“The destiny of Google's search engine is to become that Star Trek computer, and that's what we are building... You could ask it a question and it would tell you exactly the right answer, one right answer—and sometimes it would tell you things you needed to know in advance, before you could ask it.” - Amit Singhal - SVP of Search, Google.
Things rarely stay idle in search, but right now the sector is changing rapidly. As Google steams ahead with its “Star Trek computer” search engine, its organic results are taking serious a hit.
Back in 2006, being 1st place on Google would win you 42% of clicks. Today it would garner about 30% or less. This may be a relatively modest decline, but the downward trajectory is likely to continue.
The way we search is evolving - thanks in part to the rise of the mobile device - and Google is working hard to produce SERPs and services which reflect this shift. Of course, this leaves less room for organic results.
What was once the holy grail of SEO, the coveted “number one” spot is no longer as valuable to online businesses for a very simple reason: it's now less visible and less useful to searchers.
So how can online businesses and digital marketers roll with the changes and keep pace with Google's adaptations? That's what my upcoming talk at PMI: London will cover in detail, and what I will explore a little here...
What's happening to my search results?
Mobile searches are the prime culprit when it comes to the way search is changing. Google now sees more mobile than desktop traffic in 10 countries, and this effect is set to become more widespread. EMarketer, for one, expects to see 162 million mobile searches compared to 62 million on desktop by 2019.
With software like Snapchat Discover gaining popularity and Facebook well underway with its own content discovery platform, designed to stop people leaving the Facebook app and onto a crash mat of clickbait, it's clear that public preference lies with apps, not traditional browsers, when it comes to mobile search. This too is influencing the way Google serves up data and results.
Meanwhile tools like Google Now, Voice Search and Knowledge Graph are becoming increasingly impressive, all developed with more instant, more intuitive and more mobile-friendly searching in mind...
How to keep up
As you can see, there's a lot going on in search at the moment. You may have noticed over the past year that more and more Google searches now display information shown directly on your search results pages; from the latest movies in local cinemas, to basic information about Emmeline Pankhurst.
This information comes from Google's Knowledge Graph: a smart tool which pulls data from websites straight onto results pages so that searchers don't need to look any further to get the answers they want. Today a quarter of all Google searches will feature Knowledge Graph data.
Knowledge Graph draws on information which has been “marked up” using things like Schema.org. Learning how to use tools of this ilk can help you make sure that it's your information which shows up via Knowledge Graph, giving searchers instant access to your site, service, events, information or products. Currently a whopping 66% of the top ranking 100,000 websites are not using MicroData, giving those that can and do the upper hand. Here are a few basics to consider...
This is a type of HTML markup used to help search engines recognise and use information on websites. It can be used to tell Google what data your site contains, marking up and identifying things like company data, videos, recipes and events.
This is MicroData taken a step further. Schema.org is an initiative launched in 2011, designed to provide a consistent set of frameworks for structured data markup (in HTML and JASON-LD) on webpages. Effectively, this is a uniform way for sites to use a standardised MicroData search engines will recognise.
Open Graph Tags
These tags tell social media platforms exactly what your content is and how it should be presented on that platform. From specifying headers and CTA buttons, to identifying pictures and snippets, these are the tags which make your content clickable and accessible when shared via social media.
What else can digital marketers do?
You've marked up your website and content rigorously, but what else can you do to roll with the changes? Why not...
- Use Twitter cards to increase tweet click through rates?
- Use Google Now cards to give more information in consumers’ inboxes?
- Use APIs to broadcast notifications and keep users up to date via mobile?
- Use Phonegap or Cordova to turn your responsive website into an app with a mobile wrapper?
If you're keen to get found by Google's shiny new Star Trek computer, it's this sort of forward-thinking which will get you found and get traffic flooding to your website, long after Google's top spot has ceased to matter.