SEO Strategy: Searcher Intent, Keywords, and On-Page Optimization
Content marketing is the key to growing your brand and business. To benefit from content marketing, it is important that you utilize a variety of methods to ensure your website is optimized for Google’s search algorithm. The process of optimizing your web content for Google or other search engines is called search engine optimizing (SEO). Without maintaining a competitive SEO strategy, your website will fall into the black hole of the internet – never to receive any web traffic.
SEO is more than just targeting the right keywords.
In previous years, Google’s algorithm was not nearly as sophisticated as it is now in terms of how search rankings were determined. It focused on strategically placed keywords, page views, and other metrics. But things have changed, and as the algorithm continues to evolve it’s important that you’re making appropriate changes to your SEO strategy to stay up to date.
Google’s algorithm now takes “searcher intent” into consideration when determining page rankings.
How potential buyers view your content is becoming more important than ever. In addition to the previous keyword and title optimizers, Google attempts to determine if the content meets “searcher intent,” and uses that information to calculate page rank.
Buyer Intent Stages
When a buyer is looking to purchase a product, they go through a series of steps before making their final decision. Throughout the process, buyers search for different things and have different goals. It is imperative to consider these varying intents when optimizing your content.
- Informational: Buyers are simply looking for information. This stage may be the start of a path to purchase, or it may be at this point that the buyer realizes they don’t need the product at all.
- Commercial: This transitional period will either continue the buyer’s journey or it will end it. It’s important to remember that this is not just an informational stage. Buyers are beginning to look at specific products based on features or capabilities. They are starting to compare products or use keyword modifiers for certain features.
- Transactional: This final stage determines whether or not the buyer decides to purchase the product. Modifications to a buyers’ search usually include things like shipping costs or other logistical factors. In B2B specifically, they may be searching for specific must-have features or interoperability with other products and services they already use.
Time to Optimize!
Different SEO tactics work at different buyer intent stages – it all has to do with what your buyers are looking for at each stage of their purchasing journey.
During this research stage, people want a general overview or understanding of the product like what it does or how it can help them. You should optimize for product terms in the overview, description, or definitional pages. If buyers find your informational pages useful, they are more likely to view your brand as an industry expert and come back when they are ready to purchase. Google your keywords and take a look at the search engine results page (SERP), to help you understand how your competitors optimize their content, so you can use a similar SEO strategy.
Keep in mind:
- Certain websites will be very difficult to compete with for research purposes (i.e. Wikipedia, Amazon etc.)
- You can look at SERPs for keywords that you don’t rank for to understand what Google “thinks” is best
- Although news results tend to be high ranking, they are often irrelevant to searcher intent because of the increased use of click-bait headlines
- If you want to use videos, upload them to YouTube and then embed them on your own website, as Google seems to favor YouTube videos over other video hosting platforms
At this middle stage, you want to take a look at your competitors’ pages to try to understand what they are doing to rank higher than you. By looking at this information you can alter your SEO strategy accordingly. It is important to compare rankings and who has the highest share of voice (one website holding multiple first SERP slots) to better analyze which strategies work best.
You should optimize for keyword modifiers like “best” or “enterprise-grade” as these types of words can have an impact on rankings as well. Understanding how the modifiers impact the types of content that buyers are looking for can help you optimize for a wider range of terms.
Optimize for keyword modifiers, not just keywords themselves.
Keep in mind:
- For searches with a “best” modifier, users are looking for snippets
- For searches with “compare” modifiers, users are looking for videos, reviews, and comparison articles
At this point, buyers are ready to purchase and interestingly enough, UX can actually have more of an impact at this stage than keywords.
User experience is the most important factor in the transactional stage.
Buyers are looking for websites where they can easily begin the sales process. In B2C marketing buyers are looking for websites where they can easily find the products they are looking for, quickly add them to their cart, and check out – or even better, use one-click checkout. In B2B marketing, buyers are looking to get a demo of the product, see proof of concept, talk to a salesperson directly, set up a meeting etc. By looking at the web page design of high ranking URLs you can understand how to optimize your UX.
So what does it all mean?
According to Google, (who tends to be extremely secretive about their algorithm) the best way to get high search rankings is to, “be there, be useful, and be quick.”
You can “be there” by doing quality keyword research in accordance with each stage of the buyer intent funnel. You can “be useful” by looking at SERPs and attempt to understand what Google thinks is useful to searchers and optimize based on the results. And you can “be quick” by improving your website and getting right to the point by optimizing for load speed, easy to read content, UX.
By understanding the buyer intent stages and how the stages affect the keywords buyers use, you can easily optimize your SEO strategy and have your content appear higher in SERPs. Things have changed and it is no longer just about keywords and playing the algorithm. Your buyers have become your biggest insight for SEO.
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