When someone searches on Google (or Bing), they are expressing a problem they are seeking to solve, or a question they need the correct answer to. The "raison d'être" of Google and Bing has always been to guide their users quickly and simply to the best available result.
With the rise of voice search, Google and Bing increasingly rely upon understanding and credibility to provide the one, single, best solution.
What should you be doing to take advantage?
In this article we will review:
- An overview of the situation.
- The foundation of the future.
- What you need to do - starting today.
Overview of the situation
The evolution Desktop -> Mobile -> Voice
Search evolves with the devices we use. That is key. The switch from desktop to mobile has had (and continues to have) a major impact on search behavior. The switch to voice will have an even bigger impact - both in terms of how users search, but also the way Google and Bing provide answers to those users.
Voice is naturally more verbose, more natural.... and ultimately requires a single answer.
What does that mean to the relative importance of top rankings?
- In the relatively slow days of the desktop-noughties, ranking page 1 was a success, ranking in the top few pages was acceptable.
User chooses the best solution / answer from 10 to 20 options.
- In the mobile world of today, ranking top 3 is a success. Ranking top half of page 1 is acceptable.
User chooses the best solution / answer from half a dozen options.
- As Google and Bing evolve from search engines to answer engines, ranking #1 (increasingly position 0) is success, ranking top 3 is acceptable.
User accepts the suggested best solution / answer, but retains a (little exercised) option to choose from a top 2 or 3.
What does this mean to your organic traffic?
In 2018: Don't panic.
Things won't change significantly this year. But now is a very good time to start changing your thinking from "Page 1 or nowhere" to "#1 or nowhere". And get to work preparing your site, and your company for this new paradigm.
Beyond 2020: Panic.
It is not unreasonable to imagine that by 2022, search traffic is divided equally between desktop, mobile, and voice.
- In 2005, the first place gave 30% of market share.
- In 2017, the first place gave 40% of market share.
In 2022, the first place will give 60% of market share.
- In 2026, first place will give 80% of market share
As you can see, the shift towards the dominance of that top spot is accelerating.
As we move to a world that will increasingly favor voice search, ranking at the top (#1 / position 0 / featured snippet / answer box) is going to be critical. Your competitors know it. They are working towards that.
A few (not-so-doom-and-gloom) provisos that may help calm your nerves:
The importance of this trend of "#1 or nowhere" will vary enormously between markets and business types... Generally speaking, niche markets and local businesses will be most affected by this trend.
Long-tail search queries will increase, leaving more opportunity to get at least some #1 rankings and spreading the risk.
Voice search will not 100% replace mobile in the same way that mobile did not 100% replace desktop.
It is very important to bear in mind that desktop, mobile, and voice will all continue to bring a share of traffic. It is anybody's guess what the relative importance will be.
The Foundation of the Future
Understanding - Looking from Google's point of view, it needs to understand who you are and what you offer in order to consider your offer as a potential candidate to be suggested as the best solution.
Credibility - Once it has understood you and your offer, in order to present your offer as the best from several possibilities, Google will look at relative credibility.
In the new world of Answer Engines,
understanding and credibility are what matter most.
What has Google understood so far?
Google is not starting from scratch; it has already understood some (basic) things about your brand. It has a pretty good basic understanding of most brands. Here are some figures from Kalicube.pro (who measure Brand Authority):
What Google lacks is the details and confidence in what it has understood. What I call "complex understanding". For the moment Google has this understanding for very few brands - perhaps 5% or less! The biggest opportunities are here - Google gives a significant advantage to brands it is sure it has correctly understood in detail.
What is Google's take on credibility?
Once again, Google is not starting from scratch; it already has an opinion about the credibility of your brand (good or bad). It has a great deal of information to base it's "opinion" on.
What You Need to Do - Starting Today
Communicate - You can sit back and hope that it will understand your brand and your offers. Or you can actively communicate to Google who you are and what you offer.
Convince - You can sit back and hope that it will realize that you and your offer are the best of the best. Or you can seek to convince it that your offer is the best, most credible available.
Looking at it from another angle...
The onus is on you
Communicate so that Google understands and convince the search engine that your brand is the most credible solution.
Techniques that will help you communicate effectively and improve understanding:
Advice: Do a search for your brand name right now and see what comes up pages 1 and 2. Then work to ensure that every result on those first two pages reflects a positive, coherent, and standardized view of who you are and what you do.
Structured Schema markup.
Quality content using appropriate vocabulary.
Get / improve links and mentions from highly pertinent brands.
Get / improve confirmation by third parties (NAPs).
Confirm and valorize off-page mentions and links on your site.
Techniques that will help you convince Google you are highly credible
Advice: Do a search your brand name plus the word “reviews” right now and see what comes up pages 1, 2 and 3. Those are the opinions that Google thinks are the most representative of public opinion about your brand. The first thing to do is work to ensure that every result on the first two pages reflects positively on your brand.
Drown the bad stuff by promoting the positive results on pages 2 and 3 (don't create spammy content of your own - that will come back and bite you).
Get positive reviews on the review platforms that appear on pages 1 and 2.
Ask journalists to update articles that appear on pages 1 and 2.
Generate positive client feedback social media / reviews (including your reaction).
Obtain peer group confirmation (associations, conferences, etc.).
Get vocal support from thought leaders / journalists.
Get links and mentions from highly pertinent brands.
Confirm and valorize all the above on your own site.
Sidenote: Understanding and credibility need to evolve in tandem.
To attach any sort of credibility to your brand or your offers, Google needs to understand who you are.
Credibility without understanding means nothing.
Being understood, but not being credible (bad reviews, negative social media, etc.) is obviously bad.
Understanding without credibility will kill your brand.
A Simple View For the Future (Answer Engines)
- Google wants to understand. It is your job to communicate and educate it.
- Google seeks credibility. It is your job to convince.
Together, Understanding and Credibility Give Brand Authority
Coming soon: why you should be obsessed with
Brand Authority (forget Domain Authority)
I have been doing extensive research for Kalicube.pro since January 2017. This article is based on that research... plus I used some figures from Kalicube.pro to illustrate Google's current level of understanding and appreciation of credibility. Here is that data we have collected and analyzed in the past year.