Optimization for User Intent

After entering an incoherent guess about a topic into Google’s search bar, are you stunned when you somehow get back exactly what you were searching for? Freaked out? You’re not alone. The search giant has a supernatural ability to focus on guessed keywords in the search query and apply unbelievably accurate behavioral, content, context and temporal/historical signals to provide you with exactly the results you needed.

Companies could question if the search is this robust should they still optimize for keywords? It depends! A few quick visuals will help you determine what the best fork-in-the-road is for your bottom-line. Performing a simple search of the word “soz” will help to illustrate a point of search results in these next seven visuals.

Old school SEO ranking theories would assume that a high ranking search result ranks at the top of the page because of several ranking factors based on that particular article and SEO efforts behind it.

In actuality, the above page ranked high because when searchers engaged with the page, they found their answers there and did not need to click other search results on the page.

LifeWire would rank higher but it tries to draw the click rather than directly answering the search in the snippet.

InternetSlang does the almost exact same thing – trying to draw a click versus answering the search directly.

Although this link is highly authoritative and is well linked to, plus a trusted authority, its snippet is trash which is a big NO in the playbook. This will easily lower your rank in the search return lineup.

Lastly, this is the furthest down only because it’s actually targeting the wrong searcher intent. The Google behavioral analysis and content/context-matching process understands that searchers are not looking for an abbreviation for Solenzara, France.

These examples prove how classic SEO ranking inputs still matter and how they are still relevant in terms of search rank listings. They’re often the difference between making it to the top 10 search results versus not having a chance in the list. There are still a lot of companies that get locked into the idea that rankings are made up of a combination of the “Old School Five”:

  1. Keyword use
  2. Freshness
  3. Anchor text
  4. Domain authority
  5. Page Links

Don’t misunderstand — sometimes, these signals in a strong enough combination can overwhelm Google’s other inputs. In all actuality, those examples are becoming harder to find.

The three to note would be:

  1. Always try to solve the question “how well does this solve the searcher’s intent”
  2. Google is working hard to keep searchers on Google. If you help them do that, they’ll often help you rank… it’s a symbiotic relationship. Embrace it.
  3. If you’re trying to outrank a competitor, how you align your title, meta description, first few sentences of text, and content around what the searcher truly needs will often make the difference… even if you are not the leader with links