Gone are the days when search engines would rank sites on the basis of matching keywords on the webpage! Google’s algorithm updates, released over the past few years, have redefined the way websites are ranked in search results. Today, it is more about understanding concepts rather than just stringing words together to create competitive keywords. The longstanding SEO practices are slowly becoming obsolete, and more evolved and efficient strategies are replacing the vacuum. One of these new strategies includes user experience marketing. Let us find out how this modern concept affects ranking.
Where it all began:
Way back in 2012, Google launched a revolutionary system called Knowledge Graph. The job of this system is to understand facts about things, places and people, and how they are all connected. Knowledge Graph is used to improve search relevancy. The idea was to make the “next generation” search far more advanced. With the implementation of this system, marketers started focusing on other aspects of SEO instead of putting keywords on the highest priority.
Later in 2013, Google released the Hummingbird update, which changed things even further. Skilled marketers realised the importance of relevant content, and that stuffing keywords in a webpage will not bring desired results. As concepts take over, and keywords go into the backseat, on-page SEO transforms. Considering these latest trends, it is important to address the question that is present in everyone’s mind – “How to optimise a site for a search engine that looks for more than just keywords?”
The answer is user experience! Google prefers websites that offer great user experience. Keeping that in mind, it is safe to say that websites that follow Google’s requirements and guidelines on user experience have a better chance of climbing up to the top ranks in search results.
Does this mean keyword-based strategies are no longer used?
There’s a debate over whether or not the classic SEO tactics are still useful. However, most would agree that the age old practices are being modified to meet the changes made in Google’s ranking metrics. In that sense, text relevancy is no more the sole priority. Metrics related to knowledge have also gained momentum. The search engine wants to recognise phrases and offer results based on the search query and not on matching keywords on the webpage.
How are search engines going beyond keywords?
Carrying out a information retrieval research can be a good idea. This reveals the means to present relevant search results that do not necessarily feature keyword phrases that are also present in the webpage. A process known as query reformulation is used in accomplishing this. Search queries are not always clear. They can be vague and may have too many meanings. With the help of query reformulation, the search engine is able to refine the search query to make out a better interpretation. In this sense, a search query such as “becoming a sportsman” is considered vague, whereas a reformulated version such as “how to become a soccer player” is deemed as more accurate. Thus, it produces more relevant results.
The problem with words:
Words have different meanings. A single word or a phrase can have different interpretations, and that poses a problem for the search engines to bring more accurate results. As a solution, Google uses various factors like previous search signals, geographic signals and statistical signals for identifying the reason behind the user’s intention to type that search query. This is also known as identifying user intent. To compensate for the lack of clarity in a query, search engines resort to displaying results that answer to similar and better constructed queries. For example, if a user searches for “jaguar”, it would be difficult to understand whether they are looking for the animal, the car or the football team. That is why Google puts so much of emphasis on understanding user intent. Understanding the user’s psyche and figuring out the intent behind possible queries is thus so important.
Digging deep in Knowledge Graph:
It’s not just Knowledge Graph that takes away from the relevancy of vague keywords. The search engine announced that this technology will help bring a new era in search. The idea is to make use of the collective intelligence of the web to help search engines understand the world as humans do. In most cases, search results no longer contain all the keywords that are used in the query. Does this mean that the keyword based targeting of webpage is slowly losing efficacy?
Creating content to satisfy user experience:
In this new age of SEO, anyone who builds a site around strings of keywords will struggle to get links. Since high quality links are still a contributing factor to ranking, it is difficult to achieve desirable results without it. A good SEO strategy should focus on obtaining relevant links. That is where user experience marketing comes into play. No one prefers linking to a keyword based site simply because these sites are optimised for keywords and not for humans. Pages that are built around the user experience grab more attention, and that is how they gain recognition in the eye of the search engine.
Users value experience over links:
A link that is created for a positive experience such as fun, usefulness, utility and learning is the best kind of link. Research reveals that a good experience leads to sharing. The more, the better! In such cases, users are essentially sharing experiences, not merely links. That is why publishers need to focus on building that experience to cultivate links.
This also raises the question – “how to cultivate experience?” To answer this question, it needs to be understood that recommendations are always the most enthusiastic links. A user does not share a link unless they feel some kind of emotional attachment to it. This emotional attachment comes from usefulness. That is why the most shared links are always the ones that help the user in some way or the other. That is why web pages that are built around keywords fail to create that experience that leads to the emotional attachment of the user. When the user feels a connection to the message you are sending, they keep coming back. And that’s what leads to better ranking.