SEO is one of the fastest-changing marketing channels and no wonder! Google is coming up with dozens of updates and changes each year forcing forward-thinking digital marketers to come up with more and more ways to keep up.
But keeping up is not even enough. In order to maintain consistent search engine visibility marketers need to keep looking into the future of Google. What will the search industry look like in 5 years and what should we be doing now to prepare?
I’m not that good at predicting the distant future of Google but here are three emerging trends to embrace now:
Use topic clusters to structure internal linking
While internal links define the hierarchy and structure of a site, they also make navigation intuitive and easy, while distributing link authority through the pages. However, if they are not organized well, the full benefit of an internal linking strategy won’t be achieved.
Using the topic clustering technique is a great way to create an effective internal linking strategy that will help both search crawlers and human beings to better understand your site.
Simply put, a topic cluster is grouping your site pages by topic. It’s an enhanced and combined version of a blog category page and the manually curated “Resources” page.
Topic clusters should demonstrate that a site covers a specific subject comprehensively, i.e. users will be able to find an answer to any subject-related question on the site.
You can build an effective topic-cluster-driven internal linking page by following these two steps:
1. Identify your topics
You’ll need comprehensive pages for each topic the site covers, so it’s important to determine the site’s main topic areas.
Although it’s normally not fun to do, it’s critical to conduct a content audit. This will force you to take a long, hard look at the existing content. This should be relatively easy, provided you’ve been tagging and categorizing the content consistently.
If the content is not structured by tags and categories, it’s a good idea to create a simple spreadsheet to help you create order and structure. Each row should have the URL of a blog post and the corresponding focus topic. Identify the posts that could serve as pillar pages.
2. Build clusters and interlink them together
When this is done, it should be relatively easy to group all posts into clusters. When it comes to internal linking:
- Use breadcrumbs for each article within a cluster to link to its parent/pillar page. Use Google’s official best practices to markup the breadcrumbs using structured data.
- Use in-content links to internally inter-link all pages within each cluster.
I am a big proponent of in-content links for two main reasons:
- They are believed to be more effective for spreading link equity around the site than menus and footer links.
- They are better for click-through:
Although it is okay to link content to topics that are not in the cluster, this should only be done when necessary. The objective here is to provide links that will guide visitors through the customer journey and answer increasingly specific questions while breaking down conversion barriers.
3. Create an on-going strategy to promote your clusters
Re-vamping your current category pages to turn them into clusters is a good idea. Here’s a great article on how to rank your category pages by turning them into pillar content pages:
As you can see, the end goal is to create high-quality multi-media resource pages categorizing your existing content by topic. On top of all, these are also your biggest assets. By marketing these pages you ultimately promote all the individual articles and assets that are linked from your pillar pages.
My suggestion is to add your SEO team to your social media calendar for them to be able to add these pages for social media promotion as soon as they are done working on them. ContentCal is a tool that can help you put these articles into circulation. Your SEO team can add the pillar pages into the “Pinboard” for your social media manager to put them on a schedule:
[ContentCal bridges the gap between your SEO and social media marketing teams allowing your SEO assets to be effectively promoted through brand social media channels increasing their organic visibility.]
Leverage user intent for SEO
In the SEO world, “Searcher intent optimization” has received a lot of attention lately. These days Google focuses on identifying and measuring user satisfaction signals. And the future of Google looks very similar.
This refers to a search sequence when a user sends a query, finds and clicks on the relevant link, discovers useful information, and then either enters a query for the next stage of the journey or stops searching.
The objective of user-intent profiling is to achieve higher user satisfaction which improves your rankings (by sending positive signals to Google) and keeps your customers on your site (by giving them what they want).
Users can be targeted based on funnel stages if the content is created around the search intent. Queries can be divided into three categories: transactional, informational, and navigational.
- Transactional queries are executed by users who have done their research and want to purchase something. These are bottom-of-the-funnel prospects and these queries have the highest value. These often include terms such as “requirements,” “integration,” “pricing,” and “comparison.”
- Informational queries are executed by users who are doing research and are not really interested in purchasing anything. These often include terms like “when is,” “how does,” “what is,” etc.
- Navigational queries are executed by users who want to find out where they need to go to in order to fulfill a need. They could be looking for a physical location or a URL. These include the brand name, “address,” “location,” or a generic product name.
You will likely to see more clicks and conversions if you focus on creating content that directly responds to these three types of queries. Search engines use topic modeling and other known factors to determine user intent and match it to page content.
You can reverse-engineer Google’s understanding of search intent for each query using Text Optimizer which is an advanced SEO tool that grabs Google search results for each query and applies semantic analysis to extract intent tables:
- Type in your search query
- Select “Google”
- Click “New text”
You’ll see the tool generate the list of all terms and concepts that will help you optimize your content for Google and its users’ expectations:
Furthermore, conversion optimization is needed to help you identify whether you are doing a good job meeting your visitors’ expectations and giving them what they came for. Finteza is the easiest way to set up event monitoring and compare their performance across different landing pages:
[Keep track of your on-page conversions to identify those that fail to satisfy the user’s intent]
Focus on topic optimization instead of keyword optimization
While the goal of keyword optimization is to make a page rank for individual keywords, the objective of topic optimization is to make a page rank for a group of keywords, i.e. the main keyword and its close synonyms and related terms.
Topic optimization should result in more diverse rankings and satisfy a changing algorithm with the future of Google moving further away from keywords and closer to a user’s intent. If you do a good job discussing a topic in-depth, you have likely touched on many other ideas that are connected. A page that is optimized well indicates both depth and breadth to search engines, enabling the site to rank well for a bigger range of keywords.
The skyscraper technique is commonly used to get topical authority. This, basically, involves taking the piece of content that ranks highest for the topic and then writing a better piece.
You could also exploit areas where your competition has only scratched the surface and dive deeper with your own content by adding step-by-step instructions, examples, figures, and stats. You should use whatever your audience might find helpful and relevant, while never stuffing it with more keywords.
The basic point is not to write the most in-depth, longest piece of content, but rather to answer relevant questions, hence providing the most helpful content. Some examples include:
- Put together an ultimate knowledge base / FAQ on any topic
- Create a comprehensive glossary
- Create a visual timeline
You can use Serpstat’s grouping tool to identify topics behind keywords and optimize for the whole group of keywords:
[Serpstat uses Google search results pages to group keywords by relevancy allowing you to optimize for each group rather than for each individual keyword]
Prepare for the screenless buying journey
Most importantly, in 5 or so years ago, the future of Google may become 100% screenless. Voice and visual search are both on the rise. Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the idea of speaking their search terms to a device or showing the camera what they want to buy.
And in response, they expect directions and actions, not ten blue links that have been driving online visibility for more than a decade now.
How do you adapt to screenless and consequently click-less search?
There are things you can do already. For example, adopting Google Actions to teach smart speaker devices to navigate and use your site is one of the first things to do. Next, be sure to implement conversational marketing, i.e. create smart chatbots to help your customers whenever they need assistance.
Luckily, conversational marketing is easier than you think. Botsociety makes it easy to create smart customer support and shopping assistance chatbots.
[Teach your site to speak back to your customer by designing smart chatbots that can teach themselves to be of better service as they collect more data]
Be strategic about the future of Google
Content marketers have to be strategic and think about achieving broader objectives when content is created. Using a link structure that is organized, topic clusters that are comprehensive, and user intent profiles is more important for SEO strategies than ever before.
Guest author: Jessy Troy is co-owner of Hire Bloggers, a blog dedicated to helping bloggers find paid gigs or even full-time jobs. You can catch up with me on Twitter as @JessyTroy