4 Takeaways From Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines Every Marketer Should Know

Google employs a massive team of quality raters across the globe to help it assess its search results. The data Google gathers from these raters is used to improve algorithms, ensuring that only the most useful and relevant pages show up in the first page of search results. But why does this matter to marketers?

Google employs a massive team of quality raters across the globe to help it assess its search results. The data Google gathers from its search quality raters is used to improve algorithms, ensuring that only the most useful and relevant pages show up in the first page of search results.

Why is this important?

In a remarkable show of transparency, Google actually makes its search quality rater guidelines available to the general public. That’s right, the same company whose make-or-break algorithm updates are cloaked in secrecy shares nearly 170 pages detailing exactly what their search quality raters are instructed to do. While quality raters do not directly influence search engine results pages (SERPs) or a site’s ranking, we can look at this document to determine what Google wants from a website — and what they don’t want, too.

The Quality of Some Pages Matters More Than Others

“Your Money or Your Life” sounds like an especially grim gameshow, but it’s the term Google uses for pages with higher stakes than others: pages that can impact a user’s happiness, health, finances, or safety. These pages are held to a search quality higher standard than other types of content.

The takeaway here is that if the site you run or perform SEO for is in one of these categories, you’re going to have to mind your Ps and Qs. Per Google’s quality rater guidelines, Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages include:

  • News and Current Events
  • Civics, Government, and Law
  • Finance
  • Shopping
  • Health and Safety
  • Groups of People (i.e., information about racial, ethnic, and social groups that could be potentially used to discriminate)

There’s also an Other category, in which raters are instructed to use their own discretion — these include nutrition, housing information, job search topics, and education. Recent algorithm changes have been hitting sites hard for proving themselves unreliable through the YMYL lens. Alternative medicine, for example, was seriously downgraded in the SERPs last fall, with science-based health sites including articles vetted by medical professionals taking their place.

Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)

Remember Google Plus? It may have proven completely worthless, but it did give us insight into Google’s shift in focus to evaluating not just the content on the page, but the person or people creating it. E-A-T matters across the board, but not surprisingly, it matters more for YMYL sites. E-A-T means:

  • An article about Multiple Sclerosis should be written or reviewed by a physician or nurse, not someone touting a vegan diet as a cure.
  • News articles should be written by a journalist using proper grammar and come from a legitimate website, not a mysterious .news domain of unknown origin.
  • Science content should come from people or organizations with experience in the field and reflect scientific consensus. (Sorry, flat-earth enthusiasts.)
  • Financial, legal, home remodeling, and parenting topics must also be well-researched and written by trustworthy sources.

Even content on hobbies should be written by people with expertise. In short, Google is raising the bar in order to eliminate content farms. It also impacts those of us in the SEO field, who often use freelance writers to create a wide variety of content for an even wider variety of clients. It’s important to have your clients read and vet anything produced by a ghostwriter before it gets posted so it bolsters your client’s E-A-T score, rather than harming it.

Reputation and customer reviews are two other factors that are weighed when determining E-A-T—anyone offering professional services should send out reminders to clients asking them to write reviews because Google instructs its quality raters to look at these, which means that Google’s algorithms are also looking at these factors.

Supplementary Information Is Important

Related to this last point, search quality raters also are told to visit other pages on a website in order to make their evaluations. Transparency is critical here — an “About Us” page should not be vague, but crystal clear about the business being run and the team behind it. There should be a contact page on every website — and it should have actual contact information, not just a form to fill out.

This, too, is weighed differently for YMYL pages. Per Google’s search quality rater guidelines:

“If a store or financial transaction website just has an email address and physical address, it may be difficult to get help if there are issues with the transaction.”

The takeaway here is that even email and a physical address may not be enough to satisfy Google in some circumstances. You (or your client) should be comfortable putting it all out there if they have a YMYL page and they want to rank well in the SERPs.

Content (Is Still) King

Content is king. It is still king. It will always be king.

