One of the most common questions I get by clients wanting to implement a sustainable and scalable SEO strategy is about how to successfully integrate their optimization and content publishing efforts today, in a constantly changing SERPs environment.
In this post, I am going to share with you a couple of things you can do to adapt your approach and match your SEO and on-site content in an effective way.
SERPs are changing (and users too)
Once upon a time, there was a search engine that used to provide a selection of results to choose from (ranked according to a lot of different parameters). Users used to have an active role in the evaluation process, being expected to choose the only one result that turned out to be the most pertinent to their query.
As you all know, today things have slightly changed.
We, as users, have changed the way we search (we have all become more aware of the medium, new devices and ways of searching are now available an so on..). At the same time Google, the search engine, has evolved according to its own mission and business strategy.
So, what does Google do today when a query is typed (or pronounced)?
It basically tries to understand the search intent and, if it already has the answer, tries to provide it directly within the SERP.
As we all know, it is quite good at doing this, but not yet perfect.
When search intent is perceived too general, it still needs to experiment with different types of results.
This is, for example, the case of queries expressed in very generic form, often short (1 or 2 words) and on which Google may not have a clear understanding if the intent is informative, commercial, navigational, local etc..
See for example the “pizza” query in the image below.
Google is not sure if we are searching for a local restaurant, for information about pizza and its nutrition facts or for a pizza company, so it basically provides us all these types of results.
But when a clear intent is identified, as said, Google provides a SERP matching very well the aim of the user: no more need to “choose” the best answer, it is already provided.
According to Google itself, this is the case – particularly – of the so-called featured snippets, but it involves a vast range of different types of “enriched” results.
It seems to be a very challenging scenario for anyone who wants to produce informative content and aims to acquire targeted traffic from Google, isn’t it?
A (slightly) different approach to SEO and content
Given this situation, let’s see a couple of things you can start doing today in order to match your SEO and content strategy and evaluate your results in an effective way as well.
1. Re-think your goals – from traffic to “marketing”
The increase in organic traffic from Google for a given page, as we have seen, may no longer be the ideal metric to define success. In rethinking KPIs, it will be probably necessary to shift the focus from ranking and traffic-related objectives towards more traditional marketing metrics.
You could focus – i.e. – on measuring content and brand exposure as a part of a wider brand awareness strategy or – maybe – on evaluating how SEO is assisting goal completions in different phases of a conversion process.
2. Understand how Google is interpreting search intent
Check SERPs and their aspect “before” planning your content in order to understand how Google is currently interpreting search intent for your target terms and – in general – identify what kind of content can get more exposure about the topic you want to write, according to your current marketing goals.
Many tools can help you in doing this and maybe you can find out that a “how-to guide” can be the ideal type of content to get a feature snippet or that – for the specific query you are targeting – YouTube videos or “Top Stories” box are dominating the top of the page and having one you too can increase your ranking potential.
3. Write (even more) in-depth content
We have seen how Google tends to provide specific answers, especially when it identifies queries expressed in the form of a question or with a strong informational intent.
Being Google shifting more and more to this approach, this may result in the opportunity to write more in-depth content, which tries to respond to very specific questions expressed by our ideal reader.
This with the double aim to:
- appear at the top for low volume, very specific queries (for which Google has not yet “evolved” the appearance of SERP) and still drive targeted traffic to your site (even more targeted than before)
- take advantage of the new SERPs by trying to get – i.e. – a feature snippet whenever you can (and increase in this way brand awareness in your target audience)
People use search engines in every macro phase of the buying cycle (awareness, consideration and purchase) to get in touch with a brand, and these are only some of the things you can do today in order to adapt your on-site content publishing strategy to the dynamic environment of today’s SERPs.
Trying to understand in which direction Google is evolving and write content that can rank for very specific queries and cover the various phases in which a potential customer can find you is – in my opinion – the best approach you can use.
This will help your site to still exploit all the potential of the search engine as a channel to intercept your target reader in an active and effective way, despite the changes happening at SERP level.