We are all continuously looking for new insights to help us become better search marketers.
In this article we’ll share the key concepts discussed at major search marketing conferences in recent months, including Pubcon 2018, that we believe you should be aware of to continue improving as a search marketing professional in 2019.
The key concepts to understand include:
- User intent optimisation continues to be a key priority for SEO strategy
- Personal assistants, voice search and the pursuit for ‘Position 0’
- Google search results are shifting from answers to journeys
- Customer experience, loyalty and providing a ‘frictionless’ user journey
- AMP and Progressive Web Apps
- Single Page Applications
Understanding the user intent of your target keywords continues to be the priority for SEO strategy
All SEO strategies should be centred around a continuous process of user intent analysis of target keywords, with considerable resource allocated towards understanding what information a user is intending to find from each query.
The objective is to have the most complete answer that satisfies the intent of each query, whilst identifying all possible keywords across a sales funnel to provide holistic answers for. It’s integral to monitor your ranking performance, so you can continuously test and refine your content to improve organic visibility across the user’s search journey.
The tactical optimisation best practices include keyword segmentation based on buyer funnel stage, competitor SERP analysis to determine user intent of search queries, as well as reviews of Featured Snippets to define appropriate content formats.
It’s also vital to develop buyer personas, as this can help to answer the intent of search queries in their language and have the most complete answers to their pain points.
Remember, if you are successful at understanding user intent and can provide the most complete answer then you will have a great opportunity at ranking in ‘Position 0’.
Personal assistants, voice search and the pursuit for ‘Position 0’
Google has started to optimise the search results to provide more valuable answers to voice search queries input via personal assistants, such as Alexa or Google Home. They understand that usage of personal assistants is growing, along with the rise in voice search, and are therefore refining their machine learning algorithm to ensure search quality continues to improve in this area.
It is become increasingly important to optimise for voice search, and to ensure that a considerable proportion of your SEO strategy allocates resource towards acquiring ‘Position 0’. The coveted ‘Position 0’ is alternatively known as a Featured Snippet, and is formatted in most cases as a paragraph, list or table.
Google has started to create specific tools that can help SEOs to create apps and tools that provide voice based information to users. An example tool would be Actions on Google – which offers developers the chance to create ‘Actions’ and link them to Google’s ever-growing intents catalog. It’s more than likely that Google will continue to release useful tools for search marketers to help them format their content for voice search queries.
Between January 2018 and October 2018, a study shared at Pubcon 2018 highlighted that search queries which returned a “People Also Asked” box had increased from 30% to 58%. This shows a substantial increase in Google’s usage of this functionality, something that Gary Illyes reinforced by reminding SEOs to add structured data where available.
98% of featured snippets are served from URLs which are ranking on page one of Google. Therefore, when prioritising resource it’s worth focusing on informational keywords ranking between positions 1 – 10. We suggest analysing your target keywords using ranking tracking software to identify all of those keywords that are returning Featured Snippets.
Google search results are shifting from answers to journeys
Bill Hunt’s recent talk at Pubcon 2018 was titled, “Leading Topics from the SEO Front Lines”, and one of the major concepts discussed was that Google are shifting away from direct answers to queries, and instead offering users journeys following queries.
Essentially, it’s a shift from a query to a queryless way of getting information, whereby Google is surfacing relevant information related to interests, or semantic topics, without forcing the user to input another query.
Multifaceted Featured Snippets, which provide the user with a journey, are now being tested on desktop, as well as mobile results. Barry Schwartz recently surfaced examples of multifaceted desktop Featured Snippets, which could significantly affect the amount of organic traffic you would receive in comparison to if a search query only had one Featured Snippet.
This example shows how Google are trying to provide the user with a journey towards purchasing a Stroller and Car Seat Combination.
A single search query is returning Featured Snippets for the awareness stage (“How to Choose the Best Car Seat Stroller Combo”), consideration stage (“Best Stroller and Car Seat Combinations”) and decision stage (Google Shopping results for Stroller and Car Seat Combos).
This overall shift towards journeys over singular query inputs aligns with the increasing trend for voice search, and makes it crucial to understand the results of the SERPs for your target keywords and create content in a format that captures the greatest share of search.
It’s also important to map your target keywords to the sales funnel journey.
Customer experience, loyalty and providing a ‘frictionless’ user journey
Research has shown that the average attention span for users on the web is dropping significantly, which means that you have less time to communicate your value proposition to your potential customers.
Search marketers should be allocating resource towards ensuring that the user experience of a website is faster, more aligned with expectation and mobile-friendly. It’s also critical to establish a review generation strategy to manage negative reviews and maximise the opportunity to receive positive reviews.
At Pubcon 2018, Roger Dooley offered a fascinating overview of the idea of reducing ‘friction’ for users during their experience of your website, and how these ‘low friction’ experiences would lead to increased customer loyalty.
If you can develop a ‘low friction’ user experience on your website, then customers are more likely to be loyal due to result of convenience, and therefore loyalty to a brand is not altruistic.
When linking this hypothesise to neuroscience, Roger Dooley suggested that people are fundamentally lazy due to cognitive and physical exertion. So instead of focusing on offering discounts as motivation for users, the best way to instill customer loyalty and increase conversion rates is to make the user journey easy and ‘frictionless’
Examples of ‘friction’ during an online user experience would include long forms to fill out, slow website load speeds, and the lack of process explanations. In contrast, ‘frictionless’ user experience examples include auto-login, minimalist design features, one-box to complete all required interactions and easy return options on ecommerce websites.
It’s certainly worth setting up a ‘friction’ audit of your digital assets, primarily the website, to identify stages of the user journey that can be optimised to be ‘frictionless’. This may increase customer loyalty to drive more return users, whilst improving conversion rates.
AMP and Progressive Web Apps
Google is actively encouraging search marketers to prioritise the mobile experience they offer their users. A significant part of mobile optimisation is developing a website or content platform that is fast and easy for search engines to pull important information from.
The mobile-first index has been rolling out across websites since the summer this year, and Google has stated that speed one of the key areas for search marketers to focus on, despite it not being a direct ranking signal. The key here is that fast website load speeds will improve the mobile user experience, and organic UX signals do directly impact ranking positions.
The two development solutions that Google is pushing is Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Progressive Web Apps (PWA). Each have their own pros and cons. These solutions can also integrated together to create a fast and flexible website with greater functionality than a traditional website.
AMP is relatively simple to migrate over to for most websites, although it’s not yet fully supported for all website types (e.g. ecommerce). This solution is something that a large proportion of major publisher websites have adopted and it improves website load speed considerably. Aside from the issues with functional compatibility, AMP also has issues with certain aspects of tracking.
PWAs, or Progressive Web Apps, originate from new functionality within HTML5 that enables websites to control browser caching, interact with device hardware and be pinned to home screens to function offline. This means that websites can now perform all of the functionality associated with native apps.
As a search marketer, you should stay abreast of updates across AMP and PWA, as Google is directly recommending their usage as a development solution.
Single Page Applications
The issue is that Google struggles to crawl Single Page Applications and JS rendered content at the same speed as HTML5 for instance. This means that it takes longer for Google to index web pages that adopt this setup.
When undertaking technical SEO audits, it’s worth considering how the website can be optimised to reduce its reliance on Single Page Applications and JS rendered content.
Why is it important to understand these key concepts to become a better search marketer in 2019?
It’s important to keep updated on all of the latest news in the search industry as developments can occur so quickly we can easily miss them.
The key concepts that we’ve listed in this article are areas to consider when planning your SEO strategy for 2019, talking to clients or colleagues and focusing your research.