OSEO Boot Camp, pt. 2: Relevance

This week, I’ll be doing a six part series on Organic SEO, and how to apply best practices to your web content. Read part 1part 2part 3,  part 4part 5 and part 6.

I know, I know, “C’mon, Web Guy, everyone has written about relevance in searches.” You’re absolutely right. A million people have already talked about being relevant to your keywords, about including meta tags on your pages to identify that relevance to the search engines, and to make sure you’re using your keywords frequently in your content. Got it. However, I’m going to write today not about being relevant to the keywords in the search, but being relevant to the actual question being asked.

The problem with strictly aiming for keyword results is that humans don’t speak in keywords. There are many sentences which may use the same keywords, but have entirely different meaning, along with many different contexts that the asker may be referencing. A mechanic and a 17 year old with her first car may both be searching for “carburetor intake manifold”, but their desired results are much different, and you may only be the solution for one of them. Your job, as the creator of content on your site, is to identify to the searcher that you have the correct context they are seeking. So, how do you do that?

Happy Senior Citizen is happy.To help us answer that question, we have today’s guest interviewee, Happy Senior Citizen.

TWG: Happy Senior Citizen, thanks for joining us today.

HSC: Oh, thank you, dear! You’re so polite. I bet your Mother’s really proud of you.

TWG: You’re welcome, and she is! Hi Mom, and Happy Valentine’s Day! Now HSC, how do you go about searching for something on the internet?

HSC: Well, I click on the blue ‘E’ on my desktop, and it brings up the Google page. My daughter set that up for me. Then, I type what I’m looking for into the search bar. I look at the first few sites it brings up into the list and guess which one sounds right. There are always lots of links to choose from, and sometimes, I’ll click through a few of them before I find exactly what I’m looking for.

TWG: So in that list that comes up, how do you know if a link is what you are looking for?

HSC: I used to just click through each one in order until I found it, but now the search results have so much information, I can usually tell if it’s what I need or not. Just looking at the title and the paragraph underneath it tells me pretty much what that web page is about.

Makin doilies...

Here are the top three results from our sample search. Now remember, our Happy Senior Citizen is looking for a method to make lace doilies. The top result has a generic title that matches some of the keywords, with descriptive text that sounds like you’re going to have to buy something. The second result seems to be some sort of generic answer portal, with paragraph text that is mostly irrelevant to the search. The third result has a title that, although phrased slightly differently, is precisely correct, with paragraph text that jumps the searcher right in to their desired information. Bingo!

Except, not.

Despite the fact that to the searcher, this link in the top three seems to indicate best context, clicking through reveals it’s just a blog post where Anna Swanson describes how difficult and tedious making a lace doilie is. This isn’t what Happy Senior Citizen was looking for at all. The best result, an actual tutorial on making lace doilies, didn’t show up until fifth place. Why? Because a blogger providing almost exactly the OPPOSITE of the desired result did a better job at matching the context to the search in the title and opening paragraph than these How To sites did. The message to take away here is two-part: Create Content that relates to specific searches relevant to your context, and put descriptive titles and opening paragraphs on that page (mirrored in that page’s meta tags). Now, let’s talk about those two things.

First, creating relevant content means more than just having a product or service description page; it means having one or more product or service usage pages. These pages can be informational pages or blog posts, but they should have examples of your product or service in action. This may come in the form of an ongoing how to guide, or testimonials and client success stories, but the important part is to be sure you’re providing greater context, capable of matching human readable search strings (phrases and sentences, as opposed to simple keywords).

Next, the title and description (both on the page, and in the meta tags) should contain some of those phrases. Francis Hunt learned about the power of a good title on his blog “Attempted Essays“:

“What I had forgotten on choosing the title was that the essay is also a form of writing with which millions of students have to struggle daily and that most young people nowadays have access to the internet. So, when I look at the ‘search key words’ which blogger.com helpfully supplies as part of the statistics, I regularly find phrases like ‘essays about the American dream,’ or ‘essay on early risers.’ “

The choice of title, blended with relevant content, brought an entirely unexpected source of traffic into his blog, helping to propel him to a higher PageRank than he had expected.

CraigAtkinsonLaw.com posting on Facebook.The description, either as a meta tag, or as the first paragraph of text on the page, is equally important. This information is what is shown on Google under the link result, and also what is used to populate shared links on social media. Law Blogger Craig Atkinson provides a great example of both, using a meta description which gives social media viewers a good idea of what’s behind the link, while writing a strong opening paragraph on the blog post itself which immediately provides a robust context to the content.

The end result is that your link is more likely to be listed early, more likely to be clicked on, and more likely to provide the correct contextual answer to the searcher’s need, which makes it more likely to be linked to as a resource for that need. Hellooo, PageRank!

To summarize:

  • Create specific content that gives an overall context to your product or service in action.
  • Give your page a robust title that accurately describes the purpose of the page content.
  • Include a strong meta description and opening paragraph that leads the reader right into the desired information.

Happy Senior Citizen will thank you.