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The Importance of Semantics to SEO in 2016

There were a number of significant changes to the SEO landscape during 2015, changes that directly inform the new ways of setting up digital marketing strategies for success in 2016. One of the biggest changes was Google’s RankBrain announcement.

There were many speculations around this announcement of an artificial intelligence program, but as research shows it primarily focused on non-understandable queries and those using colloquialisms. Now it has become part of the overall algorithm because Google is looking to better understand the intent behind a search.

So the question is:  how do you build a digital marketing strategy in 2016 that is focused on intent? It’s important to understand that Google’s focus on intent and quality content is only going increase, so make sure you spend adequate time researching the competitive landscape and determining how to best align your strategy to users’ intent.

Keyword Relevancy in 2016

The SEO changes in 2015 have clearly led to a reduced focus on keywords. But even though keywords continue to be less and less important, they can still provide a valuable foundation for creating your marketing strategy. Starting with keywords helps you develop an understanding of the intent behind searches related to your business.

The difference in 2016 is that you’re not going to optimize your website with keywords alone; what’s important is understanding the reason why someone performed a particular search. As an example, we’ll look at two searches related to digital marketing and attempt to gauge the intent behind each search.

After doing some keyword research, I was able to narrow down the topic of our next content marketing effort to 8 terms. Then I further refined the list to two long-tail search queries.

My next content marketing effort is a choice between “How to Create a Digital Marketing Strategy” and “Developing A Digital Marketing Strategy,” but before we look at each of these queries we’ll review the initially pared down list of 8 to see what led me these two.

The Importance of Intent

Let’s take a look at the 8 search terms that I came up with for focusing my marketing efforts and try to infer the intent behind each.  




Strategic Digital Marketing

Very Specific – the user wants to know about strategic digital marketing, and it’s also the title of a book.

Writing a Digital Strategy

The word writing shows someone interested in handling a task themselves.

Examples of Digital Marketing Strategies

This could again be someone who is looking for a template to create their own digital marketing strategy.

Successful Marketing Strategies

Seems like good intent, someone looking for successful strategies is likely far enough down the sales funnel that they are looking for how to compare strategies side-by-side.

Social Media and Digital Marketing

Someone looking for how social media and digital marketing work together

How To Create a Digital Marketing Strategy

Long-tail search that has good intent. The user is doing a very specific search, showing they are closer to moving on a digital marketing strategy.

The Future of Digital Marketing

Informational type search that most likely has little correlation between with looking to purchase digital strategy.

Developing a Digital Marketing Strategy

Another long-tail search with good intent. This is a good place to start our 2016 marketing efforts.

Why did I choose, “Developing a Digital Marketing Strategy” instead of “How to Create a Digital Marketing Strategy?” Semantics…Let’s look at the slight difference in each word’s meaning.


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Though the words are very similar, someone looking to create a digital marketing plan is most likely trying to bring a plan into existence. While this could be a very useful search query, the most likely intent behind the search is someone interested in putting together a digital strategy for the first time and possibly even looking to do the strategy creation themselves.

By focusing on developing as my verb, I am inferring the intent of those who are looking to grow their digital marketing plan. People looking to expand upon their digital marketing strategy are often much further along the sales cycle and by providing quality information on developing a digital marketing strategy I’m positioning my content as a great match for the intent of their search.

By starting my content marketing effort with intent, I’ve taken the very important first step of properly targeting my digital marketing effort. As the amount of content created daily continues to grow, those that focus on creating high-quality contextual content that speaks directly to their audience should find their content ranking higher in search.

To learn more about the latest in search engine optimization, register today for our February 16th Lunch & Learn @ Liquid: Search Optimization in 2016.