Wednesday, July 22, 2020

How Has Search Changed in 2020

There is nothing surprising when you randomly hear that Google’s search algorithm changed. As marketers, we’re aware that we own none of the algorithms Google implements and may not even know when Google plans to change them. Sometimes Google is helpful and updates the public prior to changes and other times you just realize your site took a huge hit in traffic and later find out about an algorithm change. (Thanks Google. Much appreciated.) But in all seriousness, hopefully, the changes are usually to better the users’ experiences and keep from people cheating the system. Let’s take a quick look at how search has evolved and what’s changed in the crazy year of 2020. 

Voice Searches

Siri was introduced to the iPhone in 2005 by Apple and improved drastically starting in 2009. Most smartphones began to introduce voice once Siri was introduced. Then came Alexa by Amazon in 2014 allowing you to use voice searches anywhere in your home without your smartphone near you. Now in 2020 by simply saying Hey Google, “Google reported that 20 percent of searches on its apps and Android devices were performed using voice search.” Voice search is causing SEO to evolve and companies need to make sure they have a strategy in place to optimize voice searches as the volume of voice search continues to grow. “Within the past year, 58 percent of consumers have found local businesses using voice search” stated DBS Interactive. It’s imperative as a local business to keep your Google My Business listing up to date with accurate information on locations, times open, phone number, etc. so it’s accurately shared with voice searches. Other ways to optimize your voice search is by using natural language, use question keywords (How, What, When, Why, Where), focus on long-tail keywords, and make sure to use the ‘filler’ words. You want to make sure you are ranking for the keywords someone would actually say. For example, instead of just ranking for ‘hardware store’ make sure you try to rank for ‘where is the closest hardware store to me’ Statista estimates that the use of the number of digital voice assistants worldwide will rise from 4.08 billion in 2020 to 8 billion in 2023. Make sure your company isn’t left behind as this area continues to grow and take over part of the search market. 

Google Retracts Decision

We are focusing on Google because they own roughly 90-94 percent of the total search market and have approximately 70,000 search queries per second. (Yes, PER SECOND!) But I wanted to point out one interesting thing that happened to Google search in early 2020 with their ad layouts. In January 2020, Google rolled out a new layout that drew quite a lot of controversies and ultimately made Google retract their decision. The New York Times wrote about why Google Backtracked on Its New Search Results Look. Quickly summarized, Google wanted to make the search on desktop look similar to the search on a mobile device by placing a company’s favicon and page URL about the traditional ‘blue link’ page title. You couldn’t tell the difference between an ad and organic search and it made the masses quite upset. Professional SEO marketers were tricked for the first time ever into pressing on Google ads because at first, you don’t notice the difference. This ultimately caused Google to put out a statement that said “We’ve heard your feedback about the update. We always want to make Search better, so we’re going to experiment with new placements for favicons….” Ultimately, you may or may not see the favicons appear next to organic searches on desktop. 

Pandemic Searches

Another change that we’ve seen this year is the top-ranking keywords on Google. The Washington Post did a great job of looking into the top Google searches in 2019 and 2020 once the Coronavirus became a global pandemic. As you can see in their visual of ‘Most common Google searches beginning with ‘how to’” there are a few similarities between 2019 and 2020, but the changes for some of the top searches can only be explained by the pandemic. Some of the top ‘how to’ searches in 2020 have become how to make a mask with fabric, how to make hand sanitizer, how to file for unemployment, (and my personal favorite) how to change the background on Zoom. The Washington Post goes on to compare searches for ‘what is’, ‘where’, and ‘how many’. Given these changes,  you may be able to take advantage of some of the new ranking keywords that could be imperative for your company to rank for. 

2020 is not over and I have no doubt there will be even more changes this year. It’s important to stay up-to-date on what is happening with Google so your company can make decisions on how to react. Search will be a never-ending carousel of changes – but that’s what makes it fun!