The Real Meaning of Search Relevance in SEO

Search Relevance is important to SEO, here is why.


Jason Khoo

3 years ago | 3 min read

Many digital marketers aren’t as familiar as they should be with search relevance in search engine optimization (SEO).

Sure, they know about it—but they don’t have a very in-depth understanding of search relevance as a concept beyond the simple fact that Google results must relate to a business.

For example, most digital marketers understand that a local restaurant, let’s say a burger joint, won’t receive any favors from SEO using a term that doesn’t represent the business. Of course, restaurants near me may work in their favor, but not a completely abstract term.

However, it’s a whole different story if that same burger joint is named some abstract, such as “Big Table Burgers and Fries.” Something like this can affect the search relevance and SEO simply for the term “big table,” and there’s no way of really knowing if Google will be able to process the difference between “big table,” and “Big Table Burgers and Fries.”

In this instance, Google can very well bury your website for utilizing such a high volume search term.

This is a perfect example of the fact that search relevance isn’t always straightforward, nor is it simple.

In this article, we’re going to elaborate on search relevance in SEO, so you’ll have a better understanding of the concept and can move forward in improving your SEO strategy.

Where to Start: What’s Relevant to Your Business?

Your definition and Google’s definition of relevance are sometimes two completely different things. This can make things complicated, even if the keyword you choose relates to your company, the search results may not come out the way you intended—and the outcome is what matters the most when it comes to SEO and business.

The most popular example you’ll find for this is the search for the keyword “CAD,” which is a common acronym in two separate industries.

In the engineering industry, CAD stands for computer-aided design. In the public safety industry, it stands for computer-aided defense.

When a user types in CAD when searching for computer-aided defense, they’ll likely encounter results for computer-aided design, since Google has already made up its mind about the search term’s relevance.

Because of this, when you choose your keywords, you must include context that’s only relevant to your business.

Next: Relevance to Your Funnel

Another component of relevance depends on user search intent and how it relates to your business funnel.

For example, a home water purifying company may try to rank for the key phrase “hard water.” However, when someone types in “hard water” the search results that come up may be content on the definition and effects of hard water, and how to soften it.

This makes the user intent purefly informational, especially if the home water purifying company hasn’t cornered the SEO term hard water. In turn, users won’t be led through a business’s funnel since they’re not actively searching for hard water purifying companies, or something to that effect.

Search relevance is to the marketing funnel what daily operations are to a business. In other words, you need to get specific with your key terms and context to reflect the user intent.

Now: Relevance to On-Page Content

This type of relevance is similar to marketing funnel relevance in how it works, but the concept behind it is a bit more distinct when dealing with niche characteristics.

For example, there are the terms “cost estimator” and “cost calculator.” There are plenty of businesses out there utilizing cost calculation tools such as real estate agencies, contractors, and car companies to name a few.

Then there are actual calculators, like the one you use on your phone.

Lastly: Relevance to Locality

When it comes to business pages, there’s location is often part of a user’s search intent. This especially true when you consider that most people search for specific businesses on their phone while they're on the move.

To compete in your local market, you have to leverage your locality. Google makes this easier for you by providing its Google My Business (GMB) platform and services such as Google Maps.

Ultimately, Google is the decider in locality relevance. So, if your business is far reaching, as in having a global objective, there may not be much you can do.

In every aspect, it all comes down to in-depth keyword research to uncover the necessary and unique context that Google will read correctly.

The bottom line is that when choosing the keywords you want to rank for, you need to make sure they reflect your business in the context most relevant to your products and services. Think about what you have to offer and how you can put that offering into a context that’s not just relevant to you, but Google as well.


Created by

Jason Khoo

Jason started freelancing in SEO back in college, sold his first agency, and now is founder of Zupo, which is an Orange County based SEO consulting agency helping construct powerful long term SEO strategies for our clients. Jason also enjoys multiple cups of tea a day, hiding away on weekends, catch







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