A recent blog by SEO experts SearchEngineLand looks at ‘machine learning’ and why it impacts the need for you to produce high-quality content.
Here we examine what this is, why it’s important and what it means for your marketing strategy.
What is machine learning?
According to techtarget.com, it’s ‘a type of artificial intelligence that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed’.
Machine learning programmes search through data to look for patterns, and adjust programme actions according to those patterns.
It is a tool used increasingly by Google and other search engines. Their objective, the SearchEngineLand author believes, is to:
Better understand user intent
Better evaluate content quality
What does this mean for your content methodology?
It’s already well known that static content is no good when it comes to search engine rankings. A continually-updated site, with regular new additions of relevant material, is essential to high rank.
Look at ways you can update your site frequently. If you are short on resource, this might not be as big a task as it sounds. Rewriting existing collateral; getting customers to play their part via user reviews – all of these can help to build your arsenal.
Still sound too big a challenge? You might be surprised how much you have already. Think about how you can make use of the following:
- Press releases
- Articles where your firm is mentioned or quoted
- By-lined articles
- Webinar replays or podcasts
- Event write-ups
The need for quality content isn’t going away – in fact, it’s amplified by developments in machine learning. You need to make sure you can feed the online appetite.
The article points out that machine learning algorithms like Google’s RankBrain have improved – and continue to improve – their ability to understand human language.
This increases their ability to understand what people mean by the search terms they type in.
But language is a complex, nuanced thing. Why, for example, as the article points out with a quote from one of Google’s senior program managers, “do we say ‘the president of the United States?’ And why do we not say ‘the president of the France?’ There are all sorts of inconsistencies within our language and within every language. For humans it seems obvious and natural, but for machines it’s actually quite difficult.”
As search engines’ understanding of natural language improves, their understanding of:
1. what pages on the web best match the user’s intent as implied by the query
2. how comprehensive a page is in addressing the user’s needs
will improve in tandem.
This means that you need to be clear about your users’ needs – what might they be searching for; what concerns them?
It also means your pages need to be clear about what they deliver. If your users talk about ‘fund management’, don’t write about ‘management of funds’.
May sound simple, but it’s surprising how many simple SEO tricks businesses miss.
As machine learning tools become more attuned to the nuances of users’ questions, it becomes ever-more important to marry what you say exactly with what is being asked.
User signals like click-through rate are already used as quality factors in search rankings, as this piece, cited in the article, notes.
This again is expected to increase over time – although it’s a notoriously difficult thing to address. If someone looks at a page but doesn’t like what they see, or realises it’s not relevant, for example – that can’t currently be captured.
What is ‘quality’
The article has a useful definition of what really represents ‘quality content’, suggesting that for a user, it means:
The product/service/information they are looking for is present on the page
They can find it with relative ease on the page
Supporting products/services/information they want can also be easily found on the page
The page/website gives them confidence that you’re a reputable source to interact with
The overall design offers an engaging experience
You need to meet all five of these criteria.
Which makes sense, of course.
Web content isn’t all about SEO – rather, high rank should be a side-effect of content your users value. And the whole point of your website should be to provide answers to the issues your potential clients are looking for. This will then move you up the rankings – a virtuous circle.
The blog ends by stating that, although ‘there are huge changes in the wind, and they’re going to dramatically impact your approach to digital marketing’, basic priorities shouldn’t change.
- Creating high-quality content
- Measuring and continuously improving user satisfaction
- Continuing to establish authority with links
These three things should remain your focus.
The author’s experience is that, in reality, most firms don’t do enough of any of these three things, leaving old material to languish online and failing to keep up with the search engines’ demand for new, quality content.
For regulated businesses, of course, this can be harder than for most. The need for Compliance approval; the added hoops you need to jump through to get written pieces signed off by the business AND to meet regulatory requirements – these can put quality content in the ‘too difficult’ pile.
Look at ways you can speed and refine the production process – by repurposing existing collateral, as we’ve detailed above, and perhaps by automating some of your processes to improve marketing project management and speed to market.
The need for the highest-quality content is only going to increase. Make sure you’re able to deliver, and you will be well-placed to rank above your peers.
For more on best practice suggestions and tips to make sure your site is found online, you can download a copy of our SEO tips for financial services firms. It’s free and you can get a copy here. It could be the difference between Google visibility and obscurity.