Ultimately, Google’s goal has been the same since it began: to make money. And how does Google make money? By delivering users the best content to meet their needs. The days of hiring people in far-flung places to write a garbled blog post about conveyor belts for $5 are over. SEO isn’t about tricks; it’s not about gaming the system.

Many people in our field spend a lot of time fretting about algorithms and jump on every SEO trend they read about. The danger in this is that as soon as you start implementing some shiny new strategy, Google catches on and adjusts its algorithm and the rankings plummet. You start feeling like a hamster on a wheel, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Read Google’s search quality rater guidelines and see what they look for and do those things. Without good content, none of the other SEO techniques you use will matter.

The Bottom Line

What does Google want in a website? High-quality content from reliable sources. Accuracy matters, but so does the quality of writing. User experience should be good, sites should be viewable and usable on mobile, and if a website has ads, they should not render a site unusable. Take a step back and evaluate each page on a site and ask yourself if you’d find it helpful before you release it into the world.

Want more tips to improve your SEO?  Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.

 

 

Why You Should Stop Keyword Stuffing in SEO Now

Keyword stuffing is like Michael Myers in “Halloween” — it refuses to die. It’s also very dangerous for your business, because it will kill your search engine rankings.

Keyword stuffing is one of those things left over from the earliest days of digital marketing that refuses to go away.

You have already seen in it in action if you have come across blogs full of phrases like “best seafood near me” or “women dress store Atlanta.”

It is awkward, unnatural, and still one of the go-to techniques for many content creators. Why?

Why Keyword Stuffing Became So Popular

As digital marketing and search engines evolved, it became clear that people tended to use specific phrases when doing an Internet search. Marketers figured out that they could get high rankings for their clients by filling content with these phrases. That led to lots of ads and other content filled with popular search phrases.

As the practice spread, so did the number of keywords crammed into the content. It got to the point where popular keyword phrases were making their way into landing pages and blogs, even if they didn’t fulfill the user’s intent. That meant lots of annoyed users who didn’t end up finding “red sandals Dallas” when they clicked on an ad or link.

How Keyword Stuffing Hurts You Today

Connecting audiences to their desired result is the primary goal of search engines. Having tons of users annoyed by low-quality results does not allow them to do that. Search engines now reward content written for actual human consumption, not to game their algorithms in pursuit of higher search rankings. Spammy content that does not satisfy user intent now gets driven down in SERPs.

One of the things search engines judge when determining whether the content is useful is the keyword density throughout a piece of content. You may be using keywords that tie into your client’s product, but the sheer volume used could have it penalized.

That also applies to your hidden web content. Some content creators attempt to circumvent search engine penalties by stuffing multiple keywords into the alt tags in images or the meta tags in their HTML. Search engines are aware of these tactics, and will penalize your pages in response.

Better SEO Techniques for Your Keywords

Keywords still help improve page rankings, when used correctly. Working the following techniques into your content will earn better rankings by Google and other search engines.

User-Friendly Phrasing

One thing you can let go of is the idea that you must use common search phrases in a specific order.

Let’s go back to our “red shoes Dallas” example from before. You could easily rewrite the phrase to read, “We have many red high-heeled shoes in stock at our Dallas location.” and get the desired result.

Google, for example, understands how to match that directly to the keyword phrase in question and pull back the proper result. The content itself is richer and much more comfortable for a visitor to consume. Using keywords this way also helps when users issue voice searches through IoT or mobile devices.

Lower Keyword Density

Make sure the body of your blogs and articles contain at least 300 words. The longer and more useful you make them, the easier it will be to naturally work in keyword phrases, while maintaining a keyword density of around 2 percent.

You should also use secondary keywords and other long-tailed keywords that tie back to your content. Search engines will continue to give you better rankings, if you maintain a proper balance.

Summing It All Up

Keyword stuffing is an outdated methodology that unfortunately still gets widely used. Search engines penalize pages that use keyword stuffing techniques.

