8 Key Changes In Google Search B2B Marketers Should Know
As detailed in an article on Search Engine Land this past month, a new Google eye tracking study outlines the evolution of Google search results from 2005 to today. The key takeaway? Searchers are now looking outside of the “golden triangle” of top organic results when performing Google keyword searches.
What is the “golden triangle?” Per research from Eyetools and search marketing firms Enquiro and Did-it, the vast majority of eye tracking activity during a search happens in a triangle at the top of the search results page. The areas of maximum interest create a “golden triangle.”
According to the latest eye tracking study, searchers are viewing more search result listings during a single session and spending less time viewing each one. Businesses positioned lower are seeing more click activity than they did several years ago.
And while position 1 in organic listings still commands the most click activity (32.8%) because top organic results are no longer always in the top-left corner, users look elsewhere to find them.
Most importantly, mobile device adoption has habitually conditioned searchers to scan vertically more than horizontally. Searchers are looking for the FASTEST path to desired content.
This change in searcher behavior is just one change – either related to Google or driven by Google – that B2B marketers need to be aware of. In this newsletter, I wanted to highlight 8 recent Google developments (including the Google eye tracking study) and what they could mean, today and in the long run, for B2B marketing professionals.
The Demise of Google Authorship
I was certainly disappointed when Google announced that it had stopped displaying authorship markup in search engine results.
With Google Authorship, we were able to build an organization’s brand presence in search results by establishing individual thought leadership in line with applicable search listings.
But the rise and fall of authorship reminds B2B marketers that while tactics come and go, there is often an underlying B2B marketing objective being accomplished that we still need to pay close attention to.
In authorship we have helped validate the significance of building brand and the relationship between thought leadership, brand awareness, and search relevance.
The more important long-term value, as detailed in Search Engine Land founding editor Danny Sullivan’s follow up column on Authorship, is the idea of Author Rank.
“Separately from Google Authorship is the idea of Author Rank, where if Google knows who authored a story, it might somehow alter the rankings of that story, perhaps give it a boost if authored by someone deemed trustworthy.”
Trust is the key element B2B marketers need to build long term – trust in their brand and in the leadership of the organization.
Guest Posting for SEO
“Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done.” That statement from Google Head of Web Spam, Matt Cutts, put guest blogging front and center in the SEO-spam spotlight.
I’ve written about guest blogging as a recommendation for link building many times in the past. It’s a tactic we’ve used with success for several years and my stance on guest blogging won’t change, because we’re not putting our clients (or ourselves) in a position where SEO is the sole reason for our efforts.
Search marketer Eric Enge’s summation of the indirect benefits of guest blogging reminds B2B SEOs why we should be applying tactics like this in the first place:
“There is nothing like building your reputation and visibility to cause people to want more of your content. You get to build up your own audience, and ultimately some of these people will find their way to your site, find great content there and link to it.”
Similar to Google Authorship, high quality contributions in trusted publications build authority – and hopefully inbound links and organic search engine presence as well.
Mobile Prioritization in Google Search Results
Late last month, as reported on KoMarketing, the “Google Operating System” blog, known for hosting unofficial news and tips pertaining to the search engine giant, reported on a new icon for smartphone-optimized results.
The news source reported that Google is experimenting with a special icon that shows up next to smartphone-optimized search results. This lets users know when a website has a mobile-responsive design.
And earlier this week, Search Engine Land reported that Google was now testing a non-mobile friendly icon next to applicable search engine results. Per article, “Google is clearly testing to see if they see a better response from searchers either from showing a mobile friendly icon, a non-mobile friendly icon or no icon at all.”
For B2B marketers, it’s important to understand Google is heavily invested in provided the best results for a changing technology environment. That environment is rapidly shifting to a mobile browsing experience.
In 2013 it was reported that 46% of searchers now use mobile exclusively to research. And Google itself released findings that revealed 65% of online searches began on a smartphone. It’s not if, it’s when, we’ll need to focus more on mobile site optimization with our clients.
