Have you ever thought about the purpose of Search? Innately, humans cognitively perform search behaviors. There is ample research on this and the many different search strategies that we employ. We are still trying to understand why our minds seek out information, make decisions about it, and adapt to the knowledge. Cognitive psychology is interested not about what is happening in our minds but also in our brains.
Analyzing the Top Search Engines
Luckily, we can get a sense at least of what different search engines think their mission is.
Google – “Our company mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. “
Bing – “At Bing our central mission is to help you search less and do more.”
DuckDuckGo – “Our mission is to show the world that protecting privacy is simple.”
We can easily see the differences between all three of these big search engines.
Google is more focused on building a knowledge base. This makes sense. This is why they have products like Google Books and Google Scholar.
Bing wants us to improve their search results so we search less. We get the information we need quicker.
DuckDuckGo makes it clear that they are all about privacy. They don’t mention search at all. It just seems to be one of their products along with an app you can download.
Let’s be honest, Google is leading the pack when it comes to search relevance and this is often why we focus on it exclusively. We need to be aware of how Google AI is going to change search. We are moving into a keywordless future and this is going to change how people use search.
Re-imagining content everywhere
One of the most important books that have impacted my content strategy is “Content Everywhere” by Sara Wachter-Boettcher. That book was published in 2012, but it covers so much about everything. It was the first time that I encountered someone who thinks like me who realizes it isn’t just about what you write. She was particularly interested in how devices like mobile phones and tablets would change how our content was found, presented, and received. This was the first book that mentioned Responsive Design which was still in its early stages. She imagined that our content could travel anywhere to any device and we needed to keep that in mind when we strategize.
The announcement of Google Mum is moving us to a new worldwide search. It is now more important than ever that our content is translatable. Google in the future will serve the best matching content even if that content is in another language. Our content can now travel across the globe! This opens up a lot of opportunities for search engine optimization. We can now engage with a larger audience.
Another way that MUM changes the game is its focus on finding the most relevant information even if that is the weather, a map, or a video. Google wants to answer complex queries and reduce the number of searches we have to make to get all our answers. So search results are going to be more comprehensive and anticipate the needs of the user.
This begs the question, do keywords matter anymore?
Future-Proofing our Content Strategy
I think there are several areas we need to consider if we want to create content strategies that take into account the upcoming changes to search. We need to push forward and think about how Google AI is going to change search behaviors. What we can expect will be important in the future.
I was kind of surprised that this new Google AI capability isn’t being discussed. It is called KELM. With KELM, they will incorporate trusted sources of the knowledge graph (like Wikidata) to reduce bias in later results.
I think this means that we will have to be much more careful about fact-checking what we publish on the web. The algorithm will already have some knowledge about factual information and could use that to rank sources that are more trustworthy higher. We should be careful in attributing where we get our information and who we cite in our articles.
I think this also moves into a model where we ask what questions our content answers. We want to make sure that we aren’t just rambling in a post. That we put something out there that will make things crystal clear for those looking for specific information.
Stop Worrying about Content Length
Search engines are in the answer business. Well, top search results have trended towards longer lengths we need to think of why that is. I think it is because they are more comprehensive and are more likely to rank for several queries that are related to the content topic. Since they are longer they also hold people’s attention longer if they don’t bounce. It is the everything and the kitchen sink approach.
But now we are starting to see featured snippets in our search results. What Google is concerned with is getting the best information to searchers as quickly as possible. So if part of your post is the best explainer then it is getting to get that snippet. That is why I am starting to take a different approach to write content.
I want to create several types of content for each keyword that I want to capture. Repurposing everything that I can. That means writing a 2000+ landing page. Dividing that up into several 500-800 word blog posts. Reducing those down to 300-word questions and answers. Then reduce this even further to social media posts. In this way, I can get the comprehensive coverage that I’m looking for. Keeping my SEO strategy consistent across all of them.
I also want lots of multiple media to help me further my reach. Create those images, videos, and audio clips. Do podcasts and interviews on these topics. Put everything out there in various ways and various lengths. Add them to your blogs and try to make them worthy to embed by other people on theirs.
Do Keywords Matter?
I think this is a debatable question that doesn’t currently have an answer. Google has said there will always be a role for SEO professionals. That doesn’t guarantee that our current methods will still be viable ones in the future. I think we need to imagine a universe where maybe keywords aren’t the basis of our strategies anymore.
We already know that keyword density doesn’t matter. Counting keywords doesn’t mean anything anymore to rankings. Although, I think the bottom line of 1%-2% is a pretty good guideline. As that is how a keyword would come up naturally in conversations.
The newer advice is to not optimize for individual keywords but keyword clusters. This means grouping together keywords that all represent the same purchase intent. Instead of ranking for one specific keyword, we want to rank for several related and similar phrases that make up each cluster. I want us to go beyond this. Let’s start thinking about the cognitive relationships between these words. What is the mindset that creates these associations and how do we optimize for that?
We have to go beyond search intent. We are at the shores of where cognitive psychology may have the answers for us. I am now more interested than ever in how language represents our minds. It is true! Language changes how we interpret information. Understanding that might be the future of content strategy.