Searcher Task Accomplishment (STA) is the fancier way of saying on-page and on-site SEO together, a term which was first coined by Rand Fishkin (the co-founder of Moz).
You’ve probably heard the term Search Intent (aka Keyword Intent, User Intent) before which signifies the practice of a single page optimization that does match up to the searcher’s expectation.
What distinguishes STA from “Search Intent” is that the STA is about keyword optimization of your whole website or blog. Which brings more authority, higher rankings, and conversion.
It’s often an overlooked SEO strategy and if done in the correct way it can bring you spectacular search rankings and will also allow you to beat some of the toughest competitors in your target market.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through all the necessary steps to apply STA on your new or existing blog.
So without any further ado, let’s jump right in.
What is the Searcher Task Accomplishment?
Searcher Task Accomplishment or STA is a technique of optimizing or writing your blog post on a particular keyword (topic) with a goal first approach.
Here “GOAL” is signifying going beyong the searcher’s intent.
This means when a searcher search for a particular keyword to solve a particular problem it might lead to solving another problem connected with the initial query.
An Intent First Approach could be narrow at times as it has a tendency of ignoring the underlying goals of a particular query. But a Task Accomplishment Approach takes both factors into account.
This is where Searcher Task Accomplishment replaces “Search Intent Optimization”.
Now the following question comes in…
Why do you Need to Comply with STA?
As Google is becoming sophisticated day by day their search criteria have evolved to a large degree.
Today Google takes lots of engagement metrics into account to identify sites of the highest quality.
Even if your content satisfies the searcher intent for the initial query, Google couldn’t give you the highest rewards if your article is unable to solve or satisfy the user’s additional needs.
Alas! Then what are those additional needs that your page requires even after satisfying the user intent?
To impart this idea to your mind…
A searcher is searching using the term “Photography for Beginners”.
She selects a result, lands on the page, and finds the content helpful but then she discovers a lot of other things that come with Photography that everyone needs to know to be a professional photographer.
After the searcher landed on the “photography for beginners” page he discovered that it’s also necessary to learn about…
Composition, Visual Weight, Crop Factor, Reading Histograms, Post Processing of Images, Types of Photography, and the list goes on.
The tricky part is that:
If your site doesn’t cover enough of these additional topics that every serious photographer needs, the visitor will come back to Google and will enter another search query to learn the additional needs to fulfill their goals.
Hence, in this particular search behavior, Google will assume that your site is not topically optimized enough and the next time when someone will search for the same query Google might show another article from a different blog that has more topical authority than yours.
BUT if your site covers those additional goals, they’ll click on the internal links that go to those relevant posts, will spend more time reading the articles, and will stick around your website to learn those extra skills.
AND when Google sees this kind of engagement (clicking on relevant internal links) they assume that this website is providing value beyond the searcher’s expectation.
Now, the action part of STA comes in to implement on your website.
6 Stages of Searcher Task Accomplishment (STA Optimization)
Fishkin is explaining Searcher Task Accomplishment in a very comprehensible manner by visualizing them in 6 steps.
The steps he mentioned are the following:
- Expression of Need: The user puts a Query on Google.
- Underlying Goals: What the user is trying to achieve?
- Evaluation of Results: The user reads the titles and snippets on the SERP.
- Selection: The user selects a result that seemingly will meet her expectation.
- Evaluation of Task Completion: The user skims the page content to evaluate whether the content meets her demand.
- Discovery of Additional Needs: While reading through the content she discovers many additional topics and needs to learn further.
Let’s delve deeper into each of these to apply STA on your blog.
How to Apply STA on Your Blog [Step-by-Step]
#1. Expression of Need & Underlying Goals: Keyword Research
I’ve conjoined these two stages together because they come under a thorough keyword research process. I mean they are very closely related and almost act like a single entity.
First off, the Expression of Need is implying the targeted keyword you want your page to primarily rank for.
Now, all you need to do is put your primary keyword on a keyword research tool and take note of all the relevant keywords that are essential to cover on that topic.
For example, if your primary keyword (targeted keyword) is “Macro Photography” you’ll take related keywords and phrases like…
What is Macro Photography
Best Lens for Macro Photography
Depth of Field
DSLR vs Mirrorless for Macro Photography, etc.
The thing is, you’ll cover AtoZ that one must need to master this specific kind of photography.
The thing that you need to pay heed is the keyword “Macro Photography” is the Expression of Need. The user knows or aware of the term but isn’t familiar enough with the related terms to start mastering it.
But what about the Underlying Goals?
As I already discussed above, the terms that are related to the head term “Macro Photography” are the Underlying Goals of the searcher (they indicate the goals of the searcher).
Now your next job is to write an in-depth post on Macro Photography by taking all the necessary factors into account to make it a complete and definitive guide.
