A Modern Guide to High-Impact SEO Content

The complete guide to keywords, user intent, and content strategy in the era of AI and RankBrain

Google’s two most important ranking factors are content and links. But even the highest quality content — with an abundance of authoritative, incoming links — can fail to rank in search engines. When this happens, it can feel like Google just hates your site, but there’s usually a more logical solution: you’re doing keyword research wrong.

Effective keyword research in the era of RankBrain and A.I. is more than just finding phrases to embed into content. To earn high rankings, keyword research must be evolved and expanded into a process that guides overall content strategy.

Modern keyword research breaks down to five main steps:

  1. Compile a list of important keywords.
  2. Group related keywords, and remove irrelevant terms.
  3. Investigate SERPs to discern user intent for keyword families.
  4. Prioritize the keyword list.
  5. Adjust the content strategy and creation process based on new insights.

Step three is what defines the winners and losers in organic search. Traditional keyword research fails to earn high rankings because it neglects user intent, so conducting keyword research without also gathering user intent insights is a waste of time.

To get a detailed discussion, examples, and step-by-step instructions on all five stages of an effective, modern keyword and content strategy, fill out the form to the right to download the ebook.

User Intent and Why an Effective Content Strategy Depends On It

User intent is the question behind the keyword—the answer users are seeking from search. If content doesn’t answer that question, it doesn’t rank.

Keywords are just questions written in shorthand. When searching for the keyword “content marketing,” a user might be asking:

  • “What is content marketing?”
  • “What are some tools that help with content marketing?”
  • “What services are available that provide content for websites?”

These are all very different topics.

If users are most commonly seeking content marketing tools when using this keyword, an article that details solutions to common content marketing problems will not rank highly—regardless of the depth of coverage and quality of inbound links—because it doesn’t satisfy the core question users are asking.

Even the best content will never rank well in organic search if it doesn’t satisfy user intent.

Google uses engagement signals—click-through rates, time on page, bounce rate, etc.—to identify which results satisfy user intent and which don’t. And RankBrain—Google’s machine learning program—is always on. It collects data on the factors that affect user engagement and satisfaction, and makes constant tweaks to organic rankings based on its findings

The result: Content that doesn’t satisfy user intent fails to engage searchers, and content that fails to engage users gets downgraded by RankBrain. No amount of on- or off-page SEO will solve this problem. The only solution is to identify and satisfy user intent.

Added Benefits of Keyword + User Intent Research

User intent research is crucial for improving organic rankings, but high rankings aren’t the only benefit. Ranking well in organic search requires creating the very best content for both users and search engines, and user intent research provides the insights you need to do it.

  • Boost engagement by ensuring content provides the answers users are looking for.
  • Simplify content planning by gathering insight into the most appropriate format for content—text, video, infographic, or interactive.
  • Funnel more effectively by gathering insight into users’ positions in the buying journey when using specific keywords.
  • Eliminate waste and boost overall ROI by eliminating irrelevant keywords.

For content to rank highly and drive engagement, keyword research must include user intent research.

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