How to Prepare for the Future of SEO
I started with SEO naively.
At first, I didn’t realize that it’s probably the biggest online marketing instrument that can be considered as an investment for your business.
Other online marketing techniques, such as Facebook Ads or Google Ads, add a cost to your income statement and their impact offers short term gains.
SEO, however, is different.
If you manage to understand it and are even able to master it, your gains will be tremendous.
Believe me, your future will definitely be positively impacted once you make this decision.
If you are still not ready to make the move, just look at the trends.
Google handles more than 40,000 queries every second — which is more than 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.
Google and search engines
Based on the stats provide by NetMarketShare, Google occupies more than 80 percent of the search engine market:
According to the Ascend2 SEO strategy survey report, 81 percent of marketing influencers describe their SEO strategy as being successful to some extent. Among the barriers for success, 46 percent of the companies identified search rankings as being the most significant.
There simply is no doubt that SEO is extremely important for the success of your digital activities, and the question is not if but how to make the most out of it?
First, you need patience.
The biggest motivator for me to trust SEO and focus more and more on it has been the data I’m getting from Google Analytics.
Data never lies and data can lead you to an amazing learning experience, one you might not have considered before.
But to have your own data and not rely only on sponsored market trend reports, you need to actually do some things first …. things that will bring some numbers in your analytics.
Luckily, our product “accidently” got its initial data that helped us to enhance the website and master our SEO game.
I’ll tell you how we reached top positions for our keywords, but first let’s understand how SEO works.
Start here: How Google Ranks your Website
I’m a self learner and through the years I managed to acquire and practice web development skills.
I’ve came across a lot of articles that try to teach you how to boost your SEO, build search traffic and increase your domain authority; but I’ve learned that to master it, you will always need to follow the Google Webmaster guidelines and understand the following:
Google is changing the algorithm regularly. and you need to learn how it actually works.
So first, in order to boost your SEO, you need to know the latest changes in its search algorithm.
According to Andrey Lipattsev, the Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google Ireland, the key signals for the Google algorithm to rank your website are content, links and RankBrain. You can read more of the interview with Lipattsev by logging in to https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=21&v=l8VnZCcl9J4.
Our focus here is to prepare you for future SEO trends, so it’s important to know what RankBrain is and why you should care.
What exactly is RankBrain?
Since 2014, Google started implementing their machine learning into their search product. Starting in 2015, they’ve implemented an AI powered system called RankBrain.
RankBrain actually changes the entire SEO concept. In the future, it will no longer rank web pages based on the techniques that we have been using for the past 10 years. Yes, this is going to have a huge impact on the SEO industry, so it’s time to understand how RankBrain works.
The RankBrain basically wants to understand how queries relate with results, to find their meaning, to learn from the context and provide the most relevant results.
RankBrain embeds vast amounts of written language into mathematical entities into a format that a computer can understand, then if RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, using this information it can ‘guess’ what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the results accordingly.
Most marketers are familiar with the term Quality Score, which the Google AdWords system uses to serve ads. It is similar to what the RankBrain can consider as a relevant content and rank it higher in the search results.
RankBrain’s origin comes from the technology that Google uses to rank ads. The idea behind it is solely based on the quality and relevance of the ads, and not external factors such as backlinks.
The online marketing industry has already seen the Quality Score performance and to understand the RankBrain, we can start by understanding the formula behind the Quality score.
Quality score is based on the relevance of your ad plus the landing page.
By definition, Quality Score is an estimate of the quality of your ads, keywords, and landing pages. Higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions.
And it is measured from 1 to 10, and 10 being the best QS.
So in order to boost ratings, you need to boost the quality score of your web page.
Piece of cake, right?
Well, it can be more complicated than that. It requires knowing your audience, doing proper key phrase research, optimizing and making sure your landing pages are relevant to your ads and actually are bringing benefits to your users.
