Search queries posted by users today can no longer be weighed in terms of the keywords and keyword phrases they contain. Formerly, SEO concentrated on short phrases because that’s what users keyed in to find when they want, but that is now changing. People are using longer queries in search, and search marketers need to change their strategies accordingly.
Shift towards long-tail search queries
Just like all marketing trends including internet marketing, there isn’t a single reason for the change in user search behavior. It comes as a result of a combination of many factors and it didn’t happen all at once. By understanding the context and background of longer search queries, you’ll be able to prepare better for the changes in search patterns.
A few factors include the following:
Improvement in semantic search capability
Naturally, the way Google interprets user queries has changed over time, driving a change in user search behavior. In the beginning, search queries were broken down to their fundamental constituents or keywords. The algorithm then searched for those keywords exactly as they appeared in sites on the web. The sites that had the highest matching for the search phrases would appear at the top.
Now, Google uses the ‘semantic search’ approach, which interprets the intention behind user queries and then tries to find the sites that will be suitable for fulfilling that intention. Due to this, users have found that traditional, short-tail keyword research is ineffective at producing relevant results compared to longer queries. Users are now using full, specific questions rather than general topics.
There’s exponentially more information available on the web today than there was just a few years ago and it grows exponentially with each passing day. Users therefore need longer and more specific queries in order to draw out the most relevant information from a sea of information.
The simple, ambiguous and generic searches previously used would likely bring out the same general information such as Wikipedia entries or homepages of major brands relating to the field searched for. Longer queries result in information that is more useful.
Voice search and mobile search
On average, most people don’t like to type. Before today, typing was the main way to submit search queries and users went with the minimalist scheme. The rise of mobile devices increased the headache for typing queries wince the field of view is smaller and letters are much too close together. Autocorrect, while useful in some instances can make life more difficult sometimes.
Alternatively, there are personal assistants like Siri from Apple who have made voice searches possible. People can now use informal and conversational language in their search queries since they don’t have to type it out. This brings out sentence-like structures in search queries.
How businesses must respond
Now that you know why the trend is here, as a business owner, you must take action to ensure your sites remain relevant. Like all other SEO strategies, it will take time before you see the effects of these strategies, but eventually you will see effective results if you respond consistently.
- Get rid of keyword-based strategies
Stop stuffing keywords in your titles, Meta descriptions and other content thinking that this will help you rank for relevant queries. Keyword matching is no longer part of Google’s ranking algorithm. Even if it was, user queries are so long that it would matter every little now. To add to that, over-stuffing keywords can earn you’re a manual or Panda penalty now. Therefore, move from the strategy of trying to gain high rankings for a specific list of short-tail keywords.
- Long-tail optimization
In lieu of the above, embrace the potential and effectiveness of long-tail keywords, which are not words, but rather extended phrases and topics. Because of their nature, you may not be able to optimize by including them verbatim in your content.
Instead, create content geared towards addressing the user queries found within long-tail keywords and like search queries. Also, re-organize your content in order to ensure Google understands the purpose and intention of all your site pages, especially your landing pages.
- Find your topics within your niche
Being much longer, user queries are now more specific and targeted to help then navigate a huge sea of content. To remain relevant, you also need to be specific: ensure you have described your areas of expertise very specifically. In addition, all your content should address very specific questions in detail.
Broad and generic content is likely to be lost in the sea of information. In addition, by being specific, you will attract very specific users who are more likely to convert since they are at an advanced stage of the buying process. By fully addressing their question, you should provide all the information they need to make the final decision and go through with a purchase.
SEO is always evolving – Google churns out updates to increase its capabilities and users subsequently adapt to the abilities of the new algorithms. For businesses that want to remain relevant, there is no choice but to reengineer their internet marketing strategies to take full advantage of the changes in behavior.