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Elena Terenteva

The Evolution of Google SERPs And How to Benefit From It #semrushchat

Elena Terenteva
The Evolution of Google SERPs And How to Benefit From It #semrushchat

Google’s evolution not only affects the inner logic of search, but also the way page results look. It’s already not enough to just provide users with information; it has to be relevant, easy to reach in less time and easy to perceive.

Local listings, maps, knowledge graphs, advertising – the list goes on. This recap of the latest SEMrush Twitter Chat will divulge the secrets of adapting to the new Google SERP, and getting the benefits of it.

Get valuable advice from our special guests Eric Enge, CEO at Stone Temple Consulting, and Mark Traphagen, Senior Director of Online Marketing at Stone Temple Consulting, as well as hundreds of participants.

Potential benefits of having content appear in answer box

An answer box is like a vocabulary entry right at the top of the page. Short, informative and eye-catching. Let’s find out about how your company can benefit from answer boxes.

We don’t need to explain to you what it means to be in the top of search. More visibility, more traffic, right? Yes and no. As Mark Traphagen said in his research, which he shared during our Twitter chat, “Google doesn’t provide any click data for answer boxes at this point, so it’s impossible to pinpoint the source” (Can a Google Answer Box Drive Significant Site Traffic?), but there is still some evidence of its positive influence on website traffic and “certain types of answer boxes drive traffic to sites” - Mark Traphagen ‏@marktraphagen.

Although there are some spots in answer box click data, there is other significant evidence of its positive influence.

The rankings of websites that get in the answer box are improving! Going back to Mark Traphagen’s research – he illustrates this case with the example of the website that was featured in the answer box and had the second position after Wikipedia. For a small unknown website, it can be a great achievement, which will definitely have a good impact on traffic.

And needless to say, that answer box will increase a website’s authority and credibility.

SEOs are still trying to figure out the mechanism and algorithm for getting in the answer box. There is still no certain answer, but we can give you some hints.

Create content on frequently searched queries, and keep a clear structure – Q&A format or a step-by-step guide. So far as we know, this type of content has a better chance of appearing in the answer box. There is also another hint on possibly increasing your traffic.

If the user is given a fairly complete answer to their question in the answer box, they are not likely to click on it. But if users are promised more information if they follow the link, chances are they are more likely to click.

local search in post-Pigeon era

In a post-Pigeon era, everything that can prove a business’ credibility and local authority means a lot. You can take advantage of local maps and directories, reviews and social signals.

We are going to talk about these (and a few more) factors. If you keep them in mind, you'll be able to build a solid and consistent local strategy in the post-Pigeon era. And “the first key to local search remains data consistency for all of your locations” - Eric Enge ‏@stonetemple.

A proper consistent NAP that appears on your website and other sites throughout the web is the first step toward improving your rankings. By “other sites,” we mean being listed in main local directories and, of course, on social media.

In a post-Pigeon era, it’s important to keep an eye on your backlinks. To earn some, don’t just focus on a directory’s listing, but create some relevant content that is important to the local community. “How to rock local search? Be a local resource, not just a seller. And be a part of the community you want to rock!” - Agent Palmer ‏@AgentPalmer.

When creating content, pay attention to keywords. “Optimize keywords like your location, your services or your specific niche” - Mention ‏@Mention.

Focus on everything that might get to use an easier access to your website.

And of course, being mobile is a huge part of being closer to the user.

Evolution of paid search“The fundamentals of paid search haven’t changed” - Reva Minkoff ‏@revaminkoff. That for sure, but we all know that with Google’s constant changes, there is no way that everything will remain the same. Now let’s take a look at the evolution of paid search.

One of the core ideas of advertising campaigns these days – diversify and use different channels for reaching your audience. Don’t forget about remarketing campaigns – setting them up wisely can lead to huge opportunities.

Keep collecting statistics; analyze user’s paths to purchasing. With more information, you’ll have a better chance of developing more effective campaigns.

Use the data you receive to create a new sales funnel and custom landing pages.

Use Google AdWords ad extensions, it’s a “great new addition to the paid search toolkit. And it’s great for gaining additional real estate” - Reva Minkoff ‏@revaminkoff.

