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Why the ‘new keyword = new page’ approach doesn’t work.
02 Sep 2016 ·
It’s a classic technique, if you have a page for every keyword, you can make sure that you’ve carefully optimised the page to rank for that term. So who cares if it doesn’t actually need its own page? It’s a tactic that traditionally worked very well for SEO’s.
Unfortunately, it’s a tactic that never really answered a user’s problem and so it’s a tactic that Google has worked to eliminate through keyword refinement. We’ve seen plenty of evidence of it with Google combining similar but actually different phrases in Search Console and showing results for a different keyword in the SERPs:
So in the above example, when you search for “vintage bike insurance”, you actually get results for “classic bike insurance”, and that’s just one example of many.
How do we solve this problem?
The above case is a special one where both pages genuinely need to exist because they’re different insurance products, so this is Google’s error. But more commonly, this highlights an issue I like to call ‘content confusion’, rather than ‘content duplication’; it’s when Google doesn’t know which page to choose for a particular term, so it flips between them or just ranks both lower than they might deserve.
When the problem is fixed, in this case – fixed by a robots noindex tag, or potentially fixed by removing the conflicting page or page(s), the single consolidated or chosen page ends up with a fixed ranking, usually slightly higher than either of the previous ones could achieve.
In short, the question you need to ask yourself is whether all of your content is really necessary; is it there for an audience or is it there to increase your search relevance? If it’s just there for search relevance, it’s time for a rethink.
This in turn raises another problem, how do we deal with slimming down content while still building contextual relevance and increasing organic traffic?
How do I increase my search relevance now?
The new way to work on increasing your search relevance is to use keywords as a base, but expand out your content into what your audience really wants to see.
It’s not new, it’s something we’ve been doing in SEO for a long time, but it’s a problem we see constantly amongst new clients. Content is created for either search, or because the client wants to write about it, not because it’s what the audience wants to read.
Find out who your audience is, how they find your site and how they behave once they get there, you can then take steps to amend your content accordingly. You can use a variety of ways to find out about your audience:
1. Internal site searches: This is one of my favourites, there aren’t many better ways to discover what people can’t find on your website then capturing what people are searching for on your site.
2. Focus groups: These are people who aren’t looking for you and who can view your site with a fresh perspective, do they find your site simple to use? Do they understand what you do and who you do it for? Are you on topic?
3. Analytics: Your analytics tool provides a wealth of information about target demographics, other types of sites your audience likes, as well as age and gender splits, so you can see who converts and how well that matches your target persona. Perhaps you’ll find that your audience is different to who you thought your audience was. Plus, if you’re doing display advertising, you can get really granular data about your audience.
4. Speak to sales: If you have a sales team or even a customer call centre, find out what questions they’re regularly asked and what their sales pitch looks like. Does the site answer customer questions? Does the site match the sales pitch your team is using? The answers don’t need to go into an FAQ section either, you might want to use them to improve your landing pages rather than silo them off into their own section.
The goal should be to broaden visibility, not limit a site to a finite list of ‘money keywords’ spread amongst a variety of similar pages. We need to remember that search is a journey, there are so many touch points and they should all be served by your content.
Plus, the long tail is the more accessible SERP and avoids many of the problems we’re plagued by with high volume keywords. You’re going from this:
Why do I need to do this now?
In search, we’re now approaching a world that’s diversifying beyond a simple search engine. The many elements of a SERP are only a symptom of this wider need for answers, now, without even clicking through to a website.
Nothing demonstrates this better than the rise of voice search; Google tells us 20% of searches are now performed through voice search. This rise is particularly visible when looking at “call mom” or “call dad” terms:
Not only does this mean we need to think about longer and more conversational queries, but also that we need to consider digital assistants such as Siri, Google Now and Cortana; which will change the search landscape even further.
To conclude; check your keyword targeting – don’t target words that are semantically similar on the same pages. Consider the search journey; there are many touch points and many ways in which you can use content for multiple purposes. While you’re using keywords at the heart of your strategy, you’re also thinking beyond them and determining what your audience wants from you and how best you can provide it to them.