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What Google’s Enhanced Autocomplete Box Means For SEO

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What Google’s Enhanced Autocomplete Box Means For SEO


Sometime in December, SEO experts started noticing that Google was low-key testing out a new feature inside its search box.

It’s an expanded version of the box that we’re calling the enhanced autocomplete box.

Over in the box’s right column, Google pulls the top three People also ask questions, and a People also search for section presenting numerous related terms and entities.

While there’s a wealth of information out there, most news outlets and blogs just rehash what the box is and how they accessed it.

But this isn’t the fault of those publishers.

That’s all the intelligence there is on that right now, since this is clearly just a beta test that Google isn’t ready to comment on just yet.

At the same time, the information that the new autocomplete feature presents is evident to industry experts.

Many SEO professionals probably noticed the new feature and believe they know what Google is up to.

Maybe we don’t have the full story yet, but I have an idea about where Google might be taking this.

There’s a way that SEO experts can leverage the enhanced autocomplete to perform keyword research and topic research.

What Google’s Enhanced Autocomplete Function Is

First, let’s cover what the new enhanced autocomplete box actually is.

Here’s a screencap of what it looks like:

Screenshot from search for [digital marketing], Google, January 2022

Google doesn’t give you one for every search. But for a few general topics (check out the other screenshots in this post), all I had to do after hitting Enter was to click back into the search bar once, and the larger box appeared.

Before we get to what’s in the expanded box, the first thing you’ll notice was that this thing appears above the position-zero featured snippet and the knowledge panel on the right.

What does that tell us? We can’t be sure yet.

At a glance, the new expanded box appears to be just a new way for the search engine to organize some of what it thinks are the most important search features for your query.

Down the left column, in their usual place, are the suggested autocompletes for your term.

In the new right column are three People also ask Questions, and below those are a few items in the People also search for section.

Note that the box does not contain organic search results, and I wouldn’t expect Google to start cherry-picking results to put up there.

Well, why would it? The results are already down there for you to see, in the order Google prefers.

Overall, the enhanced autocomplete seems to be a way to make your search a bit easier if you happen to be looking for any of those three PAA question topics, or to buy that digital marketing book, or to do business with GoDaddy.

If you’re wondering why Google would feature elements in its expanded search box that it already features right on the SERP, just chalk it up to further optimization of user experience.

You know why PAA questions exist. You know why Google’s Knowledge Panels exist.

What the enhanced autocomplete box does is simply relocate the most relevant pieces of that extra content to a more prime piece of real estate so you don’t even have to scroll to find it.

If you want organic SERPs, you can head on down the page like normal.

So, how do I feel about the enhanced autocomplete box?

There’s revealing information there that you can leverage for your digital marketing efforts.

Using The Enhanced Autocomplete Box For Keyword And Topic Research

At this stage, anyone can claim to know what exactly the enhanced autocomplete box is and how it can be used.

But I believe I can extrapolate what the box is supposed to represent.

If there is already a PAA section on a given SERP, as well as a knowledge panel for the more mainstream topics out there, Google is selecting a certain few items from each section to present to you.

You know the items you’re being shown are the most authoritative and relevant on the page.

Like what we’re used to seeing in SEO already, digital marketers can take advantage of Google’s selections to perform keyword research and topic research.

Keyword Research

Have a look at this version of the box below, for my search query [pizza].

enhanced autocomplete box for Screenshot from search for [pizza], Google, January 2022

You’ll see the autocompletes, the PAA questions, and then the People also search for.

But now take a look at the regular SERP for [pizza] below.

regular SERP for Screenshot from search for [digital marketing], Google, January 2022

The SERP is showing me just what you’d expect for such a query. I have a map of my location, the local pack on the left, and the PAAs below that.

Now, look at the enhanced autocomplete box. It’s showing me Domino’s, Papa John’s, Little Caesars, and DoorDash.

Do you see those entities anywhere on the actual SERP that I showed above?

