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For all their might and sophistication, search engines essentially work in a very simple way: by matching the text that users type in with text from websites on the internet.

Simple logic tells us that if a user types in something that accurately describes what you offer, but you yourself don’t use those words on your website, you will not win that potential customer. Whilst this may sound like an oversimplification, it in fact very helpfully describes one of the key challenges faced by every client.

No matter how well you think you know your customers, there really is no substitute for finding out how they actually search for what you offer. (Time and again clients – even clients used to carrying out significant market research – are fascinated and amazed by what our data mining reveals). Armed with this insight into actual demand, you must then create or modify content on your site with the intention of having content relevant to as many of them as possible.

A process that on the surface sounds so simple; and yet a process which in fact opens the door to a world of deep complexity. How should you – indeed, how can you – even go about understanding how people search, given that you are not Google (and given therefore that you cannot easily see everything that people type into search engines)? Using what data might you try to understand how people search, and with what analysis techniques? And how – particularly if you are a large reputable business with a carefully managed brand – do you go about modifying or creating content to be relevant to how every last prospect searches for what you offer, without creating pages that appear spammy or violate search engine guidelines?

Keywords?… they’re dead.

To date pretty much the entire SEO industry has approached the subject of content by using what are referred to as ‘keywords’. The standard technique is to identify that handful of keywords relevant to a particular client’s business that appear to be responsible for delivering the largest volume of traffic, and then attempting to ‘optimise’ a site around that small number of keywords. For example, keywords relevant to an online mortgage brokers’ business might be: ‘mortgages’, ‘cheap mortgages’, ‘interest only mortgages’.

Our view is that these approaches are, quite simply, amateurish.

Why? Because attempting to compete for that small handful of specific ‘keywords’ is simply misguided; it belies a complete failure to understand how prospects actually search for what they want.

It’s all about the long tail.

What SEOs and clients following the ‘keyword’ approach fail to understand is that although a small handful of keywords might individually deliver healthy volumes of traffic, there is invariably a vast variety of other search expressions which, when grouped together, represent a far larger volume of traffic.

This vast set of other search expressions is what is known as the ‘long tail’ of natural search demand and it holds incredible value to online marketers… but the challenge for many lies in how to unlock that value. The solution to that challenge: User Demand Analysis.

User Demand Analysis:Redefining SEO for enterprise businesses

User Demand Analysis combines the highest quality long tail natural search data with sophisticated data mining techniques based on bespoke database tools. It offers clients unparalleled insight into the full spectrum of ways in which prospects actually search for what they offer.

User Demand Analysis focusses on:

- demand types by volume. What are all of those products (or types of content or service) that your users are looking for, and what are the relative volumes of each type of demand?

- vocabulary incidence per demand type by volume. For each product (or content, service) that users are looking for, what are all the types of vocabulary they use, and what are the relative volumes of each of those individual items of vocabulary?

Where possible, we look to work with Hitwise Search Intelligence data. In territories such as the UK or the US, Hitwise Search Intelligence provides clickstream data that contains the complete internet usage of millions of users over any definable period, and by definable geography. Critically, Hitwise Search Intelligence also categorises hundreds of thousands of high traffic sites into industry categories, meaning that we are capable of analysing the complete spectrum of demand being delivered by natural search to any individual industry.

Content Strategy and Implementation

At a strategic level, the findings of the User Demand Analysis are translated into a comprehensive set of recommendations that play a fundamental role in shaping a site’s information architecture, content strategy – and even core proposition.

Beyond this, a set of implementation recommendations cover the standard SEO ‘on-page’ factors, incorporating subjects such as HTML title tags, H1s, keyword density and more. But our focus on enterprise-class SEO means that we offer guidance on approaches that can be effectively deployed across sites with millions of unique indexed URLS, using rules-based templated approaches to aspects of content such as title tags and meta descriptions.

Other areas covered in Content implementation – amongst many – include:

- the importance of meta descriptions (working in partnership with HTML title tags and URLs) in driving click through from natural search results

- smart “search-results-as-content-pages”, which for particular clients represent a highly cost-effective means of producing and maintaining a very long tail of content to be relevant to a very long tail of demand

To learn more about our Search:Johnston’s Content work, get in touch.