Google SERP
 
Google's SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) have changed a lot in recent years. Once upon a time, you could type just about anything into Google and you'd only ever get ten blue links on the results page:
 
Ten Blue Links SERP
Pictured: a dying breed.
 
Nowadays, it's very rare to see a SERP that's exclusively populated by blue links. The modern Google SERP is a far more colourful place to be, often incorporating some combination of the following:
  • AdWords ads
  • Shopping ads
  • Featured snippets (also known as 'answer boxes')
  • Image results
  • Video results
  • Map results (for local businesses)
  • News stories
For example, take a look at the results you get if you perform a search for 'wedding ideas' - there are some standard organic text results (the blue links) but they share the SERP with AdWords ads, a row of images, and even some recent tweets from Wedding Ideas magazine!
 
Wedding Ideas Results
 
This is all part of Google's ongoing effort to give every searcher exactly what they're looking for as quickly as possible. Hence, if you type in 'how much does a Kodiak bear weight', the answer (1,500 pounds) will appear right at the top of your SERP, and if you Google 'Kristen Stewart' or 'Brad Pitt', you'll be greeted by a smorgasbord of different media - including photos, news stories, movie posters, quotations, and biographical titbits - that Google has collected from various corners of the Internet in the hope that one of these things will be what you were after.

What does this mean for website owners?

Google's increasingly diverse results pages are something of a mixed blessing for webmasters. On the plus side, there are now numerous different ways to appear on the first page of Google results for certain juicy keywords: even if your site doesn't rank among the top 10 traditional text results, you may still be able to achieve some level of visibility as an image/video result or a dot on the map in certain locations.
 
On the other hand, many websites that previously received a lot of hits from organic Google searches have seen a noticeable decrease in traffic since the SERPs started getting smarter. Securing the #1 slot in the blue link list no longer means that you will necessary appear at the very top of the SERP - your link may be pushed down the page by adverts, featured snippets, and/or image results if Google decides that these things will result in a higher level of user satisfaction.
 
This issue is exacerbated in the ever-expanding world of mobile search, where SERP real estate is scarcest of all. For example, B&Q's website www.diy.com occupies the #1 organic slot for the term 'garden decking' at time of writing, but because Google prioritises its own Shopping and AdWords results, you have to scroll quite a long way down before you even come to that supposedly 'top' result:
 
Decking SERP
 
This iPhone user searched for 'garden decking' using the Google app, and only reached the top organic result after scrolling past a row of Google Shopping ads and 3 AdWords results.
 
The lesson here is that, for many search terms, a high organic ranking is no longer the be-all and end-all when it comes to driving lots of traffic. If you want to maximise your website's search engine visibility, you need to be seen in all the other parts of the SERP too.
 
Not sure how to do that? Don't worry - the SEO experts from Designer Websites are here to provide you with your very own AAA pass. Read on to find out how to get your website showing up in four different parts of the modern Google SERP:

Introduction: Your Music Shop

Now, the SEO/SEM tips we're about to dish up can be applied to a broad variety of different businesses, but for the purposes of this blog post we're going to need a single, versatile example.
 
So, for the next few minutes, please imagine you own a shop that sells musical instruments. Your bricks-and-mortar store is located in Birmingham, but you also sell instruments online and ship them to customers all over the country. You take online orders through an ecommerce website that ranks well for terms like 'buy musical instruments', but it's recently become clear that your visually appealing, user-friendly website isn't getting anywhere near as much traffic as it ought to be getting.
 
And that's why you're reading this article - because you're trying to find a way to boost your music shop's visibility in the Google SERPs.

1. Google AdWords

As noted above, your website ranks reasonably well for the term 'buy musical instruments', but you're concerned that a lot of potential customers are ignoring your link in favour of the AdWords listings that appear at the top of the Google results for that query.
 
Musical Instrument ads
 
Google selfishly gives its own ads pole position in the results for this search term, so if you want to appear at the very top of the 'buy musical instruments' SERP, you'll need to set up an AdWords account and pay for some ads of your own.
 
