Mastering Organic Search Queries
Key considerations to help brands master their website content and their ranking for organic search queries, from Marie Taupiac.
A few years ago, the way to optimise your page for keywords was straightforward. In 3 steps, you could optimise your page for any search query:
1). Choose the keywords for your page,
2). Implement them in strategic positions within the content,
3). Then, create internal and external links to the page.
Nowadays, search engine algorithms and the answers they’re programmed to provide have evolved to such an extent that they can nearly instantaneously give you the number of minutes it takes to an boil egg or the names of the Queen’s sons!
Moving beyond traditional search engine results, local businesses can now appear on enhanced map views, automatically displaying their name alongside a phone number, address and links to their products. These sorts of changes have come from enhancements to the understanding and processing of search queries, and the introduction of what is known as NLP (Natural Language Processing). According to Wikipedia, Natural Language Processing is the act of “programming computers to process and analyse large amounts of natural language data and understand the meaning of the queries to provide a relevant result for the user.”
So, what does this mean for the set-up of your website? Technically, you still need to optimise your page for the user’s search queries, but the writing process changes a bit.
Take, for example, the behaviour of people looking for visas in NZ and the US.
Why are keywords not enough?
Search engines’ algorithms have improved enough over the years to understand the difference between US citizens looking for a visa to go to NZ, and vice versa, even though the keywords will be the same in both cases: US, NZ and visa.
It’s the position connectors here that hold the meaning of the query. The search engines’ ability to identify this nuance not only means that relevant pages will receive higher quality traffic, but also that they will be able to provide greater value to the reader and make the user come back.
Think first about content quality
Because Google’s understanding of the language has increased over the years, it is able to determine if your page contains a complete checklist, opinion or review, and also can tell if your content will bring value to the reader.
Now, more than ever, the content creation focus should be on providing value and quality for the reader. The web is full of articles that are too generic, too similar to each other and don’t answer the user’s needs. By creating a unique, valuable and complete piece of content, you are making sure that you will not only satisfy the user, but also help your page to rank in a better position for related keywords.
Use semantics analysis
Another recurring topic in SEO is keyword synonyms or related words. How can we ensure the same, relevant page appears, for example, for visa queries about travelling to NZ from the US, America, USA, North America, and all the different states?
Google is able to understand some synonyms and, in particular cases, can substitute one with another. The real question is not so much about direct synonyms, but the idea conveyed by words: for example, that the search results for Americans, US citizens and residents from other, specific states who are looking for a visa to go to New Zealand will be the same, because the process for all Americans is the same.
However, if we take, for example, a website that is selling a bike, writing a page without speaking about gears or wheels would not make sense, and would be unlikely to not rank for “buy bike” synonym queries.
This what we call semantics. “Semantics” refers to the concepts or ideas conveyed by words. Semantic analysis is about making any topic (or search query) easy for a machine to understand. Think about your page as an aggregation of words about the same topic. For the Americans going to NZ, we can consider: visitor’s visa, custom and border protection, apply online, embassy or consulate, visa fees. The overall words association will help the search engine to understand the purpose of your content, and make the page rank for related terms that are not in necessary included in the content of your page, but convey the same idea.
The power of using topic clusters
Optimising a page is only the first step, you must also consider how your website appears as a topic.
For example, if your website, overall, speaks about travel for Americans and the travel visas you need, your website will be optimised for all the different variations of USA words and visa words. None of the pages will necessarily rank on their own; it is only the combination of your pages and the different links you have between them that makes them rank. This is what we call a topic cluster.
Topic clusters are a multitude of content pieces that live on your website and are all linked to a common, overarching subject. If executed properly, topic clusters can be the catalyst that launches your website to the top of the search engine results pages.
Are we moving away from keywords?
Keywords will always be a way to analyse trends, people’s needs and questions. They will always be an essential part of SEO and will still need to be implemented within content. However, keywords are no longer the only part of the optimisations needed to make users visit your website; we need to consider the value of the content, semantics and cluster topics in order to be able to serve the best material for the search engine and the end users—in turn, driving the best case results.