How Do Google’s New Search Options Affect SEO?
Google’s search options were designed to allow users to refine their searches. That means users will use these to weed out irrelevant results and better find what they’re looking for.
It also means that there is a whole new set of guidelines that search engine marketers will need to think about…or does it? Perhaps it’s just the same guidelines, only emphasized to the user more now, thereby making it more important than ever for marketers and web site owners to consider them. How do you intend to handle your SEO efforts with the new changes? Tell us about it.
I asked a few search engine marketing experts if they think the options will affect SEO. Here are a few responses I got:
Bill Slawski of SEO By the Sea says: "Web Options have the potential to impact SEO by offering a much wider range of ways to find information. Whether or not they will may have to do with whether or not searchers will take the time to click on the ‘show options’ link, and explore the many new ways that they can find what they may be looking for."
Lee Odden of Top Rank Online Marketing says: "Yes! But it doesn’t change the SEO advice we give: fresh content, digital asset SEO…"
"From what I am seeing, the ‘search engine optimization’ industry is actually turning back around to what it used to be: good old fashioned website marketing," says WebProNews Blog Partner Bill Hartzer, commenting on an SEOmoz post.
"It’s not only ‘optimizing a website’ and ‘getting links.’ SEO is involving more nowadays: you have to get your site in front of real people and real traffic," he continues. "It’s also about using social media marketing techniques, as well. If you’re successful in social media you’ll be successful in search. If you can get lots of real people to a site then you’ll be successful in SEO."
In other words, it’s all about optimizing for people. That’s all the search engines have ever wanted, and that’s all the searchers have ever wanted out of content – to be able to find what they’re looking for. It’s easier said than done, but all you have to do is help them find you.
So considering that, why not take a few moments to examine just what these new search options are that are available to users. Let’s think about what it would take to have your site show up for each option.
Obviously, ranking for searchers using the video option is going to require the use of video. Though online video adoption has certainly grown substantially in the last year or two, many are still quick to doubt its importance despite the search engine ranking implications that have been discussed in the past. To me, it looks like it just got even more important, given that sorting by videos is the top option in Google’s new search options (just below "all results" – the default option).
Based on several test queries, it looks like it’s going to comedown to relevant keyword use with videos. Whether that be with videos on your own site, YouTube, or other locations. Doing video interviews with other content providers will likely work in your favor here as well.
Within the Videos option, you have the sub-option to see videos of all durations, short ones, medium-length ones, or long ones. This tells me you will probably do well to produce videos with a variety of different lengths.
The next option is to sort by forums, and this appears to be another obvious one. Participate in forums. It just so happens that I
discussed online forum participation about a week ago. To me, it’s just part of the overall social media marketing package. Forums might as well be social networks, whether they are called so or not. Now that users can easily search Google by forum results, it makes more sense than ever to participate and gives you a better chance of promotion.
Just like any other form of online marketing, ethics should always be considered. It’s not going to make you look good if you just go into a forum and spam it. It’s about participation. Discussing topics related to your business should provide the natural flow of keywords, and potentially help you rank well in this section.
In my test searches, "Reviews" results seem to come from pages that indicate that they are just that – reviews. This leads me to believe that you want to get your product reviewed as often as possible, or conduct reviews of other products on your site in order to show up in these results. It also tells me that you want reviews to be clearly marked as such. This tells Google that they are in fact reviews. On a sidenote, this might be a very important option to monitor from the online reputation management standpoint. If people are out there reviewing your product, this is a good place to see those reviews.
Sort them by date, and you will be able to see them from the most current, which will help you keep up with new ones. Just hope that whoever is reviewing your product is clearly marking their reviews as reviews. Pages in these results tend to say the word "review" on the page or in the title tag.
Google gives users the option to see results from the past 24 hours, the past week or the past year, in addition to anytime. They also give you the option to sort by relevance or by date – a long overdue option if you ask me, and one that has been available on Google News for quite some time.
I would say that these sorting options indicate that frequent content and updates are in order if you want your content to appear here. How else are you going to rank for time-sensitive results?
Images from the Page
Users have the option to have their results show images from the page right on the SERP. This option (at least in some cases) brings up different results than if the option is not enabled. I’m going to have to make an educated guess and say that providing plenty of relevant and optimized images will help your cause when optimizing for this search option.
Under the "Images from the Page" option is the "More Text" option, which basically just provides the same results as a regular search, but includes longer snippets. I think this is just going to comedown to classic use of keywords and just good-old-fashioned good content, because just like any other snippets, keywords are bolded.
If there are more keywords within a longer snippet, that means there will be more bolded words, which could make the result stand out, but if that good-old-fashioned content isn’t surrounding those keywords, they will be worthless because now the user will have more to read before they click through to your site. If it’s not relevant to what they’re looking for, they have a better means of realizing it before the click.
As with the sort-by options, I’d say frequent content again is key again here. Optimize for items that are related to other topics you rank for. Basically just optimize for a broad spectrum of topics related to what you do while staying relevant (btw, being deceptive will hurt you in the long run, ranking or no ranking).
Similar to the related searches option, the Wonder Wheel gives the user a way to navigate through related searches in a more visual way. It’s a graphical representation of related search terms, though they are not always the same as the ones found in "related searches." From an optimization standpoint though, I would say the same tactics would apply here.
The Timeline groups results by dates referred to on actual pages. What this says to me is: include dates in your content when relevant. Another good thing about this is that it gives you the opportunity to get older content viewed, and in its right context. If users are using the timeline and select older dates, they’re most likely looking for content from that period.
This reflects better on your site than if your older content was showing up in a regular web search, where a user might be confused into thinking the content is more current than it really is, which could ultimately have a negative impact on your reputation depending on how time sensitive the data is.
To be clear, these are just theories. To the best of my knowledge, there is no concrete answer for how to get ranked in any of these sections. We are after all talking about ranking on Google. I feel like these strategies will only increase your chances of getting found with each option though. It comes down to providing what people are looking for. Search options from Google should be applauded and embraced, because as a content provider and/or a business, you also have more options with regards to which Google results your content will be found in.
Also, keep in mind that paid listings still appear in the results for these options. The same paid listings appear regardless of which option is selected however. And don’t forget that users have the ability to use multiple options at the same time. For example, reviews can be listed from most recent to oldest.
Do you feel that search options will help or hurt your chances of potential customers finding your listings? Do you like the features or do they irritate you? Let us know either way.