Searching for answers

Features - Technology

The evolution of how search engine optimization works can affect where your company’s website ranks.

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January 17, 2020

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What does SEO do? Whether you have been practicing SEO (search engine optimization) since you first launched your site or you are just starting to get your site to rank in search engine result pages (SERPs), you may have heard, “SEO is dead.” That statement has been said for years; however, that could not be farther from the truth.

People have questions and the internet, with the help from the likes of Google, Bing or other search engines, has answers. SEO professionals and practitioners have been trying since the birth of the search engine to have their pages rank above their competitors. And like any technology, the search engines have grown. For instance, AI and machine learning technology are able to read web pages on their own.

The goal of search engines is to discover, read and index web pages so when a user has a question, the engine has an answer. The engines are getting smarter; they are able to read a page, see your question and display the answer, most times with synonyms or a “People Also Asked” box, possibly answering a question that you did not know you had. The goal of SEO is to not only make the sites available for engines to read and index the page, but also to ensure that the user is able to read and use the website. At the end of the day, it is the user that is buying your product or service, not the search engine. SEO makes sure that engines display your site in SERP and users are able to find the answer to their question, hopefully buying your service or product in the process.

The Google Environment.

The Google SERP environment has changed. Once it was simply you having a question and Google presenting your answer. This has evolved into many different results including: Knowledge Graph, People Also Asked, Image Carousels, Sponsored Results and Ads, Featured Snippets, Answer Boxes and of course the good, old-fashioned organic results. The Google SERP is a busy and clustered environment.

Think about it: How many times have you used Google to find an answer and possibly never left due to this bustling answer page? This is called a zero-click search, and Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkToro, wanted to find out how often this happened. In August 2019 (bit.ly/llfishkin), he published a study where he found that 50.33% of searches in Google end with zero clicks. For example, when Google released the Knowledge Graph in 2012, Wikipedia experienced a 21% drop in traffic (bit.ly/llseowiki). For a site that receives millions of visitors a day, that is a huge drop in traffic.

On top of all the features of the Google SERP, Google announced in June 2019 that it will only display two pages per site on one SERP, calling it “Site Diversity” (bit.ly/llserp). All this adds up to less organic traffic to your site and potentially less sales.

SEO is here to help.

What can be done to make sure that your site and service are seen? This is where SEO comes into play. Good SEO is a combination of marketing, data analysis and technical knowledge; it is not so much optimizing search engines but optimizing content for search engines. One of the most useful aspects of SEO is knowing your market and knowing how to speak to them.

Something that will help in this area is keyword research. This research will give you an idea of what people are looking for around your target keyword. It would include how often people are searching for that term (keyword density) or how many other sites are using that same keyword (keyword competition). Synonyms of that word or phrase could be used on site to potentially gain more visibility. Look at the site content and see if there are opportunities to drive more traffic by diversifying the terms on page.

Another aspect of SEO is knowing your competition. Look at what they are doing. Sometimes you will have a campaign that looks like it will get a ton of traction in search. The price is set right, the keywords and phrases have high search volume but low competitive volume, and the campaign still fails. It happens. One of the best next steps is to look and see if someone else did it better. Competitive analysis will help you gain insights to what your competitors did and see if they did it better. Did they use different keywords? Were there other sites that linked to their site that drove more traffic? Sometimes just looking at what others did will help your efforts in the future. L&L

The author is the SEO analyst for GIE Media, Lawn & Landscape’s parent company.