In GoogleSEO

Software provider, SearchMetrics has just revealed the results of some interesting research into the way that Google displays its search results compared to 5 years ago. We've taken a look at the results of the research and provided an explanation on some of the key elements together with some suggestions for actions which destinations can take to increase their sites' visibility in the organic search engine listings. 

The research involved analysing page 1 of Google's search engine results pages (SERPS) for half a million frequently searched travel terms. 

New Mind | tellUs always aims to achieve a position within the top 3 results for our destination websites (although for some of the more competitive keywords this may be more difficult to achieve).  However, the number of search results on the first page now varies depending on the keyword category, search intention of users and the device used. The fact that the search results have also been supplemented by a variety of 'integration boxes' and promotional ads in the last few years has also had an impact.

The main developments highlighted in the SearchMetrics research are:

  • the number of organic search results displayed in page 1 has changed from 10 to 8.5
  • the rest of the page is increasingly being taken up by a variety of integration boxes (described below) which are designed to enrich the results
  • integration boxes offer opportunities to boost traffic to your site
  • YouTube is included in 9 out of 10 searches (no surprises as YouTube it is owned by Google)

But searches carried out on desktop and mobile also generate very different results with different integration boxes being displayed depending on the device used.  Here's an explanation of some of the key boxes and how they can be exploited:

App Pack Boxes

1 in 10 smartphone searches include app suggestions in the form of an App Pack box which is displayed above the organic search results and includes the ability to download the app from the App Store.  This presents an additional sales channel to the App Store for our destinations' own apps.  Usage of relevant keywords in the title and description of the app is crucial for optimisation with short titles performing best. The apps' performance in the store in terms of number of downloads, updates, user evaluations and social signals (likes and comments) is also an important factor in the app's optimisation.

Direct Answer Boxes

These appear when the search engine detects that the searcher is asking a question (usually using the words 'how' or 'what') and now account for 11% of desktop searches, compared to 4% of smartphone results.  Google responds to many questions with a 'reply widget' which appears in a prominent position above the organic search results.  These present an opportunity to generate significant traffic to your destination site.  Pages with structured content work best with sub-headings, bullet points, numbered lists etc. being easily scanned and understood by Google so that a relevant section of content can be selected for an answer.  Names and locations also help Google to understand content.

Knowledge Graph

1 in 5 search results include one Knowledge Graph box (see our previous article for an explanation) when a search relates to a person or place so they are particularly important for destinations and attractions.

The use of logos, images, addresses, contact numbers and profiles in social networks and a Wikipedia page all help destinations to achieve prominence

Video Boxes

Around a quarter of search results (23.99% on desktops and 25.25% on smartphones) now include at least one video integration.
As most of the videos integrated within search results are from YouTube, websites wanting to  generate visitors via videos in Google search should make sure that they are uploaded to YouTube.  The title of the video should contain relevant keywords as well as being interesting enough to catch the visitors eye.  Use subtitles in the video to optimise its content and motivate visitors to like and comment as Google also uses this information to determine its relevance.

Image Carousels

Image carousels at the top of the search results were introduced by Google in 2012 and are displayed for searches involving food, drink, lifestyle, art and culture so are particularly important for our destinations. Images are displayed for around a third of the searches displayed on desktop but only 15% on mobile devices (which is probably due to Google wanting to minimise download times).

Destinations that want to ensure that their images appear in Google's search results need to optimise their images using relevant file names and image titles which are keyword rich.  Image quality is also a consideration so low quality images should be avoided whilst ensuring that the file size doesn't impact on download speeds.

Twitter Cards

Tweets have been integrated in search results for some time as a result of Google's partnership with Twitter but in May 2015 Google introduced Twitter Cards which include tweets which are relevant to the search terms.  Twitter Cards include complete tweets with photos and the Twitter Channel, usually if the search relates to a brand.  The integration of Twitter Cards is more frequent on mobile searches with 6% of results displaying them compared to 2% on desktop.

Google is looking for number of followers, retweets, likes and replies so it's important that destinations build their engagement in order for their tweets to appear in the search results.  Tweets with images and hashtags are also more likely to be favoured.

So to summarise, destination marketers need to think about which devices each of their target markets use and create content strategically to assist their rankings in Google's search results.  A mobile friendly site is essential for achieving a presence and New Mind | tellUs is a major advocate of responsive site development which ensures that our clients' sites not only provide the optimum viewing experience but also perform well in the organic search results.

New Mind | tellUs covers the majority of the activities described above, plus support and recommendations on how to increase your social media presence as part of its monthly SEO maintenance service.  To find out more, contact your Account Manager.  To view or download the full research paper, visit the SearchMetrics website.

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