Hello? It’s only half-way through 2015, and you are already talking about next year? Well yes. It’s always good to plan ahead. If you had a glimpse into the future – even near future – would you use it? I don’t have a crystal ball or anything, but perspectives from leaders at the Search Marketing Expo can really help. We might even be able to make a few predictions of the future of SEO.

Jeff Bullas admits that Google freaks him out. “They are always on the verge of making a big search algorithm change. As marketers we feel handcuffed, gagged and strapped to a chair – the search engines can do what they want to us.” Recently he attended the Search Marketing Expo, “…and it helped. Things are a little clearer in my mind now, and Google doesn’t seem as scary anymore.”

What did the Expo do for our enlightenment? They pointed to mobile, voice search, and ‘direct answers’.

1. GET MOBILE

I know, shocker. Well, if you happen not to have read anything on the subject, check out a few posts on Mobile Marketing and SMS Marketing. In 2016, searches done on mobile will surpass searches done on desktops and laptops. Yes, make your website mobile-friendly. But it’s more than that. I recently read that mobile-friendly website design has evolved, and if you haven’t done recent updates, then you need to. There is a new focus on a better visual experience, and let’s face it, it’s all about the experience. A website is not static or set in stone. It needs to be constantly improved and updated.

Think Differently

Beyond mobile-friendly, you need to have a mobile-mindset. Not just for your website, but your products too. How does your content appear on a smartphone? “In other words, businesses must give thought to all of the following; mobile marketing strategy; mobile design, mobile search marketing and advertising, mobile e-commerce and mobile payment, mobile CRM (customer relationship management), mobile coupons, and integrating mobile, local and social,” says Bullas.

A case study of PlusNet whose “mobile first” mindset led to increased conversions on mobile
072315_Mobile-design-tips-for-SEO

The difference between past and present mobile designs. Note, the new focus on better visual experience and the use of space to highlight important elements of the web page

072315_Example-of-mobile-design-Zazzle

(Bullas) What did Zazzle do?

  • Created simpler, more focused product pages
  • Kept only features that are useful to mobile users
  • Prioritized products that are popular with mobile users
  • Created mobile-only deals and promotions

The results? A 186% increase in mobile sales. Yes, you read that right. And again. Worth preparing for and implementing, right?

Google Search, Maps, and Google+

I don’t need to worry about this stuff, you say. All my business is local. I’m just a small business, that won’t affect me. Hold the phone! (See what I did there?)

Increasing numbers on mobile search will have an impact on local business: “50% of consumers visit a store within a day of searching on a smartphone. 72% of consumers who searched for local information on a smart phone visited a store within 5 miles* (Source: Google, May 2014) and of the 69% of Australians who use social media 30% post reviews, *(Source: YP Sensis 2014),” explains Bullas.

You have got to claim your space on Google search, Maps and Google+. Customize your business’ appearance in the search, so you know it looks exactly like you want it to. Complete the full descriptions of services, products, and reviews. Add images and videos.

2. VOICE SEARCH

When you use Siri, Cortana, or Google Now… How do you interact differently that you would with your web browser? As a marketer, it’s like a whole new level of thinking. How do I reach my customers here?

“With text-based search, you type something like ‘Home Depot’ and you click on the address to find its location,” notes Bullas. “With voice search, you’ll say, ‘Where is the nearest Home Depot?’ Think about how you began your search. Did you open the search box by touch or did you prompt the assistant by saying ‘OK, Google.’”

All Questions Start With

If you haven’t seen it yet, dive in to Rosettas article (called “brilliant” by some), laying out the idea that “voice search is marked by the use of question words: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.” (From Bullas) These key question terms are going to define how we adapt to changing search patterns on mobile devices.

072315_Mobile-device-search-volume-growth The ready-to-act level changes when it comes to different type of search queries. (Bullas)

072315_Ready-to-act-based-on-search-queries

Coming Soon: More Voice Recognition Search Features On Google.

“Voice search changes the behaviors of consumers by moving faster than type search. Although Google hasn’t provided exact stats on the superiority of voice recognition over type search yet. Part of this change is to embrace the increasing popularity of mobile search and to make the search engine more proficient, saving the consumer both time and effort,” clarifies Bullas. “Conversational search helps users answer fact, stat-based questions such as ‘tell me the hotels in the Sydney CBD’, it can then refine the search to ‘Find me the cheapest hotel in Sydney CBD’. You can appreciate how efficient the search assistant system is, making the entire process much easier for the time-pressed consumer.”

Where do I even start, you ask?

Improve your local SEO. Add full details on your products and services. Add all pricing. Add all location information. Add reviews and local citation.

If you don’t have a business app, read this. If you have an app for your business, make sure it is search friendly. “Apps are becoming more integrated within Google search results since Google has started indexing app content. Accordingly, businesses can make sure their app appear in search results under web and applications, making it more accessible to users,” writes Bullas.

072315_Example-of-apps-appearing-in-a-search-tab

Apps appear in search results.

Content Marketing + SEO = KAPOW (lightning bolt here)

“It is important to integrate your SEO strategy with your content marketing,” encourages Bullas. “For example, conducting comprehensive long tail keyword research to identify the popular words and phrases that users are searching is only necessary or pertinent when combined with the relevant content strategy which could involve FAQs, Facts, How-to-articles, Explainer Videos and so on.”

072315_Voice-searches-and-long-tail-keywords-graph

Voice searches contain more words – this means long-tail keywords are even more important as part of the SEO process. No word yet (catch that one?) on how the changes in voice search will impact ad listings, but that seems a bit off in the distant future. I’m sure we will discuss this more when we know more.

3. “STRUCTURED DATA AND DIRECT ANSWERS ARE TRENDING”

Google currently attempts to give you the exact answer, at the top of the page, when you submit a search query. They call this “direct answers”, and they weren’t created with mobile in mind. Since mobile’s growth, search requirements and restrictions have grown.

Bad news (via Bullas)

  • Google: “we built Google for users, not websites.”
  • Approximately 19% of queries result in rich/direct answers
  • Bad for specialized search engines and competing answer engines –i.e. weather sites, shopping searches, yellow pages and lyric sites
  • If your business strategy is to collect and present data and facts you don’t own, Google is now a direct competitor

Good news (via Bullas)

  • Most direct answer platforms are not commercially valuable.
  • Some answer engines (Weather Underground) provide data to Google via licensing –additional revenue + traffic stream
  • If you are the answer to a direct answer (what is the best restaurant in Sydney) then life is good!
  • About 75% of the time, links to the source are provided
  • Most searches can’t be turned into a direct answer, and many search sessions are multi-step
  • Major sites are not reporting a downturn in traffic as a result (so far)

What can you do?

“Provide structured data for everything you can,” advises Bullas. Sounds a bit vague, but really there is a simple explanation. Tag the data in your web pages so that search engines can easily understand. “These data elements can be anything from pricing and availability to breadcrumbs and video,” explains Bullas. “Structured data is the “extra” information that you see next to a website and meta description. For example, if you are searching for a restaurant, you will not only see the restaurant’s name, but also additional information such as hours, pricing and stars to indicate positive reviews.”
Is a web developer required for managing your SEO and structured data? Yes, and Bullas has a great note as to why: “Your time is better spent growing your business rather than trying to figure out how to implement structured data on your website.” He also adds, “Structured data is definitely not only for search engines. If done correctly it will make your result much more attractive and increase your click through rate.”

For even more on these subjects, check out the content and image source at: http://www.jeffbullas.com/2015/06/10/seo-predictions-for-2016/#bpGG0dp5ILFFZAg0.99

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