Because Google is presenting me with these results, it’s assuming some things about my query, namely that I want to eat pizza right now.

If that’s the case, those are some options for me to try (like DoorDash), and a convenient way to get it, too.

But what if I was a new pizza franchise that wanted to compete with Domino’s and Papa John’s? What if I, too, wanted to get in Google’s enhanced autocomplete box for a [pizza] query in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania?

If I was savvy in digital marketing, I would look at the websites of those companies to see what their meta information was like, what they were using for H1s, and how they optimized their pages for SEO and user experience.

I’d look at how easy it was to order pizza from their sites or to find a location near me.

After poring over the sites manually, I would then take a look at the sites in a tool such as SEMrush to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

What are they doing right that my pizza franchise’s website would need to do to perform well?

Ultimately, I might find that those sites have healthy domain authorities built on backlinks and Core Web Vitals and content.

However, I could also run through those sites’ keywords to see what opportunities lie there for my franchise.

In the context of this example, any owner of a pizza franchise would have to know that Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Little Caesars are pretty big.

But you never know what your site can do until you observe a competitor’s keyword profile.

There’s a good reason why Google chose to put those three companies in my enhanced autocomplete box rather than three others.

In classic SEO reverse-engineering fashion, we can use Google’s choices to discover what kinds of results the search engine really wants to see.

Topic Research

The pizza example from above is a particularly interesting one for keyword research because Google gave us some search competitors that don’t even appear in my organic results.

As I keep saying, that’s evident.

But what about topic research?

I don’t think there are any particularly great revelations to hash out on that.

Google is moving the top three PAA questions up to the enhanced autocomplete box for some searches, and with those, we can also reverse-engineer those results’ SEO (to see what content works for those websites).

So, in general, the SEO community already knows how to take advantage of the PAA.

However, I suppose we can see the three “featured” PAA in the box as just more of a confirmation of Google’s confidence in those results.

This is to say: if for any reason, you weren’t paying attention to the PAA before, you should definitely be doing so now.

Google is telling content marketers everywhere that many people also ask these three questions related to your query, and that if they’ve searched for the general query [pizza], they might also want to know if pizza is healthy to eat or who invented pizza first.

Depending on your market niche, these content topics might be relevant to you.

Maybe you run a pizza blog.

Anything is possible.

The Takeaway

As you might have seen reported in the SEO media, Google has recently been beta testing numerous other SERP features that take up the width of the page, from featured snippets to Map packs.

That tells us that Google’s been wondering whether delivering content in that format is going to be better for the user experience.

Google's enhanced autocomplete box showing results for "schuylkill county" queryScreenshot from search for [schuylkill county], Google, January 2022

Users will just have to get used to any changes that Google implements permanently.

SEO professionals, though, should take note of the enhanced autocomplete box and any other beta tests they’ve seen recently.

Google is giving us some hints about some possible new SERP priorities to come, and it’s up to all of us to rise and meet the challenge.

More resources:


Featured Image: THEBILLJR/Shutterstock





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Rethinking Upsells & The Psychology of Opt-Ins vs. Opt-Outs

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Rethinking Upsells & The Psychology of Opt-Ins vs. Opt-Outs


Opt-in or opt-out?

Do sales increase if you present customers with a list of upsells to choose from?

If you make customers opt-out or deselect items, will you decrease buyer satisfaction?

Marketers will often tell you to always use opt-ins because opt-outs just upset customers.

But that isn’t always the case.

Psychology research suggests there’s a lot more nuance to these decisions. And the difference could be huge for customer loyalty, the customer lifecycle, and your bottom line.

Presenting Upsells To Buyers

While there are plenty of variations, ecommerce generally uses one of two methods:

Opt-In (Choosing Strategy):

Customers can choose what they’d like to buy from a list of upsells.

Screenshots from Amazon.ca, Domino’s, and UberEats, November 2021

Opt-Out (Rejection Strategy):

Customers must remove or reject unwanted items from their cart before purchasing.

