Keywords that are exact matches can be used to search for patterns and trends, but they don’t work well for optimization purposes
Optimize for intent when optimizing keywords. Don’t just match your webpage to the keyword
Brand-driven Keywords should be your first priority. While you cannot control the SERPs, you can rank assets that will bring people back to your website.
Don’t focus on keywords strings. Instead, do your research on niche entities. Find the ways you can associate your business with them through on-site content and PR/linking efforts.
Ask an SEO expert to name the one SEO tactic they think has been the most successful over time. They will likely answer, “link building”.
While most SEO tasks are now completely different, few SEO professionals have modified the way they keyword research and optimize content to match those keywords.
We seem to have finally abandoned keyword density (unless Google makes it mandatory ), but the fundamentals of what we do are the same: We use keyword tools to find keywords and then use them throughout a page.
Google’s treatment of keywords has evolved significantly over the past year.
1. Exact-match keywords are becoming obsolete
Google has a long history in trying to understand search queries beyond the matching string of words to the documents in its search index.
It all began years ago when Hummingbird was first quietly introduced, then officially announced in August 2013.
But, very few SEOs understood the update and realized how significant it was to all they knew.
Google’s Hummingbird service made it clear that Google was striving to gain a deeper understanding about search journeys, which would eventually solve all of their problems. They will not be affected by algorithm manipulations or fake signals if they can identify the exact needs of searchers.
Hummingbird was Google’s first announcement that they want to understand “things” rather than matching “strings or words.”
After Hummingbird, Google added BERT to its search engine. This helped Google understand how people search.
A short, but very informative video explains the difficulties and solutions that Google engineers have found in trying to get the machine to understand what people mean by searching for something.
This video perfectly explains the evolution in SEO:
Google is still struggling but slowly improving its understanding of “context tone and intention”
Search queries become less predictable as more people talk to search engines the way they think
Stop words can add meaning and often make a difference in modifying it.
Here’s the takeaway: Keyword search tools still workspan type=”font-weight 400 ;”>. These tools help you to understand how people phrase queries when searching for solutions and answers in your niche.
However, keywords with high search volumes are not necessarily the ones people use to search for your topic. Google says that people search in many different ways and are often unpredictable. Google says that 15% of daily searches are new ones it hasn’t seen previously.
Google receives 15% of totally new search queries every day. This is how varied searching behavior can be.
Google is moving away from keyword matching and focusing on providing actionable, complete answers to queries. That’s what your SEO strategy should aim at.
The keyword search process that you used is probably still valid. It allows you to understand the demand for specific queries, prioritize your content assets, and structure your website.
The optimization step is something completely new these days. It’s no longer sufficient to include that word in page title, description, and headings.
When creating an optimization strategy, identify
- Find out what the query is asking for. Is it a list? A video? What product should I buy? What is the best guide? A guide to follow? Plural vs. singular can indicate a search intent that you should be aware of.
Search Google with your query and browse search snippets. Google is very good at identifying the needs of searchers, so they can generate search snippets which can provide many clues.
Note how none of the top-ranking documents have that exact search query:
Source: Screenshot taken by the author
2. Your priority is branding keywords
Search is becoming more popular for navigating to websites. There are many reasons why:
Only a few browsers let you search using the address bar. These include Safari for desktop and mobile, and Google Chrome.
Voice searching is becoming more common for people. They simply use brand names to search.
Image source : Screenshot taken by the author
These are customers who are likely to know your brand and may be ready to buy.
What will they see?
It’s amazing how many companies don’t know what results for their brand search. How many customers are lost due to poor reputation management in the in-SERP.
Three things you need to know about brand-driven searches:
These queries are usually high-intent. These searchers are typing in your brand name with the intent to purchase from you
These customers are usually your existing customers who tend to purchase more than the first-time customers
These are the top priorities for your brand’s marketing department.
Yet, you can’t control what your customers see when they search for your brand. Monitoring and optimizing for brand-driven queries are not a one-time job. It will be there as long as your brand is around.
- Your brand name should be treated as a keyword. Monitor your site’s ranking
Find deeper problems in your customers’ brand-driven search patterns. What can you do to improve those problems?
Image Source: Screenshot taken by the author
Your brand-driven search queries should be part of your sales funnel. This includes everything from the About page to product pages and even lead magnets.
When you have a lot of brand-driven keywords you might need a more advanced approach like setting up an separate knowledge base.
3. Key to success are entities
Entities is Google’s way of understanding the world.
Entities can be described as any number of things: People, places, brands, etc.
Google maintains a map of entities – known as Knowledge Graph – that is part of its understanding of the world.
Entities allow Google to understand context and search intent.
Image Search: A beginner’s guide for semantic search
Being Google’s entity means that you will appear in searches where your name was implied, but not mentioned.
Source: Screenshot taken by the author
Google can identify the entity associations that are used to determine what a search is about.
Entities should be at the heart of your keyword research. What entities are in your niche? How can you link your brand to them?
SEO is changing rapidly, and brands need to be agile in order to stay ahead. Your business will be 10 years behind if you continue to do keyword research in the same exact-match way.
Ann Smarty, the founder of Viral Content Bee and brand manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas, is Ann Smarty. You can find her on Twitter @seosmarty
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