Now listen very carefully I shall say this only once (sorry couldn’t resist).
Google launched their new messaging app Allo on the 20th September and it has already clocked up more than 5 million downloads on Android devices alone.
The majority of the launch coverage was dedicated to whether Allo packed enough features to challenge the existing messaging products WhatsApp and Facebook.
However, I’m going to focus on a single feature of the app, the new Google Assistant and how Allo could therefore have a huge impact on Organic Search traffic.
The Assistant can be utilised as a standalone “chat” or within a conversation with friends, and much like the Universal Results (Featured Snippets, Knowledge Cards etc.) in the traditional SERPS, attempts to answer the user’s query with a single result card.
When the query results in the answer being pulled from the Organic listings, a snippet is displayed which reflects the content in the SERP. In addition, a link is included below the snippet so the user can view the ‘Search results’, from which the content was extracted (see screenshot below).
An examination of the search results reveals that the answer being served in Allo is typically not the first organic listing for the query and instead often appears to be the Featured Snippet content that is being displayed in the SERP (all the more reason to optimise for them!).
The ability to have content served quickly and easily within a chat with friends or colleagues is a great feature, but the SEO in me is thinking what about my Organic traffic?
Referring back to the screenshot, if the result provided by Allo doesn’t answer the user’s query and they click link 1, the resulting traffic will be classified as ‘Direct’ in Google Analytics. Essentially, Google Analytics attributes any traffic without a referrer as Direct and it has long been a source of SEO’s ire that mobile apps don’t pass a referrer.
However, the key difference between the scenario highlighted above in Allo and a traditional social referral is that the user has essentially performed an organic search within the app. Therefore, traffic that would be classified as Organic if the user happened to click the Search results link (#2 in the screenshot), is now being attributed to the Direct channel.
John Mueller, a Web Trends Analyst at Google, clarified that the above example is the current status quo and confirmed that he would pass on my concerns to the Allo team.
— John Mueller (@JohnMu) September 29, 2016
Therefore, it appears that for the time being the organic traffic from Allo is going to be a new source of dark traffic in Google Analytics. In order to mitigate the impact, it will be important to monitor mobile Direct traffic spikes to resources that either rank highly, or are included in Featured Snippets and Local Packs.
The style of content being served by Allo is also of particular interest to the SEO industry, as along with the previously highlighted Featured Snippets and Organic listings, local packs are also being used by the Assistant in Allo.
The introduction of Allo may help to rejuvenate the importance of local packs, after Google’s recent local algorithm update and SERP tests appeared to reduce the importance of this feature. In addition, the use of Featured Snippets in the app, only increases the value of optimising content for query based searches rather than just keywords.
The focus of SEO campaigns has already shifted beyond simple keyword optimisation due to the introduction of Hummingbird in 2013 and Featured Snippets in 2014. Google Allo only heightens the focus on the production of high quality user centric content and further demonstrates how the SEO industry has evolved. Moving away from the keyword stuffing and link numbers (see our Penguin 4.0 blog post for more information), in order to adapt to a search environment that is unrecognisable from the 10 blue links Google introduced 18 years ago.
To finish I thought I’d leave you with some alternative titles for this post:
If you can think of anything better, please drop me a line on Twitter.