Published: 13/04/2017 | AUTHOR: Emily Bray
Friday may have looked like any other beautiful day for those in Brighton but, for the 3,500 SEO professionals that swarmed on the city, it was the April edition of the infamous BrightonSEO search marketing conference. As many of our clients appreciate, digital marketing is a fast-moving environment and this bi-annual event works some way towards bringing experts in their field together to discuss and highlight some of the most recent changes and developments in the search landscape.
SEO, intent and the future of search
BrightonSEO does an outstanding job of bringing the search queries of today to the fore and the first talk of the day from Raj Nijjer on the future of search, AI and data delved into the subject head first.
Even if you occasionally dipped into the subject of search marketing you’re likely to be aware of the increasing growth of voice device adoption, which Raj pointed out has grown 140% year over year. While voice search might not be an area you need to focus on just yet for your brand or business, the key takeaway here is that you should be prepared for future search trends to have an impact on your business and marketing activity.
Voice assistant results deliver 4.8X more engagement than traditional search results and own websites. While this may seem an impressive statistic, it is the meaning behind the statistic that brands should be wising up to now, before their target audience moves to these search arenas. Voice assistants deliver results based on pure user intent.
While you could argue so too does traditional search, in layman’s terms, voice assistants are most often used for direct action and are therefore more likely to drive engagement. The message for brands? Consider the points of consumer action in your purchasing journey and look at optimising your site and the appropriate landing pages to respond to these requests and queries.
Voice search means that it is no longer about ranking first in the search engine results pages, that’s no longer enough, you have to be position zero. In voice search there is no second place. That’s an intimidating prospect for search marketers and brands alike, but the main advice that came through the future of search discussion at BrightonSEO was, as always, to focus on brand and user intent above anything else and the rest should follow.
A deep knowledge and understanding of the brand and business is more important now than it has ever been and that’s because, in order to rank and be found in this environment, marketers have to be very clear about the brand proposition and what it offers the audience. Thankfully, that is something our clients already rely on us for, but that’s not to say that the topics covered on Friday weren’t intimidating. Raj raised the very good point that voice search, unlike any other search trend before it, has fragmented the landscape. As search marketers, we’ve looked beyond Google long before voice search came into play, but it’s more of a focus now than we have ever seen before, so we have to consider where else we rank and ensure we’re delivering the optimum experience on that particular platform.
SEO is about relevancy
Microsoft’s Purna Virji carried on the future of search theme to further fuel the intent fire that was alight in Auditorium 1.
Her talk focused on the increasing importance of relevancy, personalisation and the other new search trend in our midst – visual search. We already know that we live in a multi-screen, multi-channel world but as Generation Z starts to become the target audience for brands, are we fully considering the implications of them being well past two screens and working across up to five screens at a time?
Content engagement is a large part of this relevancy and, when you consider that your target audience is working across so many devices at once, the battle for attention is at its peak. Consumers may be 80% more likely to engage with content that includes relevant images but how are marketers meant to gauge whether the images are relevant?
Thankfully, technology and data capture are both moving at as fast a rate as the evolution of search, and there are now features such as emotion detection where we can not only see what a user is engaging with, but how they feel about that content.
Microsoft is among the leaders in this field of technology, as we covered in our article on the rise of accessible technology, which was evident in Purna’s talk. The importance of content interaction was covered in detail and the nature of these features that search marketers can be experimenting with to boost this user engagement.
Beyond engagement, Purna went on to speak about the importance of relevancy and how the future of search has ‘a very visual component’. Just as voice search is on the rise, so too is visual search and as consumers are offered more choice in the ways in which they search, they are going to choose the method that suits them.
It was a brave statement to make in a room full of search marketers, but Purna discussed the very real potential of a world without keywords, where the likes of a Pinterest SEO strategy will need to be adopted by brands and marketers. The focus on imagery and the relevance of that imagery to the target audience is becoming increasingly more important and should be widely considered when implementing a search strategy for any brand.
The impact of featured snippets on SEO
We’ve discussed the importance of featured snippets in voice search and optimising for Google Home and other home devices and Adrian Phipps, SEO Manager from Saga went on to reiterate this importance. His talk covered the impact they, or the answer box as he refers to it, have on search as a whole and what marketers need to do to compete in this space.
The relation to voice search is clear but the mechanics behind achieving Featured Snippet status is still largely a mystery, which Adrian confirmed, but he did have a few tips that are always useful from both an SEO best practice and optimising perspective.
How to rank for a featured snippet:
- Intent! Think about whether you are delivering on user intent, purchase intent or discovery intent and that will inform your search activity
- Ensure you’re answering either ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’ or ‘how’
- Long form content is prioritised (1200+ words)
- Tools, graphs and other useful features from either your own brand or respected third party sites and leading authorities add topic authority
- Paragraph featured snippets make up 82% of featured snippet real estate, while 11% are lists and 7% are tables – take this into consideration when producing content
- Speed and content quality matter (but that’s from the horse’s mouth, A.K.A Google)
- Ideally you want to be ranking on page 1 for the relevant term
- Aim to answer the target question within the first 100 words
- Ask the question in the title
- Answer multiple related questions within the body copy
- Ensure best practice SEO is carried out – go back to the basics!
Adrian had many tips but the main piece of advice that came through was that Saga achieve featured snippets results for their content by really getting under the skin of their audience and fully understanding the user’s intent; their needs, wants and desires.
Optimise beyond websites
Further to ensuring your website answers the user’s intent, in our current landscape of voice search, visual search, position zero, you have to ensure your digital real estate answers the user’s intent.
What became very clear, throughout all of Friday’s talks, was that a website may be your home but people like to travel. That means ensuring your business information is in the Knowledge Graph, is update and is thorough.
Maps, local results, social channels; they are all providing users with business information and third party sites are now generating 2-5 times more views than brand websites, so brands are now left with little choice but to improve their structured data and make sure their information is available to consumers, in the format they choose.
Have any questions about anything you’ve read here or want to discuss your brand’s digital strategy? Get in touch.