In 2013 searchers evolved the way they sought information over the Internet, and towards the end of the year, search engines released their updates to better meet modern queries. In 2014, we will clearly be able to see the effects of these new ranking methods. Items such as authorship, social outreach, conversational intent and relevancy will really impact the way your website’s content will rank.
The Evolution of Search
First, let’s take a look at the ways we search. The classic desktop search continues to reign as the number one tool for searching and accounts for approximately half of the search volume. In desktop search we still see some searches being conducted in machine talk terms, for example: “Convention Center Santa Clara Hotel”. This search is packed with keyword terms and lacks a conversational tone which is how people used to search in order to get the most direct results.
Coming through in record amounts and still rising, mobile search is the second most popular method for searching. Mobile search encompasses two different strategies: typing a query into an engine and voice search. In the first of these, typing a query into an engine, a user may type “Santa Clara Convention Hotel,” which is a little shorter and more to the point than the desktop version. The second mobile strategy for searching came with the inception of voice search with which a user can talk to their phone in order to conduct a search. From this strategy we yield conversational search. When a user searches by voice, she asks questions or gives demands as though she was conducting a conversation, as in “Find a hotel near the Santa Clara Convention Center”.
Mobile and desktop search account for a vast majority of search queries, but it is important to examine some additional emerging methods. We are starting to see rising numbers of searches conducted on tablets and Internet capable TVs due to the increase in those devices that have become Wi-Fi or Internet capable. The final significant method of searching is attributed to wearable devices such as watches, Google Glass and more. All of these methods account for a smaller portion of the queries, but will continue to grow as the technology enhances.
Now that we know about search, let’s take a look at Hummingbird, Google’s most recent update which was released in September of 2013 and has changed the way results are delivered to queries. There are several factors that play a part in this new update, but first let’s examine how some of its key components are working together. Google examined conversational search, used this to enhance its knowledge graph, and now has the power to comprehend different types of searches. The engine will examine each component of a search, from left to right, and ask who, what, where and how. It can then put the pieces of the puzzle together to better understand the search.
Don’t Neglect the Basics
What about keywords? While keyword strategy may be slightly shifting, it is important to remember that it isn’t going away completely. If we compare the desktop search to the mobile search, we can see that the desktop search is keyword heavy while the mobile version is conversational. Now, it is important to notice that just because the mobile search is conversational, doesn’t mean that it is keyword free. Also, when Google examines the phrase it will still comprehend that key phrases exist, but they are separated in a conversational context. Thus, keywords are still vital in your content, because these are the phrases that will deem your content relevant to a particular query. Once deemed relevant, Google will then look for additional trends to better rank the content in a particular query.
Relevant and Structured Content
So, how will this effect content in 2014? With evolving search techniques and new updates, Google will be looking to deliver the most relevant results to each query. So, what makes a result relevant? Relevancy is determined by several factors, the most important factor being intent. Does your content supply information that satisfies the query? Will it be relevant to synonymous queries? If the search is “Find a hotel near the Santa Clara Convention Center,” does your content have a section dedicated to the location of the hotel? Do you expand on this page topic and talk about how your hotel is located near the convention center? Is there a map that shows the location? Do you provide easy to read, structured data that puts your location near the location of the convention center? Better yet, are you in any way associated or partnered with the convention center? Do you link to their site or engage with them on social channels? If the answer is yes, then you are headed in the right direction.
Great content itself is a solid foundation but there are additional elements that will enhance the value of your page. Freshness is going to be a major factor in 2014. How fresh is your content, has it been sitting there for years without any updates or add-ons? A great way to add freshness to your content is to add pieces about trending or hot topics. If the convention center has any major events or has recently won any awards, add some content about these items on your page. Another important factor is sharing and socializing your content. Does your content link to other sites that may have additional important information? Do you promote your content on social channels by adding fresh blurbs? Do your social channels interact with other relevant channels? If not, these are great areas to work on in 2014.
In conclusion, 2014 will be a really exciting year for content. Be sure to seize the year by enhancing the content that you already have. Ensure that you have deployed a successful keyword strategy which clearly defines the topic of your page with a short-tail term and expands on relevant details with a long-tail term or two. Make sure the content and headers cater to your page’s audience, add informational and interactive elements that will keep the user on the page and provide enough information to satisfy their query. Ensure that you add updates to your content that capitalize on new information or relate to hot topics. Finally expand your social network and interact with your audience. By combining all of these elements, you are sure to have optimal content and be ready to conquer 2014.
Contributed by: Emily Gibson, Content Manager