Category: Research

Findings that can guide communication efforts.


Search Engine Result Pages Have Changed

Search Engine Result Pages (SERP) have gotten more complex. No longer ads at top and a button with 10 results sandwiched in between, there are now a variety of SERP features that are included for many searches.

SERP features are heavily used, so they are likely to become more common over the coming months and years.

SERP Features

SERP features are unpaid, organic content shared in a format other than a traditional search result. These features all provide answers or other helpful information to users directly on the SERP.

In the main centered column of content, common SERP features include:

  • Featured snippet
  • People Also Ask
  • Top Stories
  • Packs: image, video, and local
  • Carousel

In the sidebar, SERP features can be Google Business listings or Knowledge Panels.

What SERP Features Mean for Your Business

Most web content is found via search, mostly using Google. To be visible, your content must be attractive for more than traditional organic search rankings. You must also pay attention to SERP features and how you might leverage them.

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are excerpts of site content that summarize an answer to a query. They are presented in a card and may consist of a paragraph, list, table or a video. If your content succinctly answers a common question, you have a chance of being the source of a featured snippet.

People Also Ask

People also ask a list of questions related to the query, presented in accordions. Each question unveils a featured snippet along with additional questions. Essentially, these are collections of featured snippets for related queries. Again, having content that clearly answers common questions can get your content included.

Knowledge Panel

The knowledge panel appears in the right sidebar on some SERPs. It shows attributes of entities (people, places, organizations, things), using information gathered from the web, structured databases, and other sources.

For organizations, knowledge panels usually have high-level information about a company such as leadership names, address and phone number. Most knowledge panels contain important and relevant details — such as the dates of events at a concert venue or the stock price of the company. This information should be easily harvestable at your website.

Packs

Images and videos related to a search can be presented in a pack. Tagging non-text content with common keywords and search terms leads to images being included in packs for those terms.

The Impact of SERP Features

Research shows that SERP features are highly used by searchers. They help them get information with fewer clicks, guide them to refine their searches, and more.

SERP features help users to quickly verify that the results are targeting their interests. User research shows that SERP features grab attention more than traditional search results. SERP features receive special visual emphasis and visual weight on the page. They stand out and attract attention.

Paying attention to the SERP features related to the keywords associated to a business is an important part of any SEO strategy.

Who Is Online?

Think just about everyone is online, using the internet and social media? And, that we all have smartphones? Actually, the majority do, but thinking we ALL do is a mistake. This according to the latest data on who is online worldwide from Pew.

Who Is Online in the United States

  • 90% of people report using the internet at least occasionally, via computer or smartphone
  • 84% of people 50 and older use the internet at least occasionally, 98% of people age 30-49 and 100% of people age 18-29
  • In general, the higher a person’s level of education and income, the more likely they are to be online
  • 81% have a smartphone
  • 73% use social media (56% o people 50 and over, 84% of people age 30-49 and 91% of people age 18-29)

The Pew analysis focused on internet, social media and mobile phone use in 34 countries. Data was drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted across 34 countries from May 13 to Oct. 2, 2019, totaling 38,426 respondents. Data on internet and mobile phone usage for the United States is from a Center survey of 1,502 respondents conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7, 2019.

What People Do Online

 

How to Produce Valuable Content

Guest Post by Carrie Hane, Founder & Principal Strategist, Tanzen

In a recent study, the content product company Ahrefs found that over 90% of content does not get traffic from Google. That is an astounding number of web pages that are not getting organic traffic from the top traffic source.

There are two main reasons why this is happening:

  1. Content does not match search intent
  2. Content is not indexed

Both of these things are within your control to fix. The second problem is easily fixed by a technology review with your web team to make sure coding issues are fixed so Google’s crawlers can get to your content.

It is the first that is a bit more difficult. What it means is that most content published online is content that no one wants. Even if you assume a large margin of error in the study and figure some content gets direct traffic, that is still a lot of content. How can you make sure that you produce content that falls into the 10% that is useful to your audience and valuable to your business?

Start with what your audience wants

Keyword research makes sense when optimizing for organic search traffic. It is one piece of data that tells you what people are typing into Google—what people are looking for specifically.

But are those the right people? Make sure you identify your audience first. (Hint: It’s never “everyone” or “the public.”) Write down, in priority order, all your audiences. When you are thinking about creating new content, write down specifically who that content is for. Then define a single audience need. What is the top thing someone wants to do if this is the content for them?

For example, say you are a winery and want to write a blog post about the yoga and wine events you have. Maybe your target audience is “women over 40 who practice yoga and live within 25 miles of the winery.”

Ask yourself, “What would those people want to know?” A good guess would be, “How can I participate in this fun event?”

Now you can write your post thinking about these women and write about the event as if you were talking to them in person. You will want to link to any sign-up form or a calendar that shows all upcoming events—things you might not have thought of before thinking this way.

Defining a primary audience doesn’t mean others won’t find it useful. In this example, even younger people—whether they identify as a woman or not—will find the blog post useful. But it will be more useful to everyone than talking generally about yoga or wine, which you might have done. Even better, because it is focused, it will probably come up in a search for “what to do this weekend in [local area].” Now it’s part of the 10%! You have now solved the problem of matching content to intent.

Map content to business goals

Now that you have identified who the content is for and what that type of person wants, you need to identify what business goals it helps to achieve.

In the yoga and wine event example, the business goal is probably “increase event revenue.” By explicitly mapping the content item to a business goal, you can measure whether it was successful. Instead of measuring only page views for the blog post, you can measure outcomes:

  1. Revenue from the yoga and wine events
  2. Number of online registrations for the yoga and wine events

All the page views in the world don’t matter if no one comes to the event or you don’t make money from the event. If the blog post helped boost registration, it was a success. If not, you can review it to see what could be changed to make it better in the future. Either way, you will have learned something.

Measure content ROI

All of these things are linked to the return on investment (ROI) for content. The ROI for content can be intangible. But in general, you can ask if it was worth the cost to create it. Because content is not free. Whether someone is paid specifically to write content or it is part of an employee’s job, it took time and time is money.

Here’s a basic formula you can use to determine the cost of content:

X/Y=Z

In this formula:
X = cost of creation
Y = number of views
Z = cost per view

You can determine the cost of creation with this formula:

X = r * h

In which,
r = hourly rate of people who create content
h = number of hours to create a piece of content

For some organizations, it can take upwards of 10 hours or more to write, edit, review, and publish a single blog post. For other content, it could take 30 hours and include legal review—and lawyers have a high hourly rate! That gets expensive fast.

Doing this math will help you determine if the content you create is worthwhile. Blog posts that are low dollars per view are probably worth it. Those that are high (because either the cost to create is high or views are low) are probably not. And for a blog, you want to look over time and maybe figure the average since not every post is going to get the same traffic.

On the other hand, if you are selling expensive products or services and the cost per view is $500, maybe it is worth it. You won’t be making those pages often, and they are driving revenue. Or maybe you look at your content production process to see how you can improve efficiency. Or maybe you go back to what the audience for the products or services wants and make sure you meet their intent, driving the views up (and probably sales!).

Now do this for all your content! Yes, it is work, but it will result in better quality content, which will be more valuable to your business. And just maybe, you’ll produce less content but more in the 10% that gets found!

About the Author

Carrie Hane helps organizations create more effective content more consistently by coordinating the people, processes, and technology. For 20 years, she’s been putting together teams and creating processes that stick while untangling information to make it findable, usable, and ready for whatever’s next. She is the co-author of Designing Connected Content. Find her at https://www.tanzenconsulting.com/.