January 31 2018
Each year sees new developments in digital marketing, and at their core, these changes are driven by the goal of improving relevancy, usefulness and a great experience for users. Search Engines like Google & Bing are constantly testing and measuring the layout of their search results pages for both paid and organic results. In the first post of this series, we discussed some of the changes affecting the paid search landscape and the importance of optimizing your PPC program to meet the needs of users in today’s Age of Assistance.
In Part 2 of our 3-Part Series, we will be focusing on how to evolve your search engine optimization strategies to stay ahead of the curve and encourage user engagement.
Optimizing for Your Users
To remain competitive, businesses must gear their SEO strategies towards empowering and connecting with their users. Speed, engagement and not making users think, are more of an expectation today than ever before. What this means is, people want engaging content that provides them with the answers to their questions quickly, not to be given endless information to parse through.
Content – First, businesses need to focus on developing purposeful content that is based on the needs and desired outcomes of a search.
Content is the key driver when it comes to generating traffic and converting users into customers. Thin content with minimal or generic information on products and services won’t do the trick. Good, quality content should not only answer the questions your current or future customers are asking, but should also go a step further to anticipate and answer secondary questions.
One strategy web marketers can utilize for content writing is TopSpot’s B-SMART Method®. This method covers the basic touch points that content should contain – Brand, Size, Shape, SKU, Material, Application, Area or Industry, Requirement, and Type. If your content addresses each of these attributes (when they make sense for the product or service you are writing content for), odds are, it is answering your users’ initial questions while also anticipating others they may have.
The product landing page shown here is a great example of content that does just that. In addition to the product description, it also offers product advantages, system types, industries the system is typically used for and the product catalog that contains additional specifications. If the user gets to the bottom of the page and still has a few additional questions, they are given the option to fill out a quick form.
Answers to common questions submitted through this quick contact form can also be used to further refine the content on this page in the future.
Site Speed – Users expect a web page to load quickly. If your site is slow (or takes more than three seconds to load) it’s likely that users will leave before they’ve even seen the content you worked so hard to create! To test your website’s speed, you can use Google Developer’s Page Speed Insight Tool which will measure both mobile and desktop performance.
Voice Search – According to comScore, half of smartphone users engage with voice technology on their device and 43% of those users began using the technology within the last year. Speech recognition through smart speakers (meaning Virtual Assistants like Google Home and Alexa) has also been steadily increasing in recent months.
A recent study indicated that 80% of Google Home results come from snippets (which we will be discussing in a minute), making content based on informational search queries central in a voice search landscape. Overall, the quality of content and its ability to thoroughly answer users’ queries should continue to be a focus. It would be hard to say that voice search is leading to new leads or transactions as of now for most websites, but the premise behind great content that could answer a user’s queries has always been the backbone of traffic generation. So it would be safe to expect more conversational optimization for informational content rather than the more keyword focused methods.
Mobile User Experience
With their first announcement of a “mobile-first” strategy in 2010 and the adoption of the Mobile First Index in 2017, Google has made it clear for some time where their algorithms are headed. As search engines have evolved, users are turning to their mobile devices more than ever before, and we don’t see this changing anytime soon.
In fact, recent research shows that smartphones are now the primary device for accessing the internet & we are seeing anywhere from 20-60% of searches in industrial markets being performed on mobile devices. To stay competitive in 2018, businesses must optimize their websites for the mobile user experience (UX) in order to grow their online leads stemming from mobile devices.
A few ways to provide a great mobile experience include:
- Providing a clear call to action
- Including optimized images that support the page’s content
- Testing and Measuring – Implementing heatmapping software to identify where users scroll or click on a page can highlight user behavior and help you find opportunities to improve a page’s layout and conversion points.
The page below is an example of a great landing page experience for both mobile and desktop devices. It includes optimized images for product details and samples which empowers the user to make better-informed decisions. “Get an Estimate” is placed clearly in the middle of the page and can be easily tapped on with a touch of a finger or a click of a mouse.
SERP (Search Engine Results Page) Features
The landscape of Google’s search results that included ten search results listings and some clearly marked ads is no longer. Google’s move towards more personalized search results empowers users to find all the information that’s needed based on their query by including featured snippets, images, quick answers, knowledge graphs, PPC ads, and videos. As Google continues to evolve, they are also providing more and more opportunities to get your website in front of your audience that go beyond being in the first organic spot.
- Featured Snippets – Featured snippets usually require a more detailed response and also answer a user’s query in a direct way. By utilizing our B-SMART Method® (mentioned above) when writing content for your website, you are not only providing the information your website users are looking for, but also the type of information Google typically showcases in their featured snippets.
Not sure what opportunities are available for your website to be shown as a featured snippet? Conducting a competitive analysis is a great way to find additional online growth opportunities for your website.
- Knowledge Box / Quick Answers – In search results, quick answers are displayed in what is known as “position zero”. Position zero is above the first organic listing, meaning your website can be shown not once, but twice for a single search result. To optimize for Quick Answer snippets, think of all the questions your customers ask you about your products & services and then answer those questions directly (or better yet, utilize your form data or call tracking solution to gather this information). As mentioned above, keeping voice search in mind here is also recommended. Once you have your content ready, creating an FAQ page is a great way to provide a glossary of your questions with a clear structure to find the answers.
In December 2017 we saw a large shift from Quick Answers or featured snippets (like the examples above) now showing as Knowledge Graph boxes. What we know for sure is that Google will continue to test and make this feature more relevant and useful.
- Structured Data – Structured data is a way of formatting HTML that tells search engines how to interpret and display content in their results. Google hasn’t officially confirmed structured data as a ranking signal, but regardless, it is a great strategy to increase your organic real estate and increase your CTR (click through rate). Structured data can be found in many forms, which you can find on Schema.org, and we recommend checking out Review or Rating Schema Markup. You can also read how we used it to help our client, Great Western Leasing, stand out among their competition in their Integrated Approach Success Story.
2018 Trends for Organic Search
2018 will prove to be an interesting year for SEO. Although traditional SEO techniques are still effective, mobile page speed, user experience, SERPs, and voice search are proving that the first organic ranking is not the ultimate goal. To remain competitive, digital marketers must empower and assist users to find their information.