SEO Strategy: Beyond the Best Answer

You are invited to enter the race for position number. 1.

We are not the drivers, except in this race. We are not the drivers.

We are the racetrack. We want to be the first choice of every driver and car.

Search is the most popular race. What is the most popular car? Google commands 88% of global search market.

But it’s really no longer a single race car. Research has shown that people who are searching for specific products are more likely to go to Amazon. If they’re looking for images, they go to Google Image. And if they’re looking for how-to videos, they’re most likely to search YouTube. Apple has begun to eat into Google’s market share of searching for directions.

You can find out what people have to say about products and things by searching on Facebook. Facebook surpasses 2 billion searches per hour. TripAdvisor is used by approximately one in ten internet users to search for travel information. Each week, there are more that 40 million job searches on LinkedIn.

All this begs the question: How are we as marketers thinking about optimizing our tracks – our content journey – for all these cars and drivers?

In episode seven of Marketing Makers, CMI’s series for those who make marketing work, I take a leisurely pace to explore the evolution that led us to today’s world where we must optimize our content for the cars and their drivers. You can watch the entire show here, or read on to see highlights.

HANDPICKED CONTENT: 7 Strategies to Bulletproof SEO Content

Search the World

It’s hard to imagine there was a day when Google wasn’t a verb.

If you wanted to know what was available for your family’s entertainment on TV, you could purchase TV Guide or look in your daily newspaper. You couldn’t search for alternate times. You couldn’t search for programming by genres or favorite actors.

You could visit the store to see every jar of spaghetti sauce if you wanted to find out what it was.

Information was a one-way road.

If you were searching for a solution for your B2B organization, well, you kinda didn’t. You might learn about new technologies and ways of operating at a tradeshow, a film from vendor, a catalog or a visit by a salesperson.

A college student from Canada started the transformation in the early 1990s. He created a program to allow people to search specific words in files that were uploaded to their public servers. This was the precursor to the modern internet. Now understand that the analysis program didn’t interpret language, it literally looked at the letters. If you typed “fun,” you’d get files that had the word funds, fundamental, funny, etc. It was more like searching a large database that had many records.

Information was always a two-way road. Search engines were born to index and interpret information. Now, a search about an author’s name, for example, returns not only books authored by the person but content about the author – biographies, reviews, media coverage, etc.

This subtle, but significant difference made a world of difference in how consumers can access information, entertainment and education.


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It’s no longer about the search

As I talked about in last month’s episode on content optimization, modern search engines aren’t really search engines. They can be better described as Optimized AnswerEngines.

It’s like that race we talked about. You compete in SEO by building the fastest racetrack against all other track builders to win the one race car. To optimize your track for the best ride, you study the car’s engine, tires, shocks and steering.

But remember, it’s no longer one race car looking for the best track.

You should have a YouTube search engine strategy if you are going to feature how-to content.

If you’re a local business, you better optimize a strategy for Google, Yelp, and other search engines that provide information on local businesses.

You have to build a racetrack with optimization strategies that deliver what those search engine “cars” want to drive.

How? Remember to keep it simple Why?Drivers climb into these search-engine cars. They aren’t searching for one answer in most cases. They want many answers, some of them not even knowing they wanted.

More information about the drivers

That brings us to a new level of SEO – finetuning.

Before we can nudge search in the right direction, we might want to look at where Google thinks it’s going in the long term. Let’s be clear. I’m not talking about new technologies such as voice, mobile, video, or image search. We must think beyond that.

I did some research with Liam Carnahan, a friend and colleague, and also wrote about the topic.  We can see that Google doesn’t just want to be the place to find a quick answer. Fun fact: Only 8% of Google searches are questions.

[email protected] is focusing more on search journeys, less on queries, say @LiamCarnahan and @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent @Conductor. #SEO #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

People will still turn to search engines for more traditional “database” searches to find out a celebrity’s age, see how many ounces are in a cup, etc. But Google and smarter search engines will take the next step on what searchers are really looking for– to answer the unasked Why? behind your query.

Modern search engines, for example, don’t just help you find out how old IdrisElba is. They tell you he’s 48 and then share his three upcoming movies.

The search engine confirms that eight ounces are contained in a cup. And, it shares, the next best recipe that you’re likely to need that information for.

Now, your SERPs will differ greatly from mine because the engines also have more context about us so they can deliver more helpful results – and this makes figuring out search engine strategies difficult.

Connected content experiences

If we are to be the best search engine optimizers, we must realize that it’s not about a battle for the best, longest, or even most keyword-rich answer to a frequently asked question. We must provide connected content experiences that not just answer the question but also present and enable the complete solution to the question.

Connect #content experiences that not only answer a searched question but deliver the entire solution behind the reason the question was asked, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent @Conductor. #SEO #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

For example, the query for an enterprise software search may evolve from “What is the best CRM system?” to “Show me a demonstration of what a great CRM system can do.” Or it won’t be “What are the best Mexican restaurants near me,” but will become “Tell me the availability at the best Mexican restaurants for two people Monday night.”

The aim of future content-driven experiences will not be to answer questions; it will be to provide solutions to challenges that aren’t even asked yet.

Future #content-driven experiences in #SEO will be to provide solutions to challenges that aren’t even asked yet, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent @Conductor. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

And don’t take that just from me. Google co-founder Sergey Brin affirmed this seven years ago when he said: “My vision was that information would come to you as you need it. You wouldn’t have to search query at all.”

Simply put: Search will cease to be necessary in the future.

To put it another way, we must stop looking to the engineering of the car as a means to build a better racetrack. Instead, we must focus on the driver and create the road that will take them to the finish line.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute