The rules for SEO are constantly changing. Last fall, Google made two big announcements:
1.Hummingbird – the biggest change to its core algorithm since 2001 – went live, affecting more than 90 percent of all searches.
2.It moved to 100-percent secure search, which now bars website owners from seeing organic search-term data in their analytics. Keyword data for search engine marketing campaigns (SEM/PPC) is unchanged.
Google has become so good at providing relevant search results to users that the days of site owners obsessing over individual keywords are over. Integrators should focus on the intentions of shoppers (keyword themes), execute a content strategy around buyer personas and these themes, and then measure results at the page level.
The Power of Conversational Search
Google continues to dominate local search, with a massive 70 percent share of all activity. In recent years, users have rapidly migrated away from PCs and now spend as much time (or more) with a mobile device in their hands.
On a PC, users are accustomed to entering one or more keywords into a search box. As more terms are added, these traditional queries quickly turn into a long list of words that sound more like computer speak than a human talking. Ad vendors continue to focus a massive amount of time, energy, and dollars into targeting specific keywords and long-tail queries in an effort to attract clients.
Enter the smartphone. About half of all searches are now done via mobile devices. As a result, a new type of search emerged in 2010. Sometimes called latent or abstract search, the best term to describe it is simply “conversational search.”
This is where Hummingbird shines, with the latest algorithm changes now making Google better able to turn natural language searches into relevant search results.
Today, shoppers are much more apt to speak directly into their phone to ask “Where is a local AV integrator?” than to open a browser and type “audiovisual integrator san francisco.” The key for Google (and its rival, Apple) is to win the race to develop the technology necessary to smoothly turn these questions into highly relevant answers in the form of both organic website links (your content) and text (PC & mobile), display and video ads.
Think User Intent and Content Strategy
The time has come to stop obsessing over keywords as your end-all, be-all strategy. You still need to be sure the right words appear on the right pages in the right places, but simply stuffing your site with keywords and phrases will now garner you a lower quality score than in the past.
Think fewer keywords and more quality and depth of content wrapped around themes. Ask yourself who your shoppers are, create buyer personas that outline their wants and needs, and then think about the products and services they’re interested in purchasing.
You need to provide the very best, most useful content for each potential client. Each page should have no fewer than 400 words, be professionally written, and be deep enough to capture subtle variations on the core concept. Think about the natural, verbal questions shoppers will use to get to each page and write accordingly.
If you’re stumped about who your best clients are and what they’re looking for, then email your client list, embed a survey on your site, look at live chat transcripts, and arm your sales team with a questionnaire. The more personas you build, the better you can execute content that will engage and convert shoppers.
Page Performance is Critical
With Hummingbird here to stay, your next big pivot should be to focus on individual page performance. That is, login to your website analytics tool to see how each content piece on your site is performing. Again, think less about keywords and more about the content (services, products, tips) that shoppers crave.
Focus first on the pages that are most critical to your business. Are your specials pages getting high volumes of traffic, or specific brands and products? Look at the pages that generate the most value and generate maximum return on investment. Link traffic to overall conversions (phone calls, completed online forms, requests for information, etc.).
Once you have that data in hand, you can craft an updated strategy for your content and know exactly where to focus your attention and limited resources to turn conversational searches into qualified website traffic, and ultimately more revenue for you.
Brendan Morrissey is CEO of Netsertive.