Marketplace owners invest huge amounts of time and money in ensuring that their sites appear in those crucial first few SERP entries – because, as we know simply from examining our own behaviour, human beings are impatient, and rarely dig deeply into search results.
But if this general principle is clear, the same cannot be said of how to achieve it: the way people search, what they search for, and the devices they use to do so are constantly changing, usually in difficult-to-predict ways. In the fast-developing world of marketplace selling, this is especially true.
So, as the first quarter of 2018 draws to a close, we at Roobykon thought we’d share our thoughts on what’s likely to change in this area in the remainder of the year. Here’s what we see on the horizon!
Google's Mobile First Index, which prioritises the mobile version of websites when compiling search rankings, was scheduled for rollout last year – but by December it had still only been applied to a few sites. Some site owners might find themselves feeling a little in limbo as a result of this slightly jerky implementation – but for marketplace owners, the writing has long been on the wall in terms of the importance of focusing on mobile content.
As such, Google’s current pivot to mobile is just one more reminder that the versions of marketplace sites we design for tablets and smartphones need to be playing just as sharp an SEO game as their desktop counterparts.
According to Searchmetrics, user signals, such as click-through and bounce rate, will continue to grow in importance this year. We don’t doubt that this is the case, but as others have written elsewhere, there is a welcome move afoot to understand user behaviours in a more complex and complete way, which will ultimately mean moving away from discrete measures like CTR and towards a more holistic notion of ‘search satisfaction’.
For owners of quality marketplace businesses, any promotion in importance of overall user satisfaction is extremely welcome.
Many saw 2017 as a year in which search engines took forward strides in their ability to recognise and reward genuinely high-quality, relevant written content – and we expect to see this trend consolidating as the current year wears on. This is a particularly welcome development for owners of small marketplaces, whose competitive advantage stems from the deep knowledge they possess of the products and services they sell, and of the people they serve.
Of course, the technological basis of this trend is the progress we are making in natural language processing technologies – and these can also be used to generate written content, provided they are fueled by high-quality data.
The ability of search engines to process natural speech also underpins the move we are seeing towards voice-based searches, something which we’ll really see maturing over the course of this year. Home assistants like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home allow people to interact with search functionality at moments when using touch-based devices is impossible, such as in the middle of messy cooking or craft projects – and this development is particularly great news for marketplaces that deal in products that serve these categories.
As it may have been possible to suppose from the trends we’ve discussed so far, 2018 will also see a notable uptick in the importance of structured data within web pages. Gone are the days when it was good enough for your search results to feature randomly-combined blobs of text – search engines’ growing ability to focus on high-quality written content means that Internet users are also losing their tolerance for garbled text, and increasingly expect search results to feature rich snippets of succinctly-expressed, relevant information.
Nowhere is security more important than in the marketplace sector, where site owners handle the confidential information of both customers and vendors – and we expect this year to see Google marking sites that don’t have an SSL certificate as ‘insecure’ on SERPs. This isn’t something that will have much effect on established marketplaces, which should all have their security regime in order – but it certainly underlines for new players the importance that must be placed on security from the very outset.
As we’ve seen from the increasing emergence of e-commerce, buying and selling online is becoming more visual. As such, it’s crucially important for marketplace owners to work more closely than ever with vendors to make the images they use in relation to their products and services as distinctive as possible. And while there are clearly technical components to this, it’s clear that in the age of visual search, a wider visual literacy is of growing importance to SEO.
So, as you can see, many of the developments we’ve seen in search engine behaviour over past years will undergo some really distinctive and eye-catching permutations in what’s left of this year.
As ever, reaching those coveted top spots in SERPs requires a detailed technical understanding of the SEO landscape. But perhaps the biggest take-home, and a really encouraging trend, is that as search becomes smarter and more ‘human-like’, SEO is becoming less about understanding arcane systems, and more about creating distinctive, high-quality content around the goods and services that are offered on your marketplace.