Colleen Saville


For many marketers, “keywords” has a negative connotation. The days of keyword marketing (and dare we say spamming) dominating SEO are mostly a thing of the past. Moving into 2016, we need to stop thinking about keywords in the traditional sense, and begin shifting the conversation to user search intent.

Gathering your users’ search intent data

When using webmaster tools like Google Analytics to find out what keywords users are searching with, we should challenge ourselves 2016 will be to uncover the human side of SEO by translating search terms into contextual meaning. In building keyword sets, don’t limit your marketing efforts to just to Google Adwords; Tools like Google Suggest and think about related search terms to take a holistic look at your keyword strategy. Additionally, interviewing internal subject experts as well as customers will bring their unique voice and expertise into your keyword strategies, to help make a more balanced, human approach to your marketing.

Keyword strategy in 2016: Advice for marketers

Make sure that you conduct real, practical searches on the queries in question so that you aren’t just thinking about an Excel sheet and a keyword set. A full analysis of the search experience should seek to answer the following questions:

  • Are users looking for a quick answer to a question?
  • Are they looking for something in depth?
  • Would a video or picture offer a good solution to the query?
  • Search with the keywords you’re concerned with. Consider the formats of the results to get a sense of what it feels like to conduct that search, for example:
    • Schema markup
    • Knowledge graph
    • Paid ads
    • Multimedia

What should a marketer do with their content after doing keyword and context research? The next step is to focus on how your site appears. Having an eye towards UX helps your SEO by creating the most desirable, appealing and engaging destination for your searchers. Text is not the only element that Google considers in its ranking. Pages should have a diverse offering of content – rich pictures, videos and text – and be optimized for mobile.


While the focus of SEO marketing will shift away from keywords in 2016, they are still part of a comprehensive strategy:

  • 39% of corporate marketers list “keyword research” as their top challenge in SEO
  • 40% of searchers modify their keywords if they don’t find what they were looking for on the first page of SERPs
  • 18% of Google’s organic clicks go to the first ranked website, 10% go to the second and 7% go to the third

Our client in the payment processing industry increased its organic traffic 204 percent with a content strategy that prioritized giving readers valuable information through approachable blog articles. Search engines recognize that content is a great measure of a website’s relevance for certain key terms and ranks pages accordingly.  

Test out the search process

You’re human, so search like one, just like your potential customers might. Try a manual search of the keywords you arrive at to see what’s out there. What do you find? What do you like? How easy is it to find what you’re looking for? Take into consideration the pages that rank the best – they’re usually the most dynamic, featuring social shares, graphics, videos and high-quality writing. Keywords are just one part of the content strategy.