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.
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.
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:
- Create content that’s both informative and engaging for users;
- Keep in mind that small things like on-page SEO still make a big difference;
- Only legitimate editorial links will produce long-term results;
- Build for mobile responsiveness, speed, avg. time on site and overall UX; and
- 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 –
- Be the first result as opposed to just being somewhere at the top
- Build content strategy using long-tail keywords and natural, everyday language
- 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.
The best ways for brands to conquer local search are:
- Claim your location on as many listing and review sites as quickly as possible;
- Use location-specific keywords including neighbourhood names or landmarks; and
- 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:
- 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;
- Experiment with bots that users can use to perform crucial tasks without leaving the app or website;
- Watch out for “micro-moments” to engage mobile search users in real time; and
- 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 –
- Centralize their digital content and strategy on a mobile-first website;
- Adapt different social media optimization techniques and repurpose content for different platforms;
- Optimize social media strategy to get better quality leads on their website; and
- Keep in mind that social signals impact your keyword ranking indirectly, whether Google admits it or not.
No UX, no gain
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.