Unlike content marketing (which is centuries old),
SEO is a very new discipline. It has been around for just a
couple decades, and it quickly became the primary digital focus for
Yet, SEO cannot exist without content, and I am happy to
report that the search industry has reached maturity when it goes
back to basics: recognizing that content is the most important and
fundamental part of the marketing puzzle. Now, with SEO maturing so
quickly, there are still many misconceptions and misunderstandings
around it. Those misconceptions may impact the content marketing
process in a not-so-positive way.
Let’s clear things up a bit:
1. SEO Has Become Much More Integrated and Diverse
SEO used to be standalone: no one had any idea what SEOs were
doing and how they got pages ranked. Many SEOs would ignore very
important digital marketing aspects, including user experience,
brand building, etc. The only purpose was to get a page ranked.
These days it’s finally different: SEO is just one element of
success. It’s next to impossible to achieve high rankings without
building authority and brand awareness, or without ensuring users
are going to have a good experience using the site.
#SEO is just one element of digital success. It’s next to
impossible to achieve high rankings without building authority and
brand awareness, and delivering a great user experience
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Google has taken all of that in the account: they monitor how
users interact with a website, how satisfied they are, and how
quickly they find answers when landing on a page from search
results. Google has made
trust and authority important ranking signals.
As a result, there are fewer and fewer companies that focus on a
single component of SEO (like link building) or even just SEO. Most
companies are offering full-package internet marketing services
that include video production, social media marketing and
usability. Some companies even go beyond that by offering
“integrated marketing services”. talkingAds, a company that
oversees the entire marketing plan for its clients,
describes the benefits of this approach in much detail and why
it’s crucial for businesses:
The important elements in marketing communication are
advertising, personal selling, direct marketing, public relations,
website communication, sponsorship and social media presence. A
disjointed approach isolates these functions that lead to
non-consistency of brand value to the end-user.
Integration means mapping your strategy to the reality of the
Do you see where keyword research and data analytics fits in
here? Exactly: like any other marketing channel, SEO goes back to
the customer. If the customer is pleased, Google will catch on
2. SEO Is No Longer Focused on Exact-Match Strings
As an SEO, with a huge passion for writing, I think this is the
most welcome development as far as I am concerned.
Remember the days when writers were given one phase and forced
to use it a certain number of times within a copy?
Well, those days are happily over.
Search engines have moved beyond so-called “keyword
strings”. They can now understand concepts, entities and topics.
You can see the trend all over Google search results pages.
Try searching for something specific, like [good hiking spots],
now scroll through those results. A few years ago, Google would
focus on the exact match [good hiking spots] and show you results
that have the exact phrase in their title tags. Now they’re much
smarter than this. You’ll see a good mix of phrases that express
the same thing, i.e. places nearby that are great places to
Google understands all kinds of phrases that can satisfy the
initial query and focuses on the quality of the results rather than
matching to the query wording verbatim. Quality and depth of
content have become much more important than the exact keyword you
put on the page.
Action item: Use keyword tools that don’t
focus on exact-match and give you a variety of phrases that can
inspire more content angles. Ubersuggest is a great
option. It’s open, completely free and offers a good selection of
filters as well as a quick analysis of current search results for
each query. But the best part is: it generates all kinds of
keywords that relate to the term you type in.
Try it yourself: type in your term to see all kinds of
synonymous phrases and varied angles.
For another example of how search engines have advanced, look at
how Google clusters topics by entities (i.e. “brands”) they
know about. If you type something generic, like [how to set up call
forwarding], Google would know that the query may be multi-faceted,
so it will allow you to quickly browse through a more specific
answer right within the featured snippet:
Action item: When working on content, make sure
you understand related subtopics and subcategories that need to be
included in your article.
to cluster your keyword lists by topics. They use Google
results for each keyword in a list to identify how closely queries
are related based on how many overlapping URLs there are ranking
for each set of keywords. The fact that Serpstat isn’t using a
traditional clustering technique (i.e. the one that groups phrases
based on a common core term in each phrase) makes it a much smart
and more up-to-date option to use nowadays:
[Read more about Serpstat’s clustering feature
3. Search Gives Us Lots of Cues
Search has evolved. Google has become smarter at identifying
search intent and giving their users exactly what they want.
They have become better at identifying peoples’ struggles and
serving the best answer within search results. They have learned to
find questions behind queries and show their users more options for
researching a topic.
The fact that all of that comes up in search results makes it
possible for writers to learn more about any topic they are writing
about. The key is to learn to see and interpret those cues to
create more valuable and better-optimized content.
Let’s try to see that in action:
1. When searching, look at all kinds of “blended”
search results that come up.
Is there a video carousel? That means Google
has found users engage with videos more for this particular query,
so maybe you need to put one together too,
Are there image results? That means Google has
seen its users look for visual content when searching. Think about
which parts of your article you can
visualize to make it more appealing and engaging.
Are there shopping results? This signals of
high commercial intent, so your article may not do so well here.
How about finding a more informative angle? A product comparison
may be a good angle to find, so research more angles.
2. When searching, look at “People Also Ask”
Google’s “People Also Ask” boxes show popular questions
based on your query. These provide a goldmine of content
inspiration. Click on some of those questions to see more questions
show up underneath.
Tool [Disclaimer: This tool has been developed by Internet
Marketing Ninjas, the company I work for] will help you streamline
the process. Simply put your domain or the URL of the article that
covers a topic you are researching, and it will generate the list
of all kinds of questions Google shows for a variety of queries
this domain or URL shows up in Google for. You’ll see all kinds
of related questions to expand and enrich your content.
3. When searching, pay attention to Google’s Featured
Google has gone a long way at learning to understand any web
copy and extracting useful information. Look at
those featured snippets to learn to better structure your copy
to make it easier for Google to understand as well as more useful
for your users:
- Define concepts
- Focus on facts and numbers (e.g. if you are describing a tool,
explain its pricing)
- Use subheads (especially if you are using questions from the
What prompted Google to feature this page instead of their own
guide that ranks #1?
These days, instead of forcing artificial copy, Google makes
your content better by teaching you to research more, structure
better and use a more varied vocabulary.