The past year or so has seen quite a shake-up in the organic search world. Those who were not prepared to proactively roll with the punches find themselves in a confused state of affairs.
Can you still win in organic search, despite all the changes? Some would speculate that it’s becoming harder, but it’s truly the approach to your organic search strategy that will carry you through the algorithm changes, the search engine initiatives and search trends.
In this post, we’ll talk about some of the changes we’ve seen, and how to continue to have a winning organic search strategy by focusing on content and mobile.
“There is a new phase of content development forming with in-app and mobile experiences. Content is being developed and tailored for device types that fundamentally improve the overall experience. It’s surprising to still see people just digitize content, but not actually tailor it for mobile.” — Darren Pleasance, head of customer acquisition at Google.
Indeed. According to comScore data reported by Rebecca Murtagh at Search Engine Watch, mobile use surpassed that of desktop early this year, forever altering the digital marketing landscape for brands and businesses.
Coupled with comScore’s latest (June 2014) smartphone subscriber figures, which forecasts smartphone penetration (in the U.S.) to reach 74 percent by the end of the year, marketers have every incentive to adopt an informed mobile solution for their content.
This surge in mobile use followed Google’s June 2013 announcement that it’d be rolling out ranking changes in its mobile and smartphone search results for sites that provided a poor user experience. According to Google, the two most common mistakes in website configurations for mobile are faulty redirects and smartphone-only errors.
Looking for more information on mobile marketing and solutions? Data from The BrightEdge 2014 Mobile Share Report provides insights into the growing mobile search traffic revolution and proper mobile SEO optimization.
Also, BrightEdge CEO Jim Yu has written extensively on the subject, including:
- The Mobile Boom Is Here: Deliver the Best Experience, No Matter the Device at The Huffington Post. Jim notes that “just because you’re ‘doing mobile,’ doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing it right,” advising brands to optimize for the boom in mobile organic search by choosing their best “mobile path” as determined by the relative performance by of their Web pages by device.
- Going All Responsive Is Not Always “One Size Fits All” With Mobile at Marketing Land. Citing data from the BrightEdge 2014 Mobile Share Report, Jim states that 27 percent of the websites studied made mobile configuration errors that resulted in an average loss in smartphone traffic of 68 percent. Based on BrightEdge’s Data Cube research, he also cautions that the responsive design (recommended by Google) doesn’t necessarily mean higher search rankings for your site as compared to the other two mobile solution options.
- Mobile Site Configuration 101: How to Choose at Search Engine Watch. Jim outlines the three mobile site configurations supported by Google, and advises brands to consider their goals and the Web traffic insights culled from their analytics when deciding upon a mobile solution.
Content & Semantic Search
“This past year will be remembered as the ‘Year of Content.’ [There has been] so much conversation around how important content is, people moving budgets towards content efforts and so on. And yet, for all that talk and action, content has always been important.” – Duane Forrester, head of the webmaster program at Bing.
As the digital marketing mantra goes, “content is king.” Brands have learned that they must embrace Google’s directive to provide users with the best experience and quality content since the Panda algorithm first arrived on the search scene in 2011. Now, it’s an integral part of Google’s algorithm, rolling out on a continuous basis. Combined with its Penguin update, which targets link schemes, massive guest blogging networks and other attempts to pass PageRank, Google has made its zero-tolerance stance towards such shortcuts clear.
“And as if content weren’t enough, more and more companies are starting to hear the message around marking up content, and taking an action towards it. This is a future-proofing tactic that will serve websites well,” Duane notes.
The transition to semantic search, evidenced by Google’s rollout of its “Hummingbird” algorithm as well as improvements to its “conversational” voice search and Knowledge Graph, ushered in a new era of SEO and content development.
Coinciding with the search giant’s move to 100 percent secure search, Google unveiled Hummingbird at its 15th birthday celebration in September 2013 (although it quietly rolled out the new infrastructure the month before), marking the beginning of the end of traditional, keyword-driven SEO and content optimization.
As Duane alluded to when he spoke of “marking up content” as “future-proofing tactic,” semantic search is most effectively leveraged when you use Schema.org to markup your digital content.
Simply put, Schema.org helps the search engines to better understand your content and what a web page is about, allowing them to deliver better results (think “rich snippets”) to the user. For more information on how semantic search works using the Knowledge graph and structured data, check out these resources and articles:
- Use Structured Data for Rich Search Results at Google Webmaster Tools Help. A comprehensive, how-to guide on structured data and rich snippets.
- Google Hummingbird & The Keyword: What You Need To Know To Stay Ahead at Search Engine Land. BrightEdge CEO Jim Yu discusses Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, and what it means for marketers. Coupled with Google’s eclipse of keyword data, Hummingbird represents an improvement in semantic search, allowing Google to better interpret the searcher’s intent and the context of the words used in a query.
- Introducing the Knowledge Graph: Things, Not Strings at Google Inside Search. In a detailed explanation of the Knowledge Graph, Amit Singhal describes it as the “critical first step towards building the next generation of search, which taps into the collective intelligence of the web and understands the world a bit more like people do.”
- Knowledge Graph Optimization at Blind Five Year Old. AJ Kohn discusses how brands can leverage the Knowledge Graph by optimizing their website’s connection to it, which can translate into greater search visibility.