Instead of unnaturally adding keywords to your pages, use natural phrasing and long-tailed variations in rich content to help content rank better in SERPs.  Ultimately, letting go of outdated keyword stuffing benefits content creators, search engines and, most importantly, your prospective customers.

Want more tips to improve your SEO?  Click here to grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

 

 

Search Marketers’ 5 Best Practices for Internal Linking

Internal links function a lot like road signs for the Internet. You reach your destination faster when they are clear and lead you in the right direction. Internal links perform a similar function for popular search engines. They use them to guide visitors to relevant information on your website.

Internal links function a lot like road signs for the Internet. You reach your destination faster when they are clear and lead you in the right direction.

Internal links perform a similar function for popular search engines. They use them to guide visitors to relevant information on your website.

First, What Is Internal Linking?

Internal links connect the pages of your website to one another. You may be discussing a topic like making sunflower oil and link to a previously written article on different types of equipment you can use in this process. Doing so helps apply structure and logic to the design of your website.

By adding internal linking, you can:

  • Define the architecture of your website
  • Help users navigate through your site
  • Give pages throughout your site more “SEO power” to help ranking and authority

Internal linking helps Google and other search engines find clear paths to your content. They also encourage users to linger on your website longer and build a tight network of posts and pages.

How Are Internal and Inbound Linking Different?

Inbound links, also commonly called backlinks, connect one external website to another. Your online reputation rises whenever an external site makes a legitimate link back to your webpage. It is a digital representation of a recommendation. Someone is confirming that your website is a valuable resource on a specific subject.

Inbound links are also an important factor in Google’s assessment of how well you conform to E-A-T standards.

  • E — Expert
  • A — Authoritative
  • T — Trustworthy

That is how Google decides how well sites rate when it comes to answering user queries. The higher your E-A-T factor, the better your overall rankings in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

OK, now that you understand inbound links let’s switch the focus back to internal links…

How Do Internal Links Affect SEO?

Internal links also play a significant role in E-A-T. You strengthen the optimization of your site and make it easier for Google to assess how well you rate in responding to search requests. This helps Google more easily index your pages and, hopefully, result in better search rankings for your website.

If your analysis of your inbound links shows most of them coming to your homepage, that is a sign that your pages are not fully optimized. You want to see users coming to your internal pages and then making their way to your homepage. External links should target various pages around your site.

Strong internal linking creates better indexation and clear paths to relevant content around your site. It helps contribute to a pyramid-style structure of your website, meaning there are very few links (or pages) between your homepage and other site pages, helping them achieve stronger ranking power.

Tips on Improving Your Internal Linking

You should keep the following in mind when adding internal links to content throughout your website. Please note that you should no longer need to stuff internal links with keywords, a popular SEO method from prior years.

  1. Use Anchor Text instead of navigational text or images to increase the value of your internal links in search engines.
  2. Make Sure You Have a Lot of Content Pages around your site. The better your information, the longer users will linger.
  3. Link as Deeply as Possible and stay away from links to pages already included in your main navigation like your Home page. Make those links as natural as possible for a better content marketing strategy.
  4. Make Your Links Relevant to the information users need. Don’t send users to a page about red sneakers when they are interested in details on orthopedic inserts.
  5. Avoid Overkill. While internal linking can be a powerful SEO tool, adding too many can end up being less useful for the user. That means no blocks of link footers at the bottom of your page.

Summary

Keep the following in mind when it comes to internal linking.

  1. Make sure your internal links provide a clear path to relevant information for a user.
  2. Understand the difference between internal and inbound links. Both can be leveraged in improving your site SEO.
  3. Follow best practices when creating internal links. Avoid misleading links, keyword stuffing, and overloading of internal links within your content.

Want more tips to improve your search engine optimization? Click here to grab a copy of the “Ultimate SEO Checklist.”

Search Marketing in 2019 Will Focus on the User

As each year ends and the new year is about to roll in, it is time to think “big thoughts” about what will define search marketing in the coming year.

