See to Say: How Evolving Search Queries Affect SEO Strategy

“Shirt AND purple NOT zippers AND “short sleeve” AND buttons.”

That’s how we all used to search for short-sleeved purple button-ups – using that awkward, Boolean, broad-to-narrow way of phrasing search queries. We’d start with the broadest category, shirts, in this instance, and work our way down through the final details to filter out the masses of online retailers selling purple short-sleeved shirts.

“Where can I buy a short sleeved purple button-up without zippers?”

That’s how we search now: in complete sentences, with descriptors woven throughout the structure. There are many technical reasons why this works, thanks to advances like Google’s Hummingbird algorithm. But, perhaps the more important takeaway marketers must extract is the effect on SEO, content writing, and messaging.

Audience Intent

The natural way people speak and, now, search, means keyword stuffing is no longer a back-alley cheat marketers can use to increase their rankings.

Keywords are an indicator of audience intent, so when potential customers type in a query, it means they are raising their hand to be directed to a webpage specifically designed for the sale of an item. This is a golden opportunity for businesses to do just that, and to give the customer no time or distractions to think for a second, “This isn’t what I wanted.”

Rank & File

It’s important to rank for multitude of words so you can generate more interest through options. The customer has indicated to you that he or she is in the exploratory stage of the buyer journey. Understanding why people are typing in these keywords and how they talk about them or use them should dictate where on your website they are directed.

Further, keywords are good indicators of whether or not you are focusing on the right words or phrases. If you’re spending resources trying to rank or “win” particular words or phrases that are not providing you with any sort of significant volume of conversions, then your efforts are wasted.

Own the Whole Kingdom

“Content is king.”

How many times have you heard this overly simplistic, trite statement?

As of right now, no search engine can truly “read” your content. Sure, we’ve gotten pretty close with sentiment trackers and the like, but nuances like sarcasm and humor—two of the very characteristics that often make a content piece go viral—are often lost on an automated platform.

No matter how riveting your blog post, no one’s going to see it and appreciate all the blood, sweat, and teary research you put into it without help from a solid domain authority.

Keywords are important, of course. But they’re only as strong as the framework to which you weave them. Think about how keywords relate to their own treatment from search engines. A search engine is going to evaluate the manipulation of the keyword throughout the fabric of the content, not solely on its tactical deployment (which is precisely why keyword stuffing and other shortcuts are no longer viable as part of your marketing strategy).


Backlinks are still the strongest tool to boost your organic visibility. It’s like the word-of-mouth endorsement of a third party. Your backlinking partners are putting their stamp of approval on your website, and that’s far more important in terms of SEO strategy than spending thousands of dollars on a single, broad keyword.

If you can understand and how people search for a particular keyword, and the kind of environment—search engines, hashtags on Twitter, wading through LinkedIn forums—wherein they perform their search, you can unlock the most efficient and effective way to target them.

Segment your audience by their behaviors, pinpoint where in the buyer journey they are, blast them with relevant content like a whitepaper or podcast and use all the tools in your arsenal to move them to a closed sale. Keywords are the building blocks of a great online marketing strategy, so it’s important to equip yourself with the knowledge of how you can best deploy them to ultimately close more sales.

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