The quiet period before the start of a new year helps us to find peace of mind and to reflect on the fundamental questions in life before embarking on a new year full of surprises and changes. As always, there are also surprises and changes in store for the SEO landscape. Here are the SEO news for January.
1) SEO at its limit: Is there still any organic traffic growth?
Using extensive data, SEO expert Rand Fishkin has been searching for an answer to the question of whether search engines can still honour their promise to act as inexhaustible traffic sources with huge growth potential more than 20 years after the launch of Infoseek, Altavista and Lycos. Fishkin explores in detail the questions of a) whether the number of queries on Google is still growing and b) whether the volume of queries asked on landing pages outside of Google has decreased. The answer: Both. On the one hand, Google traffic is still increasing by 10 percent per year on average despite seasonal fluctuations and the increasing importance of Amazon as a starting point for transactional searches. On the other hand, the new Google search result features, such as instant answers, featured snippets and interactive knowledge panels, have ensured that approximately 23 percent less traffic found its way from Google to other websites in comparison to the same time the previous year. According to Fishkin, so far the traffic growth has still been able to make up for the loss of clicks. But even the SEO master Fishkin did not expect the results to be so revealing.
2) Google Analytics examines individual users
The free online tracking suite “Google Analytics” has had a real success story since its launch in November 2005. It is currently used by more than half of the world’s websites. The continuous development of measuring technology and graphical user interfaces were always prerequisites for Google in order for them to keep up with transforming digital marketing channels and to represent the constantly changing consumer decision journey in all its forms in the best possible way. Since mid-December, Google Analytics has expanded its features to place individual users at the centre of its analysis. This is news that will make every SEO manager happy because over the past five years, optimisation of user-related added value and the increase in relevance to the target group have caught up with the old, empirical benchmarks such as backlinks or keywords. Google Analytics is now taking this development into account by providing information on the behaviour of individual, anonymised users over the entire lifetime of their cookie. This includes all sessions, the session duration and sales or transactions. In conjunction with the now more extensively applicable target group analysis, valuable data can be gathered to create and verify search persona and demand patterns that can be used as the basis for sustainable and content-related optimisations.
3) Bing: New search features with artificial intelligence
When you think about the news on artificial intelligence and its possible applications in search engines and voice-operated assistants, Google and Amazon have dominated the headlines up to now and have demonstrated their technological capabilities in the best possible PR light. Microsoft has been relatively quiet on this front except for a few bizarre mishaps from its AI-controlled voice-operated assistant. But this is about to change. The old giant from Redmond has announced that users of the search engine Bing will get to experience an entirely new range of features in 2018 that are based on the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. The new image search feature which recognises and categorises objects automatically has already been live since December. This should burst the much-discussed “filter bubble” in the news search feature. With the “machine reading” system, texts will not only be recognised and understood, but aspects such as the political perspective will be identified, which means that Microsoft will be able to ensure balance in their search results. According to Microsoft, another new feature will be the improved auto-complete function on the search screen in order to achieve higher search result relevance. The Windows veterans don’t want to limit the use of artificial search intelligence to Bing. Microsoft has announced their intention to implement corresponding features soon in Office products OneDrive, SharePoint and Excel. This is a route that is not available to competitor Google, and so we are anxious to see how it works.
4) Welcome! Yandex has given us Alice
If your active circle of friends becomes smaller and smaller as you get older, the prospect of virtual acquaintances is even more exciting. Over the last few years, we’ve been able to get to know Alexa (Amazon), Allo (Google), Bixby (Samsung) and Cortana (Microsoft). If you were thinking that the next voice-operated assistant would have a name starting with “D”, you’d be wrong. The Russian search engine giant Yandex has named its youngest daughter Alice (Russian: Алиса). Since the end of 2017, Alice has been providing Yandex search results, weather reports, games and nursery rhymes. Of course, Skills can also be developed for her platform. In her own words, Alice provides the most reliable recognition of the Russian language and thanks to artificial intelligence, she can automatically identify the user’s search intention. So far, however, we have only been able to meet Alice in the Yandex app, but according to the company, further products are already being planned.