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20/20 Vision: Increasing Zero-Click SEO Positioning – Jordan Koene // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview: SEO experienced massive changes throughout the 2010s with the rapid development of new technologies, which forever changed the ways we shop, conduct business, search and connect with each other. As we enter a new decade, SEOs everchanging nature guarantees the industry will undergo more changes well into the 2020s, but what those changes will look like remains uncertain. Join host Ben and Searchmetrics’ CEO Jordan Koene as they kick off the first episode of the new year with 20/20 Vision Week as they predict the increase of zero-click positioning in 2020.

Summary:

  • Google is enhancing the position zero concept by answering user queries with concise top-of-SERP answer box experiences, eliminating the need for users to click links and visit websites.
  • The change is partially inspired by voice search queries and increasing the mobile usability experience.
  • A seamless voice search experience is still several years away, but Google aims to improve the utility of queries and provide opportunities for more detailed experiences.

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Ben:                 Welcome to SEO Predictions Week on the Voices of Search Podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro. And this week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering our bold SEO predictions for 2020.

Ben:                 But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. Searchmetrics is an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise-scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. And to support you, our loyal podcast listeners, they are offering a complimentary trial of their services and software. That’s right. You can try the Searchmetrics Research Cloud Suite and the Content Experience Tool to optimize all of your content risk-free, no credit card required by going to searchmetrics.com/trial. That’s searchmetrics.com/trial.

Ben:                 Okay. On with SEO Predictions Week where we’re talking to Jordan Koene who is the lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. And today Jordan and I are going to talk about his prediction that there’s going to be an increase in zero click SEO positionings, aka brand SEO.

Ben:                 Welcome to the 2020 edition of SEO Predictions Week on the Voices of Search Podcast.

Jordan:             All right. Happy New Year, Ben.

Ben:                 Hey buddy, happy New Year. How are you doing?

Jordan:             I’m great. I’m great. I’m excited about this.

Ben:                 It’s amazing. We’re doing this again. It’s our second year of SEO predictions. I’d say we should go back and review our old predictions, but I’m not sure any of them are right. So let’s just skip it and get on to what we think is going to happen for this year.

Jordan:             Yeah, accountability is very questionable right now.

Ben:                 Do you remember what our predictions were for last year?

Jordan:             I do recall. I think I made a prediction that something along the lines at Google Search Console was going to change more, but I think that’s the only one I got right.

Ben:                 I think we said something about GDPR and there being more regulations to something about voice search. Something like that happened.

Jordan:             Make a prediction about like the government clamping down on Google, which didn’t happen either.

Ben:                 California passed the regulations. There’s stuff coming.

Jordan:             CCPA just is coming into effect as January.

Ben:                 Look everybody, we may or may not know what we’re talking about, but it’s going to be real entertaining. Stick with us. Jordan, let’s get onto your first prediction for 2020. You said to me that you think there’s going to be an increase in zero click SEO positioning, aka brand SEO. What does that mean?

Jordan:             Yeah, so this is really Google continuing to push the position zero concept. More or less it’s the answer box lag experience. It is the ability for Google to answer the question at the top of the SERP without there being a need for the consumer to click. So providing ordered lists, providing diagrams, providing complete recipes within an answer box like experience. That means that the user doesn’t need to actually visit the website. They got all their needs met right at the top of the SERP without having to do anything.

Ben:                 So, here’s the big concern I have if you’re right from marketer’s perspective, not specifically just an SEO perspective. If you rank at position zero, you’re going to show your content. You’re not going to have attributable traffic coming from it. There is no click. You’re just sharing information. So how are SEOs going to take credit for their work? If position zero becomes more prominent, doesn’t that create a problem for Google that SEOs are … They’re basically going to hurt the SEO community by, let’s call it stealing some of their content.

Jordan:             Yeah, I mean I think this does get really tricky. And let’s break this down in a couple of different sections. There’s the stealing content component. Let’s table that for just a second here. But I also believe that there’s a huge value add here that is often overlooked, which is the concept of brand SEO. SEOs don’t spend a lot of time talking about branding or brand positioning, but I do believe that as Google moves more and more to this single focus answer like experience, there’s going to be a critical need for brands to focus on their ability to secure these high value exposure positions.

Jordan:             And what I mean by that is that, look, Google needs to become more and more specific about what they’re telling consumers. This is partly due to voice search, but this is really quite frankly, the demand of users. Users are looking for this. And so at the end of the day, I believe that SEOs, in order for them to really actually measure this, they’re going to need to look at brand SEO from a whole new lens. They’re going to have to look at impressions, search volume, positioning in a whole new way than they ever have before. And it’s not going to be the classic keyword rank tracking exercise, but it’s going to be more of like how much brand exposure am I getting? How many users am I reaching out to? How many local users am I able to connect with through these positions and provide reporting and analytics at that level?

