ComScore predicts will encompass 50 per cent of all search volume by 2020. This indicates that SEO is increasingly reliant on social media listening to create and copy content – so SEO resources need to be aligned with social media management directives.
But that isn’t all. Visual search is also gaining momentum and is well-positioned to disrupt the SEO industry. This is hugely important for retail businesses, and it stands to generate powerful ripples throughout many other industries that rely on visual-intensive media.
3. New Snippet and Meta Description Lengths
The longstanding rule was that meta descriptions had to take up about 160 characters for the best chance to become prominently featured on search results pages. However, as of December 2017, this figure has doubled. Google wants users to get more information out of web pages before they visit. It wants website administrators to put high-quality content in that information.
Data Schema Is More Important Than Ever
If you search for a brand name, you’re likely to find what you’re looking for. But simply add the word “review” to the end of the search and everything changes.
Your website’s data schema might be set up correctly, but what about reviewers? If you haven’t created review content and worked with developers to mark it up with the appropriate schema, you might be leaving your brand to the whims of third-party price aggregators who may – or may not – give you favorable reviews.
Increasingly, reputation management will form the backbone of modern SEO and SEM. Digital users have more options than ever and are looking for ways to make sure they’re making the right choice before the buy.
Case Study – AON Business Insurance
The following example best shows how to handle clients’ needs in today’s SEO landscape. AON Business Insurance had low click-through rates, increased search volume for review content, and increasing costs-per-click for generic phrases. Starting with an SEO and Content Audit we performed the following:
Collaborated with the AON customer satisfaction team to aggregate customer feedback in real-time. Designed a visual solution to align reviews with brand guidelines. Developed a UX solution to seamlessly introduce the visual review element into the customer journey. Aligned the client’s site hierarchy with generic keywords and developed an internal linking structure that gave Google’s crawler better information about the pages we linked to.
First place-ranking for a high-volume search phrase.
Increased generic traffic by a factor of $65k per month (how much AON would have spent for the same traffic on a cost-per-click basis).
Improved the website’s on-page conversion rate by 18%.
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