1. Optimizing for voice search
Updated technologies have changed not only what users search, but also how. Instead of pulling up Google on desktop or mobile and typing in a search query, an increasing number of users are turning to voice-based virtual assistants to bridge the gap in their knowledge. Blame it on the more intimate, personal connection between a user and his or her virtual assistant, but this changes the shape of queries, too—now, it’s more likely than ever that search terms will be in the form of a question.
How can companies use this to their advantage? By including “answers” in their content. By dropping in a few well-placed phrases in the form of an answer, it’s more likely that virtual assistants like Google assistant, Siri, Alexa, or Cortana will rank your content as more relevant when searching. From blog titles to your company’s About section, it’s crucial to address your audience’s questions both by reiterating them and providing clear, concise answers. Adding an initial paragraph that details a succinct answer to your users’ questions in 150-300 words can go a long way toward optimizing your content for voice search (and getting the right eyes on your website).
2. Optimizing mobile sites for mobile-first indexing
It’s common knowledge that having a mobile-optimized version of your website is absolutely essential nowadays. But in March of 2018, Google announced a move that makes this piece of the puzzle even more critical. The search engine giant has begun using the mobile version of websites, rather than the desktop version, as the primary resource when indexing and ranking content. This means that not only must your site perform superbly on mobile, but it should also include the content and functionality of the desktop version.
In past years, many companies considered the mobile version of their sites to be an afterthought, creating a smaller, less ambitious version of the site that did little more than appear comfortably on a mobile-sized screen. But with Google making this important change, mobile sites must now be as robust as their desktop counterparts. Prioritizing topical information and a finger-friendly interface is still key, but now it’s important to understand that any blogs, articles, or other longform content present on the “full version” of your site must be optimized for mobile as well, or its ranking on Google will be adjusted accordingly. Translation? Fewer viewers, no matter what kind of machine they’re using to access your content.
3. Optimizing for Google’s featured snippets
Even if you don’t know them by name, chances are you’ve interacted with a featured snippet on Google—especially if you’ve googled the date of a floating holiday, the time in another country, or the definition of a word. Also referred to as “position zero”, featured snippets are highlighted, boxed “answers” to your search query that appear above any other link in the search results. These are excerpted by Google and chosen to represent what Google assumes is the best, quickest answer to your query. While most featured snippets include only a text excerpt followed by the source link, some include images or even video to more aptly answer the query.
Getting your site to appear as a featured snippet not only puts it at the top of the page, but also lends a further air of legitimacy to your site since it has been ostensibly selected as the best source by Google. While there are many ways to optimize your content to improve its chances of becoming a featured snippet, one of the most important is to ensure you’re using language and content that will resonate strongly with your target audience. Optimizing your content in a question-and-answer format, as noted in #1, can also increase the likelihood of your site being used as a featured snippet.
4. Employing structured data
Search Engine Journal has noted that using structured data or schema markup not only improved clickthrough rates, it also improved conversion rates on both eCommerce and user-based sites alike. Yet many companies neglect this element of SEO, in part because they don’t have the resources or support to optimize their content in this way. But this is a huge missed opportunity.
Structured data has a profound impact on where your site appears on a search engine results page (SERP), because it defines the way search engine crawlers read your site and understand the content within. A site that has effectively employed structured data will have a more “rich”, user-friendly and comprehensible snippet, which, in turn, makes it a more appealing candidate for top SERP spots like the featured snippets mentioned earlier. “Rich” snippets put the most relevant and important elements of your site’s pages front-and-center, making them that much more compelling to Google (and, by extension, to your audience).
5. Taking advantage of new video carousels
Another recent change in Google’s SERP formatting is the introduction of video carousels. Whereas previous iterations have included a static set of the three most relevant videos for your search query, Google has replaced this with a video “carousel” capable of displaying many more results and allowing users to click through. For business users, this means they no longer have to be in the top three relevant videos to get a chance at a top SERP spot.
Intelligently targeting these spots with your site’s video content is a great way to increase organic referral traffic and get more eyes on your work. As with other SEO best practices, it’s important to get inside the mind of your users and consider what they’re searching for in order to ensure your video answers their questions. Choose topics and pain points that are easily translated into video, and focus on what users most need and expect from your company.
Though SEO best practices are always changing, it’s crucial to stay up-to-date to ensure that your site is reaching the most relevant users. Optimizing content for voice search, new Google video carousels, and other recent improvements gives your site the best chance to reach its target audience and secure the most desirable spots on SERPs. No matter your industry, following these top 5 SEO practices can help deliver improved clickthrough and conversion rates, as well as increased visibility overall. Ready to give your website the competitive SEO advantage it deserves? Start a conversation with Esten Sesto and the Project6 team to find out how improving your site’s SEO can deliver your ideal customers and clients.