Ranking in Google is all about relevance of content to search intent and helpfulness of content to the user. If your website & content are lacking either one of these, it's simply not optimized. That means fewer traffic, leads, and customers from organic (aka free) channels.
Spoiler: keywords are NOT dead. Shifting search engine algorithms and new user behaviors have simply changed how keywords trigger content. Adapting your SEO approach to match these new triggers is the secret to maintaining & improving your rankings.
NOTE: The following insights are based heavily on information presented by Everett Ackerman of New Breed Marketing and Adam Piotrowski of RentPath. Big shout out to these guys for their hard work at INBOUND18! 😊
3 things you need to rank on Google & other search engines in 2019 and beyond:
- Topic clusters
- Featured snippets
- Pillar pages
What are topic clusters? They're clusters of topics that are connected to each other - think keyword variations, different aspects of a broader topic, and different questions someone might ask about the topic.
For example, here's a topic cluster that a human resources outsourcing company might focus on:
- Overarching topic: employee retention
- Subtopics in the cluster: how to improve employee retention, employee retention webinars, employee engagement, company culture, employee satisfaction, employee attrition
They're all connected to the main topic, and they're all things someone might search for to learn more about employee retention.
Featured snippets are results that appear above the traditional blue-link search results. They provide quick tidbits of info, and are used to answer voice search queries.
There are ways you can present content to increase the chances it will show as a featured snippet. Here are some tips:
- Format your main question as an H2
- Directly under this heading, answer the question concisely, either in a short blurb or numbered/bulleted list
So, a featured snippet for content on employee retention might be a heading that says "Ways to improve employee retention" followed by a bulleted list of quick tips. You can provide more detail on each list item after the list itself.
Pillar pages are comprehensive, multi-stage, multi-level website pages that touch on every aspect of a topic. They will provide both general and expert information; both quick research questions and purchase-intent queries.
Here's an example of what our HR company's employee retention pillar page might look like:
- What is employee retention
- What affects employee retention
- Different ways to improve employee retention
- Different services that can assist with employee retention - including outsourced HR
- Why bring in someone else to solve employee retention issues
- Is outsourcing employee retention right for you
- What to expect when outsourcing employee retention
- Additional services that can improve company culture & employee engagement
The goal is to understand what the searcher is looking for, what questions they'll have AFTER their initial query is answered, and then provide all of that information in one resource.
4 tips to make these SEO tactics work for you:
- You will need to produce content. A lot of it.
- Your content needs to be formatted to EXPLICITLY answer questions.
- The keyword is not dead.
- You need to understand your buyers' intent throughout the buyer's journey.
Ranking in Google requires a large volume of relevant content that matches search intent & delivers the information the user was searching for. You will likely need to write more content AND update current content to match these best practices.
Content should be produced & edited with ALL of the above 2019 tactics in mind.
In both voice and text searches, users are asking more questions rather than entering broad keywords, because they're looking for specific answers.
To meet this need, you need to know what questions your buyers are asking and what answers they're looking for. Then, you need to explicitly write out both the question AND answer in your content. This helps Google match your answers to searchers' queries.
The keyword is NOT dead.
The keyword as we know it has evolved. Previously it was a little flapjack octopus, scooting along as a compact, self-contained critter. It's mostly a head with tiny legs.
Today, the keyword is more like a giant squid. It has a big head, just like the flapjack octopus, but it also has many tentacles branching off and both the head and tentacles create a huge presence.
Think about it like this: instead of targeting a single keyword, you need to target head terms and latent semantic index terms (LSIs). Head terms are the broader keywords that are directly relevant to your business, but may be harder to rank for because of their broadness.
That's why you need the tentacles: the LSIs. These terms include the head term and relate to the head term, but they're more specific and easier to rank for.
Know your buyers' intent
Understanding the intent of any random search query is one thing. It's another thing to pin down the intent of a search performed by your prospects - what terms they'll use, what information they'll need, and what will keep them on your website once they click.
They may use different terminology than you would. Maybe they don't understand industry jargon, and/or refer to your products and services in a totally different way than you do. To truly match buyer intent, you must understand how THEY search.
Above all else, provide VALUE to your readers.
High-quality content is the foundation of SEO - this year, next year, and beyond.
Remember: ranking is all about providing the best results for the users. If your content doesn't do that, your website & content will NOT be fully optimized for search.