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  • October 19, 2021

The Changing Nature of SEO

Decorative Illustration Google changes its search algorithm 500 to 600 times each year. SEO is constantly evolving, and that’s clear, but what’s most important about the ever-changing nature of SEO is how we, as marketers, adapt to these changes to drive results for our clients. To adjust to search in 2021, you don’t need to memorize every algorithm update; you just need to understand a few core things. Remember: SEO is complex, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

Google Search in 2021

Google as a search engine is more sophisticated than it has ever been before. With the use of artificial intelligence like B.E.R.T., which leverages Natural Language Processing, and other models on the horizon like Google’s Multitask Unified Model (M.U.M.), it’s clear that Google in 2021 is a different beast than it was in the early 2000s.

The use of artificial intelligence changes how content is understood on the web by Google, and as time goes on, Google is just going to continue to get smarter. In fact, someday soon there will be a world where worrying about your link acquisition strategy will be a thing of the past because Google will no longer judge the quality of pages on the web by the links pointing towards it. If you pay close attention, this is starting to happen now, thus why I usually don’t encourage focusing on link building strategies and haven’t recommended it in the last four years.

Despite everything I just said, there is one core concept that will never change, one that is future proof regardless of what new updates come out, and one that will continue to get your clients results no matter the circumstance. It is the foundation of which Google Search has been built upon - creating great content that solves the user’s problem.

A new way to do keyword research

Every good SEO campaign starts with keyword research, but simply finding keywords with high search volume, then grouping them together in a list, isn’t enough for new-aged SEO, especially depending on the query you’re trying to rank for. What’s now more important than ever is understanding both on S.E.R.P. SEO and the search intent of a query.

On S.E.R.P. SEO is about understanding how search engines rank pages in the search results for given queries. It’s important to determine if pages ranking for queries are ranking in their positions due to specific S.E.R.P. features such as:

  • Featured Snippets
  • People Also Ask
  • Knowledge Panel

Based on this data, we can craft a strategy that will enable us to do the same thing and achieve our desired outcome.

Here’s a scenario to think about: You have a client that wants to rank in the search results for a long-tail keyword, but you only see that keyword pop up in the search results under the People Also Ask section. In this scenario, you know the keyword, and perhaps you might even know the intent behind it. However, adding this keyword on a page without considering your approach to getting in the People Also Ask section is a HUGE mistake. If you’re not considering the S.E.R.P. features when attempting to rank, you are fighting against Google’s algorithm instead of working with it.

Working against Google’s Algorithm is a challenge that many marketers face when trying to rank for their ideal keywords. Since there isn’t any official documentation, most people don’t know where to start to achieve rankings in this scenario other than just adding the keyword to the page and doing G.U.E.S.S.E.O. (praying that it works). This line of thinking is dangerous when trying to get results.

As stated earlier, now more than ever, it’s essential to start thinking about how the S.E.R.P. is interacting with the user’s query to rank for your keywords. Analyzing the S.E.R.P., and utilizing those findings to reverse engineer the search results needs to be a crucial part of your process to drive more organic traffic to your website. The days of just adding keywords to your pages without a strategy on S.E.R.P. approach are over.

Search intent, the next thing you need to worry about

There are 5.5 billion searches done on Google every day. Each query string that is typed on Google is written differently. This is because there are three types of searches. The three subsets of user search intent are:

  • Informational search
  • Navigational search
  • Transactional search

Informational queries follow a specific search pattern trend that is easily identifiable. These search queries are when a user is curious about a topic, and they go to Google to find the answer. Users that are searching for informational-based queries start their search with a question. The search pattern tends to look like this:

  • “How to get a girlfriend?”
  • “What is road rash?”
  • “Where can I buy a bicycle in New York?”

As you can see, it is easy to assume that the user typing these search queries on Google is seeking information to get answers to their problems.

Navigational queries are when users are searching for something with the intent of finding a particular website. Users are likely to insert search queries such as:

  • “Facebook”
  • “Elegant themes”
  • “Happy Cog”

People using navigational queries are often aware of what they’re searching for and have trust in that brand or product that they’ve searched for on Google.

Search queries for a transactional intent are different from the former. These queries indicate that there is some sort of buying intent behind the query. For example, transactional-based queries usually follow this pattern:

  • Buy iPhone 10 X.R.
  • Get car quote
  • Restaurant specials

These queries clearly indicate that someone is looking to make a purchase, and that is what classifies them as transactional-based queries

Leveraging these strategies gave me a 2,150% increase in traffic

Here’s an example from a website that I worked on personally:

In the graph above, you will see that the website in this case study went from receiving 4,000 average visitors per month to 90,000+ visitors, and averaged out at around 31,000 organic visitors per month.

How I increased their traffic by 2,150%

Before diving into the nitty gritty of things, I want to provide you with a bit of context regarding what industry this website is in. This website is a public records search engine, sort of like Spokeo or Instant Checkmate.

While familiarizing myself with the competitive landscape in this industry, I noticed that our competitors had informational content on their service pages, while we did not.

This was the first mistake in our SEO approach. We were failing to meet the expectations of users with our web pages. Users were looking for results that were informative, while our pages were catered to people looking to make a purchase, thus causing a disconnect between the intent of our page and the intent of our users.

In addition to this, analyzing the S.E.R.P. acted as a guide to show me how our content should be written to perform well. Users wanted clarity; they wanted to know more about the tool, how they should use the tool, and if it made sense to have a membership or just make a one-off purchase. They wanted all of this information in a digestible format and this was evident when looking at our competitors who were performing well.

After gathering this information, I crafted a strategy that essentially reverse engineered what our competitors were doing, which led to the increase in organic traffic and revenue.

Here’s how you can do the same

When you’re conducting keyword research for your pages, you want to ensure that they have the right S.E.R.P. intent and user intent by putting them in Google and looking at what comes up first before creating your content. After you’ve identified what comes up in the search results, you can use that data to guide how your new page will look. This can heighten your chance of ranking for the terms that you want that are ideal for you.

The moral of this story is that, although SEO is constantly changing, it’s important to remember crucial details like this, as it aligns with Google’s end goal, which is to provide great content to users.

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