Staying competitive in the ever-evolving world of organic search is tough. Long gone are the days of simply identifying keywords in the AdWords keyword tool, placing them in your digital content, and watching the organic search traffic roll in. Today, Google isn’t focused on strictly matching keywords. Instead, Google is seeking to answer user queries. And, it’s getting a lot smarter about predicting user needs, even when those needs aren’t explicitly communicated.
So, am I suggesting that keywords don’t matter? Far from it. Google’s AdWords keyword tool — and keyword generator tools that rely on its data — are a critical component of the research for any effectve SEO strategy. Keywords allow you to build a foundation for your organic search strategy. That said, if you want to gain additional insight into what online users are searching — as well as what content and format Google is favoring — you have to go beyond the AdWords keyword tool.
What clues is Google providing to help you produce more effective SEO content? Let’s take a look at three emerging spaces.
1. SEARCH SUGGEST
What is it?
Start typing a query, and Google offers suggestions before you’ve even finished typing. How does Google come up with these suggestions? They are real searches by real people. Popularity is a factor in what Google shows. You’ll find these keyword ideas in the AdWords keyword tool, but in no particular order and certainly not identified as Search Suggest options. According to Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, 25% of desktop searchers are following the Search Suggest results rather than completing their original query.
Search the keywords you intend to target, and see what Google serves up with Search Suggest. Consider expanding or modifying your intended content — if it makes sense to do so — to capitalize on these Search Suggest options.
Using the AdWords keyword tool, I recently identified a potential story idea for “bath bomb recipes.” By searching “bath bomb recipes,” I discovered that Search Suggest was favoring searches that mentioned substitutions for common bath bomb ingredients as well as how to make bath bombs easily. We will address easy versions of the recipe as well as ingredient substitutions in our upcoming story.
2. PEOPLE ALSO ASK
What is it?
You’ve likely seen the People Also Ask (PAA) boxes in search results. These accordion-style Q&A boxes prompt searchers to explore similar questions to their original query. The number of searches with PAAs has grown 1,723% since 7/31/15, according to Moz.
Search the keywords you intend to target, and see what Google serves up in the PAA boxes. If the questions in the PAA boxes are related to the original question you were answering, consider answering these additional questions as well.
Our website, CountrysideNetwork.com, has a page one ranking story that provides insight into rooster spurs. Although the content is already published and was optimized for the keyword “rooster spurs,” I continue to check the PAA options to see if this story is answering relevant questions as they relate to rooster spurs. If not, I update the story to answer the PAA questions.
3. FEATURED SNIPPET
What is it?
A featured snippet is a breakout box at the top of organic search results. To populate these, Google scrapes the piece of your content that best answers the searcher’s query and provides a longer answer than you’d traditionally see with organic search results. If your site is in the featured snippet, you’ll still appear in the traditional organic results. It’s a two-for-one deal. Who can beat that? Best of all, the number of searches with featured snippets has grown 328% since 7/31/15, according to Moz.
“Featured snippets create the sense of instant credibility … instant authority. Studies are showing that on-page conversion rates are spiking after people are hitting a site from the featured snippet.” -Rob Bucci, founder of GetStat.com
Search the keywords you intend to target, and see what Google serves up in the featured snippet boxes. Remember, not all organic search results have featured snippets. Evaluate if there is a better way to answer this question as it relates to format. The way the content is formatted on the website will dictate the way it appears in the featured snippet. Although featured snippets have traditionally been paragraphs, lists and tables are growing so you may be able to steal more paragraph snippets by providing lists and tables in your content.
From a 6-month featured snippet study from GetStat.com.
Equipped with the knowledge that tables and lists are growing in featured snippets, we asked our writers to use more of these in their digital stories. I would suggest a combination of graphics (better for social) and lists and tables (better for search). About a year ago, we discovered we had a helpful blog on chicken predators, but since much of the valuable content was in a graphic, Google was not pulling it into the featured snippet because it couldn’t scrape it. Upon reformatting the content into an HTML table, we were able to capture the featured snippet as well the #1 spot in search results for “what killed my chicken?” A free tool I recommend to easily create tables in HTML is tablesgenerator.com.
While there is significant opportunity to earn traffic using these three emerging search features, keep in mind that Google has crushed some search opportunities. Avoid centering content around extremely easy answers that won’t inspire a searcher to click after reading a PAA or featured snippet.
Using these Adwords Keyword tool tips can help supplement your research and give you great insights into what users are actually searching for. If you want to learn even more SEO tips to help your business rank, check out our whitepaper filled with tips for how local businesses can win at search and be found by local audiences.