Search engine marketing is a rapidly changing game. The days when keyword research meant throwing a word into the AdWords tool are long gone.

The changes are driven by Google.  While there are other search engines, we all know that Google is the top dog – and they’re also a very innovative company.  The result is that they’re always working to improve their service.

Improved results mean happier users.  And users are Google’s lifeblood.  Every day, people all over the world use Google to carry out billions of searches.  They want to find relevant high-quality websites and resources.  They don’t want spam or unrelated information.

All of Google’s changes are driven by 2 related motivations.  The first is to improve the search engine’s ability to return sites that contain information the user wants.  And the second is to prevent “evil” marketers from hijacking the results with SEO tools.

In fact, the key difference between Google and other search engines is that it was created to beat spam.  Search engines used to be full of low-quality spam.  Those of us who are old enough to remember Altavista will know what I mean.  Well, Google’s core algorithm was designed to filter out low-quality sites and only return the best ones.

Today, there’s an arms race between “black hat” SEOs (search engine spammers) and Google.  Every time the black-hats learn to game the system, Google devises new methods to beat them.

These changes have a big impact on all of us who work in the world of SEO.  We have to adapt all of our strategies, from keyword research to content creation and promotion.

The web is full of SEO strategies.  Many of them are from a time when search engines were very different (some of it is from before the creation of Google).  Keyword research is full of false ideas that date back to a time when most of us were building pretty spammy sites.

Back then, it was perfectly normal for SEOs to build sites that were stuffed with low-quality content.  SEOs used to have a bulk mentality.

We used to chase after thousands of keywords, usually one per page.  So we had to build massive sites, fast.

This made sense at the time.  It was easier to rank for lots of low competition keywords instead of a few high competition ones.

Finding hundreds of low competition keywords is hard work, so the SEO community created keyword research tools.  These tools would run hundreds of keywords through Google to see which ones had the best balance of traffic and competition.

Google’s many quality-based updates mean that building thousands of spammy pages just won’t work anymore.  What’s more, improvements in the search algorithms mean that there are less “low competition” keywords today than in the past.

In the past, Google was only able to return results that very closely match the words you type into the search box.  Everyone is individual, so there are lots of different ways to search for the same information.  The old Google would treat all these searches as if they were completely different.

Today, Google is much better at recognizing the intention behind the search.  It can match words with similar meanings.  That means if you search for “Christmas tunes”, you will see results for “Christmas songs” as well.

This is good news for users – it means that a search is more likely to return useful results.  But for an SEO, it paints a different picture.  More results mean more competition for the top spots.  Keywords that had little competition in the past now return thousands of results.

But there’s a sunny side, too.  True, it’s harder to get a web page to rank for obscure search terms.  But when you do get a page onto the first page of a Google search, you’ll rank for multiple keywords at the same time.  In fact, it’s quite common for a single page to rank for dozens or even hundreds of related search terms.

Successful SEO in 2016 is totally different from the past.  Instead of building hundreds of pages of poor content, we focus on a few really good ones.  Instead of fighting like rats over the scraps, we set our sights high and aim for high volume keywords.  Instead of using a shotgun approach, we use laser targeting.

Some SEOs are deeply set in their ways.  Instead of embracing change, they fight it.  They keep building low-quality sites and promoting them using spammy techniques.  And some of them still get results.  But it’s much harder today, and the results are short lived.

Focussing on high volume keywords, building quality content, and promoting it in the right way is easier.  It’s also very profitable and rewarding.

Finding the right keywords does take a shift in your thought process.  But it’s not hard.  In fact, it’s much less frustrating than spending hours fiddling with an ineffective keyword tool.

Our growth hacking education program shows you how to make the process work for your site.  We’ve broken it down to 8 simple but powerful steps that anyone can follow.

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