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Opinion: Digital search is changing – your content should, too

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Big technological changes often go hand and hand with big changes in how we communicate effectively. Just like you wouldn’t send a telegram to get a message to someone quickly in 2024, you shouldn’t expect online communications channels to reach people the way they did five years ago.

One of the biggest areas for changes is in how people find content online. Gone are the days of typing a quick two or three words into a Google search and hoping to find the information you need in the midst of keyword-stuffed websites. Now, both search engines and their users are getting more sophisticated.

Social media as a search engine
Most people in Generation Z, and even millennials, have grown up on social media, and it’s natural that they turn that way when they need information. A recent report from Hubspot noted that nearly one-third of all consumers utilize social media to find the information they need, and 29% of Gen Zs and millennials prefer using social media over traditional search engines to find information.

So, what does this mean for you? First and foremost, make sure your organization has a solid social media presence, especially if you work with the general public. This includes keeping your hours and location current, as well as posting regular updates on what your organization is doing. The popularity of platforms like TikTok and YouTube means that you should also consider using video in your social media strategy.

As different demographic groups are drawn to varied social networks, it’s important to know who your customers are and where they spend their time online so that you know where to put your efforts. Are your customers business executives spending time on LinkedIn? College students watching videos on TikTok? Older adults scrolling Facebook? Customizing your message and medium to your audience is critical.

Searching out loud
How many times have you asked, “Hey, Siri, what’s the weather going to be today?” Voice queries like this are a primary reason search is becoming more conversational. Where users used to have to type “Springfield MO weather” into a search engine, they can now verbally ask Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant or use a phone’s voice-to-text function to ask their device to search for them.

According to search engine optimization platform Semrush, half of U.S. consumers say they use voice search every day. Since 58% of people are using voice to search technology on their mobile devices, it’s critical that your website is mobile friendly. This will help boost your search rankings as well as provide your website users with a much better experience and impression of your organization. It’s also important that the information your site provides is clear, relevant and customer focused. Users, and search engines, are looking for quick answers to relevant queries.

Finally, second only to weather questions, “near me” queries are the most popular voice searches. For these searches, it’s crucial your presence is up-to-date and complete on Google Business Profile, Bing Places for Business and other online platforms for local businesses. These listings allow you to be more easily found in these local searches.

AI elephant in the room
It would be foolish not to mention artificial intelligence when talking about the forces changing how users find content. AI-driven search engines like Perplexity AI and Google’s beta Search Generative Experience are coming onto the scene to further evolve the way people search. These tools summarize web content to give users the answers they are looking for without ever clicking on another website. This makes it even more critical to have helpful content on your website that warrants inclusion in these search results and a compelling reason for users to visit your site for more information.

Now what?
The digital world is changing at a rapid pace. So, what does it mean for you? Stay aware of the trends and evolve as needed, but keep in mind the reason you do what you do: your customers. Create content with them in mind, striving to be a helpful resource and a solution to their challenges. And if you need a little help along the way, call your friendly local content experts.

Sarah Nenninger is director of engagement at Mostly Serious LLC. She can be reached at sarah.nenninger@mostlyserious.io.

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