Example of the RankBrain performance
The RankBrain was build beyond simple keywords. It learns the actual meaning of the query typed in by the users. It gets data from the context of the user and it feeds from the user’s location, previous history and similar parameters in order to provide you with the best result.
Frequently, the words that the users write in the search input field are short and not particular, so the purpose of RankBrain is to learn what the users mean every time they type into Google search and match that with the best results.
It will eventually evolve to the point where RankBrain will understand you like a human talking to another human. Google senior research scientist Greg Corrado noted, “It’s much like a person hearing you talking to them in a crowded bar – they can’t hear everything you’re saying, but they still can guess what you’re meaning and have a conversation with you.”
For example, if you typed in boost traffic.
Google will immediately know that its traffic for a website — and not for road traffic, for example. I am not writing in the word website, and it still knows what I’m referring to it.
The performance of the RankBrain is still new and I am expecting more results and improved examples in future.
But why should you care about RankBrain?
There are more than 200 signals that the Google ranking algorithm considers when ranking a web page and the RankBrain is reportedly among the top 3 that Google considers when loading the search results.
It’s biggest benefit is that it prevents spam backlinks and keyword stashing, techniques which are not enhancing the user experience and were primarily used to “trick” the google ranking signals.
It might also mean that in the feature one of the most popular SEO jokes — “An SEO copywriter walks into a bar, grill, pub, public house, Irish, bartender, drinks, beer, wine, liquor …” — won’t matter anymore. You won’t have to optimize for all the possible queries a user can search for.
Since RankBrain will understand the context, you can still rank in top positions for multiple queries while focusing on only one query.
How to optimize for the future
I mentioned the word “accidently,” and I want you to focus on that.
Why do I think we accidentally got higher rankings on Google? Because in the beginning we might not have thought about Google’s love. We only cared about the user’s love and the benefit of them using our content.
The lesson here is: Provide value. Provide something that the end users find beneficial and unique. It turns out that Google loves quality content. And the new RankBrain algorithm proves that.
RankBrain will rank your web pages higher if:
* You have high relevance — read high CTR — in the search results.
* You have niche content that provides context for the query/problem searched by the user.
But you might ask, What is a value? Is it some fancy hook that nobody understands?
In my experience, value equals a solution to a problem — a solution that is simple, easy to get and if possible, free.
According to our findings, RankBrain will provide the results that will be the best match for the user query. And if your listing in the search results has the biggest CTR, it will continue to rank higher.
You’re only interested in getting to the Top 3 positions and grabbing the most out of the SERP because of the highest impressions and CTRs that eventually will lead to higher traffic and higher conversions.
Build a free widget
To give you an example, our “accidental” SEO booster was a free plugin that we initially created for ourselves. We decided to make it available for free to everybody.
At that time we had a hackathon that resulted with a free plugin.
It was an idea to help me automatically embed Facebook albums in my WordPress posts to save time and save the hustle of cropping, hosting and uploading social media photos to my posts.
We decided to make it available on the web and make it easily accessible to everyone.
We had no plans to develop it further, but this changed after we received the first traction of users.
The plugin was easily picked-up by websites such as AdWeek and Digital Trends and people started using it.
In one year, we’ve reached more than 30.000 websites that have used the plugin.
We realized there is an industry in this segment and started focusing on a niche to develop the plugin into a SaaS and utilize the free tool as a strategy for attracting users.
If you’re ever struggling to decide what content to use or what value you need to provide in your internet marketing strategy, I strongly recommend you build a solution for a simple problem and offer it for free.
Next, you will need to amplify it, by understanding how people search for it and how you should create your content around INTENT drive key phrases.
Find intent driven keywords
In my experience, intent key phrases drive conversions. The future of the SEO and the search overall will focus more and more on giving the user what they want in the moment of their search by eliminating the clutter and providing close to 100 percent relevancy.
On the other hand, companies will have to switch from their gray-hat SEO techniques and start doing the same for their users. They must focus on their intent.
Our strategy was never based on driving traffic, but getting relevant traffic that actually converts.
