As marketers, we’ve gotten quite good at evolving our playbooks when it comes to SEO. But the changes we’ve ensure to this point are nothing is comparable to what’s coming next.
We’re no longer in the “early stages” of a new era of search — we’re here , now, witnessing new trends and best practices unfold in real time.
First, it was an era tied closely to patterns such as mobile, social, and voice search, among other things. But many marketers are past the phase of being on the cutting-edge of those patterns, and wished to know, “What now? “
Now, we also have topic clusters and messaging apps. Make no mistake: Mobile, social, and voice search are still major players in the SEO game. Prior to their entryway onto the landscape, SEO predominantly revolved around browser-based search engines. More precisely, it’s been connected immediately to Google. That’s where all the search activity has been. That’s where content intake has historically started.
But now, new cosmoes of search are taking shape outside of the browser window. In many of them, the rules for optimization have yet to be defined — but why does that matter to marketers? Well, in a nutshell, changes in the way people search indicate changes in the way they discover your content. They’re use new keywords and shaping queries in different ways; e.g ., what may have once been a query for “Boston restaurant” might now appear more like, “Where should I feed tonight? “
Let’s dive back into these four search patterns that are changing the face of SEO.
What is SEO?
Despite these changes, SEO still stands for “search engine optimization” — for marketers, the “optimization” part is what requires agility. Google defines the strategy as “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.” And while that, to some extent, remains true, we’ve widened the circle around the search engine results page( SERP ). Of course, keep your eye on your ranking, but also, seem farther out on the horizon.
You’ve likely hear the word “organic” associated with SEO. That’s because, when done properly, your content should be a natural outcome of search engine queries for the topic at hand.
Sound good? Great. Let’s have a look at some of the new ways users are organically discovering this content.
What SEO Looks Like Now: Four Patterns to Consider
1) Mobile Search
Here’s a fascinating little tidbit that changes everything. We all know the lion’s share of web usage has moved from desktop to mobile devices. At last count, 71% of U.S. internet use took place on mobile. It’s a figure, somehow equally astounding and obvious, that once led expert Benedict Evans to nudge, “We should stop talking about amobilea internet and adesktopa internet. Itas like talking about acoloura Tv, as opposed to black and white TV.”
“Mobile is the internet, ” he declares.
Now, that would be change enough, but the fascinating little tidbit I’m talking about? That’s still to come. According to Flurry Insights, it turns out that 92% of the time we spend on telephones is spent in apps. So, if internet activity is growing on mobile, and mobile activity is predominantly spent in apps, what does that mean for search engines?
Source: Flurry Insights
Over the years, user experience improvements have been made to app searches — which was somewhat inevitable, as Spotlight search as the sole option for searching within apps( and, in some cases, even bypassing Google to bring you some web outcomes) wasn’t a sustainable solution.
Let’s have a look at how the search capabilities within these apps themselves have also evolved — there are certainly repercussions for marketers there, too. Once believed to be strictly for GPS abilities, map apps are now being used as geographical search engines in-and-of themselves. Google Maps is a prime example — consider all of the information now contained in a single business listing.
So, we’re beyond the initial days of SEO for apps and the content within them. Messaging apps also play a vital role there — we’ll get to that in a bit.
2) Social Search
Something has been happening on our favorite social channels. Over the last few years, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have all released features that collectively signifies a massive change in the priorities of social channels: to make it just as easy — if not, easier — to search for content as it is to search for people and brands.
It’s an interesting move for a number of reasons, one of which is to see the role of connections and influencers in search results. For instance, have a look at some of my content suggestions from Instagram 😛 TAGEND
As a rule, I don’t follow a ton of celebrities on Instagram — unless, of course, you count certain famed dachsunds — and yet, Instagram curated a collect of images from them that it algorithmically believed I would want to see. It’s an indication that optimizing for social channels is an entirely different game than optimizing for Google — one that takes into account a user’s behaviour within an app, such as likes, tagged locatings, and accounts followed. The far-right photo in the second row, for example, is from the account of an influencer are stationed in Milwaukee, where I happen to spend a significant amount of time.
The second search-related change on social has to do with how these channels are beginning to treat content. We call them social “channels” because these sites have historically been a pass-through for businesses and publishings — a style to promote content and get viewers back to your websites. But consider recent changes within Facebook, however, designed to keep spectators on their sites and in their apps, with no pass-through — e.g ., Instant Articles, which contain the full article within the Facebook app rather than involving a clickthrough.
Social media have all along been considered a powerful channel through which guests find content on your website. These less-than-subtle changes, however, are reshaping the face of content discovery. And as content becomes more decentralized away from the website, optimization of that content will likely continue to change, too.
3) Voice Search& Personal Assistants
In the last few years, we’ve been introduced to Siri, Google Now, Cortana, and Alexa — voice-activated personal assistants created by Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, respectively. The emergence of voice-activated personal assistants has run alongside the rapid development of connected devices beyond the desktop computer or smart telephone. Everything from watches to scales, home speakers to lightings are now connected to the internet and its never-ending ocean of information. As our access to the internet has diversified, so has our search behavior. How so? Let’s take a look.
Natural speech: Each morning, explains HubSpot Vice President of Marketing Meghan Anderson, “I get up, stagger to the coffee pot and utter the phrase: ‘Alexa, what’s new? ‘, and Amazon’s Alexa — which is based on a speaker on my countertop — dutifully answers: ‘Here’s Meghan’s Flash Briefing.’ She then plays news and climate relevant to me and my place. I don’t structure the search query. I don’t use keywords. Alexa is smart enough to associate natural language with a request.” Each morning, explains HubSpot Vice President of Marketing Meghan Anderson, “I get up, stagger to the coffee pot and utter the phrase: ‘Alexa, what’s new? ‘, and Amazon’s Alexa — which is based on a speaker on my countertop — dutifully answers: ‘Here’s Meghan’s Flash Briefing.’ She then plays news and climate relevant to me and my locating. I don’t structure the search query. I don’t use keywords. Alexa is smart enough to associate natural language with a request.” Expanded search windows: Because of the prevalence of connected devices, we’re no longer only searching when seated at our desks or in a convenient place for typing on our telephones. With a vocal command( read: “Hey, Siri”) or move of a button, search can happen anywhere, at any time, just by asking our devices, “How do I rapidly remove soy sauce from a white shirt? ” Just saying. In any case, this development influences both the volume of the searches we’re conducting, and their composition. Because of the prevalence of connected devices, we’re no longer only searching when seated at our desks or in a convenient place for typing on our telephones. With a vocal command( read: “Hey, Siri”) or pushing of a button, search can happen anywhere, at any time, just by asking our devices, “How do I promptly remove soy sauce from a white shirt? ” Just telling. In any case, this development influences both the volume of the searches we’re conducting, and their composition. Context and history: Unlike browser search engines which still rely heavily on the conveyed search words, personal assistant searches pull upon the searcher’s history and context. If I’ve ordered dog food before, Alexa pulls in the exact brand from past orders and asks me if I’d like to re-order it. If I have a flight leaving at 6 p. m ., Google Home will let me know if it’s delayed, or if traffic is especially bad and I need to leave early. These searches — if you can even call them all that — remove a step, or several, from the research and get me to the point of action more quickly.