2,161,530,000,000. That’s how many searches were performed in 2013 on Google alone. Search is how prospects connect with businesses. And it’s a constantly evolving space.
Is your business ready? To succeed in search in 2014, consider these three must-haves.
1. A clear mobile experience
As recently as five years ago, it was relatively easy to game the search engines by repeating target keywords multiple times in page copy. As a result, major search engines such as Google and Yahoo frequently updated their algorithms to reduce spam.
But five years ago, few people searched on mobile devices. Tablets didn’t exist. There were three times as many desktop users as mobile users.
User behavior, rather than search spam, is driving search algorithms.
In 2014, mobile usage is predicted to eclipse desktop usage. Search engine results need to be relevant to people using smartphones and tablets. Mobile users are using the spoken word and even hand gestures to search rather than typing a query into the search box. It’s easier to say, “OK, Google” and ask a question than it is to type it on a small keyboard.
Search algorithms in 2014 focus on intent. They’ve gotten good at understanding conversational queries and synonyms.
That means your website language must be conversational. In 2014, your business must not only have a mobile presence but also consider the changing impact of spoken queries on search engine rankings. You’ll need to think about your user in all frames of mind – how they interact with you, on what device, and when and where they interact. The content on your site should address the stages of the buyer journey that your visitors are in, and it should speak to them the way they would speak to you. In addition, the content needs to be accessible on all devices, not just desktop computers.
2. An understanding of users as people
Customers and prospects aren’t hanging out on your website. They’re hanging out in social media – and not just Facebook and Twitter. This will be the year for niche, interest-based social media sites that offer new ways for brands to reach customers. Users are tiring of the clutter on sites such as Facebook and are turning to Pinterest, Snapchat and Vine.
Attention spans are growing shorter. In 2013, the average attention span was 8 seconds – down from 13 seconds in 2000. Seventeen percent of website visits last less than 4 seconds.
Imagine that: 4 seconds. That’s how long you have to grab your customer’s attention. And you have to reach customers where they are, whether it’s with pictures on Pinterest or short videos on Vine.
3. A presence on Bing Ads
If you’ve limited your paid search efforts to Google, you’ll want to reconsider that in 2014. The Bing Ads network encompasses both Bing and Yahoo. In 2013, about 30 percent of total searches took place on Bing networks. That doesn’t sound like a large number, but consider this: 54 million searchers on the Bing network don’t use Google (source: Bing Ads).
And Bing Ads don’t show up only on the Bing and Yahoo search engines. They also appear on the Xbox 360 and on Windows 8. Bing is working to create a seamless search experience that spans all devices. Their Smart Search product incorporates results from the Web, social channels, the cloud, apps and your computer to display the most relevant information in a visually appealing way.
While Windows 8 penetration is fairly low at the moment, 90 percent of computers run Windows. Bing’s integrated search experience combined with the Windows market share makes it a formidable player in 2014.
It’s time to do something different in 2014: Embrace the conversation and reach prospects where they are.
Melissa Mackey is a search supervisor at gyro Cincinnati.
Follow Melissa @Mel66