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Mobile First to AI First: How User Signals Change SEO | SMX19

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Traditional ranking factors have been great proxy metrics for the past years and have made Google the best search engine in the world. But as Google advances to an AI first company, SEOs have to change their metrics and toolsets as well. Learn about how Machine Learning changes SEO and why User Signals and UX have to guide your work.

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Mobile First to AI First: How User Signals Change SEO | SMX19

  1. 1. #SMX2019 Philipp Klöckner @pip_net Mobile First to AI-First – The Future of SEO
  2. 2. Philipp Klöckner Angel Investor & Advisor @pip_net 2005 2010 2015 2018
  3. 3. Search Engine Optimization Artificial Intelligence #SEO #AI 1. Status | 2. Functionality | 3. Implications | 4. How to get started Slide Deck: http://twitter.com/pip_net
  4. 4. AI Already Omnipresent in Google Products
  5. 5. Search Engine Optimization Artificial Intelligence #SEO #AI 1. Status | 2. Functionality | 3. Implications | 4. How to get started
  6. 6. Classical Search Engine Optimisation Framework SEO Content Popularity Technical SEO • Inventory • Text • Rich Media • Video • Advice • Structured Data • Tools & Apps • Interactive Content • Links • Mentions • Brand Search • Comp. Brand Search • Direct Type-Ins • Sharing • All available signals • Internal Linking • URL Design • Indexation • Heading Tags • Href Lang Setup • Structured Data • HTTPS/HTTP2
  7. 7. Search Engine Optimisation Post-Panda (2011) SEO Content Popularity Technical SEO • Inventory • Text • Rich Media • Video • Advice • Structured Data • Tools & Apps • Interactive Content • … • Links • Mentions • Brand Search • Comp. Brand Search • Direct Type-Ins • Sharing • All available signals • Internal Linking • URL Design • Indexation • Heading Tags • Href Lang Setup • Structured Data • HTTPS/HTTP2 User Experience • Bounce Rate • Back To SERP • Dwell Time • Retention • Trust • Search Journey • Satisfaction of Intent PageSpeed * * 2011 Major Google Update named after Engineer Panda Navneet
  8. 8. Comparison Search has been in Structural Decline Post-Panda Panda 1.0
  9. 9. Search Engine Optimisation Post-Panda (2011) SEO Content Popularity Technical SEO • Inventory • Text • Rich Media • Video • Advice • Structured Data • Tools & Apps • Interactive Content • … • Links • Mentions • Brand Search • Comp. Brand Search • Direct Type-Ins • Sharing • All available signals • Internal Linking • URL Design • Indexation • Heading Tags • Href Lang Setup • Structured Data • HTTPS/HTTP2 User Experience • Bounce Rate • Back To SERP • Dwell Time • Retention • Trust • Search Journey • Satisfaction of Intent PageSpeed * * 2011 Major Google Update named after Engineer Panda Navneet
  10. 10. Search Engine Optimisation Today (2019) SEO Content Popularity Tech SEO User Experience
  11. 11. The Future of Search Engine Optimisation SEO C P T User Experience
  12. 12. Caffeine Update June 2010 February 2011 Google Panda Update Hummingbird August 2013 March 2015 RankBrain Amit Singhal steps down February 2016 May 2017 “AI first” Company Timeline: How AI entered Google Search Artificial Intelligence gradually changes how search works
  13. 13. 200 Ranking Factors
  14. 14. Google‘s Product: Providing the best products/answers as fast as possible. Ranking Factors: Great Proxies
  15. 15. Instead, Why not measure Happiness directly? With user signals>
  16. 16. Ranking Factors USER SIGNALS
  17. 17. This is not just some update. This is Google finally getting much better at „Determining Quality“.
  18. 18. In other words… Awesomeness. If you find better ways of measuring „Awesomeness“. Why stick to Ranking Factors?