As each year ends and the new year is about to roll in, it is time to think “big thoughts” about what will define search marketing in the coming year.

Last year looking at the challenges ahead, I thought that the defining trends would be Google’s move to mobile-first indexing and the growing use of voice search. This, coupled with changed SERPs, were anticipated to make 2018 a year with mostly incremental change.

These 2018 predictions have come to pass.

Mobile has continued to grow, voice search has gained momentum and the changes to the SERP have shown an intense focus on keeping the user on the page, while directly answering the query.

In 2019, what trends will impact search? This year, perhaps it is time to look to the user and away from the search engine itself. How are users changing and how will this change SEO? Machine learning and AI have made it easier for Google to understand user intent and provide search results that directly address their queries.

The Questions Yield the Answers

Understanding user intent and delivering semantically accurate search results have long been the Holy Grail of search. The advances in AI and machine learning have made it possible for Google to develop a much keener understanding of the user’s intent. What did the user really want to know? All those questions in the SERPs pages have surely yielded a treasure trove of data on user intent. It is now time in 2019 for SEOs to target our messages more directly to the user. It is time to question whether just targeting keywords is the answer. In my opinion, it is time in 2019 to marry keywords to user intent and our marketing messages.

Content Still Reigns, Better Content Conquests

Recent years have shown that for search, content is king. But now, it is imperative to move beyond content for content’s sake into a new realm. Content must be highly valuable and directed with surgical precision to the user. For those who expect to drive sales from search, this will mean creating content that attracts the visitor and addresses the precise need. In my opinion, the value of winning the SERP for the so-called head terms will decline as users demand answers to increasingly specific queries. Voice and mobile searchers no longer fill their queries with Boolean strings of keywords. They want the answer to a specific question now, not after plowing through pages and pages of search results. Content that addresses the user’s immediate query will conquest over imprecise, generic content.

Users Will Broaden Where They Search

In October, I urged readers to optimize their Amazon product listings. This was in response to data that has shown that users begin their product searches on Amazon, not at Google product search. There is a lesson to be learned here: Users will shift where they search to where they believe they will get the best answer. This will continue into 2019, and it is imperative for marketers to broaden their focus to embrace changing user behavior.

Customer Privacy Concerns Will Creep Into Search

The data breaches and wholesale exchange and use of highly personalized data across some big tech firms can be expected to have a corrosive impact on consumer trust. This is particularly important as search becomes more able to target exactly what consumers want. In my opinion, it will be increasingly important in 2019 to build brand recognition and trust so that when your brand appears in the search results, consumers feel confident that yours is a brand they can trust.

User Focus Still Requires Optimal Site Performance

It is not enough to just focus search marketing efforts on meeting users’ needs, but the site itself should not get lost in the shuffle. Solid technical search is still going to be needed. Mobile optimization is essential. So, too, are site speed improvements and adding more rich text. This means that you must not take your foot off the gas on site optimization. While you are at it, consider enhancing your metrics expertise and technology so that you can determine how well all your efforts are working.

Still No Magic Bullet for SEO

SEMrush’s “Ranking Factors Study 2.0” confirms yet again that there is no single “open sesame” tactic that will magically net your site’s URLs the top placements in the Google search results. I am sure that this is terribly disappointing for site owners and practitioners who have long-sought to replace solid valued and valuable content, technical excellence and a commitment to the user with a magic bullet tactic.

SEO
“SEO,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Global Panorama

SEMrush’s “Ranking Factors Study 2.0” confirms yet again that there is no single “open sesame” tactic that will magically net your site’s URLs the top placements in the Google search results. I am sure that this is terribly disappointing for site owners and practitioners who have long-sought to replace solid valued and valuable content, technical excellence and a commitment to the user with a magic bullet tactic.

This study and other similar studies that look for keys to unlocking the Google algorithm increasingly confirm the need for a holistic, user-centric approach to search.