Opt-Out (Rejection Strategy) Shopping Cart Upsell ExamplesScreenshots from Amazon.ca, iRobot, and Domino’s, November 2021

On the surface, these two tactics don’t seem all that different or complex, but research suggests the thought processes behind them are.

For example:

Question 1.

You’re building a petting zoo for your favorite hypothetical 5-year-old daughter to play in. Which animal baby will you put in it first?
a) Lambs
b) Kids (The baby goat kind.)
c) Chicks

Question 2.

You’re building a petting zoo for your favorite hypothetical 5-year-old daughter. Which one are you picking?
a) Poisonous Cobra snake
b) Black widow spiders
c) Piranhas

Question 3.

Your hypothetical daughter wants to turn the petting zoo into a Halloween zoo. Which animal are you replacing the cute animal with?
a) Poisonous Cobra snake
b) Black widow spiders
c) Piranhas

If the research holds (and I structured the questions right), you’ll likely find the first and third questions easier, faster, and a little more satisfying to answer than the second question.

Why?

The second question asks you to choose(+) a negative(-) option. There’s a mismatch.

In more dry language, researchers found that users (on a general population basis) make decisions faster and have less indecision when choosing (a positive action) desirable options (positive items) in a positive situation.

In a negative situation, we prefer to reject (a negative action) undesirable things (negative items).

Why?

Less indecision and interruption in the decision-making flow increases decision confidence.

Positive options or items require a choosing strategy while negative options require a rejection strategy.Chart/Angie Nikoleychuk

Why Action-Option Mismatch Matters

In the second question, there was a mismatch between the action and the item or result that threw you off guard. You were choosing(+) a negative(-) option in a relatively positive situation(+).

Just like your website.

And the effects can be long-lasting.

Research finds we’re usually more deliberate and careful when rejecting items. We pay more attention to our biases and attempt to be consistent.

It’s also important to note that when we reject a choice, we focus on the negative aspects of a product, service, brand, or individual rather than positive details that we would otherwise focus on when using a choosing strategy.

We also tend to engage in a bit of lying to ourselves. After we make a decision, we can reaffirm our choice and build our confidence in our decision by focusing on the negative traits.

“I’m delighted I didn’t choose the car that I originally wanted. The one I chose may not have all the features I wanted, but it’s much more affordable. It was a better choice.”

(In fun terms, this cognitive habit is sometimes referred to as our brains “synthesizing happiness.”)

Getting More Upsells

When we’re more satisfied with a purchase, we tend to be more loyal to that brand.

We’re more likely to buy again from the company, and we’re less likely to complain. (I know you know this but keep it in mind.)

Some research has argued that a pleasurable decision-making process, combined with achieving a goal (purchase), is independent of the consequences of a decision (the experience process).

So, even if a product ends up not being that great, it was still a positive experience. The user is more likely to return for other purchases.

If this is confusing, think of the buying process this way:

  1. Information gathering and discovery process: Top portion of the sales funnel.
  2. Shopping process: Includes browsing and information collecting.
  3. Decision process: Assessing, rejecting, or choosing an item or service.
  4. Buying process: From the shopping cart to the order confirmation.
  5. Experience process: Receiving and using the product or service itself.

The more congruency between these steps, the better the last step is, and the more likely your customer will return.

This concept has a considerable impact on ecommerce. Consider comparative websites, for example.

The Psychology Behind Gift-Giving Decisions

Research finds our decision-making preference may change when we’re selecting an item for someone else.

For example, we get more creative, rely on fewer biases, focus more on quality, and are more desirability-oriented when buying for others.

At the very least, we want to minimize the possibility of negative outcomes.

So, it makes sense that, when we’re buying for ourselves, we prefer rejection strategies (opt-out). We’re arming ourselves with information we need to feel better about our choices. We’re avoiding an undesirable outcome.

