What are Keywords in SEO and Why are They Important

SEO keywords range from singular words to complex phrases and are used in website copy to attract relevant, organic search traffic. How- ever, keyword integration is just the start. When properly leveraged, targeted SEO keywords should be used to inspire all page content in order to satisfy searcher intent.

From a searcher’s perspective, keywords are the terms typed or spoken into a search engine. When effectively researched and optimized, key- words act as a conduit for your target audience to find the most appro- priate content on your website.

But Aren’t Keywords Obsolete?

Whether you’ve heard this a few times already or your first is yet to come, “Keywords are dead” is a phrase which continues to barge its way into SEO circles. Rather than tip-toe around this recurring, binary, often-click-bait motivated assertion, let’s confront it head on.

Several developments in the SEO world have caused this claim to be stirred from hibernation, but there are four major ones that come to mind.

1. “(not provided)”

If you’re brand new to SEO, you may be surprised to know organic keywords were once easily accessible in Google Analytics, Adobe Omniture, or any other analytics platform.

I’m not going to lie; it was pretty fantastic. We didn’t know how good we had it at the time.

However, things started changing in 2010 when Google began quietly taking steps to remove keyword data from our web analytics. In late 2011 through the following year, keyword data was being removed in a big way. It wouldn’t take long for the top keyword driver for every site to be ‘(not provided)’.

Once we lost our keyword data and were seemingly flying blind, many were quick to write the obituary for keywords.

But what really was different? After all, people were still searching the same and Google hadn’t changed how it was interpreting our content. We just had less visibility.

We’ve all heard, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” This is the same thing. Nothing was different; we just weren’t around.

Bottom line: Keywords aren’t dead. The old way of tracking them is. 2. Hummingbird & RankBrain

Another time the validity of keywords was challenged was when Google rebuilt its algorithm in 2013. Receiving its name for being fast and precise, Hummingbird helped Google better understand search intent, particularly with complex and conversational searches. In 2015, Google incorporated the AI-driven ranking factor, RankBrain, into the mix to further improve its query interpretation abilities.

Before, a search for “what pizza places near me deliver?” would send Google off looking for content that matches those terms. Now, Google uses these keywords as contextual signals to learn what we really want and often rewrites our query behind the scenes (e.g., “pizza delivery 66062”).

Knowing Google often rewrites our search queries may make it seem like their usefulness is all but obsolete. But really, Google just got smarter with what we provided.

Here’s another perspective. Have you ever heard the statistic that only 7 percent of communication is through words alone? This was derived from a popular study in the late 1960s and is often used to boost the stature of nonverbal communion, diminishing that which is verbal.

I have a challenge for you. Go through your entire day tomorrow without using words – no typing, saying, or signing them. At the end of the day, let me know if you felt your communication was 93 percent as effective as it normally is. I think you can probably predict the outcome.

It’s not that the stat is wrong. There is so much more to communication (and search) than words. It is, however, often misunderstood.

The 7 percent speaks more to quantity than importance. We need that 7 percent, and we need keywords.

Bottom line: Keywords aren’t dead. Google’s former way of interpreting them is.

3. Voice Search

I love voice search. Even though it’s been around for years, I still feel like I’m in the future when Google magically captures my unintelligible stammering.

As voice search grew from being an occasionally-used novelty to a staple in our search behavior, many wondered what that meant for keywords. We all knew voice search impacted keywords, but did it kill them?

We’ve Become Long-Winded

Between us (subconsciously) picking up on Google’s heightened interpretation skills and our communication tendencies when talking versus typing, we have become very conversational and detailed searchers.

In the old days, if we wanted to know who Brad Pitt’s first wife was, we would translate our thoughts into a search-friendly query, like “Brad Pitt’s wives”. Now, we simply tell Google what we want: “Who was Brad Pitt’s first wife?”. This is one of the main reasons why 15 percent of searches have never been heard of before by Google every single day.

So, while it’s been a huge win for searchers, it’s posed challenges to SEO professionals. For instance, it’s hard to know which keywords to keep an eye on if a significant chunk of traffic is driven by those that had rarely, if ever, been searched before.

But this goes back to the “(not provided)” argument. Just because our tracking is imperfect doesn’t mean the significance of keywords lessens in any way.

We Omit Important Keywords

Did you know through voice search you can find out when Scarlett Johansson’s first album was released from a query that doesn’t include her name or the name of her album? (Side note: Did you know Scarlett Johansson had an album?)

Google understands context matters, not only within a search, but between strings of them as well.

So, do keywords actually matter if you can leave out crucial bits and still get what you want? Of course! This just forces us to step back and look at the bigger picture, rather than examine each individual search in a vacuum.

Bottom line: Keywords aren’t dead. Typing as our only way to search them is.

4. Google Planner Grouped Keyword Volumes

Starting in 2014 and kicking things up a notch two years later, Google’s Keyword Planner tool began grouping volumes for similar terms. Instead of showing keyword A gets searched 100 times per month and keyword A1 gets searched 50 times per month, both would show 150. Google said the reason for this to make sure “you don’t miss out on potential customers” and to “maximize the potential for your ads to show on relevant searches.”

