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Are you forward-thinking in your approach to search marketing?

When was the last time you updated your content strategy?

With Google’s ever-changing algorithm, your SEO tactics must continue to evolve.

Search engines are known to reward websites that publish high-quality content – consistently.

Gone are the days when businesses could rank on Google simply by pumping out generic, keyword-stuffed material.

Now, the key to higher rankings is creating content that offers maximum value to searchers.

On October 6, I moderated a webinar with Carlos Meza, President & CEO at Crowd Content.

Meza explained how to optimize your content for user intent and relevancy by using a meaningful content structure.

Here is a summary of the webinar. To access the entire presentation, complete the form.

Key Takeaways

Use human-first content. Focus on the user and how you can help them. Ensure that your content leaves them with takeaways.

Topic Clusters answer not only one question but all the questions that the searcher might have.

Content Creation: What’s Changed Over The Years

2024 has been focusing on quality content, with 6 out of 7 updates targeted toward content.

Today, some content methods are no longer applicable.

[Make sure you’re not using these old ways & see content horror stories] Instantly access the webinar →

Search Engines are getting better at understanding content as humans would; it now:

Puts context into queries and sentences.

Punishes keyword stuffing.

Analyzes the holistic meaning of a query.

Looks at the meaning/scope of whole paragraphs.

Leverages NLP and AI to predict information people want.

[What’s NLP?] Instantly access the webinar →

In light of these updates, what do you need to do?

What To Do Now: Write For Humans

Unfortunately, over time, we became too technical in SEO and forgot that the content we produce is supposed to serve a purpose for humans.

Writing for humans means producing high-quality content. Here’s how.

High-Quality Content: 3 Factors To Consider

When you want to start writing high-quality content, there are three factors to look at.

Factor #1: Empathetic, People-First Content

Ask yourself, what would you feel if you were in the shoes of the reader?

Humans respond to narratives, stories, brands, and information – and so do search-engine algorithms!

So, make sure you:

Start with intent – the “why.”

Focus on the “who.”

Personalize content.

Tell stories.

Make it readable & user-friendly.

[Check out Google’s guidance] Instantly access the webinar →

By writing people-first content, you’ll stay aligned with Google’s narrative that great content is the best way to protect yourself from updates.

Factor #2: Topic Clustering

Topic clusters are resources that answer all the questions around a topic.

When you think about topic clustering, you can think about it like what you’ll have on your plate for dinner.

[Learn what we mean] Instantly access the webinar →

Focus On Topics & Not Keywords

Now, this doesn’t mean keywords don’t work anymore. It just means keywords should be within the topic cluster.

Topic clusters are great for:

Future-proofing SEO.

Scaling SEO strategy based on topics.

Internal linking.

Attracting backlinks.

Increasing web engagement.

Increasing conversion.

[Find out where to start with clusters] Instantly access the webinar →

Factor #3: Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

A subject matter expert has highly specialized knowledge of a particular industry or field.

Improve E-A-T score (must-have for YMYL content).

Build trust.

Make content unique.

Provide more organic opportunities for backlinks.

[Discover the recipe to producing great E-A-T content with an SME] Instantly access the webinar →

A Note On Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Is AI good or bad for content? It depends on how you use it.

For example, AI is a tool to help writers be more productive, overcome writer’s block, and create an outline.

However, AI will not replace 100% of what a writer can do.

So, it’s best to proceed cautiously when using AI to create content.

Make sure your content strategies stay up-to-date by applying all the principles discussed in the on-demand webinar.

You’ll find that adapting to the rapidly changing SEO standards will be easier, and you’ll be able to energize more of your online presence.

New SEO Strategies: 3 Steps To Perfect SEO Content Creation [Webinar]

Here’s the presentation:



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Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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How To Combine Seo & Content For Bigger Wins

Companies of all sizes – from SMBs to large enterprises – need a cohesive approach to truly dominate the digital marketing front.

If you want to achieve online success, aligning your SEO and content marketing strategies is crucial.

But how exactly can it be done?

On November 15, I had the pleasure of moderating a sponsored SEJThinkTank webinar presented by ScribbleLive‘s Christopher Hart and Chris Trappe. Hart and Trappe talked about how companies can make their SEO and content teams work together to score bigger marketing wins. Here is a recap of the webinar presentation.

Understanding Today’s Customer-Driven World

We live in a customer-driven world. Users are now in control of their buying decisions. Their journeys are much more dynamic and, at times, complicated.

Communication has evolved throughout the years.

In the 1980s, broadcast media was the main source of information and entertainment for most people.

The development of Internet 1.0 in the 1990s added new, interesting means for tech-savvy individuals to acquire data and communicate with others.

By the 2000s, mobile technology has fully grown and eventually paved the way for the development of social networks.

Today, it is more about great content experiences across various channels that relate to the end user. Wherever your consumers are, that’s where you need to be.

The Importance of Content Experiences

Content experiences fuel the new demands of marketing.

The more relevant your content is, the better it is for your brand. Therefore, you need to target your customers at the right time, with the appropriate content, when it matters to them.

According to a Forrester study, 71 percent of buyers begin their purchase journeys by using a search engine. This is why optimizing your brand’s web presence is essential.

On the other hand, the average B2B purchase group involves about five stakeholders – each of whom has different content needs that you need to fulfill.

When competing on content experiences, you need to be:

Data-driven

Strategic

Relevant

Engaging

Omnichannel

“We believe content is the fourth dimension of competition and the key differentiation opportunity for today’s enterprise,” Hart said.

Owning the Journey

You need to know which types of content to produce for your users. Prospective customers typically consume a wide array of content as they go through the buyer’s journey.

Interacting with your customers doesn’t end when they purchase your product or service. At this point, you have the opportunity to keep them loyal members of your community by providing additional content that will keep them engaged.

How to Get Bigger Marketing Wins Breaking Down Internal Silos

Companies face internal obstacles that hamper efficient collaborations. Employees and teams may not have the right tools, structures, and systems in place to work together, leading to a poor, disjointed content marketing performance.

Likewise, brands face the challenge of keeping all content up to date, but they don’t have complete data when they need it. Long ramp times also don’t help.

The key is to increase efficiencies.

Do away with individual marketing channels being the thought process.

Instead, collaborate across different teams to take the expertise that each individual has. Break down the tribal knowledge and apply it to multiple disciplines.

Building & Monetizing Audiences Through Content

The ideal way to go about this is to incorporate a data-driven strategy and integrate the channels you use in your workflow. If you produce content that adds value to and encourages engagement with your audience, they will be able to build a relationship with your brand.

The opportunity to monetize will follow.

More Effective User Engagement

Engaging your users would not be possible if the social experience is out of context. This brings us back to the beginning stages of creating the content strategy. A lack of central strategy will leave key stakeholders out of the loop and produce limited content that doesn’t speak well to the audience.