  19. 19. Training Machine Learning on User Signals Refined Search CTR, Short & Long Clicks Task Completion (Intent) Quality Raters (EAT, Guidelines) Browsing & Supplemental Data More Background: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/09/17/google-tests-changes-to-its-search-algorithm-how-search-works.html
  20. 20. Search is Simple According to Gary Illyes „Dwell time, CTR, whatever Fishkin‘s new theory is, those are generally made up crap. Search is much more simple than people think.“ Gary Illyes, Head of Fake News at Google „…waiting for a plane and I‘m bored“
  21. 21. Training Machine Learning on User Signals More Background: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/09/17/google-tests-changes-to-its-search-algorithm-how-search-works.html "On the most basic level, Google could see how satisfied users were. To paraphrase Tolstoy, happy users were all the same. The best sign of their happiness was the "Long Click" — This occurred when someone went to a search result, ideally the top one, and did not return. That meant Google has successfully fulfilled the query.“ ~ Steven Levy. In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes our Lives (April 2011)
  22. 22. Google Patent: Quality Scores for Queries A long click occurs when a user, after clicking on a search result, dwells on the landing page (i.e., the document to which the search result links) of the search result or clicks on additional links that are present on the landing page. A long click can be interpreted as a signal that the query identified information that the user deemed to be interesting, as the user either spent a certain amount of time on the landing page or found additional items of interest on the landing page. A click-through reversion (also known as a “short click”) occurs when a user, after clicking on a search result and being provided the referenced document, quickly returns to the search results page from the referenced document. A click-through reversion can be interpreted as a signal that the query did not identify information that the user deemed to be interesting, as the user quickly returned to the search results page. Source: http://www.seobythesea.com/2018/07/quality-scores-for-queries/
  23. 23. https://www.facebook.com/SEOkomm/videos/318528095648724/
  24. 24. Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/SEO/comments/adgd40/google_ux_playbooks_proprietaryconfidential/ „Accidentally“, Google has leaked a few UX playbooks for major industries to make the web a better place...
  25. 25. Hidden Content Penalty or User Metrics? • Content has always been in DOM • CSS Layer • “Black on black” style • Manual interference? • Automatic Hidden Text trigger? • Or fast UX safeguards? • Would Google penalize anti-Art. 13 activism?
  26. 26. Hidden Content Penalty or User Metrics?
  27. 27. Case: Understanding CTR & Search Journey https://www.search-one.de/new-york-seo-case/
  28. 28. Increasing Levels of Correlation Between Dwell Time and Rankings Source: https://blog.searchmetrics.com/de/neue-ranking-faktoren/
  29. 29. (Session) Length Does Seem to Matter…
  30. 30. SEMrush Ranking Factor Study 2018
  31. 31. Since 2011, I‘m having red pills for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
  32. 32. Search Engine Optimisation Today (2019) SEO Content Popularity Tech SEO User Experience
  33. 33. The Future of Search Engine Optimisation SEO C P T User Experience
  34. 34. The Future of Search Engine Optimisation: Implications SEO C P T User Experience Hygiene Factors Defining the Top Rankings Ranking Factors: Good Proxy Signals for Website Quality • Direct Measurement of User Experience and Satisfaction (Long Clicks) • Extensive Testing and Incremental Learning • Training AI, based on Immediate User Feedback • Data Aggregation, „Reverse Aging“, Even Stronger Network Effects and Moats Relevance (You still need this!) „Understanding Quality for the User“
  35. 35. Implications of an AI-centric Search Environment User Focus More than ever: Relentless Focus on the User • No compromise on user experience • Understanding Intent, Needs and Objections • No more “SEO text”, useful content or no text at all • Strong Focus on Mobile and Speed • Paywalls/Signup Layer might incur high indirect costs • Embrace Voice and Conversational Search • “Panda Diet” – Trimming the weak spots of your website • Continuous UX/CRO Improvements instead of SEO Tricks & Arbitrage KPIs & Metrics How to Measure a Great Product and User Experience? • Conversion? (sparse data) • Bounce Rate? (unreliable) • Session Time? • Pages/Session? • Retention? • Time Spent per Month Organisation Challenging the classical “SEO Team” Approach • SEO has interfaces with Dev, Product, PR, Design, Content/Editorial, etc • Ideal World: SEO would be a frontend PM skill • Install tech. SEO as a PM • Create independent x- functional SEO dev team • Integrate Data Scientists & Analysts Tools & Insights From Ranking-Tracking to Pattern Recognition • „Why have I lost rankings?“ - „Who won and why?“ • Typical SEO Analysis: Data Aggregation & Pattern Recognition • New Tools should identify patterns and less obvious correlations automatically • AI can assist SEO (Indexation, Thin Content, Classification & Categorisation, Estimation, etc)
  36. 36. Feedback: Sad we don‘t get this…
  37. 37. The Only SEO Metric I Measure Daily… What matters most • Conversion (indexed) • Impressions/Session • Time On Site • Bounce Rate • Returning Visitors • Ultimately: Monthly Usage Time
  38. 38. Is Dwell Time the Perfect UX Metric? 1. Indicative for success 2. Measurable 3. Manageable 4. Universally available 5. Gets even better if multiplied with no. of sessions (Time Commitment = ) What about...? • Conversion Rate • Bounce Rate • Task Completion • Happyness/NPS
  39. 39. A Few Perspectives on Dwell Time 1. Average Dwell Time is heavily influenced by short clicks 2. Loyal users and brand queries always create better signals (unfair advantage) 3. Good Dwell Time Segment is: „New Organic User w/o Homepage“ 4. Dwell Time IS NOT a ranking factor, but includes lots of quality signals 5. Dwell Time is still a proxy metric for measurement of quality, not an input factor
  40. 40. Eric Schmidt on Brands‘ Unfair Advantage Brands‘ function is to reduce cost of research: Same information sold by brand = more value.
