The role search plays in the media landscape is still relevant. What hasn't changed is the confusion and speculation of not only how search works but also how to "do" search engine optimization (SEO).
The way search has evolved in recent years means you don't have to pay an expensive SEO consultant to ensure your content is doing all the "right things" to win on Google. Today, using the shady tactics of yesteryear — like keyword stuffing or invisible text to fool search engine crawlers — is the surest way to tank your rankings. If you're doing this now, stop!
What has changed is that Google's algorithm has gotten a lot smarter (no surprise there). With the introduction of Hummingbird in 2013, Google started looking at content as both entities and topics rather than keywords taken at face value. An entity can be anything — from the city of Austin, Texas to Forever 21 found in malls all across the world. Hummingbird marked the beginning of "conversational search," and the trend since then has been all about great-quality content that complements the way we now search.
The challenge of winning search is a lot different than it used to be. But there are still strategic steps you can take to make sure you're favoring both Google's algorithm and the SEO trends that are prevalent to make it to page one. Here are three things to keep in mind:
1. If You Want to Find the Perfect Search Phrase, Know What You're Talking About
The best way to find the right keywords to target for your content is quite literally to know what you're talking about. Google has recognized that accurate and relevant keywords often come naturally from corresponding subject matter. So first things first: You have to have deep knowledge about the topic you're writing about before you can properly craft relevant keywords.
Applicability has never been more important in Google's eyes. If you author content that flows naturally, is rife with correct information, and isn't misleading or offensive, Google will reward you big time for relevancy.
2. You Can Still Be Strategic with Keywords
Even if you are the ultimate Nobel Prize-winning expert in the subject of your content, keyword research is still a crucial step in determining what exactly you should be writing about. There are countless tools you can use — like AdWords, KWFinder, or Moz — to determine a keyword's strength, popularity, and difficulty to win. This article does a really good job of explaining how to do proper keyword research.
What's important to remember is that each search phrase you want to target (and eventually win) can have multiple forms. For example, if you want to win the keywords "japan tsunami 2017," also consider targeting "tsunami japan 2017." Many times, variations like this will return different results and strength levels. This is also a good way to target similar concepts without duplicating URL slugs.
Throw in a few more related words, and targeting comparable phrases with different posts can give you nearly infinite results to work with. For example, if you're writing a third article on the same topic mentioned above, maybe the next phrase you'll want to target is "japan tsunami 2017 response."
3. Quality or Bust
Following the days of keyword stuffing, Google's algorithm began prioritizing quality, in-depth articles. Another factor in its major shift was the creation and popularity of social platforms. We've covered how social affects SEO here.
The birth of social shifted the news and information culture completely. Social feeds are now where users discover content, and search is instead where they find solutions to their problems. Google is looking for natural language (still with a tone of authority) that completely addresses the searched-for solution. Articles that are poorly written or formatted, receive negative comments, or are blatantly ads will not rank well.
Keep the theme of problem solving front and center every step of the process. Make sure your content answers questions in a completely user-friendly way. But in-depth doesn't necessarily mean super long. A study done back in 2016 found that the average article length for articles on page one of Google was 1,890 words.
Win Search with Every Publish
The world of search has changed. At RebelMouse we offer strategy services around SEO. We also have powerful SEO tools built into our platform that prep every article for search before publish. Let's start working together.