Google AdWords operates on a 'pay per click' (PPC) basis, which means that you will be charged a certain amount of money every time somebody clicks your ad. The exact cost of each click will depend on how much you bid for each keyword - the more you bid, the higher up the page your ad will appear when somebody searches for that word or phrase.
 
Cost per click is also dependent on your page's quality score: when you create an advert, Google will look at your landing page and give it a mark out of 10 based on how well it 'answers' the query you're targeting. If you get a low quality score, Google will be reluctant to show your ad to users, and you'll have to pay more for each click as a result.
 
The key to running a successful AdWords campaign is finding the right keywords. You need to identify popular search terms that your customers frequently type into Google, but you ideally want to steer clear of ultra-competitive keywords with a high cost per click (since you'll have to pay a lot of money to consistently appear in a prominent position for these terms).
 

2. Product Listing Ads (Google Shopping)

AdWords ads aren't the only sponsored results that Google likes to display above the organic listings. Let's imagine you've got a lot of Yamaha keyboards in your music shop that you'd like to sell - how do you show up at the top of the SERP for the term 'Yamaha keyboards'?
 
Keyboard Shopping Results
 
Those links with images above them are called product listing ads. They tend to show up when the user searches for a specific product or type of product - think of them as Google's way of saying, 'It looks like you want to buy something...and we reckon we've got just the thing right here!'
 
Unfortunately, the guys at Google won't list your products out of the goodness of their hearts - you have to pay to appear in those shopping slots. Google Shopping operates on a PPC basis, just like Google AdWords, although product listing ads are arguably a little easier to manage than AdWords campaigns because you don't have to worry about finding the right keywords to target.
 
Here's a quick introduction to Google Shopping ads courtesy of the search engine giant itself:
 
 

3. Local Results (Google Maps)

Since you sell your musical instruments in a bricks-and-mortar shop as well as through an ecommerce website, you'll definitely want to be appearing in the Google Maps results for certain terms. For example, if somebody Googles 'music shop Birmingham', that probably indicates that they're looking to walk into a local shop and buy something in person, so you should absolutely be aiming to rank among the top results for that search term.
 
But once again, you'll have to jump through a couple of hoops to make that happen.
 
Google Map Results
 
The good news is that Google's local results are not sponsored listings, so this part won't cost you money like the AdWords campaigns and the product listing ads did. All you have to do is go to Google My Business and enter your shop's details - you will probably have to verify the business either by taking a phone call or entering a code that Google sends to your address on a postcard.
 
Once that's done, you can customise your listing with photographs, add an enticing description of your music shop, and display your opening hours for everyone to see. You will also be able to collect reviews from Google users who have visited your store and want to tell other potential visitors about their experience.
 

4. Featured Snippets (The Answer Box)

Google seems to be displaying featured answers for more and more queries with each passing day. They're designed to provide digestible answers to question-type searches, and they look like this:
 
Google Answers
These snippets are great for the sites they're culled from - being featured in Google's answer box means that your link gets pushed right to the top of the organic results and given an extra wallop of visual emphasis that really helps you to stand out.
 
In order to rank as a featured snippet, you'll first need to identify a frequently-asked question that's relevant to your business and to your specialist knowledge. Here are some examples that could drive some good traffic to your hypothetical music shop's website:
  • why do guitars go out of tune
  • easiest instrument to learn
  • how to stop drumsticks breaking
All of these are examples of search terms for which Google might reasonably serve up a featured answer. And if you want that answer to come from your website, all you have to do is write one!
 
This is a really good use for a company blog - answering popular questions that are specifically related to your niche or industry. Simply pick a question and make that the title of your blog post; aim to provide a short, simplified answer in the first paragraph of your blog (the idea being that Google will use this excerpt for their featured snippet), then use a few more paragraphs to explore the question in more detail.
 
 
We hope you found this blog post useful and that you enjoyed reading it. Remember, the Designer Websites team can help with all your search engine marketing needs - get in touch today to discuss your requirements with us!

