Recent estimates say that approximately 175 websites are created every minute, leading to around 252,000 new websites every day worldwide. With almost 197 million active sites, it can be a real struggle to be visible to potential customers.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of crafting your website and your content so that it is easier to be found by the people looking for what you offer. Unfortunately, SEO isn’t a set it and forget it prospect.
There are two reasons for this. The first one is usually the one that gets the attention: the algorithms that search engines like Google use to rank sites change all the time. Sometimes these are small changes; sometimes they are fundamental changes in how sites are analyzed.
The second reason is equally important but often overlooked: the way people search for things online can change over time. If your site is optimized for how people searched three years ago, you may be missing opportunities to connect with prospective clients.
If your prospects can’t find you when they’re looking for the solutions you offer, that means they are either being taken to a competitor’s website, or they’re giving up.
Advances in search engine algorithms can make it difficult to determine what users are looking for. The algorithms are becoming increasingly intelligent, but people don’t always think the way the search engines do. This can lead to mismatched results and user frustration. A recent study done by SEMRush revealed that about 30% of web users have to redo their online searches because they’re not finding what they need.
It’s important to optimize your content not only for search engines, but for the human customers that will buy your materials as well. This means that your content must be written to think like a human.
Companies often optimize their sites based on what a program or software tells them to do. For example, SEO software may determine that there are 20 keywords your site should be tring to rank for. These assessments are based on general audiences, though, so they may not be a good indication of the words your audiences use to search for the solutions you offer.
Each of your audiences may be looking for something different. Building materials firms need to target three audiences: architects, owners, and contractors. Before you create any content, you must understand how each of these audiences search.
For example, two people looking for the same product may use completely different search terms (“LED lighting for commercial office spaces” vs “commercial LEDs”). They may also use incorrect spelling (“litghing” or “liting”) or branded product names. In addition, they may use other terms to mean the same thing (“sconces” vs “wall lights”).
There is also the issue of search intent. This is the term for the type of result a person expected to find, and search engines decide search intent based on how the search query was structured and the words it includes. For example, “glass doors for house” will likely be interpreted as a product search, and the
results will lead with places to buy residential glass doors. The search term “are glass doors eco friendly” will be read as a search for information, and the results will lead with articles, blog posts, or studies.
To see how search engines currently interpret keywords and search intent, type in common product keywords in a search engine and see what comes up on the results page. (Use an incognito window or a different browser that what you normally use so the results aren’t completely skewed to your search behavior.) The results you get will tell you if the search engine is interpreting the intent as informational or transactional (making a purchase).
How to Optimize For Humans
To make sure your SEO is taking humans into account, you must first identify your audiences. Who are you trying to reach? Answers like “everyone” or “as many people as possible” are not going to help. The more specific you can be, the more successful you’ll be.
Why the need for specificity? Because the next step is to pay attention to how each audience speaks, writes, what questions they ask, and where they get tripped up. For example, contractors may search for a product based on an industry term, while architects may search based on the solution the product offers. Your sales and customer service staff are great resources for this information, because they frequently interact with customers and prospects.
Now that you’ve put yourself in your audiences’ shoes, you can create an SEO strategy that is tailored to reaching those audiences. This should take into account all of the ways that your audiences search for what you sell, with content and keyword plans to help your site rank highly for those searches.
Your SEO plan should also be based how your audiences buy your products. This impacts the kinds of pages you need to optimize (or create if they don’t already exist). If your customers prefer to buy online with no other interaction, for example, you’ll want to prioritize product sales pages. Do they like to learn about use cases and then speak with a sales or design rep? Then you need to focus on optimizing case studies and project pages.
Optimizing your website for human visitors is more work than simply reacting to algorithm changes – but this work will help make your site in front of your ideal customers.