But when we buy for others, we prefer choosing strategies (opt-in).

Why? We focus on the positive attributes, the value we’re giving the other person, and reaping the most benefit from the situation.

In other words, we want to do good and look good.

What Does This Mean For Websites?

As mentioned earlier, this aspect of decision-making can be a big help when offering competitor comparisons.

Your site is hopefully a pleasant experience. Will you offer positive options to choose from or reject negatives? Opt-in to upsells or opt-out?

If you’re a retailer mainly offering holiday gifts, it may be more effective to present items or upsells consumers can add to their cart. However, if your customers mainly buy for themselves, you may want to test and opt-out or “remove” approach.

While these are general theories and they may not work for every audience, there is certainly enough research to justify a test.

They may even answer why you’re struggling to increase your Average Basket Size (ABS) or finding it difficult to convert when offering upsells.

More resources:


Featured Image: VectorMine/Shutterstock.com

Related And Referenced Research:

Higgins, E. T. (2000). Making a good decision: Value from fit. American Psychologist, 55(11), 1217–1230.

Heller, D., Levin, I. P., & Goransson, M. (2002). Selection of strategies for narrowing choice options: Antecedents and consequences. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 89(2), 1194–1213.

Lu, J., Chen, Y., & Fang, Q. (2022). Promoting decision satisfaction: The effect of the decision target and strategy on process satisfaction. Journal of Business Research, 139, 1231–1239.

Higgins, E. T. (2002). How Self-Regulation Creates Distinct Values: The Case of Promotion and Prevention Decision Making. Journal of Consumer Psychology 12(3), 177–191.





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Top SEO Trends Every Marketer Needs to Know in 2021

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Top SEO Trends Every Marketer Needs to Know in 2021


Search engine optimization can help companies significantly increase their online visibility and sales. What’s great about SEO is that you can learn how to do it yourself online and it won’t cost you a penny. However, it does take a lot of time to master search engine optimization. One of the most challenging thing about learning SEO is that it’s constantly evolving.

You always have to become familiar with new trends to retain or improve your rankings. Here are some of the most important trends that should play a role in your 2021 SEO strategy.

Follow the EAT Principle

The EAT framework was introduced by Google several years ago, but it’s now more important than ever to follow it because a huge amount of your traffic may depend on it. The EAT framework was conceived with the idea to provide Google users with better search results. It’s based on three different factors – expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

The main purpose of this framework is to give ranking advantages to websites with quality content. The first EAT factor is expertise, which you’re required to display in your content. Essentially, you have to display knowledge that’s at the same level or higher than your competitors to outrank them.

Being an expert in a certain field will allow you to craft useful content, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. You also have to display authoritativeness. To do this, you have to secure links from authoritative websites and pages relevant to your industry. Even if your business gets mentioned on another site, it can positively impact your rankings.

Finally, trustworthiness is another major factor imperative in SEO strategies in 2021. Let’s say that you have a paper writing service that you want to promote online. It will be hard for you to attract new customers if your website isn’t trustworthy. Some of the ways you can display trust include providing users with an easy way to contact you, associating your web page with a physical location of your business, having a privacy policy, and switching your domain from HTTP to HTTPS.

Local SEO

With more businesses with an online presence than ever before, local SEO has become fundamental for reaching customers in your area. This is crucial for every business owner that has a company with a physical location. Although you should definitely optimize content, headers, meta descriptions, and tags to target local audiences, your main focus for a good local SEO strategy should be to create a Google My Business (GMB) listing.

When Google provides users with local results, their algorithm looks for companies with complete and accurate information. If you set up a Google My Business listing for your firm, you’ll be favored for local searches. Some of the most basic information you need to add to your GMB page includes your business address, opening hours, phone number, website address, and category.

It’s always a good idea to add numerous photos that clearly display your business, as well as the goods you provide. Encourage your customers to write reviews about your business on Google, as this plays a huge role in rankings. You can also build trust with consumers if you regularly respond to reviews that you get on your GMB page.

