Galaxy-Brain SEO: the New Way to Take Command of Your Universe

If you’re paying attention, you’ve heard a lot of recent talk about “user-first” SEO – at least, when you’re not distracted by thinking about how SGE is going to ruin the SERPs.

So what does “user-first SEO” mean on a strategic and tactical level?

On a strategic level, it means keywords should no longer be your primary focus – instead, your focus should be on users and what’s most important to them along the customer journey.

On a tactical level, it means expanding your SEO view beyond Google and keyword tools and optimizing your brand’s presence on the different properties (galaxies) within the user’s universe.


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Let’s take a closer look at each of these ideas.

Shift your SEO focus from keywords to users

As my colleague Adam Tanguay laid out so clearly in a recent Search Engine Land column, even Google is telling SEOs that it’s not about keywords anymore. In this AI era, users are craving real, authentic perspectives from actual human beings, and Google is valuing those perspectives highly in the SERP.

Moreover, successful SEO strategy these days expands your lens from a primary keyword to all kinds of related topics that come up in the user’s journey – for instance, if your business is real estate, you can talk about how to find the right mortgage broker, or about the kinds of research families need to do to determine whether a community is a good fit for their school-aged kids.

Most SEOs I know still frequently hear “we want to rank for {keyword}” as a goal or directive from clients or executives. But in 2024, keywords need to be reframed as a mechanism, not an outcome – or, put another way, a means to the end goal of establishing a brand as a solution at every point in a user’s journey. It might not necessarily be an easy shift; keyword ranking and volume are much easier to quantify than authority and expertise, for one thing. But authority and expertise (again, even Google is saying this) are what you should aim to establish.

Find the right galaxies and stake your claim

In past years, SEOs would take a keyword and go deep – blog posts, a guide, a hub page, etc. We kept it pretty top-of-funnel and informational and scoured the weeds for keyword variations that would get us incremental engagement on Google.

Now, our initiatives should be based on building E-E-A-T both on- and off-platform, on places like Reddit, Quora, TikTok (assuming it survives the scrutiny of the U.S. government), and user forums. Leverage social media, performance PR, and strategic outreach to get full distribution of your content and ideas – you can and should build your brand in as many places as possible, not just your owned media.

The best part of this: Google is pulling more and more of that content into the SERPs (maybe even too much), which means you can build your presence on Google by focusing elsewhere.

It’s also not just about educating the user, since that’s only part of the purchasing journey. Build ownership of the full topic by, as mentioned above, finding related topics that address questions users will have on their journey. Create case studies and customer stories to establish proof of expertise to lock your brand into the user’s consideration set. 

Remember, if you’re executing initiatives to focus on the user, that means you should include content that engages the user at each step of their path to conversion.

Wrapping up

This is a significant mindset shift – in combination with the rollout of SGE, we’re in one of the most transitional phases I’ve experienced in SEO. If you’re having trouble staying grounded, know that eventually, all the efforts I just described will bear fruit in places like increased brand search volume and associated on-site conversions – and might just get you a raise.

If you’re interested in chatting about how we’re helping our clients achieve successful pivots in their SEO campaigns, reach out to start a conversation.

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