In contrast, if you ensure that key stakeholders are all in the loop and there is an existing, data-driven central strategy that drives consistent content and messaging, you can maximize your audience reach and engagement. Your users will have consistent content experiences across all channels, consequently eliminating confusion and disconnect.

A Better Way to Create Content

Whether you have an internal content team or you’re outsourcing this process to freelancers or agencies, we all know that content development and production can take up so much time and resources.

If you’re looking for a better and more efficient way to create content, you might want to consider using a content experience platform. Software and talent are indispensable parts of the mix that will help you maximize and streamline the creative process.

Key Takeaways

Competing on content experiences entails being data-driven, strategic, relevant, engaging, and omnichannel.

You don’t have to create more content, you just have to create better content. Better content is focused and relevant to your end users.

Having a data-driven central strategy is crucial to maximizing your audience reach and engagement. The goal is to implement cohesive content and messaging across various marketing channels so that your end users have a consistent and engaging content experiences.

Using a content experience platform can streamline your content creation process. If you want a better way to develop and produce content, look for a software provider that has powerful features and can help your company be efficient, scale and get results.

Video Recap: How Successful Companies Combine SEO & Content for Bigger Wins [Webinar]

Below is the video recap of the webinar presentation and Q&A.

You can check out the SlideShare of the presentation as well.

Join Us For Our Next Webinar! KPIs, Metrics & Benchmarks That Matter For SEO Success In 2023

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Local Seo Strategies For Plumbers, Electricians & Other Trades

Plumbers and other tradespeople are essential in modern society, yet they face one huge barrier to entering new markets: Peeling away customers from the competition.

Many homeowners have established relationships with plumbers and contractors, making breaking into certain markets difficult.

Thankfully, plumbers have ways to excel in a new market, particularly when capturing new homeowners or performing emergency services where other plumbers are unavailable.

The best sources for seizing these opportunities are Google Search, and you can improve your visibility there using local SEO.

In this guide, you’ll find tips and tactics to help plumbers, electricians, contractors, and other tradespeople and businesses break into a new market, build a customer base, and expand your brand.

Off-Site SEO Essentials

One of the biggest traffic sources for all businesses comes from ‘near me’ searches, particularly on mobile phones.

By optimizing your Google Business Profile listing and third-party directory listings, you can build your business’s exposure and increase the number of incoming calls to your business.

Google Business Profile Optimization

Your Google Business Profile shows in local search pack results and is displayed in Google Maps searches.

To optimize your Google Business Profile listing correctly, follow these tips and dive deeper with this guide.

Ensure consistent NAP information (i.e., name, address, and phone number).

Verify your business on Google Maps.

Write a description of your business and its services.

Use high-resolution and relevant photos to showcase your brand and company.

Local Directories

Next, you’ll want to optimize your brand’s business profile on other third-party sites that customers frequently use to find plumbers, including:

The Better Business Bureau.

Yellow Pages.

Angie’s List.

Yelp.

Houzz.

Home Advisor.

LinkedIn.

Blue Book.

While some sites like Yelp have waned over the years, these directory sites are still important business referral sources.

Some sites provide ranked lists of different businesses based on customer reviews, which can furnish social proof and trust for your business (if you get enough positive reviews).

Moz offers tools for local citation building, or you can manually claim each business yourself, following the tips above to optimize your social media presence.

Build A Social Media Presence

While engaging with customers on social media is not critical for many contractors or trades, sources like Facebook can be valuable for customers looking for special announcements, business hours, and reviews.

Build a social media page for Facebook and LinkedIn, providing high-resolution photos and clear NAP info for easy contact.

Managing Reviews

Finally, you’ll need to manage reviews on external third-party websites to build customer trust.

Generally, you should analyze each third-party site at least once a month, if not more, to see what people are saying about your business and how you can improve.

Think of reviews like personal referrals – which are already a massive source of revenue for your business.

According to one survey, 84% of customers of service businesses and tradespersons said reviews are ‘important’ or ‘very important’ in their decision-making process.

Follow these tips to manage online reviews for your plumbing business:

Encourage customers to leave a review after a positive service or engagement.

Encourage customers to leave reviews on your website and all marketing materials.

Respond to positive reviews.

Respond to negative reviews with solutions or an apology.

Don’t worry too much about negative reviews, as most customers will be equally dismayed by overtly harsh reviews.

However, responding to negative reviews with a positive service engagement could build more customer trust over time.

It also helps you show off your customer service skills.

On-Page SEO Essentials

Now that you’ve optimized your business listing on strategic third-party websites, it’s time to optimize your website for local SEO results.

Local Keyword Research

To begin, you’ll need to conduct local keyword research to see which terms drive the most qualified traffic to your website.

Open up a free Google Ads account and use the Keyword Planner tool to search for keywords in your area.

For example, if you operate in Houston, you could use “plumbers houston” as your seed keyword and filter your search for Houston, Texas, to uncover further ideas:

Based on this list, “plumber houston tx” and “houston plumbing services” have less competition and can be easily won in local search results.

You can also filter this list by “top of page bid” and look at the highest bids for the most commercially relevant keywords.

You can also take a competitor from your initial keyword list and plug in their URL to see which keywords they rank for.

You can add a semantic filter to adjust your results for strictly plumbing-related keywords.

Building a list of these keywords will be critical for optimizing meta tags on top-level pages and developing content ideas.

Meta Tag Optimization

Now that we have our list of seed keywords, we need to apply them to our web pages.

You will need to optimize the metadata on each page with relevant keyword data to make pages more likely to rank for search results.

This metadata will include:

Title Tag/H1: The primary keyword related to a page and the page’s topic. Title tags must be between 50-60 characters, or titles will be truncated in SERPs (search engine results page).

Meta Description: A brief description of your webpage, which includes your seed keyword and a call-to-action to read or find out more. Meta descriptions are ideally between 145–160 characters.

Header Tags: The subtopics or dividing headers across each page. Each header should include a relevant long-tail keyword.

URLs: URLs should retain a simple structure with your site name followed by the name of the title of the webpage.

Keyword Usage: Seed keywords should be used in the webpage’s introduction and 1–5% throughout the text document.

Local Schema

While local keyword research will certainly help Google or Bing index your website for local search results, nothing is guaranteed.

To help search engines index your website properly, use schema markup on web pages to properly label and index them.

While schema markup can be complicated, Google’s Structured Data Tool simplifies the task.

Insert your URL and add the appropriate schema markup to ensure each page on your website is properly indexed by Google.

Some common schema markup data that will apply to your plumbing business include:

Geo.

Type.

Opening Hours.

Telephone.

Address.

Review.

Price.

See our Complete Guide to Local Schema for more useful tips.

Mobile Responsiveness

Another big component of local search is mobile search.