That explanation certainly implies searcher intent doesn’t vary much between closely related terms.

The move seemed to reinforce the notion that topics, not keywords,
are all SEO professionals need to worry about. However, this doesn’t explain why Google search will often significantly shake up its results for keywords that Google Keyword Planner deems synonymous enough to lump together.

Ultimately, Keyword Planner is a PPC tool. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to understand how forcing PPC bidders to expand their keyword targeting could be a financially-motivated decision.

Bottom line: Keywords aren’t dead. But Google’s keyword metrics might as well be.

Why are Keywords so Important to SEO?

We know keywords are alive and well, but why are they so critical to SEO?

Keywords are Clues

The importance of keywords in SEO is in part due to their importance outside of it.

Forget about keywords, rankings, traffic, or even your website for a minute.

If you knew your customers’ true feelings, how would you operate your business differently? How valuable would those insights be to you?

In his book, “Everybody Lies”, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz shares his findings of what search behavior tells about human psychology. When in a focus group, taking a survey or responding to something on Twit- ter, we all tend to let our answers be impacted by how others may perceive them.

What about when we’re searching? The combination of anonymity and immediate access to a wealth of information paves the way for an un- adulterated look into what we truly want.

It’s data-driven truth serum.

At its core, keyword research is a powerful market research tool that can be leveraged in many different ways, not just informing website content. To get the most out of keywords, you have to look beyond the explicit, literal translation and also pick up on the implicit clues to gain the true intent of each keyword.

As an example, let’s look at the query, “safest baby cribs”.

Safest baby cribs 2017 Explicit information

  •  concerned about safety
  •  wants more than one crib to choosefrom
  •  looking for articlepublished in 2017

Implicit information

wants to know what makes cribs safe/


understands safety standards change


in research phase with future intent to buy

possibly in process of buying other items

for nursery
safety may be more

important than cost or

likely looking for a list

of cribs ranked by safety measure

Keywords are Like Personas

Personas act as bullseyes. They aren’t all we’re after but by aiming for them, we’re setting ourselves up for success.

It’s not as if I only want to market to 54-year old women named Bet- ty who have a 401k and are soon to be empty nesters. But that level of granularity and focus helps ensure I’m attracting the right group of people.

Conversely, if you have no focus and try to appeal to everyone, you will likely come away empty-handed. It’s a beautiful paradox, really – the exclusivity of your target audience often is directly related to the size of your actual audience, and vice versa.

It’s the same with keywords. A quick peek into Google Search Console’s search query data will tell you it’s never just about one keyword. However, having a primary keyword target for each page

will give you the right direction and perspective to capture the right audience from a plethora of related searches.

Is SEO Important for Company Growth?

In 2009, Bill Gates gave a speech at a private dinner where he fa- mously said “the future of search is verbs.”

Gates wasn’t talking about the words people type into search boxes, he was instead talking about why people search.

Before we can understand why search is important, we need to take a step back and understand why people search.

Why People Search

In the early days, people searched to find a list of documents that contained the words they typed in. That’s no longer the case.

Today’s searchers search to solve problems, to accomplish tasks, and to “do” something. They might be searching to book a flight, buy something, learn the latest Taylor Swift lyrics, or browse cat photos – but these are all actions. Or, as Gates referred to them, verbs.

When a user starts a search, they’re really starting a journey. Marketers love to talk about something called “the consumer journey.” It’s just a fancy way of referencing a user’s path from the inception of their task to the completion – and most of these journeys start with a search.

The consumer journey has been gradually playing a larger role in search over the last decade. Originally depicted as a funnel wherein users move from awareness to consideration to purchase, this old consumer journey has become outdated (although we still use this model for illustrative purposes and to make persona research easier).

The Evolution of Search & the Consumer Journey

The modern consumer journey no longer represents a funnel, but looks more like a crazy straw – with various twists and turns representing the various channels, mediums, and devices that users interact with today.

In order to fit this new model, search has had to evolve from simply words on the page to understanding the user intent at each phase of the journey. Search is no longer just about keywords, but has evolved into providing the right content to the right user at the right time in their journey to help them accomplish their task.

For the users, it’s all about the verbs. For search marketers, it’s all about helping the user on their journey (and, ideally, influencing them a bit along the way.)

Sticking with the crazy straw model, today’s consumer journey no longer happens on a single device. Users may start a search on their mobile device, continue researching on their tablet or work laptop, and ultimately purchase from their desktop at home.

Search isn’t just limited to computers or phones. Users can now search from a variety of devices, including watches, smart glasses, bluetooth speaker assistants, and even kitchen appliances. In today’s world, even my fridge has its own Twitter account – and search marketers need to be cognizant of how various devices relate to each other and play a part in a user’s search experience.

There’s some healthy debate as to whether this has always been the case, but in today’s always on hyper-connected world, SEO has

morphed into what we’ll call “real marketing.”

Gone are the days of hacks, tricks, and attempting to reverse-engineer algorithms.