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:


Are you looking for help with your SEO strategy? Our team can provide strategic analysis and high-quality content to help you achieve search engine success. Read more about the services we provide here, or get in touch today!
How to List Your Local Business on Google
 
Over the last few years, Google has been getting better and better at serving up local search results based on the searcher's current location. If you're out for walk and you fancy a bite to eat, technology has now advanced to the point where you can simply whip out your smartphone, type in 'where to have lunch', and instantly receive a list of cafés and restaurants that are within walking distance of wherever you happen to be standing. Google can even show you an aggregated star rating for each establishment and - in their new feature - warn you if your chosen eatery is currently super-busy.
 
These capabilities are great for users, and they can actually be a huge boon for businesses too. If you're one of the establishments that comes up in the so-called 'local pack' when someone performs a search near you - and you've got a good rating, and your place isn't too packed right now - there's a good chance that Google may end up driving a lot more people to your doorstep.
 
Local Business Listing Map Pack
 

What type of local businesses can you list on Google?

Just to be clear, you don't have to serve food to benefit from this phenomenon; Google seems to be showing localised results for more and more searches every day, meaning that just about any 'local' business can have a presence in the local pack. Here are some examples of searches that now serve map results on Google:
  • I need a plumber
  • rock climbing
  • professional graphic designers
  • shoe repairs near me
  • aromatherapist
  • art gallery
And that's just scratching the surface. Suffice it to say that any business or establishment with any sort of localised presence can potentially appear in that local pack.

How can I appear in local search results?

If you want to show up in local Google results then there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of making the map pack. Here's a beginner's guide to local search success:

1. Add your business using Google My Business.

If you only bother with one of the points on this list today, make sure it's this one. A google my business listing is perhaps the most important part of getting your local business listed on Google. Go to google.co.uk/business and click 'Start Now' (you'll need to sign into your Google account, or create one if you're not already registered).
 
Next, you'll be prompted to enter your company's address, and then you'll have to 'verify' your business in order to manage its Google listing. Usually, Google will send a postcard to your business address with a PIN that you'll have to enter online, although if Google already has a number for your business you may be able to get verified over the phone instead. This process is in place to ensure that a) you are a genuine representative of the company you're trying to claim, and b) the business really is based where you claim it's located.
 
Once you've claimed and verified your business, you'll be able to edit your contact details, upload photos of your business, and add extra information like your opening hours, your website URL, a short description of the service you provide, and so forth. This information is held by Google themselves, and it helps them to work out what sort of searches your company should be showing up for (and in which locations). It is possible to show up in local results without setting up a Google My Business listing, but the odds of this happening will be a lot longer and there's a chance that Google may get some of your details wrong (since the search engine will be trying to piece together a profile of your business from whatever information it can find on the Internet).

2. Make sure your contact details are consistent throughout the web.

It's very important to ensure that your company's contact details - especially the address, telephone number, email address, and company name - are exactly the same wherever they're listed. In other words:
  • Make sure the information on your website matches the information you've submitted via Google My Business (see point 1, above).

  • Check any other online listings you have (e.g. Yell.com, Yelp, TripAdvisor) and make sure they match the details on your website as well.

  • If your company details change in the future (e.g. because you moved to a new building or set up a new phone number), be sure to update EVERY instance of the old details across the Internet.
Why is this important? Because Google can see every web page that features a mention of your business, and if every listing says something different, Google will be unable to confidently guess which set of details is correct and they won't list you in local search results in case they've got the wrong address.

3. Encourage people to review you on Google.

One great way to give your business an edge in the local Google results is to collect positive reviews and ratings on your Google listing. Ask your loyal customers to Google your company's name, click the 'Write a review' button, and share their fondness for your establishment with the world!
 
