Trends in Search That are Changing the Content Marketing Game

As brands spend more and more on content marketing efforts and the internet becomes crowded with content, the challenges of getting found and engaging audiences continue to plague content marketers and SEOs. Part of the consternation comes from the constant algorithm changes and changes in the types of results that are prioritized on the search engine results pages.

As soon as new algorithm changes are rumored; the SEO and marketing communities begin nervously waiting to hear which algorithm has been updated and how many brands and websites have been affected. Instead of waiting to be a victim to upcoming changes or spending all your time recovering from the changes in search and marketing trends, get ahead of the game by understanding the trends and adjusting your strategies now.

Search and SEO continue to change

Providing an A+ user experience is the primary focus of the search engines. Since users are favoring mobile devices over desktop and laptop devices, the focus for search engines has been, and will continue to be, on creating mobile friendly experiences for their users. Brands that aren’t optimized for mobile are falling behind and may never be able to catch up.

Google continues to lead the search engine revolution by constantly updating algorithms and attempting to create the most positive user experience. To provide users with the most relevant results, Google has changed how and where organic search results appear on the page. In some cases, top ranking organic results appear below the fold or on page two behind ads, video content, knowledge panel results, shopping results, and the Google local 3-pack results.

The continuing trend toward globalization means that brands entering or marketing in foreign markets must understand the local culture and buying habits of their international audience. Brands hoping to engage in successful marketing efforts must also find ways to make their content appear on local search engines. Engaging audiences and retaining market share will require brands to have the ability to measure their engagement in local search engines such as Baidu and Sogou, and Qihoo 360 (So.com) in China; Daum and Naver in South Korea; and Yandex in Russia.

Google’s Pigeon update of 2014 started an aggressive trend toward a focus on local awareness for search engines. The growing use of mobile devices for Internet searches means that everyone, not just local mom and pop shops, need to optimize content for local search results. If your brand has a local footprint, or if you’re looking to engage with audiences in specific locations, getting local search data is no longer a “nice to have.”

Game changing algorithm and search updates

The mobile-friendly algorithm changes began their march across websites when “mobilegeddon” started ranking content page-by-page, penalizing and ignoring those pages that didn’t pass muster. The mobile-friendly update of 2015 has had a lasting impact as brands with large websites and multiple micro sites continue to optimize every page for mobile. Boosts to the algorithm have had very little impact, except on sites or pages still not initially optimized for mobile.

Google brought AI and machine learning to the world of search with RankBrain. Now, users can get better results when using uncommon search terms related to more common forms of questioning. As RankBrain takes hold, semantic search takes on a whole new importance for content ranking and content creators.

When Google made sweeping changes to their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), not only did they change how ads are served up, they effectively changed the meaning of rank for organic content. Now, not only do marketers need to know how their content is ranking against other organic content, they need to know what else is on the page affecting the “true rank” of content in relation to all the other types of content served up for any given search query.

As Google continues to roll out updates to their major algorithm changes, marketers and SEOs need to stay on their toes to make sure content and websites don’t receive penalties and that content doesn’t lose traction. Creating new, high quality content and optimizing older content to meet audience needs is the best way to benefit from ongoing algorithm updates.

6 key take-aways for marketers

1. Use daily search data for the whole marketing ecosystem. Make content decisions faster, track and react to competitor changes, keep messaging unified across functions, inform paid campaigns, and make better strategic decisions with daily SEO and content insights. Use automated reports to get usable, shareable insights and show return on your marketing dollars. Daily search data can inform your entire marketing and SEO operations and keep your brand on track to beat the competition. The data you collect and the insights you gain from daily search data will help you answer the questions your audiences are asking and provide a quality experience for them with your content.

2. Know your audiences and their preferences. Make connections with your prospects and current customers by knowing their interactions, habits, and preferences. Get to know your audiences by identifying their positive interactions as well as their negative ones. Knowing your audiences’ unique traits and why your content has, or has not, resonated with them will help you to create audience personas that truly inform your content creation and content marketing roadmap. Help website visitors, engaged audiences, and current customers by creating meaningful content journeys based on their actual needs and desires.

3. Create content for mobile users. Beyond optimizing content and websites for mobile, create content for your users who prefer mobile search. Since the majority of videos are consumed on mobile devices, get your message to your audiences in a video format as well as with your other content mediums.

4. Speak the lingo of your local audiences. If you want local traffic, you’ll have to learn the lingo used by audiences in specific locations and find out what’s important to audiences in those places. Get to know the locals with geo-modified keywords and local search ranking data. Using the terms local audiences use in your content means reaching them with answers to the questions they’re asking, the way they’re asking them.

5. Know the “true rank” of organic and paid content. Not only has organic content been pushed further down the page to make room for a variety of other “non-organic” results, the number of paid results has been lessened from 11 to 7. Moving forward, marketers are going to have to be wary about cannibalizing their own results. Know what else is appearing on the page with your organic and paid content and make strategic decisions that make sense for your audiences and your brand.

6. Keep track of your competitors and their content. As the competition for space on the first page of the SERPs becomes more and more intense, marketers are going to need to know who is winning in the search engine query results and exactly what content is ranking in the top three. In addition to the competitors you know, you’ll need to have the ability to identify everyone who is competing with you for space on the page. Armed with the right data, you can compete effectively and defend your rank or improve it.

More search engine changes on the horizon

Chatter around Google algorithm changes is too constant to think frequent algorithm changes won’t continue to have an impact on marketing and SEO efforts. Whether the latest algorithm change affects you negatively or positively, you need to know when changes are happening and how your search results and rankings are changing in response.

Continue to monitor the current search climate and maintain a website optimized for mobile devices and local search. The best defense against receiving penalties or dropping in rank is to provide authoritative, quality content. Maintaining good SEO practices all along the way will help you avoid a sudden rush to institute positive SEO fixes in reaction to falling rank results or news of an impending algorithm change.

Most recently, the anticipated Penguin updates have everyone checking their backlink strategies and cleaning up broken links. If you’re not sure whether or not your links will hurt you in the search engines, take the time to conduct a full site and content audit – you may find a few other fixes to help optimize your content and keep your website in good favor with the search engine bots and your audiences.

4 tips to stay ahead of the game

1. Understand your “true rank” with universal search data. Understand how much the new SERP layouts can impact your business. There will be certain queries that will generate more organic search results than other queries. Know which keywords are worth pursuing for content creation and which you want to use in paid efforts. Create a variety of content, including video and visual content to compete with similar content ranking above your written organic content. Topics that are nuanced are going to provide more relevant queries.

2. Really understand semantic search. Google’s Hummingbird update has made audience intent more important than just including individual keywords on a page. Start with a strategy to create content to capture audience intent. Instead of relying on single keywords, think about the topics your audiences are interested in and take into account the entire sentence your audience is using. Include the exact words and questions your audiences use in their queries in your content.

3. Create content that is located offsite. Whether your off-site content is user-generated or content hosted on channels like YouTube, it’s important to be more places. Branding and search marketing are merging very quickly, so being everywhere and being findable is really your number one responsibility. In addition, search engine formulas are taking things like social presence into consideration when calculating the authority and relevancy of content.

4. Know your audience. Whether your audience is local, national, or international use search data to know who they are, where they are, what they’re saying, exactly how they’re saying it, and who else they’re listening to. Then, use the data you collect to really engage with them and provide value beyond your product or service.

If you’re ready to keep ahead of changes in search and content marketing and beat the competition, let us know. We pioneered the science of findability.

Categories: SEO & Search.
About Karen Scates