It’s easy to think that your favorite search engine knows everything. It’s our go-to source for new information, after all. You “Google” everything you don’t know, and Google always has an answer.
But there is one critical thing that search engines don’t know, and it can completely change the way content marketers think about content creation.
Search engines still don’t know what you are going to search for.
I know it may seem like Google is reading your mind when you begin to fill in your search bar, but the truth is we are still constantly surprising Google, despite all of the data at the search engine’s disposal. 15% of all searches daily are brand new, meaning searchers are asking for things, or asking in ways Google has never seen before.
While 15% may not seem like a lot, this results in 525 Million never-before-seen searches EVERY DAY.
This is only going to increase, too. While the search engines are actively improving and will continue to improve, searchers are also becoming far more sophisticated in their search habits.
When was the last time you didn’t find the information you wanted on the first search? I’d guess it’s been a while. Whether we realize it or not, that daily practice of searching has trained us to find exactly the information we want. This has led to the rise in long-tail keyword searches – keywords so specific and precise that they are difficult for Google to anticipate.
And this doesn’t even account for the continued rise of mobile and voice searches. Voice search now makes up 10% of all Google searches, and voice searchers have vastly different search habits than traditional searchers. Instead of typing “happy hour,” users are now asking their phone “where is the best happy hour near me?” But few websites are taking advantage of content made for voice search.
This simple conceit that search engines don’t know everything can completely change the way we think about content creation.
Keyword-Focused Content is Reactionary
Traditionally, the content creation process for businesses and agencies has been all about improving rankings; Competitor X is ranking higher than us in search term Y, so we need to create more content with that search term to improve. A content audit is conducted to see what content is ranking and where keywords can be added. We add a page or two, write a few blog posts, add a landing page, re-write some of the existing content to increase keyword density and maybe we can move back up the rankings.
This strategy is inherently reactionary; you are reacting to changes in your landscape. While this may be valid for businesses and clients that already have great-performing websites that they are looking to optimize, it won’t be as productive for most businesses and marketing goals like acquiring new customers or improving conversions.
The reason why it doesn’t necessarily work? When you focus on keywords and improving your rankings, you are simply marketing to the search algorithm, not the people actually doing the searching.
Customer-Focused Content is Anticipatory
If we accept the fact that the search engines don’t know everything, the strategy of creating content becomes more about anticipating your customers’ needs rather than trying to take advantage of keywords.
This strategy also begins with an audit of existing content, but this time rather than using the keywords as the primary metric of comparison, you instead examine how customers interact with your business and where every piece of content fits into that interaction. Your goal is to identify where content can improve that interaction, and if there are any pain points that you can address with new or revised content.
With this mindset, you can create content to address questions before your customers even ask them. And you will even be able to anticipate how they may ask these questions, even over voice search.
Now, I’m not saying you should ignore traditional keyword research. The information you find doing keyword research can give you some insight to questions to answer. There are several tools out there that take conventional keywords and compile questions relating to that keyword to help guide you. One such tool I’ve been using is Storybase. Storybase provides content-based search terms in bulk, allowing your marketing team to sort by questions, phrases, related terms, and even audience demographics average for the search term you selected.
TL;DR – Google may not know exactly what your customers are going to search before they search, but if you think like your customer and anticipate their needs with quality content, you may be able to.