Admittedly, being the source of a straight voice answer is, at this juncture, of little benefit to the site owner, since the process ends with the utterance of the answer and there is no link back to the answer's source. But Google has been adding other formats to its results pages as well, and schema also affects who gets included in those new formats.
These include the "Knowledge Graph" summation box, a sort of mini-encyclopedia entry on an established topic; a "snippet box," offering an outtake from the search result with a link to the source; news excerpts; answers to questions stated or inferred by the search; thumbnails of video or image results; and a list of related searches.
"There is only one snippet result, and people are winning out big-time who worked hard to be in that snippet box," notes Britney Muller, head of SEO at Moz, a Seattle-based web consulting firm. "If you are already on the first page, you need to evaluate how the current box's page owner is marked up and simulate what is being rewarded with that snippet."
Obviously the Google algorithm is an increasingly stern taskmaster. "You cannot get traffic accidentally anymore," notes Clay. "Quite frankly there is only room for 10 in the top 10, but there are usually a million or more search results. When I started 21 years ago, I could get a site ranked in an hour. Now it takes six months. A lot of the things you have to do to satisfy the Google algorithm require that you be first among equals."
Alternately, "You should not think about the algorithm too much," says Chris Koller, head of Idealgrowth, a digital marketing agency in Dallas. "As long as you are giving the user the best possible experience, you are going to do well, now and in the future."
Evolution of the Google search algorithm
The following is a list of notable enhancements of the Google search algorithm, either announced by Google or cited by SEO experts, with the date (when known) of its original introduction. Each has presumably been subject to ongoing modification since its introduction:
"Panda," 2011: Hikes the rankings of sites with original content and cuts the rankings of sites with copied or low-value content. As for how an algorithm can decide if a site has good content, "It's not a game of finding the best but getting rid of the worst," says Bruce Clay, president of SEO firm Bruce Clay Inc.
"Penguin," 2012: Suppresses link schemes by reducing the ranking of pages with masses of incoming links from sites created for the purpose of providing links. Meanwhile, links from authoritative sites are given more weight than, for instance, blog links.
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