User Intent as a Ranking Factor for SEO in 2016
Answer your user's intent and rank in 2016. And WIN at SEO!
So. Funnily enough, I have been obsessed lately with pages that rank with few or no words on them.
A few newsworthy events have happened over the past few months that greatly inform the how and why to address this.
As I have written over and over again, Google is getting smarter and smarter. Alphabet (the holding company which owns Google) buying 14 AI companies in one year is a good hint about the overall intelligence of Google, but search results and algorithm updates help to complete the picture.
Over the summer, the first such update, Phantom II, followed by Phantom III this fall, informed the ideal that user intent was growing as a factor in search.
Then, Google released the 160 page document titled, "Quality Rater Guidelines", which details exactly what Google wants its human page raters to look for. It's a nuanced look at websites, with higher scrutiny given for so-called YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) pages than hobbyist sites about apple pie.
The insight that document gives into how Google views quality, though, is invaluable.
I Love Longform
Of course, I naturally gravitate toward articles and data that emphasize the importance of longform content, the studies and observations that show that in-depth articles with more than 2,000 words seem to rank better than lower-word-count articles (Thank you in particular, Neil Patel).
I love reading stuff like this, for example:
"An SEO can always get more out of content than any copywriter, but there's not much more powerful than a copywriter who can lightly optimize a page around a topic."
But the researcher in me can't help noticing that often, pages with little or no content on them do quite well.
There is a huge opportunity for brands to capture and retain new visitors by mixing up the content on their site, using long form, short form, and interactive content to drive the right mix of traffic to your site.
Enter User Intent
For example, if a user is searching for the amount of calories in an avocado, they do not necessarily need a page full of content to explain the answer. They are looking for a simple sentence or two that gives the information.
To elaborate, Google slices user intent into 3 segments: Know, Do and Go.
Focusing on Know and Do, Know is that traditional segment that I certainly favour. They're the pages that answer a user's query in a knowledgeable way, and now include a sub-segment for short answers, such as the example above.
In short, as Matt Cutts has always said, there is no minimum or maximum amount of content per page. At the same time, with solid copywriting, you can nail SERPs with your expertise and solid writing skills.
Do Trumps Know
The golden nugget in here is that if you solidly answer a user's query, you win. Examples here include a BMI calculator that helps a user answer how many calories are required to burn off that apple pie they had for lunch; or an interactive game that answers the question "What is a sentence".
These pages often have very little actual text on them, but definitely make the user happy. Google can measure this in various ways, including low bounce rate, high time on page, and low click-back to the SERPs.
Bottom line is that in 2016, you have much more latitude to provide high quality content for your visitors.