Eric Enge gives advice to SEOs in 2023 on how to keep up with Google’s constant evolutions by focusing on mapping out your customer journeys so that you are constantly growing as well.
Eric says: “You should internalise what Google is trying to do with their updates, then map your SEO strategy to fit into that. That way, as Google evolves and releases new algorithms and updates, you grow along with them, and they favour you. Basically, get in line with the programme and stop fighting it.”
You have previously stated that it’s critical to understand the entity maps for your market space. What does ‘the entity markets for your market space’ actually mean?
“Ultimately, Google receives a user query - usually a few words, except if it’s a long natural language phrase - yet it’s still not a lot of information for Google to figure out what a user is trying to do. That phrase represents the start of a journey. Although there are sometimes the whole journey starts and ends with a single step, that is exceedingly rare in most of our interactions with users.
Google wants to map out that journey. They want to understand all the things that a specific phrase implies. For example, if we pick a good common term like ‘digital cameras’, there are millions of different potential paths that users could go down from this statement. Google simply needs to understand what all those different journeys are. This is where the concept of entity maps comes in.
Google wants to understand all the relationships between the potential things that users might be interested in throughout their whole journey. They start with entity maps, by understanding all the connections between things, people, time, and nature. They then build these complex maps to understand how things are interrelated because they know those user journeys tend to travel around the entity maps.
That means that if Google centres on understanding this and wrapping that into their algorithm, they will want to rank sites that are doing the same thing. They want to display people who understand their users and know how to build a map of all the potential user needs. Finding those sites is a home run for Google.”
Does Google personalise entity maps based on the perceived user journey stage?
“They would probably love to get that far, but it gets tricky because of privacy concerns about how much Google can track. Now, they’re mapping statistical distribution. That is the probability that a user is in the early, mid, or late stages. They are trying to show results at the appropriate ratio level.
That’s why search results have a mix of informational, competitive, and comparison responses.”
What key ways can an SEO try to ensure that their brand appears at the right stage and entity maps?
“You must go through the same exercise. You have a class of customers whose needs you’re trying to meet. Map out those needs, find out what they are, talk to customers and prospective customers, speak to your customer service people, etc. Then look at site search to see what users are typing in, do keyword research, and thoroughly map out all the various need sets that apply to your organisation based on this.
From that point, you can evaluate your site and see how well you address a wide range of those needs. It is also great to look at analytics and things like bounce rate, time on site, pageviews per visit, and repeat visits. However, the real exercise is understanding your prospective customer’s journey and how best you can help them. You can then figure out what pages, content, and services you need.”
How do you decide on simple things like keyword phrases and the type of content to use to ensure that you’re resonating effectively with your target market?
“It’s great to start with keyword research because it’s immediate and doesn’t involve other people. You get to collect a lot of initial data, but you will need to filter some out because keyword research often comes back with similar phrases. Thus, you will need to break it down into the root phrases you need.”
What are your thoughts on zero-volume keywords? Do you sometimes write for your clients, ignoring keyword volume?
“Having pages that address the long-tail needs of clients, even if they have zero search volume, is critical to ranking on other related pages. That is to say: you need to stop thinking that SEO is only about the page you’re currently on. For example, suppose you have a camera page for ‘digital cameras’. You have 150 other pages related to the digital camera journey that help that page about digital cameras rank for ‘digital cameras’. It is the interaction of all these things together.
Therefore, you can’t just look at something and assume it is a waste of time because it has zero search volume. Creating several pages that meet different user needs (even with zero search volume) will help that head term rank on the page designed to rank there.”
Is there an effective way to measure the value of the interaction between customers and third-party sites where they find out about your brand and its impact on their decision to visit the site and purchase?
“There are ways to set up Analytics to track the data source. Knowing where users initially came from and ensuring you can track all the touchpoints involved in an eventual conversion is a critical activity. Of course, there are some businesses where things are highly transactional, while others usually involve multiple steps in the journey.
For example, social media is a tough investment for many companies to make effectively. Getting real value out of social media is tricky unless you are a visual-based business. Nonetheless, the main concern would be tracking and evaluating the activities that bring the best results.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What is seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“Don’t just spew content. You have to stay at the centre of this, which is catering to user needs. How are you using your site and your content to meet user needs? You must be SEO smart so that you can get the rankings you deserve from that content, however, don’t just throw it out there.”
Eric Enge is President of Pilot Holding, and you can find him over at pilotholding.com.
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