Chapter 9: Emerging verticals in search

Search has expanded well beyond the traditional results page. New to Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Factors is a look at emerging verticals within search. Voice, image, local and video search offerings provide users with options for locating information in the manner they prefer.

These emerging verticals do not require a completely different set of SEO skills — many of the core techniques you’ve learned from this guide are applicable across verticals. However, there are unique characteristics and nuances that you need to consider.

Voi: Voice

Digital assistants, such as Google Assistant, Siri and Alexa, have made their way into mobile devices, cars, wearables and smart home devices. 

“There’s two schools of thought,” says Search Engine Land’s Greg Sterling. “One is that you just do all the SEO best practices and you get your data into Google and you mark it up [with structured data] and that’ll take care of the results. So, if somebody searches for a local cafe or dentist or whatever, if you’ve done everything right on the back end, you’re going to show up. “Other people will say, ‘Well, you really need to optimize for the featured snippet — you need to think about how users might formulate queries differently with voice when they speak a query versus typing a query.;”

“The conventional wisdom is that voice queries are longer, they’re in the form of a question, as opposed to a more condensed set of keywords that may not be grammatically coherent,” adds Sterling. “So, there’s a slightly different thinking around that and some people will say, ‘Well, look at your call logs, look at the kinds of questions that people are asking you in different media channels and turn that into content on your website. Create FAQs, create content pages that reflect the common questions that people will ask and then, when people do ask those, whether via the keyboard or voice, you’re going to rank.’”

[Pro Tip]

On the Amazon environment, it’s called an Alexa Skill; in the Google environment, it’s called an Actions on Google app. The Actions on Google app allows you to develop … any manner of different things. Generally speaking, most people believe — and for most people, this is true — that the app will only be useful if the user knows to invoke it. However, with the Actions on Google app interface, working through dialogflow.com, you can enable implicit queries, which allows Google to serve up the answers from your app, even to users who are unaware of your app. So, let’s say you have an app on housing prices, “What’s the average price of housing in Boston?” Even though the user didn’t invoke your app, Google might pull the answer from your app and serve it, so that becomes like SEO. –Eric Enge, general manager, Perficient.

For more resources on optimizing for voice search, bookmark our Google: Voice Search and Search Features: Search By Voice sections.

Img: Image

“Google has been hinting that SEOs should be focusing a bit more on image search over the past few months,” Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz wrote in an article detailing the increased prominence of images on the Google search results page. 

With an image box appearing above organic listings and image search previews that direct users to the page hosting the image, image optimization should be a regular component of your SEO regimen.  

[Pro Tip]

“Using original images, alt text, having good neighboring text that is descriptive underneath the image, having the image on a relevant page and on a relevant site — all these things are our ranking factors for image search.” –Eric Enge, general manager, Perficient.

In addition, consider the impact that images have on user experience. Try to get your file size as low as possible without sacrificing the quality that users expect; this will help keep your load times under control. If your images also appear below-the-fold, consider implementing lazy loading so that users don’t have to wait for all your images to load before they can begin engaging with your content.

You’ll also want to stick to common file formats such as JPEG and PNG for standard images, SVG for vector graphics and GIF for simple animations so that search engines can index your images. You can even mark up images with structured data to give search engines more information.

For more, see:

Loc: Local

We know that online visibility can drive offline foot traffic and purchases at brick and mortar locations. Optimizing for local visibility in search is more important than ever. 

“You can say that local search is about Google primarily, then Yelp, and Facebook and maybe a vertical,” says Search Engine Land Contributing Editor Greg Sterling. “So, if you’re in hospitality, or in restaurants or some specialized area, then there’s typically going to be a directory site or a couple of sites that people will use — TripAdvisor is an obvious one — to find information.”

The Google My Business platform continues to add features. Claiming and optimizing your  listing will help establish your presence on Google Search and Maps. You can update your business information, upload photos and manage reviews — a local ranking factor. 

Having a presence on Yelp (or directory site that’s most pertinent to your industry) may drive traffic directly to your door. “But, from a Google SEO perspective, the reason you want to be built out on Yelp and those other directories is because they’re going to rank — they’re going to outrank your own website in most instances and get the benefit of the authority that those domains have,” Sterling says.

Within the Amazon Alexa ecosystem, Amazon is getting data from multiple sources, one of their chief sources of local data is Yext, but they have other sources as well. Yelp is another one. With that in mind, Sterling says, you need to make sure that your data is in Yelp, to some degree, and Yext as well, to be discoverable on the Alexa devices.

In Google Home and also on the Assistant for smartphones, if you’re a service professional, they’re only going to feature you if you have a Google Guaranteed badge or you’re coming through one of their authorized partners, says Sterling.

[Pro Tip]

“So far, we have not found that the content used in the Google Post has any impact on ranking, (for example: posting about “dog bites” doesn’t make you rank higher for “dog bite lawyer) so I would suggest focusing your posts on keywords you’re already ranking for that could use a boost in click-through-rat,” – Joy Hawkins, owner Local Search Forum and Sterling Sky Inc.

For more, see:

Vid: Video

“If you are pursuing video, you can not only do things to try and get your video to rank in Google search, but YouTube.com is actually a very significant search engine,” says Eric Enge, general manager at Perficient Digital. 

Google surfaces video results on its main search results page as well as within the video tab. While some video ranking factors overlap between Google and YouTube, there are unique considerations that you should keep in mind when optimizing video content.

If your audience is on YouTube.com, average watch time is a crucial ranking factor — especially if you want your content to show as a suggested video. To help viewers find your videos, make sure to insert the keywords you’ve researched in your title, description and tags.

Instead of relying on YouTube’s automated closed captions, add your own transcripts to provide YouTube with more information about your content and ensure that your transcripts are accurate for your viewers. You’ll also want to create an original thumbnail image that resonates with your audience, convincing them to click through and raise your view count.

Engagement is also a consideration for YouTube SEO, so you’ll want to find creative ways to encourage your viewers to subscribe, share, comment and give your video a thumbs up.

If the primary aim of your video content is for users to discover you through the main Google search results page, do your research and verify that the video carousel appears for queries you wish to rank for. Even if it doesn’t, your content may still surface within the video tab. 

“In Google, the ranking algorithms for videos are startlingly like it is for other web pages. It looks like the same sort of relevancy algorithms are in play. Does your page with the video have links to it? Does it accumulate some level of PageRank and these sorts of things?,” says Eric Enge. “The ranking algorithms are different [between YouTube and Google] because Google’s success is driven by the degree of satisfaction they deliver to users based on the results they serve, and that correlates really well to Google for maintaining or growing market share and ultimately driving the most ad clicks.”

But, there’s more you can do than simply embedding your video on a relevant page and then optimizing that page: you can also add a transcript directly on the page and mark up the video with structured data to give search engines more context and increase the odds that your video surfaces as a rich result.

Regardless of length, your primary goal should always be to create content that is right for your audience. However, search engine algorithms may not favor overly concise videos:

“What they’re looking for is high-quality, long-form content that will allow them to run more ads and keep users on the site for longer,” wrote Stephan Spencer, Search Engine Land columnist and author of The Art of SEO, Google Power Search, and Social eCommerce. “Videos that are at least five minutes in length tend to perform better and have a higher chance of ranking in Google searches.”

Keep tabs on your video performance through YouTube’s analytics and Google Search Console’s video reports

Here are additional resources to aid your video optimization:

SEO Guide chapters: Home1: Factors2: Content3: Architecture4: HTML5: Trust6: Links7: Personalization8: Toxins9: Emerging