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During Pubcon last November, Matt Cutts asked in his keynote how many SEOs where focusing on the snippet found in the search results and doing Click-Through-Rate optimization. Not too many people raised their hand. Matt grinned and said something to the effect that CTR optimization might be worth looking at.

Fact: Google’s search results are what separate it from all other search engines.

Google’s goal is to continually provide better, more relevant search results to answer visitors’ questions quicker. Some of the biggest enhancements Google is making to accomplish this goal are subtle-but-important changes to their results pages. None of them are new and mind blowing, but the common thread that runs through them can indicate – and maybe predict – where SEO is going.

Changes in the SERP

Site Previews: The Site Previews feature was launched in November last year, and even though they aren’t the biggest hit in the SERPs, I think it is the most telling change that Google has made. As shown in the screenshot below, the Site Preview shows a searcher the page before clicking it. One of the features highlighted by Cutts and Google was the content indicator that shows where the snippet came from.

Google Serps Preview- Content Indicator

The snippet indicator is intended to help visitors see why that page is relevant.

Rich Snippets: Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Google is pushing rich snippet codes. Though the concept of rich snippets isn’t new, Google is launching new snippets – the latest being a shopping snippet that gives reviews. Once again the purpose of the change in the SERPs is to help indicate that the page is relevant to the search query.

Google Shopping Rich Snippet

Location Indicator: The location indicator is one of the most praised changes by SEOers. It allows a person to change the location of a search to get results relevant to that location.
This can be important if you are looking for local businesses and news. Once again, they are trying to indicate that the site/page is more relevant to the search term. (Catching the idea yet?)

Title Updates: Last week I blogged about a noticeable trend where titles in the SERPs are not matching up with the page title. This was not a new change to Google, but many of us are seeing it more often. Much like a meta-description, if the title doesn’t seem relevant to the content of the page it will be updated by Google to match the search query. And where does the new title come from? The content and headers found on the page.

The Common Thread

The point I am trying to make is that each change Google releases seems to pull and rely more on the relevant content of the page.

  • The snippet highlighter shows the relevant content of the page.
  • Rich snippets show the unique code that makes the page relevant.
  • The location indicator helps provide localized relevant content.
  • New SERPs title comes from more relevant content.

Predicting Google

In this same Pubcon session, Matt Cutts said that SEOs who try to stay “ahead” of Google will be the most successful. I think that because of recent events like JC Penney getting penalized and other companies gaming links, Google is showing strong indications that content relevance, and even Brand Authority, are valuable ways to increase your search results.

Content is King … Again

We may just be seeing SEO coming full circle where content and relevancy is more important than links. This time it is much more sophisticated then keyword placement, though. Now on-page optimization will rely on indicating relevancy with content, code, third party reviews, relevant rich media, company information like addresses, contact information, and much more. I feel we are coming on to a day where SEOers will become site marketers rather than link brokers. I look forward to the day.

Let me know of any other indicators you are seeing that show the importance of on-page relevancy.