Providing the best answer to a question is the focus of every search engine. Relevancy, keyword match and proximity are just some of the factors used to determine which indexed information is the “best” answer to the searcher’s query. This is no longer the case now though, especially for Google search results.
Search Journeys – What Is It About?
In 2018, as it marked its 20th anniversary, Google released an important announcement – the shift from answers to journeys. The tech giant says that this change is for their users, for them to have a better user experience (UX). Here, better UX is no longer about providing a simple answer to a searcher’s question, but rather showing the most relevant one based on user’s intent and where he’s at in his journey.
For the longest time, search engines were providing answers without knowing the reason behind the query. Google is changing this through Journeys. User intent and buyer’s journey are the concepts at the core of Search Journeys. Here, the process isn’t just about looking at the keywords but also understanding the context behind them with the help of AI.
Google’s AI doesn’t just rely on the user’s current search query. It also checks his past browsing history – what he searched for and sites he visited. All these data are used to deliver a high-quality and tailored result, the kind that truly matches what the searcher is looking for.
The Effect of Search Journeys on SEO
Without a doubt, the shift from answers to journeys is a revolutionary change, one that’s bound to stay for a while and one that has an enormous impact on SEO. To keep up with it, you have to make user intent and buyer’s journey front and centre when designing your SEO and content strategy. This includes changing some SEO approaches, especially in the areas of keyword research and content creation.
When it comes to keyword research, you can no longer simply decide based on on what terms you want your site to rank for. You also have to consider which ones are going to draw in more traffic and conversions for your business. To do this, you have to understand the why behind the keyword and what it says about the searcher’s journey.
Moving forward, as you do your keyword research, categorise the terms according to the different stages of the buyer’s journey. Is the keyword informational, navigational or transactional?
User’s who are at the stage of finding a solution to their problem use informational keywords. The intent behind these so-called “know” keywords is to find comprehensive content about the query. For example, a home owner unsure about repainting her exterior walls during spring may want information on whether or not she should proceed with the task. To get an answer, she goes to a search engine and types the term “benefits of painting exterior walls in spring”.
Meanwhile, those who use navigational keywords are at stage wherein they are trying to make a decision on which solution is best for them. Here, the intent is to find content on a specific brand or company that’s going be useful in the user’s decision-making process. If the home owner is convinced she should paint her walls already, the next query may be about finding a professional painting company. The search terms can be “professional painting company in [location]”. If the home owner knows a company, then she might want reviews about it and key in “[name of company] reviews”.
Buyers in the transactional stage are those who are ready to take action. Transactional keywords often contain words like “buy” and “subscribe”. Users at this stage are looking for content that’s going to help them accomplish the action they’re going to take. In the case of our home owner, this may be a page where she could set an appointment with or contact the painting company.
Why is it important to categorise keywords? Mapping keywords is the key to creating excellent content, the type which fits the needs of the searcher. For example, if the keyword is “[name of company] reviews” in it, you know that what’s needed is a page showing testimonials from previous client. Similarly, when the search query is “benefits of painting exterior walls in spring”, you need to show a blog post about this topic.
With the arrival of Search Journeys, optimising pages for intent should be an integral part of your overall SEO strategy. In fact, doing this is necessary if you want to have good rankings. Remember, with the shift from answers to journeys, pages optimised for intent are going top Google’s search engine results pages. So, you have to make the necessary adjustments if you want your site to stay competitive!
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Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay