SEO just had its lights turned off. How do we do organic SEO in the dark? What we need now are new guide lamps.
Welcome to the (for some) bizarre new landscape of SEO, without keyword data and with more focus on intent, semantics, stories, social signals, page level data, video, voice search, image search, conversions, conversations, and context.
Recently Google killed their Adwords Keyword Tool and encrypted their keyword search data, so you can no longer know which keywords are driving traffic to your website. The best we can know is what webpages are the most popular.
Instead of knowing which keywords are being typed into search engines by customers, by volume of search queries, we must look at the webpages that are receiving the highest numbers of visitors.
What is it about that webpage that could be attracting customers?
You can't with any certainty say, "Such and such keywords." So perhaps that webpage is an incredibly complete but concise, well-written explanation of a timely issue that in itself is already viral. It has credibility, it's easy to read, and it's interesting,
But more importantly, it answers a question that a lot of customers have.
Without keyword search data from Google, how can we set up website content for organic SEO? Are we flying in the dark now? Are there any bright lights that can illuminate our way toward high organic search rankings for good quality websites?
We shift our focus from keywords to intent, conversation, and new search behaviors, like local search, mobile search, voice search, and clickless searching (when a query is answered by Google without the user needing to see any search results for the search term or visit any website).
Let there be no misunderstandings here. We Are In A New SEO World.
Keyword data: gone.
The new Hummingbird algorithm update is shifting the focus into more new realms of SEO specialization.
Hummingbird is Google's recipe for finding content that:
(1) answers actual questions of customers, both typed and voiced
(2) uses lively customer language with strategic keyword usage, not "we-oriented" corporate-talk sprinkled with keywords
(3) matches the intent or goal of the customer's search query, rather than strictly the keywords used
(4) aligns with every word of the query, rather than only keywords
(5) answers keywordless search queries by knowing context of query
(6) is authoritative, original, credible, timely, trending, dealing with a topic or news item that is already viral, complete, concise, well-written, unique, idiosyncratic, not generic
(7) is Liked and Shared by social media friends of the searching customer
(8) is optimized for mobile devices
(9) is easily shared on social media, with embed code and/or social sharing links
(10) is conversational, tells a story, rather than cold Power Point bullet points
(11) is accompanied by relevant photos, audio, video, and other interactive media.
While we can't know which keywords customers are using in their searches, that doesn't mean we are completely clueless as to what keywords are the most popular. We can read popular press articles, journals, blogs, social media conversations, trade sites, and other resources to stay current with the language in current usage.
Maybe it's time to meet and mingle with actual warm body customers and interact with them on social media, instead of hiding in the manager cave or just grinding out sales messages on Facebook and Twitter.
The more intimately we know our customers, the more keywords that will naturally be circulating in our conversations and marketing communications, including websites.
You'll discover the best keywords as you gain a true grasp of your industry, customer psychology, social signals related to your products, and terminology employed when expressing customer needs and describing how your product solves their problems. It all begins with knowing how customers talk about their frustrations, lack, and desires.
SEO is maturing in a sudden, quantum leap.
Instead of manipulating keywords on a webpage, while keywords still play a big role, it will be a deeper understanding of product benefits and customer behavior that will be the solid core of today's SEO practice.