Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird—if it’s your job to care about SEO, these critters have complicated your life in recent years. The new Google search algorithms they represent, along with other ongoing updates—as many as 500 or more per year—have changed the rules for driving quality traffic to your web site. These days, it’s about looking beyond keywords.
Gone are the days of “keyword stuffing,” when bad writing and obvious gimmicks got you into the top page rankings. The new ecosystem calls for a more sophisticated understanding of keyword use and beyond. The happy news is that good writing is the new natural standard, and search engines that determine your page rankings are less interested in finding single keywords than they are in “content clusters,” in which subjects or topics are developed based on keywords and other related terms.
The easier it is for the average person to read your content, the higher your likely page ranking. Enriching content with images, video, and other media, adds even more to your content’s value. How is Google measuring that value? As you might expect, it has to do with achieving long on-site times, high click-through rates, and low bounce rates. This behavior is common with high-quality material, so Google will reward sites with users that browse in this fashion.
Clearly, optimizing today means writing to the real person out there, not to the algorithm—or does it?
The answer is yes—sort of…Yes, you must write to the user whose query should lead to your content. First, however, you need to understand that user’s intent. Why are they searching, and what, in the narrowest sense, are they searching for—which brings us back to algorithms. These animals measure correlations between your content and the ideal user experience. The closer your content comes to satisfying a user’s intent, the higher your rates will be, and, in turn, the higher your page rankings.
So, how can you determine user intent? Users typically have one of three goals in mind. They are searching for information that will help them go somewhere, do something, or know something. Find out what your users want by regularly checking these resources:
• Review the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) to look for your brand keywords. You’ll get a quick snapshot of what people are searching for when using your words.
• Take a look at your FAQs page, and see what kinds of questions are recurring. Start anticipating the common ones by generating more content to answer them in advance and attract those queries directly to your pages.
• Reverse engineer the keyword process: take concepts you know your buyers want, but won’t yet find on SERPs, then get your original, optimized content out there, beating the industry to the finish line for that topic.
Make your content relevant to the kinds of users you want to attract, giving them the value they seek once they find your page. Reward their search with rich content, and Google will likely reward you with better page rankings.
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