Today’s SEO focuses on:


The 3 Main Tenants of Any Marketing Strategy or Campaign

Search touches all three of these areas:

1. Attract. 2. Engage. 3. Convert.

But search concentrates heavily on the first phase: Attract.

“If you build it, they will come” may apply to baseball fields, but it doesn’t work with websites.

It’s no longer enough to have an awesome product. You must actively attract customers via multiple channels and outlets.
This is why, despite some claims to the contrary from clients or design agencies, every webpage is, in fact, an SEO page.

If a webpage is involved in attracting visitors, engaging visitors, or converting them, there should be an important SEO component to that page.

So Why Is Search Important?

Search matters because users matter.

As technology continues to evolve, SEOs will constantly deal with new ways of searching, new devices to search on, and new types of searches (like voice search, or searches done by my oven) but the one thing that will remain constant is why people search. The verbs aren’t going away.

One day we might be overrun by AI or upload our consciousness into the singularity – but until then we’ll still need to solve problems and accomplish tasks – and some form of search will always be involved in that.

SEO Definition – So What is SEO Really?

Check out a full glossary of SEO terms here

Search engine optimization (SEO), according to our definition, is:

The process of optimizing a website – as well as all the content on that website – so it will appear in prominent positions in the organic results of search engines. SEO requires an understanding of how search engines work, what people search for, and why and how people search. Successful SEO makes a site appealing to users and search engines. It is a combination of technical and marketing.

But there is no single definition of SEO.

That’s why I reached out to more than 60 SEO experts and asked them how they would define what search engine optimization is now.

All of their answers and perspectives are unique – and not one of these definitions of SEO is wrong.

Here’s how these SEO professionals say we should answer the question, “what is SEO?”.

Benj Arriola

SEO Director, Myers Media Group

Google continuously develops and improves upon their algorithm
to create a sophisticated machine that learns as it grows; the more
it learns, the less humans can comprehend. Over the years, SEO strategies have evolved in attempts to keep pace with Google’s algorithm changes and updates with the use of machine learning and data science, and this is SEO in today.

Yet some things never change, one factor remains constant: Google has always focused on quality, beneficial content that users love to read, watch, listen to, and share. With quality content that benefits the user as a focal point in Google’s ranking algorithm, it is imperative to also make that the priority of the SEO when producing content.

Loren Baker

Founder, Search Engine Journal

SEO is the encompassing definition of putting together a three-part strategy which includes:

The ongoing technical optimization of a website to make sure that Google is able to properly read and index the pages

which are meant for Google, its desktop and mobile rankings, and other engines Also, it’s ongoing innovation for search and consumer usability via solutions like AMP, Schema, and rich snippets.

  •  The inclusion of content on the transactional, informational, and publishing level on websites so consumers and engines can easily define a page or section of the site, its importance and relevance to natural search queries and subject matter. Navigation is a part of content strategy, so interlinking plays a big part here.
  •  The ability to promote content which is shareable and supports the above mentioned SEO goals. Sharing content via outreach, PR, link building, and amplification initiatives lead to signals from authority sites in the same topical neighborhood of the site being optimized, which in simple terms means you get great links that Google loves.

    Aleh Barysevich

    Founder & CMO, Link Assistant

    SEO today is about making the right choices based on tons of accurate SEO data, the latest Google trends, and common sense. Simple but not easy!

    There’s also this tendency for SEO to merge with performance marketing and lose its role as a standalone discipline.

Seth Besmertnik

CEO, Conductor

There is one simple answer to this: give your customers value. If you know what your customers need/want and give it to them, you will win in SEO tremendously.

There is only one algorithm that matters: Your customers – and their hearts, minds, and souls.

This picture says it all:

Chris Boggs

Founder, Web Traffic Advisors

SEO continues to be about forcing the “blocking and tackling” basics to be fully optimized – processes, channel-understanding, and politics are often in the way.
Communication continues to be a problem on the mid-sized to enterprise side, with teams either unwilling or unable to work together efficiently to accomplish 90+ percent of SEO recommendations.

On the SMB side, there is a high expectation of SEO performance yet often an inability to complete (or pay-to-complete) hours dedicated toward improving content, links, or “online branding,” which are all important to growing performance.

The “unwillingness” at both ends of the spectrum comes from a general naiveté about the level of effort required for SEO to work, especially in moderately to competitive spaces.

Michael Bonfils

Global Managing Director, SEM International

On a global and multilingual standpoint, when doing SEO in multiple languages and cultures, only a native language SEO specialist would

truly understand the behaviors, usage, and types of keywords that respond to their market. Outside of the implementation of hreflang and market/language rich keywords, all the same rules apply to multilingual SEO as in regular English SEO.

Katya Bovykina

Digital Marketing Manager, Resolver

SEO to me is about valuable content and meaningful partnerships. To win the SEO game, you need to provide useful, relevant, accurate and recent information.

If you combine that with building relationships online, you get a very strong competitive advantage. There is very little room left for “get rich quick” schemes, and that’s a good thing.

Clark Boyd

Digital Marketing Consultant

Searching implies the requirement for an answer. As long as people have questions, those that provide the best, quickest answers will prosper.

