Getting found on Google means spending a lot of time on your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Sadly, it seems that the standard ways of improving SEO are simply not enough. Working hard on keyword analysis and keeping content up to date may work for now. There are dark clouds on the horizon. Here’s a forecast.

First, there was a search engine

It the beginning, there was Google’s Search Engine. The tech giant and content creators have been in a symbiotic relationship. The relationship works like this.

1. Google wants the best content

Google wants the best content to show their users. They need this content for their mission statement. Fun to read and giving the answer to questions the users may have. To get this, it needs creators who research, create and improve the content that the users are searching for. That’s exactly what writers, developers, and marketers spend a lot of their time doing.

2. Creators want to be found

Content creators want their content to be found. To inspire, inform or help their target audience. This means they have to be visible in the places people are looking at. This is exactly what Google does best. Being the place where people come to search for things.

I’ts not me, its you

This relationship between Google and the content creators is slowly being broken. Google is growing towards other roles. And trying to give answers to the users without the need of creators who give the answers. Showing the answers directly in the results page. Often without naming a source. Keeping users from the website creators and marketers are desperately improving to improve traffic.

Looks like this is what Google is saying to the people it relied on for so long.

The rise of the knowledge graph

2018 was a turning point in the relationship between creators and Google. For the first time, Google decreased traffic to websites. Giving every bit of information directly. Google uses different forms to do this:

  • Featured snippets: Features snippets appear in the top of the results page. The box shows a piece of information directly from a website containing the answer the user is searching for. Luckily, Google does mention the source page. Users can check the website if they want to see more information.
  • Knowledge graphs: The graphs give people a complete summary of the most important information on a subject. Google shows the graphs when doesn’t really know what you are looking for. So it shows you everything you might want to know. And most of the time skips the mention of sources entirely.

Some scary numbers

Rand Fishkin mentioned on Yoastcon 19 that 30% of desktop users who get to see a knowledge graph in their Google Search Results no longer feel the need to click to the source website. This number is bigger for mobile users, 54,5% of them get their answer from Google directly and don’t visit a website for more info. The numbers are even scarier when you realize that voice search is becoming bigger every day. Estimated sales of smart speakers in 2019 are 36 million in the US. And smart speakers tend not to redirect people to websites either. How big Voice Search will really become remains to be seen.

If Google shows it, it must be true

If Google breaks the relationship with content creators and shifts its role from search engine to answering machine. Who is there to check this information? By reducing the amount of source material people cant be sure the information Google gives them is really true. By directing people to websites or letting users do the fact-checking by themselves users can decide the value of the information on their own. This gets more and more important with the increasing fake news on the internet. If Google wants to be the answer supplier we could ask these questions:

  • Is Google ready to take the role of the supplier of unbiased and real answers and news?
  • Who should be the one to check if Google gives the right answers? And make sure Google keeps itself to their second mission statement: ‘Don’t be evil’. ?

SEO tips for stormy weather

You might be thinking:

All right, so Google keeps sending less traffic to my website and content?
Surely I can turn to Social Media, right? 

Sadly, the Social Media platforms are keeping a tighter grip on their external links. Generating traffic to other websites is the least of their concerns. If you want to keep the traffic to your website coming, make sure you follow these tips:

1. Don’t focus on search volume

Google can’t cram all the internets wisdom in Featured Snippets or Knowledge Graphs. If you want to get traffic through good SEO, you don’t want to focus on keywords with high search volume. Focus on keywords with high Click Through Rate. These are the questions that cannot be answered in three lines of text. Think about questions like ‘How does [x] work?’. You can use tools like the Moz Keyword Explorer to see what the organic CTR is. Use to find out how to phrase your keywords differently. So the answers aren’t as clear cut to be taken over in a knowledge graph.

2. Ask your users

If you know your users, you can create the content they won’t find anywhere else. This, in turn, ensures that they will link to your website or let others know about your content. And if you know what they are looking for, you can adjust your content to fill that need.
See a need fill a need
To keep an ear close to your users you can use online questionnaires to find out why they came to your site. Ask them what they need or what they didn’t find but are desperately looking for. The scarier thing to do is to invite some of them for an open conversation and get an in-depth interview with your users. This gives you the best insights into what you can improve and what content you can create next. And if your users know a lot about the field you’re working in, you can consider co-creating content. You can be sure your users want to adopt and share content they invested their own time to create.

3. Invest in PR

If you can’t be unique, be the best!

Link building can be achieved through painstaking e-mailing and begging people for links. Another way is to make sure people want to link to your page by investing in good PR for your peace of content. How do you make content that people want to link to? There are lots of sites that can give you some good tips. There are things you can check before you make your next piece of content.

Be unique or be the best

If your website has the only piece of useful information, you can be sure people will link to your site. Check with Google News or Google Trends if your subject is unique enough. If you can’t be unique, be the best. See if there are pieces of content that worked in the past and try to update them to today’s standards. Journalists and editors do exactly the same, save them the work and you’ll probably get a valuable link.

Make sure people want to know what your telling

Selling snow on the Northpole isn’t a good idea. Trying to push your content that nobody is searching for isn’t either. Make sure the people you want to reach are asking the same questions you do. Ask your users with polls or check if people are searching Google for this information. Keep in mind that terms like ‘how does [x] work, guides, explanation’ have a better chance of bypassing Knowledge Graphs than branded keywords.

Pitch your content to yourself

Try to create an elevator pitch for your article or content. If you can’t explain in 30 seconds or less why someone should check it out, try to change the subject or angle. You can also try a mother-in-law-test. Can you explain to her in one sentence why someone would want to see what you’ve created? No? Try to make it easier to understand.

Get a list of people you definitely should see your stuff

of course, this list can start with your mom. But it should also have the names of some influencers. Do you know editors or journalists who wrote something on your subject before? Specific blogs or websites that could feature your content? Try to get those e-mails or phone numbers. Don’t be afraid to include some criticasters, responding and processing feedback makes your content better. And that can get you better SEO results.

4. Build a strong brand and e-mail list

Social media followers are nice. E-mail subscribers are better. A lot better. These are the people who connect to your brand and content. They are far more likely to really see the things you made. And are far more likely to use and share your content. If your content is good and you share it in an e-mail newsletter you would want to receive, your subscribers will see your brand as an authority. And that’s something Google will always notice. Cartman telling google to respect my authority


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