Does anyone else feel like many aspects of SEO have finally evolved and matured? It's much more integrated now and the actual goals make much more sense these days: Instead of "I want traffic NOW", businesses ask better questions, like "How do I build up my brand's authority and visibility over time" or "Is the risk of pursuing short-term goals worth it?"
Take keyword research and optimization, for example. It used to be my most hated task when it came to both SEO and content. So much so that I would delegate it as much as possible and instead focus on all the other parts of running my brand that I could actually stomach.
It wasn't that I didn't see the value in it (far from it, a good keyword strategy is critical). The problem was that it was so time-consuming and dull that it would make my eyes glaze over. All you needed to do is to get content written with certain keyword density.
I am happy to report that we have come a long way from that point. Keyword research is much more mature these days thanks to the progress of marketing tools, the openness of Google with their various keyword-relate services and the way that search phrases have expanded to give more freedom for the searcher to deviate from the most basic queries.
Content quality is recognized as the most important and fundamental ranking factor. Most businesses no longer focus on "faking" authority and they are prepared in investing in actually becoming an authority. Online reputation is important and no one wants to risk it. ROI has become a more complicated metric (as you no longer see results right away) but it is much more diverse now too. Instead of just clicks and sales, we monitor brand growth and foster loyalty.
Let's look at the three most important SEO trends that will help you boost your brand's online performance in 2019 and beyond:
Indepth SEO Insights
Looking back at how difficult it was to get information on audiences in the past, it isn't a surprise that the insights we took way weren't amazing. Many of us had a tendency to cobble together whatever we could, then use trial and error to narrow it down and come up with some better strategies over time.
I'll give us all an A for ingenuity and dedication. However, we no longer have to go so far for so little. We have access to more insights than ever before, provided with easy to use tools and even assistance on how to best interpret the information.
We also have a better understanding of content and what keyword research means in context. So many shady practices have come in and out of vogue that we can clearly point out what not to do, which may be just as valuable an knowing what tactics to use.
Finally, we have one tool that was in its infancy when I first started in the keyword research game: social media. Talk about an overflow of insights! We can get more than just demographic information on our audience, we can look right into their lives, homes, interests, buying habits and more. All of this is at our fingertips and provides a whole new use for keywords and analytics.
Quantcast Audience Insights is the most indepth analytics platforms focusing on people behind clicks. With some tweaking and playing, you can probably get a similar insight using Google Analytics but Quantcast is much more user-friendly.
Facebook Audience Insights is one of the easiest tools at our disposal that also comes for free. Using Audience Insights, you can get an indepth information on your audience, including:
- Purchases activity: Past purchase behavior (e.g. heavy buyers of women's apparel) and purchase methods (e.g. online and in-store)
- Demographics: Age and gender, lifestyle, education, relationship status, job role and household size
- Location and language: Where your customers live, and what languages do they speak
Tip: Use Facebook Insights for persona building. This will help you craft your marketing messages based on different personas.
More tools giving you audience insights:
Google's Better Interpretations
I remember when about 30% of my time was spent creating landing pages for every single keyword I was trying to target. That was a frustrating endeavor, even if it paid off in many ways. We no longer have to rely on exact keyword strings to get us results.
The best part about this is that we can use similar permutations of keyphrases in order to target keywords. Google can now make more intelligent interpretations and connect to web pages in a more real way. No more artificial content targeting each set of weird keywords that people tend to type into the search box.
Since Hummingbird update, we optimize for concepts instead of keyword strings which is a very well celebrated and long-awaited trend.
This trend is best illustrated through Google Suggest results that show all kinds of perceived query interpretations when you search:
This article looks at how Google Suggest works and how you can use the tool to discover related entities and concepts behind your core search query:
- Nearby location ("glens falls", "troy", "schenectady")
- Synonyms ("lost" instead for "missing" and "pets" / "pet" instead of "cats")
- Related entities, e.g. services and organizations (i.e. "pet connection facebook")
- Related, but not exactly synonymous terms (i.e. "found" instead of "missing")
Playing with Google Suggest results can give you lots of insights into how Google understands each query, what kind of user intent various search queries have proved to reflect and what related terms and concepts Google ties in with your core term.
It's Not All About Search Volumes
This is one I think many of us are still wrapping our heads around. For so long we clawed our way to the top of Google's first page of results and everything was based around the task. Now the position you have isn't as important as it once was.
Our industry is full of misleading metrics that prevent business owners from focusing on what's really important:
- Search volume may reflect the popularity of each term but even most popular keywords may turn useful (What really matters is search intent and how your actual product matches each query)
- Search volume doesn't translate into click-through: Many people may be searching for a term but few people may be clicking any search results or even top results. Ahrefs offers a great explanation of this phenomenon:
The keyword "chauffeur" has a high search volume of 67,000 searches per month. Yet that volume only resulted in 13,406 clicks. One probable reason could be that Google already gave what people wanted instantly (i.e. the definition of the term) - and there was no need to click on the search results.
In fact, no-need-to-click is a growing SEO trend forcing us to be more selective as to which terms we want to optimize for. Stay away from search queries driving no clicks!
Another phenomenon skewing SEO metrics is featured snippets. These are the top results now, whether they are the expandable questions, recipes, lists, graphs, interactive calculators... it is all above any of the results. Often there will be more than one, which makes it necessary scroll down to even see past the top two links.
Keyword research (and SEO in general) has to reflect this change because the evolution is incredibly important.
The granddaddy of research tools, Ahrefs is a professional platform which puts people off sometimes. But in spite of having a great deal of information with each campaign, they do well at breaking it down and offering actionable insights for their users. It is an investment, but it pays off.
The tool is pretty unique when it comes to its own index and metrics (including "Clicks" metric that shows exactly how many clicks each search query drives).
This is Google's tool that helps with high-level topic research. I enjoy it as both a keyphrase generator and as a content idea generator. If you want to kill two birds with one stone, start here.
According to Google, Google Correlate is,
“a tool on Google Trends which enables you to find queries with a similar pattern to a target data series. The target can either be a real-world trend that you provide (e.g., a data set of event counts over time) or a query that you enter”.
For more insight into how to use the tool, read this tutorial.
Any other insights into the evolution of keyword research? Know a good tool? Let us know in the comments!