Navigating Fragmented Search Intent with Kevin Indig

fragmented search intent kevin indig
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Kevin Indig is the VP of SEO and Content at G2, a review website that provides information about various software companies.

Traject has a lot of software packages listed on G2, and our company definitely appreciates being able to be on there so that people can evaluate our software.

The other thing Kevin does is write a lot of personal content for Tech Bound. He also does podcasts, interviews, and really, in-depth actionable blog posts.

Today he joined Garrett on the podcast to speak about search intent, and he had some awesome insights to share.

The highlights:

  • (2:26) Understanding fragmented search intent, and the recent trends in search intent.
  • (7:59) Actionable recommendations for marketers.
  • (10:59) Spotting patterns and gathering insights.
  • (14:14) Covid’s impact on the marketplace.
  • (17:21) Content recommendations.
  • (19:01) Understanding platform confluence.
  • (22:27) Ad targeting vs. privacy.
  • (27:22) Kevin’s causes.

Resources:

The insights:

Understanding fragmented search intent

Google is making many transformations in the way they present information to users.

“The gist of it,” says Kevin, “is Google answers more and more questions themselves.”

He goes on to explain how this leads to fragmented search intent.

“There’s an awareness that when you look for a shorthead keyword, say, men’s sneakers, or standing desk, very short phrases that are very competitive and have a very high search volume, they show a variety of different SERP features. Interestingly they would show something like a local pack, videos, images, and maybe news sometimes. All different types of search results.”

He goes on to say that all of these different types of search results make it very difficult to rank in organic results. This is compounded by the fact that search intent isn’t always stable. For example, most of the year people are looking for a movie when they type in the words “Independence Day.” As you get closer to July 4, they’re talking about the holiday.

“The big question is how can websites still drive traffic within this fragmented search intent environment?”

Kevin had three steps marketers could follow.

    1. Shape awareness, if there are cell search intents Google might try to satisfy.
    2. Identify which search intent fits best with what you have.
    3. Ask if there is any content you can create to satisfy different search results

“One of the best examples,” he says, “is transferring written content into videos, or audios, or images to capture more real estate in the search results.”

He says to truly win at this you have to track SERP features over time to see how user intent changes for certain keywords, and that you have to do it on a large scale, say, thousands of queries. Then you can have a really good understanding of whether you still satisfy weak intent or not.

Actionable recommendations

“Be aware that search intent is a ranking enabler. It’s not a ranking factor, but it’s a very binary thing. You either meet search intent or you don’t. So that means for certain queries you might just never be able to rank for them, depending on what your product or company is.”

The first step becomes asking whether your product fits the search intent you’re targeting.

“If I’m not an eCommerce site and I want to rank for men’s sneakers, does that really work or make sense?”

Kevin notes the best way to find out is to just Google the keyword and to see what the top 3 or top 5 sites are that are actually ranking, then asking if any of the sites are at all comparable to your sites.

“The second step is to just look at the SERP features, and that’s something you can do with a rank checking tool like Moz, SEM Rush, or Ahrefs. Look at the features that are showing up and the related user intent.”

Kevin says there are many ways to classify different SERP features. One example would be a featured snippet, which has an informational search intent. Another example is the local pack, which has what he calls a navigational search intent. 

He says to abandon the idea of capturing the “Top 10 blue links,” an idea which is basically dead. Instead, look for opportunities to capture real estate on the SERPs, real estate of all different types such as “featured snippets,” “people also ask,” images, videos, and podcasts.

Spotting patterns and gathering insights

Garrett asked, “I’m curious now because you’re really good at leveraging the tools to make yourself more efficient. How manual do you get at this point? Do you still just go to incognito mode and look at certain queries? Or does that seem pointless?”
Kevin answered, “It depends. I go pretty manual when it comes to very high-stakes queries, keywords that are very important to the business. And I spot-check certain keywords just to make sure my perception of the data or what I interpret into the data is still accurate.”
Since Kevin tracks 10,000+ keywords he definitely does not manually check them all.
“I look much more at data that I get from the rank tracking tools. From there, we can see patterns and trends.”
He also categorizes some websites as “inventory-driven” and some as “content-driven.” Inventory driven are more like eCommerce sites, whereas content-driven sites are more like publishers who are trying to drive awareness or demonstrate thought leadership.
“On inventory-driven sites, you can spot interesting patterns depending on the page types you look at. So a page type for G2 would be a product page, software pages where you can read reviews, category pages where we list whole software categories like SEO tools, but we also have alternative pages, where we provide alternatives to certain products, or comparison pages, where we compare two products to each other.”
He says when he starts looking at the SERP features shown for specific page types and track the changes for them over time, you start to get some important insights that eliminate the need to go manual.
“You would see, for example, that you get a lot of featured snippets for category pages. That’s something you can act on and go deeper and look. Are they paragraph featured snippets? Or list featured snippets? Are they numbered or unnumbered? You go from zooming out to zooming in so you can extract very specific to-dos.”

