Maria follows on from Greg's tips to share the importance of checking the SERP, at the same time as optimizing your Google Business Profile.
Maria White says:Include alternative content strategies in your SEO. That can be Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), SERP features, image optimization, featured snippets, and much more. It's not possible to add them all into an SEO strategy but try to include the SERP features that are aligned to the search intent of your users, and with your brand and consumers. For example, if you're a large brand, Google Business Profile is helpful but might not be the number one feature to focus on. You could instead aim for a creative piece to become a featured snippet. However, if you are a small business, Google Business Profile could be one of your main sources of traffic, and leads, in 2022.
Should SEOs focus on the content that is used on the SERP, how it looks there, and what kind of user action is encouraged by it?
Definitely. I used to focus my SEO strategies on technical links, internal content, external content, etc., because that's what everyone else said was the thing to do. It was like a race to gain positions on the search engines. However, as the search result list has evolved with time, we are noticing the SERPs changing, and adapting results to align with search intent. Those results are mostly changing based on the ways that consumers prefer to consume content, and the way they behave online. If one of my clients is looking for a bouquet, and they search 'flower bouquets Clapham' or 'flower bouquet Burgess Hill', they will have localised results. For this type of search, the results will show a local pack, followed by social media posts, and then organic search listings. If a small business has a good Google Business Profile strategy in place, then they can attract more relevant traffic, and more leads, than by investing a lot of time trying to target an influencer to increase traffic through organic results. That kind of visibility doesn't necessarily translate into sales for local clients, or into improved visibility in the local pack.
What pieces of content do you recommend SEOs focus on for taking advantage of the SERP? Is there anything special to do so that your content starts appearing in the SERP features?
To win a SERP feature or have visibility in the local pack as a small business, you need to know your audience. A good place to start is with keyword research. Look at the most popular search phrases, and then divide your research into categories - informational, educational, etc. Alongside informing your Google Business Profile strategy, that information, plus your data from Google Analytics, can help you to think about the pieces of content you can create to answer the questions your audience asks. For a small business, you obviously want to have your product in a product section in Google Business Profile. Remember, you don't have to put all of your website, your categories, and your products in there. That will overwhelm your visitor and they may end up leaving. People mostly use Google Business Profile to find opening hours, delivery information, or your address. However, within that profile you have the opportunity to offer products that they are looking for, based on keyword research and information on Google Analytics. If you add those products in the product sections, you have a higher chance of a customer seeing the product, seeing that it's easy to buy, and purchasing straightaway. Many times, customers that were mostly looking for information about the business, will end up buying. I had a client that, before Valentine's Day in 2021, had zero sales through Google Business Profile because they did not have a strategy in place. At the end of October 2021, they had made EUR 53,000 from Google Business Profile alone, not including website or social media sales. That was just from putting the most popular products into categories in Google Business Profile. I recently saw a case study on a large, global brand that sells trainers, where they created a piece of content with the aim of earning links. It was based on one of the most common conditions in runners, called 'pronation'. They were looking to answer one of the most common questions asked by runners: 'What is pronation?'. The piece of content they created not only answered what the customer was asking, but also showed, at the end of the piece, how a product could help with that condition. This piece, that was originally designed for link acquisition, is still one of the main sources of traffic to that global brand a couple of years later. It is the answer to one of the most common customer questions, but it puts the product in there and shows how that product can be the answer to the question as well. An alternative content strategy, for a small business or a large brand, can be more productive than obsessing over some of the more conventional SEO strategies out there.
Are people going to start buying on the SERP and not visiting a website at all?
We are seeing the SERPs evolving and adapting results to align with how the users prefer to consume content. For example, if you type in 'gin' and 'Hendricks', you will see Google Shopping, then a knowledge graph, and a series of different visual results before you have the organic blue links. That's because what influences the decision to consume content or convert most, is a visual result, or an immediate call to action. The consumer doesn't have to go through the website and explore, the content is right there. Google is trying to emulate how the shopping journey starts. Now, when a consumer is thinking of purchasing something, they start a shopping journey in Amazon rather than in Google. They want to type a brand, or a product, and get a list of products straightaway, without having to read or explore other content. SERPs are evolving to align with the preferences of consumers - low attention spans and wanting immediate results. Reviews and social media posts, etc., influence consumers much more than a brand's content. Now, instead of obsessing about being number one, you need to think about what number one means for your brand, and your consumers. That may be a result in the local pack, in the knowledge graph, or as featured snippet.
What is one thing that SEOs should stop doing to focus more time on serving user intent with SERP features?
Stop obsessing over one element of the ranking factors: Core Web Vitals, PageSpeed, technical content, internal and external links. It all matters, but if your aim is to gain relevant traffic, and sales, then you always need to keep your consumer in mind. Think about how they behave online, how they consume content, how they shop, etc. The different aspects of SEO need to come together. If you invest a lot of time on a beautiful Google Business Profile strategy, and featured snippets, but when they come to your site it's slow and it breaks, then all your efforts are for nothing. All the elements matter, however you need to focus on what is relevant for your brand and your consumers. For small businesses, it can be more effective to have a Google Business Profile strategy in place - creating Google posts regularly and updating the products and categories seasonally, etc. That can bring far more relevant traffic, and far more leads, than obsessing over chasing an influencer, which will be more expensive and may only bring temporary traffic that doesn't convert. Explore your other alternatives.
You can find Maria White over at kurtgeiger.com.
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