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RankBrain: Keywords vs. Topics for On-Page SEO

Posted on 6.20.2016

:: By Travis Bliffen, Stellar SEO ::


Ever since Google launched its Hummingbird update approximately three years ago, there’s been an increased focus on overall topical relevance. In the past, it was not uncommon to build a page for each keyword variation that you wanted to rank for. Today, thanks to advances in Google’s ability to comprehend the topic of a page, you can build a single, comprehensive page and rank it for numerous keywords and their close variants. While Hummingbird started the movement, RankBrain has driven the transition ahead rapidly.

RankBrain, which has been in existence for more than six months, is proving to be a trendsetter in 2016 for developing SEO strategies. As a matter of fact, it’s been confirmed as the third most crucial update in search engine rankings since its official announcement in Oct. 2015. Furthermore, the program helps satisfy first-time queries, which Google has never recorded before in its online directory. RankBrain uses an artificial intelligence (AI) system to interpret the significance of topics, depending on what web users are looking for in their browsers.

As 'Net professionals know all too well, change is a constant in the online marketing game. Below are a few tips for keeping your keyword research and on-page SEO strategies ahead of the curve.

Pairing Geographic References and Keywords

Focus on local context. If the business is based in a particular geographical setting, modify your on-page strategy to reference “context clues” that will help Google to identify your services/products and your location. Let’s say for example you are a landscaping service in St. Louis. You may mention work you have done for the St Louis Arch or Science Center. This is not the old method of saying “St Louis landscaping service” but it creates clear ties between your service and your location, not to mention it can be great for conversions as well, both of which are important for better local SEO.

Authority First – Write Less Often

Always write posts that fully convey the article’s core message. This is possible through adding “purpose” to your posts and knowing your audience well. For years, SEOs and well-meaning business owners would crank out tons of thin articles, each targeting a keyword. Today, you are better served to combined several small posts into a comprehensive and helpful content. The extended length not only better serves the users but it also naturally incorporates LSI keywords, improving Google’s understanding of you page as well.

Understanding and Pairing with User Journey

The technique describes what type of content individual browsers are looking for, based on their current stage in the Buyer’s Journey. For instance, a customer in Awareness phase may be looking for just a topic, whereas those in other stages of buying could be seeking a detailed comparison between certain products they are interested in. Make use of your insights into the needs of your site visitors to give them the content satisfying their needs on their timeframe.

Improve UX with Better Keyword Planning

While there is a lot of talk about improving user experience, when we get down to the basics, it is about getting a user to a page that meets their needs as quickly as possible.

Design the landing page from a user experience point of view. Look at the big picture, what information do people need to know about your product or service? How best can one layout that information to help them easily access it? Are multiple shorter pages needed to best convey the information or a single, in-depth page with Wikipedia style navigation?

The Future of SEO

If you step back and look, it becomes clear that Google really is working toward better understanding pages that deliver great UX and attempting to reward them accordingly. While we are not to the point of “great content” solving all of our problems, we are getting one step closer with RankBrain and Machine Learning.


About the Author

Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a Web design and marketing firm located in Franklin, TN. Travis and his team are equipped to handle any size SEO project and have helped numerous businesses to date build a rock solid online presence. When you are ready for more leads and sales, it is time to get #stellarized. Connect on Facebook or Twitter @theseoproz

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