The way that online users are using search engines is changing. Short tail keywords (that is, broken and fragmented keywords) were once the norm of Googling something. When looking for a computer repair company, most people would just type “computer repair” into their search engine of choice.
As our digital landscape got wider and everyday users got more comfortable and reliant on search engines, it became clear that the long tail keyword was king. The shift of search engine algorithms made this clear. SEO became about hitting longer, more phrase like searches.
How Changes In Searches Are Affecting Google
What we see moving forward with new SEO strategies is that this phrase-based searching is shifting as well. There are a number of factors that change the way we search, especially with the rising popularity of voice search technologies in the palm of our hands. It seems natural to ask Siri “where should I go for coffee?” rather than manually type in a broken keyword. Another factor impacting the way we search is the way people think about Google.
According to StatCounter, 55% of online users browsed with Google Chrome. The benefit of Google Chrome is that you can use the address bar to type in your search query, which means that users aren’t always using Google to search, but are considering the address bar and search tool more of a navigation method for the digital landscape.
Google has also shifted how they present search results. When you search for something which Google’s RankBrain can find you a clear answer for, those answers will pop up in Google’s answer box. This gives the website that pops up a perceived authority to the user on the topic, and drives more clicks to that page - even if it isn't organically the number one search result.
So, what does this all mean? Google is changes their algorithms based on the methodology behind users’ searches. As more online users start typing into the search bar using more complete questions or phrases, Google shifts the way their algorithm values a website.
The SEO Answer
The answer to this problem of changing searches was presented with a new SEO strategy: topic clusters.
Instead of creating lots of easily digestible, short blogs based around very similar content in an attempt to capture all of the keywords possible, group the blogs based around topics. This will help create clusters of content, and keep your website more organized.
How does this help your SEO strategy? The answer lies in the hyperlink.
The way that a cluster works is by linking a main, lengthy piece of content to a series of smaller breakout pieces of content. The longer piece is about the topic or the phrase which people will be typing into Google, and the breakout pieces of content are based around subtopics, or the various longtail keywords that are associated with this phrase.
The longer core piece of content links to all of the shorter pieces of content, and the shorter pieces link back to the core piece of content. This keeps everything organized and easy to find. The more you keep your content organized, the easier it is for bots to crawl which is great news for your SERP rank. When Google’s RankBrain algorithms can find your content easiest, they reward your pages with a higher ranking.
So, now that you know the value of implementing a cluster model into your content marketing strategy, how do you go about creating one? If you already have a bank of content on your site, start by auditing that content and grouping based around a focus topic. Then, build out a large piece of pillar content that ties that cluster together.
If you don't have any content yet, start what your buyer persona's first. Map out 4-5 problems that your content strategy needs to address for your personas. If necessary, use surveys, interviews, or secondary research online to gather this data so you know you're hitting the right topics to drive leads.
Each of these problems should represent a core topic. After you've determined the problems that your buyer personas seek out answers to, start building them out. Use your keyword research to determine what longtail keywords you're going to target, and start using these as subtopics.
Be wary of getting too specific in your pillar content - you want to be sure you have room to expand for your subtopics, and that you're only introducing the idea in your pillar content pieces. Be sure that every piece of the content is based on valid industry research and is sourced properly - having incorrect information will hurt your brand.
Looking for an effective content marketing strategy, but not sure where to start? Connect with a member of our Hughes & Co. team to get a free inbound assessment and let us help you get started.