In our blog, The Evolution of Search, we touched on how things have already changed. We focused on the shift towards intelligent search; search that more closely mimics how we might refer to a subject in conversation.
This conversational approach is a stepping stone to what is to come, and in this blog, we’re looking at where else search can go and might need to go to keep up with our expectations as users.
Search features are here to stay…
We used to look, almost solely, for the top ranking results, but now users are turning to increasing search features to help them find the information they want, as Google works to predict the meaning of our search terms in greater depth.
The example below, referring to the always newsworthy Met Gala, shows how Google is anticipating what the user may want when seeking information about the event.
The info provided ranges from top news to other events the user may have meant or that relate to similar interests, such as the Cannes Film Festival.
These new search features both present and remove opportunities. This example of “How to make a Negroni” shows how much information, in different formats, is made available to the user. The user is presented with a video demonstration, the basic info and ingredients, tips and advice from brands on making the perfect cocktail and other questions it believes they might ask.
Here, we can see a question a user may ask about the cocktail in reference to substituting an ingredient with Vodka. Below, is a return result from a brand which has reference to this exact query, complete with recipe. So, how do we rank in these vital spots?
There are a few ways to do this:
- Links – Despite lots of change, some things remain constant in the bid to get to those all important spots and links are one. Editorially given, anchor rich text linked from strong sources still counts and continues to provide an indication of how authoritative and trustworthy a site is.
- Content – Content is King. Google is using all of its machine-based learning to determine if your content matches what it understands as being both high quality and highly relevant to the user’s intent.
- Successfully provides an answer to the searcher’s query
- Optimised for semantic and voice search (conversational queries)
- Structured in a way that Google can easily pull out snippets as search features
- Page Optimisation – Google is looking for crawlable, accessible URLs that it can index easily. You can help your pages by working on well-crafted and compelling title tags and meta descriptions. If you couple this with structured data that will help Google better understand the context of the page and improve its search visibility. Ok, so you’ve done this but you’re still not seeing your results where you’d like. What else can you do? Start by reading on!
- Engagement metrics and query satisfaction – Google wants to see that your pages are solving queries, and quickly. So, if it notices a high rate of pogo-sticking you’ll start to rank lower. One way to address this is to explore the search results to discover the type of content that Google is deeming the most relevant for the terms you’re trying to target – once you can see what is deemed high quality, you can emulate this in your content.
- Speed – We addressed in the previous blog that user expectations are shaping the future of search; our insatiable need for instant delivery of information, products and services means we are getting increasingly demanding when it comes to page speed. The stats are in and it seems that more than half of visits are abandoned if a site takes longer than three seconds to load. You can help speed things up and avoid abandonment by doing the following:
- Enable compression
- Optimise images
- Optimise code
- Leverage browser caching
- Improve server response time
- Reduce redirects
The future… what happens next?
The fact is, search is still fundamental, but it will continue to adapt and shift in ways that mirror consumer demand.
The move to conversational search results/predictions is accompanied by a move to Voice Search. This isn’t just about recognition, it’s about the ability to interpret your speech, understand it and know how you might want to see the results – it’s a huge step forward.
This means considering your content in a more conversational way, writing how you might speak. Optimise your content for these longer-style queries and make sure your FAQ content is tailored to meet the needs of your users – what are they asking? Do your answers provide them with that they need?
A personal assistant is essentially a device that is seamlessly present wherever you are, so easily accessible that you barely even realise you’re interacting with a computer.
As technology advances, personal assistants will perform searches in the background based on information they pick up from conversations, consumer location and even biometric information.
As an example, they might take into account a consumer’s daily commute schedule and use real-time traffic data to recommend when they should leave home to make it to work on time. Here’s another opportunity for you to ensure you’re tailoring content to maximise its suitability – again keeping an eye on the relevance of your FAQ content and ensuring you optimise for synonyms and abbreviations.
As more and more devices become connected to the internet, search will become increasingly ubiquitous; it will no longer be contained within a search engine on a screen.
With the development of smart watches, Apple spotlight and more, a seamless search experience is closer than ever before; user experience has never been more prevalent.
So what does all this mean? Well, it’s likely these developments herald the decline of the traditional content discovery model and instead, search engines will just continue to answer user questions (in increasingly sophisticated and highly accurate ways). For many people, search engines will become the internet in that they will not leave the interface since their questions will have been answered as a direct result of their search. The combination of artificial intelligence, machine learning and the rise of mobile adoption has radically altered consumers’ expectations of what search can deliver.
Historically, we’ve had to adapt to how search engines worked in order to search effectively and now voice search is adapting to how we speak. We’re still a long way from a voice search first world as this feels very unnatural for many, but it’s fair to say we’re approaching the midpoint.
Worried about how to meet the changing search landscape? Or just ready to up your game and need a little help? Our experts are here to guide you through the dos and don’ts Get in touch or Call today on 01423 396959.