voice-search-featured-snippets

Voice Search and the Importance of Featured Snippets

The world of search is evolving in many ways – the way results are gathered and presented, the way search results are ranked, and, most importantly, how people are searching. Search is driven by and catered to users, so with 20% of searches made within the Google app now made by voice and the increasing use of digital assistants like Google Home, voice search is a major driver in the way search results are being formatted. One of the most significant changes is the increased relevance of Featured Snippets.

What Are Featured Snippets

Featured Snippets are born from Google’s Knowledge Graph and Knowledge Cards. These are the cards that come up with an immediate answer to a question entered into Google, such as “what is the largest city in Oregon?”

google knowledge card

Featured Snippets are similar to Knowledge Cards in that they offer an immediate answer to a user’s question, but these answers are pulled from other websites, not Google’s Knowledge Graph. For example, if you search the cost to ride Portland’s MAX train, Google pulls a Featured Snippet from the TriMet website.

table featured snippet

Crawling for information is inefficient for Google, especially when coming up with simple search results, so the creation of the Knowledge Graph and Featured Snippets cuts back on crawling time and optimizes search for Google’s users.

mobile featured snippet

A Featured Snippet on a mobile device.

Featured Snippets Fill the Voice Void

While Featured Snippets are great in desktop results, mobile and voice results are where this tool really shines. Featured Snippets are perfect for mobile devices like smartphones that have small screens and less room to list search results. Mobile users are also often on-the-go and quick-moving and want the answers to their questions and queries as quickly possible. To learn more about the traits and behaviors of mobile web users and their importance in digital marketing, be sure to read our blog post on mobile marketing.

Featured Snippets also play a vital role in delivering voice results. Devices like Google Home rely on Featured Snippets to fill in the gaps of the Google Knowledge Graph and package information for easy voice delivery. Digital Assistants on smartphones are also able to utilize this information to deliver a direct answer to voice queries, rather than just pulling up a link that users must then click on.

Types of Featured Content

There are several types of Featured Snippets, their format varying depending on the presentation of information. Text snippets are paragraph-based answers that account for about two-thirds of Featured Snippets and yield voice answers 87% of the time. These types of snippets are best for answering simple questions with simple answers, such as “what is the name of Portland’s basketball team?”

text featured snippetList snippets, which account for a little under one-third of Featured Snippets, are answers formatted in bullet lists. An example of this would be the snippet result for the query “how to prune a rose bush”. These snippets are often longer and less concise than text snippets and yield voice answers less than half the time.

list featured snippet

Table snippets make up very few Featured Snippets and yield voice answers only about a third of the time. These types of snippets present data in the form of a table and answer questions like our MAX train example above.

Lastly are video snippets, the least plentiful type of Featured Snippets. These types of snippets are currently not available with voice search devices like Google Home, but as inter-device search and display grow, video snippets will become more relevant.

Why These Snippets Are Important

For years, the most desirable place on a page of search results was #1, fueling an entire segment of digital marketing in Search Engine Optimization. Featured Snippets are flipping much of what we know about SEO on its head, as they now occupy “Position #0” in search results. Google’s Knowledge Cards and Featured Snippets always come before organic results, earning the “Position #0” nickname. This gives the sites that provide content for a Featured Snippet a huge advantage over their competition. Additionally, snippet content is always on the first page of search results and often the #1 organic search result, placing sites on the first result page twice – another huge advantage.

How to Get a Featured Snippet

The first and most important step in getting a Featured Snippet is to make sure your content is effectively answering the question being asked. Featured Snippets are pulled from content that answers questions clearly and concisely, so if your answer is too long or convoluted, it won’t be picked as the Featured Snippet. Optimizing your content for text snippets is a good starting point. According to a study done by Dr. Peter J. Meyer’s at Moz, 71% of 1,000 searches yielded voice answers and text snippets generate a voice answer approximately 9 out of 10 times, making them by far the most common type of Featured Snippet.

Secondly, to rank for a Featured Snippet, your site has to be mobile-optimized. As mentioned, every Featured Snippet also ranks on the first page of search results, so if your site is not on the first page of results, then it will not be a Featured Snippet. Google prioritizes fast, mobile-friendly sites, so if your site isn’t, your chances of getting a Featured Snippets are low.

