Google Hummingbird, the 2013 search algorithm update that focused on semantics to display results, forever changed how results appear in the search engine results pages (SERPs). With every Google algorithm update following Hummingbird, Google has become more intuitive and better equipped to provide the most accurate results, at the top of the page, as quickly as possible.
Google has implemented the following search engine features to display the most relevant results:
- A Knowledge Graph to display direct answers to simple queries
- A Carousel to display recent articles, blog posts and videos from authoritative websites
- A Local 3-Pack that displays a map and highlights business details at the top of the page for the top three local results.
In 2016 and beyond, organic traffic will be shaped by Google’s ability to interpret “meaning” and context in results. Below is an excerpt from Sparxoo’s “2016 Digital Marketing Trends: Your Guide to Be Badass” on how organic search is being redefined, and how website rankings are likely to take a hit as a result:
As Google continues to change the way search displays, in an effort to bring a better search experience to users, brands must be able to keep up. Search engine optimization’s importance will continue to be prominent, however, how the search works, will inevitably change. These significant changes in organic search could likely cause your brand’s rankings to change, and in most cases, decline.
Inevitable as they may be, digital marketers can prepare for algorithm updates via website optimization and diversifying ways to be found by searchers. Correct website optimization, and an assortment of relevant, authoritative data that points to the website, tells Google that the business or brand is trustworthy and important enough for a Knowledge Graph panel or inclusion in the Local 3-Pack. The Knowledge Graph typically displays direct and factual answers from Google’s own knowledge database and/or select trustworthy sources, or displays “featured snippets” of information for more complicated queries. These featured snippets are small pieces of content — often in list format — pulled from web pages that have semantic relevance, and include a link to the web page for more information. To improve the likelihood of being included in one of Google’s intuitive search engine features’ results, here are some actions to be taken:
Create Profiles on Wikimedia Websites
Google pulls information from websites such as Wikidata and Wikipedia to populate the Knowledge Graph. Wikidata and Wikipedia are free and open for anyone to register, but proceed with caution — both websites have strict guidelines and will be quick to remove any biased or overly commercial listing. Ensure that all third-party source data for your profile is accurate, and provide a few different opinions or angles to prevent any obvious bias. If done correctly, listings on Wikidata and Wikipedia indicate to Google that a brand is important enough to trigger a Knowledge Graph panel and be put at the top of the SERPs.
Optimize Google My Business
Brick-and-mortar businesses benefit from an accurate Google My Business listing. Ensure that all business details — address, phone number, hours of operation, etc. — are accurate. Page activity, such as customer or client reviews and regular page posts, improve a business’s chance of appearing in the competitive Local 3-Pack. A strong Google My Business following and an active profile also implies to Google that the business or brand generates interest.
Generate Search Demand from High Authority Content
Websites that are considered high-value and authoritative are more credible in the eyes of Google. A robust content marketing strategy increases brand awareness, and also boosts organic search results and direct traffic. Conduct keyword research and look for opportunities to become a content expert on a long-tail keyword that relates to an industry trend, but has low competition. Low-competition keywords are easier to rank for than competitive keywords because there aren’t as many organizations trying to reach the top ten results. When a user searches for the selected low-competition key term, the odds of your website appearing in the Knowledge Graph or Local 3-Pack are much better.
Implement Schema Markup
If a Knowledge Graph panel is successfully triggered for a business or brand, it can be optimized with markup from Schema.org. Similar to metadata, schema markup helps search engines understand what a web page’s content is talking about. “Organization” schema markup allows brands to specify the logo that should show up in the Knowledge Graph–as well as where the logo link leads to if clicked–and displays business phone numbers and up to five social media profile links. The more phone numbers and social profiles that are optimized for the Knowledge Graph, the larger a Knowledge Graph panel will be, which helps distract searchers from looking at other results.
The undeniable truth is that most websites will take a hit in rankings as Google algorithms become smarter and smarter. For more of Sparxoo’s suggestions on keeping websites at the top of the SERPs in a changing digital landscape, be sure to check out “2016 Digital Marketing Trends: Your Guide to Be Badass.”