The SEMrush study used a 600,000-keyword worldwide data set and examined the first 100 SERP positions for each keyword. To crunch this big data and reveal the importance of the ranking factors, it applied a machine-learning algorithm called Random Forest. This methodology is one of the most effective machine-learning regression models used for predictive analysis. As the name implies, random forest is decision-tree methodology that teases out the most significant factors. Those with a statistical interest will find SEMrush’s choice of this methodology interesting.

What Were the Results?

The study identified 17 factors that influence how a page ranks in the Google SERPs. The study found that direct website traffic is the most influential ranking factor. A high volume of users directly navigating to the site is a key indicator to Google that the domain has authority and value.

What drives an individual to directly navigate to a site? The answer is easy: content and presentation that users value. The study shows that user behavior signals, such as time on site, pages per session and bounce rate influence rankings. They are indicators of site quality and its relevance for users. It should be noted that the study authors point out that the factors are intertwined, so focusing on a single factor does not strongly influence the overall result. They all fit neatly together.

What About Links?

The study shows that backlinks and link profiles are still key factors in rankings. The volume of referring domains, volume of backlinks and referring IP addresses are key metrics. The authors caution that “all the metrics of the backlink portfolio are interconnected, and a blind manipulation of only one of them will not increase your rankings, unless you also work on the other metrics.”

A well-orchestrated digital marketing effort can yield a surprising number of quality links. It has been my practice to focus on quality, and let the quantity flow from the overall value of the site’s offering as enhanced and exposed through the total marketing effort.

Does Content Matter?

The research clearly shows that content is crucial to ranking. There is no magic bullet length. If the content is irrelevant to the user’s query, it doesn’t matter how long it is — it will still be irrelevant.

The message is clear that by creating relevant content, you can improve your ranking. The research indicates that pages that rank higher have longer content, on average. This is particularly important for high search volume competitive keywords. For long-tail keywords, don’t scrimp on the content. Narrow your focus and cover the topic in depth, and you will be rewarded.

The Key Takeaway

The study also looked at on-page optimization factors and the impact of Google’s push to make the Web more secure by rewarding secure sites and shaming insecure sites. The results make interesting reading and, in my opinion, this entire study is a must-read for search marketers.

The key takeaway for me is that given the importance of direct traffic and user experience, that building brand awareness and enhancing user experience is as important as a strong SEO program. A holistic approach to addressing the dynamics of generating search traffic is essential.

How Google’s Paid Search Layout Affects Organic Search Results

Changes to Google’s paid search results are making it harder for SEO experts to get traffic to their websites the old-fashioned way. As always, though, online marketers are finding ways to adapt — but with less real estate available, it isn’t easy. The big change came earlier this year, when Google stopped showing paid search results on the right side of its search engine result pages (SERPs).

search-engine-76519_640 googleChanges to Google’s paid search results are making it harder for SEO experts to get traffic to their websites the old-fashioned way. But as always, online marketers are finding ways to adapt — but with less real estate available, it isn’t easy.

The big change came earlier this year when Google stopped showing paid search results on the right side of its search engine result pages (SERPs). Google made the change to streamline the user experiences for mobile and desktop, following the announcement that mobile searches now outnumber desktop searches worldwide. But all changes have consequences. To make up for losing side-rail ad placements, Google added extra ad space to the top of some SERPs. Organic search results had already been forced down the page by videos, images, news listings and the Knowledge Graph. The additional ad listing is enough to force organic results completely below the fold, requiring users to scroll down to find them.

Obviously, the change is a huge win for marketers who invest heavily in AdWords. The prices for those top-ranked positions have increased, but suddenly you can buy your way to what used to be the top organic search result.

What does this mean for marketers who focus on organic results? The short answer is “it depends.” The full answer is a bit more complicated, and it starts with understanding Google’s goal of delivering the best possible experiences for people that use its search engine.

