If you were involved in search marketing years ago, you were likely preoccupied with keywords. Entire SEO strategies were built around ranking for a coveted search term by stuffing it wherever you could within your website content. The organic search game hasn’t been played like this in a long time, but more recent developments have further called the importance of keywords into question.
The look and feel of search itself is changing. Just think about your own search habits. You’re not only typing on a keyboard at a desktop computer anymore. You’re searching on your mobile phone or tablet. You might even be asking questions to a voice-activated smart speaker like Amazon Echo or Google Home. As a result, today’s search marketing is more about context, taking into account factors like the individual user, their location, device, and more.
With a slew of context-based innovations arriving on the scene, it would be easy to declare the final demise of the keyword. Along with the aforementioned rise of voice and hands-free search, elements like rich snippets, answer boxes, and related searches are resulting in more SERPs that lead to zero clicks. (See below.) If a user finds the exact information they’re looking for at the top of the results page, they have less reason to actually follow a link – convenient for them, but frustrating for retailers aiming to capture top-of-funnel traffic.
This shift has diminished the value of many traditional KPIs, leaving marketers to wonder how best to evaluate their performance in today’s environment. Keywords still play a role, though not as much in relation to metrics like organic search ranking. Instead, you need to consider keywords in the broader framework of the customer journey and its distinct touch points.
Search results are growing more personalized thanks to the continual evolution of Google’s Knowledge Graph and RankBrain, making it harder to use past organic search tactics effectively. To stay relevant, retailers need to evolve, too, by investing in predictive analysis. Better understanding customers and their unique journeys will help businesses anticipate their needs in each micro-moment. A well-prepared marketing plan will cater to these needs before the customer even arrives at the relevant step in their journey.
This may sound far-fetched, but you don’t need a crystal ball. Start by getting to know the nuances of your audience by viewing it from a local perspective. For instance, if your business is based in New York, conduct keyword research for your industry within this region. Depending on location, customers may differ in terms of verbiage, slang terms, and even the ways they interact with SERPs. If your business was located in Florida, your customer research would certainly yield very different results.
Once you’ve identified keywords within their appropriate context, update your on-page and off-page information to better reflect the customer journey you’re aiming to address. Pay special attention to what the customer’s circumstances look like at each touch point: where they are, what device they’re using, what they’re searching for, etc.
You’ll also want to maintain a consistent brand voice across all channels and platforms. If a customer first discovers you via a social post, don’t disrupt their experience by striking a completely different tone when they visit your website later. This need for consistent optimization extends to all advertisement data, including images, ad copy, metadata, social media, and video.
When you provide a consumer with a solution to their problem and engage them in a way that feels natural, they’re much more inclined to follow you throughout each stage of the customer journey.
Search marketing continues to become more user-focused, and the shift to a context-based approach is one of the most prominent ways we see this happening. Ranking high isn’t about overloading on keywords or checking items off a list to appease a machine. It’s about knowing your customers, their unique journeys, and the micro-moments that may point them toward your business – and building your search strategy accordingly.
Consequently, the role of marketers is growing more analytical in nature. They must familiarize themselves with the search landscape in their specific industry and determine how their brand can make an impact.
Interested in learning how your retail business can thrive in the future of search? Check out our complete Knowledge Library, including on-demand webinars that provide expert insights on everything SEM. You can also browse our full range of paid and organic search services to find out how the NetElixir team can take your brand to the next level.