Not only do positive reviews encourage potential customers to visit your business instead of somebody else's, they also persuade Google that your company deserves to appear prominently in local search results. At the end of the day, Google's #1 goal is to satisfy its users, and when the search engine algorithm spots that you have lots of 5-star ratings from satisfied shoppers, it will think, 'Hey, this looks like a company that can really make our searchers happy!'

4. Get some links from high-quality websites with local relevance.

Links are still an important ranking factor for Google's algorithm. If lots of authoritative, well-respected websites link to your pages, that signifies to search engines that your own website is of a very high quality, and your search rankings should improve as a result. This applies to local rankings, too - you are more likely to rank highly for localised queries if your website has a lot of links from other sites that are:
  • Authoritative (use moz.com/researchtools/ose to check a site's domain authority - try to get links from sites with a higher score than your own)

  • Relevant to your business (e.g. if you own a pet grooming business, a link from a local pet shop or veterinary clinic would be more valuable to you than a link from a local sports club)

  • Associated with the same local area as you (if you're trying to influence your local rankings, you ideally need links from influential people and organisations within the area you're targeting)

  • Not spammy (steer clear of any websites that sell links, link to porn and/or gambling websites, or engage in other shady practices like hiding text)
Building high-quality links is a tricky and time-consuming task; as a local business owner, your best bet is probably to network with other local businesses, particularly those who operate within the same niche as you but aren't your direct competitors. Once you have built up a good relationship with another business in your area, they will be more likely to consider placing a link on their website.
 
Coverage from respectable local news sources will also be hugely beneficial to your business, particularly if the articles they publish include links to your website.

5. Be seen on Facebook, Yelp, etc.

Google sends a lot of traffic to local businesses, but it's not necessarily the only place you want your brand to be seen online. As a general rule, if you're a local business that's open to the public, it's a good idea to set up the following in addition to your Google listing:
You may also wish to encourage customers to review your business on TripAdvisor if you want to promote yourself to tourists who visit your town. Businesses that may benefit from being seen on TripAdvisor include hotels, restaurants, cafés, attractions and landmarks.
 
Being seen in the places listed above (and collecting positive reviews from people who use these sites) will increase your overall online visibility while also sending yet more signals to Google that yours is a local business worth shouting about.
 
If you want to grow your business online, Designer Websites can help. We can design your website, help you to take orders online, and optimise your pages for search engine success. If you want, we'll even take care of your company blog and social media accounts!

Thursday marked the release of Google's brand new phone - the Pixel! This phone is crammed with plenty of great features, including the highest rated smartphone camera ever, a battery that lasts all day and charges fast, and we mean fast! And It also has an unlimited storage for your photos and videos, but the one feature the stands out the most to us, is the new Google Assistant

Google is taking on the likes of Siri and Cortana with its very own smart service called Google Assistant. Google Assistant combines all the features from Google Now and “Ok Google” with a new AI experience, to provide you with a virtual assistant that you can have an ongoing two-way dialogue; it’s basically your very own personal Google.

So with new advancements becoming available and with voice search becoming increasingly popular, we take a look at how this may affect how people search online and how you can adapt to benefit from it.

How Will Voice Search Impact SEO, & How Can You Adapt?


Voice search is becoming increasingly popular, with Google reporting that currently 55% of teens and 40% of adults use voice search every day! And it’s continuing to become a fast growing market, with the ratio of voice searches growing quicker than type search, and with Google Assistant just becoming available, voice search could become the new way of searching for content. 

In order for you to benefit from voice search, various SEO techniques should be implemented to allow search engines to extract answers from your content. 

Adapt Your Content

The rise of voice search has fundamentally changed the way people use search engines. People don't search the same way with their keyboards as they do using their voice. Voice search has led to people using more conversational queries when searching for something, which means the queries become less keyword based. In order to ensure that your webpage appears on the first page of Google's SERP's, it's important that you understand the consumer's conversational speech. Research what phrases and language people use, and adapt your content appropriately. You may find that consumers will be make queries that are unsuitable to have as a page title but you can use parts of it to help you create content to adapt with your consumers language.

