The ultimate goal with the new SEO is to win an audience. Sure, you have to do certain things with your webpage so that search engines will give it a better ranking, but that’s just a tool for achieving the goal, not the goal itself.
An effective SEO strategy keeps the audience in mind. We need to be thinking about creating a content strategy that will be a success with real live people, not just create content for search engine bots.
In the past, the type of SEO that we would do would involve trying to rank higher in Google for specific keywords. To do this, we’d write pages of keyword-rich copy and try to generate as many inbound links as we possibly could. But this type of SEO just doesn’t work that well any more.
Firstly, Google isn’t showing us keywords any more. Google is starting to give more and more (not provided) results in their keyword data.
This is probably due, in part, to the fact that Google wants us to spend more money in Google Ads to get these keywords. After all, ads are Google’s main source of revenue. Secondly, with Google’s Hummingbird search algorithm, the effectiveness of long tail keywords has been reduced. (Or everything is effectively a long-tail keyword now.) Google is trying to simplify these long tails into more understandable, shorter queries.
This means that we no longer have to create thousands of pages just for SEO purposes, but that we should rather be creating a few high quality pages that people really want.
A new content strategy needs to be focused on a set of well-defined concepts that users will be interested in. Simply: we need to create better content that answers users’ questions. Content isn’t about keywords any more, it’s about topics, questions and generally useful information.
Entities and Search Entities
When we talk about content topics, what we really mean is entities and search entities. Entities are physical things in the real world; books, people, films, objects, and also human concepts such as art movements. Search entities, on the other hand, are elements related to Google; search queries, anchor texts and documents that respond to user queries.
So, when writing content, we need to think about what entities relate to the product we are writing about. Then, think about the basic relationships between these entities in order to come up with a content strategy.
To illustrate with an example: if we were tasked with creating a content strategy for a new coffee shop in Braamfontein, a trendy, up-and-coming area in Johannesburg with no shortage of coffee shops, our old strategy would be to find ways to optimise their page for ‘coffee shop’, ‘coffee shop in Braamfontein’,’best coffee in Johannesburg’, etc.
However, with the new search algorithms, we would rather find out what entities are related to coffee shops. These could include topics like drinks, food, equipment to make coffee, and public meeting spaces.
Content That’s Relevant
We can then think of a series of content topics to make the site relevant. These could be things like recipes that include coffee, information on the history of coffee, the different places that coffee comes from and information on coffee plungers and machines.
At the same time, we need to remember that the coffee shop is located in Braamfontein. Where previous SEO pages would include text like “Come down to our coffee shop in Braamfontein. If you’re in Braamfontein stop in for a wide selection of coffees. We serve the best coffee in Braamfontein.” New SEO pages would include useful content related to Braamfontein: what interesting events are happening there, the people of Braamfontein or urban redevelopment in Braamfontein.
Doing this effectively creates a series of ‘microsites’ about Braamfontein, coffee knowledge and the actual shop itself, within the main site. This means that the information will all be well-organised and therefore easier for Google to find and easier for users to navigate. Plus, the nature of the content – directly related to real people – will mean that it’s highly shareable on social media.
If we move away from the old-school SEO strategy with its mere keyword targeting and stuffing, and focus instead on people, we can create a site with an online presence that people care about and that people will talk about.