The Future of SEO – Why Brands Need to be Prepared

The way we utilise search engines is changing. It’s leading to a major, though mildly unpredictable revolution in how marketers approach Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Search was always about ‘User Intent’; but as more netizens go mobile, search engine results are becoming unforeseeably dynamic. Why? Because people don’t want to research anymore, they just want to interact with their devices.

deepaktiwari

Deepak Tiwari, Team Lead (SEO) at BC Web Wise

Mobile penetration and changing search habits are about to radically transform SEO and SEM tactics of businesses. While most of what lies ahead is beyond our imagination, there are certain scenarios that we can predict and prepare for, based on the trends and innovations we see today.

Deepak Tiwari, our in-house SEO Samurai, gives us his insight on what’s becoming the global norm, and how it will soon be a staple of the Search strategies of Indian brands.

Meet AI, the new Guardian of Search

Search algorithms aren’t just about keywords anymore. Today, every single Google search goes through RankBrain; and it has only started learning. Machine-learning AI algorithms like RankBrain are great for Search because they will greatly improve the quality of results over time.

And if experts are to be believed, there is nothing you can do to ‘optimize’ your website for RankBrain.

Image source: zampedigallina.blogspot.in

Image source: zampedigallina.blogspot.in

Microsoft, Amazon, Apple etc. are developing similar AI capabilities that utilize user experience, big data, and machine learning to produce results that meet user requirements more accurately while learning and improving with every search.

To prepare for the age of AI, brands need to get the basics right:

  1. Create content that’s both informative and engaging for users;
  2. Keep in mind that small things like on-page SEO still make a big difference;
  3. Only legitimate editorial links will produce long-term results;
  4. Build for mobile responsiveness, speed, avg. time on site and overall UX; and
  5. Implement Schema to make content Google-friendly

You asked for it!

If there is one disruption you should keep an eye on, it’s Voice Search. It’s not just the technology itself but also the fact that it’s an entirely new way of looking at how humans will interact with technology in general. As digital assistants infiltrate every device we own, Voice Search is going to become more conversational and automatic making search results more personalized and relevant than we’ve known before.

As voice search becomes mainstream, it is critical for brands to –

  1. Be the first result as opposed to just being somewhere at the top
  2. Build content strategy using long-tail keywords and natural, everyday language
  3. Create location-specific content because voice search queries and results tend to be more location-specific

Local is Focal

Social media is the new filter sorting out and ranking nearby businesses. SEO is now about appealing to those around you and searching for your product. Advancements in Big Data analytics and burgeoning IOT features in devices have led to an explosion in customer and behavioural data. Marketers have the ability to use that information to target the right customer with the right message. From Google Business listings to new Search tools like GBoard, they are all focussed on prioritizing local search results.

Image source: idownloadblog.com

Image source: idownloadblog.com

The best ways for brands to conquer local search are:

  1. Claim your location on as many listing and review sites as quickly as possible;
  2. Use location-specific keywords including neighbourhood names or landmarks; and
  3. Try earning inbound links from local publications and blogs and positive reviews on social media.

AMP Up or Die

Mobile is king! But going mobile-first is much more than just having a responsive site. Users want speed and accuracy, not just something that looks nice on their phones. That’s why Google and others have been pushing the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project. Further, Mobile Apps have taken over browsers so Google has been indexing the content inside mobile applications (for 2+ years). Soon we’ll be able to see app content without installing the app.

Here’s what brands need to keep in mind about the future of mobile search:

  1. AMP is here to stay. Upgrade while it’s yet an unofficial ranking signal; or at least ensure your mobile site loads in less than 3 seconds;
  2. Experiment with bots that users can use to perform crucial tasks without leaving the app or website;
  3. Watch out for “micro-moments” to engage mobile search users in real time; and
  4. Invest in mobile optimized video content.

