Search Engines Have Changed. Here's How You Can Keep Up

December 1, 2017 Brandon Moore

Every now and then, search engines such as Google update their algorithms. If SEO is a part of your marketing strategy, you’re probably familiar with this and know if you don’t keep up with the changes, you’ll miss out. At the same time, the way people use search engines has changed, altering the strategies we use in order to make sure our web pages are visible to our target audiences.

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Keeping up with these changes can feel impossible. However, with the right information and knowledge, your web page can end up in the most valuable place: on the first page of Google’s search results.

Here are some of the ways search engines have changed and how you can keep up with them in order to ensure your business’ success.

If You’re Not Optimized, You’re Not Showing Up

If your website isn’t optimized for mobile viewing, you’re being seriously penalized. In a push to have more websites optimized for mobile visitors, Google has begun failing to show websites that are deemed unfit for mobile viewing. That’s right—if your website doesn’t function on smartphones or tablets, Google simply won’t show it. Depending on your industry, upwards of 70 percent of searches are conducted on mobile devices. If Google decides not to show your website, you’re going to be missing out on a huge margin of clients.

So what can you do? It seems like there are few other choices than optimizing your website for mobile. While this might seem like a hassle, Google is actually doing you a favour. More and more searches are being done through mobile devices, meaning you’re likely going to have to make the shift sometime soon anyway.

Google’s always been ahead of the curve; it’s simply helping you stay up to date with the latest changes in how consumers’ use technology.

Pillar Content Is Here

If you’ve typed “thin crust pizza restaurants” into Google, the search engine previously would have read and evaluated each word separately. In this instance, “crust” could be regarded as the Earth’s layers of crust and mantle, or the crust on a piece of toast. Today, Google has adapted and begun understanding the context of groups of words, allowing you to focus content on an entire topic and not just a single keyword. Not only does this widen the ability for consumers to more accurately find what they’re looking for, but it allows you to broaden the topics of your content.

For content creators, this means a number of things. First, “pillar content” allows you to create numerous pieces of content that all relate back to a main page on a specific topic. It’s essentially one piece of content that can be turned into dozens of other smaller pieces of content, such as blog posts, infographics, social media updates, and more. Additionally, this means people are able to search for much more specific content, so this means more detailed and narrowed topics are a go.

You Want to Be the Featured Snippet

If you’ve asked Google a question recently, you may have noticed your answer arose in what’s called a “featured snippet” at the top of the search results. While this feature manifests itself in a number of different forms, the most common is a snippet of content from a website that answers the question.

For example, if you search “which breed of dog is the fastest?” a snippet from a website will come up that displays “The Top 10 Fastest Dog Breeds.” Your answer is displayed there for you, without you even having to click a website. However, if you want to know more, you’re likely going to click on the featured snippet’s link for more information. For this reason, you want your website content to be displayed here.

In order to be featured, you must follow a few steps:
- Identify a question that’s related to your market area—nothing too complicated but not too vague.
- Next, you must provide a clear answer to the question.
- The answer should offer value beyond the simple answer to the question, such as additional web content or photos.
- It needs to be easy for users and Google to find on your page; otherwise, how can it be selected?

While Google doesn’t set this formula in stone, it’s your best bet considering 19 percent of search queries now offer a featured snippet answer.

Long-Tail Keywords Are a Must

Today, approximately 64 percent of keywords are four words in length or longer.

What does this mean to you?

People are more aware of what they’re looking for and expect a more specific response. And you’re more likely to find an audience that wants what you specifically have to offer. For this reason, it’s time for the keywords we use to change as well. For the most part, this simply means adding more words that make your keyword more specific.

For instance, instead of making your keyword “baby clothes” you could use “100 percent cotton baby clothes” or “baby clothes for premature babies.” This enables a more specific audience to find what you have to offer and helps you reach the top of the search page.

Readers Like to Skim, So Keep Content Tight

Because a shift has been made from taking in information on desktops to mobile, people are more often skimming through content as opposed to reading the entire thing. You’ve probably found yourself skimming through an article because you didn’t feel like reading the entire thing. While this seems like a missed opportunity, it can also work in your favour if you structure your content in easy-to-digest chunks with proper headlines and white space.

Use clear headlines and subtitles. Add the most important information at the top. Support statistics and other vital information with bolding or italics. This helps the reader quickly navigate through your content and take away the most important pieces of information that you want them to learn.

Write the Way We Talk

With most smartphones being equipped with voice search technology, more people are completing their mobile searches using voice recognition software. In fact, 20 percent of questions asked on mobile devices are asked through voice search—talk about a technological breakthrough. But what does this mean for your content? 

Essentially, this means your content should be written the way people talk, as people are literally speaking to their mobile devices and not typing. Where we normally would have used short keywords, we now can use phrases and complete sentences that sound human, not robotic. It’s important to build content with the knowledge in mind that people are using a conversational tone to ask questions and not typing simple one-word searches.

Get Expert Advice

Working with an inbound marketing agency is one of the easiest and most effective ways of staying up to date with and adapting to the changing search engine trends. You can rest assured knowing a team of experts is closely monitoring your SEO and making sure your website is consistently being found by your target audience.

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