Let’s say your laptop has a nasty virus and you want your buddy to recommend a good antivirus software. Would you ask, “antivirus software” or “which antivirus software is best for my laptop?” Today, you could converse with your phone and ask for help, like you would with a close buddy!
Search has changed leaps and bounds. You speak to a digital assistant in your mobile phone and search. You ask a question. From being just keywords they have become natural conversations. Today, almost a billion people are using conversational keywords using digital assistants.
We are looking at a future where you will be served information on a platter. Your personal digital assistant will relentlessly learn your ways, remember your preferences, keep track of your schedule, decipher your complex queries, understand your intent, make intelligent searches and be at your service 24/7.
But as a Marketer who has enthusiastically invested (or who wants to invest) in content marketing and SEO, have you wondered how this and other top search trends will affect your existing content and SEO?
Let’s walk through the trends that will have a bearing on your content and SEO.
Top Search Trends affecting On-page SEO Infographic (click image to zoom in)
Top search trends in 2016
1. Increased use of digital assistants
People are moving on to using Digital assistants like Siri, Cortana and Google Now and use voice search to get answers from the search engines.
Although the technologies driving these assistants are still at a fairly nascent stage, a study shows that by 2020, digital assistants will penetrate more than 3.3 billion consumer devices including smartphones, tablets, smart watches, automobiles, etc., up from 821 million in 2014.
More than 80% of all those surveyed want a mobile personal assistant to be with them at all times. And the 90% of those who have a personal assistant on their phone use it because it’s quicker, easier, and more convenient than traditional mobile use.
2. Conversational keywords are picking up
Increased use of Digital Assistants has led to the search being natural and conversational. Consequentially, voice search and conversational keywords are picking up, with Google reporting in 2014 that 55% of teens and 40% of adults used voice search. The numbers in 2016 would definitely be far more encouraging!
So, now, instead of typing “pvc pipe manufacturers india” on the keyboard, one would simply converse with their digital assistant asking “who are the top manufacturers of pvc pipes in India?”
Conversational keywords are more often questions of sorts and target a specific problem or seek a specific solution.
3. People search more locally
Needless to say, Google rewards businesses that are mobile-friendly and have implemented local SEO.
4. Search reflects buying stages
76% buyers prefer specific content at each stage of their research.
Search engines are moving towards semantic search, trying to understand the intent of the user’s query and serving relevant information. It will get better at recognizing and serving results based on Buying Stage keywords.
5. Google has started indexing content even in social apps
Google has started indexing even social media posts as web pages. With apps getting popular due to increased use of smartphones, the search engines are now indexing the content even in social apps.
Already, 76% of marketers use Social Media to support and boost SEO. With this trend, marketers will get more serious about getting higher ranks for their social posts.
6. Videos have higher CTR (Click-through-rate)
With Google’s knowledge graphs displaying a variety of content, the real estate available for organic search results displaying web pages greatly reduces. The competition to make it to the top, therefore, increases exponentially.
The good news is that videos are a part of Google’s knowledge graphs and serve as a great opportunity to make it to the top.
7. Mobile-friendly websites rank higher
Having a mobile-friendly website has become more of a best practice. Google’s Mobilegeddon algorithm updates in 2015 make mobile-friendly websites a necessity, not an option.
Over 1.2 billion people access the web from their mobile devices. 70% of mobile searches lead to online action within an hour and Global mobile traffic now accounts for 15% of all Internet traffic. All the more reason to go mobile-friendly.
How will the top search trends affect On-Page SEO?
Digital assistants are on the verge of redefining the search future. It is no longer sufficient to just concentrate on the traditional use of keywords. In fact, the keywords are not the focus at all. The focus is on providing genuine, relevant and a wide variety of quality content that will solve the user’s needs. There is a need to think in terms of what questions the user will ask and analyse the intent of each question. The emphasis is on serving the intent of the user. So, what is the impact on content?
1. Increased use of conversational key-phrases instead of keywords
Imagine how your audience will converse with their digital assistants and zero down on some key conversational key-phrases which you want to target. Build a content piece around that key-phrase and include more long-tail keywords to serve the needs of your audience.
2. Including questions in the content
It is most likely that a user will ask a question during the conversational search. The search queries will look like (or, rather, sound like)
“Which is the best photo editing software?”
“Where can I buy top quality bubble wraps?”
“How do I click great pictures?”
“When is the next version of Windows releasing?”
Hence, it would be a good practice to include questions in your content piece. That said, it is not wise to load your content with so many questions that it starts resembling a FAQ page. The use of questions should be natural and fit the context.
3. Using superlatives in the questions
As we saw in the conversational search queries above, the user doesn’t seem to settle for anything less than the “best”, “top”, or “great”. We need to acknowledge this behaviour and use superlatives in the questions to better address the audience.
4. Answering specific buying stage questions in the content
A buyer will require and search for different types of content at various levels of buying stages. For example, a marketer looking for SEO services may search for “what is on-page SEO?” in the need recognition stage, “why is on-page SEO a must?” in the research stage, and “SEO checklist for an optimized website” at the evaluation stage of the buying cycle. It would be beneficial to include such key-phrases in your article depending upon what stage you want the content to fit in.
5. Content will address the intent of the search
Content should be written to respond to intelligent and contextual search being made by the digital assistants. The answers should include related information which will fulfil the complete needs of the audience.
So, when the user asks, “which is the best photo editing software for my smartphone?” the intelligent digital assistant would also search for “Android” or “IOS” depending on the make of your device. It will thus automatically filter out the most relevant information to serve your purpose.
6. Use of FAQs in your website
The FAQ page inherently has questions which the user may ask during the conversational search.
Whether the buyer is evaluating your product or in the decision-making phase, a FAQ page will satisfy more than one user concern. Having the intelligence to understand your intent and serve content appropriate to the buying stages, the digital assistants may find FAQs relevant to your search query.
7. Online discussion forums to include more conversational key-phrases
Online discussion forums give a natural means to use a variety of conversational key-phrases which the digital assistants can easily pick up. It encompasses a wide variety of problems and solutions related to your products, while also providing a platform for your audience to discuss issues and come up with innovative solutions. Oftentimes, the user will not only get solutions to their current problem but will also be empowered with additional knowledge about the product or find solutions to the problems that they may face in the near future.
This will help the digital assistants to fulfil the intent of the conversational search query.
It also provides an active window to engage with your audience.
We’re moving to an “Intelligent” or “No Search” future
The increased use of digital assistants is making search queries more natural and conversational. They will have an “intelligence” of their own which will be so well programmed to understand the user’s behaviour and intent that the information will be provided ready to you without you having to search for it! It will expect websites to provide the direct and related information. The websites that do this will win.
As we saw, this has a clear impact on the On-Page SEO. Whatever else you do, you cannot ignore the fact that the only one way to be found by your audience is to produce more and more content.
It is crucial to review your SEO strategy and content to avoid running the risk of becoming obsolete in the “No Search” future.