6th January 2021

SEO learnings from 2020 | search intent

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Lauren Irwin

2 SEO 2020 Banner

2020 was the year we gained a better understanding of SEO at Abstrakt and back in January, I tasked myself with understanding how SEO worked organically and more specifically, for search intent and on-page SEO. We’ve seen great success with earned media for our clients with content strategies and keyword optimisation for years, but it felt like we’d only touched the surface.

In a bid to make sure this doesn’t start like every recipe article out there - you know the sort, the life story of a bake before you even get to the goods — the ingredients and the method — let’s get right to it. No time to waste.

Precursor: If you’re a relative SEO novice like I was 12+ months ago, this article is for you. If you’re a seasoned SEO expert, you’re probably going to find points of contention but this is all based on my experience and given Google’s systematic algorithm updates, everything will likely change anyway, and that my friends, is lesson number one.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to the process of improving signals a website sends to Google in order to improve its visibility within search results - therefore sending more traffic to a website.

Carl Hendy, Google SEO Secrets, net magazine (June 2020)

Cool, and now we’ve got that out of the way here we go...

Over the last year, people have absorbed more and more content, and so Google is working overtime to share the most relevant results, but—

are you relevant?

That’s where I’ve found search intent is, let’s say, Queen if the content is King. You can’t have one without the other, and we stan the Queen here.

Much the same as UX (user experience) it’s not what you think you know your user wants, it’s what they actually need. So, let’s think of Google as less of a search engine and more of an answer engine, and your objective is to be answer #1.

Back to basics - your content, code and UX need to be on the mark to achieve positive results. The winning formula or the ingredients if you will, are:

Content

Quality, well-written content that’s for the reader first and foremost, with keywords and optimisation taken into account but not leading the charge.

Code

Efficient, clean and considered code with an unmistakable hierarchy. Quick page loading — especially on mobile devices — and robust JavaScript rendering.

UX

Accessible, easily navigable and intuitive user journeys with clear well-positioned content.

= the #1 spot (hopefully but let’s be honest here, top 7 is onto a winner and top 5 a charm.)

As a content writer, the spotlight is, well, obviously on content, users needs and search intent. You might know it as audience or user intent too and it’s a term that’s used to describe the purpose of an online search. Your job is providing the answer, and here’s the method...

Whether the user’s search intent is informational (looking for information, how-tos, the best way to, top tips, why, etc) or transactional (to buy, deals, discounts and specific products or brands) will be dependent on your business.

Finding the search intent isn’t looking at Google’s results page and picking out keywords from the top results (as these are served based on your personal query), nor is it choosing anticipated keywords and creating terms that are related.

Search intent is discovered by identifying relevant competitors and using a search engine ranking tool (we use SERanking) to perform competitor research, which gives us a definitive list of organic keywords, search volumes, rank position, URL landing pages, difficulty (in reaching rank position) and traffic to the landing page. What can be gleaned from this, you ask?

This gives you an overview of each competitor and the keywords used in search queries by the user, and how well competitors rank for this. When actioned across multiple competitors, it gives a transparent view of the competition, their strategies and the overall search intent of your audience.

This then allows you to cherry-pick relevant keywords/terms based on the search intent of a user, and create content around it - whether that’s an article or new page for your website (or optimising pre-existing ones).

For example, our product, Redirectly, is a tool that generates 301 redirects in bulk, however, as it’s a unique tool and doesn’t really have a competitor, we had to look at similar SaaS platforms like Screaming Frog and Ahrefs, as well as looking at SEO specific digital agencies for a wider understanding of terms. We were then able to see patterns in search terms and their different levels of search volume.

From that, we could create lists like this:

/redirect-with-htaccess

  • redirect with htaccess
  • htaccess redirection
  • htaccess redirect
  • redirect in htaccess
  • redirect 301 htaccess
  • htaccess redirect 301
  • htaccess 301 redirect
  • 301 redirect htaccess
  • htaccess redirect generator
  • htaccess 301 redirect generator

By combining search terms with the same intent, it formed the basis and reasoning behind additional content and pages on the website, and thus established high traffic landing pages that have been purpose-built to answer our audience’s questions based on their search intent.

That results in a strategic, well-considered content plan based on your audience's needs and not basing the content on assumption. It's a cool way of observing audience behaviour and putting it into practice, increasing traffic and ultimately what we're all looking for - conversion.

Want to know more about the technical SEO and content creation we offer?

Whilst you’re here I’d like to raise a common mistake I’ve seen happen a few times with clients in the last two years and I’m sorry if this is triggering, but we need to talk website migrations.

Why has my traffic dropped? Why is no-one visiting my website? We changed the domain and no-one can find us? So many people were landing on that page we disabled, I can’t possibly understand where they all went…

It's incredibly important when migrating your website to have a plan in place for a 301 redirect strategy - for any URLs that may no longer exist on your website, for pages that live at a new URL (new site architecture) or if you've changed your domain entirely. Missing URLs, 404 error pages and domains are often lost to Google's results page when a dramatic change has been deployed, and 90% of the time it's because 301s haven't been considered.

This is somewhat a not-so-shameful-plug for Redirectly, which is a SaaS tool that matches existing URLs and clearly highlights those that have not been matched to a new site's URL structure. It's important to protect your current website's domain authority and ranking, so if you're about to embark on a website migration - check out Redirectly to help with your 301 redirect strategy first. We're a team of marketers and developers and built it to save us all time (and headaches).

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