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Six under-recognized ways in which the Search game has changed

Published: June 26, 2014

Author: Molly Shotwell

Black-hat SEO, white-hat SEO, the Wild West of SEO, linkbait, to guest-blog or not to guest-blog…these topics all reliably grab conversation in the SEO world. But today we’re going to talk about six less flashy – but equally significant – trends that today’s SEOs need to know.
These break down into two buckets: the nature of search and the evolving forms of search. Here’s how we view them and how we advise you to adjust moving forward.

Search is Mutating

Position 1 is more important than ever

With the rapidly changing search results page, there are simply fewer organic listings on each page than there used to be.  This is even more impactful in a mobile environment when you are often two thumb-scrolls away from seeing anything other than the top-ranked organic listing on many commercial queries.
As of June of last year, 33% of all organic traffic was going to position 1, and over 92% of traffic was going to listings on page 1.  We expect those numbers to increase

Users increasingly rely on social signals, and that impacts organic search results

Organic search results are far from static; they’re heavily customized based on social signals for each user. A few examples include:

Personalized search results in Google, based on your search history when logged in, can dramatically impact the results pages that one person sees against another.

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Local search results are based heavily on social signals. The overall weight of your profiles, reviews generated, likes on Facebook, interactions on FourSquare, and ratings on Yelp all impact the way your business ranks in the search results on those sites.

social signalsLeveraging authorship and Google+ can get your content ranked in search results quickly and accurately.  Studies show that results using authorship can increase CTR over 100%.


It’s a multi-screen world

It is finally possible via Google’s Universal Analytics to start collecting data from people who visit your site from multiple devices and treat them as a single session. As long as users are signed in to their Google account on all of their devices, we can track them across devices, which: allows us to see what percentage of our user base views our site from multiple devices; shows conversion paths from customers who touched multiple devices; shows reports that can demonstrate which devices are most used for research against those used for conversion.  As this data becomes more widely understood, we expect both budgets and effort to be distributed more evenly across devices

New Forms of Search

Voice Search

SEO is going to be impacted a great deal by the rise of Voice Search.
Searchers are going to be far more likely to ask questions using natural language as opposed to using keywords to do their searching. This has an impact on the way brands should create content, but it also puts pressure on the engines themselves to be better at answering these questions and delivering the correct result set.  We can expect longer queries, and we can also expect our sites to receive less traffic from informational queries as the user will generally get the answers they need without needing to visit your site.

Google’s Knowledge Graph

Google knows that the search game is changing and launched the Knowledge Graph to say that a search engine’s three primary functions will need to evolve and that search will need to: 1. Answer; 2. Converse; and 3. Anticipate.
The Knowledge Graph exists on all devices and is comprised of a carousel at the top of many results pages, an information box on the right hand side of some query sets, and a change in the way that the auto-suggest feature works to better understand the query.  All of these changes create headwinds against organic traffic, as a user can get answers to many questions directly from the SERP.

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook has an incomparable amount of data at its disposal and created Graph Search to take advantage of it.  As opposed to getting information via what is found on the web, Facebook looks to answer user questions through your social graph. By looking at what friends and connections have already shared on the network, users can find people, places, and things of interest to them. Finding restaurants, music, photos, or people with shared interests is all possible by leveraging this platform.

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