Many local searches for your business will be conducted via smartphones, so you can’t ignore the importance of mobile.

Thankfully, most modern CMS options come with responsive web design.

However, to ensure your website runs smoothly on mobile, consider the following tips:

Compress all images.

Keep webpages short and simple.

Limit the amount of JavaScript.

Avoid large videos (leverage YouTube instead!)

Site Speed Optimization

Fortunately, by optimizing for mobile, you’ll also be optimizing for page speed.

To increase page speeds, consider the following tips:

Minify CSS.

Enable file compression.

Use browser caching.

Clean up redirects.

You should still identify page speed issues using Google’s Page Speed Insights for more helpful information.

Creating Consistent NAP

As a final tip for this section, it’s crucial to ensure that all contact information (name, address, phone number = NAP) and branding are consistent across all your pages.

Content Essentials

With your website in place and ready to rock, it’s time to build landing pages for your most important services and service regions.

Service Pages

Ideally, your UX should retain very simple navigation, with your target keyword (such as “Plumbers Houston”) and all auxiliary services as secondary or service pages.

These pages could include services, such as:

Emergency Plumbing.

Toilet Repairs.

Pipe Leaks.

Garbage Disposal Repair.

Water Heater Services.

Sewage.

Drain Cleaning.

Gas Piping.

These should all be located under a general Plumbing Services top-navigation page where users can explore different services, find out pricing, repair specifics, etc.

Regional Pages

Another important consideration for plumbers and contractors is whether your business serves a large metro area or different locations.

For example, if you provide plumbing services to most of New York City, you could create regional pages for Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens with a list of various services.

Furthermore, if there is enough keyword volume to warrant those pages, you could create regional pages for neighborhoods in New York, such as the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, and SoHo.

These pages may also rank for ‘near me’ searches in those neighborhoods.

Creating A Blog

Finally, you could also consider starting a blog if you feel it will give you a leg up on the competition.

Blogs provide several benefits for local businesses, including plumbers, such as:

Providing customers with easy DIY tips and repairs.

Separating your brand from other plumbers as a local authority.

Providing you with engaging content to share on your social channels.

Ranking for long-tail keywords relevant to your business to drive traffic.

You can also consider sharing DIY and tutorial videos on platforms like YouTube, which link back to your website.

Video content is highly shareable and easy to consume, giving your business much-needed exposure.

Link Building Strategies

While we discussed ways to drive traffic from third-party websites, link building can be an exceptionally useful tool in your arsenal to give your business a leg-up on the competition.

Link building – whether it’s using rel=follow or nofollow links – directs qualified traffic to your site and customers to your business.

If you don’t have the money to spend on a tool like Ahrefs, here are some free local link building tips to help you drive traffic to your website:

Reach out to newspapers in your town that list local contractors and ask for a link to your site.

Reach out to local bloggers who have interviewed local businesses in your area to contribute a quote or interview.

Write guest posts on websites with local influencers to contribute some DIY repair tips and other related content.

Sponsor a local team, volunteer, or host an event that forces journalists and bloggers to write about your business.

These tips will help give your brand exposure, which, in turn, will drive more customers to your business over time.

Digital Advertising

Use geotargeting to narrow your audience to a specific region.

Insert negative keywords to reduce ad spend.

Leverage location-specific keywords to compete with ‘“near me” and organic results.

Enable ad extensions that provide easy call options and list your business address.

Create landing page copy that’s relevant to your ad and includes relevant keywords, high-quality images, and an easy way to contact your business.

Email Marketing

Finally, I want to mention email marketing, as it can be a powerful tool for local businesses.

Plumbers can benefit from email marketing by sending re-engagement emails that remind previous customers of your business, especially if you work with residential and commercial residents.

However, email marketing can be expensive, especially for a trade that relies heavily on emergency repairs.

For this reason, email marketing is not truly necessary for plumbers unless you actively create content, engage with the community, or run promotions.

Conclusion

SEO for tradespeople and their businesses involves many of the same strategies as with other local businesses.

However, tradespeople require special consideration for their unique business model.

Hopefully, by following these tips, you can establish a positive web presence for your business and start getting more phone calls.

More resources:

Featured Image: Khosro/Shutterstock

Keyword Clusters: How To Level Up Your Seo Content Strategy

Over the last few years, Google’s engineering team has directed its focus towards natural language processing and a deeper understanding of how on-page content interrelates.

Neural matching helped Google understand synonyms. BERT helped Google understand those tricky prepositions.

With every core update, Google gets more literary.

But despite Google getting smarter, many site owners still optimize their websites with only a few keywords in mind.

This is an outdated practice, especially when we know our landing pages often end up ranking for hundreds of keywords anyway.

For those of us who have been following along since the early days of Google, this feels like a brave new world for on-page SEO.

So how do we level up our on-page optimizations to match Google’s technology?

Keyword clustering is the answer.

What Are Keyword Clusters?

Keyword clusters are groups of keywords that represent searchers with similar purchase intent.

For example, “linen curtains,” “linen window curtains,” and, “white curtains linen,” are different keyword phrases, but they all represent searchers who want to buy linen curtains.

Let’s say your brand sells linen curtains. If you only try to rank for the first keyword, you end up limiting your market share.

If you instead get your web page ranking for your primary keyword and the long-tail variants and related subtopics, your page will often end up ranking for 10-20x the amount of keywords and pick up significantly more traffic.

How To Create Keyword & Topic Clusters

In order to harness the power of keyword clusters, it’s important to note that this strategy takes way more time and resources than a one-and-done approach to website optimization.

It requires more keyword research, more content creation, and more work for your SEO and marketing teams.

But in the end, building topic clusters on your website will make it more Google-friendly and user-friendly. The benefits of keyword clustering include:

Strong rankings for long-tail keywords.

Improved rankings for short-tail keywords.

Higher organic traffic.

Faster ranking improvements in the SERPs.

More opportunities for internal linking.

Building expertise and content authority in your industry niche.

Here’s a brief explanation for how to do keyword clustering and how to build out a content strategy around those clusters.

Step 1: Make Your Keyword List

Keyword clustering starts with keyword research. Lots of it.

Think of the primary keyword you want your website to rank for.

Then, identify all of the variations, long-tail phrases, and subtopics of that keyword that searchers are using.

To get started, look to your competitors to see what keywords they are currently ranking for.

Then use a keyword tool to find related keywords, autocompletes, subtopics, or questions that searchers are using to find products and services like yours.

These metrics will help you prioritize which keywords have the most economic value and should be the “core” keywords in your clusters.

Some SEO professionals identify thousands of keywords in their research. If you’re just getting started with this strategy though, a hundred keyword phrases are likely enough to identify several different topic clusters that you can build out on your website.

As you generate your keyword list, keep in mind the importance of relevance and search intent.

