In varying capacities small and medium businesses alike depend upon their website for customer/client acquisition. For some, it’s where sales happen. For others, it’s a pure marketing tool. At the very least, it’s a channel where which prospective customers/clients validate and vet the relevance of an SMB to provide for their needs. And one way they do this, is through Google search. There’s no need to go into much more background than that because you already know how important it is to rank above the fold on that very first page – the promised land. This ambition does not falter.
What does adjust however, is what is required to reach and maintain that top spot. Year after year, month after month, and even day after day the search engine evolves. If your website does not advance along with it, it’s position on any given results page (SERP) will change too, and not for the better. In response, Digital Marketing Collective is here to provide you with insight into recent and ongoing developments with the world’s favorite search engine so that you can adapt accordingly.
3 Things Your Business Needs to Know About Google Search in 2019 So You Can Get Ahead of the Competition
Mobile First Index
In July of 2018 Google finally rolled out their promised Mobile First Index. Here’s what it means:
Mobile-first indexing means that Googlebot will now use the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking, to better help our (primarily mobile) users find what they’re looking for. Google’s crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have historically used the desktop version of your site’s content, which can cause issues for mobile searchers when the desktop version differs from the mobile version. (Google)
In laymen terms, Google will rank your site according to how well it delivers content to users on their mobile devices. If there are load time issues, or if they have a hard time viewing content (text, images, video) without pinching, swiping, and endlessly scrolling, then your rank will fall to competitors who deliver a better mobile experience, all else equal. The Mobile First Index will unequivocally maintain in 2019 and beyond. Barring an apocalypse no one is returning to desktop computers this century.
The challenge, is that on the surface you may think you’re delivering a favorable mobile experience. There’s only one way to be sure. First, copy and paste your website URL into this Google Mobile-Friendly testing tool and note the results. Then, copy and paste the same URL into Google PageSpeed Insights tool and note the mobile results. Google will make issues very clear. If there are any, forward the link to your developer right away, or find a web marketing company to optimize (or rebuild) your site for you.
The Rise of Artificial Intelligence in Search
Google has been vocal about employing artificial intelligence (AI) in their search algorithm since 2015. At that time, they confirmed that the AI powered RankBrain was being used to deliver us all with more relevant search results. Here in 2019, AI and machine learning is being leveraged in Google Search more than ever before.
This sounds more like industry news, right? After all, how can you take this information and make it relevant to your own SEO strategy? Allow us to share an example of how AI and machine learning in search is directly related to your attention (or lack thereof) to your website’s SEO.
Machine learning is technically a branch of AI. In search, machines are taught to generate a “to do” list from a set of possible outcomes, learning from each of the variables over time. These machines learn about user behavior on a results page. If over time, they find that one result on a Google SERP is ranking third or fourth but has a higher click through rate than the results above it, the search engine then learns from this behavior and bumps that below-the-fold result to the top. In this example, it’s clear that competing businesses need to increase the click through rate on the SERP. In order to increase your click through rate despite current rank, you need to craft a title tag and meta-description that is both informative and enticing to users.
The AI driven search algorithm will also consider and learn from Bounce Rate. If there is a pattern of users clicking on a result, but then leaving within a few seconds, the algorithm learns that the content being delivered to users is neither relevant or engaging enough to keep them around. The algorithm then begins to devalue the webpage, and instead promotes those that boast a better Bounce Rate. In this case, you can see the importance of delivering users with engaging content that not only answers their query, but is delivered in a pleasing and easy to consume format.
The possibilities and implications surrounding Google’s leveraging of AI are endless, but regardless they all point to one thing – your website MUST be optimized from top to bottom, and deliver meaningful content on a frequent basis to maintain relevancy.
Optimizing for Voice
This is a carry over from item #2 since AI and machine learning is a big part of virtual assistant technology, including Google Home (and Google Home Mini) which is gradually becoming a player in search. Users of other voice activated virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa and SIRI are connecting Google Search as well for a more robust search experience.
Now here comes the question businesses are asking – how the heck are you supposed to get your website ranking on voice search?
The simple answer is the same as addressed above, to make sure that your website has received top to bottom search engine optimization and continues to deliver meaningful content on a regular basis. But there is something else you can do that applies to your content delivery.
You see, people ask questions differently on voice search. For example, let’s say someone is searching for a pizza delivery in Calgary Alberta. On traditional search, they will type in “pizza delivery Calgary”. When using a voice assistant however, they will speak in a more conversational tone, such as “find me a pizza place in Calgary that delivers”. This indeed has an impact on the results that will be delivered.
As time goes on, AI-driven voice assistants will get even better at deciphering their owner’s vernacular, and adjust understanding and responses accordingly. All of a sudden the keyword stuffing that your prior SEO did on your website will lose value as search becomes more and more conversational. The implications are clear. To adapt to the move towards voice search, you will need to apply semantic variations to your keyword targets, and deliver more conversational content that both traditional and voice search algorithms will understand.
Essentially, you will need to adopt a hybrid approach to optimizing a webpage. One that ensures keyword targets are maintained in the meta-data of a given page, but also applies semantic variance within the conversational content of said page (paragraphs, etc.). This is not only preferred by voice activated search algorithms, but type-based ones too.
There is a lot to digest above, but it all directly relates to how you will optimize your website for success in 2019. Thankfully you don’t have to go at it alone as Digital Marketing Collective is here to help you evolve and adapt. Contact us today to find out how.