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SEO: 2015 vs Now

Content marketing is continuing to grow in importance. It gives businesses the ability to generate leads, build trust with consumers, develop relationships with customers, and improve conversion rates. Content is how you acquire leads, educate customers, and influence their purchasing decisions. But to do that, your content must be compelling and relevant.

SEO, an essential function of content marketing, has been around for a long time. Like most technology-related techniques, it has evolved significantly since 2015. Back then, the keyword was king. Consumer behavior and intent play a more significant role in how content is evaluated and served up in search engine results pages.

Google is the top search engine with more than 90% of web searches, growing from 2.4 billion before the pandemic to 6 billion daily searches by March 2020. That's why Google drives many of the SEO best practices that are critical for content marketing. SEO is vital for online sites and easily attainable when you understand how it works. Let's take a look at how SEO and the role of keywords have changed over time. 

SEO: A Recap

Search engine optimization is a set of techniques and practices designed to improve a site's visibility and ranking on search result pages or SERPs. Content development combined with website optimization engages consumers and funnel traffic to your site, helping to increase your authority and thought leadership while growing your brand. SEO has long depended upon keywords in web copy that matches with search engine inquiries. For instance, a florist specializing in weddings could include keywords that someone planning a wedding might search for, such as bridal bouquets, wedding flowers, wedding florist, or wedding flower shop to satisfy both users and search engine algorithms.

Keywords Now Indicate Intent

One of the most significant changes in SEO is how Google now uses keywords to determine user intent. Where previously the keywords were more of a linear match, they are now considered a predictor and function of consumer behavior. By no means are keywords and meta descriptions no longer relevant. Algorithms now consider the intention behind the keyword before serving up the search results.

You can test this out yourself by typing "Target" into Google. You'll get search results for the store site, social media posts, and locations because the algorithm assumes you want to shop for something at Target. However, if you had never heard of the store and wanted to find out what it was, you'd need to add "What is" before the name to get different results. This predictive behavior attempts to create a seamless online experience by engaging users and connecting them more directly to what they want.

Updating SEO Strategies 

Moving forward, SEO will focus less on keywords and more on content quality. In other words, quality designates how well the content provides a solution to a perceived problem. Using buyer personas will help ensure you satisfy Google's EAT principle:  expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. These factors are how Google determines the quality of a site's content. 

Considering the user's perspective gives more insight into their intent. In planning your content moving forward, think in terms of the buyer personas' pain points. The solution to those problems can lead you to the keywords to use in your content strategy. For the most significant effect, the pain points and solutions should guide the customers through the sales funnel.

Ensure Your Content Provides Solutions for Customers' Problems

Consumers are savvy and discerning, and search engine algorithms recognize this. That means businesses must concentrate on their content strategy to ensure they rank higher in search results. Content marketing is growing in popularity as consumers spend more time researching options. It's important to remember that search engines evaluate each page, so to ensure that more than your home page ranks highly, you should optimize your content on each page.

While keywords are still important, it's no longer a matter of creating a linear match to a search term. It's now how well the content matches the user's intent that determines the relevancy. In other words, it isn't just what the user searches for but how users commonly behave when served results based on those keywords. The higher your site ranks for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, the higher Google ranks the quality of your content. 

There are several steps businesses can take to account for SEO in their content strategy. One uses buyer personas to identify your target audience, determine users' pain points, and anticipate solutions they may seek to indicate keywords to use. Another is investing in high-quality content designed to engage, entice, and educate leads, ultimately converting them to customers. Finally, working with a digital partner with deep expertise can help you achieve your goals. 

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Rory Kemerer

Written by Rory Kemerer

With over 9 years of digital marketing experience, Rory Harris is a leader in the digital playing field. Her passion is clear when she is helping her clients identify their goals or challenges and connecting that to a digital strategy to bring them the highest ROI. Her knowledge not only comes from both branding and lead generation solutions but also the experience she brings to the table to help her clients understand that the data tells a story on what is going on with their marketing.

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