SEO is constantly evolving. Every once in a while, a marketer will claim that the practice no longer matters, but our vast case studies and observations suggest otherwise. In fact, SEO might be the most powerful tool in your toolbox because it's inexpensive and because it encourages you to share more meaningful content.

SEO matters more than ever, but how can you leverage it in this ever-changing landscape? Let's look at a few ways in which search has evolved. Then we'll dive into the ways in which it can impact your content marketing.

Keywords Aren't Just Keywords Anymore

Years ago, you could pick a keyword out of thin air, pepper it throughout a 400-word article, publish the article on the internet, and generate search traffic. That isn't the case anymore.

Google (as well as other search engines) looks for context when deciding how to rank content in the SERPs. One way in which it capitalizes in context is through LSI keywords, which are keywords that prove synonymous with or related to the primary keyword.

For instance, let's say that you're targeting the keyword "running shoes." You should include that keyword in your content at a density of approximately 2 percent, but you can also include LSI keywords that help your content become more contextually relevant to search engines.

Primary Keyword: running shoes /// LSI Keywords: asics, nike runners, running shoes for rough terrain, sperry shoes on sale, adidas trail shoes, converse sneakers, sprinting running shoes

Google wants marketers to create content for users — not just for search engines. LSI keywords help to demonstrate that you're thinking about the user first and the SERPs second.

Voice Search Continues to Gain Steam

Although voice search is largely used on mobile devices these days, it's gaining steam among users of all devices. It's easy to tap the microphone on the Google homepage, ask a question, and get a response.

The obstacle that voice search creates is that a voice search generates just one answer. If you don't rank highly enough in the SERPs, voice searchers can't find your content.

Local businesses (as well as businesses that target users in specific locations) can make the most of voice search now. However, all businesses should begin optimizing their content for voice search as the trend grows. For instance, most voice searches contain five or more words. Learning to think how searchers think can help you target the right long-tail keywords.

Website Structure and Hierarchy Matters

A clean website structure can make SEO far easier, especially if you're competing in a saturated market. Google looks for related content via inbound and internal links when deciding how to rank your content.

Starting with hub content, cornerstone content, or pillar content can help you create a visually and algorithmically appealing structure. You create one in-depth piece of content that covers a fairly broad subject, then break down future content into smaller chunks, interlinking with all of the articles in the "series."

Generally, you want users to get to their destination on your website in three clicks or fewer. By creating a simple site hierarchy, you could reduce bounce rates, increase time on page, and boost the number of pages each user visits during a session.

You Have More Opportunities to Target Space on Google's Front Page

If you've conducted a Google search recently — and you know you have — you might have noticed that Google has devoted more real estate to new types of content, such as Google Answer Boxes, People also ask boxes, and more. If you can land on one of these "position-zero" placements through organic search, your traffic will likely skyrocket.

Google Answer Boxes, for instance, appear before the first organic search result. They typically include a brief snippet with a link to the URL and other information.

Writing in-depth content and using long-tail keyword can help you snag this coveted spot. But you need a strategy that helps you target position-zero placement in the SERPs.

Ungating your content, providing comprehensive overviews of subjects, and incorporating significant subtopic content can help you achieve those goals.

At Elite SEM, we live and breathe SEO. It's what helps our clients get more traffic, increase brand awareness, and boost sales. To learn more, check out our case study:  SEO helps financial advisory site boost organic traffic 19% amid migration to new CMS.

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