Imagine that it’s the dead of winter and your furnace stops working. If you don’t know much about furnaces, you might immediately grab your smartphone and search Google for “furnace repair” or “emergency furnace repair.” Try this now, and you’ll likely see four above-the-fold ad placements above a map with nearby companies beneath it. You’ve got to scroll pretty far down to find your first organic listing.

On the other hand, folks who are handy around the house might do their own troubleshooting before finding a repairman. They might end up making search queries such as “Bryant furnace blower won’t turn on.” They’re not actively seeking help; rather, they’re looking for answers for a DIY fix. Try that search query, and you’ll probably see a full page of organic search results without a single ad in sight.

Starting to see the big picture?

Organic SEO definitely took a hit when Google reshaped its ad layout, but only for buyer-oriented search queries. By showing more ads with these queries, Google realized it could increase its profits while still providing a high-quality user experience. Meanwhile, Google users in search of product details, research materials or other types of information are more likely to value organic results.

This leaves online marketers with several approaches to the change, and we’ll consider each one below.

Solution No. 1: Invest in AdWords

If you’re not already using Google AdWords, now is a great time to get started. Getting a top placement in the paid results can be much easier than organic SEO. In fact, savvy advertisers with compelling ads, strong landing pages and high bids can instantly get top-ranking placements.

Of course, paid search results have an obvious downside: They cost money. The days of converting tons of free traffic directly into sales are long gone. That said, don’t be intimidated by the thought of paying for traffic. With help from Google Analytics and tools offered within AdWords, it’s easy to monitor your advertising accounts and determine which campaigns are boosting your bottom line.

Google Gives 10-15 More Characters to Organic Results

Google actually increased the space available for your title and description. This change should make it just a bit easier to obtain good results for relevant pages.

Girl WatcherOldies music fans may remember the 1968 top hit entitled “Girl Watcher.” This beach music classic’s chorus often spins through my head. The chorus — “I’m a girl watcher, I’m a girl watcher, watchin’ girls go by, my, my, my” — is for me: “I’m a Google watcher … watchin’ changes come by, my, my, my.”

Most organic SEO practitioners are Google watchers and we are seldom disappointed, as more changes just keep coming by — my, my, my. The changes often make our job of obtaining solid search results for sites more difficult.

For example, a recent change to the space allocated to advertising on the desktop search results page (SERP) had a significant impact on organic visibility. In a recent post, I noted a major change — the removal of ads from the right rail of the page — and outlined how this would make organic marketing more difficult.

Google watchers have not had to wait long for another change to come by. Google has changed the display of the organic search results, the coveted lines that determine what searchers see about your pages. The company actually increased the space available for your title and description. This change should make it just a bit easier to obtain good results for relevant pages.

What’s the Change?

Google has increased the width of its main search results column. This will provide more real estate for search marketers to make their cases through compelling titles and descriptions.

Google has increased the space available from 500 to 600 pixels. This is a significant increase, and here is why it is important:

  • Titles Get 10 to 15 More Characters in SERPs. When a title or description is too long, Google simply truncates it and places ellipses at the end. Google uses proportional spacing, and SEOs think in terms of characters, which means that SEOs must develop carefully constructed recommended character lengths that take into consideration the composition of the keywords and phrases used predominantly in their target content. The change from 500 to 600 pixels translates into approximately 10 to 15 more characters available for titles. This will allow SEOs to include more phrases, more branding and enable us to make the title more compelling.
  • Descriptions Get 16 to 20 More Characters in SERPs. The length of the description has been impacted, too. Descriptions increase by about 16 to 20 characters per line. That makes the new length per line approximately 100 characters. But do note that Google still is truncating descriptions longer than 150 to 160 characters. Google watchers expect this to adjust, because descriptions are for the most part two lines. If your descriptions are less than 100 characters, yours will be only one line — resulting in a loss of real estate on the page.
  • Mobile Results Get More Love. These changes do not just apply to desktop searches. Google has increased title tag lengths for mobile search results even more than in desktop results. Google has now increased the maximum length of the mobile title tag to approximately 78 characters. This is an extra eight characters beyond the desktop display. This will speed users to the most relevant result faster. In my own experience using mobile search, nothing is worse than having to search multiple times to get a desired result on my mobile. A more detailed result will shorten the process.

