As search algorithms get smarter and more sophisticated, so too must be the marketing best practices that we create to meet these changes. But what does this really mean for the searcher and the businesses who are vying for their attention?
The Death of Bad Web Copy
For years, people were straight-up ruining perfectly good writing by unnaturally wedging keywords in the middle of a sentence.
Google knows users can pick up on this, and they hate this. That's why Google is placing less importance on keyword density as a way of ranking your site's value.
The days of trying to needlessly stick "best restaurant Colorado" one more time into your copy to meet a 2.5% keyword density check are all but over. So there is no need to ruin the flow of good web copy by trying to fit words in retroactively.
There is also no need to ruin the syntax and grammar of a perfectly good sentence by trying to stick in an exact match keyword. Google cares less about exact match keywords these days. Furthermore, Google performs a lexical and grammatical analysis of a website's content. Too many grammar errors and incorrectly used words can work against a site.
When targeting keywords in your copy, use them in ways that read naturally. Don't forget LSI keywords as well.
The Death of Irrelevant Blogs
Intelligent search also means more intelligent blogs. That doesn't just mean they have to be free of spelling and grammar errors. It means you have to write something that people will actually read.
Google gives more respect to businesses that maintain a relevant blog. In fact, sites with a blog have 434% more indexed pages than the ones that don't. But it's the sites that get read and clicked through that will dominate the search results.
But the blogs that really connect are the ones that answer questions that send people to the laptop or smartphone for answers. Intelligent search means people are asking complete questions and expecting complete answers.
Long Tail Keywords and Blogs
The questions that people are googling are known as long tail keywords. And these are the key to unlocking more SEO clout and sales leads.
How do you find out the questions that are keeping your target market up at night? There are a few ways:
1. Listen to Your Customers
Find out what are the most common questions, concerns, and frustrations that your customers have for you when they make first contact with your business.
Match the verbiage, word-for-word. If your clients use the phrase al fresco dining, put that in your blog title.
2. Check Social Media
Eavesdrop the conversations people are having about your industry on several different platforms, the good and the bad. Take the terms, questions, and complaints you see and write about them.
Use the same words your customers are using, even if they’re not completely accurate. You may call your company an eatery, but if your audience is calling it a fine dining establishment, those are the words to use.
3. Online Reviews
This is an indispensable source of information about how your business is actually doing. Not only can you manage your online reputation by keeping track of all your reviews you can post good reviews on your website and social media to brag about the excellent experience you deliver to your customers. For the not so good reviews, it is a chance to get better and reach out to them and address their complaints and concerns. It’s amazing how far acknowledging bad reviews goes.
Sometimes, an unfiltered account of what's frustrating your customers can be jarring (and humbling) to read. But its invaluable information. People are telling you exactly what bothers them. It’s also good to read reviews that people leave for your competition to find opportunities to distinguish your business.
4. Q&A Sites
People would rather go to third-party, user-driven sites like Quora, Reddit or Yahoo answers with their questions and frustrations. So it is important to monitor the conversations that are happening about you, your competition and your industry as a whole.
The Death of Blackhat... For Now
We will never completely get rid of people who want to cheat and take shortcuts. But the move towards intelligent search has made life hard for two very specific subgroups of spammers.
First of all, the Google Hawk update has cut down on businesses trying to cheat the Google Maps listings by creating more than one listing for the same business. It creates issues for business that share the same block or building with their competition. So stay on top of your local listings.
The second thing Google has done is cut down on spammy link-building practices, like link farms, with their Penguin update. (Penguin has been around since 2012. But in 2017 Google moved it and Panda into the core algorithm.) This is why it is important to perform an audit of all your links. If your link profile has an excessive amount of low-quality, spammy links, start disavowing them.
Make sure you arrange to have any irrelevant or spammy links removed, and keep all the ones generated from good, organic methods.
Power to the User
The biggest misconception in intelligent search is that Google decides who ranks the highest. In fact, the users do. Users have never had more influence in SEO ranking than they do today. And in the future they will have even more power.
First of all, their journey is everything. If they're coming to your site and leaving right away, unfulfilled, Google will punish you for providing the content they're looking for.
But, if users are coming to your site and clicking around and staying for a while, Google will assume you're giving the searcher real value, and accordingly, the crawlers will reward you.
The focus on the user has also put more weight on user reviews-- and not just Google reviews. Google gives significant weight to reviews on third-party sites like Yelp or Expedia.com.
If there is one key takeaway from all of this, it's that intelligent search is rewarding the businesses that earn traffic, while making it harder to employ tricky methods to get more users on your website.
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