When it comes to the search engines keywords are truly dead. This doesn't mean you should completely forget about them but they should not be as much of a focus as people still put on them. The search engines are a lot smarter today than they were five years ago. If your strategy is about keywords like "web design Valparaiso Indiana" you are missing the point of what the search engines are doing in today's world. Let's explore why keywords are dead and how you should change your search engine strategy.
As we've talked to people in the past several weeks we've learned that there is a true disconnect between technology the search engines used 5, 10, and even 15+ years ago that people are still grasping onto. We have spent the past week researching this disconnect and read a lot on this and learned the biggest reason for this and are covering it below for you to hopefully start the trend to better educate businesses on the capabilities and directions the search engines have been making for years.
Google came out with Knowledge Graph which is a latent semantic indexing technology that was the start to removing keywords from the search engine so that when users searched they received more relevant results. This was only the beginning compared to a technology Google released called RankBrain. RankBrain is a machine-learning technology that exhibits many artificial intelligent processes that take Google's Knowledge Graph to a level never seen by the search engine.
RankBrain is so important in the relevance of the search engine of Google that it is marked as the third most important factor when it comes to the search engine. This means only quality inbound links (#2) and quality content (#1) are in front of RankBrain. RankBrain uses it's artificial intelligent and machine learning algorithms to take the information it sees on a website and determine the true purpose of the page. This means if you keyword stuff a page, write content that is non-sensical, and doesn't answers a user's true "intent" you are just writing content that takes up space and doesn't help you rank on the search engine.
What this change means to your website strategy is you need to stop thinking of keywords and trying to beat the search engine and do what you have known you should be doing – creating quality content that answers your user's intent. This is nothing new to those that for the past several years listened to the search engines "best practices". Those that have and followed this guidance are laughing as they are literally years ahead of their competitors and are slowly moving up while their competitors were using bad techniques are starting to move downward and do not understand why.
So you are ready to make the leap and finally listen to what Google best practices have been saying. You realize you need to think beyond the original search you think a user will type or talk into the search bar and determine the intent of the user. There are four types of intent you need to be thinking of.
- Website URL's – These are where a user is looking for something specific. They don't know about your website or business, but when they search they see in the URL, title, and description of the results that makes them want to click and learn more from your website.
- Informational – These are when a user searches for a specific topic, click a link, read, and then leave. In many cases this could be considered the old pogo stick where a person reaches a page and leaves. In most cases here though they stay on your site long enough that a pogo stick doesn't happen.
- Commercial – These are people looking for a specific item and then decide to purchase. Everyone loves these as it creates a value on your website immediately.
- Transactional – We love transactional queries where a visitor has queried, clicked on your site, and then does a predefined action such as registered for a newsletter, created an account, or paid a bill.
What you can already tell from what is written is being locked into a specific phrase is no longer going to help you be found online. You need to be thinking of a lot of information. Your visitors have curiosity to learn more, an interest to answer specific questions that are relevant to them now, and may also be looking to purchase a product or service from you. The search engines are asking a lot deeper questions about your visitors that not even they realize they are looking for. The more a visitor searches the more the search engines learn.
Many business owners will type in a phrase of "web designers near me" and be upset they weren't in the list. The search engines return results they believe you are looking for. This isn't necessarily going to be the same results as the person sitting right next to you. They are looking at not only your most recent searches but also all of your previous searches. When a user searches and then clicks around a site they are learning a lot about that user. Most websites give Google more information they realize. They are often logged into their Google account and the website is often running Google Analytics for helping track their site visitors. This information combined can help the search engines learn more about you. They learn:
- When a person comes to your site did they land on your homepage and then go to other pages?
- Did they land on a specific and custom landing page and then go to other pages?
- When they were done with your website did they close their browser or did they go to a competitor's website?
There is a lot of information the search engines learn about you. The results for you will change with each search based on what they've learned about you. It is with this information that makes the life of search engine optimization for a business difficult and why you need to be constantly adapting and improving to meet the intent of your visitors.