Part 1: How We Got to Now & Why It’s Important to Your Bottom Line
Ever sit on the beach and watch the waves go in and out? As the tide comes in, they reach further up the shore, then recede. Over and over again. This has been going on for millennia – and it’s very like the pattern we’ve seen these last 20 years in digital marketing. While the big leaps have been there, much of the changes have overlapped each other, until we appear to have suddenly reached a new phase; which actually evolved nearly simultaneously with continued use of ‘old’ technology.
How Search Evolution Leads Us to the Best Answers
The movement to voice search isn’t really as radical as some make it out to be. For decades software companies turned out bigger and better voice-recognition software that promised incredible ease for creating documents without the tedium of typing. But we still type, today.
Desktop PCs debuted in the early 1980’s. We’ve moved from the plain green and amber colored screens to amazing CRTs with thousands of colors, to remarkable LED and HD screens that are available on today’s ultraportable and even inexpensive, laptops.
But the evolution didn’t stop there. Remember Archie, Gopher and Veronica? Search has come a long way since then, but back in the pre-Google era, people got used to checking multiple search engines for relevant results. Over the years these dropped away – and marketers didn’t have to worry about being found in Direct Hit, Excite, Web Crawler, Yahoo and others, anymore. The search world consolidated down to Google and Bing, with Google taking the lion’s share of the search market.
Back in the late ’90s and early 2000’s searchers still were typing in their queries and looking at lists of search results, which often contained dozens of spam sites and less than relevant answers. It has taken us years to get to the search carousel, Knowledge Box and rich snippets, and we haven’t stopped evolving, yet.
What also changed along the way were the sizes and power of the devices we used to find answers. Dial up used to be the thing, and a flat list of text-based search results was fine with us. Our smart phones offer many more capabilities today than the desktop machines we marveled at decades ago. Now we expect more precise answers, and we want images, video and the latest commentary from social networks – all from one search.
Ranking #1 Vital in the New World of Search
Increasingly, our search methods have evolved, too. Most of us still rapidly thumb type a search on mobile devices, but an increasing number of us ask questions. We use our voice to get what we want. And this search format is a direct outgrowth of all the years of speech recognition technology, combined with incredible advances in search algorithms and user intent data mining. What we have now is nothing short of incredible: voice assistants that are built into our mobile devices, and that also have taken their own place in our homes and businesses as separate tools (i.e., Google Home and Amazon Echo). Lists of search results suddenly don’t deliver the only way to get answers. We are learning how to input queries into these emerging devices as we simultaneously learn how to re-format our questions to get the best answers.
Today Getting to #1 Means an Investment in Problem-Solving, Rich Content
So, if you’re a marketer, you’ve been keenly aware of these search shifts and the ever-changing ways technology and human desires have come together to show us the future. Soon it won’t be good enough anymore to be ranked on the first page of a list of 10 search results.
You have to deliver the very best answer to a question, and you need to do it by providing something valuable: a video tutorial, infographic, podcast, or other rich content.
Question: What is the best way to climb Mount Everest?
Answer: Many climbers have taken the North Ridge route. We recommend doing so, and first establishing a base camp.
That answer may appear in Google’s Knowledge Box and link to a video on how to climb Mount Everest. If you are a travel company specializing in Mount Everest tours, you’ll want to rank as the best answer for this question.
Question: What are the best shoes for hiking?
Answer: The best shoes are genuine leather sprayed with a special waterproof coating. Find out more about these shoes and the coating by listening to the Hiking Expert podcast.
See the pattern? You want to offer more than just a link to a product page. Or if you do, that page should contain more than a flat-looking image and an ‘add to cart’ button. If you want to be the best answer, you have to step up your game today, and create rich content that will outperform that of your competitors. It needs to load fast on mobile devices, and provide exceptional value (solution to the user’s problem).
Next Time: Future SEO=Building Brand Authority
Next time we’ll talk about building brand authority, because that is what it will take going forward, for Google to understand who you are, and to confer its favor on you, with top search placement. There are dozens of ways to develop brand authority. We’ll leave you with one, now: Part of brand authority is consistency. Do you promote your brand in a consistent fashion on your website, on social media, via video and audio communications? What about offline? Think about what consistent presentation of your brand means to you, and we will delve into that, and more, next time.