Google Predictions for 2017: Your Minority Report

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Within the last two years, Google has rolled out several updates to their search algorithm—Mobilegeddon, Panda, Possum, Penguin to name a few. These updates deal with things like moving dropping images from search engine results page (SERP), empowering mobile friendly websites to improving how Google search assesses the quality of a page. These updates might seem a bit fragmented, but they all play into the larger picture of improving user experience. This blog post mainly focuses on changes that might come on search results page and Google predictions that will make our lives more like the vision of a future from science fiction movies.

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I have listed below some trends in Google search, that are worth looking into, as they give opportunity to business websites to get more visibility on search pages (check out these Google ticks, too!).

Most of these components already exist, some are in their infancy and some have been around for a while. It is the direction and improvement around them that will be the focus this year.

6 Google Predictions for 2017

1. Smaller, faster, better featured snippets

Google is looking at ways to help people find information faster. One of those ways is featured snippets, which is a brief information box that sits directly under the Google search input field. You might have noticed featured snippets on different types of search queries, like how-to articles or cooking recipes, but it is not available for a lot of general queries. On SEO blogs and websites, people have referred to snippets as position zero, rank #0, as these are featured above all other results, and often the searcher need not even click to find what they are looking for.

google-predictions
An example of featured snippet

Google programmatically extracts information for the content that is being searched and displays it in a box above the results. For complex search queries, snippets don’t work properly. As Google is doing many more voice command searches, featured snippets are something that definitely needs to improve. When you ask your phone a question, you want the answer.

Businesses should start looking into getting their page content to appear inside featured snippets, especially if Google provides snippets for their verticals. This can be checked by performing searches on Google their potential audience would perform. Alternatively, they can monitor incoming search queries from their website analytics.

Following updates on these technologies can be really difficult for content writers and managers. I recommend that companies should hire people specializing in SEO work, who are willing to learn new technologies and invest time in implementing and testing, though it is the responsibility of all those creating content to shoulder this responsibility.

To look further into feature snippets checkout Google’s documentation on enhancing search presence. 

2. Accelerated Mobile Pages for different verticals

Google launched AMP in October 2015, and since then, around 640,000 websites have implemented the technology. AMP is simply a leaner version of a web page that loads much faster on mobile devices. Google prioritizes AMP-ified pages on top in the search (below featured snippets) under ‘Top Stories’ heading.

AMP posts on New.google.ca
Swipe between different AMP websites

Right now, AMP works for news stories, blog posts, recipes, product listings and travel guides. This will most likely expand and go into different business verticals, just like featured snippets. AMP is easy to implement on business websites that are using content management systems, like WordPress and Squarespace. AMP will give them more visibility than regular pages, and not to mention improved browsing experience for website visitors because of increased readability and faster loading speeds.

Simple app-like action buttons on AMP

AMP allows businesses to run ads, but it doesn’t have call-to-actions like “Add to Cart.” We can expect some types of call-to-action buttons and vertical specific AMP pages in 2017 to help businesses target the available revenue opportunities.

For getting your business sites AMP-ified, having all their content on a good CMS is a good choice. To keep up with AMP developments look at AMPProjects.org, or just bookmark this blog post (our marketing team loves when people re-read blog posts).

3. News verification and fact checked labels on SERP

This might not be of concern to most businesses, but this is something we will see this year. Both Facebook and Google faced criticism after the outcome of 2016 US election, alleging that false stories might have swayed opinions of some voters in the US election. Whether that is true or not, false clickbait stories do get shared faster on social media, and surface higher on social network feeds.

Both Google and Facebook are taking action by removing false news stories from their ad networks. Facebook is teaming up with the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN) to verify and reduce bogus stories. Facebook also demo-ed a new flagging feature on Facebook feed. Google announced that it is working with Full Fact, a UK based fact-checking organisation, to develop a real-time fact checking platform.

Concept mockup – Having a warning or some deterrent below fake news might become common

If anything, these changes will help legitimate business websites to rank higher and devalue sites that spread false, clickbait news. Even sites that have links incoming from those domains will lose domain rank and authority.

