As we’ve discussed before in this blog and in our presentations, over past five years the way you optimise your content for search engines has changed. Following a number of Google algorithm updates we’re now in the realm of semantic search, and search results are shown based on Google’s interpretation of user intent, rather than simply keywords.
In their video, The Evolution of Search, Google says their current goal is “to make improvements to search that just answer the user’s information need”, and to “get them to their answer faster and faster, creating a nearly seamless connection between you and the knowledge that you seek.”
What is predictive search?
One way that they’re trying to get you to your answer faster is through predictive search – this is when Google tries to predict what you are searching for and auto-complete your search term. Although predictive search first premiered in 2004 (then called Google Suggest) the latest incarnation, called Google AutoComplete, was launched in 2010.
The queries that appear when using Google AutoComplete are automatically generated based on up to 200 search factors, including how often past users have searched for a term, your geographical location and website content.
How AutoComplete changes SEO
AutoComplete has a range of implications for search engine optimisation. Searchers may be influenced during their search and never end up typing what they originally planned. This means that longtail keywords may be used less frequently than expected. For example someone searching for “Hotels in New York with private balconies” may complete their search at “Hotels in New Y” if they see an auto-completed result that catches their interest.
This has implications for your content: don’t rely on long key phrases, but instead ensure that your keywords are brief, and critical to your content.
Using predictive search to plan content
Auto-complete suggestions can be a helpful barometer to gauge what people are searching for around a particular topic. Noting down key terms can help you build a content calendar around relevant subjects and questions. You can also use it to search for terms relevant to your business, product or service to generate useful content which aligns with what people are looking for in relation to your brand.
Also useful is the “Related searches” shown at the bottom of the search results page, which can help with generating related content ideas.
Quality content is king
Auto-complete and other keyword tools can provide useful suggestions on what topics to cover, but ultimately, your content still has to shine in your industry and be relevant to your users. Your content has the best chance of being ranked if it aligns with Google’s goals for search – connecting users with quality content that answers their needs. This quote, from Matt Cutts, Head of Webspam at Google, is one that’s worth keeping in mind when creating any kind of web content:
“Make sure you make a great site, that users love, that they’ll want to tell their friends about, bookmark, come back to, visit over and over again; all the things that make a site compelling. If that’s your goal, we’re aligned with that goal, and therefore as long as you’re working hard for users we’re working hard to show your high quality content to users as well.”