I deserve to be laughed at because I am a good six months late in talking about this, but now that I take a look around, not many people are. Ever since Hummingbird came out, Google made one thing very clear: the future was going to be content specific. Never mind content friendly: that’s what Google had the earlier Panda updates for; we are talking about a possible search engine result which will not factor keywords at all. I sound like a doomsayer probably but you only need to look at Hummingbird to see which direction Google is taking.
Now let’s slow down and put things in order. Keywords have always been an asset in driving volume oriented searches up and that has been their purpose. Each page has had a concentration of content and Google was not wrong to pick pages out based on that criteria. The problem is that Google realized at some point that a topic pertaining to a subject in a fulsome manner was always going to give content-centric results. That is the entire end game if you want to call it that. Semantic-based results are the future and you only need to look at how quickly volume based results fall to realize that.
That figure above should put things in perspective really. Instead of each page having a description with the same idea broken and cloned across pages for keyword volume, you have one page that seeks to deliver the result as a complete guide. Inbound does a good job in explaining the basic difference but let’s get down to the key point. Google is not in a position right now to be able to look at an entire post or article and quantify a value to it. The ultimate goal of AI is to achieve evaluation of semantics in some quantifiable form. Google, debatably, is ahead in this respect but it’s not quite there yet. The content is more likely to be read across new blogs or to traffic from new blogs; it does not feature immediately on high volume results or on the top but builds its numbers up slowly.
Keywords got you numbers quickly because they shaped how people doing the searching talked about each article at length. The article gets you gradual readership because well it simply takes time for people to popularize a good article. Humans just are not lengthy readers by default and whilst it was a good idea originally for Google to structure their results around that, it became bad as information accuracy became more important.
A possible hybrid?
Rand Fishkin from Moz talks about this model in a very elaborate manner:
'Great concept and topic modeling that can serve a bunch of different searcher needs and target many different keywords in a given searcher intent model, and we can do it in a way that targets keywords intelligently in our titles, in our headlines, our sub-headlines, the content on the page so that we can actually get the searcher volume and rank for the keywords that send us traffic on an ongoing basis.
'So I take my keyword research ideas and my tool results from all the exercises I did over here. I take my topic and concept brainstorm, maybe some of my topic tool results, my user research results. I take these and put them together in a list of concepts and needs that our content is going to answer grouped by combinable keyword targets —'
It sounds intriguing on the surface actually and it does address two concerns very nicely. The only problem with hybrid model is that it too will be obsolete very quickly. As I stated earlier, your blog value and your page value is becoming incumbent on simply how variant and unique the content is.
Social comes in handy
That entire change can be mapped to this one aspect. The moment our content went viral via tweets and Facebook shares, it gave Google the perfect idea on segmenting and aggregating data that it needed. By no means are hashtags complete enough to accurately assign values to the accuracy of the content but in numbers, they do assert a certain value. If that does not convince you to develop a proper readership, then notice that most of big names in digital marketing do wonderfully via Twitter and Facebook alone. It’s a content-centric world and we have to learn to be content without the keys here now.