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Kiwi businesses warned that Google is moving the goal posts

09 May 2019

The traditional race to be number one on Google’s organic search results has changed again as updates to online search algorithms shift the focus to showcasing ‘Featured Snippets’ and ‘Micro-Moments’ – superseding how the search engines used to work.

Insight Online CEO Kim Voon said that another shift in how Google organises information into ‘micro-moments’ is threatening to leave behind many New Zealand companies – especially retailers – and it may be a long way back.

“Anybody who uses Google may have noticed the appearance of a box featuring a small bite-sized chunk of information at the top of the page, usually in answer to a specific question. It’s called a ‘Featured Snippet’ and it is another development from Google’s search algorithms.

“Featured Snippets are part of the micro-moments strategy for Google, which focuses on the seconds when people turn to a device to perform some immediate activity. For example, to make a purchase, get directions, order food or finding something out.”

“To have your retail businesses appear in that box is quite a prize, because it is immediately noticeable, and it trumps the ‘traditional’ organic listings that have been so highly sought after over the years. The new rank is being called position #0.”

Search queries that are specific, like ‘how do I change the oil in my car?’, ‘keeping piercings clean NZ’, and ‘how to make my shoes not slippery’ will yield a ‘featured snippet’ at the top of the page.

Voon said anecdotally, after coming into contact with New Zealand organisations on a daily basis, most organisations aren’t even aware of the shift, never mind taking advantage of it.

“They’re still chasing old goals, but of course that’s an opportunity isn’t it? The time to get in is now and although it may take a bit of time, it’s not that hard.”

He offers the following tips for businesses who want to take advantage and leapfrog competitors in the search results:

1. Use lists, bullet points or formulas

Voon said most retailers and businesses will know the obvious ‘solution’ orientated questions customers ask.

“The best questions to answer are those that require a formula, a recipe or a list. Identify the question, write out the answer in a list or bullet points and publish it on your website – it doesn’t have to be a stand-alone page either.

“The key is to structure the information in a list format. If the answer isn’t a formula, list multiple solutions.”
 
2. Stay current and relevant
 
“Make sure you are providing information around the products and services that are popular right now. That means keeping a constant eye out for shifts and trends in consumer behaviour and responding as they occur.

“For example, as we go into winter our shoes become more slippery so you’ll see a spike in people searching for a solution – the need for information is as seasonal as consumer shopping habits,” Voon said.
 
3. Make sure you’re coded for Featured Snippets
 
“There is a piece of code called ‘structured data’ that you can add to your website. It will help Google understand, or interpret, much more about the intent of your page.

“The easier it is for Google to digest your content or better understand what you are trying to achieve with your webpage, the better your webpage will perform,” Voon said.

Information structured for ‘Micro-Moments’ and ‘Featured Snippets’ are the antithesis of the in-depth, book-length information website owners had been instructed to use in the past.