How to create expansive content to benefit SEO and improve organic search visibility
Whether it’s featured snippets, Rankbrain or BERT, Google is constantly evolving its algorithm’s ability to understand human language and intents. This has been seen through its various iterations and updates over the years, such as:
Quick answer boxes and featured snippets (2013): Featured snippets give users an immediate result to their queries, marrying up the impatience of modern search habits with the appropriate intent-matched result, providing a response to a given (typically question-type) query instantaneously.
Rankbrain (2015): Rankbrain was a new element of Google’s core algorithm, which drove queries through an interpretation model, bundling several different factors together to deliver a result as close to the user’s true intent as possible. It was the first real occurrence of machine learning in Search.
Space & Time look at the success and efficiency of Google’s SEO
BERT (2019): BERT is Google’s neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training. To put it in a less nerdy and technical way, BERT enables a better comprehension of search queries, the individual words used within them and how they influence what the intent of that search is.
Why does this impact our SEO search campaign?
From the very early days of marketing, we have studied and put into place some form of marketing funnel. In the instance of SEO, we can apply awareness, consideration and conversion.
When looking at entry points for users, brands are typically guilty of leaning very heavily toward conversion, slimming down further and further on the awareness side of the funnel. Although across a much larger number of terms with a much smaller search volume per term, typically the search value that can be achieved is higher in the awareness area, as it is almost infinitely expansive.
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The benefit here is that you are not only creating content to cater for those awareness areas, but also content that will help to benefit the positioning of key terms within the consideration and conversion areas of the funnel.
How can content be adapted to benefit topics most relevant to my verticals?
The number one rule for creating content on any area of a website is always to take a step back and ask the question – ‘does this benefit my users and in what way does it benefit them?’ The primary objective is to get a user to access your website, find value in that entry and hopefully convert or generate a lead.
If a user is unlikely to find your content beneficial, they are not likely to be searching for what you are creating and, therefore, Google’s algorithms are also unlikely to see the benefit in ranking your content.
But what else do we need to consider?
Identify what your users search for and when
You may have identified that your content will be a benefit to your user, but is anyone actually actively searching for what you are creating?
Ensure that you have done your research around what users are interested in and the seasonality of those terms. If your term is highly weighted toward the winter months of the year, make sure that you are creating and releasing that content ahead of when it has its highest peak of the year so that it can be indexed and built upon.
Identify connections between current content and link to relevant articles
Once this piece of content starts ranking, think about what benefit it will bring to your brand.
Creating a network of contextual links between content pieces and providing a journey toward conversion is just as important as the content you are creating.
This enables users to not only identify the next step of their typical query journey directly within the article that answers their initial query, but also provides a direct connection for that contextual content to crawlers.
This highlights further intent matching to search engines directly within your content, making it less likely for users to bounce and achieving what search engines really want – giving a user all the answers they need from that first click or touchpoint.
Expand on content and identify other areas for targeting
That’s not all. There is a wealth of questions that users ask, and one question will likely lead to another – so you want to make sure that your content strategies are catering for the widest range of questions that could apply to your offering, which leads us on to topical content clusters.
Use topical content clusters
Within a topical content cluster, you will typically have pillar content and cluster content. In this example, let’s say your pillar content is about ‘SEO’, you will then have relevant cluster content for SEO on your website, for example; ‘what is organic search?’, ‘how does SEO work?’ or ‘how to write SEO content’. We then want to link all this content together in a way that is beneficial to users.
Benefits to SEO, brand presence and overall search performance
Through the adaptation of your content outlined throughout this article, we know that there are three primary areas which will benefit the digital portion of your business:
Expanded organic search landscape and targeting: Through targeting not only the pillar content, but wider and wider clusters of content associated with that initial topic, you will vastly increase the number of terms you can return for and the audiences that will see your brand. While the core topic will usually carry the largest search volume directly, the wider search opportunity will be almost as infinite as your audience’s questions. Each article will provide marginal search gains, whilst also generating additional evergreen content that will likely perform and deliver for years to come.
Match intents across the marketing funnel for the audience’s benefit: Providing not just a wider hub of content but also a linked journey through that contextual hub will enable users to fully understand a topic that they are researching or understanding. This means that you will not only return for Thomas the beginner but also for Scott the intermediate and Rachael the expert within a respective field. Each one will see your business as an authoritative voice and one they’ll likely turn to for anything else they need. There are examples of these everywhere in search; IMDB for everything movies, TV and actors, WebMD to freak yourself out with anything medical or BBC Good Food for all your culinary needs.
Show search engines that you have (almost) all the answers: The most important one – and why you are here – is how is this going to directly impact your search rankings for your topics? Well, in doing this, you have provided a lot more information around that topic for Google to crawl and understand, providing far more context to your topic. So you’ve checked the content, context and language boxes for BERT and Rankbrain, and you’re now more likely to return within those featured snippets.
However, alongside this we know users are at the heart of Google search and now we are also checking those intent boxes, meaning users are less likely to return to search for the same or similar queries as the answers are directly on your website – therefore reducing bounce rates and creating more successful journeys direct from Google search.
Leo Abraham is SEO Lead at Space & Time.
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