Lastly, don’t forget regular website SEO. Your content may be perfect for a Featured Snippet, but if Google doesn’t like your site and puts it on the second or third page of results, a Featured Snippet is not in your future. Optimizing for new search trends is vital in staying relevant in the digital world, but if you ignore the basics, you’re already falling behind.

Voice search and digital assistants like Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Siri are reshaping how search results are presented, challenging what we know about SEO but also giving marketers a huge opportunity to reach users more effectively than ever. Tools like Featured Snippets open the door to the voice search market and provide a springboard into this new wave of internet marketing. Featured Snippets are just a taste of what internet marketing and SEO will look like in the coming years.

Sources and Other Resources

Why Voice Command Usage on Smartphones Is Growing

4 Things You Need to Know About the Future of Marketing

Featured Snippets: New Insights, New Opportunities

Google’s Featured Snippets: Automated Continuous Improvement

Lessons from 1,000 Voice Searches (on Google Home)

Ranking #0: SEO for Answers

Mobile Ready Images

Mobile Marketing: Don’t Get Left in the Digital Dust

In October 2016, web browsing on mobile devices overtook desktop browsing for the first time. With this rise of mobile web surfing, it is more important than ever that your website is optimized for mobile viewing. Right now, mobile sites are lagging behind desktop sites in many key metrics, including average time on site, pages per visit, and bounce rate. Driving conversions on a mobile site is done differently than on a desktop or tablet and must be approached differently. If you aren’t focusing on mobile moving forward, you are already falling behind.

Need for Speed

According to a study done by Google in January of 2017, the average mobile landing page takes 22 seconds to fully load; a majority of people won’t wait more than three seconds for a page to load, let alone 22. For every second delay in mobile page load, conversions can fall by up to 20%. Trimming the fat by compressing and removing images is one way to dramatically increase speed and conversions. Speed is additionally important when it comes to mobile versus desktop due to the inconsistencies of cellular data network speeds versus wi-fi and wired connections that are generally used by desktops. 70% of cellular network connections globally will occur at 3G or slower speeds through 2020, so ensuring your mobile site is speedy is important in reaching as many users as possible.

Content is King

This digital marketer’s golden rule is just as important to mobile site optimization as it is to all other parts of internet marketing. Content on your mobile site should be quickly consumable and easily accessible by fast-moving mobile users. Be aware of things like paragraph length, which may look fine on a desktop but is an imposing wall of text on mobile. Avoid the dreaded pinch and zoom that will drive away users by ensuring that buttons and form fields are easily clickable and accessible to thumbs and fingers. Many users will also favor scrolling over clicking because it is easier to maneuver with a finger. Be aware of how your images will take up valuable space on the smaller screen and how intrusive pop-ups are to your user.

Site Metrics You Should Be Watching

Analyzing mobile metrics in the same way that you are analyzing desktop metrics is ineffective in understanding your mobile users and how you can better their time on your site. The mobile experience is different than a desktop one, and website analytics will reflect that. For example, a lower rate of pages per session and time on site is a worrisome metric, but on a mobile site, it may mean that users were able to find the information they needed quicker and easier. If your mobile users are spending longer on your site and visiting more pages, its might be a sign that they are not finding what they need, especially if your conversions are low. Bounce rate is also vital in understanding the success of your mobile site. Your landing page should be attractive and easy to navigate for the mobile user. If users are leaving immediately, it’s a bad sign.

Know Your Mobile Audience

Mobile users and desktop users have different needs and goals, and to best serve those needs and meet those goals, it’s vital that you understand what they are. Many mobile sessions are driven by search, so if you are looking to drive mobile conversions, making sure your SEO is updated will help drive users to your site. Mobile users are often looking for information quickly and don’t want to have to spend too much time searching your site, unlike desktop users that are more likely to browse a site for a longer period of time and explore more pages on a site. To ensure users don’t leave your site for a competitor’s, make information easy to find and digest. Additionally, Google and other search engines prefer mobile sites that are fast and optimized for users, so you have a better chance of ranking higher in search results if you have a good mobile site.

Three-quarters of Americans now own smartphones, and if you are not catering to those smartphone users, you are getting left in the digital dust. Optimizing your mobile site is vital to cutting ahead in your industry and driving conversions. Speed, mobile-friendly content, and understanding the mobile user and how they will use your site should be the foundational pillars of your mobile marketing game plan. Mobile can no longer be an afterthought, it needs to be a priority in your digital marketing strategy.

