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September 22, 2017

Sonja Hansen, Client Partner


Keyword strategy has come a long way. Back in the early days of SEO, simple one-word keywords and now black hat methods like keyword stuffing were once the go-to. SEO now includes other, more respectable, concepts that inbound marketers obsess over – and it continues to change. Just look at the move from primitive search to semantic search.

And good thing! As the approach to SEO develops, it forces us to understand our customers better. What are they searching for? What do they want? It turns out that the answer isn’t simple, and it isn’t one-size-fits-all. Keywords still play a role in SEO. But not in the way you might think.

Start with Long-tail Keywords

We know you can’t just throw out keywords randomly across a page. Keywords that are too broad aren’t very helpful, and do nothing to help relevant people find you. The long-tail keyword was born from a need to get specific. Within relevant text that describes what you do and who you are, you should attempt to be as brief and specific as possible. This promotes clarity. 

For example, like we’ve mentioned in a previous post about keywords, if you're a law firm, the keyword, “attorney” isn’t going to get your site very far in organic Google searches. Not everyone that searches for “attorney” is looking for your services. Enter the long-tailed keyword. Combine descriptive words, like “attorney specializing in criminal defense in Ossining, NY” would be a more specific description that will help relevant leads find your services.

Then, Answer Your Audience's Questions 

Keywords, long-tail keywords and phrases on your site should define a number of things: your customer, your industry, and your product. You still need these words in your content so that people that are looking for answers, can find you. And they aren’t just looking for answers, they are literally asking questions.

You've optimized your website content for mobile, and now it's time to optimize your content for voice search, too.

Optimizing for voice search is a good fit with implementing long-tail keywords. These types of queries are usually in the format of traditional questions: they are longer and more conversational. No more stagnated language and one-off keywords quickly typed into search fields. Voice search queries will also often include location markers. Use this information to inform your content based on what your customers want. They’re right there, telling you what they want.

Expand Your Website's Vocabulary

The answers to what your customers want are out there.

Research in the marketing world doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re not ready to deep dive into terms like structured and schema markup or rich snippet, there are plenty of useful automated tools that can help. Consider easy, powerful tools like AdWords and Google Trends, or just Google your way around your industry for keyword inspiration. 

However you find them, you need to know which keywords are important to your customers, and those are the ones you should probably use so that what you are offering is clear. Once you have them, use them as they occur naturally in the landscape of your descriptions and informative sections of text, as well as headlines and your URLs. But don’t let them interfere with your content unnecessarily. Your keyword research will also help you discover topics to write about, or what to cover in other multimedia projects.

So, figure out which keywords will help you provide relevant information to your customers. This, in turn, will help you be found.

Content Customer is King

It's a common collective statement these days about marketing: Content is king. But these marketers see content as currency, instead of a way to connect in a meaningful way with their audience.

Here’s the thing: Keywords that define your industry, your customer, and the type of products you deal with will occur naturally on your page if you cater quality information to the people that keep you around in the first place. If your content doesn’t have the exact keywords or phrases that you think define you, it will have synonyms. And latent semantic indexing, the crawlers that Google search uses, understands them. 

Despite our efforts to find a formulaic way to turn up first in any relevant search, the only formula that will continue to remain true is to make excellent content that attempts to solve your customers’ problems, answer their questions, or peak their interest. The best way to do that, is to blog and produce other social and multimedia content. You’ll want to tell a story. Because once they find your site, make sure you have something valuable to offer. Not exactly sign posts, keywords are more the natural land markers that indicate an environment some people want to find themselves in.

There's more that can be done: organizing the content to make finding it, cataloguing it, and ranking it easier than as it occurs naturally. There’s a concrete way to do it, and it’s called building content pillars, aka content clusters. Social media and multimedia content like videos are also bigger players in the grander scheme of things, and will continue to develop as we come up with new ways to share what we have to offer with our customers (and they come up with new ways of choosing who they like).

This week I listened to an episode of the Planet Money podcast that explored an example of customers leading company growth and strategy development. The episode is called “Hard Work is Irrelevant.” The company is Netflix. Netflix was doing a pretty good job in general with their DVD rental service. Remember when you’d order a DVD and it would arrive in the mail and you’d unpack it and pop it in the DVD-player and then send it back? It was cool. (Sorry, Blockbuster.) But when they enabled cloud streaming, people loved it – streaming was more convenient, faster, easier, and instantly gratifying. It totally changed their business, their industry, and the way we chill today. Moral of the story? Make it cool for your customers.

To help you figure out just how to navigate this weird world of keywords, SEO, and content, we’re hosting a breakfast event about content pillars coming up soon. Check it out!