Search Has Changed – How Should Your Content Evolve?

More than a decade after inbound marketing became popular, search engines are still the primary way the audience and prospective customers discovered new content.

While video, social, and messaging apps do hold a fair share of the content stage, marketers still cannot ignore search – what with more than 3.5 billion searches done every single day, and that’s just on Google.

During the last ten years, we believe that we’ve actually found the right formula to make our “search strategy” work: post a huge volume of content containing long-tail keywords and get leads by converting organic traffic via gated content offers. However, this formula doesn’t seem to work as well as it did.

Search has evolved in the past few years because of two main reasons: First, the audience’s search behaviour has changed. And second, search engines’ technology used for interpreting keywords and posting results has greatly improved.

Did our search behaviour really change?

Yes, it did! Ten years ago, the way we search was quite simplistic. Our queries were like “Salon Toronto”, which is a whole lot different from “Where is the best place to get a haircut near me?” – which is what the average search query looks like these days. More importantly, just last year, Google announced that 20% of queries made on mobile are voice searches.  But whether you key in your queries or you use voice search, the standard has become those longer and more conversational ones.

Search Engine Updates Have a Huge Impact

With their core and image search, as well as YouTube, Google controls about 90% of the search market. So for now, we will focus on the updates that this particular search engine has made in the past years and how we can have our content keep up with those updates.

In 2012, an algorithm update (Penguin) was created to penalize webspam and those sites that used black-hat SEO techniques to over-optimize by keyword stuffing and doing link schemes. Needless to say, your content should include relevant keywords and links but it should not be overdone, and they should be tastefully included. If you think it is too much, it probably is.

A core algorithm update focusing on improving semantic search was rolled in 2013 (Hummingbird). This core algorithm can interpret more conversational searches. It attempts to understand the meaning behind those words to return relevant results.

Because we now search just like how we talk, focusing only on keywords can mean you’re missing out on traffic. So instead, consider clustering content into topics and tweak the way you create content.

In 2015, RankBrain, another algorithm update became the third most influential factor for ranking. This algorithm interprets searches and looks for pages that may not have the specific words searched for. That means your content may still be discovered even though searchers are not using exact keywords.

It is clear that with the changes in our search behaviour and the updates for search technology, the way we create content needs to adapt. Does that mean keywords are now irrelevant? No. They still are very relevant. However, we shouldn’t solely rely on them. Instead, base your playbook on the overall topics that fit the intent of searchers, and the keywords they are likely to use.

Basically, what you need to do is decide on the topics that you want to be known for. The content you will create will have all those topics covered individually. Within each topic-based content, relevant keywords are included tastefully.

You should also have pillar content, which is typically a single page that provides a comprehensive view of the topic. If you already have a lot of content, you probably already have this page on your website. This should be available for search engines to crawl and for guests to view without having to fill out any forms. It should be comprehensive and should mention your core topic and some synonymous terms, too.

With the right strategy, you can keep up with the continuous evolution of “search”. Of course, you can always just have the right team to do that for you. ReferLinks Online Marketing has a team of experts who can ensure that your content is out there where searchers can find them. Call us and let’s plan your content strategy!