The Future of Search – Insights from SearchLove London Conference

October 28th, 2015 in SEO 4 minute read

Last week I attended the SearchLove London conference hosted by Distilled where a selection of great speakers took to the stage to talk about the current search landscape as well as the future of search. Below are some takeaways from the conference, divided into areas of where search engine marketers might need to rethink their approach and strategy to ensure they’re on top of the game for 2016.

Rethink the search engine

We do SEO, not GO (Google optimisation). To think of Google as the only search engine means you could miss out on opportunities to show up in search results where people actually look for what you provide. Depending on the industry that could be Pinterest, Etsy, Amazon, YouTube, Tripadvisor or a relevant business directory. Think about how you search for something and what websites you use to find it. You might start out in Google looking for removal companies, but end up using comparemymove.com to find a company you want to use. If you’re a removal company, then that might be where you need to be.

Rethink search

Voice search is becoming increasingly popular and can tell us a lot about how people use longer phrases for search. In line with Google’s aim to become the ‘Ultimate Assistant’, compound queries are searches where the second search is based on the previous one(s). For example, if you search “Show me a list of Olympic sports people” and then do another search saying “Show me the women only” Google will show you the Olympic sports women only.

Another example is when you walk down the street and ask Google Now “When does this restaurant open?” Google will be able to locate where you are and give you an answer to when the restaurant will open. These are called contextual searches. For example, if you ask Google Now “What is that?” next to a statue, Google will tell you what the statue’s called. If you then go on to ask “How tall is it”, Google will answer with how tall that statue is.

This tells us that we need to change our focus from keyword focus to intent focus. We need to take into account implicit signal, keywords, and compound queries for search. Therefore, focusing only on keywords and rankings is no longer viable.

Rethink search results

Have you noticed that sometimes you don’t just get 10 organic search results on the first page of Google? More often you get (apart from the paid results) a selection of ‘cards’, news article section, suggested results, rich snippets from one search results and then a few organic results. The importance of these ‘cards’ and rich snippets will only increase. They are extremely adaptable to different devices and make information very digestible.

Rethink ranking factors

Rand Fishkin from Moz showed some interesting results from their recent study on Google’s algorithm of what factors had a positive correlation with ranking in the SERPs.

A few years ago domain/link authority and on-page link features were the most important ranking factors taking up more than 40% of the contributing factors. Today, page level keywords and content factors are as important. Other areas of importance have also increased which has ‘flattened’ the algorithm to make all factors almost as important, from domain level brand features, to page level social metrics. This means that the time when a strategy pushed one specific ranking factor is over, and we need to focus our attention on strategies that take all ranking factors into account.

Rand also showed some very interesting findings relating to the importance of different ranking factors for different industries. For example, correlation between document length and higher rankings in Google is evident for arts & entertainment, news media & publications, and family & community industries. Whilst in dining & nightlife it had absolutely no correlation whatsoever.

Rethink your content marketing

Think about where you share content – on your phone right? We have to make sure we make content shareable on mobile because that’s where people will read it and share it.

When it comes to capturing people with content marketing, we have to think in ‘moments’. ‘Moments’ is a new way for Google to communicate how people search. It’s not about keywords, it’s about what we want and what we need in certain situations and how we communicate that to Google.

One great example of ‘Moments’ marketing was explained by Jono Alderson from Linkdex. He said that there’s a massive opportunity to catch people higher up the funnel through content marketing. He was Googling “TV making strange noise” and found that the search results had no companies selling TV’s in the SERP. If you’re a company selling TV’s you want to be on the first page for that search as that person might need to buy a new TV very soon. Even if on that visit there won’t be a purchase, further down the line you might be a brand they will re-visit. When you understand these moments, you can turbo-charge your content marketing.

These were just a few of the things I took away from a very insightful two days at the SearchLove conference. A massive thanks for Distilled for organising these conferences as they are essential to the industry we work in to enable industry experts to share their insights with the rest of the community. I’ll be sharing some more takeaways over the next few weeks so stay tuned!

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