3 Ways to Adapt with Google for 2014

Posted by SiteTuners on 6 December 2013 | Comments

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Presenting answers rather than links. Keywords not provided. In-depth articles. Authorship and other markups for context. Knowledge graph expansions. Hummingbird. 

Those are just some of the changes that Google announced, and the company is evolving at a dizzying pace. If the search engine is one of your biggest sources of traffic, many of the changes present challenges - not just in the tactical “this is what SEO is like now” way, but in the “is my business and data about to get disrupted” way.

Heading into 2014, as machine learning continues to improve, Google is going to move away from keywords, try and present answers as much as it can (within the search page), and move even further away from 10 blue links. If the search engine is one of your biggest sources of traffic, big changes are coming - and you need to bring your A game to adapt.

Are you ready?

1. Provide More Than Basic Answers

Try this: type in “will it rain tomorrow in” and then your location, and see what Google gets you.

Now think about the implications of that search for a bit - from the web site owner’s perspective, from the average search engine users’, and from Google’s. 

If you are the weather channel, this result is death. The searcher will immediately get the answer he or she is looking for, and click-throughs from the search engine will become less likely. That hurts visitor acquisition efforts.

If you’re the average search engine user, this might be a win for user experience. You get what you need, faster. No more hunting for the information after clicking through to a link.

If you’re Google, this is also a win. The user doesn’t leave Google to get what he or she needs.

Now, imagine a similar scenario for a query that can be monetized.

If the definition of “multivariate testing” is there front and center, there’s a chance the user won’t dig deeper. In this case, that kind of traffic is valuable to companies like Optimizely, because it’s a great top of the sales funnel opportunity to make people familiar with the brand. Their organic ranking page has been pushed down by the definition. (They are running an ad against this, though - so they do claim some of the attention back)

What does this mean for your content marketing efforts? 

It means that if you’re providing information that machines can easily provide, you’re not doing enough.

You need to provide more than basic answers - you need to provide in-depth information, unique analysis, and other things that add value to the user. You need to make Google want to make your page rank higher, because you are providing specialization in your niche, answers that no one else has, and because of that, you’re providing a ton of value for people looking for information even if they have to click on a link. Clicking on links are no longer a given.

These next few years, companies just providing information that machines can readily make available are about to get disrupted. Don’t be one of them.

2. Provide Context Around Your Content

Search engines used to have two things: what you type in, and what pages they have indexed. That’s really about it. They didn’t know who you were. They didn’t know what you have searched for in the past. They didn’t know your location, or device, or who your friends are and what they are likely to recommend. All they had was search terms and pages, and they did their best to match the strings you typed with the pages that also say those words, they chose ten and provided you the blue links.

Today, the keywords are important, but they’re not the only things that are important. Your search history is a part of the query. Your location is a part of the query. The people you like and follow are a part of the query. And if the web sites make some of those types of information available, they are part of the results.

Authorship tags (see above) are a part of this - but it runs so much deeper than just the authorship markup displaying the content owner. For products, you have physical attributes like height, weight, and color, as well as decision aids like reviews and manufacturers. For creative works, there are fields for the authors and awards - you can visit http://schema.org/ for the entire list, but Google may present the context for your results over and above providing the blue link, making the experience richer for the user.

3. Connect Your Google Tools to Each Other

If you have all three of Google’s web site tools tied to your web site - Webmaster Tools, Analytics, and AdWords - you probably know that they connect to each other in pretty interesting ways. Nevertheless, for the four of you who don’t, here’s a quick summary:

One of the first things you probably need to do as keywords to your web site increasingly become encrypted - aside from making sure you have internal site search tracking enabled - is connect your separate Google accounts to each other.

  • Google Analytics to Google Webmaster Tools: This allows you to get some of the search term data back. If the two tools are connected, you’ll get the top 2000 search terms that lead people to the web site, allowing you to dissect both traffic acquisition for search engine optimization, and intent analysis for conversion rate optimization.
  • Google AdWords to Google Analytics: If you’re running PPC campaigns, this will save you quite a bit of time. You’ll be able to easily assess which campaigns and search terms are generating the most revenue, without tagging at the individual URL level. 
  • Google Webmaster Tools to Google Adwords: This is new. If you tie your Webmaster Tools account to AdWords, you’ll get access to the Paid & Organic report, which provides your health for certain keywords when you have paid campaigns, just organic pages, or both.

Big Changes Afoot

Google is attempting to understand more of the relationships between things, and they will continue to move away from keywords, and into contextually relevant answers. That’s a big change - the repercussions will be huge. So there’s never been a better time to be prepared.

Make sure that if you’re using Google’s tools, you’re getting the most out of them. If you can, structure the data within your web site so your content provides context right there on the search results page - don’t stop when you have the authorship markup, keep going. And make sure you’re providing more than basic information that machines can readily “retrofit” as answers - that will go a long way in ensuring that a change to the results page will not disrupt your visitor acquisition efforts.

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