Is the keyword really dead?

By Adrian Jennings, Search Performance Director, Sekari

As we all know, marketing teams have traditionally looked at keyword rankings to create more efficient marketing campaigns, but this trend towards keyword worship is quickly becoming less impactful.

Keyword rankings are now regarded as an ineffective measure of success, especially given that Google has changed some of its search engine algorithms, and consumers have changed the way that they conduct searches.

Google is changing

Semantic search has changed the way keywords are ranked. Related keywords return similar results, whereas in the past, each of the exact matching keywords had its own results – and these differed.

For example, “car insurance” and “motor insurance” were seen as different keywords and websites could rank well for one and not at all for the other. Google now understands the semantic relationship between these two keywords and that the user intent is the same, and therefore returns very similar results for the two searches.

Semantic search

To stay relevant in this new age of search, it is necessary to understand semantic search. Semantic search uses re- sources other than keywords to find relevant search results. In other words, it seeks to understand the search terms outside of the static meaning of the keywords. With semantic search, Google and other search engines aim to figure out why the searcher is looking for a website with their chosen keywords, by using previous search results and making links between past patterns and the current search terms.

For instance, Google now provides answers to many objective questions directly on the first page of the search. It also autocorrects possibly misspelled keywords and displays some information in the form of graphics.

What about SERPs? Google is changing the way it returns results and SERPs (search engine result pages) are quickly evolving to return results that are more relevant and span many different mediums. This evolution has contributed to the decline in relevance of keyword positions.

Even if your page ranks number one for its keyword, a SERP that has many photos, maps, news and a knowledge graph, may drive consumers to other websites.

In fact, a website that ranks number four or five for its keyword, but also has an author photo or another related photo, will likely get a higher click-through rate than a site that ranks number one, but doesn’t include a relevant photo.

Don’t stop tracking keywords yet. While the way keywords work is changing, it is still important to track keywords. As marketeers, it is imperative that we adapt to the changes by applying keyword information in different ways.

One important change to make is to start creating keyword indexes. These indexes, or groups of keywords, allow us to pull metrics for a large number of related keywords. After accounting for changes to how keywords work, it is important to start working on creating content based on the index instead of working around a keyword.

Natural language

The way results are calculated isn’t the only thing changing in the world of search-based marketing. Voice search is growing faster than any other type of search and this trend is expected to continue, especially with the introduction of “smart-home” type devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home.

These devices allow users to ask questions and receive answers without touching a single button. More ubiquitous, however, is the availability of voice search on mobile phones and tablets. This growth is partially a result of the increased accuracy of speech recognition, with an error rate as low as eight per cent.

The impact of voice

Think about the way you type search queries. Now think about the way you speak. They are significantly different – as an example, say you want to know your local weather forecast. If you were typing the query, you might ask for “weather Dubai.”

When you perform a voice search, you are more likely to pose a more natural query: “What’s the weather going to be in Dubai today?” thus making the exact ranking for the keyword “weather Dubai” less important.

Incorporating knowledge

With this knowledge, marketers need to integrate a strategy that revolves around natural speech and content creation. It is necessary to focus more on long-tail keywords, which tend to work better regarding natural language.

It is also important to become familiar with an HTML add-on known as schema mark- up. This vocabulary allows you to help search engines better understand in what context your content should appear. Implementing this will allow your content to be perceived as more relevant.

Adding a page that answers frequently asked questions will also help increase click- through, especially when it comes to voice searches. When voice searchers perform search queries, they often ask questions that begin with “Who”, “What”, “Where”, “When”, “Why”, or “How.” Create a page that has questions that begin with each of these adverbs.

With the speed at which technology is developing nowadays, we all need to ensure we keep ourselves educated and informed of the latest trends in order to stay ahead of the competition.

The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Gulf Marketing Review.

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