At the INBOUND marketing conference 2016, Rand Fishkin of Moz
, delivered an insightful speech about how we as SEOs, can keep up with the ever-changing demands of Google. While it may be impossible to truly understand the inner workings of the search giant, the data included in this presentation provides a useful insight into how Google itself, along with user demand, is influencing the way in which marketers can make the SERPs work for them.
Here are a few key points to take a closer look at:
1.) Ten Blue Links are now the ‘Endangered Species’ of the SERPs
This is far from big news to us, but the figures go to show how hard it is for marketers and users alike, to discover a results page that’s free-from Google products and promotions. In fact, MozCast put the figures for result pages like these at only 3% (excluding obscure, long tail queries), making them a highly rare opportunity for SEO professionals.
While this does make life harder when it comes to the vast majority of queries, for those who are able to identify these terms, they provide valuable spaces for targeting untapped sources of potential traffic.
2.) Google is Cutting Your Clicks
Data showed that a whopping 40% of searches don’t result in a click, which is naturally due to the fact that Google answers many of our questions, without the need to click through to a page for more information. In addition, Google’s own properties take up 49% of clicks, in the form of Youtube videos, Maps, Ads and more.
3.) Your Traffic Sources Should be Diverse
Chrome allows Google to keep track of how traffic flows, so if your site earns the majority of its traffic from Google, they may begin to question and scrutinise your model more closely. For this reason, it is absolutely vital that your site earns its traffic from a diverse range of sources, in order to avoid becoming completely reliant on Google ranking.
4.) Social Remains a Small Factor When it Comes to Driving Traffic
Data from Similar Web
showed that direct traffic remains the biggest source of online traffic at 43%
, followed by search at 27.79%
, and referrals as 21.13%
Perhaps the biggest shock in these results, is that social media remains such a small influence on website traffic, accounting for a mere 5.81%. This goes to show that while they may have an ever-growing influence on our online habits, their influence in driving visitors to your website is still minute in comparison to search.
5.) Target Alternative Search Engines
While the presentation was primarily geared towards strategizing for Google itself, Fishkin made a point of highlighting the importance of targeting alternative search platforms in your SEO strategy. This included the likes of Youtube, which while being owned by Google, is a recognized platform in its own right, and is the second largest search engine after its parent site. Fishkin was also right to mention Amazon as an incredibly underrated search engine, with a large portion of ecommerce related searches taking place here, and not on Google.
For marketers, the ability to target a variety of platforms can be a great way to enhance the diversity we already discussed in point 3, and will also help you to compete and differentiate yourself from your competitors. In the presentation, Fishkin discusses the use of search tools to investigate current traffic sources for you competitors, but it can also be highly valuable to lead the way, by targeting a platform that isn’t already populated with competitor sites.
6.) Answer Boxes Can Make or Break Traffic
Single column formats that mimic mobile results are becoming more and more common, particularly in relation to questions and area-focused queries. This means that the vast majority of organic results will fall below this, making these key areas to target and work with going forward.
The important thing to remember, is that while these results can provide a much needed boost to your traffic, allowing you to outrank competitors by appearing at the top of the page, they can also prove to be incredibly damaging in some cases. Pages pulled into carousel results, for example, have lost upward of 50% of their traffic due to these changes, which would prove to be a huge blow to any previously ranking site.
7.) Keywords: If you Wouldn’t Target it in Paid Search, Don’t target it in SEO
Fishkin highlights the rarity of SERPSs that aren’t dominated by Google at the very beginning of his presentation, however, he goes on to demonstrate how profitable these results can be in terms of generating a good click through rate for pages that appear here. The analogy used in the presentation is simple:
Why pay X amount for two ads, knowing that one is getting half the clicks of the other?
This means that relative click through rates should be a far bigger focus point when performing keyword research for SEO purposes, in order to identify the potential not only to appear, but to be clicked.
8.) Keyword Matching is not Enough!
While keyword targeting is far from being irrelevant, it is no longer a competitive advantage when it comes to ranking for your chosen search term. The growing sophistication of Google’s ability to analyse and interpret content (as well as its desire to satisfy searcher intent), means that content comprehensiveness and quality are now a vital part of modern SEO. This means that while intelligent keyword targeting remains important to ranking ability and click through rate, marketers also need to consider how they can exceed the value being offered in existing search results, by creating a page that considers all possible aspects of the target searcher’s intent.
9.) When it Comes to Link-Building, Prepare for Short-Term Failure
According to Fishkin, modern link building should combine the best of new (contend-led) and old (short-term hacks) link-building practices, in order to provide a strategy that delivers long-term results. It should also be noted, that quality link building is often a time-consuming practice with very few ‘quick-fix’ results, which means that there is often a long period of disappointment before positive outcomes are noted. When positive results do come in, however, they tend to work in a ‘flywheel’ fashion, leading to better positions and increased opportunities in the future.
10.) Machine Learning is Growing, so Keep Your Users Engaged
Engagement data is playing an increasingly important role in how content is ranked, as Google’s algorithm experiments with results to understand which pages satisfy, or fall short of the searcher’s intent and expectations. This means that engagement is likely to become even more important to marketers going forward, which means delivering a great user experience in terms of both technical functionality, and content quality.
Watch the full presentation below:
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