There were a lot of old practices that were/are being used to try and “game” the search engine results page (SERP). Today, it isn’t so easy to do that and that is absolutely a good thing. Google is absolutely the leader in the search engine space with Bing trying to be competition. Since Google is the leader, we’ll focus on them in regards to how it works nowadays.
The first thing that you need to know is that Google has had a major change to the algorithm at the end of 2016 with their RankBrain rollout. This is a significant and beneficial update as it allows Google to finally read website content properly and thus give benefit to those websites that have been trying to create content the way Google has requested that content should be created. Sure, good content would get crawled before this major update, however, it didn’t always read it properly. Now, the Google algorithm is able to understand context along with similar keywords/phrases so that similar keywords can now work together in order to boost the relevance of a website across the board.
Not that long ago, you had to create content for individual keywords/phrases as the focus if you wanted Google to understand what the website was about. Today, one good piece of content can have dozens of similar keywords/phrases and get recognized on the search engine. Of course, the more high quality content you have, the better it will be. The focus no longer has to be on individual keywords/phrases. RankBrain also has the added benefit of learning user intent and thus find the best web pages to meet that intent.
What we’ve seen regarding keyword research is that there aren’t as many dramatic shifts to keyword rankings with those shifts falling away completely over time. Google’s also employs different algorithms for each unique search, which makes it far more dynamic than it used to be. There are now new features such as featured snippets and a related search field called “People Also Ask”, which are additional ways to get the answers people want out of their searches.
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What does this really mean? Google’s desire to have users be the major focus can finally happen and we can do that by focusing on these four basic steps.
Improve user experience
We all know that there are many ranking factors and user experience has been one of those. With the new algorithms, we can shift from focusing on technical SEO and keyword/phrase usage to putting user signals as the priority. Once we do that we can work on improving the user experience. Click through rate (CTR) remains one of the most valued user signals with other signals coming from direct URLs, SERPs, and the Chrome browser to name a few.
Creating high quality content will certainly help to improve user experience as they’ll get the information they want and hopefully move on to convert in some way. To improve CTR, you’ll want to improve the metatags, meta titles and meta descriptions, so that they provide the right hook to pull people to your website. Rich snippets and featured snippets are also great ways to take the quality content and make it easier for Google to pull the information that best answers the user’s quarry.
Above all of that, making sure the navigation is clean and easy for Google to crawl will also ultimately help improve the user experience as well.
Personalize user experience
Helping people find what they want is always the goal, however, it is important that we work to personalize the user experience. Right now, there are new technologies that employ chatbots to help create a more conversational interface, though they are very new and still have a way to go before they are mainstream. Keeping an eye on the user’s journey through the website by see were users interact and then customizing content for the various journeys that people embark on can create a more unique experience. It can be a great way to funnel certain groups of people to the right places and thereby improve conversions. Interactive content can also feel more personalized than generic content as an interactive experience is more engaging.
Thematic continuity take precedence
Google now understands thematic keywords and so you should group content into themes as well by clustering semantically linked keywords and topics. A seamless navigation between main topic pages and subtopic pages is key. This boosts the ranking potential for those main topic pages and helps to aid in their ability to rank for multiple keywords/phrases.
User will find it easier to navigate to where they are most interested if topics are clustered together thematically. From there, they can find the answers to their various questions assuming that there is high quality content available that specifically answers those questions.. Each piece of content should be produced to be actionable and focused on driving conversions. This layout helps to find what type of content is missing from the website so that there is a direction for the content creation beyond the keywords/phrases.
Use simple, yet natural language
Making sure that people who visit your website find what they want is of course important, though making sure that the language on the website is simple and natural is key. You’ll want to make sure that the content you produce is geared around being natural and fluid. With voice search becoming more and more of a way for people to search, you need to be able to provide answers in a comprehensive way.
With many new devices being developed with intelligent virtual assistants, it is really easy for people to search via a voice search. As such, it is often very different than when people perform a standard text search. Text searches tend to be very simplistic search terms while a voice search often employs a full sentence often in the form of a question. Thus, making sure that your content can answer both voice and text searches is absolutely important.
Ultimately, it is important to realize that the whole is just as important as the parts when it comes to your website. The parts help to create the whole and all are important to building your SERP rankings. User experience should be prominent in all that you do on your website and all that it entails will help to build those rankings along with high quality content.
By: Doyle Clemence, Manager of SEO