It Is Not Enough to Win Just the Relevancy Battle

Organic search success requires that your pages not only win the relevancy battle — that is to say, the pages are deemed relevant by Google for the searcher’s query — but the search result also must resonate with the searcher enough to make the searcher want to click on the listing.

This oversimplification of a very complex process points out how important it is to be mindful of what the searcher sees as your pages are delivered. It is not enough to create compelling relevant content, if you fail to create a title and description that draws that next click.

The most recent changes provide an opportunity to revisit how well your current schematic for titles and descriptions is working. It also begs for a review of the role of mobile search traffic. You may find that you need to reconsider how you are crafting these elements. This is what I am doing for my clients.

This change is an opportunity for better results for good pages.

Craig Greenfield’s Redefining Performance Marketing: The Search Engine Results Page of the Future

Although impossible to predict exactly how tomorrow’s SERPs will look, marketers can position their brands for future SERP domination by focusing content creation strategies on some known trends that are currently influencing or will soon influence tomorrow’s SERPs. 

Take, for example, Google’s integration of rich media (e.g., photos, videos) into SERPs in recent years. This trend will likely continue and could easily evolve into paid video search ads in the SERPs of the future.

Search engine results pages (SERP) continue to evolve before our eyes, consistently becoming more relevant to consumers. Marketers seeking to stay ahead of these advancements in usability and relevancy to own more of tomorrow’s SERP should focus on developing three types of content:

  • paid content: paid search ads;
  • owned content: native websites, videos, social media, local information and blog posts; and
  • earned content: user-generated materials like YouTube videos, tweets and consumer reviews

Although impossible to predict exactly how tomorrow’s SERPs will look, marketers can position their brands for future SERP domination by focusing content creation strategies on some known trends that are currently influencing or will soon influence tomorrow’s SERPs. 

Take, for example, Google’s integration of rich media (e.g., photos, videos) into SERPs in recent years. This trend will likely continue and could easily evolve into paid video search ads in the SERPs of the future.

Real-time owned content from blogs and social media; user-generated earned content from blogs, tweets, and videos; and such local brand information as addresses, phone numbers and maps will likely all continue to be important in the SERP of the future. These represent just a sampling of the trends directing SERP evolution, but let’s take a closer look at the following three other likely influencers:

Sitelinks and deep navigation
.The SERP of the future will continue to incorporate more anchor links and clickable ad text, clickable search snippet text and clickable URLs. Sitelinks and deep navigation enable users to more easily find the exact page they’re looking for right from the SERP. Incorporating sitelinks into paid search ads, utilizing breadcrumb navigation, clear URL structure, and clear sitemaps helps spiders display more links in natural search listings. Expect more links in body content to permeate the SERPs moving forward.

The growth of mobile
. Predictions say that mobile search will rise to 73 percent of the mobile ad market by 2013 (Kelsey Group, Sept. 2009). With more than 140 million worldwide mobile social network users, consumers increasingly hold the future SERP in their hands; therefore brands must ensure visibility in mobile search by catering to an altogether different and separate SERP experience.

Personalization . Based on the search results that users click, Google already changes the results over time to make them more relevant and personalized. Google’s social search also pulls in results from the searcher’s social circle, such as tweets or Picasa pictures from friends. The highly personalized SERP of the future makes search marketing more complex—brands must have a deep understanding of their consumers to be able to most effectively target them, and this only becomes truer going forward.

How can brands manage the SERP of the future? Simply put, marketers must create and embrace holistic strategies to fully manage owned, earned and paid content that lives on the SERP of today to succeed on the SERP of tomorrow. A working combination of these trends – and more – can help marketers develop a comprehensive search strategy to take advantage of the SERP, while enhancing user experience and relevancy.