Google AdWords Website Call Conversions
Not to be confused with AdWords Callout Extensions (detailed in Mike Pickowicz’s recentblog post), Website Call Conversions were announced in late August to provide a “powerful way for [B2B marketers] to identify and measure calls from your website that occur after an ad click.”
Don’t believe click to call functionality is important?
If my comments previously about Google’s prioritization of optimization for mobile device usage didn’t sway you, consider this via recent Search Engine Land column:
Google has reported that 70 percent of mobile searchers have called a business directly from search results. BIA/Kelsey estimates inbound phone calls from mobile search will grow from roughly 40 billion this year to 70 billion in 2016.
A recent poll by call marketing automation firm Invoca (as highlighted in that same article) shows, while 63 percent surveyed indicated that phone conversions are at least as valuable as web conversions, 54 percent don’t track phone conversions from search campaigns.
We need to go beyond traditional form submission tracking and consider how our marketing efforts impact other actions, such as call performance, site engagement, and even customer loyalty.
HTTPS/SSL As A Ranking Signal
In early August, Google announced that they would start to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. While it has been understood that SSL would be a very lightweight signal – affecting fewer than 1% of global queries (carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content) – over time, they may decide to strengthen it, in an effort to “encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”
While we’re not currently seeing significant shifts in search positioning based on SSL / HTTPS, we have encouraged clients who run B2B e-commerce sites in particular to consider adopting site-wide security (logged in or not).
At SMX East last week, Google’s Gary Illyes shared data indicating that while only 10% of the web pages are HTTPS, 30% of the first page searches results contain one or more HTTPS results. This data is detailed in conference coverage from Search Engine Roundtable.
Site Search Markup
Earlier last month, Google announced a new and improved sitelinks search box for many branded queries. When you search for keywords like “ebay,” “living social,” or “twitter,” you’ll see a site search option in Google results.
If users use that search function, they are presented with Google search results in Google, as if they were using the “keyword site:domain.com” query.
The problem with this is that AdWords listings appear in some of these results; especially for non-branded keywords.
Example – search “Twitter” and then use the site search box to search for “restaurant in Boston.” SEO Blogger Blind Five Year Old has a more in-depth blog post on this potential issue for large online brands.
Recommendation: As detailed in the Google announcement, there is a method for site owners to use schema markup on their site search function to ensure searchers land on their own sites and not remain in Google search results.
Site owners should evaluate their own branded search results and consider the implementation of schema tagging for their site search functionality. Documentation on how to do this can be found here:
- Specific Schema references here: http://schema.org/SearchAction
Google Search Algorithm Changes
Finally, Google announced two significant search engine algorithm updates, dubbed “Panda 4.1” and Penguin 3.0 last month. They estimated the impact at 3-5% of queries affected. For the former, algorithm tracking on Moz, given the “slow rollout,” the exact timing was unclear. The Penguin update, launched a little over two weeks ago, was said to have only impacted less than 1% of US queries.
G-Squared Interactive (GSQi)’s Glenn Gabe has in-depth write-ups for both updates thus far. For Panda, the biggest losers appear to be affiliate marketers, and site owners still using deceptive and more aggressive online tactics.
We don’t anticipate any of our clients being adversely impacted by this update but will certainly be on the lookout. As Gabe concludes in his analysis for Panda 4.1:
“Make sure user engagement is strong, users are happy with your content, and they don’t have a poor experience while traversing your website.”
That’s certainly something we’ve preached to clients for several years running (did we ever not recommend that?).
Did We Miss Anything?
What do you think? Did we miss something significant in your B2B marketing endeavors? I would love to hear your feedback and answer questions via comments below.
Author Note: A variation of this article originally appeared in our company newsletter, which we publish quarterly. Subscribe to our newsletter to get access to more specific information like this, as well as company updates, announcements, etc.
Images courtesy of Mediative, Search Engine Land, The Google Operating System Blog, Search Engine Watch, and Blind Five Year Old.