The view from here
SEO Trends for 2015: Search Intent, User Intent & Devices
While rich snippets & mobile SEO were hot items for SEO in 2014, their evolution and role in user intent should be top of mind for 2015.
Shift Towards Search Intent by Device
Studies throughout 2014 told SEO consultants that organic rankings varied by device type. So, if you do a search from a phone and then a laptop, the results are likely to be different, depending on your query.
But what is that caveat, “depending on your query”? It’s generally referring to search intent. Search intent for any keyword is usually classified into navigational, informational, transactional or a mix of these. Certain keywords have very clear search intent. Do a search on a desktop for “restaurant”, and you will see local business listings for nearby restaurants so you can choose one to visit, followed by listings from review sites, and finally in depth articles, each with a thumbnail image. Keyword search intent makes an assumption about the user’s intent – what they are doing, or trying to do. Searching from a mobile device verses a desktop is also considered a signal about user intent. One easy assumption is that being on a mobile device might skew your intentions toward locational as opposed to informational. A search for “restaurant” on a mobile device returns similar results, though the local businesses perfectly display in the phone area with navigation to slide to see more choices. Scrolling down reveals the same review sites, however you get links to their mobile environments. In depth articles at the bottom do not show the thumbnail images.
Shift Towards Mobile Design
Search intent is also the determining factor in rich snippets and the visuals seen in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Google learned that by eliminating G+ author images, those organic listings received fewer clicks and the paid listings received more. Shortly after, we’ve seen signs in websites we monitor that Google dialed back the insertion of rich snippets like video or maps. For the most part, listings still rank in the same order, but the rich snippets appear on a lower percent of those listings. In November 2014, Google dropped its horizontal carousel display of local search results for restaurants, hotels, and the like. However, the top ranked restaurants still appear graphically with details like reviews, open hours, and pricing in the organic area of the search result page. Similarly, social platforms like Facebook caught flack in 2014 for tweaking their algorithms to decrease organic reach. But social and search spokespeople across the board say results are being streamlined for user experience across a wider range of devices to serve the best choices from the ever growing body of content.
Organic Search for 2015 Focuses on User Intent
So what does all this tell us about organic search for 2015? What’s going on behind the scenes at Google? To answer that, remember last year around this time Google publicly announced the migration to a completely new algorithm called Hummingbird, which was designed to better understand user intent by processing longer queries, questions, hot words, etc. Search technology is becoming more sophisticated, even though the SERPs look more simplified. Structured data, link building, brand citations, local SEO, video SEO and all the nuances of search engine optimization that were brought to attention in the past couple years are still feeding Google organic results – but with a much more toned down appearance. Google results slim down what is seen at first glance, but staying in line with mobile or responsive web design, expects the user to swipe, scroll or click to find richer content and details. When user intent requires a quick answer, the best options are shown at first glance. If a user intends to dig and read a bit, more content and choices are provided one level deeper. And if you are sitting at a computer, more of those choices are provided above the fold.
Your SEO Plan for 2015
Organizations’ SEO agencies will need to track rankings across different devices and create strategies for content that are based on user intent. We know users move across platforms & devices and search/research various places to make their decisions. It’s time to reverse engineer your audience decision process in order to build an SEO strategy that leverages every online touch point. This often reveals the need for an integrated approach across all media channels in which your audience is exposed. Make it a point in 2015 to increase communications with your SEO agency to inform them of marketing initiatives across other channels, find out how you can get more visibility by reporting across devices, and consider performing a fresh marketing discovery to determine your current audience decision process.
Your SEO agency for 2015 should be analyzing or addressing these items in order to see how your marketing may be affected by the way the digital environment is exposed based on user intent and device variance, including:
- Keyword rankings on multiple devices
- Reporting traffic by device
- Discovery for user journey & decision making (or lead conversion)
- Content analysis & recommendations based on user journey
To keep your organic search marketing strategy current and effective, consider investing a little budget for the research and analysis necessary to update your SEO plan. You may need your SEO agency to perform a fresh marketing discovery, pull device specific reports, and analyze the user journey from identifying a problem to conversion.