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Tag Archive: google search results

  1. 5 Ways Search Is Becoming More Personalized (and How to Adapt)

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    Search is facing yet another revolution, and this one has everything to do with the individual. When Google first launched, every user in the world viewed the same results. Today, its capacity for personalization has evolved to such a sophisticated degree, most of us don’t even realize what’s happening in the background. Individual attention and customization are the next big barriers for technological development, and search engines are working quickly to bring more personalization to the users who are craving it. If you want your business to be prepared, you need to be aware of these changes, and how your SEO strategy needs to adapt.

    Facilitators of Personalization

    First, it’s important to realize the mechanisms behind these personalization changes. There are several major technologies all advancing in different lines, in some cases working together to integrate these changes:

    Search algorithm complexity.

    On one hand, search algorithms themselves are getting more and more complex. As an example, when Hummingbird broke onto the scene in 2013, it completely changed how Google “understood” search queries, shifting its focus on keywords to a semantic deciphering of user intent. As search engines evolve, even incorporating AI and machine learning, they’ll “get to know” users even better.

    Big data.

    Technology is growing capable of gathering and better understanding deeper, more complex information like user behavior and demographic information. Search engines can use this data to inform their algorithm updates or direct their future plans.

    Shared account access.

    Tech companies are attempting to reduce logins by spreading one account over several platforms and products. This allows companies to use information from multiple apps in a single, cohesive understanding of a user.

    Digital assistants merging offline and online.

    Personal digital assistants, like Siri and Cortana, are blurring the line between offline and online search, tapping into existing files, apps, and information hard-stored on devices for other forms of digital search.

    Modes of Personalization

    Through these vehicles of advancement, we can identify five main modes of personalization, each present in modern search but increasing in sophistication:

    Geographic location.

    Geographic location has been an influential factor in search results for some time now, especially with the onset of mobile devices. Google is adept at delivering a list of results based on what companies or facilities are around your “current” location. Over time, this location has grown more specific, ranging from regions, to cities, and now getting down to a neighborhood level. Other geographic factors include national differences, such as how “football” might mean something different to a Briton than it does to an American.

    Local SEO

    History.

    Your personal browsing history is another mode of personalization; Google may favor sites or domains that you’ve frequented in the past, or take a look at how you’ve responded to various search entries in separate instances in the past. It uses this information to get a better understanding of your personal needs, and as long as you’re logged into your account, it can pull this information to personalize your search results. In time, this degree of personalization may increase in intensity, as search engines have more information to work with and more options for display.

    Social connections.

    Currently underdeveloped compared to the other items on this list, Google can tap into your social Google+ account to highlight articles or websites that your connections have shared or found helpful in the past. The sky’s the limit for how this may develop, especially as Google works on more potential partnerships with other social media apps.

    Bookmarks and apps.

    Thanks mostly to personal digital assistants, the apps and bookmarks you have stored on your device and browser can influence the types of results you receive in search. A perfect example of this is app deep linking; under the right conditions, you may encounter a link in your search results that leads to the interior page of an app that you have downloaded on your device. This link would not appear if you didn’t have the app (though app streaming may soon change that).

    bookmarks apps

    Habits and personality.

    Though currently on the back burner, digital assistants are starting to tap into this customization potential. By getting to know your habits, how you use your device, and what your personal preferences are, digital assistants may soon start categorizing us into archetypes, or making bold assumptions about our behavioral and display preferences—but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here.

    How to Adapt

    This is a search change that doesn’t offer any straightforward route to adaptation. Unlike previous Google updates, like ones that refine content standards, there’s no single reaction your strategy can have. Instead, you have to work around this personalization trend by making your company (and website) more appropriate and specific to your audience:

    Optimize for local keywords.

    Make your local presence known, to a hyper-specific degree.

    Reward loyalty.

    User retention can translate to positive ranking signals, and you’ll appear in more searches among your frequenters.

    Encourage social integration.

    This is a good strategy anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to give it an extra boost.

    Revisit and re-optimize for your target niche.

    Zoom in your laser-focus and optimize your site for your target demographics only.

    These strategies are somewhat general, but these personalization trends are hard to pinpoint with the precision of older strategies like keyword-based optimization. Keep giving your users what they want, be straightforward and accurate with your onsite company descriptions, and you should have a higher chance of showing up in more searches.

