SEO experts have always been adaptive and creative with Google’s search algorithm updates to effectively help their clients’ websites grow. However, I always loved SEO for the fact that it was measurable by data provided by Google. Unfortunately, Google has stopped providing us a lot of the old tools that allowed you to keep track of the metrics. Sure, there are a lot of tools out there claiming to give you data like Google’s Keyword Planner and Google Analytics used to do, but you should definitely take those with a grain a salt.
Recently, I was having a conversation with some fellow SEO growth hackers about why Google removed a lot of the keyword information that they used to provide publicly and we came to some interesting conclusions. You probably might have thought, “duh, it’s because Google wants to keep a tighter lock on keyword spamming and manipulation.” While that may be true and it is where I began my thought process, I believe there might be more to the logic.
What is the future of Google search?
Google RankBrain is the search A.I. that constantly changes the game on a daily basis to the Google search algorithm. RankBrain’s goal is to provide the best results to you and every user. The beauty of it is the fact that Google will no longer be shocking websites with crushing Panda or Penguin updates that can ruin your rankings to incurable levels overnight (at least this is what they claim). The curse is that the subtle changes that are implemented would make any form of data analysis only relevant until RankBrain makes another change, which is a lot and often.
However, this means that the current Google algorithm is at a relatively steady state. Google has basically come to the conclusion that there are no more severe search influencing outliers that they are concerned about. The algorithm is at a relative steady state which means that the small adjustments and tests are there to marginally increase the accuracy of Google’s search results. Theoretically, Google believes that there are no possible ways to break the SERP which they have to nerf or buff major variables to balance their multivariate variable influence.
Google Has All The Historical Data For Everyone
Personalization is also of importance. Every SEO worth their salt understands that your browsing history and cache influences your search results, which is why you should clear your data or at least go incognito for neutral testing queries. The question becomes: at what point does RankBrain override even a cache clear and your general keyword rankings have absolutely no value to you from a marketing perspective?
What if, each user on Google’s results page is fully customized to every individual like the Amazon recommendations list based on all your personal internet browsing data?
Think about this because it’s already starting to happen. RankBrain is on the verge of personalizing every result based on you and each individual in the world. Ranking first for “shoes” means nothing right now but what if RankBrain gets so smart that all you need to search for the word “shoes” and it finds you only the types of shoes and brands that you seek based on Google’s topical data about you? Creepy, but that’s why everyone is going crazy about data privacy and big data research investment.
Why Did Keywords Matter Before?
The Google algorithm brings results to a query based on relevancy and popularity of the website to specific keyword. The keywords provide the relevancy level and relationship quality to a keyword that you can optimize by implementing best practices. However, SEO experts have mastered this and it is clear that creating content based on best practices works but it becomes problematic when there are so many of us doing it.
If I want to find the cheapest PS4 bundle on the digital market using Google, I can't rely on page one results because smart digital marketers with clients that have competitive price points are the ones that are there. Google gives you the best it can based on the keyword relationship, but that is changing.
The metric of keywords is an outdated concept that SEO’s throw around because of some client’s demand some sort of metric, but anything other than topically specific long-tail keywords will not get you far. Even long-tail keywords will require an extremely specific understanding of the buyer persona and a highly structured pillar content strategy.
Tone, voice, nuance, even political preferences will be part of the data that influences the search algorithm for each individual. Right now, we are still able to play with Google. If we can create pillar pages and topics while supporting them with specific topically relevant long-tail keywords then RankBrain as of now will value you higher in results. However, when the time comes, worrying about ranking won’t matter because Google will make it that way. Content marketing will continue to have value if you can identify the multiple variables that laser-target your buyer-persona.
Soon, RankBrain will know your personal tendencies to the point where it's creepy. Myself and another person can stand side by side and Google search: "gas station near me" and give us completely different results. Mine will give me the closest gas station based on simply location, but maybe the person next to me is more frugal and is willing to drive a little further for better prices. Google will give that person a list that minimizes distance and price.
Basically, we are on the final Golden Age of SEO and digital marketing, but invest in the future now by focusing your content toward your perfect buyer. In fact, go back and research your buyer persona’s further and with this consideration you can be sure that even without worrying about the keyword data, you will reach your potential clients.
How To Utilize Pillar Content For Future Investment?
Once you have used your buyer persona using the proper checklist, identify your pillar pages and content. When choosing your pillar pages, remember these are the most important pages on your domain. Think high conversion and beautifully optimized. From here identify the pillar content that will support these pages which you should base off of your buyer persona.
Google is smart and it is no longer worth the investment to attempt a marketing campaign that isn’t based on creating relatable pillar content. Popularity in terms of pure traffic volume will not matter eventually and it’s best to assume the transition sooner rather than later.