Covid's impact on the marketplace

“We’ve seen a lot of impacts on our marketplace at G2, simply because remote work has become so important. Some of our categories like web conferencing have 5x or 6x in the last couple of months. That was interesting to watch, and I think that’s where our job as marketers is: to gather as much data as possible and then react to the changes in the world.”

Kevin has also come to the realization, during this pandemic, is that search volume is “a very flawed and outdated metric to look at.”

He listed the reasons why.

“It takes a whole month to refresh, and it comes from Google Keyword Planner which is very heavily related to Google Ads, not to organic search.”

He says the biggest challenge is to funnel all the data from all the MarTech tools together and then to use that to generate some sort of action items. 

Content recommendations

Garrett also asked how Kevin navigates the divide between agility vs. quality. 

You always want to have quality content, but sometimes it does matter to be able to put the new content out there faster. How do you draw the line? How do you assess when your team is creating content, or if someone has a smaller team, is it more important to just get the new content out there, just addressing the new demand, or to take the time to make sure it’s really matching your quality control expectations?”

Kevin answered that it’s more of a tension between pressure and opportunity.

“If you have a ton of pressure to survive, if you’re a start-up, then you want to prioritize agility much higher. But then there is also a question of opportunity. What can you actually do? If you see a clear path moving forward, even if you don’t have high pressure, then I think it’s important to act fast, publish content, and then iterate along the way. And if you don’t see a path forward, then I think it’s not helpful to move fast. I think then it’s helpful to understand and learn better.”

“You don’t want to shoot in the dark,” he adds. “You want to know where you’re going. The good thing about content is that unless it’s very thought-leadership driven or very “viral,” you can still refine it with time. You can add, you can update, you can make changes. I wouldn’t generally hold back too long with publishing new content.”

Understanding platform confluence

“Platform confluence is the idea that big platforms like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, which I’m writing about right now, are tying their ecosystem of sites and apps closer together to better understand users and how they move across the ecosystems, and then monetize them.”

 

Kevin cites Facebook as an example. They own Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, Oculus, and a couple of other sites and apps, some of which they’ve developed themselves, and some of which they’ve bought. They’ve tied them together so they can better trace how people interact across those platforms. They can also allow advertisers to advertise and track users across these platforms.

“One simple example is you can run ads on Facebook and also on Instagram at the same time, and you can see where these ads perform the best way. You can automate ads so they only get triggered after a certain interaction on one of these platforms. And Google does the same thing. They have a new format for ads called Discovery Ads that allow you to advertise in Gmail, in the Discover feed, on the YouTube home page. Interestingly, these DIscovery Ads aren’t based on intent signals, but on behavior. That’s a fundamental, crucial shift that we as marketers need to understand to be successful.”

He also says the most efficient way to reach customers is now through ads, and not through organic search.

Ad targeting vs. privacy

Garrett asked if Kevin personally would prefer to trade off privacy and the tracking for a better ads experience, or if he’d rather them not track anything, not deal with ads, and find products himself.

Kevin said he had a consumer opinion and an advertiser opinion.

“As an advertiser, obviously, I want to hyper-target customers and track them and understand the ROI of my campaigns. As a consumer, I have a mixed opinion about that. I was born and raised in Germany, I’ve been living in the US for over six years now, and you know, in Europe we’re traditionally very sensitive about privacy violations or privacy in general. So my consumer behavior is a bit mixed. Of course, I wanted to see better-targeted ads, but I’ve become a bit more sensitive to the data I give away.”

He says, in the end, he doesn’t care as much about being hyper-targeted, but he does very much value and respect the opinions of people who might not want to do that, and he applauds platforms that offer the power to share the data or not.

What’s your right now cause?

Kevin asks listeners to support the Black Lives Matter movement, and BLM organizations. He also wants to see people support organizations who support people who can’t leave the house due to Covid-19, and who are depending on others.

Specifically, Kevin and the team at G2 would love support for Girls Who Code and Future Founders

Both organizations have initiative around BLM and COVID-19.

Here’s a list of 142 organizations to donate to in order to support Black Lives Matter.

Here are Charity Navigator’s top nonprofits responding to the COVID-19 challenge.

Connect with Kevin Indig

Want more of Kevin’s insights? 

Garrett Sussman

Garrett Sussman

Garrett is the head of content at Traject , a suite of digital marketing tools, and host of the Agency Ahead podcast. When he's not crafting content, he's scouting the perfect ice coffee, devouring the newest graphic novels, and concocting a new recipe in the kitchen.

fragmented search intent kevin indig

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