A few weeks back, we talked about the general direction of SEO so far this year. Maximizing for mobile, structuring data, upping the quality of content…all these things are more relevant in 2019 than they ever were.
Today we’d like to elaborate on that last one: making sure your content is in sync with your audience … and with search engines.
“Content is king!” We’ve been saying this for years, and it’s never been more true. These days, however, things are a bit more complicated than that. In the beginning, it was a matter of posting reasonably interesting content on a very regular basis, which was simple enough to accomplish. Unfortunately, that’s not enough anymore.
As of this writing, there are 5.47 billion indexed pages on the World Wide Web. More comprehensive keyword research and expanded awareness about your consumers are needed to attempt to break through this clutter.
Simply having content won’t engage users (or Google). Relevance is more important than any other factor concerning your content—even how often you post: writing daily, weekly, or monthly is great, but only if your content is relevant to your audience, based on the most recent available data. Create long-form, in-depth posts about topics, then edit as needed to position them as the best possible result for the searcher.
So exactly what is most meaningful to your audience? You may think you know, and you may be right. Nevertheless, this is where research comes into play. As a business, you’ll need to investigate a wide range of subjects that may be outside your niche, but which are nonetheless relevant to your industry.
It’s always good to identify questions others are asking. Try to understand the search intent of the asker, and be sure your site’s content answers those questions. The more questions you can answer—again, even if it concerns services you don’t actually offer—the longer a user is likely to stay on your site.
Another avenue of research might be an SEO competitor analysis, which is essentially an unbiased look at what others in your industry are doing. It can be instrumental in helping you determine elements—topics, word counts, type and number of links, and more—that seem to be working for your industry.
Having said that, Google is still going to check larger, established sites first; there’s no way around that. Sites like Wikipedia, AllMusic, or IMDB are where search engines star. That’s what make relevant niche keywords so important … and that brings us to …
RankBrain is a machine-learning artificial intelligence system launched by Google in 2016. Its purpose is to process certain search results, particularly answers to seldom-seen queries. In this way, it helps refine queries that Google processes … which is relevant in and of itself. The company admits, however, that RankBrain is also its third most-important ranking factor. So what does that mean?
Only Google knows for sure. RankBrain notes where users come from (what they were searching for), then records how they interact with search results. This data is analyzed and cross-referenced, and the results are ranked based on that (at least partially).
To put it in simpler terms, Google is watching what questions lead users to your site, and what happens when they get there. If users regularly click to your site and stay there, your ranking increases (or at least doesn’t drop). On the other hand, if few people click to your site, and/or the ones that do immediately backtrack, your site will start to lose ranking.
And in what sounds like science fiction, Google is now also starting to implement “neural matching,” which is essentially using AI to identify how words relate to concepts. Neural matching treats ideas like synonyms, with more than one word representin the same basic concept.
“Basic” is an important term here: just as with synonyms, the searched words can have very similar meanings, but there are almost always nuanced differences that justify the use of one word or another. In the case of SEO, this means that optimizing for niche medium- and long-tail marketing keywords has become even more important.
Technology grows more sophisticated every day: IT experts talk about totally wired houses in the near future, where residents can ask a question from anywhere and receive an immediate answer. The more your site content is focused on the specific thing you do, the more likely you’ll attract the audience you’re looking for.