Keyword research is dead. Long live user intent

The Future of Search: Keyword research is dead.

Keyword research is dead. Long live user intent.

Ensuring your success on search engines is identifying the right search terms for your SEO efforts. Else the rest of your SEO efforts are doomed to fail. Focusing on right keywords is the glue that holds the entire SEO process together.

Creating content without thought to search engine optimization (SEO) and keywords runs the risk of short-changing your SEO strategy; and the company’s ability to grab its fair share of relevant search engine traffic — for branding, conversions and more.

[bctt tweet=”Keyword research, then, is about getting the right visitors to your site; this enables prediction of market shifts and conditions and services for potential customers.” username=”i3ntrepreneur”]

The usefulness of this intelligence can’t be overstated. The right understanding yields success in the marketing channel and a high ROI for low financial investment.

Semantic search is rapidly evolving and marketers should understand the new rules that govern how people are finding content online.

What is Semantic Search?

Semantics also called “conversational search”, are about meaning and context that provides a way for users to find what they’re looking for. On September 26, 2013, Google at its 15th anniversary event announced it had a new algorithm “Hummingbird”, impacting more than 90 percent of searches worldwide. Google’s Amit Singhal said it was perhaps the largest change to the algorithm from way back in 2001.

For example, instead of using “Imperial Tower” and “height” to find the height of the tallest twin tower residential complex in Mumbai, India, “How tall is the Imperial Tower” is more effective. Google with a component “Knowledge Graph”, brings up the actual answer:  “400 meters” accompanied by an image.

Imperial Tower Mumbai
Imperial Tower Mumbai

Other examples of semantic search now include:

  • Bing’s Snapshot, which functions similarly to Google’s Knowledge Graph.
  •, a collaborative initiative between Google, Bing and Yahoo that define a set of HTML terms used in web page markups to help search engines find semantic matches.
  • Natural search engines like Powerset and Hakia, which were built using semantic search algorithms.

In a nutshell, semantic search strives to deliver intuitive search results based on user intent, using contextual clues rather than keywords to deliver the best matches.

Change the Way You Research Keywords

In October 2011, Google began encrypting searches for anyone who was logged into Google. For privacy reasons, Google wanted to block anyone potentially eavesdropping on a string of searches made by an individual and also prevent the actual search terms themselves from being seen by publishers, as some of them might be too “private” to reveal.

The loss of keyword data that skyrocketed from Google’s move toward 100 percent secure search punctuated the fact that at the same time, Google was getting better at search, and it was asking SEOs to move away from a strictly keyword-based approach.

So the question is: should SEOs be worrying about their strategy?

For serious SEO professionals (and marketers), the specific shades of meaning of a word can make a world of difference. Modern search engine optimization has gone beyond basic keyword research into synonym creation, semantic search optimization, and further into semantic themes.

Google’s keywords search methodology is becoming outdated with the advent of maturing search algorithms and growing sophistication of Internet users’ behavior. Users are entering “queries” — phrases that match specific search intent. Google attempts to match that intent based on search data, click data, and heuristics, and then serves richer and more relevant intent-based results.

For serious SEO professionals (and marketers), the specific shades of meaning of a word can make a world of difference. Modern search engine optimization has gone beyond basic keyword research into synonym creation, semantic search optimization, and further into semantic themes.

Map Queries to Value

[bctt tweet=”Site owners and webmasters need to be aware of four kinds of searches (informational, navigational, commercial and transactional), to optimize their site. Each search type reflects the goal and motives of the end user.” username=”i3ntrepreneur”]

Start with your product or service. Do your market research, get to know your best prospects and their general concerns. Know your user personas and set up content for various stages of buyer intent.

Optimize your site based on your business goals and the kind of visitor you hope to attract. Optimize your content for all types of searches by spreading your efforts across an entire site. For instance, individual product or service pages are great place to incorporate keywords that target navigational or transactional searches. Company blog posts are perfect for incorporating informational search keywords.

Research Search Intent

[bctt tweet=”Search intent is the crux of content marketing and you can design specialized content for people in the various stages of the buying process.” username=”i3ntrepreneur”]

Articles, videos, and infographics best satisfy informational searches which educate, inspire, and entertain the consumer. Commercial searches require more touch points and needed information is provided through surveys, polls, subscription newsletters and white papers. Transaction searches require a landing page with a conversion mechanism that enables a purchase, buy, or download. The simpler the engagement, the easier it is for your target to make a purchase.

Keyword research is dead. Long live user intent
Keyword Research And Content Marketing.

Searcher Intent is all about getting in the mind of the person that entered a particular keyword. Making what they want a part of your regular keyword research, you’ll come up with keywords that other sites have neglected; getting you more qualified leads.

There are several aspects to research search intent: first, determine whether a seemingly-obvious keyword could have other connotations or meaning. Are customers/readers entering that keyword looking for information, a product or something else. If working an eCommerce site, focus your attention on the ‘buy’ keywords; on the ‘information’ keywords.

Thinking around those words add those ‘intent’ suffixes and prefixes to the keywords. Use tools like ubersuggest to identify what phrases people would actually be looking for.

Create Content That Connects

Connect with buyers more intimately while generating traffic for your assets. Content, in its various forms, should be relevant in ways that attract, inform, influences, and triggers responses from buyers — in other words, connects — along the entire marketing funnel.

Create stellar branded content that will allow your business to stand out on the World Wide Web:

  1. Define your message. What message are you trying to get across, and why? Bring it full circle. If what you’re writing doesn’t support your overall message (branding), trash it.
  2. Write to benefit. For whom are you writing? While content created for advertising purposes should certainly reach the largest audience possible, it is important to underline a target group of individuals within the online crowd. This develops a greater understanding of what content is most desired by said group, increasing likelihood that your articles will be shared through social media networks. This generates further interest in your brand and also establishment of your content as a respected leader within your particular industry. Connect your expertise to the practical situations faced by target buyers. Think “engagement,” not “education.”
  3. Toss Aside the “Fluff”. Savvy web users expect informative content that is not only interesting but also entertaining. It is imperative to create short and concise content chock full of useful information. Be certain to minimize the inclusion of “fluff” whenever possible.
  4. Understand How the Web Classifies Relevant Content. The long-term success of branded content campaigns largely hinges on juggling the changing dynamics of the Internet with the customer’s expectations for high-quality information. Content creators should stay informed and pay close attention to trends that impacts the overall success of marketing strategies.
  5. Make it pretty. If you want to break through the clutter and capture the attention of your target audience, your content has to be high quality, attractive, and memorable. A great way to make your content stand out online is to make it more visual. Visual content is not only easier and faster for the human brain to process, but it is also a great way to generate more views, clicks, and conversions.
  6. Build Relationships. People want to know your content or information and the person behind the information. Build a relationship by sharing stories and experiences and getting them involved. Make your content focused as much on the lifetime value of connections as the immediate sale.
  7. Make Distribution a Priority. Branded content’s relevance will cause the targeted audience to share it with their online connections. Include shortcuts and links for sharing content through social media networks. Using the myriad of different resources and tools available, content developers can make their mark on the online world. Branded content is emerging as one of the only advertising methods that work.

Conclusion: The future of search is here. Keyword research is dead. Long live user intent.

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