Google has always maintained that its primary goal is to improve user experience by providing its users with the most relevant search results. The recent change to the Google search algorithm, dubbed the “Brackets” update, was another incremental step in that direction, and primarily focused on evaluating content relevancy and rewarding websites with detailed, useful content. This update has implications for websites that wish to remain relevant in the age of semantic search and voice search.
While we may either take it for granted or not consider the incredible minds that create self-learning search engine algorithms, it helps to remind ourselves that we have come to EXPECT and TRUST Google to “understand our query.” AI (artificial intelligence) is a topic that has regained popularity as of late, but truthfully, we have been in the age of AI for some time now. Let’s discuss how this affects your business.
Aligning Your SEO Strategy & Tactics with User Intent
To “understand” user intent, you must understand the user. Your potential patients (aka website visitors or users) – who are complete strangers to you when they first interact with your website – leave valuable clues behind about their behavior and intent. From frequently searched keywords to high-traffic pages, there is a treasure trove of data that can shed light on what their search intentions are. And thanks to tools like Google Analytics, most of this information can be readily accessed in real time. Search engine result pages (SERPs) can also be used to reverse engineer user intent by performing google searches for key terms and studying what comes up.
It’s Not Just About Keywords Any More (Hint: Conversion)
RankBrain, Hummingbird, Brackets, and other search algorithms use machine learning to interpret our intention and deliver the most relevant results to SERPs. And they don’t just do that by mindlessly cataloging metadata and keyword density.
Modern search engines build a complete profile of your business (not just your website) by aggregating all available information from online sources – including social media and news mentions, content (on and off your website), and local references to your business – to understand your business and its relevance to their user.
It may be time to enhance your search engine optimization philosophy and tactics to reflect this deliberate and definite shift toward search engines seeking to better understand user intent – and it goes beyond identifying keyword synonyms and using them in your copy.
If you successfully identify and understand the intent of the queries that bring users to your site in the first place, you are in a position to add value to your users’ experience once they get there. Here are a few important considerations:
- Content – have lots of content to satisfy the broadest range of search intent while still maintaining niche focus and authority. Keyword research is still important in identifying content generation opportunities, but presentation and depth of information is now of equal value. Provide peripheral information to simply “provide value to your users” without appearing to be directly asking for something in return.
- Present content in short, digestable chunks and break up your content with useful features.
- Provide FAQs based on real feedback from patients to answer common questions that are most important to them.
- Provide “listicles” to list important items that can be easily scanned and understood in seconds.
- Provide interactive features that work equally well on mobile devices
- Design and develop infographs and illustrations to summarize key or difficult-to-communicate concepts.
- Semantic Markup – mark up your content to help search engines and apps deliver more accurate results to users’ queries.
- Flow content in a logical sequence that attempts to tell a story.
- Calls-to-Action – develop call-to-action features that are based on your understanding of user intent and the purpose of your pages.
- Photo Gallery – before-and-after photos are perhaps the most highly trafficked part of most elective healthcare websites. A robust, easy-to-use, and feature-rich photo gallery is a must.
The Bottom Line
Optimize content for user intent vs. purely for keywords and rankings. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential visitor and ask yourself what value they would receive from visiting your website that they wouldn’t get from any other website.
Ali Kouros is co-founder of MetaMed Marketing. Ali heads up operations, engineering, productions, and practice marketing for MetaMed.