Take advantage of Schema Markup


Schema is an add-on to the coding of a webpage, which provides the search engine with information that helps them understand the content of the webpage. This helps search engines return more informative results for consumers. Schema doesn't just inform the search engines what is in your content; it also informs them what it means. This enables the search engine to provide richer search results, making it easier for the consumer to find the relevant information. The more the search engine understands what is on your page, the better chance you have to appear for search engine queries.

Make the whole experience quicker

More than ever before, consumers want quick answers and immediate access to what they're looking for. Users are looking for direct answers to their questions, so it's vitally important that your content is optimised to allow search engines to identify quick answers from your content in order to answer the popular queries and questions.

If you're worried that your content isn't up to scratch to adapt to this incoming change, then Designer Websites are the people to call. Email info@designer-websites.co.uk or call 01446 339050 to discuss and SEO content strategy for your business.
Alternatives to Google

Has any company ever dominated its market quite as thoroughly as Google? With roughly 40,000 search queries processed every second, Google is by far the biggest player in the search engine game; you probably use Google more often than you use your toothbrush. The company's utter dominance is such that the word 'Google' itself has long doubled as a verb meaning 'perform an online search' - it's very much the Hoover of search engines.

Still, if Google's tax avoidance and career-ending April Fool's Day jokes have left a sour taste in your mouth, there are alternatives. Here are a few non-Google search engines that may be worth investigating:

Bing (www.bing.com)

Bing was launched in 2009, but despite Microsoft's best efforts, it has never come close to threatening Google's position as the internet's go-to search engine. Bing has always been the Pepsi to Google's Coca-Cola, and many of the people who do use it simply do so because they don't know how to change their browser's default search provider.

Why you might prefer it to Google: Some people argue that Bing actually gives better results than Google. Granted, a lot of those people work for Bing, but we'd encourage you to at least give Microsoft's engine a try - depending on what you search for, you may well be pleasantly surprised.

DuckDuckGo (duckduckgo.com)

DuckDuckGo has been active since 2008, but the search engine's user base has shot up over the past year or so, largely due to the public's increasing interest in web services that preserve their privacy.

Why you might prefer it to Google: DuckDuckGo is all about user privacy. Whereas Google uses things like your location and your search history to deliver personalised results, DDG doesn't track you or collect any personal information whatsoever. The downside? Since DDG serves every user exactly the same results for each query, the search engine isn't very good at handling searches like hair salon near me (remember, DDG doesn't collect info on your current location). You can, however, work around this by supplying your location in the search term itself, e.g. hair salon in shoreditch.

Blackle (www.blackle.com)

Blackle is powered by Google Custom Search, so it's not a unique search engine in its own right like Bing and DuckDuckGo. However, it does have one advantage over the Google you're used to...

Why you might prefer it to Google: Blackle's all-black design is actually more energy-efficient than Google's homepage, which of course is predominantly white. Blackle's About Us page suggests that, if everyone used their site instead of Google, it could save as much as 750 megawatt hours every year (that's enough energy to power a vacuum cleaner for 85 years straight!) A secondary benefit: by setting Blackle as your homepage, you're providing yourself with a regular reminder to save energy whenever and wherever you can.

Common Search (about.commonsearch.org)

At time of writing, the Common Search search engine only exists in the form of a UI demo. However, the idea behind Common Search is well worth talking about: as their mission statement points out, one of humanity's most important resources (the internet) is currently in the hands of "profit-seeking companies", but Common Search's nonprofit search engine will eventually provide web users with an alternative. They aim to be "open, transparent and independent...just like an arbiter should be".

Why you might prefer it to Google: Since Common Search won't be run for profit, there will be no adverts (unless they have "exhausted all the other ways to be financially sustainable") and the organisation's decisions hopefully won't be influenced by the possibility of financial gain.

If you're a business owner looking to climb the Google (or Bing, or DuckDuckGo) rankings for your industry's top keywords, our Search Engine Optimisation specialists can help. Contact us now to request a quotation.