What has changed is that technology is allowing us to deliver on the purest essence of SEO. Whether via a mobile screen or a digital home

assistant, our job is to ensure that our content can be discovered and served as seamlessly as pos

Machine Learning and AI in SEO

Machine Learning, AI & Intelligent Search

Earlier, I mentioned that Google, originally built around information retrieval, became a mobile-first company. Well, that changed in 2017 because Google CEO Sundar Pichai declared Google an AI-first company.

Today, Google search is designed to inform and assist, rather than giving users a list of links. That’s why Google has built AI into all of its products – including search, Gmail, AdWords, Google Assistant, and more.

In terms of search, we’ve already started to see the impact of AI with Google RankBrain. Announced in October 2015, RankBrain was initially used to try to interpret the 15 percent of searches that Google has never seen before, based on the words or phrases the user has entered.

Since that time, Google has expanded RankBrain to run on every search. While RankBrain impacts ranking, it isn’t a ranking factor in

the traditional sense, where you get rewarded with better rankings for doing x, y, and z.

And there’s much more coming soon in the world of intelligent search.

Voice searches are increasing. Visual search has gotten insanely good. And users (and brands) are increasingly adopting chatbots and using personal assistants (e.g., Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana).

Exciting times are ahead for SEO.


Search engines and SEO have come a long way since the 1990s. And we’ve only touched on a few of these ways in this post.

The history of SEO has been filled with exciting turns – the birth of new search engines, the death of old search engines, new SERP features, new algorithms, and constant updates, plus the emergence of great SEO publications, conferences, tools, and experts.

While search engines and SEO have evolved greatly over the years, one thing remains true: as long as there are search engines, SEO will remain vital. And we’ve only gotten started!

SEO – Google Position 0 (Featured Snippets, Instant Answers, Schema, Lists and More)

Position Zero

Rich snippets and special content results blocks have been a main part of SEO for a while now, and we know that appearing in a SCRB area can drive huge volumes of traffic to your website.

On the other hand, appearing in position zero can mean that a user won’t click through to your website, meaning you won’t get the traffic and the chance to have them explore the website or count towards ad impressions. That being said, appearing in these positions is very pow- erful in terms of click-through rate and can be a great opportunity to introduce new users to your brand/website.

Voice Search and Its Impact on Mobile SEO

Why Voice Search Is Important to Mobile Search

Also in section two of the guidelines is an important sentence, which helps us understand the relationship that Google sees between mobile and voice search.

If you are not familiar with voice commands, device actions, or phone features, please take some time to experiment on a mobile smartphone. For example, you can try some of these voice commands…

Virtual assistants have evolved since the Microsoft Paperclip. Talking to your phone or small device in the corner of your room is fast becoming the norm. This evolution has come hand in hand with the increase in smartphone penetration and technologies, as Echo and Google Home devices fill our homes.

Know (Informational Queries)

A “know” query is an informational query, where the user is wanting to learn about a particular subject. Know queries are closely linked to micro-moments.

In September 2015, Google released a guide to micro-moments, which are happening due to increased smartphone penetration and internet accessibility. Micro-moments occur when a user needs to satis- fy a specific query there and then, and these often carry a time factor, such as checking train times or stock prices.

Because users can now access the internet wherever, whenever, there is the expectation that brands and real-time information are also ac- cessible, wherever, whenever. Micro-moments are also evolving.

Know queries can vary between simple questions [how old is tom cruise] to much broader and complex queries that don’t always have a simple answer. Know queries are almost always informational in intent.

Know/Informational queries are neither commercial or transactional in nature. While there may be an aspect of product research, the user is not yet at the transactional stage.

A pure informational query can range from [how long does it take to drive to London], to [gabriel macht imdb]. To a certain extent, these ar- en’t seen in the same importance as directly transactional or commer- cial queries – especially by e-commerce website; but they do provide user value, which is something Google looks for.

For example, if a user wants to go on holiday they may start with searching for [winter sun holidays europe] and then narrow down to specific destinations. Users will research the destination further and if your website is providing them with the information they’re looking for, then there is a chance they may also inquire with you as well.

SEO: Device “Action Queries”, Mobile…

Device Action Queries & Mobile Search

Mobile search surpassed desktop search globally in May 2015 in the greater majority of verticals. In fact, a recent study indicates that 57percent of traffic comes from mobile and tablet devices.

Google has also moved with the times – the two mobile-friendly updates and the impending mobile-first index being obvious indicators of this. Increased internet accessibility also means that we are able to perform searches more frequently based on real-time events.

As a result, Google is currently estimating that 15 percent of the queries it’s handling on a daily basis are new and have never been seen before. This is in part due to the new accessibility that the world has and the increasing smartphone and internet penetration rates being seen globally.

According to ComScore, mobile is gaining increasing ground not only in how we search but in how we interact with the online sphere. In a number of countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, China, and India, more than 60 percent of our time spent online is through a mobile device.

One key understanding of mobile search is that users may not also satisfy their query via this device. In my experience, working across

a number of verticals, a lot of mobile search queries tend to be more focused on research and informational, moving to desktop or tablet at a later date to complete a purchase.

