Understanding Content Relevance in Relation to Keyword Intent

February 12, 2010: An often overlooked component of keyword research is in understanding the type of content Google believes will satisfy a searcher’s intent, when displaying results for a particular search query.

Even if you’ve done the keyword research, and applied keywords to content, there’s never a guarantee that the page will resonate in search engine results. One of the reasons may be because the content is not be relevant enough to the subject matter objectives Google believes appropriate.

While discussing SEO ranking factors with a class at Boston University Metropolitan College, we came across a great example.

Example Search Query: Boots
Search Results for "Boots" in Google.com

If you search for “boots” in Google.com, you come across a range of footwear-related websites. While I was using this query to specifically address how Timberland ranks so well without the application of traditional “on-page SEO best practices”, one of the students made an interesting observation:

In the UK, “boots” refers to a popular pharmacy and line of beauty products

Given that information, we took a look at Google.co.uk for results. A quick search for “boots” using Google.co.uk reveals an entirely different set of web page results for the query.

Search Results for "Boots" in Google.co.uk

For Google.com, references to “Boots, the beauty brand“, don’t appear until the bottom of the second page of search results; and are outranked by Target (which I learned is Boots partner in the US for distribution efforts).

What will be interesting to see over the upcoming months (maybe year/s?) is if a website like “Boots.com” – which would appear to have significant on-page/site relevance for the keyword “boots” – can move up in Google.com search results, when Google clearly believes people in the US are searching for something different.

Action Item for Marketers: Not only should you be looking at projected search volume and applying keywords in page content, but you should also evaluate how relevant the content is in comparison to search engine results for the same keyword.

It is not to say a page cannot rank for a term with different content objectives, but there will certainly be a need to focus on getting greater visibility through “off-page” SEO strategies such acquiring high quality inbound links and being a part of relevant (keyword-rich) discussion in trusted online communities.

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