Actionable Insights from MNSearch Summit 2017

MNSearch Summit 2017 was an exciting day. The St. Paul River Centre was packed with search marketing professionals and well-known experts. Learning side-by-side from experts and with experts is always a great experience. And the best part of it all? Learning tangible items that you can take away and apply to your own company and clients. We definitely recommend attending next year, but if you missed out this year don’t worry–we’ve got the inside scoop for you right here.

1. Google Moving from “Strings to Things”

The Google results page is ever-changing. Gone are the days of only URLs (the “strings”) appearing in the results; now it’s all about the “things.” The things are where we have seen the most change over the years. Currently, we see these results come in as featured snippets, knowledge graphs, AMP results on mobile, etc. It’s important to optimize for all of these as Google works to advance beyond merely listing relevant sites and become the presentation layer of the internet. In a world where ranking first is king, why not aim for “position zero?”

Let’s use featured snippets as an example. A study shows that nearly 30% of Google queries now have featured snippets in the results. This will bring a short content summary to the top of the page above all other results. Some fear that this may lead to decreased clicks as the answer is already provided. However, it’s better in the long run because it’s placement is valuable and costly at the hands of a competitor. If you don’t win the featured snippet, someone else will.

How should I optimize my website to show in featured snippets?

  • Include a question in the page titles and headers. This will help associate the content with the query a user is typing.
  • Give structure to content. Don’t just produce paragraphs of text. Think lists, graphs, numbered instructions, etc.
  • Write clear and concise content that is easy to understand.

2. Get Ready to Go Keyboardless

Gone are the days of keyboards – just kidding. Keyboards won’t ever completely disappear, but with the rise of voice and visual search they are becoming less and less necessary.  Zero UI/screenless search experiences and digital assistants continue to increase in popularity. If you’re not sure what a digital assistant is, think Apple’s Siri, who’s been around since 2011. Not to mention that recently we’ve seen the addition of Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s Assistant.

“By 2020, 50% of search will come from images and voice.” – Andrew Ng, VP and Chief Scientist of Baidu

How Should I Prepare for Screenless Search?

  • Optimize images for visual search. Alt tags, file name, etc.
  • Focus on long-tail keywords and conversational content.
  • Use structured data markup to give voice search devices even more information about your content and website.

3. The Rise of Mobile

The popularity of mobile search continues to rise every year. “More than 50% of search queries globally now come from mobile devices.” – Google, August 2016. In fact, Google is working towards moving to a mobile-first indexing (vs. the previous desktop first indexing). There is no exact time for this new approach to launch, but Google’s team wants it to launch in 2017.

While mobile continues to rise, don’t be fooled into thinking that desktop is on it’s way out. Mobile traffic is simply adding time, not replacing it. Desktop traffic continues to stay the same year over year with only minimal fluctuations while mobile traffic increasingly rises.

How Should I Embrace Mobile Search?

  • Analyze mobile traffic compared to desktop traffic to find any gaps.
  • Remember to optimize for the user’s experience first and foremost.
  • Utilize Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) on articles.
    • Note: AMP pages are not indexed. However, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. If your article is not served in the AMP results carousel, someone else’s will be.

4. Progressive Web Apps are Coming

While progressive web apps (“PWAs”) aren’t a household name yet, you’ll start to hear more about them throughout the search and web development world. PWAs are technically regular websites, but appear to users like traditional applications or native mobile applications. This new application type attempts to combine features offered by most modern browsers with the benefits of mobile experience.

“These apps aren’t packaged and deployed through stores, they’re just websites that took all the right vitamins. They progressively become ‘apps’.” – Alex Russell, Google Chrome engineer.

PWAs are all about creating a better and easier user experience – and it pays off. Users spend 3x more time on sites, have a 40% higher engagement rate, have 70% higher conversion rate (for those who add to the home screen), and use 3x less data to render the website. Check out a great list of PWA examples – everything from Voice Memos to 2048 (but don’t blame us if you get addicted).

How Should SEOs Get Ready for PWAs?

  • See if PWAs could be a good platform for your company or clients.
  • Don’t forget SEO basics like unique title tags and meta descriptions when optimizing.
  • Work closely with developers to tweak pages to be indexable and ranking-friendly.

Interested in getting a front row seat to all of these findings? Attend MNSearch Summit next year. It won’t disappoint. Plus, keep an eye out for monthly MNSearch events hosted in the twin cities.

Looking for a marketing agency that’s on top of industry trends and excited to implement them on your website? Check out our SEO Services.