According to Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines:

Because mobile phones can be difficult to use, SCRBs can help mobile phone users accomplish their tasks very quickly, especially for certain Know Simple, Visit in Person, and Do queries

Mobile is also a big part of Google Search Quality Guidelines, with the entirety of section two dedicated to it.

Keyword Research – Search Intent and Google

There have been a lot of studies conducted into understanding the intent behind a query; and this is reflected by the types of results that Google displays.

Google’s Paul Haahr gave a great presentation in 2016 looking at

how Google returns results from a ranking engineer’s perspective. The same “highly meets” scale can be found in the Google Search Quality Rating Guidelines.

In the presentation, Haahr explains basic theories on how if a user is searching for a specific store (e.g., Walmart), they are most likely to be looking for their nearest Walmart store, not the brand’s head office in Arkansas.

The Search Quality Rating Guidelines echo this. Section 3 of the guidelines details the “Needs Met Rating Guidelines” and how to use them for content.

The scale ranges from Fully Meets (FullyM) to Fails to Meet (FailsM) and has flags for whether or not the content is porn, foreign language, not loading, or is upsetting/offensive.

The raters are not only critical of the websites they display in web results but also the special content result blocks (SCRB), aka Rich Snippets, and other search features that appear in addition to the “10 blue links”.

One of the more interesting sections of these guidelines is 13.2.2, titled: Examples of Queries that Cannot Have Fully Meets Results.

Within this section, Google details that “Ambiguous queries without a clear user intent or dominant interpretation” cannot achieve a
Fully Meets rating. The example given is the query [ADA], which could be either the American Diabetes Association, American Dental Association, or a programming language devised in 1980. As there is no dominant interpretation of the internet or the query, no definitive answer can be given.

Queries with Multiple Meanings

Due to the diversity of language, many queries have more than one meaning – for example, [Apple] can either be a consumer electrical goods brand or a fruit.

Google handles this issue by classifying the query by its interpretation. The interpretation of the query can then be used to define intent. Query interpretations are classified into the following three areas:

Dominant Interpretations

The dominant interpretation is what most users mean when they search a specific query. Google search raters are told explicitly that the dom- inant interpretation should be clear, even more so after further online research.

Common Interpretations

Any given query can have multiple common interpretations. The exam- ple given by Google in their guidelines is [mercury] – which can mean either the planet or the element.

In this instance, Google can’t provide a result that Fully Meets a user’s search intent but instead, produces results varying in both interpretation and intent (to cover all bases).

Minor Interpretations

A lot of queries will also have less common interpretations, and these can often be locale dependent.

Do – Know – Go

Do, Know, Go is a concept that search queries can be segmented into three categories: Do, Know, and Go. These classifications then to an extent determine the type of results that Google delivers to its users.

Do (Transactional Queries)

When a user performs a “do” query, they are looking to achieve a specific action, such as purchasing a specific product or booking a ser- vice. These are important to e-commerce websites for example, where a user may be looking for a specific brand or item.

Device action queries are also a form of do query and are becoming more and more important given how we interact with our smartphones and other technologies.

Ten years ago, Apple launched the first iPhone, which changed our relationship with our handheld devices.

The smartphone meant more than just a phone, it opened our access to the internet on our terms. Obviously, before the iPhone, we had 1g, 2g, and WAP – but it was really 3g that emerged around 2003 and the birth of widgets and apps that changed our behaviors.

The Major Search Engines: Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon…

Here’s a look at seven of the top search engines (that’s right, there’s more than one), a brief exploration of the ins-and-outs of each, and some links to some of the best articles on how to market to and mone- tize them.


With over 75 percent of the search market share, one hardly needs to introduce readers to Google. However, it clearly needs to head up any list of search engines.

Created as a research project in 1996 by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, they offered to sell their engine in 1999 to Excite for a whopping $750,000. The offer was rejected putting Google at the top of my list of “bad business calls” as well. Google’s parent company Alphabet is now worth about $650 billion.

Apart from powering their own search results, Google also provides the search results for a wide array of other engines including the old favorite Ask.com.

Pros & Cons

The big appeal to ranking on Google is clearly the massive potential traf c. The downside is that everyone else wants this traf c – making organic search the most competitive and paid search often more ex- pensive than on other sites.

Further, many argue that Google is moving searchers away from click- ing through to websites and toward ful lling their needs and intents directly on the Google website via featured snippets, reduced numbers of organic results on the rst page, increases in paid search results, etc. making the competition more costly with less potential reward.

Optimization Tips

A few valuable pieces on marketing on Google can be found at:

  • 4 Most Important Ranking Factors, According to SEO Industry Studies
  • A Beginner’s Guide to SEO in a Machine Learning World
  • Why Google AdWords Isn’t Working for You


YouTube was founded in 2005 by veterans of PayPal and was pur- chased just over a year later by none other than Google, giving it con- trol over the top two search engines on this list.

YouTube receives more than 1.5 billion logged in users per month and feeds over 1 billion hours of video each day to users (that’s right… billion).