We have managed to experience the amazing power of the intent drive keywords.
Our free tool targeting intent drive keywords has more than 10 percent conversions from the traffic that they bring to our website.
I assume this might be your strategy as well. You can do this by giving people what they’re looking for. Simple, right?
They are expressing their intent with key phrases. They type in a few words and expect to find the best answer/solution for their questions. Or the best solution for their problem.
They are inpatient and they want the answer right there, right in that moment.
So why not give them what they want?
And this is the idea behind the RankBrain. It wants to provide a meaning to what you’ve typed in. Looking at the context, it can bring you the best answer.
In my quest for intent driven keywords, we decided to add the phrase “how to” before each of our main keywords and focus on building content that is:
* Solving problems immediately;
* Answering a question immediately;
* Skyscraper – which includes all the details, so the user has no need to search elsewhere.
The results: Action driven users ready to convert.
Simple 3 pre-steps to this result
The simple 3 pre-steps you want to take are:
* Discovered intent driven keyword: embed Facebook reviews;
* Build How-to content;
* Get third in Google search results within a week.
The key in the above process is the discovery of keywords.
It starts with knowing your customer’s intent and how they are trying to find you.
You want to find intent key phrases using Google Search Console or keyword finder.
In our case, we already had the data to back our SEO process and we had keywords already recorded in the Search Console that helped us find and expand our core keyphrase list.
To find the queries that brought traffic to your website, just go to your Google Search Console and click Search Traffic and Search Analytics.
You can immediately get the results for the queries that bring you the most traffic, the ones that have the highest CTR percentage and the ones that help you rank higher in the search results.
Use keyword finder tool
To get more ideas, I use the UberSuggest tool and try to get as much as 500 keyphrases in order to analyze them and narrow down the list to 15 or 20 that you need to focus on.
Find the estimated search volume of your keywords
You might say that these intent keyphrases lack a strong search volume, which is a relevant statement. But keep in mind that the long-tail keywords are what you are focusing on to get conversions. If you want to boost the search volume, you will need to find keywords by using Google Keyword Planner.
But you might scream: I get ranges from 1k-10K or 100-1K which tells me nothing! Why is this useful?
Don’t worry, we can show you how we look for volume and try to find the estimated impressions a keyword has in the Google search.
To find the search volume, follow these instructions.
Use the tool Keyword Planner, a tool designed by Google to analyze keywords and get relevant data from their performance. In the welcome screen, you have the option to type in a few keywords to find their trends and keyword volume.
Once you do this, you will get a list of the keywords with some data. So to find estimated impressions of each keyword in the search or the search volume, go through the following steps:
* Add these keywords in the Review plan;
* Click the button “Add all” on the top right side of the table;
* Click the blue “Review plan” button at the far right of your screen.
2. At the top right choose the forecast period to be selected for the month, so in the Display forecasts by: select Month.
3. Next, go to the top left section of the page where you can Enter a bid, and type in $1,000. The system will generate the data based on the data range and the bid and will show you related results:
4. Click Download to export the table, and from the options choose Destination: Save to Google Drive.
5. That’s it. Now you have the data from all your keywords with estimates of the impressions they’re getting in the Google search results.
You can structure the table to remove the clutter and you will get a table like this:
This should help with finding the intent keywords and getting more ideas for understanding their search volume and amplifying the intent driven traffic to your website.
To master the SEO, first focus on the user rather than on the Google ‘wants and needs.’ Google changes the algorithm constantly, and the latest is RankBrain, an AI powered system that ranks results based on machine learning.
To start preparing for the future SEO, we need to focus on the user intent key phrases and create skyscraper content around them that will provide value for the users.
The factors that will affect the trends in the SEO industry are already happening. Preparing now will help define your future success.
Katerina Bojkov is the previous owner of a Facebook marketing partner company. Katerina has gained relevant experience on product integrations with the biggest social media platforms. She is a Marketing API geek, founder of EmbedSocial and she loves to build products that solve genuine problems.
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