You only want to include keywords that will bring the right kinds of searchers to your website, those who are actually interested in the products or services you offer and are likely to convert.

Step 2: Segment Your Keywords Into Groups

Once you have an extensive keyword list, you will start noticing patterns in your keywords.

You may notice the same words, phrases, synonyms, or subtopics that users include in their search queries. These patterns represent the potential ways you can cluster and form keyword groups.

The below image is an example of keyword research for a software platform that helps businesses recruit, interview, and hire employees.

Here are the criteria you should use to segment these keywords into clusters.

Semantic Relevance

It’s important that the keywords in your clusters share similar search intent.

If you try to optimize a landing page for keywords that are too dissimilar, it will make the content less readable and confuse Google in regards to what your page content is really about.

Search Volume And CPC

The core keywords in your clusters should have a reasonable search volume (otherwise you optimize for nobody).

They should also have conversion potential (CPCs speak to their economic value).

Organic Difficulty

Whether you include keywords that have higher organic difficulty will depend on your site authority, backlink profile, and how established your website is.

Only include keywords in your clusters for which your site can realistically rank.

A Closer Look At Two Keyword Clusters

Once you find the core keyword for a cluster, pair it with complementary keywords.

For example, you can add some that are long-tail, lower difficulty, or lower search volume, or those that would be an easy win just by including enough information about them on the landing page.

Let’s apply these keyword clustering fundamentals to the keywords for our software platform. Here is a potential keyword cluster:

Why do these keywords make a good cluster?

Because they share semantic relevance. These searchers are all looking for a product that helps with scheduling interviews.

The core keyword, “interview scheduling software,” is the highest value, and we’ve paired it with complementary keywords of lower search volume and solid CPC.

Now, here’s a second cluster:

Semantically, these keywords imply a slightly different search intent and therefore belong in their own cluster. These searchers are more interested in a tool that helps them conduct virtual interviews.

Our core keyword is slightly more competitive to rank for, but we have filled out the cluster with keywords that have lower difficulty and strong conversion potential.

If you feel confident in your niche and understand the keyword metrics and the nuances of search intent, you can segment your keywords into groups manually (just like I illustrated above).

There are also keyword grouping tools that automate the process. They can segment your keywords into clusters for you.

As you segment, remember that not all of the keywords in your list need to end up in your clusters.

The highest-value keywords are the most important to include.

High CPCs, strong search volume, and relevant search intent are what makes a keyword valuable for your brand.

Step 3: Create & Optimize Pillar Pages For Your Keyword Clusters

Once you’ve grouped your keywords into clusters, they provide a roadmap for how to create, optimize, and organize the content on your website.

Essentially, your keyword clusters represent the core topics of your website.

These are also referred to as “pillar pages.”

In our previous example, we identified two primary keyword clusters for our software platform.

To carry our keyword clustering properly, we need to create landing pages targeting each of those keyword clusters.

One landing page should be devoted to the interview scheduling feature of the platform. The other landing page should focus on the virtual interviewing tool.

The pillar pages for your keyword clusters should incorporate on-page SEO best practices. One of my favorite strategies is to use a content optimization tool to help you optimize your content more effectively.

To improve the ranking potential of your pillar pages, prioritize the following areas:

Topical Depth: Focus on writing long-form content that explores the topic in-depth.

Information Architecture: Have a clear structure and include your keyword phrases in your h2s and h3s.

Page Experience: Add interactive on-page elements like videos, jump links, and carousels that improve the page experience for the user.

Step 4: Reinforce Your Keyword Clusters With Blog Content

To improve the ranking and content authority of your pillar pages, you can build out blog content that reinforces your primary keyword clusters.

These blogs can target longer-tail keyword phrases, subtopics, or questions related to your core keywords.

As you develop more content, those web pages will form “topic clusters” on your website.

The internal linking profile of this content will play a big role in which landing pages of your website rank in Google.

Your blog posts should link back to their appropriate pillar page to strengthen your chances of ranking for those higher-value keywords.

If your business has multiple products or areas of expertise, you will be able to build out more clusters on your website.

When mapped out, your website content will eventually look something like this:

If you only sell one core product or service, the number of keyword clusters you identify will be fewer. Still, exploring your primary topic areas with lots of useful content can help you outrank your competitors in less time.

Building out your clusters also gives more opportunities to add internal links to your website.

This not only increases the time that users spend on your website, but internal links spread around your PageRank and help Google understand which pages of your website are the most important.

Is Keyword Clustering Really Worth All of the Work?

This is because they respond to Google’s two biggest superpowers: Natural language processing and unmatched indexing.

Think about it. Google understands all of the millions of keyword phrases searchers are using across industries. It also understands the slightest differences in those queries and how they do or don’t relate to each other.

Google has invested years into training their NLP models to compute content quality signals and predict which web pages will best give the searcher the information they’re looking for.

When you execute keyword clustering with your landing pages, you show Google that your website is an authority in your industry and demonstrates strong breadth and depth of content.

You also give Google’s content signals the rich content clusters they’re trained to identify and promote in search results.

Keyword clustering requires site owners to think bigger about their content. It’s also the future of SEO.

If you want your web pages to rank for the long term, it’s time that your on-page strategy catches up to Google.

Image Credits

In-post photos: Linkgraph.io

Seo Fundamentals: Your Guide To Seo Success Factors

Ready to learn the secret to search engine optimization (SEO)?

Well, I hate to break it to you, but there really is no secret.

There is no secret sauce.

There is no secret recipe.

SEO isn’t about magic tricks or gaming the search algorithms.

What you really need is a thorough understanding of what people want when they search – and why they want (or need) it.

The fact that there is no big secret is what makes SEO so hard. It’s also a constantly moving target.

And we don’t make the rules – the search engines do.

That said, organic search is one of the most profitable marketing channels there is – if you’re willing to invest in it.

Where Search Is Heading

If you’re brand new to the world of SEO, I highly recommend you start with our guide, SEO 101: Learn the Basics of Search Engine Optimization, before going further.

Already have a grasp on the SEO basics? Great! Let’s continue.

A complete guide to SEO – and where search is heading – would be impossible to fit into one article.

Many factors impact your SEO success, including:

Technical: This includes anything that affects the performance of, visibility of, or how search engines access your site. This includes indexing and crawling, schema, page speed, site structure, URL structure, and much more.

On-page: This is your content – both what is visible to users on your webpages (text, images, video, or audio), as well as elements that are only visible to search engines (HTML tags, structured data).

Off-page: This is anything that’s not on your site. Ultimately, off-page factors are about growing and demonstrating your website’s authority, relevance, and trust and building an audience. Think link building, social media marketing, PPC marketing, reviews, and user-generated content.

In this chapter, we’ll start exploring the world of SEO in three of the most important areas that will help set you up for success:

Search experience optimization: What opportunities you have to be more present to your customers/audience.