If you’re curious about the rst video uploaded (which has over 41 mil- lion views) it’s a 19-second clip of co-founder Jawed Karim at the zoo. Not exactly MTV playing “Video Killed The Radio Star” but it got the job done.

Pros & Cons

As with Google, it’s easy to see the allure of such massive traf c but that’s also the pitfall for marketers. Using YouTube as a vehicle for traf c cannot be underestimated in its impact if successful but considering that over 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, it can be a challenge to stand out.

With paid opportunities under the Google AdWords system, it can also get pricey to compete on that front.

That said, if you can get the attention of your target demographic on YouTube with amazing campaigns such as those by GoPro or Blendtec, you can get incredible exposure inexpensively.

Optimization Tips

A few valuable pieces on marketing on YouTube can be found at:

  • How To Rank YouTube Videos
  • How Video Rankings Differ On Google And YouTube
  • How Deep Learning Powers Video Search


    Amazon was launched in 1995 and, thus, is considered as one of the rst large companies to sell goods on the internet. They started out selling books online but expanded rapidly. In 1999, founder Jeff Bezos won Time’s Person Of The Year for making online shopping popular and accessible.

So successful is Amazon, that last year more than half of all online shopping searches began not at Google but at Amazon. Combine this with their acquisition of Whole Foods, which gives them access to fresh foods, and one can be pretty sure we’ll see this number continue to climb. Anyone want a Bluetooth adapter with their organic avocado?

Pros & Cons

The positives, like on Google, are obvious – scale. If you sell blue widgets and you want to be where people search for them, then you want to be on Amazon.

In fact, some can argue based on the numbers that having a ton of great and useful content might help you rank on Google and get all those folks trying to gure out what blue widgets are and which one they need, but unless you’re on Amazon, you won’t be where they are when they’re actually looking to convert.

The downside is that the competition is erce, the pricing and other details are easy to compare vs. competing products, and the cost for selling there can get pretty costly at times. Entering early can be dif cult if you don’t have a unique product as sales and reviews are important for rankings. For the same reason, well-established companies with good products and reputations can hold their placements well.

There are also CPC options for product promotion. It can be pricey, but you’re also getting the searcher at the buy end of the cycle, so what engine isn’t?

It’s too early to tell right now how Alexa will impact searches and sales but this is an area to watch. To prepare yourself for the possible scenario where Amazon wins (or at least does well in the personal assistant race), the third article below discusses it further.

Optimization Tips

A few valuable pieces on marketing on Amazon can be found at:

  • How To Kick Ass at Amazon SEO
  • How To Rank Products On Amazon
  • The Complete Guide to Amazon Alexa SEO


In 2006, Facebook (as we know it) was born. From 2004 until then, it was accessible only by students and in 2006, it was opened up to the world.

It’s not a natural go-to when thinking of search engines, however, last year it surpassed 2 billion searches/day putting it ahead of Bing. With over 1.5 billion logged in visitors per month, Facebook also gives businesses and advertisers incredible market access and tends to be where people are when they’re not working (present company ex- cluded obviously), meaning they may be in a better situation to follow their nose and get side-tracked by your offering if it’s of interest.

Pros & Cons

It’s probably becoming pretty obvious how this story plays out, the biggest “pro” is the user base but as is true with almost all platforms. With that user base comes the biggest “con” – the price.

Depending on your target demographic, the price can run up to many dollars per click making it cheaper than Google AdWords but still pricey. Some can argue that the traf c isn’t as targeted.

Therein is another pro-and-con: while traf c via the AdWords search system revolves around search queries (on Google at least) lending an inherent relevancy, a lot of Facebook advertising revolves around job titles, locations, interests, and other demographic data. You tend to lose a bit on relevancy, however, it’s a great medium for getting in front of people when they aren’t looking for you.

Want to launch a new product? Get your new eBook in front of a bunch of SEO professionals who might not be searching for “seo ebook”? Facebook lends a lot of exibility in this area.

While their organic reach has tended to drop dramatically in the past few years, Facebook also can be a solid source of unpaid traf c.

This involves ensuring you have brand loyalty and are consistently producing good content as consistent engagement is the key to ranking organically.

Optimization Tips

A few valuable pieces on marketing on Facebook can be found at:

  • 10 Facebook Ad Optimization Hacks for Massive Success
  • 6 Tips to Optimize Your Facebook Page
  • 7 changes by Facebook that make it a real local search player


    Bing replaced MSN Search as Microsoft’s answer to Google in 2009. Launching with just 8.4 percent of the search market share, they quickly crossed 10 percent, and in a deal later that year to power Yahoo search, rose to 28.1 percent. In 2016, they added AOL to the sites they provide search results for.

These additions made them a real contender and the latest data from Microsoft indicates they are now powering 33 percent of U.S. searches.

Bing has been making a lot of plays recently in the advertising space in their effort to catch up with Google, adding a number of features to Bing Ads – ranging from improving their AdWords import functionality to keyword match changes, as well as reporting improvement to bring their systems up-to-standard and help managers already familiar with AdWords to work in their system.