Ben:                 I think if your prediction is right, it changes the KPIs, which SEOs should evaluate themselves on, right? We’re not just looking at average rank positioning, we’re not looking at traffic at conversions. We’re starting to look at more brand centric message, and I guess the thing that comes to mind is if I’m a performance marketer, I look at the brand marketing team and I say, “You guys aren’t accountable for jack. All you have to do is get somebody to see our name and you get credit. I have to get somebody through the entire funnel to get credit.” Now, the SEOs are now somewhere in between there where it’s like, “Hey, we want to get credit for showing the content and having a brand impression, but we also want to be able when there is a click to attribute the value.” SEO is essentially being positioned in between brand performance marketing then.

Jordan:             It absolutely is, and I believe that one of the key transitions in this is going to be due to the fact that Google has over the last decade or so needed to find ways to appease consumers in a faster way. This really started with mobile and like mobile usability and the ability to show an experience that provided enough information on mobile. But now as we move into voice search, the ability to attribute and to track that is going to become increasingly more difficult, and ultimately SEOs are going to have to put on their brand identity hats in order to be successful if Google invests in this more aggressively.

Ben:                 Yeah, and I think that’s the answer to why is Google doing this. You mentioned a couple of different factors. One, they don’t have to send somebody to anybody else’s page if they can just present the information on Google. So it’s a little market share grabbing. We can take your content, we can show it, enjoy the brand impression, but that’s all you get from us because we can. Then two, Google is gearing up for voice search.

Ben:                 One thing I wanted to say before I let you go, we’ve talked a little bit about this offline, how all of the predictions that we’ve been seeing for 2020 is voice search, voice search, voice search. Voice is taking over. People are only going to talk to their Alexa and not their spouses, right? Google Home is going to run your entire life. You and I disagree. Why?

Jordan:             We disagree, I mean, largely because I don’t believe that the average consumer has really identified where the full value is for voice search. There are key like pain points that are being addressed with voice and voice search, but there isn’t the full scope being addressed yet. You don’t buy your Amazon products seamlessly with voice search. You don’t research your health needs with voice search. And so quite frankly, I don’t see Google making a massive investment in voice search changes just for the sake of voice search. It’s really a bunch of changes that help users identify what they need and in some cases it’s being influenced by voice search.

Ben:                 I think you hit the nail on the head. What we’re going to see with voice search is we’re going to see a refactoring of how Google identifies and prioritizes content. We saw that a lot this year. There’s the sentiment analysis and the updates and the natural language processing and then the rise of position zero. All of those position zero topics are great for voice search responses, and what we’re going to see on the utility side is a couple of scenarios where your Google Home is going to ask you a couple of questions when you talk to it. It might be, “Hey Google, tell me where there’s a flight to Miami.” And it could say, “What time? What type of seat do you want?” There’s going to be a couple specific experiences where you can go deep and actually have more utility.

Ben:                 And Google will start plugging and playing these just like what they did with search where they took maps and they put it on the SERP, where they took Wikipedia answer boxes or whatever, a very format and type of content. They’re building experiences around that before we really see a massive change in the utility and usability of voice search, Google needs to do a lot of experimentation on what people want and how it works.

Jordan:             Precisely. Precisely and I think one of the first steps into that is the ability for search to become more brand centric and in so doing, that’s where Google can then make more precision-like questions and understand what’s going on because there’s a clear say brand winner that Google knows is controlling the real estate on this particular topic. And then they can decide for whether or not there’s a destination or transaction or more information that needs to be provided.

Ben:                 Absolutely. The brand SEO, the position zero all points to the direction that voice search is going to be incredibly impactful. I think it’s more of a 2020 decade prediction than it is a 2020 the year prediction.

Jordan:             Right, right.

Ben:                 And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, CEO and lead SEO strategist at Searchmetrics Inc. we’d love to continue this conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is @JTKOENE. J-T-K-O-E-N-E. Or if you have general marketing questions, if you’d like to talk to me about this show, if you’re interested in being a guest on the Voices of Search Podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes. You could send me a tweet @BenJShap. But we also created a Twitter handle for this podcast, which is @voicesofsearch.

Ben:                 If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/freetrial for your complimentary trial of the Searchmetrics suite and content experience platform. And if you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow to discuss another one of our 2020 predictions. We’re going to be talking about how we’re going to see an increase in featured elements from Google.

Ben:                 Okay. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.