Sources and Other Resources

Find Out How You Stack Up to New Industry Benchmarks for Mobile Page Speed

Cellular Network Connections at Slow Speeds – Think with Google

Why Marketers Should Care About Mobile Page Speed

Are Your Mobile Website Visitors Finding What They Want?

Mobile vs Desktop: 13 Essential User Behaviors

4 Things You Need to Know About the Future of Marketing

Measurement: The Secret to Growth in a Mobile-First World

WordPress

How to Customize the Default Search Form in WordPress

A client whose site we recently rebuilt on WordPress came up with an unusual request: they asked two search forms on each page–one searching the site, the other a catalog on another site.

Fortunately, the Avada theme we used allows you to have a search form in both the header and the footer, so taking care of that part of the request was easy.  It looked to me like the tricky part would be in getting the forms to submit to different locations.

Warning: creating a form that submits data to another site without the site-owner’s knowledge and permission amounts to a cross-site scripting attack.  You’re using your form to inject data into the other site’s code.

Luckily, in the case of the catalog site, the vendor allows customers to create their own off-site search forms and even advises them on how to do it.  Obviously, they’ve taken extra measures to sanitize the posted data, and obviously your form needs extra measures to sanitize the data before it’s posted.  (For this article, I cover only the basics of jQuery, not the extra measures.)  Read more

How to Correctly Point your Domain Name to a Subdirectory.

It is pretty often in web design and site administration  that we are looking for more ways to secure your site against attack from hackers or malicious software.

One of the simplest and often overlooked is to place the software you are using in a subdirectory.

But how do you point your domain name example.com to your subdomain with out it looking like example.com/subdomain/ ?

The example.com/subdomain/ is usually what happens when most folks use a simple re-direct from their control panel thinking that this is the best way to accomplish the task or perhaps not knowing there is another way. But there is, to do this you are going to want to edit the .htaccess file. The .htaccess file is a very special file that should reside in each directory, it tells us the permissions of the directory, and what should be done with the contents of the directory.  For the purposed of this article I am going to provide the code for a simple redirect to subdomain. This redirect can be more complicated based upon which software you are using. So be sure to backup your .htaccess file before you get started.

After backing up we are going to want to download the .htaccess file to edit it. It CAN be done live via file manager or SSH but I feel it is best to do these things via SFTP/FTP so that you have a back up and easy version control.

Once you have downloaded you  .htaccess file we can save a backup of the backup, just to be sure.

Now open the file with your text editor. It is important to use the most basic text editor possible, notepad.exe is great! If you are on a mac you can use text edit. Other programs like Word or even Open office can toss extra code into the .htaccess which can lead to breaking your website.

When working with the .htaccess file you can use the (#) symbol to comment out things, so you can leave yourself notes about your changes. You can copy the full code block below to your .htaccess file after copying follow the instructions.

# How to file
# .htaccess main domain to subdirectory redirect
# Keep this line as a reminder.
RewriteEngine on
# Change example.com to be your main domain.
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^(www.)?example.com$
# Change 'subdirectory' to be the directory you will use for your main domain.
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/subdirectory/
# Don't change the following two lines.
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
# Change 'subdirectory' to be the directory you will use for your main domain.
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ /subdirectory/$1
# Change example.com to be your main domain again.
# Change 'subdirectory' to be the directory you will use for your main domain
# followed by / then the main file for your site, index.php, index.html, etc.
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^(www.)?example.com$
RewriteRule ^(/)?$ subdirectory/index.html [L]

Using the code above SHOULD work for you to point to php based software such as WHMCS or infinite WP etc. Visitors to your Web site will not be able to tell that your main domain is using a subdirectory, they will still see the Web site address as http://www.example.com/index.html

Some software may require special rules or actions. You may also need to modify the $base_url, $live_site or other configuration settings to finish the process. This is another great reason you should make backups during the process and you should be patient, if something is not working start over with your most recent working backup.

I hope this helps you out as much as it has helped me over the years.

 

 

compress images for faster pages

Easy Ways to Compress Images

On a recent redesign project I came across a single page on a client’s website featuring 33 image galleries and a grand total of 112 images — yes, on one single page. Despite my encouragement to parse this down to a reasonable number, the client insisted on keeping every single photo. Time to resize, reduce, compress. Sounds like a new weight loss program, doesn’t it? Read more