Pros & Cons

While Bing doesn’t have the market share that Google has, it is respectable in many markets including the U.S. and U.K.

Organically their algorithms aren’t as sophisticated as Google’s, making them easier to understand, predict, and optimize for. While this won’t be an inde nite state, it’s likely to be true for the next couple years.

Due to the lower traf c, there are less SEOs vying for the top 10 positions and studying the algorithms providing good ROI for those who do.

On the ad side, there are less sophisticated systems to work with, however, Bing is clearly catching up quickly. Due to the lower volume and ease of setup from existing AdWords campaigns, the lower traf c can easily be made up for by the lower CPC.

Note: This isn’t to say to simply copy your AdWords campaigns into Bing and be done with it. Each engine needs to be managed individually for its CPC and demographics (resulting in different conversion rates, etc.). However, copying campaigns can greatly speedup the setup process.

Optimization Tips

A few valuable pieces on marketing on Bing can be found at:

  • How Is Bing SEO Different Than Google SEO?
  • 7 Tips To Optimize our Bing Shopping Campaign
  • PPC strategy for small businessesBaidu

Baidu was founded in 2000 and is the dominant search engine in China with over 82 percent market share where Google comes in at 0.61 percent and Bing at 0.37 percent.

They’re making huge investments into AI and setting the structure many others will have to follow or at least contend with in regards to deciding which companies (like NVIDIA) will have the monetary and competitive advantages.

Outside of China, Baidu holds little in uence – but within the country, it’s powering 3.3 billion searches per day.

Pros & Cons

The downside to Baidu is that it only gives access to one market. The upside is that the market it gives access to is huge.

That said, it’s critical to understand that accessing the Chinese market is not like accessing any other (such is the curse of international SEO). The visuals, verbiage, and customs are entirely different and Google Translate isn’t going to help you win any customers over.

To access the Chinese market via Baidu, you need someone on staff who speaks the language and understands marketing to the culture (not just “someone on my team who took 2 years of Mandarin in high school”).

Overall, the organic algorithms are more simplistic than Google’s and their paid systems can be easier once you’re setup but that setup is more dif cult if you reside outside China.

Optimization Tips

A few valuable pieces on marketing on Baidu can be found at:

  • Four Unique Features Found In Baidu Paid Search Management
  • Baidu PPC Versus Google AdWords: 8 Key Differences
  • An Introduction to International SEO


Yandex has its roots in a project started by two Russian developers to aid in the classi cation of patents in 1990 under the company Arkadia.

The term Yandex was adopted in 1993 standing for “Yet Another iN- DEXer.” The Yandex.ru domain was launched in 1997.

In 2011, they went public on the New York Stock Exchange with an IPO of $1.3 billion making it the second largest at the time (right after Google). Yandex currently powers more than half of all searches in Russia.

Pros & Cons

As with most smaller engines (compared to Google at least), there is less traf c on Yandex but the competition is lower both organically and in paid. The algorithms used by Yandex are less sophisticated than Google’s and thus, easier to assess and optimize for.

Now the bad news… While Yandex’s algorithms are less sophisticated than Google, they have elements that make it dif cult for outsiders – including a higher weighting on geolocation.

The paid system is obviously more exible in this regard and compared to Google, Facebook, and Bing it tends to be less expensive per click. For example – ranking #1 for “casino” would cost over $55 per click in the U.S. and only $0.80 on Yandex. Of course, that’s an English word but even the Russian “казино” is only $1.02.

Optimization Tips

A few valuable pieces on marketing on Yandex can be found at:

  • 9 Biggest Differences Between Yandex & Google SEO
  • Optimizing Your Site For Yandex
  • Yandex Online PPC Courses

SEO Industry Statistics, Data and Trends

Organic Traffic Statistics

  •  32.5 percent: The average traffic share the first Google organic search result gets. (Chitika)
  •  91.5 percent: The average traffic share generated by the sites listed on the first Google search results page. (Chitika)
  •  1,890 words: The average content length of a Google first page result. (Backlinko)
  •  51 percent of all website traffic comes from organic search, 10 percent from paid search, 5 percent for social, and 34 percent from all other sources. (BrightEdge)
  •  Over 40 percent of revenue is captured by organic traffic. (BrightEdge)
  •  73 billion: The estimated number of phone calls that will be generated from mobile search alone by the end of 2018. (Acquisio)
  •  8.5: The average number of organic mobile search results that Google shows on page 1. It previously consisted of 10 “blue links” in its search results. (SearchMetrics)
  •  8.59: The average number of organic desktop search results that Google shows on page 1. (SearchMetrics)

    Industry/Business Spending Statistics

$65 billion: The amount that companies spent on SEO in 2016. (Borrell Associates)

  •  $72.02 billion: The estimated amount brands and agencies in the United States will shell out for SEO services in 2018. The amount is forecasted to rise up to $79.27 billion by 2020. (Borrell Associates)
  •  >$5,000: The monthly amount majority of businesses are spending on SEO. (Moz)
  •  77.8 percent of US search ad revenues for 2017 is expected to be earned by Google. (eMarketer)

