It’s been said over and over – Content is King! There’s even a term for it now, Content Marketing.
So, what? Write a bunch of content and you rule the interwebs? Of course not.
Back in the early days of online marketing we worried about keywords – the words and phrases that our clients would enter into a Google search to find us.
While keywords are still important, the way in which we target these terms has changed. Mainly, because of how Google delivers its search results.
There are some major differences in Google’s search results that have a lot more to do with context and user intent than with simple keywords and phrases:
- Local results: a search in Google will yield local results based on where you are (if you’re signed into Google) or based on your computer’s IP location. For example: you search for pizza delivery and your results will be the pizza joints closest to you.
- Auto complete: when you start a search in Google, it will try and “finish your thought” for you. This is useful both to the user AND to the marketer. More on this in a bit.
- Did you mean?: sometimes when you search you either misspell a word or the arrangement doesn’t quite work. Google will offer other search suggestions to help you find what you want.
As you can see, search has changed dramatically from the days when your top search results were a bunch of websites with keyword laden URLs and little else.
Google is now producing results based on the “user intent.” User intent is the context of the search. Google has dialed in its algorithms so that the results are based on the context of your search as well as the keywords used.
When developing an SEO strategy there is much more to consider now than just the content of your site and the keywords within that content. You need to map out the user intent. What does your target audience want from you?
When developing your website and a content strategy to go with it, take your keyword strategy further. Keyword lists are still useful, but, consider the context of the search along with the words used in that search.
For example: you remodel kitchens
You want more leads online and you’ve been told you need a content strategy. Great advice. So, you decide to develop a keyword list…
- Kitchen remodeling
- Custom kitchens
- Kitchen cabinets
- and so forth
Now, think about these words as they relate to user intent. This will help you to match context with content and to identify some possible content ideas.
Who is your target audience and what do they really want? What is the intent of their search?
- Where are they? location
- What do they need from you? solutions, services, tips
- Will they be looking for pricing only or something more like remodeling tips? transactional versus informational
- When are they looking for your services? Is their kitchen is total disrepair or just in need of a face-lift? user need
In other words, should your content be…
- Educational: educating with articles, video and other content relating to the when, what, why and where of their search.
- Promotional: giving a bit more in exchange for a commitment from them; such as a webinar or eBook in exchange for contact information and permission to send them your email newsletter.
- Transactional: content specifically intended to drive a sale, generally content on an offer or landing page
It could be all three or some combination. If you consider the intent of the person searching in each stage of the buying process you can imagine content examples for each of these three. Take these ideas and map them into an editorial calendar or campaign.
Use Google to tackle Google
In some respects Google will show you what’s under the hood if you know what to look for:
- Auto complete: if you are searching for something in Google, it will offer text to help you complete your search query based on its own search data. Try it. Go to Google and start typing a search for what you do and see what it recommends to complete that search. What Google is showing you is what’s in their database that matches the search you’re entering. This is very valuable information and can be used to fine-tune your content strategy.
- Knowledge graph: the knowledge graph is a massive collection of data – images, videos, maps, statistics, Wikipedia type stuff. When you search for something, the results will often include maps or image results, specific information like statistics, or links to resources for the search you entered. Using this information, you can start to see what Google associates with the terms you are searching.
- Google Plus – Google’s social network is also one of its greatest sources of user data, including yours. Make sure you know try these searches while logged in to Google and while not logged in. You’ll notice the search results will differ. Also, if you don’t have a Google Plus account or Author Rank, get one!
Your target audience is what matters!
We’ve said it over and over, stop trying to game the system and focus on your audience instead! Google is focused on delivering the most meaningful and useful results possible to its users, shouldn’t you.
Instead of focusing on keyword stuffing, duplicate content and other SEO tricks, focus on the user. Use the methods below to deliver quality and grow your rankings…
- Content Marketing – create valuable and unique content that your target audience can use.
- Responsive Design and Mobile Microsites – don’t forget about the mobile users, Google doesn’t and mobile usability factors into your rankings.
- Social Signals – use these channels to connect with your audience and to direct them to the valuable content that you AND others created for them to use.
Remember; focus on the user, the user intent and how to convert that user into a devoted client.
What sorts of SEO efforts are you focusing on this year? Let me know in the comments section below.