Google Search Trends: 5 Things You Need To Know

As reported in the Moz blog, Google is continually rolling out new features. There'll be hundreds of tiny little changes going on in the background every day, but we've picked out 5 of the most prominent to make sure you can stay on top of your company's SEO.

A Rise in SERP Features

Firstly what's the SERP?! It's short for search engine results page, so that's just the page you see when you type a search query into Google. Essentially what's happening is Google is including lots more different features or facets in the search engine results page. Whereas in the past it was just clickable blue hyperlinks, now it includes AdWords adverts both top and bottom, rich snippets at the top (do you ever see a sentence or two at the top answering you're question before you've even clicked to a web page? That's a rich snippet.)

Rich Snippet Example
Google using a rich snippet to answer the question of what a rich snippet is. See what I did there?!

Other SERP features include image packs, local maps, business locations, Tweets, videos... You name it and it's probably in Google's SERP features. What this means is Google is trying to answer the users query in the SERP rather than making them click into a website. It's all about being as convenient as possible.

The Rise of The Instant Answer

On mobile in particular, Google is doing it's utmost to answer queries themselves through taking snippets off people's websites. Rather than showing the most relevant website and making the user sift through the page to find the answer, it wants to give it you straight away. Whilst this can take away traffic, when you get it right it means you go down as an authority on that particular subject. If it's relevant to what you do, this increase in trust can lead to an increase in sales.

Website Load Time & User Experience

Google have always made it clear they prefer websites to be fast. There's all sorts of statistics out there about how a user will click off your website if it takes longer than 2-3 seconds to load which is entirely true, but now Google are punishing those who have slow loading websites too. More than ever it's imperative to have a fast loading website, with Google using engagement metrics such as load time and bounce rate to decide if a website is worth ranking highly in their search results.

Google Page Speed Insights Results
Google Page Speed Insights is a useful tool for seeing how Google ranks your site for page speed

The Importance of Backlinks

Since Google was first getting on the search engine scene, they've placed a high amount of importance on having backlinks to your website. Google see it as a measure of trust, if other websites are willing to point visitors towards your website, it makes sense that it's probably for a good reason. Link building strategies used to be a bit of a grey area in the past, there were a lot of ways of tricking the system. In recent years Google have cracked the whip here, punishing websites who engaged in black hat techniques. 

Nowadays it's about quality over quantity. One good strong backlink from another well-trusted website will do far more to help you rank higher than 10 iffy backlinks from all over the place.

Machine Learning & How You Talk To A Search Engine

Google's machine learning is getting very complex indeed. RankBrain, the name of Google's machine learning system, is getting more and more adept at understanding user intent when they search for something. Consider the following searches;

  • Best netflix shows
  • What are the best things to watch on Netflix?
  • Best shows on netflix
  • What shall I watch next on Netfix?

They're all essentially asking the same question - what are the best shows on Netflix, but in slightly different ways. RankBrain tells Google that these are all looking for a similar answer, and will therefore show similar if not identical content for all of them. Google is always looking at 'what exactly is the user asking here' and use that to determine rankings. It's a lot more detailed than just keywords! If you want to learn a bit more about RankBrain, check out this cracking blog from Moz.

Following on from this, it's worth noting the increase in Google Voice Search. Whilst it's not yet as popular as typing in searches, the rise of mobile means users are putting conversational style questions in to Google more and more. Digital assistants like Siri, Cortana and of course Amazon Echo's all new 'Alexa' mean it's a rapidly changing digital landscape. 

But what does this mean? In the past, an Estate Agent might have optimised their website for terms like 'houses for sale Devon' or 'rent house London', whereas the way search is moving points towards searches like 'where is cheapest to buy a house in East Devon'. 

What Does All This Mean For My Website?

Well, unless you're geeky folk and enjoy all of Google's updates you're probably best just keeping an eye on what it's doing and leaving it to the professionals. We make sure we stay on top of the latest developments in search engines so you don't have to! Feel free to drop us an email or a phone call to discuss any of the above in further detail, we'll gladly take you through it. 

Posted by Rob Fellingham on January 5th 2017

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