The Future of SEO – Search Appearance Optimization (SAO)

March 20, 2016

Google’s search algorithms are constantly changing, and folks in the digital marketing industry need to always keep an eye out for the next big change. SEO’s are already aware of the obvious benefits of structured data when it comes to helping Google better understand and index content, however, lately Google has been increasing their emphasis on user experience when it comes to search results in the form of AMP, “Local Business Cards”, increased schema.org and JSON-LD rich snippet support, and expanded featured snippets.


US Republican Primary Google Featured Snippet

Just One Example of Google’s Expanding Use of Featured Snippets


Search Appearance Optimization (SAO)

Whether you know it or not, you’re probably already performing search appearance optimization in one way or another. Whether it be adding schema.org markup for reviews, breadcrumbs, or products, you are making an effort to make your results as visually appealing as possible. With the amount of Organic search real estate disappearing at an accelerated pace on Google SERP’s it will become more and more important to take advantage of search appearance optimization where applicable.


Effects on Local SEO

Google has been quietly testing many new features which could allow businesses to further leverage Local SEO using “Local Business Cards” and”Place Actions”. Local Business Cards are part of a new experimental feature called “Google Posts”, which allows businesses and people to create content directly on Google which appears prominently in search results for names.


Local Business Cards

Local Business Card Beta Example


Place Actions are currently in beta, but are expected to be released sometime this year. Local businesses with Google My Business pages can specify Place actions using JSON-LD LocalBusiness markup on their website to specify actions such as making reservations and ordering food.


Google Place Actions Make Reservation

Reservation Place Action


Impact on Mobile Search

In addition to Google’s recent release of AMP articles in the content carousel, Google has also been testing various rich snippets in mobile SERP’s, such as the organic click to call button and expanded site links to improve user experience on mobile search. It will be a critical part of any mobile SEO strategy to take advantage of AMP articles and future mobile rich snippets with the limited amount of real estate available in mobile SERP’s.


Organic Click To Call Rich Snippet

Organic Click To Call Rich Snippet


With all of these changes focused on improving user experience, one thing is clear – SEO is becoming more and more about who can take up the most visual real estate in the SERP’s, and those with the most expertise, authority, trustworthiness, and technical know-how will be the biggest winners. Complete search appearance optimization will require some coding knowledge to add the correct schema.org markups to your website, and it’s likely that coveted Knowledge Graph results will remain difficult to achieve in the foreseeable future for most small brands and businesses.

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