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How a Search Engine Results Page Looks Today - And What Happens Next
When did you last really look at the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)? Google rolls out updates so subtly that we rarely even notice what’s evolving, but the changes are huge.
Remember when "everyone" knew there were ten results on a page so being number eleven meant you were bumped to page two? Then paid advertisement commandeered the first few results, followed by Google Maps and Google Business Profile taking up prime real estate, until there were only maybe three organic results on the first page. Now there isn’t even a “first page” since Google turned search results into a continuous scrolling feed late last year.
And the changes keep coming. Google is experimenting with AI-generated results, or what they are calling SGE (Search Generative Experience). Google claims that SGE will let people find what they are looking for “faster, easier,” while detractors worry that users will never click on an actual website again if they can find their answer in the Ai-generated summary – which will be at the top of the results page. While SGE is only available to a limited audience right now, keep an eye on marketing industry news for the latest developments.
So, what's the small business owner who is trying to be found online supposed to do?
Everything today (and tomorrow!) hinges on keyword research and implementation. If you have been lackadaisical about keywords before, it is time to step up your game. Knowing the terms your customer uses to find what your business offers and using them in the right ways on your website has never been more important.
“Keywords” doesn’t just mean a series of single words. Keyword phrases and how the words are used in your website content are necessary for search engines to figure out when to serve up your site as the answer to a users’ search. In marketing-speak, it’s all about the users’ “intent.”
Search intent is derived from various clues, such as how the user framed their question, or by drawing on other pointers, such as location. Marketing experts have identified four types of users’ search intent:
Navigational – When a user wants to go to a specific page, but don’t know the exact URL. Maybe the user wants to check a store’s opening time or log in to their own account on the site.
Informational – When a user is looking to learn something, such as an explanation of what an annular solar eclipse is or how long to cook eggs.
Commercial – When a user is researching products or services before buying. They might be looking for the “best of” or “reviews” or other information.
Transactional – When a user is ready to make a decision, which could range from signing up for an email to making an online purchase.
The first goal for businesses and not-for-profit organizations, then, is to use the right combination of search terms that answer the users search intent. The second goal is to use those search terms in the right places on their websites so that the search engines’ algorithms find and recognize them as the correct answers to the user’s query.
Keep in mind that the way today’s Google search results page looks may not be the tomorrow’s page will look. In fact, Google started another core algorithm update just a few days ago. What will stay the same is that people are looking for what you have to offer and search engines want to give users a good experience. It’s your job to prove to the search engines that you are the right answer to users’ queries through keyword research and implementation.
Sprocket Websites has the tools for keyword research and the experience for implementation. We can take on those tasks so you can focus on what you do best. Call or email today to learn more about how we can work together.
Photo by Lukas
This article is an update to “How You Look Online” dated 6/8//2015.
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