The decades-long reign of the PC is over, with mobile devices now making up more than 52% of all internet traffic. While plenty of people preach the importance of responsive website design, far fewer have articulated updated guidelines for the reality of today’s internet. Keenly aware of trends as ever, Google has continually refined its search algorithm to keep pace with increasingly mobile and untethered internet. Advertisers, marketers, and website owners alike need to be aware of what these paradigm shifts are, and how that could impact their sites’ SEO.
Cellphones’ bountiful data has empowered Google to enhance its search engine. Search results are more custom than ever before, incorporating key differentiating factors like time of day, weather, and geography. The search results for a morning bagel in Washington D.C. will look entirely different three hours later in San Francisco.
Optimizing for Local Search
More so than ever before, websites need to be local. Gone are the days of simply tacking on addresses and list of phone lines. To be competitive in 2020, websites need to address the mindset and inquiries of the region they serve, be it a street, coast, or country. A quintessential, doughy foldable New York slice is in stark contrast to a dense, deep-dish pie from Chicago. The top result for a pizza in Manhattan will not be wasting content on merely their cheese, sauce, and pepperoni, but rather what distinguishes their slice from their other New York brethren. Language, context, and local distinctions are now a mandatory part of website content strategy.
Dealing with Short Attention Spans
Major changes to search algorithms are only a handful of the changes introduced by the rise of mobile. Attention spans online are shorter than ever with the ubiquity of the internet and easily accessible information, even more so for mobile where screen size comes at a steep premium. Hero zones should be appropriately leveraged. Heroes should state the most important critical information concisely and contain a quick and simple CTA or takeaway. Organic visitors who cannot immediately find an answer to their search query after a glance and a few swipes will assuredly bounce away to a competitor.
Search and Virtual Assistants
Smartphones’ impact on websites has not just been limited to mobility and smaller screens. Virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri fundamentally change how people browse the internet. For many on-the-go, the automated search functionality provided by these virtual assistants have all but replaced a typical Google search.
How Google and the other virtual assistants parse through webpages and present them for voice search is a complex topic, but the vital SEO fundamentals remain in place. Research demonstrates that people are unsurprisingly far more conversational in their wording versus a typed-in search. Optimized content thus needs to serve this need directly, often best served using blogs that cover such frequent, informal topics as “What is the best X” or “Y versus Z”.
Google has been increasingly leveraging its structured data for voice search results, largely due to its predictable format and parseable nature. For best results, website owners need to cross-reference website content and identify what data could be passed off to Google using structured data. Articles, menus, locations, events, and reviews are just a handful of the many structured data formats that Google accepts. Conveniently, Google now provides a simple tutorial for anybody familiar with HTML to get started on incorporating structured data and improving their site for voice search.
The shift to mobile devices has opened up new avenues for content creation and design. Location and voice were unheard of topics even a decade ago, but they are here to stay for organic search. It’s up to website owners and marketers whether they take advantage of these new strategies, or get left in the dust.