Over the past few weeks we were trying to get a better understanding of how Google will translate a long tail search query into a valuable SERP for users. Specifically, we were testing queries that started with this:
"What is the ________"
Have you ever tried a search query starting with either of those 3 words? Google understands that this query search is for information; therefore they try to return some type of quality educational article before any potential e-commerce site.
Google doesn't have an all-powerful artificial intelligence that would be able to directly return an answer to a question. They have to rely on mathematically matching a search phrase to phrases found on web pages. Other than the mathematical word matching, they also compare the results to more than 300 other ranking factors to give you the top 10 answers.
One way to get ranked in those top 10 is to write a single blog post for any question you can think of that begins with the words "what is the," and then use that question as the actual title of the blog.
"What is the birthstone for September?"
To answer that question as a blog post you would turn that into the URL and the title of the page, as in:
Page Title: What is the birthstone for September?
Surprisingly, not many websites, or jewelers, take this approach. Instead, most people write pages with "September Birthstone" as the title and then something similar to "september-birthstone.html" as a page name.
Regardless what page title or URL naming convention you use, you still need to make sure the content of your page follows the best SEO practices.
As of this writing, the #1 ranked page for "What is the birthstone for September" is:
The galleries.com page has only 203 words on the page, uses the word "September" 2 times, and the URL says "September_birthstone." Clearly Google wasn't looking for repeat uses of the phrase "September birthstone" when they ranked this page.
The next educational page comes from about-birthstones.com:
This page has 341 words and the phrase "September birthstone" used 4 times. This is a relatively high quality educational page.
Other pages in the SERP list for "What is the birthstone for September" include a few e-commerce landing pages from Red Envelope, Amazon, and Zales; and a few other blog posts with more than 500 words each. The pages with more than 500 words were ranked lower than the e-commerce pages from Amazon and Red Envelope.
In this example the blog pages also had ads or reseller links. Obviously those blog owners are hoping that visitors will click one of the ad links so they can earn a commission. The e-commerce pages were purely e-commerce, with no educational value, but Google still includes them just in case.
It seems like there is a battle over web page ranking for "September Birthstones." Online jewelers and bloggers are both trying to win. Bloggers are loading their websites up with ads and links, while jewelers are loading their pages up with jewelry images and far too little content.
From this brief discussion we hope you can see that there really isn't a single answer, or method, for blogging or ranking for informational type search queries that begin with the words "what is the." But that means there are a lot of possibilities.
To compete in the arena, we suggest not following the strategies of everyone else, but rather split your own September Birthstone page into 2 columns. The first column would have 300 words of September/Sapphire information and the second column would show sapphire jewelry from your online catalog.
Remember, search engine optimization is more of an art than a science. Sometimes you have to look at all the other SERP answers and ask yourself how you can be better, rather than just trying to figure out how to compete.
And above all: make it relevant content to your store that your customers will use!