Remember, that a successful custom campaign is only possible when you have a constant strategy. This means that every campaign needs to be updated.

Benefits of structured data

First of all, let’s define what structured data means. Structured data is on-page markup that makes your content understandable for search engines, so they can index it better.

Now let’s see what impact using structured data will have on a website’s rankings. As we’ve already mentioned, it primarily “gives the Googlebot a better understanding of your website and where it should rank” – Jenny F @LocalSEOJenny.

And the easier it is to index your website, the more visible it will become in search results.

So, if a search engine indexes your content more effectively and understands exactly where to rank it, your pages will earn a more prominent presence. And higher visibility, in turn, increases the chances that your target users will see your content.

Your potential users benefit from structured data as well. Because structured data is easily understood by search engines, they can deliver more accurate and relevant results to users.

The next thing: by using structured data you can impact the way your page appears in search results by creating so-called “rich snippets.” Rich snippets are small extra pieces of text that appear in search results.

How will SERPs evolve in future?

the future of search

The hardest SEO update

Google’s search algorithms are not constant; Google alters them hundreds of times each year. Some of these changes are minor and do not have much impact on SEO strategy, and some of them have truly catastrophic consequences. Our chat participants told us how they dealt with the most challenging Google updates. First of all, let’s go way back in time: in November of 2003, Google announced the Florida update, which put an end to the low-value optimization tactics of 1990s. It had a disastrous effect on many websites and actually ushered in a new era of SEO.

Another major update – Panda, which was launched in February of 2011. Panda prevented websites with poor content quality from ranking high in search results. A lot of websites lost their positions due to this update, as “people were not ready for content quality as a ranking factor” - Eric Enge ‏@stonetemple. And there’s no fast and easy way to recover from the Panda penalty:

The Penguin Update was rolled out in April of 2012, and websites implementing aggressive and unnatural link building were penalized. As Direct Online Mktg ‏@directom noticed, “penguin was worse than Panda. The only thing we could do was intense profile monitoring.”

Google’s Pigeon algorithm introduced in July of 2014 was aimed at delivering users more accurate and relevant local search results. And this update has altered some local results and modified how they handle and interpret local cues. So since Pigeon was released, local marketing has suffered a lot of changes.

Google is constantly developing its search algorithms, and one can be sure that many more updates are coming. And the best way to reduce your risk of penalization is to create truly valuable content. This advice may sound like a cliché, but some websites are still trying to find a loophole.

Don't try to trick or cheat search engines, “focus on user experience, and your exposure to SEO updates is greatly reduced” - Eric Enge ‏@stonetemple.

SEO "pro" tips

Whatever you do, your ultimate goal should not be to please search engines, but to please your users. “Pretend Google doesn't exist, oddly enough. Just serve your customers, and your audience – and Google – will reward your behavior,” as Jesse Stoler@JesseStoler suggests.

Putting yourself in your customer's shoes is a good way to see things from a different perspective. Thus, you will better understand your target audience and, in the long run, gain higher visibility.

Don’t hesitate to invest in good content; both your users and search engines will appreciate this!

As we’ve already mentioned, having a clear and fair SEO strategy, as well as valuable content are the best ways to avoid Google penalties.

Use a comprehensive approach. SEO, when supported by other aspects of marketing and promotion, brings better results – social media, networking, offline promotion and many other factors.

And always remember what you’re doing it for, as Rachel Howe @R8chel_Marie says.

That’s it for today. Hope to see you at our next Twitter Chat!

And special thanks to the following Twitter Chat participants for their tweets, which we used in creating the image:

@msweeny @Tripp_Hamilton @MediumBlueSEM @OmiSido @JRiddall @webbeeseospider @AdamDince @TonyMcCreath @larryprevost @andrewakesson @Brad_Machine @stonetemple @LocalSEOJenny @DevDawg @GuideTwit @sergio_redondo @RankWatch @ThomasJArmitage @MartinKSEO @JesseStoler @rsj8000 @ThinkSEM @wejonk @kougarov 

Elena Terenteva

SEMrush employee.

Elena Terenteva, Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush. Elena has eight years public relations and journalism experience, working as a broadcasting journalist, PR/Content manager for IT and finance companies.
Bookworm, poker player, good swimmer.
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