Voice Search

Alexa, Siri, and Cortana have become insanely popular ever since virtual assistants were first introduced. They allowed users to search for information online more easily, which heavily impacted common search queries. While most people usually only enter a few keywords in their queries when they’re typing, voice search is more about posing complete questions.

What this tells you about user behavior online is that many people are looking for an answer to a specific question. You can improve your Google rankings by including FAQ sections on various pages on your website. Research what are some of the most common questions consumers in your industry have and write useful answers.

Long-Tail Keywords

You can greatly increase your conversion rate if you optimize your content for long and specific keyword phrases called long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are somewhat associated with voice search, but many consumers type them when they’re close to a point of purchase.

What’s great about these types of keyword phrases is that there’s less competition for them, which means you have a better chance of grabbing the first spot on search results pages. Although it won’t provide you with a substantial increase in traffic, optimizing for long-tail keywords will effectively help you turn visitors into leads. While your main objective with this approach should be to rank for long phrases, it also helps you achieve rankings for short keywords.

Summary

Every business owner should update their SEO strategy often. As technology evolves, so does user behavior on the internet. It’s common for strategies that yield good results to become significantly less effective after a few months. That’s why you should always stay up to date on the newest SEO trends.

Author’s Bio:

Charlie Svensson is a freelance writer and digital marketing specialist. Apart from writing articles for various online magazines and blogs, Charlie also likes to help college students with their essays. He currently works at my-assignment.help, offering his services to countless students in English speaking countries across the globe.



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How Does Google Search Use Synonyms?

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How Does Google Search Use Synonyms?


Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller explains how the search engine uses synonyms and whether there’s a human component to it.

Mueller discusses this topic when addressing a question submitted to the Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout recorded on January 14.

The question asks how automated the process of understanding synonyms is, and if humans are involved in helping Google understand which words are related.

Further, the person who submitted the question notes that generic keywords sometimes bring up knowledge panels for major brands.

They give the example of “moving trucks” bringing up search results for the Budget truck rental company.

Mueller touches on each of these concerns in his response, which you can read below.

Google’s Understanding Of Synonyms Is All Automated

Google’s system of understanding synonyms is fully automated, Mueller confirms.

There are no humans manually writing code to teach Google’s algorithms which words mean the same thing as other words.

“As far as I know, the whole synonyms system is completely automated. It’s not something where someone is manually working on a spreadsheet of synonyms and saying, ‘well this is the same as this,’ because that would never really work out.

We see something along the lines of 10-15% of queries completely new every day. So it wouldn’t be possible for someone to keep up with this all the time.”

Mueller references a video from a conference in 2019 where Google Engineer Paul Haahr explains in more detail how the synonym system works.

The video contains real-world examples Google has come across where it got synonyms wrong and how its engineers learned from those mistakes.

“There is a video from one of the events that we did, I think like two or three years back now, where Paul Haahr, one of the engineers that works on the system, kind of presented some of the situations that we ran across with regards to synonyms, where we try to figure out like what are the synonyms here and some of the cases where we got things completely wrong.

And I thought that was really interesting to look at there. And if you’re interested around synonyms, and how google figures that out, I would definitely check that out.”

That leads to Mueller addressing the situation where generic keywords bring up search results for brand names. He says that’s likely something that Google’s algorithms learned automatically.

Mueller reiterates the automated system doesn’t get everything right, but searchers are always welcome to submit feedback.

“With regards to that generic switch between “moving truck” and Budget Truck Rental, that’s something where most likely we also learn that automatically. And some of these cases we get well, where things kind of work out, or essentially kind of make sense. And some of these we get wrong.

If you see cases where we get synonyms wrong then definitely send us feedback in the search results so that we can try to figure out what we can do to improve that.”

Hear Mueller’s full response in the video below:


Featured Image: Brasil Creativo/Shutterstock





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