The Internet User Today – Optimizing for a New Generation of Searchers
Often times we measure time in the sense of seconds or minutes. So what does a minute mean in digital terms? There are some impressive infographics out there such as the What Happens in an Internet Minute? created by Intel, but here are a few pieces of data for context:
In one minute there are:
• 38,194 photos uploaded on Instagram
• 57,870 page views on Pinterest
• 347,222 tweets on Twitter
• 100 hours of video uploaded on YouTube
• 4.1 million searches on Google!
Yes, Google serves 4.1 million queries in an average minute every day of the year. In case you didn’t know, Colorado is 32nd most connected state in the US, with 99.8% of the population having access to mobile broadband service and 96.2% of the population having access to fixed wireless service. But why are the above numbers important?
In Colorado nowadays (as well as the U.S. altogether), there are hardly any people who do not have access to the Internet. The Internet is a significant part of our lives – the way we spend our time, the way we spend our money, the way we entertain our selves, the way we communicate with friends and family, as well as the way we seek, obtain and manage information. If you still do not agree of the importance of online presence, let’s look as a few more statistics.
86% of consumers use the internet to find a local business. (Pew Research Center)
95% of mobile users who perform searches, look at local results. (Google Statistics)
It is now a fact that Search Engines are the #1 resource used by consumers looking for products and services from local businesses. (Nielsen/NetRatings, a service of The Nielsen Company).
So what we can summarize from above is that nearly everyone in Colorado is connected to the Internet, people are very likely to have used a search engine at least once in their endeavors online and they are not necessarily limited to only one device. If you are in business, the Internet is for you!
Why is Page Two of Google Search Results the Best Place to Hide a Dead Body?
Moving forward in this discussion, I will be focusing on Google as the main example of a search engine. Why you ask? Well, Google holds approximately 65.44% of the search engine market share (followed by Bing with only 15.82% market share). In addition, most search engines have similarities in the way they determine what results to display and if you are well optimized for Google searches, you are likely to be well optimized for most other main players.
If you have a website currently you might have searched for specific terms, relevant to your industry to find where you stand against your competition. What a standard search engine results page (SERP) looks like is this:
As you can see, there are three main components of search results:
• Local Results
• Organic Results
In the next few paragraphs we will focus on Organic results, however, will also dedicate a blog post for each of the other two types of results.
When you perform a query Google’s promise is “to determine the most relevant search results to be returned (“served”) to you.” What you end up seeing in the organic search results are what Google (and most other search engines alike) have indexed (made sense out of) as they most relevant and high quality content available. In the screen shot above you might have noticed that Google found 184,000 pages relevant to our search and due to real estate space on the page it only displayed 4 in the organic search results. The rest belong to page 2, 3, 4, etc. You probably are wondering “So what!?”
Page one results enjoy 92% of all search traffic. Only 4.8% of traffic continues to page two. I don’t know about you, but often times of I don’t find what I am looking for on page one I put myself at fault for not searching for the right term. Who would think Google doesn’t display the right thing!
So if that is not competitive enough, let add to the equation the importance of not only being on the first page of Google but being in the top 3 results!
What you see in the graph below is the percentage of traffic by Google results position. What is key to point out is that the first position of a search results gets 33% of all the clicks. The second position gets almost half of the clicks (17%) and the third one only 11%. So if we were to add the top three results on the first page of Google search, we can conclude that they take 61% of the 92% of all search traffic!
Let’s put it in simple math, if 100 people searched for the same thing today, 92 of them will not go on page two. And out of those 92, potentially 56 will select one of the first three results Google delivers.