Content strategies for actual people: The importance of content and what it means to be relevant.

The impact of voice search on SEO: We’ll look into the not-too-distant future and show you why the time is now to optimize for voice search. So don’t wait!

1. Search Experience Optimization

When you hear the acronym SEO, it usually means Search Engine Optimization. And, as you’d expect, SEO in this context means optimizing your website for search engines (or, far less likely, optimizing a search engine).

But Search Experience Optimization is a newer way to think about the term SEO. Some have even called search experience optimization the “new SEO.”

Search experience optimization is optimizing for people in all the places your brand and content could possibly appear. It goes beyond the nuts and bolts of optimizing for search engines – although those nuts and bolts are still incredibly important!

Search strategies require us to create brand experiences, using the search results to build relevance.

Ninety-three percent of online experiences begin with a search engine, according to a 2006 Forrester study. That means a search engine is the biggest billboard there is for brands.

Search engines also travel with us wherever we go. Google refers to these search experiences as moments, with four of the biggest being:

I-want-to-know.

I-want-to-go.

I-want-to-do.

I-want-to-buy.

Contemporary SEO strategies require us to be creative to get visibility.

Ranking Above the Fold: Desktop vs. Mobile

Check out these results. What do you see?

On mobile, there are no organic results above the fold.

On desktop, the only organic result you see is a featured snippet.

You have to optimize in every way you possibly can to improve visibility of your brand. Sometimes ranking “number one” in organic search won’t even matter because the page you’re trying to rank won’t even show “first.”

Let’s look at just a few of these search features that come before the first organic position:

News & Social Content

Google News and social content are areas where your content can gain great visibility. But news and social are wholly dependent on the freshness of query (how current/hot the topic is).

In order to rank/appear in these areas, you need a good understanding of your space and how Google responds to a query. Not every query will show news or social content, so it’s important to understand how keywords react in different ways.

Knowledge Panels

Google’s knowledge panels, which are powered by Google’s Knowledge Graph, display the basics about a business. This includes things like:

Location.

Phone number.

Ratings.

Hours of operation.

This is a huge way to build trust in your brand. Searchers have been conditioned to look for certain parts of search results, such as knowledge panels, to get the trusted information they want or need.

Getting these panels is important if you’re a brand (or any other type of entity). If you aren’t in the Knowledge Graph, you might be in a little trouble.

People Also Ask

People also ask is another search feature in which content is directly pulled in line with results. These are real terms people are searching for and content from websites is pulled in to populate these results.

You can use this search feature directionally to identify content optimization opportunities or additional new pieces of content you could create to help target the audience you want to reach.

Apply SEO to Different Platforms

In addition to optimizing for different parts of search results, you can apply SEO methodologies to any platform someone can search on.

These optimization opportunities, each of which is essentially a discipline unto itself, include:

All of these searchable platforms are completely adaptable to the principles of SEO and provide opportunities for you to gain additional brand visibility.

Plus, when you optimize for other search experiences, content about your brand may be pulled into traditional search engine results (Google, Bing, etc.) as well.

Takeaways:

Be visible as much as you can. Use every part of the results to create search experiences.

Optimize beyond the search engine. This will ultimately lead to additional real estate occupation in the search engine results themselves.

SEO assumes a much larger context when the goal is search experience optimization, not just search engine optimization.

2. Optimize Content for People

It’s sometimes easy to forget that it’s all about optimizing for people – your customers, readers, or subscribers.

So always optimize for people, not search engines.

Create content for customers, not for the sole purpose of ranking higher.

When you put people at center of your content strategies, chances are you’ll be way more successful in search engines.

Content, Keywords & Search Algorithms

Google has made several algorithm updates and changes over the years.

Two key algorithm changes are extremely important in terms of how we think about content and keywords:

Hummingbird: This update gave Google the ability to understand full queries, not just individual keywords as part of a search. It also introduced the concept of semantics, or different keywords surrounding a main topic. Optimizing your pages for a single keyword from top to bottom is no longer a viable SEO tactic, nor does it look natural to people.

RankBrain: This update gave Google the ability to understand queries it had never processed before and create associations necessary to be able to decipher the full meaning of query to deliver results through machine learning. It is one of the top three ranking factors, along with content and links.

So how do these two algorithm updates impact content strategies?

You don’t want to focus too narrowly on keywords. While rankings are important, ranking isn’t the only thing that matters.

Keywords can sometimes betray you. Keywords may have a high search volume but can lack specificity and value.

Take this search for [email marketing] for example:

The search volume for this particular keyword is roughly 18,000.

Even if you were to write content well enough to rank for this keyword, how much of that traffic will be relevant? How many conversions will you be able to generate? Probably not a lot.

The term “email marketing” is very generic. This is why Google shows ambiguous results.

There’s a clear difference in a term like “email marketing” and “enterprise cross-channel marketing platforms”.

What’s the difference?

Intent.

One keyword is informational, while the other is transactional. Transactional queries are more valuable to conversion-driven businesses.

You can optimize for more transactional queries by targeting long-tail search keywords. This specificity of keywords (even if the keyword has low search volume) will help you create more relevant content and get more qualified traffic to your site.

At a tactical level you have to get creative with your topic and keyword research. Really understand how people search for what they search for.

Why Content Matters

There’s no denying the importance of content.

Without content there is no visibility.

To underscore how important content is (and how important the selection of keywords can be to the effectiveness of content), consider this:

60 percent of queries are four words or more.

The average word count for a first-page result on Google is almost 1,900 words.

This begs the question: how do we know what people want? How do we know what people are going to search for?

Give People Content They Want

If you pay close enough attention, your audience will tell you what they want.

Some of the best audience tools are contained right in the Google search results:

Autocomplete

People also ask.

Related searches.

Those are all queries/questions that people ask when they search. This data presents real opportunities for additional content.

Addressing pains points and directly answering questions will help you deliver the right content in a time of need to searchers. That’s fundamentally what a search is – a need. It will also help you understand your customers better.

Social Listening

Social platforms also provide ample opportunities to learn about people and listen to needs.

Monitor conversations on every social network you’re active (and anywhere your brand is discussed).

What are people complaining about? Maybe it’s:

Customer service issues.

Being unable to find out when your business is open.

Your product(s) or service(s).

You can turn any of these into content.

Competitive Research

Analyzing the sites in search results for competitive topics reveal a lot about what is working, and what isn’t, about your business. Do a content audit and find content gaps, or areas you want to emulate.

No matter what you choose, the end goal is always same: gain more context. Expand on topics your audience needs you to show up for.

This type of research can be uncomfortable. You may have to face some hard truths when you take any of these routes. But it’s worth it as you’ll understand the needs of people you want to reach.

Make It Mobile-First!