  41. 41. Is Dwell Time a Great Second Best Metric? "A simple statement is bound to be untrue. One that is not simple cannot be utilized." ~ Paul Valery (1937) (later “Bonini’s Paradox”) "All models are wrong, but some are useful." ~ George Box
  42. 42. The Outlook • By collecting user data Google continuously gets better at Popularity, Quality & User Experience • Classic SEO can’t save a shitty product anymore • More Affiliate and MFA pages will vanish for good • SEO Darlings will have to surrender market share to brands playing catch-up
  43. 43. Extremely Smart UX Tactics • Retailmenot.com • 2015 (Archive.org) • Sending Users to Competitors with External Links
  44. 44. Do ANYTHING But Sending Users Back To Google
  45. 45. Four Infamous User Experience Sins Navi vs. Search • Internal Search is existential for big websites • Users don‘t „navigate“ • …apart from „back to Google“ • Competition is one click away • Internal Search heavily impacts page per session and AOV Pagination • Never made sense in the first place • Unnecessary burden for the user • Even worse when site is slow • Modern learned navigation patterns are swiping and scrolling • Showing more items per page is already good „SEO Texte“ • Don’t call ‘em like that or they will look like that • Usually not essential for a better shopping experience • Unless you can help with research (ready to buy) • Promoting USP instead much better use of space Brand & Trust • EAT for YMYL • Borrow Authority • Quality Rater Guidelines • https://dejanseo.com.au/trust/
  46. 46. THANK YOU! /kloeckner /in/kloeckner @pip_net mail@pip.net
  47. 47. What if I slow down my site to increase Time on Site? What if I slow down the ICE train to make you spend more time on trains? 1. Faster websites have a HIGHER Time on Site 2. They also are visited more often 3. You can’t torture people to stay longer (as long as the BACK button exists)
  48. 48. What if my website is serving short answers really fast? Unless you‘re Google, you don‘t have a business. Good luck. 1. Quick answers will not generate any website visits in the future 2. Still, good websites serving information fast have a higher dwell time 3. Google‘s Time on Site is 10 minutes by the way…
  49. 49. The Panda Diet Addendum
  50. 50. Theory: Typical Page Quality (Qp) over Number of Pages (np) np Qp Homepage Category Category+Brand Facetted Search Thin Catalogue (low inventory) Dupe Content page „no results“ page highestlowestmediorceuseful 400.000200.000 300.000100.000 Page Quality (Qp) can be defined as content richness, engagement, ultimateley how useful the page is to the user. But also its revenue potential. PROBLEM: Since Panda (2011) this structure has become toxic.
  51. 51. TIME FOR A PANDA DIET!
  52. 52. Theory: Typical Page Quality (Qp) over Number of Pages (np) np Qp highestlowestmediorceuseful 400.000200.000 300.000100.000 Average Quality 😞 Quality Threshold 80% (mediocre and better) NOINDEX (320.000) INDEX (80.000) New Average Quality QTYINCREASE 80% Quality Threshold RANKINGS Page Quality (Qp) can be defined as content richness, engagement, ultimateley how useful the page is to the user. But also its revenue potential.
  53. 53. THANK YOU! /kloeckner /in/kloeckner @pip_net mail@pip.net Slide Deck: http://twitter.com/pip_net

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