New changes in how Google is assigning page ranks is making SEO and Content Marketing look a lot like one another.
Content marketing, on the other hand, looks like a clear, logical and practical idea that is relatively easy to put into operation.
Yet SEO is arguably the single most important component of any digital marketing matrix. The focus of SEO is generating website traffic. Without traffic, it’s hard to make conversions.
The good news is that new and important changes in Google search ranking criteria are bringing SEO and Content Marketing a lot closer together.
The historical relationship between SEO and marketers has followed a pattern that looks a lot like the relationship between bacteria and antibiotics. Here’s how it’s gone.
First, Google (like the antibiotic) set the rules and limits – these are the standards and algorithms designed to help searchers find content most relevant to their searches. Then, crafty marketers (like bacteria) evolved their practices to game Google’s system.
To combat this, Google changed the rules again (i.e., created a new antibiotic). Then crafty marketers gamed the system again (bacterial adaptation). And thus it has continued through multiple iterations and revisions of Google search ranking criteria.
But with the latest change, aptly named RankBrain, Google has created what may turn out to be a truly sustainable upper hand, allowing the delivery of the most relevant and specific content to individual searchers all the time.
The move to using RankBrain involved more than just creating a new set of ranking factors and algorithms. After years of work in Machine Intelligence and Deep Learning – Google has launched an approach to search reporting that helps identify -- with remarkable accuracy -- what each searcher is really looking for. The handle is "User Intent SEO", and it is a very big deal.
RankBrain does not depend on the keyword architectures and static values that have always been the bread and butter of SEO. Rather, as Searchmetrics puts it:
Today’s rankings are driven by the dynamic between individual content relevance and user intent.
Simply put, the move to RankBrain means that except for important technical standards, gone are the specific factors or benchmarks that have been universally applicable for all online marketers and SEOs. Now, there are different ranking factors for every industry, or even for each search query. Moreover, these factors change continually.
If you’re not stunned, you should be. This is a very big deal, with significant implications for you as a marketing professional.
In a future post, we'll do a review of the existing Google ranking factors that still matter. There are many that do, so don't forget about these. But the focus here is on content relevance. And that means real relevance, not just keyword relevance.
Consider one trivial, but perhaps illustrative, example. Let's say you are planning a trip to Italy. You query 'Rome'. That's not much for the search engine to go on. You could mean 'history of Rome', 'current time in Rome', 'location of Rome', or many other things. However, if you had searched earlier for 'best deals on hotels in Italy', your Deep Learning search engine is likely to guess that you were interested in 'hotels in Rome' and return that kind of result.
You can try this kind of experiment for yourself to get a feel for how Google’s new content selection process works.
Is the new model effective? Short answer, yes.
In structured tests, machine learning algorithms outperformed humans by a comfortable margin at guessing true searcher intent, and offered appropriately relevant content as much as 84% of the time (humans succeeded about 70% of the time).
The better you are at figuring out the questions your customers really want to answer and designing content highly relevant to those questions, the higher you will rank in search results. This system is almost gimmick-free. You need to get good at identifying your customer's content needs and fulfilling them superbly.
There is still room for conventional keyword research and design – but with a difference. As Semetrical points out and explains well, you should start focusing on developing ‘holistic’ keyword groups that gather together a panorama of intent, rather than just single, pinpoint keywords or phrases.
Moz echoes this point in their discussion of tactical planning for keywords. As one example, they considered a search to determine the height of Seattle’s Space Needle. The central idea is height, but it can be expressed in many ways, as illustrated in the graphic on the right (idea courtesy of Moz.com).
This way of clustering keywords into general ‘concepts’ is likely to become an important part of keyword strategy development going forward. There will be more about defining and creating ‘holistic’ keyword groups in future posts.
Pacific Biomarketing is a digital marketing agency focused on the life sciences. We provide intensely personalized end-to-end digital marketing services to a limited number of clients. For an overview, please visit www.pacificbiomarketing.com
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