- Category: September 2014 - Search Engine Marketing
In the future Google wants to provide answers to specific questions - which is why the practice of keyword-based search will soon belong to the past - and industry experts already predict that semantic search will be standard by the year 2020.
However, any company that wants to assert itself in the semantic web has to know and understand its target group perfectly to be able to provide relevant content. It’s a fact that Internet users will soon only ask naturally formulated questions on search engines and expect to get a concrete answer. This is creating serious implications to search engine optimization (SEO) and shop owners respectively, making the current practice of keyword-based search obsolete. The search giant in fact laid the foundation quite early for SEO 3.0 with its algorithm update Panda and Hummingbird, with the intend to push the user interests into the forefront, by rewarding those that offer good and appropriate content for the target groups’ queries with higher rankings.
Ranking factor: user satisfaction
User satisfaction, is one of the increasingly important SEO ranking factors today, states Matt Cutts, Head of Google's Webspam team, who recently named web design and user experience as clearly underestimated areas in search engine optimization. And indeed, Google includes usage data - such as click-through rate (CTR), bounce rates or length of stay - in their overall assessment of the quality of a website.
Therefore, companies have to consider more and more how they can produce good content: As generally known, big pictures, multimedia and clearly structured content, cater for a good-feel experience for the visitors of a website. However, keep in mind staying away from too sales- and marketing-heavy texts and activities with no perceived additional value for the user, as this just results in high bounce rates. Ultimately, Google in particular rates websites better that generate positive user data and rewards them with a higher ranking.
Ranking factor: mobile SEO
A website that isn’t optimized for mobile devices is not only annoying for the user, but has also consequences for the Google ranking of the site. After all, Asian consumers are leading global changes in shopping behaviour, with e.g. over 75% of Chinese consumers making purchases on their mobiles, according to DigitasLBi’s global consumer study earlier this year. Other studies provide evidence that a missing mobile optimization is a reason for shoppers to abort a purchase.
Google identified this trend quickly and communicated that sites which are insufficiently mobile-optimized have to expect a lower ranking in the future. Besides, there is basically no big difference between traditional and mobile search engine optimization (SEO), as in principle, the same fundamental SEO practices apply, such as title-tag-optimization, content markup or meta-descriptions. Still, there are critical areas that didn’t get enough attention, yet.
Responsive Design vs. Dynamic Serving
For a long time it was unclear what an optimal mobile site should look like - both for the users and Google: As an individual mobile-optimized website on a subdomain, as responsive design or dynamic serving? Mobile-optimized websites with separate code base offer users content that is specifically tailored to the end device, which will be supplied on a separate URL. It means, content can be shown irrespective of the desktop version in this case and adapted to the mobile application context, however, with the disadvantage of having an increased effort in website maintenance, since desktop version and the mobile version must be maintained independently.
Responsive design is the variant that Google openly prefers, as this facilitates the work of the Google-bots, as it only adjusts the layout of the website to the respective end device, content and URL remain unchanged when accessing the site. However, anyone who is considering the conversion of the site to responsive design must bear in mind that there is a need for comprehensive reprogramming of the existing site.
Depending on the mobile end device, with dynamic serving users see different HTML and CSS content displayed on the same URL. Therefore, both representation and content are matched for the end device of the user. Dynamic serving offers the advantage of optimal loading times, which allows the user convenient access through all devices, however, at the same time the maintenance effort and costs are higher for the required different versions of the website.
Although Google openly prefers the variant responsive design, it has to be emphasized that each of these options has its advantages, which have to be combined in the best possible way. A smartphone app is, for instance, an additional alternative to provide mobile content, however, can’t be compared with an own web version, since the closed system of an App Store makes it unidentifiable by search engines. But an app provides a huge number of possibilities regarding user tracking and valuable target group insights. Furthermore, the permanent presence of the app increases customer loyalty sustainably - so, as you see, there is loads of room for discussion left.
By Daniela La Marca