Google and other search engines are always tinkering with their algorithms, by some estimates up to a thousand times every year. What worked for SEO yesterday might not work today, which is why this is a never ending process as opposed to a defined goal. Today, we’re going to go over some of Google’s changes to help you stay on top of the game.
1. User intent is important
Fundamentally, Google wants to be a trusted product that the majority of web users use when making a search. That means that they’re trying to give users the results they want. The newest trend in this regard is measuring user intent.
They’re accomplishing this through a variety of metrics. What you need to do is start optimizing your site for intent. As a car dealership, you want to attract users who are either looking to buy the kinds of vehicles you sell, or users who want to make use of your service department. You’re generally not looking for users who want to find your OEM’s homepage or a student researching how internal combustion engines work for a school paper.
With that in mind, answer common questions to make use of Google answer boxes. What kind of dealership are you, what experience do you offer, is your inventory primarily new or pre-owned, what are your service department’s hours, and so on. Make certain your keywords are tied directly to what you do. In the earlier example, that hypothetical student might find your page if you use exclusively short and generic keywords like “car,” so make use of long tail keywords.
2. Dwell time
Track the dwell time on your page. This is related to bounce rate, but is distinct in that it measures how long a user is at your site. The longer, the better, and the search that got them to you is one you’ll want to optimize for.
3. Google’s AI can recognize natural speech patterns
Google’s AI is getting better at recognizing natural speech patterns. This helps the search engine with intent as well. If the search isn’t exactly what the person is looking for, Google can throw in an educated guess. For example, if someone searches for “Ford dealer in [neighborhood]” and there isn’t a Ford dealership in that neighborhood, but there is one not far from there, the search engine will let the user know. Fewer searches fall through the cracks that way.
4. Google’s Core Web Vitals are still, well, vital
I’ve talked in this space about the core web vitals, but here’s a quick refresher. Core web vitals are three stats that Google uses to determine user experience and thus influences eventual ranking. They are: Loading, Interactivity, and Visual Stability. Respectively, this is how fast your site loads, how long between any action a user takes and the site processing that interaction, and how much the site changes shape while loading.
Improving these factors are all about streamlining your code. Get rid of anything you don’t absolutely need, and your users and SEO will thank you.
5. Don’t forget mobile devices
Most web browsing these days is done via mobile device, and this trend is unlikely to change. Google has reacted to this by having its bots look at the mobile versions of sites first. Some of the solutions are the same as those above; all the steps you would take to improve load time will enhance the mobile experience.
Perhaps the most important solution is to ensure that your site uses a responsive design. This means your site will change based on the device your visitor is currently using. Formerly a luxury, now a necessity. Larger buttons and autofill forms are also must-haves for a good mobile experience.
These are the basic changes to SERPs you need to be aware of. Google also has a pair of tools you’ll want to familiarize yourself with, and in the next two weeks, we’re going to talk about those as well. By the time we’re done, your site will be in excellent shape. Until Google alters their metrics again.