What really matters in SEO

Short tail, long tail, search intent – these phrases pop up in almost every conversation around content. Now more than ever, search optimisation is paramount if your content is going to be successful. But there’s much more to SEO than keyword planners.

Toby MathewsTechnical Director

You’ve made a great piece of content, but now you need your intended audience to see it. The social media landscape is a volatile one thanks to algorithm changes, so to get traction your content needs to rank highly on search result pages (often referred to as SERPs). There is a tendency to think about search strategy in terms of specific keywords, but if you’re going to be successful in search there are a lot more things you need to factor in.

So how do you make sure your content comes out on top?

1. Tell your audience what they want to know

Never underestimate the intelligence of Google. It’s highly sophisticated when it comes to understanding users’ intent and its relationship to indexed content. This means Google understands what you’re asking for even if you don’t type quite the right thing. Let’s look at an example.

If you type ‘most popular food in the UK’ into Google it serves up results with bullet points about chicken tikka masala, a Sunday roast and fish and chips – all taken from the Wikipedia entry for British food. It doesn’t take a keen observer to notice that not one of the terms used in the original search appears in the results, yet the information displayed is exactly what we were looking for.

The top result for this search is an article about ‘Top Ten British Foods’, which is semantically the same as ‘most popular food in the UK’, but again those keywords don’t appear anywhere on the page.

However, the article does answer the original question, and Google understands that. So when content planning it’s more crucial than ever to get inside your audience’s mind and know what they’re going to be searching for (more on that later). Don’t get too caught up on packing in keywords – Google is one step ahead of that.

2. Create genuinely good content

To cut through the deluge of content online, making rich content is more necessary than ever – and it will enhance your search optimisation, too.

Google has said it uses well over 200 factors to work out a domain authority (how it ranks websites), but what those factors are remains a closely guarded secret. One element we do know it factors in is the amount of backlinks to the content. And Google particularly favours links from credible well-linked-to pages. Of course the best way to achieve this is to create genuinely good, well-written content that other sources will want to share.

3. Know what to do with your keywords

Although packing features full of keywords is a practice that is at best frowned upon, and at worst actively damaging to your content’s chance of success, keywords are still an important factor for SEO.

Keywords can act as signposting for visitors. Most visitors will click a search result and then skim read to make sure the piece is relevant to them. This means sub-headings and the intro paragraphs have to work hard to draw your audience in and make sure a page is answering their questions.

Another way in which keywords are useful is for identifying search opportunities. Analysing keywords will help you find what people’s search intent is. There are four types of search intent:

You need to answer your audience’s needs, and keyword analysis will help you understand what kind of information people are looking for around your keywords.

If your content is relevant, useful and underpinned by solid research, not only will your audience like it, but, just as importantly, so will Google.