Keywords or Social Insights: Which is the Secret to Great SEO?

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Keywords are generally considered the starting point for SEO strategy; this idea is not unusual in any way. We look to the use of repetitive language as a point of judgement to determine meaning. In the beginning of SEO that was enough. What changed?

The algorithm behind the search engine became smarter. This has caused a shift in the ways we perform SEO keyword research. The focus has returned to the end user and their intent.

Search intent is easier to discover through social insights rather than keyword lists. This is because they provide language in context of how our customers actually talk to each other. Reflecting this language is the key to targeting your customers via their search behavior.

Keywords Unlock the Knowledge Graph

Keywords are still an important part of Google’s knowledge graph, which was introduced in 2012. It is hard to believe that we have been living with those rich snippets appearing in search for three years – a change which you probably don’t really notice now. There are questions which we need to answer in regards to SEO, the foremost being how Google chooses what appears in those larger subject cards.

AJ Kohn of Blind Five Year Old describes these cards as “aggregating intent.” In his example, he demonstrates what happens when Google search is given a broad query, like the name of a restaurant. The resulting knowledge graph card doesn’t know exactly what he wants the information for, but it does an amazing job of answering multiple questions. It clearly summarizes the information to satisfy any possible intent.
A card shows us:


  • The quality of the restaurant through reviews
  • The price of a typical meal
  • Directions to get there
  • Nearby alternatives
  • Pictures of menu items
  • Contact information

Imagine someone is performing this search on mobile while out on the town and looking for a place to eat; you can see why this presentation is so convenient.

Keywords are still viable for SEO because search engines can’t read minds– yet. They need a phrase to rev up the engine. The real art of SEO is in the creativity you employ in generating content to match up with your customer’s need for knowledge.

Keywords and Social Insights Let Us Reach Customers Early in the Sales Funnel

Keywords are not word lists, but living thoughts from human minds. They reveal much about our habits, personalities, experiences, emotions and interests. In January 2015, Rand Fishkin dedicated a Whiteboard Friday to a technique for keyword research which includes having discussions with your target audience. He refers to this as “Hacking Keyword Targeting by Serving Interest-Based Searches.

There is an important advantage in using this technique as the foundation of an SEO keyword strategy; people use slang, words, and phrases in conversation which have one meaning for the community but may not generalize to the public at large. This is why Google’s focus on search intent matters so much. The current algorithm understands this context. Studying your target customers’ interests is one way to reach them in search, and luckily, usually not as competitive as more direct keywords, as Rand Fishkin points out.

At ARCOMPANY, this is a technique which we employ for our clients both in qualitative interviews with our Think Tanks, and in our use of big data analytics. There is no better place to find these interest based keywords than from forums like Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook groups. It also informs us on what questions these communities ask and how they use search in their lives.

Keywords and Social Insights are Needed for Content Marketing

Keywords still matter, but advances in technology have allowed us to use them in unique ways, which place them in context of how humans communicate with each other. The harsh truth of SEO: it is one component of an omni-channel strategy for brands.

What you need is a team that understands the way Google and other search engines adapt to advancements in computer science. Our technology partners are innovators in this space. We understand where SEO is today, and where it will go in the future.

Contact us to discuss developing a content strategy that will get you in front of your customers when they are most ready to purchase your services.

Photo credit: Writing on the Wall via photopin (license).

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