Great content means optimal accessibility, regardless of device. Truly mobile-first experiences that load as fast as possible.

Slow loading pages can potentially impact your SEO performance – and your bottom line. Always be testing and optimizing!

If you’re unsure about your mobile experience, test all your pages. Use any tool you can to optimize the user experience.

There are many great tools, including Pagespeed Insights. Use them to identify problem areas, such as how quickly your pages load and render.

Be Prepared for the Mobile-First Index

Google has been telling everyone to go mobile-first for years but now it’s happening with the mobile-first index.

What this means is Google will crawl mobile sites at a higher frequency than desktop versions of sites. It also means that mobile is more critical to SEO than ever before. Watch developments in this area closely.

Make SEO Part of Your DNA

Optimize your content from the start. It will save you a lot of headaches in the end.

SEO is a process, not a goal. SEO is never done. You’re never done optimizing.

Every page can be optimized because there’s no such thing as a perfect website. You need to become “least imperfect.”

In other words, you don’t need the best website in the world. You just need a website that’s better than your competition.

Being consistent with the SEO basics is the perfect way to do that:

Optimize your titles and meta descriptions.

Use readable user and search friendly URLs.

Optimize video content (if you have it).

Optimize header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.).

Link to deeper content within your site.

Create and optimize topically-relevant content.

All of these items might seem like no-brainers to seasoned SEO professions. But you’d probably be surprised to see how often sites don’t have the most basic things (e.g., title tags on their most important pages).

Your navigation and internal linking structure is the thematic backbone of your site. Use it to signal to search engines the topics of your site – what you want to be known for.

Takeaways:

Embrace long-tail keywords. Don’t limit yourself with a strategy that only targets generic/ambiguous keywords.

Understand audience intent and create content for it. Listen to your audience. They will tell you what content you need to create.

Optimize from the start. Build your foundation and cover all the basics (technical SEO and on-page optimization).

3. Voice Search Optimization

Voice search is closer than you think.

Pay attention to changes in search behavior and shifts in search results. Gather insight now to prepare for the future.

A whole new generation of people is coming. Their primary relationship with a search engine is to speak to it – not to type or tap. This is a huge change.

With a proliferation of voice-assisted devices that are easy to use (even for older generations), we’re fast approaching a voice-first shift in search behavior.

Position Zero

Featured snippets are already starting to play a critical role in how Google provides search results. This is the new field of play in SEO.

Position zero is largely question-driven. Google provides direct answers to questions, pulling an excerpt of content directly from a website into its featured snippet feature.

Optimizing for Voice Search

Voice search has one result. Position zero is the only result spoken back to you.

To have success, it’s important to know the content and context of search:

Identify common questions and queries your audience has.

Create content to directly address those questions and queries.

Turn Content Into Actions & Skills

Google takes a few types of published content and makes it voice searchable for:

News

Recipes

Podcasts

Alexa skills also make content searchable:

Web-based services

Information searches

The Future of Voice Search

There’s a lot we still don’t know about voice search.

Voice search data isn’t available: Google doesn’t show voice search data in the same way it does for desktop and mobile search in the Search Console.

How search behavior is changing: When mobile was becoming a thing, we had data to show “near me” type searches, reflective of those on the go, were exploding. We don’t yet know the voice search equivalent to “near me” searches.

What do we know?

We know voice search consists of 10 percent of all searches, and that number is increasing. Just like mobile 6-7 years ago, voice search is coming.

So here lies the SEO opportunity. How will we define the methodology of voice search experience to continue to be present with relevant content when people need it?

Takeaways:

Prepare for a voice-first world.

Optimizing for position zero is optimizing for voice search.

Make content searchable on voice-enabled devices.

Summary

As you approach SEO, especially in terms of content, make sure your strategy takes these three areas into account:

Creating search experiences is the new SEO. Optimize for every opportunity you can. Take ownership of the search results, including outside of traditional organic search. Be present. Be relevant. Build trust in the people who are searching for your brand, wherever that is.

Create content for people, not search engines. This is how you deliver great digital experiences and understand your customers better. Focus on the topics people want rather than worrying about keywords as much. Use your content assets to listen to your audience and create content that directly addresses their questions and pain points. Build a foundation you need for good SEO going forward.

Voice search is coming. Don’t wait. Aim for position zero in search results and make content voice-searchable.

Editor’s notes:

This post was mostly based on a session at Adobe Summit (The Future of SEO: Is Your Content Strategy Ready?) presented by Matt Young, business consultant, Adobe Customer Solutions.

Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita

All other images/screenshots created by Matt Young/Adobe, used with permission.

How To Mine The Serps For Seo, Content & Customer Insights

The most underutilized resources in SEO are search engine results pages (SERPs).

I don’t just mean looking at where our sites rank for a specific keyword or set of keywords, I mean the actual content of the SERPs.

For every keyword you search in Google where you expand the SERP to show 100 results, you’re going to find, on average, around 3,000 words.

That’s a lot of content, and the reason it has the potential to be so valuable to an SEO is that a lot of it has been algorithmically rewritten or cherry-picked from a page by Google to best address what it thinks the needs of the searcher are.

One recent study showed that Google is rewriting or modifying the meta descriptions displayed in the SERPs 92% of the time.

Ask yourself: why would Google want to do that?

It must take a fair amount of resources when it would just be easier to display the custom meta description assigned to a page.

The answer, in my opinion, is that Google only cares about the searcher – not the poor soul charged with writing a new meta description for a page.

Google cares about creating the best search experience today, so people come back and search again tomorrow.

One way it does that is by selecting the parts of a page it wants to appear in a SERP feature or in SERP-displayed metadata that it thinks best match the context or query-intent a person has when they use the search engine.

With that in mind, the ability to analyze the language of the SERPs at scale has the potential to be an incredibly valuable tactic for an SEO, and not just to improve ranking performance.

This kind of approach can help you better understand the needs and desires of potential customers, and it can help you understand the vocabulary likely to resonate with them and related topics they want to engage with.

In this article, you’ll learn some techniques you can use to do this at scale.

Be warned, these techniques are dependent on Python – but I hope to show this is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it’s the perfect opportunity to try and learn it.

Don’t Fear Python

I am not a developer, and have no coding background beyond some basic HTML and CSS. I have picked Python up relatively recently, and for that, I have Robin Lord from Distilled to thank.

I cannot recommend enough that you check out his slides on Python and his extremely useful and easily accessible guide on using Jupyter Notebooks – all contained in this handy Dropbox.

For me, Python was something that always seemed difficult to comprehend – I didn’t know where the scripts I was trying to use were going, what was working, what wasn’t and what output I should expect.

If you’re in that situation, read Lord’s guide. It will help you realize that it doesn’t need to be that way and that working with Python in a Jupyter Notebook is actually more straightforward than you might think.

