In recent months, we’ve been blogging about changes to the way Google’s search algorithms have impacted SEO. The increase in voice searching and the move towards semantic search (which involves understanding context and user intent), demand that businesses and bloggers change the way they approach optimizing pages on their websites. Where SEO used to be largely about identifying exact-match keyword phrases and making sure they were used liberally throughout page titles, headings, and links, those tactics – like many other methods that have become outdated over the years – are no longer useful, and may even detract from the site’s rankings in Google search results.
This doesn’t mean to say that you should forget about your keyword research, especially if you’ve invested time and energy trying to figure out which phrases to optimize around. It only means that you need to be a little more sophisticated in the way you analyze keywords and decide to implement them across your site. Instead of trying to select exact-match phrases to work into your content, use your target keyword list to identify topics and themes that are most relevant to your customers.
How to Begin (Again)
Step One: Take a look at what your visitors are looking for when they find your website through organic search. You can find this information by looking at “Search Traffic” section of your Google Search Console. Look at the keywords returned – potential customers are coming to your site because they searched for these phrases and your site appeared in the results. The “Clicks” column shows you which of the phrases results in a click through to your website.
In our example screenshot, you can see that people visiting the Apparel Network website are interested in topics around streetwear and the garment manufacturing process. The information provided in the Google Search Console gives business website owners a great place to start figuring out what it is that their customers are searching for.
Step Two: Examine long-tail keywords – these are multiple-word search queries, often formulated as questions, that can give a tremendous boost to your company’s leads and sales if leveraged properly. Not sure what a long-tail keyword is? Take a look at this example:
- Search 1 (likely a desktop-based search): “health food stores Queens”
- Search 2 (more likely a voice search): “where can I buy wheatgrass in Queens?”
The first search will possibly return a whole mess of health stores – it may be difficult for your store’s website to rank highly in results for a broad search like this one. Think about all the other health food store within the geographic search area (Queens) – these sites are all competing for the same, generic phrase.
Now consider the second, “long-tail” search term. The searcher is looking for something very specific, and seems to be ready to make a purchase. If you have content on your Queens-based, health food website talking about the benefits of wheatgrass then you are likelier to appear higher up in the search results than you might for the phrase “where can I buy wheatgrass in Queens”
Step Three: Write and publish content on your website that provide answers to your search audience’s real questions. It might not be wheatgrass juice, but whatever the product or service there are surely questions that come up all the time. Offering informative content through your website is the best way to stand out as an authority on the subject and encourage qualified leads; it also builds trust and authority with Google Search as well as your target audience.
Any business hoping for a first page ranking in Google needs to commit to a consistent, strategic content marketing plan, and smaller businesses would be well-served by focusing first on building out good, robust website content around a handful of long-tail keyword terms instead of trying to rank for 100+ exact-match keywords. While focusing on the long-tail keyword isn’t by any means a new SEO strategy, it is one that has proven the test of time and will continue to be sound for a while.