Search engine optimisation began life as a way of either maximising your ranking potential using white hat SEO techniques, or spamming Google using black hat tactics, depending on whichever avenue you decided to go down.
However as search engine sophistication has evolved how relevant is traditional SEO for internet and content marketers?
This article explores something that I have named as Content Based Search Solutions, which is basically a replacement term for the once over reliance on traditional SEO keyword use.
Instead of cramming keywords and trying to build content around potential high ranking terms, content based approaches acknowledge the changes in search engine capacity and have adapted to how modern ranking systems operate.
The Demise of Traditional Keyword Use
Anyone familiar with SEO techniques has become used to thinking about content in terms of keywords. The principles of keyword use have always been fairly straightforward
- research a phrase that is searched for but not overly competitive
- place keywords and related phrases in the article
- post and repeat for next article
By linking together articles and writing on similar themes within a niche most bloggers and internet marketing writers could achieve high ranking articles for customers.
The problem with this approach is that content could easily become staid and boring. The continual repetition of keywords within a text made for uninteresting reading. And since many blog writers were just looking for a ranking to bring in traffic, then the quality and length of content often wasn’t sufficient to meet reader’s requirements or give them enough information.
Content Based SEO Writing
Some bloggers and internet marketing writers have already started to adapt to meeting the reader’s requirements by increasing post length and using alternative keyword phrases. This provides more information but is still focused on the inclusion of specific keywords.
Keyword Use in 2016
In response many more sophisticated keyword tools have now been developed, since the early days of SEO keyword stuffing. Tools such as Jaaxy can offer alternative phrases for standard keywords, and these are based on current and prior search engine searches, made by real people.
Because of this blog posts and articles are more likely to be based upon specific keyword phrases. These seek to target certain customers and match to known search requests.
As a result keyword stuffing and using repetition of the same phrase, has been replaced with more natural styles of writing. Most good marketing writers know that Google is quite capable of detecting linked words and associated language phrases without overusing the same exact word.
When Google introduced the Hummingbird changes in 2013 one of the aims was to better match its searchers requests to more relevant sites.
Google was trying to act more like a human and less like a computerised database. The system has evolved from a simple search and retrieve, to analysing text and interpreting meaning.
As a result of these changes to the search algorithm one word or a particular phrase is no longer sufficient to include within a blog post or article.
Context is Important
Google wants to know the context in which you are writing, so that it can compare that more accurately to what the searcher is likely to be wanting to know.
For example if Apple is a keyword in your article, then the search engine will be looking for contextual words to determine whether you are discussing about the fruit or the computer company.
Semantic Search Function
The way in which search queries are processed has also changed and are no longer taken quite as literally. The introduction of the semantic search function by Microsoft around 2010, was also added by Google a couple of years later into their results.
Semantic search effectively tries to answer the question you as the searcher may be asking, instead of just listing websites that contain the word or phrase in them.
For example if I search Who is the President of the U.S here is the result – so Google gives me the answer directly rather than sending me off to a specific website.
Search Engines Want Content That Seeks To Answer Questions or Help Searchers
In order to give their searchers the best results, search engines want to match all their queries to best fit websites.
If a searcher asks a question, then Google will be looking for information and words associated with the answer, rather than just matching the words of the question.
For example – when I ask the search query ‘Why is Ireland so wet’
The first result is as shown below.
The search engine knew that I was talking about the weather and even though the description shown doesn’t mention the word wet at all, Google knows that precipitation is another word for wet in this context.
The first result also explains the answer to my question – it is wet due to it’s proximity and location to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf Stream.
Sophisticated Search Results
In order to achieve a ranking for these types of search results the articles you are posting need to know what questions people are asking, and to be able to provide a good quality answer.
This is where a more considered ‘content based search solution’ is needed.
Content Based Search Solutions
Content based search solutions form part of your overall content marketing strategy. However instead of asking questions such as what keyword ranks well, the process starts by asking;
What are searchers asking about this keyword?
Traditional SEO might have been seen as a bit of a gamble, throwing a dice and choosing a keyword that might be searched for.
By knowing what searchers are asking for then this risk is reduced. You already know what people will be asking and the actual keyword used is less relevant.
As long as you provide an answer to the query, or a number of queries related to a theme, then Google or Bing will make the connections.
Content Marketing Research
Most SEO content writers are already engaged in keyword research, so the research time needed for content based approaches is very similar, only the focus shifts slightly.
Research also becomes much broader with an emphasis on understanding readers and searchers, rather than purely focusing on keywords and competition for searches.
How to predict Search Queries
Predicting search queries is back to the traditional marketing position of knowing your customer. The more you engage and interact with real people and hear their dilemmas and concerns, then the more likely you will be to respond to their exact problems.
General forums such as Quora offer an ideal opportunity to see what people are asking within your niche area, and to see the quality and type of responses and answers that they are receiving. If responses are poor this is possibly a gap in the knowledge market that you could fill.
Specific niche forums such as Wealthy Affiliate – also offer opportunities to witness the conversations and questions that are being asked within this sector. Social media groups where there is interaction and engagement are other opportunities.
Google’s Own Search Predict
One of the ways to predict questions is to look at Google’s own predictions, which are based upon prior searches.
If I start to type in a query such as ‘What is the best SEO …’ then Google automatically starts adding the end of this sentence, based upon previous search requests.
All of these approaches are used together to develop a suitable heading, that matches known search query interests and which understands exactly what information a reader will be looking for in your blog.
Content Based Search Solutions
Content writing is obviously a key part of this process and the research is the framework that supports everything.
- Understand your audience and what they need
- Research questions and problems that need to be answered
- Look for keywords relevant to these queries but also explore the quality of existing answers to these problems.
- Focus content writing on delivering solutions and answers
The only difference is to refocus keyword research to become more integrated with reader’s expectations and needs. Content is now no longer for search engines or perhaps the gap between search engines and people is diminishing fast.
The Future of SEO
There is no doubt that SEO techniques and search engine results are both evolving. Traditional ways of getting ranked are proving less successful, and for marketing sites this could be bad news.
For content writers life has probably just become more exciting, as they can now have more flexibility to write for a real audience rather than being constrained by a set of keywords.
However like content marketing generally it is a slow process, but one that is potentially more rewarding as long term ranking is assured, as long as the content remains relevant.
I would love to hear of other predictions as to where content marketing SEO techniques are headed and especially the future role of keywords, so please do leave a comment below, thanks.