Life on the internet moves pretty quickly — viral videos, memes, news — it’s the age of fleeting interest. The same can be said about your website. Trends come and go in the blink of an eye. What was en vogue just a couple short years ago, would get you shunned today. It can seem like a waste of one’s time to optimize an entire website if the rules are changing every few months. There are, however, elements of your website that can stand the test of time.
To future proof your website, you need to take a look at what is happening with Google and the web, in general, to see where we are heading.
With the fact that more searches globally happen on mobile than desktop, I think it’s safe to assume that mobile is here to stay. If you’re not working to create a great mobile experience for your users, you are going to be left behind. Back in November, Google made the announcement that they will be moving to a mobile-first index. In a nutshell, this means Google will create and rank its search listings based on the mobile version of content. Not to mention Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, which is an HTML markup poised to vastly improve the speed in which a page loads, Google is clearly putting a lot of energy into improving the mobile browsing experience.
Looking at what Google, Facebook, and the likes have been doing to improve usability on mobile devices we can living in a mobile-first world. To this point, the increasing functionality of messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and Allo providing in-app assistance allows us to chat/research/plan all on one device. What that means for your business is that your website needs to rank well in the search results in order for these assistants to recommend you.
Voice search is so closely linked with mobile that you’d be forgiven if you thought they were mutually exclusive. But the rising tide of in-home devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Aristotle point to a larger shift in human-device interaction. Not to mention Google’s latent semantic indexing, which considers documents that have many words in common to be semantically close or, put simply, provides a more human understanding of language.
The way we search is transforming. We are getting away from the basic 2- or 3-word query, and moving towards asking in complete sentences; “What is the height of the CN Tower?” “What is the best city to live in?”. We are even able to get answers to broader questions like “what is the name of the restaurant with a red head girl logo”. With these voiced questions we get a much clearer picture of the intent of the searcher and answering these questions in a human way will emerge as the new currency in search.
The Answers Are Right There
Google will continue to move toward providing more answers right in the search results. Featured snippets are a rapidly growing piece of Google’s results. Introduced in 2014 as part of Google’s Knowledge Graph, featured snippets were typically quick answers to straightforward questions like “How many pounds in a kilogram” or “When is Canada Day”.
As of July 2015, there is approximately 15% of search queries producing featured snippets. And that number is expected to keep growing. Stat Analytics has been doing some tremendous research on featured snippets; exploring what keywords trigger a snippet, what type of snippet is displayed, and which industries produce the most snippets.
Today, users can get directions to a restaurant, arrange flights and hotels, and even compare snowfall across multiple ski hills. What this means is that more and more search queries are resulting in fewer clickthroughs.
What Can You Do To Future Proof Your SEO
Here are five tactics to help future proof your website.
Mark-up your webpages with Schema
In case you don’t already know, Schema (AKA Schema.org) is a specific markup language that uses tags (or microdata) that you can add to your HTML to improve the way your page is represented in search results. It provides additional information about creative works, events, organizations, persons, products. This is presented in a way that adds visual elements to your search listings; star ratings, prices, published dates are all ways that can all be displayed. If you want to get those enhanced search listing, then Schema markup is way to go.
QUICK TIP: If you’re using WordPress to manage your website, here’s a great way to markup your content.
Get those featured snippets
Featured snippets are a relatively new phenomenon, but they are rapidly expanding across the SERPs. You should be going after these snippets because they can lead to higher click-throughs and help you standout in a crowded search page. If you want to get after these snippets, start analyzing the types of queries that produce the answer box and the type of answer they display. These answers can be paragraphs, table, or list.
QUICK TIP: Don’t worry if your website doesn’t hold the top spot, you don’t need to rank in the number one spot to get it. All you need is the best answer.
Target Topics not Keywords
As we move into a mobile-first world, where voice search and detailed search queries are the new normal, the idea of optimizing for a specific keyword or set of keywords will become ineffective. Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) is how Google identifies what a page is about. Without diving too deeply into the science behind it, LSI attempts to understand the meaning of the words and the ideas behind them. What this means for you is that your keyword targets don’t have to appear in the same order on your page in order to rank for that phrase. Rather than going after a specific search phrase, target the meaning of that phrase; use synonyms, different keyword combinations, and natural language around the topic.
Evergreen is a term we use to describe content that maintains its relevance over time. These types of articles dig a little deeper, it goes beyond the superficial trends du jour. Google rewards content that provides value to the reader. In depth, well-researched content has longevity, use that to your advantage.
Pagespeed, Pagespeed, Pagespeed
It’s a telling sign that we need to build better web experiences when we consider how much of our daily interactions occur online. In a world where things move quickly and technology moves even faster, your website needs to be ready for whatever comes next in order to reach your audience.