It will also put each technique referenced in this article easily within reach, and give you a platform to conduct your own research and set up some powerful Python automation of your own.

Getting Your SERP Data

As an employee, I’m lucky to have access to Conductor where we can run SERP reports, which use an external API to pull SERP-displayed metadata for a set of keywords.

This is a straightforward way of getting the data we need in a nice clean format we can work with.

It looks like this:

Another way to get this information at scale is to use a custom extraction on the SERPs with a tool like Screaming Frog or DeepCrawl.

I have written about how to do this, but be warned: it is maybe just a tiny little insignificant bit in violation of Google’s terms of service, so do it at your own peril (but remember, proxies are the perfect antidote to this peril).

Alternatively, if you are a fan of irony and think it’s a touch rich that Google says you can’t scrape its content to offer your users a better service, then please, by all means, deploy this technique with glee.

If you aren’t comfortable with this approach, there are also many APIs that are pretty cost-effective, easy to use and provide the SERP data you need to run this kind of analysis.

The final method of getting the SERP data in a clean format is slightly more time-consuming, and you’re going to need to use the Scraper Chrome extension and do it manually for each keyword.

If you’re really going to scale this up and want to work with a reasonably large corpus (a term I’m going to use a lot – it’s just a fancy way of saying a lot of words) to perform your analysis, this final option probably isn’t going to work.

However, if you’re interested in the concept and want to run some smaller tests to make sure the output is valuable and applicable to your own campaigns, I’d say it’s perfectly fine.

Hopefully, at this stage, you’re ready and willing to take the plunge with Python using a Jupyter Notebook, and you’ve got some nicely formatted SERP data to work with.

Let’s get to the interesting stuff.

SERP Data & Linguistic Analysis

As I’ve mentioned above, I’m not a developer, coding expert, or computer scientist.

What I am is someone interested in words, language, and linguistic analysis (the cynics out there might call me a failed journalist trying to scratch out a living in SEO and digital marketing).

That’s why I’ve become fascinated with how real data scientists are using Python, NLP, and NLU to do this type of research.

Put simply, all I’m doing here is leveraging tried and tested methods for linguistic analysis and finding a way to apply them in a way that is relevant to SEO.

For the majority of this article, I’ll be talking about the SERPs, but as I’ll explain at the end, this is just scratching the surface of what is possible (and that’s what makes this so exciting!).

Cleaning Text for Analysis

At this point, I should point out that a very important prerequisite of this type of analysis is ‘clean text’. This type of ‘pre-processing’ is essential in ensuring you get a good quality set of results.

While there are lots of great resources out there about preparing text for analysis, for the sake of levity, you can assume that my text has been through most or all of the below processes:

Lower case: The methods I mention below are case sensitive, so making all the copy we use lower case will avoid duplication (if you didn’t do this, ‘yoga’ and ‘Yoga’ would be treated as two different words)

Remove punctuation: Punctuation doesn’t add any extra information for this type of analysis, so we’ll need to remove it from our corpus

Remove stop words: ‘Stop words’ are commonly occurring words within a corpus that add no value to our analysis. In the examples below, I’ll be using predefined libraries from the excellent NLTK or spaCy packages to remove stop words.

Spelling correction: If you’re worried about incorrect spellings skewing your data, you can use a Python library like TextBlob that offers spelling correction

Tokenization: This process will convert our corpus into a series of words. For example, this:

([‘This is a sentence’])

will become:

([‘this’, ‘is’, ‘a’, ‘sentence’])

Stemming: This refers to removing suffixes like ‘-ing’, ‘-ly’ etc. from words and is totally optional

Lemmatization: Similar to ‘stemming,’ but rather than just removing the suffix for a word, lemmatization will convert a word to its root (e.g. “playing” becomes “play”). Lemmatization is often preferred to stemming.

This might all sound a bit complicated, but don’t let it dissuade you from pursuing this type of research.

I’ll be linking out to resources throughout this article which break down exactly how you apply these processes to your corpus.

NGram Analysis & Co-Occurrence

This first and most simple approach that we can apply to our SERP content is an analysis of nGram co-occurrence. This means we’re counting the number of times a word or combination of words appears within our corpus.

Why is this useful?

Analyzing our SERPs for co-occurring sequences of words can provide a snapshot of what words or phrases Google deems most relevant to the set of keywords we are analyzing.

For example, to create the corpus I’ll be using through this post, I have pulled the top 100 results for 100 keywords around yoga

This is just for illustrative purposes; if I was doing this exercise with more quality control, the structure of this corpus might look slightly different.

All I’m going to use now is the Python counter function, which is going to look for the most commonly occurring combinations of two- and three-word phrases in my corpus.

The output looks like this:

You can already start to see some interesting trends appearing around topics that searchers might be interested in. I could also collect MSV for some of these phrases that I could target as additional campaign keywords.

At this point, you might think that it’s obvious all these co-occurring phrases contain the word yoga as that is the main focus of my dataset.

This would be an astute observation – it’s known as a ‘corpus-specific stopword’, and because I’m working with Python it’s simple to create either a filter or a function that can remove those words.

My output then becomes this:

These two examples can help provide a snapshot of the topics that competitors are covering on their landing pages.

For example, if you wanted to demonstrate content gaps in your landing pages against your top performing competitors, you could use a table like this to illustrate these recurring themes.

Incorporating them is going to make your landing pages more comprehensive, and will create a better user experience.

The best tutorial that I’ve found for creating a counter like the one I’ve used above can be found in the example Jupyter Notebook that Robin Lord has put together (the same one linked to above). It will take you through exactly what you need to do, with examples, to create a table like the one you can see above.

That’s pretty basic though, and isn’t always going to give you results that are actionable.

So what other types of useful analysis can we run?

Part of Speech (PoS) Tagging & Analysis

PoS tagging is defined as:

“In corpus linguistics, Part-Of-Speech Tagging (POS tagging or POST), also called grammatical tagging, is the process of marking up a word in a text (corpus) as corresponding to a particular part of speech, based on both its definition, as well as its context—i.e. relationship with adjacent and related words in a phrase, sentence, or paragraph.”

What this means is that we can assign every word in our SERP corpus a PoS tag based not only on the definition of the word, but also the context with which it appears in a SERP-displayed meta description or page title.

This is powerful, because what it means is that we can drill down into specific PoS categories (verbs, nouns, adjectives etc.), and this can provide valuable insights around how the language of the SERPs is constructed.

Side note – In this example, I am using the NLTK package for PoS tagging. Unfortunately, PoS tagging in NLTK isn’t available in many languages.

If you are interested in pursuing this technique for languages other than English, I recommend looking at TreeTagger, which offers this functionality across a number of different languages.

