3 Ways SEO Has Changed This Year & What It Means for You
The phrase “content is king” emphasized by SEO professionals in the past is no longer the case.
It’s been an active year for Google. Multiple updates over the past three months have led to significant changes in how SEO and companies manage the quality of their website.
On September 8, I moderated a sponsored Search Engine Journal webinar presented by Jordan Koene, SEO Strategist and Advisor at Searchmetrics.
He shared the three ways SEO has changed this year, why it matters and what you need to do to create growth.
Here’s a recap of the webinar presentation.
This year, Google has been forward about changes that they’ve made to search.
What Has Changed?
- MUM AI. MUM is the AI model that gives a newer, faster, and more extensive information processing capability. It helps Google handle text-to-text transformation. As a result, Google’s ability to process and understand the text and the meaning of a page is faster than ever.
- “Changing” rules of SERP features. Over the last decade, the SERP has changed a lot. There is an accelerated amount of influence from Google these days.
- More core to performance. Being faster and cleaner doesn’t always mean you’re a winner. Even though Google has been telling us for years that Core Web Vitals and speed are significant success factors, it isn’t the case anymore.
The pace at which Google makes these changes is faster than what we’ve seen in previous years. But, thanks to MUM, Google was able to make so many changes in the past 12 months, such as T5.
T5 is about text-to-text transfer transformations and how Google’s developed faster ways for processing information from a linguistic perspective or even from meaning and intent.
MUM has allowed us to move through this at a much faster pace.
Why This Matters
The reason why MUM and technologies like MUM are important to Google is that it advances their ability to impact businesses.
The number of U.S. businesses grew from around 29 million in 2018 to around 32 million in 2020.
However, only 17 million, or about roughly half of those businesses, benefit from Google services (Google My Business, search, YouTube, etc.)
Only 2 million, less than 10%, actually benefit from Google ads of all these businesses.
That’s why Google is accelerating the pace and the speed at which they do these changes because they want to reach more businesses.
For many of us in the SEO space, the chase to get more traffic isn’t necessarily about focusing on more keywords; it’s likely going to evolve to make the keywords we already rank for perform better.
What People Are Searching For: Live Events
There is a massive year-over-year growth in concert, show, and stadium-related keywords and terms.
- Searches for concerts in have grown globally by over 500% YOY. Top searches include: “concerts in chicago 2021,” “concerts in atlanta 2021,” “concerts in dallas, “concerts in las vegas”
- Searches for car shows near me have grown globally by over 300% YOY. Top searches include: “car shows near me this weekend 2021,” “car shows near me this weekend,”
- Searches for stadium seating have grown globally by over 600% YOY. Top searches include: “dodger stadium seating chart,” “busch stadium seating chart,” “wembley stadium seating plan,”
- Searches for live music near me have grown globally by over 400% YOY. Top searches include: “live music near me,” “live music near me tonight,” “restaurants with live music near me,” live music near me”
Think about this, what keyword are you focused on now, and how are you generating traffic and awareness from it?
The performance of a set of terms in a particular topic is far more impactful today than our ability to go and secure more traffic for more keywords.
What People Are Searching For: In-Store Shopping
- Searches for open now near me have grown globally by over 200% YOY. Top searches include: “restaurants open now near me,”, “food open now near me,”, “fast food restaurants open now near me,” “pharmacy open now near me”
- Searches for mattress stores near me have grown globally by over 50% YOY. Top searches include:“mattress stores near me,” “discount mattress stores near me,” “best mattress stores near me,” “bed and mattress stores near me
- Searches for open 24 hours near me have grown globally by over 80% YOY. Top searches include: “stores open 24 hours near me,” “restaurants open 24 hours near me,” “stores open 24 hours near me,” “restaurants open 24 hours near me,”
- Searches for shop near me open now have grown globally by over 40% YOY. Top searches include: “tire shop near me open now,” “tire shop near me open now,”
In particular, searches around “open now” changed during the pandemic.
What you would typically think would be a growth vehicle during the pandemic, outdoor dining, wasn’t the case because of the constrictive restraint for consumers in indoor dining experiences.
Understanding these search patterns can be helpful to data points on how we manage our search expectations. Google is processing information like these of what pages and what content to show at a much faster pace.
Google SERP Features & the Road Ahead
SERP features have become Google’s most significant asset in changing the landscape.
Here is a small snapshot of different SERP features and historical volatilities for other feature elements in the SERP.
Google can now take non-branded search queries and understand where and when to place site links against non-branded search queries with MUM. As a result, search site links are more prolific across the SERP.
The whole concept here around SERP features is our ability to rethink our brand focus in search.
So it isn’t necessarily a prohibitive factor from our ability to gain traffic from search.
It all boils down to our ability to develop new strategies that create automation around processes, whether you leverage FAQs or your ability to optimize core navigational pages to show up more frequently for a site link.
SERP Features Require Rethinking Search Data
The reality is that today’s dynamic market demands faster, more targeted decision-making than ever before.
- Rethink your brand focus in search.
- Demand automation of the process.
- Build faster, more dynamic content, and engagement.
You can leverage these assets as a source of traffic and as a source of awareness in Google.
The Real Story On Core Web Vitals
Searchmetrics did a study across 2 million URLs, looking at how performance sites are in Google. Unfortunately, only 4% of the 2 million URLs they analyzed performed at a good core web vital score.
You are sitting in a place where Google has become much more vocal about the expectations around core web vitals, but even more importantly, around performance.
Simply being the fastest doesn’t necessarily mean that you get the most traffic.
Core Web Vitals Next Chapter
A move from defense to offense for Google.
- Expect more volatility from CVW factors within shorter periods
- Deliver competitive advantages at a page level
- Utilize more design factors to drive experience scores
It’s a collective effort. It boils down to creating a playbook that moves us from just being a faster website to an offensive positioning where we are more focused on what Google expects and the competitive requirements required to succeed.
How to Create Growth?
Out of the billions of searches that happen on a given day, 15% of daily searches are new to Google. But the exciting thing is that this number is radically down from 2012, which was 20% of daily searches.
We must reposition our focus on growing to reach more searches and focus on our brand, relevance, and SERP footprint.
The SERP is a new landscape requiring new techniques for success.
- As a result of their desire to reach more businesses, Google is accelerating its pace and speed to implement changes.
- It’s not necessarily about focusing on more keywords to get more traffic; instead, it’s about making the keywords we already rank for perform better.
- To reach more searches, refocus your brand, relevance, and search engine footprint to grow.
- Today’s dynamic market requires more targeted, faster decision-making than ever before, thanks to SERP.
Want more insights from Jordan Koene? He’s a regular guest on the Voices of Search podcast. Catch his latest episode on the August 2021 Winners & Losers.
[Slides] 3 Ways SEO Has Changed This Year
Check out the SlideShare below.
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All screenshots taken by author, September 2021
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