When it comes to website optimization, many companies choose to target highly competitive keywords, investing massive SEO and PPC budgets that ultimately bring no significant return on investment. These keywords are oftentimes targeted by a large number of businesses, many of which might have been doing SEO for a while now. As such, you would probably need months or even years to see meaningful movement in search engine result pages.
Users are relying on longer search queries to find what they are looking for, demanding marketers everywhere to respond by shifting their attention to long tail search optimization. Why is this important in 2015? We’re answering this question below.
What’s Causing Search Queries to Become Longer?
There are several factors that have influenced the search environment to shift towards a different direction. The change in user behavior has happened gradually, and must have been happening for several years now.
• Latent Semantic Indexing
Back in 1998, Google was breaking user queries into fundamental components (keywords), then searching for exact-match occurrences of each individual component on the web. Websites that had the most keyword occurrences would rank at the top.
But this is no longer the case in 2015. Google’s ranking algorithm has grown to be an extremely sophisticated process that strives to deliver the most relevant search results. As such, Google has adopted latent semantic indexing for the first time in 2004 as part of its ranking algorithm. Latent semantic indexing, or LSI, analyzes the intention and context of a user’s query, then searches for websites that provide information that satisfies them.
As a result, searching for short, broad terms has become less efficient at getting relevant results for their queries. Most users either ask full questions (e.g. “what are the best SEO services in Sydney”) or type in sentence-based queries (e.g. “SEO services are expensive”).
• Availability of Information
The World Wide Web is cluttered and oversaturated with billions of pages of content, and the amount of information continues to increase every day. Short queries leave room for interpretation due to being very broad – a user who wants to find information about the importance of dog grooming but searches for “dog grooming” instead will also see results about dog grooming supplies and equipment, dog groomer job information, and at-home dog grooming tips. Most of the time, this requires wading past results pages to find the information they’re interested in, wasting a lot more time than initially expected.
Consequently, users need to come up with longer, more specific queries to find the most relevant results quickly. Generic or ambiguous queries return very general information such as Wikipedia pages or the home pages of brands and companies.
• The Rise of Mobile Devices
To submit search queries, users need to type these queries in the search box before they can find the information they’re looking for. With the rise of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, typing has become more difficult due to screen sizes getting smaller. From a dexterity standpoint, submitting search queries can be an annoyance. Needless to mention, additional features like autocorrect or T9 dictionary can make typing even more difficult, as the device keeps autocorrecting or replacing terms, and users need to consistently edit them.
The simplest and most convenient alternative users have is voice-based search, which exists in the form of virtual personal assistants – e.g. Apple’s Siri. As more people use voice to submit searches, queries become more conversational, informal, and long. Queries are more colloquial and have sentence-based structures that automatically make them more specific.
How Marketers Can Respond to This Trend?
Trying to rank for short, generic queries is no longer the best way to do SEO in 2015. Marketers need to respond to user behavior, and implicitly take action to optimize their websites for longer, more specific queries to stand a chance at ranking higher in SERPs. But once you start optimizing, these tactics will require some time before they take effect.
Outlined below are a few efficient approaches to consider.
1. Optimization Is Not About Keyword Richness
A common misconception about SEO is that, by writing keyword-based content, companies can rank higher in search engines. As a result, many websites start adding keywords literally everywhere: in site titles, meta descriptions, content, image ALT texts, URLs, and more. From a readability standpoint, this can negatively impact the flow of your content, making it difficult to read and absolutely annoying for users looking for quality information.
Instead of relying on a specific keyword density or frequency, consider writing user-friendly articles and blog posts that satisfy users’ search queries and deliver accurate, highly resourceful information. Matching one or two head keywords throughout your text should be quite enough, especially if you sprinkle a few long-tail keywords every here and there – which leads us to the following point.
2. Focus More on Long-Tail Keywords
While head keywords, also referred to main keywords, are general terms that consist of one or two words (e.g. “SEO,” “digital marketing,” etc), long-tail keywords are essentially longer, more specific versions of the main keywords (e.g. “best SEO strategy in 2015,” “how to find the best SEO services in Sydney,” “makeup tips from celebrity cosmeticians,” etc). These keywords show user intent more clearly, so optimizing for them will help them find your website faster. Long-tail keywords also have lower competition than head keywords, and they usually lead to more conversions, so you should start leveraging them today in order to get a higher ROI.
Sprinkle a few long-tail keywords in your articles to increase their relevance for specific queries. Writing user-friendly content will naturally capture long-tail traffic, making your content appear a lot more human.
3. Have a Niche
Websites that focus on a very specific niche stand a better chance at ranking higher in search engines. A specific niche means very specific topics that provide specific information to specific questions. Given that user search queries are becoming increasingly specific, this approach can get your website ranked much higher than if you did the same for a generic or broad niche. Also, make sure to research your audience and stay up-to-date with the latest trends in your niche, so you can provide better content that covers important matters that are of interest to visitors and potential customers.