Search engine optimization (SEO) is a widely misunderstood term. To many people, SEO means optimizing a website for top positions on the commercial Web search engines. This literal, face-value definition of SEO is so ubiquitous that SEO professionals are perceived as snake-oil salesmen or people who exploit the commercial Web search engines.
In reality, SEO is writing, designing, coding, and programming a website for people who use search engines. Notice there are two parts to this definition: (1) people and (2) search engines. In order for a website to be search engine friendly, it should be friendly to both humans and search engines – not to search engines exclusively, not to humans exclusively. In fact, when done properly, SEO actually makes the products, services, and information on your website easier to find on both Web search engines and site search engines.
What is the key ingredient to the SEO secret sauce? Is it meta tags? Is it link popularity? Is it social media optimization? As an SEO practitioner since 1995, I honestly believe that the key ingredient to site optimization is the often dismissed human element – searchers. If SEO professionals tried to understand and accommodate the needs, goals, and behaviors of Web searchers, they could deliver a better user experience on our websites.
But that means stepping away from our familiar keyword research tools, back-link checkers, web analytics software, and webmaster tools. It means we must talk and listen to the very people who are using our websites – searchers/users. What are their goals? Since the late 1990s, researchers at the commercial Web search engines have determined that Web searchers have 3 primary goals: navigational, informational, and transactional.
Navigational Searcher Goals
When a Web searcher wishes to go to a website, or a specific Web page on a Website, the searcher goal is classified as a navigational goal, and the keywords he/she is typing into a search engine are called navigational keywords. Navigational queries are far more common than one might imagine. According to Microsoft, up to 33% of search engine queries show navigational intent.
How can SEO professionals determine whether keywords show navigational intent? One way is to review web analytics data to see of all or parts of a URL (Web address) were used to find your website. For example, if your company name were Tranquiliteas Organic Teas, a person doing a navigational query might type in:
• Tranquiliteas Organic Teas (company name)
• Tranquilities Organic (part of a company name)
• Tranquiliteasorganic (part of a domain name)
• Tranquiliteasorganic.com (domain name, with domain extension)
• Green teas tranquiliteasorganic (keywords with part of a domain name)
In that last example, the searcher wishes to go to a specific page on a website, namely the section of the site that offers green teas.
Many SEO professionals dismiss navigational searcher goals as less important than transactional searcher goals. I believe this is a mistake. When a searcher performs a navigational query, he/she wants to go to your website. And website owners should make that easy to do. In fact, when I evaluate websites for search engine visibility, I look at how well individual Web pages appear in search results for navigational queries.
Let’s use the National Cancer Institute website as an example. To see if an individual Web page or section of a site is properly optimized for thyroid cancer, I will type in the following keywords into the search box:
thyroid cancer site:www.cancer.gov
I should see the most appropriate, relevant pages about thyroid cancer appear at the top of search results. If I don’t see the best pages appear, then I know that the thyroid cancer pages need to be optimized better.
Taking the extra time to determine how well your pages are optimized for navigational searcher goals is well worth the effort. When people want to visit (and revisit) your website, and you make that process easy for them, your website and your brand are perceived as more dependable, reliable, and trustworthy.
Informational Searcher Goals
The most common type of searcher goal is an informational goal, when a Web searcher wishes to read or learn more about a topic. All websites should have information pages to accommodate the variety of informational goals. In all likelihood, your website already contains information pages. Let’s look at some examples of information pages.
One type of information page is a page that answers a question. What type of Web page naturally answers a question? A help, customer service, or frequently asked questions (FAQs) page typically has a question-answer, question-answer format. FAQs pages are naturally search-engine friendly as long as content writers remember to use keywords appropriately.
Another type of question-answer page is a tips page, such as a how-to page. And even though a Locations page does not contain a question, it does answer the question, “How do I get to (office)” or “Where is your office located”?
Another type of information page is a list. A strong indication that a Web searcher wants to view a list is the presence of the plural form of a word. So if a person searches for the keyword phrase Hawaii vacations, that person wants to see a list of vacation options to Hawaii. What is the type of page that naturally shows a list of items or options? A category page. So when I optimize a website to accommodate informational goals, I tend to emphasize the plural form of a keyword on a category page rather than the singular form of a word (polo shirts vs. polo shirt). I focus on the singular form of a word on individual product pages.
To determine if search engines are getting the most appropriate page, I will perform a navigational query to see if the most appropriate page shows up:
polo shirts site:www.domain.com
If the category page for polo shirts appears at the top of search results, then I am reasonably certain that the page is optimized well.
Transactional Searcher Goals
The least common type of searcher goal is a transactional goal. When a Web searcher has transactional intent, he/she wishes to do something on a website.
Many website owners assume that the only types of transactional goals are Add to Cart or Sign Up/Register. However, there are many different types of transactional goals. A Web searcher might want to watch a video, listen to music, download software, or look at pictures. The words video, music, download, and pictures are examples of transactional keywords.
Here are some more examples of transactional keywords:
• Photo(s) or photograph(s)
With transactional goals, Web searchers often do not type in a transactional keyword even though they expect to see that word (or phrase) on a page. On a product page, Web searchers do expect to see a button or a link that says Add to Cart, Add to Bag, or Buy even though they didn’t type those words in a search box. They also expect to see a product photo and a price.
Likewise, a person who wishes to look at pictures typically does not type in the word look, and a person who wishes to watch a video does not type in the word watch. A person who
wishes to download music might not type in the word music but might type in the file extension .mp3.
Savvy SEO professionals and website owners should identify the various keywords that show transactional intent and ensure that those transactions are communicated to both search engines and Web searchers.
Some SEO professionals mistakenly believe that Log in is a transactional keyword phrase because it is an action. However, in order to log into a website, one must go to that specific website in order to log in. So this particular phrase indicates navigational intent first, then transactional intent.
Searcher goals are fluid. An informational goal can quickly turn into a transaction (such as Add to Cart) if the price is right and the website is trustworthy. Many Web searchers do price comparisons online, especially for high-ticket items such as appliances, cars, and electronics. Once they determine the right product at the right price, they might go to a specific website to find out where the nearest store is.
And if they purchased a product from a physical store, and if customer service and price were satisfactory, the Web searcher might return to the website for other related products. Likewise, once a Web searcher determines that he/she can return to a specific site to get a question answered, the information goal turns into a navigational goal.
Therefore, accommodating searcher goals and behaviors is very much a part of the search engine optimization process. The commercial Web search engines accommodate searcher goals. So should you. credit-n.ru
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