What Does it Take To Get To Page One of Google Results? / The Four Main Pillars of Good Optimization
Once my clients understand the importance of being well and strategically optimized for search results the next question I usually get is “How long until we can be on page one?” Believe it or not that question is as tough as figuring out life, because there are a number of variables that come into the picture, such as:
• As everything else with marketing, there has to be a strategy in place, in this case a content strategy – what is this website about and who are the targets we will be addressing
• Your website needs to be in top condition from a technological and a user experience stand point
• Intensive research is needed before anything can be put in play
• Search algorithms (search engines’ bread and butter) change all the time, so Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not a one time deal, but has to be worked on constantly and needs dedicated time and attention
As vague as the above might sound, through our experience, we have derived four main pillars supporting optimization efforts:
1. Content Strategy
Why Are We in This?
Strategy is the key to any marketing success. Based upon strong understanding of our business and ideal target clients, it helps us determine the WHY is the whole picture. Why do we need a website with specific content and functionality? Why do we engage social media channels and why now dive in all social media channels at the same time?
Content Is King!
The actual content is the meat we start putting around our strategy. It is the WHAT of the puzzle. Knowing who our audience is and what vehicles we will be using to reach and converse with them is essential to successful and engaging content. The reason we need all of the in-depth knowledge of WHY is because at the stage of building high quality content we need to start understanding behaviors. What information does a certain demographic need and find valuable? What excites our audience vs. make them scroll without paying attention? When our target is looking for a solution to their needs what term do they use?
Keyword research is crucial to providing high quality content, which is searchable, because in the very essence of searches being matched with results, search engines connect words with words. There are high-volume words people use and lower-volume words. For example, in Colorado on average people search for the word “car” 14,800 times, while the word “vehicle” is searched for 880 times.
In Colorado Springs, the word “car” is searched for 1,300 times, while “vehicle” is searched for 90 times.
In the examples above, there is a clear difference in volume of searched terms, showing that more people are likely to search for “car”, instead of “vehicle”. If you only used the word “vehicle” in your content, you would show for the relevant word, however, would be missing a great opportunity by not implementing the synonym. And vice versa, if you only used “car” you would potentially be ignoring everyone who uses an alternative word.
As people perform their research they go through multiple stages. The difference between initial interest and final decision can be big when it comes to the search terms they use to find what they need at that exact moment. In the second example, focusing on Colorado Springs search volumes, there are two additional examples throwing “red convertible” in the mix. While the volumes here are much, much smaller, the intent shown by the user is different – they are more likely to be in the lower end of the purchase funnel, as they are very particular about the car/vehicle they are searching for. Even though the shear volume of traffic is not there, these keywords might end up having much higher ROI for certain businesses.
To quickly summarize, keyword research is a very important stage of SEO. Knowing what your clients call your products or services, as well as, what alternatives they might be using will help you provide them with relevant content. And in addition, volumes are not the whole picture. Being able to drill deeper down and discover what people might be searching for right before they convert with help hone down your ROI models.
Designing For the Users
Often times when we mention design, clients only think of looks. As much as looks are important, they are a component of the overall experience a user has on your website. How easy can I find what I am looking for? How easy can I navigate the options you are giving me? Are there any technical difficulties preventing me from moving forward or going back?
In today’s very noisy and segmented environment, we have evolved to be very distracted and more importantly, very impatient. The average attention span for the not very focused goldfish is nine seconds. According to a study by Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.
Now knowing how easy it is to lose someone’s attention, let’s revisit user experience (UX) – if I cannot find something interesting (short if possible – I know this post you are reading is exactly that) or get to the bottom of what I am looking for within seconds, I will leave your web property and very likely never return. Guess what! Google tracks users on your website – how long do they stay for, how many pages they look at, etc. If Google senses that something is off with your user experience and it happens over and over again, it will most likely lower your ranking = push you further down in search result and give your spot to a competitor.
You might have heard about Google’s mobile friendly update released in April 2015, “Mobilegeddon”. That was not so much
Technical Health of Your Website
Research performed by ComScore revealed that PC/Laptops are primarily used in the beginning stages of a local business search, while phones and tablets tend to be used more in the middle and end stages.
What that hints at is that if our business does not show for a user in a search, despite the device they are using, there is a very high chance that we will be missing a huge opportunity to capture the user in very important stages of their buying decision.