Total SEO Tips Part 2: Interacting with Search Engines
Create for users, not for search engines
It’s not some quote we made up, it’s a saying every digital marketing company uses as the foundation of their content creation. Google and other search engines have the ability to detect content that is meant to manipulate their algorithm. As you and your team are developing a game plan, keep in the back of your mind that there are three types of queries that people make:
- Transactional Queries – Also known as “Do” queries, they are characterized by the user’s intent to do something. “Doing” something can take many forms but typically they are referring to the purchase of a product, getting a free SEO scan, signing up for an event, etc.
- Navigation Queries – Also known as “Go” queries, refer to the user typing in a specific website (without the www. or the .com) in an effort to see that website in the top spot. For example, when a user types in “Facebook,” Google is fairly certain you’re trying to get to Facebook.
- Informational Queries – Also known as “Know” queries, are when the user would like to learn a particular piece of information.
It’s important to know the distinction between these three queries because you can formulate your content to appear for certain things. Ask yourself, “If a user searches for a query, will my content be of value to them, or will they hit the back button within 5 seconds?” As I mentioned in Part 1, search engines pride themselves on giving the end user what they want and if they are unable to provide a solution, you may need to revise your query.
Let’s take a look at a real example
One of our real clients came to us and said, “Why is my competitor on the first page of Google for ‘fence’ even though he’s right around the corner from me?” To a non-SEO, that seems like a very valid concern because it seems that his neighbor is stealing his digital space. The first thing I asked him was, “Why do you want to rank for that word? It’s too broad, there’s no searcher intent, and the big guys such as Home Depot or Lowes will almost always beat you out.” To which he reiterated that his competitor is ranking, why isn’t he? Again, a very valid question.
I felt embarrassed that I didn’t have any facts to back up my claim on the spot, but the next day when I sat down to do some research I found some troubling things within the first 5 minutes.
- Our client was actually ranking well for some strong long-tail keywords with actual user intent such as “fence contractor in –his city–” and a few variations of that.
- His competitor was using borderline black-hat SEO techniques to manipulate the algorithm. In the footer of their services pages, there were several dozen (88 to be exact) locations listed even though they only have one central location.
- Google has absolutely no idea what to give the user when they search “fence.” To prove my point, check out the related searches.
- Google is essentially asking itself, “Does the user want to know how to build a fence themselves”
- “Does this user want to buy a fence?”
- “Does this user want to hire a fencing contractor?”
- “Does this user want to know how to build a fence in Minecraft?”
- “Does this user want to learn about the fence movie?”
Ranking for long-tail keywords will lead to conversions far more often than broad keywords.
As searchers become dissatisfied with the results after they type in a broad query, often times they go back and refine it to become a long-tail keyword. I’m willing to bet you’ve done it dozens of times yourself.
What this chart tells us is that the more specific your keywords are, the higher the chance for conversion is. There is far less competition in the long-tail keyword section, and there is far less searcher intent in the broad keyword section.
Your goal shouldn’t be only to get visits, it should be to help turn those visits into sales.
To wrap everything up, understanding searcher intent should be at the forefront of your SEO strategy. Taking a few moments to explain to your client that ranking for broad keywords that they feel are important isn’t the best course of action can go a long way in promoting a long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationship. They will admire your dedication to their company and they will appreciate the fact that you were able to back up your claim with statistics and real examples.
When you meet with your client initially to discuss an SEO strategy, ask them a few questions:
- What keywords would you like to rank for?
- If you feel their keywords are too broad, mitigate those high expectations in the beginning. If you promise the world up front, they will expect the world.
- What kinds of questions do your customers ask you on a regular basis?
- There’s your long-tail keywords without doing a second of keyword research! If people are asking the professional a certain question, odds are they’ve already tried Googling it. Take that information and build content that will satisfy their searchers.
- Who is your target audience?
- If their target audience is middle-class, 25-60 year-old homeowners in the suburbs of Philadelphia, then odds are they are searching for things differently than low-income millennials living in the city.
- Who are your direct competitors?
- It was good that our client was able to provide us with a list of some competitors to track, but that isn’t always the case. Take a look at what their competition is doing well to try to emulate it, but also take note of what they’re doing wrong to avoid it.
These are a few good questions to get the ball rolling in an effort to understand their customers’ searching habits. These tips coupled with Google’s ranking factors (relevancy, popularity, and location) could prove to be make-or-break in your content strategy. Don’t leave any stone unturned and remember that the stronger your train tracks are, the more smoothly your the train can move from station to station.
What are your thoughts? If there’s anything you’d like to add, leave a comment or shoot me an email at email@example.com! I look forward to reading your responses!
Continue with Part 3: What To Expect During an SEO Campaign