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  2. 7 Strategies to Leverage Hummingbird and Related Topics

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    Let’s not kid ourselves; Hummingbird is amazing. It’s an algorithm that took Google’s basic keyword-based structure and turned it into something intuitive and more capable of linguistic understanding than most people you’ll ever meet. Now, Google can, for lack of a better phrase, guess what you’re thinking and give you the content that matches your intentions—even if none of your keywords are an exact match for the most relevant results.

    Similarly, RankBrain and other additions have allowed Google to come up with “related questions” and an advanced network of related topics to discern user intent from ambiguous queries, and provide links to helpful related information that similar searchers have required in the past.

    related questions google results

    (Image Source: Moz)

    So how can you take advantage of Hummingbird and related topics in your own content marketing campaign?

    1. Get specific. General topics aren’t going to cut it anymore. The more specific you get with your material, the more likely you’ll be to show up. If a user is searching for general information on a general subject, with a query like “maple trees,” they’re either going to get an immediate Knowledge Graph entry that gives them a breakdown of the subject, or they’ll get referred to a Wikipedia article. On the other hand, extremely specific queries with specific intents will have almost no competition, giving you the advantage when it comes to ranking. Search for specific topics, and write for specific audiences while you’re at it.
    2. Publish interrelated content features. Don’t post single instances of the topics you’re exploring; instead, develop them into a series of related features. For example, instead of just writing about “How to clean an air conditioner,” write that article and follow it up with, “how to repair an air conditioner that won’t run,” or “how to improve the lifespan of an air conditioner.” All of these questions are related topics, so you’ll stand to gain in two key ways. First, you’ll be seen as a greater authority in this space, and second, you’ll have a higher likelihood of showing up in “related questions” for users interested in these subjects.
    3. Go deeper with your content. This is an easy strategy, but it’s one you should have been doing a long time ago. When taking advantage of Hummingbird, thin content isn’t going to cut it. Hummingbird does a thorough evaluation of the phrases and details within the entire body of your content—the more details you include, and the more subtopics and related ideas you cover, the better the algorithm will be able to “understand” your work. It’s also a best practice for content in general—it makes you stand out from the crowd, gives people more information to peruse, and shows that you’ve done your research thoroughly.
    4. Check out Related Questions. Where better to learn how Google categorizes different topics than on Google itself? Run a sample search for a query related to some of your recent content, and see what pops up in the “related questions” section. Who’s covering those topics now? How are they covering them? Look for any opportunity to cover one of these related topics with your own work in the future, and try to capitalize on any weaknesses you see in the work that currently shows up for these queries.
    5. Forget about keywords (mostly). Keywords aren’t dead—at least not entirely. Even though Google isn’t using keywords on a strict, one-to-one basis, they can be good contextual clues for the subjects of your work. Keep keyword research as an element of your SEO campaign—take a look to see what keywords have the highest volume and the lowest competition rating, and include the most promising candidates throughout your work. However, stay away from picking content topics based solely on your keyword research, and as always, never stuff keywords into your content.
    6. Diversify your vocabulary. With more users relying on casual queries and vocal search, the range of vocabulary in user queries has expanded and become much more conversational. If you want your content to be indexed thoroughly, and for subjects peripherally related to your main targets, you’ll do well to diversify the type of vocabulary you use. Part of that means having a bigger list of potential keywords to target, and part of that means avoiding using the same phrases or terminologies over and over again. Shake things up!
    7. See what your competitors are up to. This is another strategy that’s good to adopt in general, but especially useful in the context of Hummingbird and semantic search. Take a look to see what types of content your competitors are publishing, and which pieces seem to be getting the best results. Are there any related topics that they aren’t taking advantage of, such as follow-up opportunities, alternative positions, or expansions? These could be a good way to get a competitive edge, especially since you already know the root subject has been popular with your shared demographics.

    Google’s search algorithm is now too sophisticated for any kind of measurable, predictable, one-to-one gain. That is to say, you’ll never be able to calculate, on paper, the potential visibility for one of your content ideas. However, by employing these tactics (in addition to standard content and SEO best practices), you’ll stand to benefit more from Google’s semantic understanding and desire to provide users with comprehensive information.

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