Love it or hate it, online marketing is here to stay and being ‘top of the search’ remains a key priority for businesses of all sizes and industries.Google continues to dominate this space and lead the field, driving forward with new innovations at every turn. With each new day that passes the platform becomes increasingly sophisticated and for marketers it can sometimes be hard to keep up.
So, if you’re starting to think about pulling together your digital marketing plans, what do you need to be aware of?
What has changed?
Keywords lie at the heart of any online campaign, but the way marketers need to use them has evolved. In the past, it was pretty straightforward – get your keywords exactly right and your SEO would work well, get them wrong and it wouldn’t. But nowadays, Google and other leading search engines are far cleverer. They can understand pages and semantics so well that individual keywords are just one factor among many that can affect your rankings.
Search engines are shifting more and more towards far deeper learning, which in future could have a major influence on whether your pages are shown or not. Rather than a manmade algorithm, it will be machines that learn what the best outcome is for individual people on individual topics. Clever stuff – however, it’s still some way off.
What’s important to recognise now is that effective SEO goes far beyond keywords. It is basically about having a well-designed website and strong content marketing offering.
Understanding searcher intent
Due to the way that Google and others are developing, it’s become more important than ever to consider context. Keywords and phrases still play a central role – as after all they are what people type into the search bar – but they need to be shown within a framework. Therefore, the best route to take with your planning, is to focus on overall topics, as it is these core themes that will make sense of the big picture.
The secret to success when using keywords today is to position yourself as an expert on a topic, then develop your content around that topic. You always need to have the intended audience in mind with anything you produce, as it’s not enough to just dish out any old content, it needs to be good quality, interesting and have value for your intended reader. You need the content to be read, liked and shared if your SEO and broader digital strategies are to work.
Understanding searcher intent is a huge part of modern SEO and it’s crucial you understand the concept, if you’re to be successful. In a nutshell, it’s about the ‘why’. Why is someone searching for those particular words or phrases? For example, if they enter ‘business coach’, does that mean they want to hire a business coach? Or are they just looking for reviews? Or even researching a career move? In each one of these scenarios, the person will have a very different need. Google understands this concept and will use it when choosing which content to show. After all, it’s in the platform’s best interests as the better the results it shows are, the better the experience for its users. That means you need to be providing content that will match the intent of the person searching for it.
So, what does this all mean for your keyword planning?
While individual keywords are less important than overall cohesion and relevance, in order to work out what content you need to write, it’s important to develop your keywords first.
1. Check out the competition
A great place to start is by checking out the competition. See which websites already rank for your keywords. Look at what they are doing and ask yourself ‘how can we do it better?’
2. Run a test
The best way to see how many people really search for a keyword, is to bid on it in AdWords and then analyze the data. Track impressions and conversion rate up to around 200-300 clicks.
3. Do a content audit
Before planning your content, you need to know where you’re currently at. Do a full content audit so you understand what you have and what you may be missing and try to spot any gaps.
4. Define your main themes and headlines
Next, think about the themes and topics that will be of most importance to your business in the future. Come up with around six that you will aim to own, in terms of putting together high quality content on each.
The subjects you choose to cover will depend on several factors, including:
- your buyer personas
- your customer journey
- the competitor analysis
- wider business goals
- industry knowledge and insights
- the content you already have
5. Build content clusters
Once you have your topics, select a couple of them to develop a collection of content around. Each piece of content should be relevant and they should all logically link together. There are two main types of content you need:
- Evergreen content
These are your ‘anchor’ pieces that will always be relevant to your target audience. The best ones will usually be educational (answering a question), not date too quickly and be useful, so readers spend time on the page. This sends a positive message to Google. They should be written with your keywords in mind but also be easy to read, relevant and of high quality.
- Additional content
Your additional content should support your main themes and help interlink your content – by this meaning they should include links from one page on the website to another. This promotes context and helps show Google that a page is important, which can improve your rankings for certain keywords. Internal linking in this way is one of the most important, yet often overlooked factors for SEO.
Long term keyword lists
When thinking about keywords, also consider long term keywords. These are longer, more specific phrases that a potential customer may use when they are getting close to buying. So, if you were an office furniture company for example, then rather than trying to rank highly for a broad phrase like ‘chair’ you may use something far more specific, like ‘executive leather office chair’.
While still important, these phrases aren’t as significant as they used to be. Industry trends clearly show that having content clusters is now far more important.
Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
The next stage is to look at your list of keywords and analyze the type of content that shows up when you search for each. Here you’ll be looking at the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and what it features.
If there are a lot of graphs, graphics or videos on the SERP, then you need to find a way to either get featured within them, or to compete with them through your own content.
Top tip: Don’t forget about your image SEO. When you check out your keywords, see what comes up under the ‘images’ search tab. Aim to have your images show up there too.
If you’re using some form of marketing automation software then check it, as most good ones will have some form of keyword tool included.
Finally, make use of these helpful tools. They can provide you with everything from ideas and inspiration, to insights and research that will help shape your campaigns.
- moz.com – the best and most comprehensive tools for keyword research can be found here
- answerthepubllic.com – excellent for finding lots of long tail keywords on one main topic
- keyword.io – another great tool that can help in finding long tail keywords
- Google Trends – helpful for fine tuning broad terms and checking for trends
- SEMrush – is a great keyword tool that can be used for discovering competitor keyword campaigns
- Ubersuggest – this tool can help you take your keyword research to the next level with tons of keyword ideas for SEO, PPC and content marketing
- SimilarWeb – lets you see any website’s traffic sources and uncovers their online marketing strategies
The key to successful SEO is to increase engagement with visitors. You want to be ticking all the boxes so that positive signals are given off to Google that users like your website. To achieve this, you need to be offering relevant, high quality content. Having just one piece of great content is a start, but it’s about having loads of great content! Always avoid anything that may annoy visitors, or put them off and consider what the whole user experience may be. That means thinking about how easy and enjoyable is it for visitors to use your website and to access it on any device.
Once you hit on the strongest keywords and phrases for your business, offer the right content and deliver it in the best way possible, you’ll not only increase your engagement levels, but visitors will be compelled to share and return to your website again and again.