Search aka Social

Social Media and Search will become one. Twitter and Google already have a partnership that lets the latter index tweets from accounts with a large following. Google itself uses its Knowledge Graph to serve rich content based on search queries. An official partnership between Facebook and Google isn’t likely, but at the same time, third-party data extraction tools are expected to gain prominence. Ultimately, the web will align itself to users’ social presence and search preferences.

As the gap between search and social diminishes, brands will have to –

  1. Centralize their digital content and strategy on a mobile-first website;
  2. Adapt different social media optimization techniques and repurpose content for different platforms;
  3. Optimize social media strategy to get better quality leads on their website; and
  4. Keep in mind that social signals impact your keyword ranking indirectly, whether Google admits it or not.

No UX, no gain

Image source: SearchEngineLand.com

Image source: SearchEngineLand.com

UX may be a separate discipline, but it is the future of SEO. If a website isn’t mobile friendly, loads slowly, is complicated to navigate or has a poor visual appeal, then don’t expect repeat visitors where at least 80% of business revenue comes from. For brands to build a long-term sustainable online presence, UX that fulfils user expectations is going to be vital. Without it, your search rankings face a slow death.

To quickly check their UX score, brands can look into the following metrics:

  1. On-Page Time – The more relevant your content is to the user’s search intent, the longer they are expected to stay on the site or navigate it further.
  2. Bounce Rate – Keep this in check; when a disappointed user hits the Back button after landing on your site, it sends a bad signal to Google.
  3. Click-Through-Rate (CTR) – Ranking for industry keywords isn’t enough. Your titles, meta-titles etc. and overall content strategy should be persuasive to make users open your site.

We believe that its important for brands to start preparing for the new landscape, because it will be impossible to win the catch-up game once it becomes the definitive reality. It almost already is!

To find out what new things you can add to your search strategy to achieve better results today, contact us here.

How Does Zomato Make It So Yummy?

internet-online-food-delivery-1000x600

Zomato has invented some sort of secret ingredient, I think; something to add just the right amount of ‘masala’ along with the tempting flavour of urgency in everything they do.

I don’t intend to undercut the gravity of the recent crisis situation at Zomato wherein its servers were hacked and personal data of its 17 million users stolen. But more importantly, the average Indian consumer has never come so close to a massive security breach involving a brand that serves as innate and simple a purpose as Zomato does.

That’s why its making news!

Remember the Big Billion fiasco at Flipkart? The online sale purportedly went wrong because Flipkart’s servers couldn’t handle the unexpected overload, while India woke up to the realization that our e-shopping market has come of age.

Anyhow, being a regular Zomato user, I was genuinely alarmed when I first read about the hacker attack last week – “OMG! Did they get my credit card details?”

The article was quick to point out that no such sensitive data was stolen. “Great! So what information was stolen?” I wondered. I was informed that it’s just my name, phone number and email ID. “Ah well, every mobile operator, bank and spa in India has that,” I thought.

But over the next few days, not only was Zomato trending on social media, it was simply all over the place. The English papers were writing about it, and the vernacular papers were covering it. And one fact kept popping up everywhere – 17 million users.

That’s just a little less than the entire population of Mumbai!

A crisis of this scale can easily spin out of control, with social media providing the necessary fuel. But in Zomato’s case, stuff always unfolds in unexpected ways! As it turned out, on Zomato’s initiative the hackers agreed to pull down all that ‘non-sensitive’ data they had briefly put up for sale on the dark web.

There was just one twist missing in this roller coaster ride – the ‘our-Founder-explains-in-a-blog-post’ tactic that Zomato has employed so well in the past. That happened this week, and you can read it here.

The blog post tries to centre media attention on it being an ‘ethical hack’ intended to apprise Zomato of its vulnerabilities. But it also says what I was hoping it would – the hack happened because the personal login information of a Zomato developer was compromised.

By rule of thumb, honesty is the best policy in a crisis. The truth always diverts attention away from our other questionable virtues.

