Google is smart. It knows what users are searching for and which process they go through to find search results. As the Google algorithm is constantly evolving, it is better at understanding user search intent, and in turn, prioritizing content engagement more than ever before.
As we advise clients on how to design online content for their websites, we need to help them understand how to optimize that content for search engines helping them drive more traffic to their content. Traditionally, this optimization focused on variables such as keyword targeting, anchor text, meta data, user experience/multi-device and the like. However, we have to think past these traditional variables of optimization and start putting a bigger focus on how the end user will engage with the content.
Here are five new variables to optimize for Google’s changing algorithm:
1. Relative CTR
What is this? Essentially this means getting people to spend more time on our client’s websites than their competitors’ websites. This involves understanding what a user wants to see in a search result and optimizing content to clearly answer their question and compel them to visit our client’s website. Once new content is published, Google often gives a window of testing on page one to determine how effective and engaging content is with searchers. If content is highly engaged, it will likely remain at a high ranking, but otherwise it will drop off of page one results. This provides an opportunity for repeated publication on the same topics/keywords until we can successfully engage with an audience.
2. Beating Competitors on Engagement
Google is no longer gameable. In the past, people have tried to trick Google’s algorithm by driving fake traffic to websites to show high volumes of traffic or keyword stuffing content trying to ensure a high ranking in organic results. Long gone are the days when this was acceptable practice – it now leads to Google punishing your content and rankings. While there are a number of factors that go into beating the competition on engagement, the end all, be all, is to know your audience and create high quality, engaging and interactive content that will capture their attention and compel them to visit your website.
3. Give People What They Need
Google’s ultimate goal is to deliver content to searchers that fulfills their needs and does not require them to return to the search process. For example, is a user searches for “What is SEO?,” the ideal search result would contain the definition of search engine optimization rather than a technical document that details SEO practices. Google’s advanced algorithm is key here because it is able to understand user intent based on related words, phrases and themes and then deliver this content to users.
4. Amplification and Loyalty
The top 10 percent of content receives all the social shares and traffic. From a ranking perspective, Google does not care about raw shares and numbers from social, but overall engagement. They want to see social actions that result in returning visits and loyalty. Understanding what our audience shares and engages with is increasingly important so that we can focus on this content and improve it.
5. Instant Gratification
Google’s end goal is to get searchers to accomplish their tasks quicker. They want to see a user’s search, understand what the majority of those searches lead to, and then deliver that result more quickly. Having a page or website that answers a searchers initial query, but does not fulfill their end search need will lead to a decline in ranking over time.
In the end, it’s not about the number of roads that lead to a destination, but the quality of the destination. For SEO, it’s not about the number of links to/from your website, number of visitors to your website or amount of content that you post – it’s about the quality of the content and its relevance to the visitors. Understanding our audience and their end search intent is more important than ever when developing content. With Google’s mission focused on fulfilling a user’s search intent as efficiently and effectively as possible, we must realize that we now live in a two-algorithm world and optimize for both traditional variables and quality user engagement.
Image credit: Google