    Local Search Behavior Statistics

  •  80 percent of Google search interest in “near me” came from mobile in Q4 2014. (Think with Google)
  •  4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information. (Google/Ipsos MediaCT/Purchased)
  •  18 percent of local smartphone searches led to a purchase within a day. (Google/Ipsos MediaCT/Purchased)
  •  88 percent of users search on a smartphone, while
    84 percent search on a computer/tablet. (Google/Ipsos MediaCT Purchased)
  •  54 percent of smartphone users search for business hours, 53 percent search for directions to a local store. (Google/Ipsos MediaCT/Purchased)
  •  4 in 5 consumers want ads customized to their city, zip code, or immediate surroundings. (Google/Ipsos MediaCT/ Purchased)
  •  >70 percent of consumers say it’s important to have directions and a call button in ads. (Google/Ipsos MediaCT/ Purchased)
  •  2.1X: The increase in mobile searches for “stores open now” or “food open now” in the past year. (Think with Google)
  •   The number of times mobile searches for “where to buy/ find/get” increased in the past year. (Think with Google)
  •  65 percent of people use their phone in their I-want-to-buy moments. (Think with Google)
  •  76 percent of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a business within a day and 28 percent of those searches for something nearby result in a purchase. (Think with Google)

    User Search Behavior Statistics

    •  51.3 percent of internet users worldwide operate mobile and tablet devices, while 48.7 percent use desktops. (StatCounter)
    •  15 percent of the millions of active US web users performed at least one or more searches in a day, 45 percent performed at least one query in a week, and 68 percent performed one or more queries that month. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  79 percent of people took a relevant action on their phone prior to making a purchase. (Think with Google)
  •  39 percent of purchasers were influenced by a relevant search. (Think with Google)
  •  3: The average number of words a typical searcher uses in their search query. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  ~8 percent of search queries are phrased as questions (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  8 percent of queries on Google result in the searcher changing their search terms without clicking any results. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  21 percent of searches lead to more than one click on Google’s results. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  8 percent of Google queries result in pogo-sticking (i.e. the searcher clicks a result, then bounces back to the search results page and chooses a different result). (Jumpshot/Moz)

    Link Building Statistics

  •  Over 1,000 words: The average length of long form content that receives more shares and links than shorter form content. (Buzzsumo/Moz)
  •  41 percent of large companies consider link building as the most difficult SEO tactic. (Ascend2/Conductor)

Google Statistics

  •  130 trillion: How many webpages Google is aware of as of 2016. (Google via Search Engine Land)
  •  ~2 trillion: The estimated number of searches Google is handling per year worldwide. That breaks down to 63,000 searches per second; 3.8 million searches per minute; 228 million searches per hour; 5.5 billion searches per day; and 167 billion searches per month. (Search Engine Land)
  •  1 billion+: How many people use Google search every month. (Google via Business Insider)
  •  40-60 billion: The estimated number of searches happening on Google in the U.S. each month. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  1,600+: How many improvements to search Google launched in 2016. (Google)
  •  81.12 percent: The total search engine market share that Google currently holds. (Net Market Share)
  •  15 percent: The percentage of daily queries Google sees that have never been searched for previously. (Google)
  •  Under 1 minute: The all-in time of the average Google search session (from the time of the initial query to the loading of the search results page and the selection of any results, plus any back button clicks to those SERPs and selection of new results.) (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  30 percent of all mobile searches are related to location. (Think with Google)
  •  66 percent of distinct search queries resulted in one or more clicks on Google’s results, while 34 percent of searches get no clicks at all. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  3.4 percent of distinct search queries in Google resulted in a click on an AdWords (paid) ad. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  0.9 percent of Google.com search results get a click on Google Maps. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  ~0.5 percent of clicks on Google search results go to links in the Knowledge Graph. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  3 percent of clicks on Google search results go to image blocks. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  ~0.23 percent of clicks on Google search results go to Twitter block results. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  1.8 percent of clicks on Google search results go to YouTube. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  0.16 percent of clicks on Google search results go to personalized Gmail/Google Mail results. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  0.55 percent of clicks on Google search results go to Google Shopping results. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  11.8 percent of clicks from distinct Google searches result in a click on a Google property, i.e. YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Books, the Google Play Store on mobile, and Google+. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  ~25 percent of all searches are distributed across the top 1MM queries, with the top 10MM queries accounting for about 45 percent and the top 1BB queries accounting for close to 90 percent. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  25 percent of all search volume happens outside the top 100 million keywords. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  40.9 percent of Google searches done on mobile devices result in an organic click, 2 percent in a paid click, and 57.1 percent in no click at all. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  62.2 percent of Google searches done on desktop devices result in an organic click, 2.8 percent in a paid click, and 35 percent in no click. (Jumpshot/Moz)

    SEO & Other Marketing


  •  ~20: The number of times SEO has more traffic opportunity than PPC on both mobile and desktop. (Jumpshot/Moz)
  •  45 percent of all companies say content marketing is ‘highly integrated’ with their SEO strategy. (Econsultancy)