The power of Google search
Google search has improved exponentially since its early days.
If you search as regularly as I do, you may have noticed that your search results have become more accurate and more in line with what you’re actually searching for.
But how does Google do that? And how does it instinctively seem to know what you want to see?
The more you understand about your market, the way they use Google to search — and the way Google handles those search queries, the better your chances of reaching the right people.
Attracting your target audience
It’s estimated that Google processes around 63,000 search queries every second. That’s a whole lotta searchin’ going on!
If you have a website or blog, you want to make sure a proportion of those searches come to you. And not just any old searches, but people who are genuinely interested in what you’re putting out there.
In this article, I’ll show you five ways to draw them in.
5 Ways to leverage the power of Google search
These are five of the techniques I use myself when I’m researching and choosing my clients’ keywords.
When you first start researching the copy or content for your page, you’ll be looking for words and phrases that are relevant and integral to your subject.
Google will use these words and phrases to get a handle on what your page is about and will prioritise them when deciding what your page should rank for.
How to optimise for relevance
When you optimise for relevance it’s best to do this on a page-by-page basis, so each page covers a different subject to the others and has its own set of individual keywords.
You can target more than one keyword per page, but you should avoid using too many — especially if they’re very different from each other. This makes things harder for Google and could prevent your site from ranking well.
2. Voice of Customer research
When a user does a search, they’ll do what comes naturally.
They’ll use language they’re familiar with and that makes sense to them. But that won’t necessarily be the official language or ‘correct’ terminology. When you’re targeting a particular user, it’s important to recognise this.
Voice of Customer (VoC) research helps you learn the language your target audience is using, so you can match it in your copy and content.
How to do VoC research
The easiest way to learn the language of your customer is to go to the places where they hang out online and look at what they’re saying.
I’m talking about relevant forums, FAQs, comments sections, testimonials and reviews. Once you have a sense of the language they’re using, you can look at similar terms, questions and autocomplete data to get more ideas.
3. Search intent
When I find a potential new keyword, the first thing I do is look at the search intent behind it.
If the top search engine results for that keyword don’t match the kind of content I’m creating, I know I need to think again.
What is search intent?
Search intent is the reason a user has for doing an online search.
For example, they might be searching because they want the answer to a question, or because they’re intending to buy something.
You can sometimes gauge the intent behind a search query by looking at the way the query is framed.
For example, someone who’s looking for the answer to a question might type that question into Google.
How do you know if your keywords are right for your content?
In most cases, Google has learned exactly what its users are looking for when they type in a search term. The top sites on its search engine results page represent what its users expect to see.
To decide if a keyword is a winner, you need to look at the sites ranking at the top for it and see if they’re a match for your own content.
For example, if you do a simple one-word search for ‘garlic’, you get information about what garlic is and the health benefits of consuming it.
If your content is more concerned with garlic recipes, you’ll know from these results that the word garlic on its own isn’t enough.
The four types of search intent
Yoast identifies the four most common types of search intent as:
- Informational intent
- Navigational intent
- Transactional intent
- Commercial investigation.
Let’s have a look at each of those in more detail.
What is informational intent?
Informational intent refers to searches for information.
For example, users might be researching a specific topic or looking for the answer to a question.
What is navigational intent?
Navigational intent refers to searches for specific websites.
For example, Google would know that users searching ‘good housekeeping’ are looking for the Good Housekeeping website rather than housekeeping tips.
What is transactional intent?
Transactional intent refers to searches for products/services to buy.
For example, a search for ‘fabric handbags’ brings up a range of buying options. So unless your content is selling fabric handbags, you need to find some more specific alternatives.
What is commercial investigation?
Commercial investigation refers to searches for information on products/services.
These searches could also be called pre-transactional intent as they’re done by users who are researching products/services before they buy.
For example, a commercial investigation search might be something like ‘most energy efficient heating system’ or ‘mobile phone network with best coverage’.
How to know what your prospects are looking for
Now you understand why your prospects are searching, you can start to research what they’re searching for.
For example, you might look at:
- Questions they want answers to
- Information they’re looking for
- Problems they’re trying to solve
- Things they want to buy/learn/achieve.
Remember to consider all your potential prospects, at all stages of awareness and at all points along the buyer journey.
4. Searches and competition
By now, you should have a list of relevant audience-friendly keywords that match the search intent of your market.
The next step is to assess how those keywords are likely to perform. You can do this by looking at the searches and competition. For this, you’ll need a keyword research tool. There are a number of free tools online, like this one from WordStream, for example.
What are the searches?
The number of searches is the number of times users have searched for your keyword.
You’ll usually get the option to narrow this down by country.
The keyword research tool will show you the average number of searches a keyword gets each month. This is usually based on the last 12 month period.
On the free keyword tools, you’ll usually just see the average number. But the paid-for tools will break it down month by month, which is more helpful.
A good keyword will have a fairly consistent number of searches in each of those months — unless it’s something more seasonal that’s searched for at a specific time of year. Be wary of keywords that get their averages searches from large irregular spikes.
A high number of searches is usually a good sign. But there might not be high numbers if your keywords are very niche.
What is the competition?
Competition refers to the competition the keyword has from other websites. If a lot of websites are trying to rank for the same keyword, that keyword will generally be harder to rank for.
On the free tools, the competition is usually shown as Low, Medium or High. Keywords with Low competition are best as they’re easiest to rank for.
Paid-for keyword tools are more sophisticated. They take a number of different factors into account to give you a more accurate keyword difficulty score.
Originally, Google would look at the keywords in a search query and match them to a web page that featured those same keywords. That’s how search used to work — but it could be hit and miss.
Nowadays, Google uses semantics to determine the meanings and relationships of the words on the page. This gives users much more tailored and accurate search results.
How to write for semantic search
Writing for semantic search is about supporting your keywords with accompanying words that help give them context and meaning.
For example, if you’re writing about iron, that could be the metal, the dietary mineral or the appliance. Semantics can help Google to determine which one is the right match.
If it’s the metal, you might include words like: metal, ferrous, oxide, cast, wrought, forge and furnace.
For the dietary mineral, you might use: diet, supplement, anaemia and fortified.
And if it’s the appliance, it might be: board, crease, fabric, press and steam.
Chances are, you’ll write for semantic search naturally, using those supporting keywords as you go. But it helps to know that this is a factor and keep that at the back of your mind.
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