We’re in a time of great change. The way we as consumers search for what we’re looking for, has rapidly changed in the last 12-18 months alone. It’s no secret we’re using our phones a lot more, but with 25% of Australian smartphone owners using voice search at least once a week. What implications will this have for your business to best reach your consumer?
Organic search in 2017 has been all about the device and how we use it. Firstly, we were preparing for the Mobile First update, then we all started buying virtual assistants and using our voices to control our lives. Combine this with Google’s ever-improving ability to assess user intent through Machine Learning and 2017 has been quite an eventful year in search.
Mobile First is rolling out
Since 2011, we’ve been hearing that “next year is going to be the year of mobile”. 2011 saw the release of the iPhone 4S, the Arab spring and the global population finally cracked 7 billion. 2017 began with the usual flurry of articles promising this would finally be the year. Despite previous false proclamations, this year they were kind of right. We knew the Mobile First algorithm was coming and 1 year after it was announced, Google confirmed that they had started rolling out the algorithm in November.
So has it been the year of mobile in Australia?
Since 2015 Google have said there have been more searches on mobile than desktop worldwide (SearchEngineland, 2015), the UK and Japan already spend more on mobile. In Australia there are 19.4 million mobile phones, meaning almost 80% of Australians own a mobile phone (Vmarketing, 2017) and are spending, on average, 50 mins per month in a shopping app per user (Internet Retailing, 2017). It is becoming increasingly clear, mobile is starting to dominate search.
But there is big change afoot. The combination of the mobile-first algorithm and the impact of the mighty Amazon into the Australian market will ensure change. 2018, will be the year businesses will need to make sure their online mobile experience is one of the best or risk losing their customers to the competition.
While Google has repeatedly said during 2017 that sites unprepared for the switch to mobile will not be impacted (Search Engine Roundtable, 2017), do you still run the risk of not preparing? At some point in the next 12 months, the Google search algorithm will become mobile-focused. Whether you choose to lead the field in customer experience, AMP-based sites or super fast delivery, the need to build a mobile-first experience is essential.
Are you talking to your machines? Do they answer back? 55% of teens and 40% of adults use voice search every day according to Google’s Behshad Behzadi (Link-Assistant, 2016). The next challenge will be becoming the #1 source of the answer that the virtual assistants offer. During 2017 there has been a focus on constructing the correct content for the narrow answers box that Google provides.
When we learn to write, we learn to write in the first person, using natural language. The next step for voice search will be talking to your device like you do people. “Plumbers Sydney” becomes “Local plumber near me”
As this has improved, Google, of course, takes the next step. They are upgrading the way in which content is being found. They advise it will be unstable towards the end of 2017. How will you be able to get in that narrow answers box? This is to be discovered over the next 12 months.
The increasing use of voice search is only helping Google learn the context of searches. RankBrain was the 3rd largest ranking signal back in 2015, with the influx of data from voice search, Google’s algorithm will continue to be further driven by machine learning.
Results from SearchMetrics declared general ranking factors as dead by the end of 2017 (SearchEngineland, 2017). Different ranking factors are now being given different weighting for different industries. They highlight that HTTPs, vital for the finance industry, have not proved so vital for finance sites. It is all about user intent.
And what about 2018? Will it be the year of Progressive Web Apps or will Accelerated Mobile Pages start coming into their own? In order to meet the user demand for an instant experience, which in turn drives Google’s push for speed, sites will have to become more efficient. Mobile speed and user experience are going to make all the difference. All those legacy systems and servers held in different locations will become a greater burden, as the opportunity for new, faster, leaner customer focused sites grows.
Additional services and products within search results will continue to grow. Google will continue to search for new offerings that will help them stay in people’s minds when searching. Keep your schema up to date and focus on usability.
Author: Robb Frost, Senior Experience Manager NSW & QLD