Thursday, June 2, 2016

Mid-Year Trends: The Rise of Google's Rich Answers

We're suckers for a good list--especially New Year's predictions. We've even taken a stab at our own predictions. Early this year, we predicted the top SEO trend of 2016: Mobile App Optimization. A year before, we predicted the top SEO trend of 2015: Diverse Content.

In the latter post, we noted, "Identifying and taking advantage of trends is a part of the SEO specialist's job."

Even then, while noting the word "trend" might be the trendiest word of 2015, we also observed that SEO writers use the word "trend" in the wrong way:

"Trend can mean 'a general direction in which something is developing or changing.' Yet the word also denotes a lack of permanency: a trend can be seen as a fashion. Many writers use the word trend, to describe 'developing or changing' without paying heed to the transitory nature of the word itself."

An understanding of the evolutionary nature of search is crucial to SEO success; yet in studying trends, we must learn to separate transitory change from durable change. Following trends will take you nowhere; identifying true change, though, will help you wallop your competition.

Pow! Learn to separate transitory change from durable change and
you will wallop the competition.

In the spirit of lists, we were happy to see a list of mid-year SEO predictions by one of our favorite SEO writers, Jayson DeMers: 7 SEO Predictions for the Rest of 2016.

One of DeMers' predictions mirrors our prediction from earlier this year: "App SEO will take a big step forward."

"App developers may start developing more kinds of search-friendly content exclusively in-app," DeMers writes, "and Google may start boosting certain types of apps to start phasing out website-based content."

DeMers also writes about the potential for Google to lose search share, and the rise of digital assistants and "machine learning," which we reported on last year. At the time, we noted an intriguing quote from Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai:

“Machine learning is a core transformative way by which we are rethinking everything we are doing."

Please Read: RankBrain and the Future of SEO

All of these changes point to a more seamless search experience, one captured by DeMers' first prediction: "We’ll see the rise of rich answers."

You might've noticed "rich answers" in any number of your recent searches. Ask Google a specific, answerable question and get an immediate answer. For this post, we had to remind ourselves of a simple grammar lesson:

Google's "rich answer"

DeMers notes that there is evidence that rich answers "are on a sharp upward trajectory." He cites an analysis by Stone Temple Consulting (from last July) that showed an increase of "nearly 40% percent" in six months.

Your own anecdotal reports may concur. Rich answers are increasingly ubiquitous. Google is now answering many questions with simple, immediate answers.

So we've identified this trend. How do you take advantage?

It is clear that Google prefers content that answers questions. The Hummingbird algorithm, which was made to accommodate longer, more complex questions, is a testament to this preference. Even if you're not aiming to be the selected "rich answer," it is clear that your content must seek to provide a rich answer.

The quest will not be easy. As DeMers notes in another prediction: "The gap between good and exceptional content will widen."

"Countless studies have shown that only the 'best of the best' content is worth anything," DeMers writes."The vast majority of all online content never generates any inbound links, shares, or other meaningful forms of interaction; in other words, it’s a complete waste of time and effort."

Do you feel like you're wasting your time and effort generating new content that no one reads? Inspired by Google's evolving preferences, we have Two Simple Questions to Inspire New Content:

1. What question am I answering?

2. What am I adding to the conversation?

With these questions in mind, you're off to a running start. Will you succeed? The answer lies in your content. Is it exceptional? Does it count?

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