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When a person performs a specific search, they use keywords to try and narrow their results in order to find what they need faster. Almost instantaneously, Google reviews these keywords and combs its massive database indexes to find matches to those keywords. Once matches have been found, Google returns only the most relevant results called SERP’s (search engine results pages).
Of course, having a successful website isn’t just about catering to the search engines. Sure, you can drive them there…but can you keep them? It’s important to remember that its people reading your content and it is those people whom you are selling to. It is equally as important that your content be well-suited for users as well. The content on your site should follow these basic rules:
After a website has been launched, Google scans the code of the site and indexes it. Indexing is the process of creating indexes for record collections. Google uses this process to organize the massive amounts of information acquired while continuously scanning or “spidering” new and existing sites. This method allows Google to retrieve specific information quickly when called upon.
First, it is important to understand how search engines (like Google and Bing) operate and how people perform their searches, because it directly correlates to the importance of SEO-friendly content on your website. Since Google is the most widely used search engine, I will use them as an example.
While there are seemingly countless SEO elements at work here, both on the page itself and off the page, the number one thing remains true; content has been the number one factor since the beginning. Why? People use words to communicate. They use them in their daily lives and, as I mentioned before, they use them while searching online. Another reason is because the scanning process is done by a computer. Computers read the code that humans and programs have written. If actual text is not present, there is nothing for Google to read. Simply put, if you do not have text, there cannot be a match when a user types in a keyword.
How does Google determine relevancy? That is the billion dollar question. Google uses highly advanced algorithms to determine what will be most relevant to your search. Google prefers to keep these things a secret to maintain a more fair and balanced system. However, online marketing experts have studied how Google responds in searches and have discovered many of the common things that Google evaluates and values.
Having content on your website is only the first step toward having a website users can find. The next step is ensuring that this content is uniquely yours. Although it may be tempting, it is important not to duplicate or reuse copy from someone else. Copying text from another site is looked down upon by the search engines. Search engines give precedence to the originator of the text on the search engine results page to combat this. Therefore, it is vital to the success of your website that your website contains only unique and original copy.
Search engine optimized content is one of the most important elements of SEO. It plays a vital role in determining who finds your website and what information they take away once they have landed there. It also plays a vital role in increasing your conversion rate.
Once the copy is there in both volume and quality, search engine marketers expertly integrate keywords using proven-techniques within the online marketing industry. They ensure that essential keywords are neither too sparse nor too dense. Keywords create the ability for a match between what a user searches and what is in the Google indexes.
Remember, imagery and text helps your company represent itself to the world. The world has turned to the internet for searching and even buying. Your presence on the web needs to be strong and competitive in this space. A full and rich site that utilizes SEO techniques can help you get there. Whether people skim or really read the text, it is important to have it there as a powerful resource.
Content is King.
How Search Engines Work.
For the latest content news and tips, bookmark Search Engine Land’s SEO: Content and Writing section.
To put it simply, consider the words you want your page to be found for and use them naturally.
Always keep in mind that you’re writing for users first and that search engines are getting much better at understanding natural language. Throw out any notion of “keyword density” formulas to improve your rankings.
Researching the keywords (the search terms your target audience is using) is perhaps the most important SEO factor after creating good content. It will help you develop content that “answers” what people are searching for. Keyword research can also carry benefits beyond ranking for those queries.
“I think that you don’t have to necessarily think about what the query is. So, for example, I wrote a story about Google Search Console adding notifications around removing the noindex directive for the robots.txt file,” said Schwartz. “Back in the old days, I probably would have actually included the subject line of that Search Console notification directly in the title because people are going to be copying-and-pasting that line of text and trying to search for it to find more information. Now, Google is a lot easier and smarter about this and you don’t really have to worry about doing exact keyword matches on the query — Google’s much smarter to expand that beyond.”
Whichever formats you go with, you’ll still want to use descriptive text to supplement your content and provide context to search engines and users alike. If it’s a video or a podcast, you can add a transcript. If it’s an image, make use of alt-text and captions. You can also mark up your multimedia with structured data to increase the chances that it gets returned as a rich result.
“Just think about what the users want and think if you were in the shoes of the search engine, would you feel comfortable sending users to your own website?” says Frédéric Dubut, senior program manager lead for Bing. “Would you feel proud to vouch for that website and put that at number one for a given query?”
Once you’ve evaluated which keywords are viable, use them to inform your content creation and include them within the content itself so that your audience has a higher chance of finding you in the search results.
“Understanding the language that customers are using is incredibly important,” says Eric Enge, longtime SEO and general manager at the consulting firm Perficient Digital, “it makes you so much more relatable when you talk the way they talk, and that’s not going to change. So, keyword research for me is very, very important and there’s new offshoots of it where the way you might apply keyword research might be evolving, but the need for it is not.”
There is tremendous value in explicitly answering users’ questions on your pages. For one, you’re creating content specifically designed to meet your audiences’ needs. Two, search engines are increasingly trying to show direct answers in the search results. If you answer questions well enough, your page may be displayed as a featured snippet or returned as a voice search result on Google Assistant.
“Sometimes, you want that rich snippet — that box at the top — because whatever their intent was, they’re going to need to get deeper,” says Bowman. “But sometimes, a user’s intent is to get a quick answer and leave Google. If that’s the intent, it may not be such a great query.”
“Consider classifying keywords by their intent: informational, transactional, navigational or local. Cross-reference your potential keywords with what currently ranks in the search results to see the types of results Google chooses to display for each query. Google may assign a different intent to the keyword than what you expect; for example, typing “sandwich” generates mostly local results — so a local strategy may be required to compete for that keyword. Understanding what type of content Google displays for the various keywords you’re researching helps clarify what type of content you’ll need to build and which of your pages will be eligible to rank for those terms.” –Lily Ray, SEO director, Path Interactive.
“Looking at news, Google alerts — things like that can help give you topic ideas that are fresh for your industry. When news is fresh, most likely not all of the topics/areas have been covered as usually the story is developing. That gives you the opportunity to write about a specific angle that hasn’t been covered. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a very controversial opinion, but rather giving people more things to think about. This can be useful for getting engagement and potentially some nice backlinks.” –Itamar Blauer, SEO and video marketer.
“The content on your site should be deep enough to answer the user’s question in a ‘substantial, complete or comprehensive’ manner, as the Google core update advice post says,” advises Barry Schwartz, news editor for Search Engine Land.
For more, see our SEO: Keyword Research section and these resources: