Google recently wrapped its free online power searching course – a six-class series lead by one of the company’s senior research scientists, Daniel Russell. With short videos and practice activities, the class aimed to show users searching techniques ranging from basic image retrieval to more advanced tricks, such as using a custom date range to limit your results further. From the perspective of a web content writer, the course offered a lot of insights into how Google users are learning to search for information. This translates into tips on how to create SEO-friendly blog posts, landing pages and other website content that can help a brand stand out in SERPs.
If you are a marketer, having a better command of Google’s search engine and a stronger understanding of how the tool works may enable you to align content and website strategies more closely with how your target audiences search for information.
Here are five steps to thinking like a searcher so you can give your website content an SEO boost.
1. View keyword search (and optimization) as an art
“You don’t have to get it right the first time,” Russell told Google search students. “Google Search allows you to explore, iterate, fool around a little bit until you get something that is focused in on the kind of results you want, the kind of results that are most believable and the best for what it is your task is trying to do.”
There is no exact science for finding precise results on a query. Rather, searchers think about their information in relation to other topics, entering more specific search terms to gradually narrow down the results. Google is telling them that instead of entering a question into the search bar, they should use the words or phrases they hope results will contain.
It’s important for content writers to focus on natural keyword inclusion that covers a broad range of terms related to brand offerings. Brafton recently posted a video tutorial blog on building content around the keywords that are proving to drive the most convertible traffic to a website, and businesses that pay close attention to the natural searches that bring site traffic should leverage this data as insights on what people really want to learn when they land on a site.
2. Don’t limit media types when creating website content
Information comes in many different forms, from articles to video to images, and Google Search has made it easy for users to narrow down their queries by file types, URLs and specific phrases. You can offer content as PDFs, audio files, maps, infographics and more, which will expand your footprint and make it more likely that searchers will find your resources.
Different media formats help you stand out in SERPs, and they’ll also empower you to engage distinct prospects and customers who respond to different content types. Brafton recently reported that marketing experts are moving toward diverse content to engage various web audiences. “Creating content for each persona you’re likely to target or hear from is critical,” said Ken Barhoover, marketing manager at Park Place Technologies, in an interview.
“Creating content for each persona you’re likely to target or hear from is critical,”
Park Place Technologies
3. Stop seeing language as a barrier
Google has a robust translation system, which allows searchers to find content about a foreign topic not only in English, but to expand their queries to include foreign-language sources that have been translated. The option can also give you insight into the culture of foreign markets.
“This capability, to be able to switch languages, gives you in effect the ability to see the world through the eyes of somebody else in their culture, in their language, the way they write it,” Russell commented in the fourth lesson. Why is this important for businesses? It may be able to provide an understanding for “how other people think about the world, and how they think about issues that are important to us in our current news and current culture,” he said.
Searchers have the option to search for “culturally accurate” sources, and Google is rewarding sites for their cultural accumen. Content writers working for international brands would be well advised to get into the unique perspectives of their international audiences and catering to their informational needs.
4. Make your content credible
As Russell points out, ranking and credibility are not interchangeable terms. What’s at the top of the results page will not necessarily be the most accurate or credible source – even as Google’s quality algorithms work toward this. When people are searching for information, they conceivably want to find the truth, but that does not mean that they will. Google is asking its searchers to become consumers of the best information, trusting their ideas more than its ranking algorithms (hence the rise of social ranking factors!).
It’s easy for misinformation to proliferate on the web. In fact, that’s one of Google’s biggest grievances against infographics – many of them aren’t rooted in editorial research. Develop website content that is easily searchable and factual. So when creating searchable content for your website or blog, do a bit of digging to make sure what you produce is accurate and reliable. Seek out the errors – a misattributed quote, a statistic that is out of context – and work to correct them by propagating factual information. Your readers will thank you.
5. Offer value to searchers
The overall takeaway from Google’s search classes is that the company wants to help users find information that is best suited to their queries. By providing a window into how their target audiences are looking for information, the courses may be able to help business owners make their online content more intuitive and useful and attract more customers. It’s also a useful exercise in empathy, putting yourself in searchers’ shoes and thinking about what their needs and interests are. In your quest, you may discover that there is something lacking in the body of knowledge about a particular topic, a gap which your organization may be able to fill by sharing your own expertise and experience. This is a central tenet of content marketing – not only increasing consumers’ awareness of your business, but offering them something relevant and useful in order to establish and deepen the customer-company relationship.
Thinking like a power searcher will help businesses and content writers create searcher-friendly content marketing campaigns, but it can also deliver benefits to the business user. Use these steps to thinking like a power search to become one and find out more about your own industry, locate tips and tools that improve your operations and learn about innovations in the sector that can keep you ahead of the curve.