Using our SERP content (remembering it has been ‘pre-processed’ using some of the methods mentioned earlier in the post) for PoS tagging, we can expect an output like this in our Jupyter Notebook:

In isolation, this isn’t particularly useful, so let’s create some visualizations (don’t worry if it seems like I’m jumping ahead here, I’ll link to a guide at the end of this section which shows exactly how to do this) and drill into the results:

Great!

I can quickly and easily identify the linguistic trends across my SERPs and I can start to factor that into the approach I take when I optimize landing pages for those terms.

This means that I’m not only going to optimize for the query term by including it a certain number of times on a page (thinking beyond that old school keyword density mindset).

Instead, I’m going to target the context and intent that Google seems to favor based on the clues it’s giving me through the language used in the SERPs.

In this case, those clues are the most commonly occurring nouns, verbs, and adjectives across the results pages.

We know, based on patents Google has around phrase-based indexing, that it has the potential to use “related phrases” as a factor when it is ranking pages.

These are likely to consist of semantically relevant phrases that co-occur on top performing landing pages and help crystalize the meaning of those pages to the search engines.

This type of research might give us some insight into what those related phrases could be, so factoring them into landing pages has the potential to be valuable.

Now, to make all this SERP content really actionable, your analysis needs to be more targeted.

Well, the great thing about developing your own script for this analysis is that it’s really easy to apply filters and segment your data.

For example, with a few keystrokes I can generate an output that will compare Page 1 trends vs. Page 2:

Page 1:

Page 2:

If there are any obvious differences between what I see on Page 1 of the results versus Page 2 (for example “starting” being the most common verb on Page 1 vs “training” on Page 2), then I will drill into this further.

These could be the types of words that I place more emphasis on during on page optimization to give the search engines clearer signals about the context of my landing page and how it matches query-intent.

I can now start to build a picture of what type of language Google chooses to display in the SERPs for the top ranking results across my target vertical.

I can also use this as a hint as to the type of vocabulary that will resonate with searchers looking for my products or services, and incorporate some of those terms into my landing pages accordingly.

I can also categorize my keywords based on structure, intent, or a stage in the buying journey and run the same analysis to compare trends to make my actions more specific to the results I want to achieve.

This will give me more clues about what Google thinks is important to searchers looking for those types of terms, and how I might be able to better optimize for those terms.

If you want to run this kind of analysis for your SERP data, follow this simple walkthrough by Kaggle based on applying PoS tagging to movie titles. It walks you through the process I’ve gone through to create the visuals used in the screenshots above.

Topic Modeling Based on SERP Data

Topic modeling is another really useful technique that can be deployed for our SERP analysis. What it refers to is a process of extracting topics hidden in a corpus of text; in our case the SERPs, for our set of target keywords.

While there are a number of different techniques for topic modeling, the one that seems favored by data scientists is LDA (Latent Dirichlet Allocation), so that is the one I chose to work with.

A great explanation of how LDA for topic modeling works comes from the Analytics Vidhya blog:

“LDA assumes documents are produced from a mixture of topics. Those topics then generate words based on their probability distribution. Given a dataset of documents, LDA backtracks and tries to figure out what topics would create those documents in the first place.”

Although our keywords are all about ‘yoga’, the LDA mechanism we use assumes that within that corpus there will be a set of other topics.

We can also use the Jupyter Notebook interface to create interactive visuals of these topics and the “keywords” they are built from.

The reason that topic modeling from our SERP corpus can be so valuable to an SEO, content marketer or digital marketer is that the topics are being constructed based on what Google thinks is most relevant to a searcher in our target vertical (remember, Google algorithmically rewrites the SERPs).

With our SERP content corpus, let’s take a look at the output for our yoga keyword (visualized using the PyLDAvis package):

You can find a thorough definition of how this visualization is computed here.

To summarize, in my own painfully unscientific way, the circles represent the different topics found within the corpus (based on clever machine learning voodoo). The further away the circles are, the more distinct those topics are from one another.

The list of terms in the right of the visualization are the words that create these topics. These words are what I use to understand the main topic, and the part of the visualization that has real value.

In the video below, I’ll show you how I can interact with this visual:

At a glance, we’ll be able to see what subtopics Google thinks searchers are most interested in. This can become another important data point for content ideation, and the list of terms the topics are built from can be used for topical on-page optimization.

The data here can also have applications in optimizing content recommendations across a site and internal linking.

For example, if we are creating content around ‘topic cluster 4’ and we have an article about the best beginner yoga poses, we know that someone reading that article might also be interested in a guide to improving posture with yoga.

This is because ‘topic cluster 4’ is comprised of words like this:

Pose

Beginner

Basic

Asana

Easy

Guide

Posture

Start

Learn

Practice

Exercise

I can also export the list of associated terms for my topics in an Excel format, so it’s easy to share with other teams that might find the insights helpful (your content team, for example):

Ultimately, topics are characteristic of the corpus we’re analyzing. Although there’s some debate around the practical application of topic modeling, building a better understanding of the characteristics of the SERPs we’re targeting will help us better optimize for them. That is valuable.

One last point on this, LDA doesn’t label the topics it creates – that’s down to us – so how applicable this research is to our SEO or content campaigns is dependent on how distinct and clear our topics are.

The screenshot above is what a good topic cluster map will look like, but what you want to avoid is something that looks like the next screenshot. The overlapping circles tell us the topics aren’t distinct enough:

You can avoid this by making sure the quality of your corpus is good (i.e. remove stop words, lemmatization, etc.), and by researching how to train your LDA model to identify the ‘cleanest’ topic clusters based on your corpus.

Interested in applying topic modeling to your research? Here is a great tutorial taking you through the entire process.

What Else Can You Do With This Analysis?

Why? Because you have more control over the input and output (i.e., you aren’t just popping a keyword into a search bar and taking the results at face value).

With scripts like this you can be more selective with the corpus you use and the results it produces by applying filters to your PoS analysis, or refining your topic modeling approach, for example.

The more important reason is that it allows you to create something that has more than one useful application.

Doing PoS analysis or topic modeling on a dataset like that can be truly insightful for understanding the language of potential customers or what is likely to resonate with them.

The most obvious alternative use case for this kind of analysis is to create your corpus from content on the top ranking pages, rather than the SERPs themselves.

Again, the likes of Screaming Frog and DeepCrawl make it relatively simple to extract copy from a landing page.

This content can be merged and used as your corpus to gather insights on co-occurring terms and the on-page content structure of top performing landing pages.

If you start to work with some of these techniques for yourself, I’d also suggest you research how to apply a layer of sentiment analysis. This would allow you to look for trends in words with a positive sentiment versus those with a negative sentiment – this can be a useful filter.

I hope this article has given you some inspiration for analyzing the language of the SERPs.

You can get some great insights on:

What types of content might resonate with your target audience.

How you can better structure your on-page optimization to account for more than just the query term, but also context and intent.

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, June 2023

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