One wouldn’t easily forget the Zomato #foodporn ads of 2015. It was the exact same story then – innuendo based ads displayed only on pornographic sites post midnight, a somewhat shocking guerrilla marketing tactic that Indian consumers had simply never been dealt before.

#Foodporn was also followed by a media frenzy as well as the classic ‘Founder-explains-in-a-blog-post’. While Zomato ultimately pulled off the digital campaign as ‘some people might have found it in bad taste’, it didn’t shy from sharing spicy facts about the porn surfing habits of Indians –

Zomato Blog – This post is probably safe for work.

The amount of attention Zomato received from #foodporn in the press and on social media was exemplary. Interestingly, these news stories, and the ad gurus they quoted, never really criticized Zomato for the ads. For there was nothing to criticize, only a lot to debate!

Zomato exists in a growing and highly competitive sector. Raising a decent revenue and finding new funding is dependent on growth of the user base. But Zomato has managed to retain its top of mind recall among consumers, successfully sidelining all the new and younger entrants in the market.

Forward to 2017, the recipe is new but the flavour is the same. The widespread national and international publicity of the hack has underscored one simple fact – Zomato possesses the largest user base in its category by far. No debates about that.

I mean, people who don’t order food online are forced to think – “17 million people are using Zomato, then why not I?”

Those who are using competing services wonder – “17 million users? I guess they have a lot more restaurant and food options…”

And folks who actually care about online data privacy are like – “What India really needs is a good DND law.”

As for me, I somehow ended up ordering twice on the same day via Zomato, the day after it got hacked.

5 Brand Microsites with Excellent UX

Brand microsites deliver niche and sometimes topical content to target audiences. Unlike websites that people visit primarily to consume general information, microsites are built for more specific and current needs. They are also a wonderful medium for building a sense of urgency and driving online engagement.

Thus, while staying light in terms of content, microsites have to be ‘macro’ in terms of user experience (UX).

The most effective brand microsites abide by 3 golden rules –

  1. Stick to a defined and singular purpose
  2. Build everything around the user
  3. Deliver a memorable experience

Today, we have 5 brand microsites that embody these virtues in their design, development, navigation and overall UX. So let’s jump right in!

The Movekars

The Movekars by Aditya Birla Health, is a responsive microsite and home of a friendly next-door ‘virtual family’ who teach visitors how to stay active through easy workout routines. The navigation lets visitors choose a particular member of the family to workout with, each having a different set of six 30-second ‘moves’.

MovekarsHamari Pari

Hero MotoCorp’s Hamari Pari uses thoughtful storytelling and adorable illustrations to sensitize visitors about the importance of education for the girl child. Though sophisticated and immersive in its storytelling, the microsite enables the entire user journey in just a few scrolls.

Hamari PariEcopia

Bridgestone Ecopia tyres has a Google Maps enabled mileage calculator – an innovative UX for car owners who are unaware of the economical and environmental benefits that come with choosing the right tyre. Besides its sporty aesthetics, the microsite lets visitors enter vehicle and fuel type, destination, and current mileage to know exactly how much they could save with Ecopia tyres.

Ecopia#LightUpLoC

Launched around Diwali 2016, #LightUpLoC is an interactive microsite by ASUS for sending Diwali greetings to our brave jawaans, through virtual sky lanterns. The microsite delivers a surreal virtual environment; as the user launches a sky lantern, watching it float up with hundreds of others like it, headed to different points between Rajouri and Siachen on the virtually created LoC.

LightUpLoCCamlin Experience App

Camlin’s Experience app is a digital canvas that helps visitors experience Camlin products first-hand while creating their own art. The interface features drawing tools based on Camlin’s various art products such as sketch pens, crayons, pastels, water colours and others. It’s quite addictive and gives art lovers an opportunity to showcase their work on social media.

Experience CamlinPsst.. If you have an idea that could someday make it to this list, we are always looking for people with your set of skills.