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Keyword targeting is at the root of any successful SEO campaign. This is a constant that has not changed and probably never will. Gathering this necessary intelligence determines for the most part your online marketing strategies and the content you’ll be creating to attract to visitors into leads. What has changed however is the way your customer are searching and how the search engines are deciding who will be shown. What does this mean for your business in 2017 & how will it affect your current SEO campaigns? Lets find out!

How are your visitors searching in 2017?

Mobile and handheld devices have changed the way we use the Internet. Not to mention the introduction of wearable technology over the last few years. We’re no longer chained to our desktops. We can now search on the fly and get results in real time…hell, I don’t even need to type, I can just speak to my phone and like magic here are 10 perfect answers to my question.

The difference is, the way I speak and the ways I type a query are often different. When we speak we tend to ask questions. An example could be, “What is the best Chinese food takeout in Ottawa (9 word key phrase). This same query typed would most likely be BEST Chinese food OTTAWA. (4 WORDS) Now, when looking at these searches, there are 2 takeaways to be aware of. First off, moving forward, everything you do should be for mobile first. Digital assistance like Siri and Cortana are fast becoming the norm and are even available on your desktops. My daughter, who is just learning to write, uses Siri almost daily to help her navigate her preferred sites like Netflix or YouTube. The next gen of Internet searchers will and are using these options. Consider this when doing your keyword research and choosing your targets. Tools like Keyword Planner are far from perfect and don’t give the long tails that our often now used.

Next and wait for this… What is Best Chinese takeout in Ottawa? Did Google give you 10 Chinese food restaurants? They most certainly did, didn’t they? Did we mention the word “restaurant” in our query? No we did not, which brings me to question #2

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How are the search engines deciding whom they will show?

Well, Latent Symantec Indexing is how…Semantic search is a technique that takes into account searchers intent and the contextual meaning of words or phrases in an effort to improve accuracy and display the most relevant results”. In short, Google looks at the intent behind the search more than the exact match keywords.

Does this mean keywords are no longer important in content? No, but it’s very different.

Good SEO’s understand that answering your searchers question is what is most important. Again, Google makes billions each year serving up only the most accurate and relevant answers to someone’s query.

No so long ago, a big deciding factor for algorithms on how a page would rank was highly based on the keywords in that said page. With some less than scrupulous black hat methods we all know about, pages could rank regardless of its relevance. SEO’s would even purposely misspell often-misspelled search terms on their webpages to try to rank for them.

Now, I’m not under evaluating the importance keywords in your pages, but I no longer put as much relevance on exact match keywords given to us by our tools, instead I give more relevance on a particular group of “same intent” keywords targeted to a page. It’s ok to use synonyms and variations of a targeted keyword to a single page, as Google understands its intent. Google understands that Chinese food restaurants in Ottawa, Ottawa Chinese restaurants, restaurants that serve Chinese food in my city, Chinese food Ottawa and on and on, ALL HAVE THE SAME INTENT, and therefore should only have 1 targeted webpage. In the past SEO’s would create multiple webpages to rank for these variations, which also meant thin, boring content written for search engines and not for the visitor. LSI is changing this in a big way.

In closing, it’s time to change the way we think about keywords, how we conduct keyword research and how we choose the keywords we want to target. LSI and machine learning technology like rank brain is changing the way search engines serve up results. Stop worrying about exact match keywords provided by tools and your need to insert them into your content over and over. You will see your best results by providing helpful and engaging content that answer your searchers questions. Do this properly, and you’ll be rewarded with rank.

The SEO industry needs to start focusing on user intent instead of over optimization.

Write for the user, not the engine!

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