According to Google, there are more than a billion Google searches each day, and an active user searches on average 25 times per day. More importantly, for this article on RankBrain and SEO, Google says that 15-25% of daily searches are new. What's a Search algorithm to do?
Today, Google's algorithm relies on 200+ signals to determine how to rank a website in organic search results. These include standard SEO checkbox items like content quality, easy to navigate site, and links, as well as recent major updates to reward sites that are mobile friendly, secure (using https), and load quickly.
In 2015, Google's RankBrain was confirmed as a new(ish) part of the algorithm. This is one of the 200+ elements mentioned above, but it only kicks in when it "sees" a search query that has never been used before, so approximately 15-25% of the time (which isn't that infrequent, actually).
How Does RankBrain Work?
There are many sophisticated articles about machine learning, artificial intelligence, and RankBrain, but all marketers really need to know is that RankBrain uses machine learning algorithms to try to predict what a better search result might be based on historical data. RankBrain evolved into this use from its original purpose of query analysis.
What Queries Trigger RankBrain to Kick In?
The 15-25% of new queries are almost exclusively long tail queries, which is not surprising considering how precise and refined our search behaviors have grown over the years.
RankBrain's Implications for Marketers
Although keyword optimization is still a key component of SEO, and even for PPC Quality Score improvements, marketers should continue to focus on creating high quality content that addresses customers' pain points, that is written in the customer's style of speaking. This useful content for the end user will naturally be optimized with long tail search queries.
Are you offering information your audience craves on your website? It's clearly an important element of Internet marketing/content marketing and even more so in the era of RankBrain.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. So it goes in life and in SEO! To simplify SEO, we've put together some best practices for 2017. The first post about general SEO best practices got really long, so we are going to break it out into multiple posts, the first of which is keyword research best practices.
SEO Keyword Selection Best Practices
Deciding which keywords to target organically is an art (research, reading and hypotheses) and a science (keyword volume, analytics and conversion data).
The art part (aht paht if you're from Boston) requires a deep competitive review, as well as an awareness of your own product and how your customers talk about it (looking "outside in" in marketing speak). It can actually be a fun exercise to go to Google search and see what longer tail terms show up when using some of your core keywords with Google's autocomplete. For example, if you offer accounting services, you could go see what people are actually searching re: this:
This is a good place to start, but which SEO keywords are really "worth it"? Well, that depends on your business and whether you have the content to support it (note: keyword research is a data-driven way to identify content development needs and strategies - use it!).
After free-associating with the Google autofill tool, get ready to use the SCIENCE piece of the puzzle and find keyword data for the keywords you think are the best fit. To find search volume, competition and expand your list, use the free Google AdWords keyword research tool or others from paid subscriptions to Moz, BrightEdge, Authority Labs, Spyfu, etc.
Once you have a list, we recommend separating keywords for SEO targets into categories and subcategories.
Keyword Funnel for SEO Keywords - Best Practices
We like using different types of keywords in our SEO strategies to target people in three broad funnel categories from interest-seeking to ready-to-buy. (side note: if you're also using the list for PPC, make sure the terms align to your PPC KPIs - likely further down in the funnel)
Best Practices for Measuring SEO Keyword Success
After creating your master SEO keyword list (which we like to call a universe), upload it into Moz, Authority Labs, BrightEdge, or whatever your chosen keyword tracking tool is. This is really important to measure success. Establish a baseline by running an SEO keywords rankings report prior to making any optimizations.
After you make your optimizations, you should check these rankings reports regularly to measure how search engines accept your SEO efforts. You ought to be able to see a correlation between an improvement in keyword SEO positions and traffic to the ranking page (and hopefully conversions!) with a good SEO strategy. A way to prove this out is to look in Google Webmaster Tools for the Pages report and view the queries that have led to that page.
Click here to see our next post about SEO in 2017 - SEO Predictions for 2017.