Are exchanged or reciprocal links okay with Google?
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Is there a way to optimize [Blank] in a search query?

Is there a way to optimize [Blank] in a search query?

Today’s Style an SEO question comes from Christian in the UK. Christian asks:

Is there a contextual way to address the search so that it looks for the topic [in this case, “what”] in a question (e.g. vegan is that meat like what’s for garlic)?

Words mean things.

My professor of journalism school constantly repeated this phrase to me and my classmates when our writing was not ready or we were using the wrong word to describe a situation.

The same goes for Google, Bing and all the other major search engines.

But what words mean for a robot changes during the day in many cases.


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Context means things

Google increasingly understands the context of the content it crawls.

We no longer live in a world where an exact phrase must appear on a page in order to appear as a result in the SERPs for that query.

Of course, it does not hurt that the exact phrase appears in the content.

I define long-tail keyword phrases as those that may not see a large amount of searches individually, but overall can generate significant traffic.

Long tail keyword phrases typically also have a high buyer intent.

After all, if you are looking for something very specific and then you find it – it is likely that you will buy it – or fill out a form in case of service.


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But again, these days, you can rank by long tail keyword phrases by creating quality content that addresses the overall topic that will answer the query.

Google gets you – for the most part

There are plenty of places you can read about Google’s increasing ability to semantically understand the context of a site.

SEO experts will debate how Google does it a aauseum.

The taste of the month is called Multitask Unified Model or MUM.

According to Google, MUM is 1000 times more powerful than the last SEO obsession, two-way code representations from Transformers or BERT.

BERT was part of what is known as RankBrain, which is a bit of a black box, and I’m really not sure if we’re still using the term RankBrain anymore.

It’s complicated.

But if you are so inclined, there are literally hundreds of blog posts and articles wondering how these technologies work to rank the millions of completely unique queries that are asked every single day.

And it’s important to understand how Google views the content you create.

But even if you are God’s gift for algorithm understanding, do not expect to completely remodel exactly how these technologies work.

I have worked with some of the wisest people on the planet, and even with advanced mathematical analysis, we have never been entirely sure that our assumptions are correct.


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Write the best information and you will probably be covered

Your best bet is to understand the topics that appeal to your audience and write the best answer to their question.

With a little effort, the best answers typically rise to the top – despite the fact that many people whose answers may or may not be the best – complain that Google’s results are crap.

There are definitely anomalies and poor results.

For the most part, Google gets it right.

So to answer the question, if you want to emerge as the ultimate answer to “vegan is meat like garlic”, write a page that answers what “what” is.


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It would also not hurt to have that sentence in the content itself – but do not overdo it.

If I were writing this copy, I would find more examples and put the keyword phrase as a headline and insert more dots for “what.”

There is no form or code that tells Google about the relationships.

But don’t worry, Google is pretty good at figuring out these relationships on its own.

More resources:


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Editor’s Note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO consulting column written by some of the industry’s best SEO experts, which has been hand-picked by the Search Engine Journal. Do you have a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You may see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

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