Current State of Online Search in 2019

There are almost endless things we could say about online search, so in this short blog I’m going to cover a few items that have come to the forefront in 2019 and really matter to small business owners.

When we talk about online search, we speak generally about all search engines but most often specifically about Google, because it makes up about 93 percent of all search traffic. But to be clear, all search engine optimization(SEO) tactics, schema markup, and other strategies we use work for ALL search engines. That said, you will often hear us speak specifically about Google because of its overwhelming market share.

Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Search Engine Market Share

Several recent search behavior studies have shown that almost 50 percent of searches result in what is called “zero-click searches”. Zero-click searches are when the search engine results pages (SERP) provide an answer to the user’s query within the search results, negating the need for a user to click through to the actual website. This is important for many reasons, but two of the biggest are that it changes how a website needs to be structured and increases the importance of utilizing Google My Business (GMB), especially for businesses serving a local market.

“We [Google] are moving from being a company that helps you find answers, to a company that helps you get things done….” — Sundar Pichai, Google CEO, 2019

Utilizing tools like specific blog formatting and tags to structured content and schema markup on your website make it possible for your website to show up in the organic results as the answer to a specific query.

The growth of voice search is one of ways Google is moving to providing results that do not require a click. Predictions estimate that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be done by voice and 30 percent of all searches will be completed without a screen. The Google featured snippet, which is one form of a no-click search, is also currently being used to provide a voice search answer.

For example, if you ask Google to define a word or ask how far away the sun is from the earth, Google needs to pull the answer from somewhere, and a feature snippet is currently the source. Now imagine a more obscure question about HVAC equipment. Who is providing the answer being read outloud to you? If your company’s website is structured correctly with proper SEO tools to get into that first no-click spot in Google, your company could be the answer Google provides to users when they ask.

Although not exactly new, another important thing to know about how Google and current online search works is part of the algorithm called RankBrain. This is artificial intelligence within the algorithm that uses machine learning to match search results with user intent versus word for word query matches.

This is a very important element to understand, because it is this customization of search that has drastically changed the results search engines show you. RankBrain takes into account your search history and local data when interpreting what you are looking for and what best to return in search results. It understands full sentences, so you can ask a question, and based on that and your search data it will help interpret what is the best answer for you.

Up to 80 percent of SERPs can be customized by location and personal search history. This means every time someone searches, the set of results returned could be entirely different than the next person who searches the same thing. This is why correctly formatted content and structured content has become increasingly important in all website setup and maintenance.

Because of Google keeping users in its platform longer, and the proliferation of zero-click searches, it is more important than ever to maintain and update your GMB listing on a regular basis. You should start to think of your GMB listing as the front page of your website. Because Google is now in the business of providing answers and information, the more you build out your GMB listing the better. Google wants to be able to provide all the information a user needs within its own environment, which means you now have the option of adding photos, posts, specials, products and more directly in your GMB listing. 

Click here for more information on building out your GMB listing along with the dos and don’ts of GMB.

Online search has a lot of moving parts, which can seem overwhelming and complicated. We hope we have slightly demystified it for you. They key takeaways are this:

  • Google has won.
  • Zero-click searches are impacting click rates and what users are doing.
  • Voice Search is here to stay.
  • Quality searchable content is as important as ever.
  • You need to work to maintain your GMB listing on a regular basis.
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