4. User Intent Optimizations

Google will start surfacing content that answers user’s intent rather than just looking at keywords in content and website address. This means the search engine will see whether the website page lines up with their user’s search query and actually answers the question the searcher is trying to solve. Google looks at search intent within the search queries to deliver a more contextual result.

Often times, it takes effort on part of users to rework their search phrases to get the information they need. There is speculation that Google measures user engagement whenever someone goes back and forth between pages on SERP. That information gets compared with the behaviour of thousands of other visitors. And that also helps Google analyze whether a link is useful or not. In the SEO community, they call it dwell time. Even if dwell time wasn’t a real thing (I highly doubt that), we need to make sure that website content is answering the questions its potential audience might have. Anyone who deals with online content strategy knows that business websites should be more than just a digital brochure on a web address.

User intent optimization also ties into Google’s Micro-moment types of searches. Micro-moments are times when people need information quickly, and relevancy and quality matters to them.

The moments of searching for information while in a grocery store to compare two products, or finding reasons to justify a big impulse purchase or looking up how to connect home theatre cables.

In all of these micro-moments, there is a delight in finding the right web page or Youtube how-to video. Speaking of Youtube how-to videos, they are the best examples of content that is geared towards intent, and provides us with just enough information to help us do our task.

5. Live events in SERP

On November 21 of 2016, there was a 6.9 magnitude earthquake near Japan’s Honshu island. If you wanted to know more about the situation in Japan at that time, you could search on Google, read news articles or look at Twitter links. Within an hour from that earthquake, Facebook pages of several different news organisations were broadcasting live video feed from Japan. In real time, thousands of people were looking at what was happening in another part of the world.

Although this is similar to watching news on TV channels, consuming media through social networks is now far more convenient for most people. Consumption of new information begins from a Google search, so having access to live event feeds via SERP will complete the information cycle.

Live videos on Google SERP might look like

Concept Mockup: Just a mockup of what Live videos on Google SERP might look like

Live video sources from Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat might still be closed off from Google, but Google has Youtube Live. Live videos could be a part of featured snippets or a simple label “Live Now” before website title.

6. Voice search and AI

Asking Siri, ‘What is the temperature outside?’ is way easier than entering passcode and launching your weather app. Word recognition on both Apple products and Google apps has improved drastically, and it’s quite fun to use now. It does fail every now or then, if there is noise in the background or if the search query requires multiple sources of information. We can expect to see a much better voice recognition in 2017. Featured snippets feed information to the voice search answers, so Google has to work on both.

Google, like other tech giants, is investing heavily on artificial intelligence. Their neural network can read as well as any human. Within a decade, we could be looking at a totally different way of interacting with app user interfaces. As for this year and the year after, the internet will only see voice commands for looking up information, automating simple app tasks. Think of how nice it will be not to book your own restaurant reservations or flights—one day AI will take care of that for us.


All of these predictions touch different components, but they all tie together. Voice search is heavily dependent on featured snippets, which relies on intent based copy.

As I said before, following the whole Google shebang can be really difficult for business owners and managers. An easy first step to do would be to get all the website content on a content management system that allows you to use AMP, has a good sitemap plugins.

We are heading into a future with unified products and service providers.


The Future

Written by A.I.

January 03, 2022

Based on a true imagination.

INT. – YOUR GOOGLE CAR – 5PM – FRIDAY

YOU

Hey Google, take me to the grocery store on the way home. And show me the list of things I need to buy.

GOOGLE A.I.

Sure. These are food items your fridge is running low on, and two things you said to take note of while in shower.

Car displays a list of items on the screen

GOOGLE A.I. (cont.)

You should add these antioxidant rich foods to your diet. I noticed a sharp rise in your resting heart rate since you sat in your seat.

YOU

Yes, add the first two things to my list and send them to my phone.

Your car spots a large black truck tailing you with approximately four cars length since you left your office. Your car pings, receives no response from the tailing vehicle, as if no one was inside it.

[Cue the X-files theme song]

Akshay Chauhan

Akshay Chauhan has learned and experimented with every medium in digital storytelling from directing a 3D animated short film to developing mobile apps. He spent a few years doing graphic design and later switched into user experience and product design. On the marketing team at Vendasta, he is a unique mix of design, SEO and user experience marketing.