Is Content & User Behavior The Problem?
You’ve had an idea developing in your mind for months, and you excitedly decide to put it into action. You build your website with careful attention to detail, put out content that you think people will definitely care about reading, and excitedly watch your stats to see how your work is faring. A blip here and there gets you excited for a moment, but most days you see very little action. What went wrong? Why isn’t anyone coming to your website?
In order to answer this question (and address the problem), you need to think through two different perspectives. First, you need to put yourself behind the scenes of a search engine and understand how content gets exposure and recognition. Second, you need to put yourself in the shoes (or behind the keyboard) of your potential readers and think about their likely behavior.
Understanding SEO, Keywords and the User Intent
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it has evolved into a very complex web of algorithms and sophisticated language variants over time.
As widespread internet use emerged in the late 1990s, it became clear that the content on the web would need to be organized in a way that allowed users to find what they were looking for. In the early days, this meant cataloging content by primary keywords, which would then make those results appear in a search for them on a search engine. The more keywords that appeared in the article, the higher the likelihood that it would appear on the list.
While this solved one problem (helping people find relevant content), it created another. Content creators quickly realized that the fastest way to get traffic to their sites was to stuff them full of keywords, often at the expense of creating content that was actually high quality. People could find relevant content, but good content was getting buried.
How Does the User Experience Build Page Rank
As Kelvin Avelar explains, search engines (particularly Google) reacted to these “black-hat” tactics by penalizing sites that used them. Keyword stuffing and otherwise trying to “trick” the algorithms into a higher ranking would no longer work. As the technology evolved and the algorithms became increasingly sophisticated, search engines became reactive, working to predict what people were looking for based on knowledge about collective behavior. This allows modern-day search engines to go beyond the term directly used in a search and capture sites containing synonyms and related content.
The result is that search engines are no longer responding simply to the idea a user puts in the search box. Instead, they are responding to the experience they think the reader wants to have. As Mike Templeman explains in an article on SEO for Forbes, “Some of the criteria they are now measuring are site speed, mobile optimization, site structure, content, and dozens of other signals that should give the algorithm an idea of whether or not search engine users are getting what they expect from a website.”
What this means is that today’s content creators cannot just think about how algorithms will categorize their site. They have to think about how users are likely to interact with it.
Predicting User Behavior
Today’s best strategies work because they demonstrate an understanding of what people genuinely want. Instead of trying to “trick” search engines into ranking a site higher than it deserves, modern-day SEO works to actually predict what it is users need and deliver it. The high ranking is a direct reflection of the value that the site can add to the users who find themselves there.
Good content alone does not guarantee site activity, but good content combined with a meaningful understanding of users’ likely behavior makes it much more likely that your site will get the traffic you desire.
How do you do that?
Think backwards. As a content creator, you have plenty of ideas to share. Once you’re ready to put the idea on your site, think about what purpose it is serving. What question does it answer? What role does it play in someone’s life? Use this understanding to create meaningful keywords.
Think broadly. Keywords no longer have to be exact matches to what users type into the box. They are also no longer strictly a word. Modern-day search engines can match searches with synonyms and related phrases.
Think experientially. Your website’s ranking is related to how users experience it. Make sure that you not only have great content but have it arranged and contextualized in a way that makes the user experience a fruitful and meaningful one. Does your content include links to other relevant information? Is your page easy to navigate? Is the layout of your content easy to read? All of these elements impact user experience and thus impact search engine ranking and the likelihood of getting and keeping visitors.
Optimize Content With Relevant Keywords & User Intent
The bottom line is that content alone is not typically going to result in the traffic that you’re after. That content must be optimized with relevant keywords and crafted in a way that makes it useful and accessible to users. The task of someone optimizing their website is a complex one that involves predicting user behavior, answering questions users might not yet know to ask, and meeting needs users might not yet know they have. Modern-day SEO is a kind of fortune-telling, and those who can do it well will be rewarded not just with readers, but with a loyal audience who truly appreciates and values what you can give them.
If you’re ready to optimize your website and start seeing results from all your hard work, contact Creative today to get started.