today’s search engine results pages (SERPs) are growing ever chaotic from the online marketer’s point of view. From the early search engine days of relative stability and predictiveness, SERPs today are less predictable and less stable. In the following article, I will describe:
Ways SERPs are growing more chaotic
Macro causes behind it
How it is expected to change the search engine channel as a whole
How advanced SEOs will adapt and even improve value to clients
Causes for growing SERP chaos and instability
Personalization: based on multitudes of parameters, which among others, include cookie set (user profile), IP (user location) and past preference for particular websites, SERPs are now serving different SERPs to different users.
Shifting and shuffling search results: more and more frequently, significant variance in SERPs appear within very short time frames – even hours. This reflects the frequency and scale of testing and changes that are performed in search engine algorithms
Listing appearance on SERPs: search engines are now customizing the listing details (headline + description) of web pages included in the SERP, according to the search query, (ODP) listing and/or user profile. In the past, the listing usually contained the page title as the headline and meta description only.
Why search engines produce more chaotic SERPs
Relevancy: the holy grail of search is always relevancy. This dynamic process is meant to serve end users with customized results, more relevant to their specific preferences and needs.
Financially: search engines want to drive advertisers to purchase sponsored links. The more unstable and insecure site owners feel with their search engine visibility within natural results, they will tend to resort to paid search.
How will the search engine landscape change?
The direction as a whole, is driving search improvement and growth. What is certain, is higher SERP relevancy, which leads to higher click through rates (CTRs) and lower abandonment rates. The result is overall higher search traffic and enhanced user trust in search engines. Higher CTRs and user trust are good to the channel as a whole and to all those engaged in online search, inclusive of search engines, website owners and SEOs.
The new reality requires adjustment of expectation
SEOs and website owners cannot expect to gain a stable placement that is relevant to all users, nor for a lengthy time period. Furthermore, they cannot expect to have full control over the way listings are presented on SERPs.
How can SEOs cope in a chaotic SERP environment?
A more chaotic environment is not necessarily bad for SEOs. While it presents serious challenges, it also presents opportunities for the daring and adaptable. The nature of services will change, however.
Traffic is the key, not rankings
It is always easier for the SEO to showcase success of its activity by showing clients high rankings. After all, what client would not like to see the brand ranking first on Google?
High rankings, however, are not stable. Managers and their clients could find that the brand is no longer even there the following day. The solution then, is to educate clients to measure the overall traffic that various search terms generate as the major performance indicator.
Maintaining control over listing content
By exploring the mechanisms used by search engines to customize listings, SEOs are still able to find ways to maintain control over the listing. Having attractive and relevant listing content has an enormous effect on traffic.
Reverse engineering is now a must
SEO is a lot about reverse engineering search engine algorithms, and this will also be true as algorithms become more complex.
For example, an imaginary SEO firm managing an imaginary Rome-based travel agency, called Best of Rome essentially discovered how Google segments a particular group of users that searches the term “history of Rome”. Google’s task is to anticipate, if possible, whether the user is (a) traveling to Rome, (b) a student studying Rome, or (c) a journalist writing an article. Ideally, Google would display a different SERP for the users identified with each group. Optimization of the content would be necessary for the (a) group dealing with “history of Rome” or new content developed. Factors that help Google associate a site with group (a) must be ascertained and followed with execution, similarly for groups (b) and (c).
Part of the search engine optimization profession, is the study of search engine algorithms, which demands more research and deeper understanding of natural text analysis, taxonomy and the algorithms themselves. Coping with that dynamic environment is a challenge easynet search marketing experts are more than capable of, and happy to undertake.