When Users Ask ‘Best’ Search Queries
More and more search queries use ‘best’ as a modifier. Take for example ‘best weight loss exercise’.
It’s not a surprise that we sometimes (or often) use ‘best’ as part of our search queries. We want to find the most desirable product or service out there. ‘Best electric guitar’ when we try to transition from acoustic to electric, ‘best wireless headphones’ when we felt wires are getting in the way, or ‘best driving school’ for an expressway to get our driver’s license.
This phrase has steadily gained traction and it’s not alone. ‘best hotel in vegas’ or ‘what is best for tooth pain’ share the same growth trajectory.
No wonder, business owners have been focusing on this term — or some equivalent superlative — to prop up their products or services. But talk is cheap, and Google doesn’t rely on such claims that appear on marketing collaterals such as websites or to grant prime search engine position.
Endorsements from friends are often, but not always, reliable. And if they’re not available, we go to Google and look for the best. We’ll soon find out that search results are often filled with listings from review sites like Yelp, forums like Quora, and other pages with user-generated content. However, some of these results may not be trustworthy and certain editorial verdict come with the disclosure that they make money from affiliate clicks to the listed products or services — a common practice with web hosting or mobile phone services.
It’s easy to say for marketers to say what they have is superior. Would you easily agree with someone saying they have the most effective sunscreen lotion or that their award-winning broadband service is best for you?
Why more people use ‘best’ search queries?
The next logical question would be: why people continue to insert ‘best’ within their search queries? It sounds obvious that we want instant answers, but these answers have to be appropriate and catered to our needs; nobody wants subpar service or product of inferior quality. Besides such reasons, there are inherent reasons why we likely include ‘best’ in Google queries.
We got too many options
There are so many products competing for our attention, and one way to prequalify them is to use ‘best’. But as we’ll find out, this term does not effectively filter out unwanted results.
We don’t know what we’re looking for
In many ways, using ‘best’ is an indicator of our lack of understanding of what we are looking for. The search intent for ‘best’ queries is often broad and vague. When you ask ‘when is the best time to visit Thailand’ do you actually mean cheapest, fewest crowd or most favorable weather conditions?
How Google judges ‘best’ queries when displaying search results
No doubt that the mainstream use of mobile devices has boosted the growth of ‘best’ related search terms. And it makes a lot of sense for Google to make that proximity an added dimension in customizing search results for that user.
Imagine if you’re looking for a good cup of coffee, and type ‘best coffee shop’. Google might have an idea of what are the best coffee shops based on Google My Business reviews. But if the five-star rated outlet is seven blocks away, it might display a four-star approved cappuccino shop that’s just a minute’s walk away.
Therefore, the ‘best’ as affirmed by many may not be what you’re looking for. You could settle for less that’s more accessible or affordable. And hopefully what Google displays for you is good enough.
How do we optimize for ‘best’ search queries?
Once upon a time, Google displays uniform search results for people regardless of their backgrounds. Where they are located, what’s their previous search query, what device they use, and so on. But that was a long time ago. Google has since learned how to customize search results that it’s likely you and your next-door neighbor will not be served the same set of Google results.
There’s no hard and fast rule in optimizing such search queries. After all, it’s a broad term that will yield subjective judgment and varying opinions.
Asking what’s the best verse in the Bible might elicit different results depending on who you ask. So one way to look at optimizing for ‘best’ queries is to consider different perspectives. Does the intent of the query equate to ‘most popular Bible verse’, ‘best Bible verse for grieving people’ or ‘best Bible verse about faith’? In this context, content should cover varying intents and user backgrounds. We can categorize these best Bible verses accordingly: Best Bible Verse for Hopeless, Healing, Kindness, and so on.
Correspond to intent
You’ve probably noticed on hotel aggregator sites that there are various control levers and filter options enabled for the user. That’s because they can’t easily figure out the intent of a user merely entering ‘the best hotel’ query. They allow filtering of price, features, star rating, and so on. So, add a content section that focuses on certain decision factor as if it answers ‘Best hotel for honeymooners’, ‘Best hotel for families with young children’ or ‘Best hotel for backpackers’. But don’t stop there. Support these sections with features that validate such claims. For example, this hotel is best for backpackers because its price range is affordable, is located next to public transport, or close to cheap food options.
Highlight the best features
Claiming your product or business is best without support is straight-up bragging with no substance. If you are an anti-virus maker, it might be that it covers protection beyond viruses and Trojan horses, but also guards against phishing and identity theft. It has no record of privacy violations, unlike its competitors. It has received awards from reputable entities. Its customer support is available 24/7 and offers a 60-day risk-free trial. So even if you don’t claim to be the best, your narrative implies that you’re that best anti-virus software users should try.
Use alternative synonyms
‘Best’ is not only vague, but it’s also abused and overused. So you don’t have to be limited to this term just because people use it as a search query modifier. There are alternative terms that might be closer to a user’s search intent: long-lasting, affordable, highest-rated, free, and so on. Google has become more clever that a page doesn’t have to emphasize ‘best’ for Google to figure out it also covers the same theme.