Do self-validate that the visitor won’t feel like to read another guide on Macro Photography.
If she hit the back button just after a few seconds…
…You lost in the very first stage of Searcher Task Accomplishment, just forget about help her accomplish additional needs.
The next thing is to craft compeling meta data to optimize your content for the next two stages of STA.
#2. Evaluation of Results & Selection: Meta Information
The Evaluation of Results is the act of scanning the SERP to find the best possible result which looks somewhat promising.
And the moment when a user clicks on a result is called the “Selection”.
The searcher will determine this with the help of the Meta Description and Title Tag (aka SEO Title).
To get maximum result from these two factors of Searcher Task Accomplishment you’ll need to craft compeling Meta Descriptions and Title Tags.
Here are some quick tips to produce good results:
7 Tips to Craft Compeling Title Tags
- Keep your title tag short within 60 characters (truncated titles can’t convey the full message or they are simply just less expressive).
- Include your targeted keyword
- Use adjectives or power words (e.g. Useful, Best, Top, Extremely, Hack, etc.).
- Use numbers (in numerical value, not in words) when you write a listicle or list-form article. With that, try to use odd numbers for a higher click-through rate (CTA).
- Mention the Year (e.g. 2020 Updated, for the Year 2020, etc.).
- Capitalize the first letter of most words except some words which are articles, prepositions, etc. or you can just use this Title Case Converter by Saijo George.
- Make sure your SEO Title is concise. The conciseness is necessary because you have to express the core discussion point of the article in a few words. Don’t let them miss such a nugget.
Now, let’s move on to the Meta Description.
5 Tips to Craft Compeling Meta Descriptions
Meta Description is another opportunity to express your title tag even further. It increases the probability of click-throughs of your results in SERPs.
- Make sure the meta description is concise, convincing, and clearly expressing the thing the searcher going to learn or accomplish.
- If possible, start your page description with a verb. It acts like a Call to Action (CTA).
- Make sure the description is under 120 characters including spaces.
- Don’t disclose too much information in your meta description. Make them think and curious to click on your link.
- Try to use adjectives or power words (yes, not only on Title Tags) to make it sound compeling.
#3. Evaluation of Task Completion: Content Presentation
Evaluation of Task Completion signifies the act of scanning or skimming your content by the searcher.
A searcher typically does this to find out whether the content is satisfying her needs, answering her questions, clearing up her doubts, solving her problems, or not. And if your content is the same as she expected, she’ll stay on your site to continue reading your content.
Now, all you need to do is make your content skim friendly.
This can be achieved in five easy steps:
Organizing your content in the correct way is the most important factor to make it skim friendly.
The following checklist will allow the searcher to evaluate their task completion even before they start reading your content.
1. Heading Tags Order
Using the the correct heading tags order is very crucial when it comes to organizing your blog contents. It helps your readers to scheme your content much more conveniently.
Do keep in mind:
H2 is the subheading of H1, H3 is of H2, H4 is of H3, H5 is of H4, H6 is of H5.
Just make use of the subheadings when you need to break down a set of child aspects of a parent aspect.
2. Small Paragraphs
Write small paragraphs as well as sentences. Try to write paragraphs with no more than 3-4 sentences long.
3. Bulleted or Numbered List
Use a bulleted or numbered list to highlight important points.
4. Bold and Italic Text
Use bold and italic to make important text standout from the rest.
5. In-Page Navigation
In-page navigation (aka Jump to Links) or Table of Contents (TOC) is another great way to let your visitor skim through the content. It also helps the visitor to jump right on to her pain point.
If you still don’t know what a TOC is…
It is a method of linking to specific HTML elements of a webpage to allow quick navigation of the various aspects (subtopic) of a single topic.
On WordPress, this can easily be done using a Table of Contents plugin. For quick implementation, you can install the Easy Table of Contents plugin on your blog. The plugin has no fuss, therefore easy to use.
Content Depth and Breadth
Content Depth and Content Breadth (a more technical way of referring to In-depth content) may sound like rocket science but in fact, it’s pretty simple.
Content Depth means how many subtopics (relevant) you have covered in your blog post. These could be sometimes sub subtopics as well (The subtopics of the subtopics).
Content Breadth means the level of detail you are providing in each of the subtopics and sub subtopics.
Take both breadth and depth into account because it satisfies the searcher’s intent. When your post possesses both of these qualities it almost becomes unbeatable by the competitors.
Now, the all-important part comes which makes STA a very different kind of SEO strategy (probably the smartest) which is solving your visitor’s additional needs.
#4. Discovery of Additional Needs: Topical Optimization
As I already told you above that the discovery of additional needs is what the user discovers (didn’t aware of that before visiting your content) different facets of the topics while she reads the content.
It is an approach you need to take to educate your readers holistically on a particular subject matter.
To put this into action you need to topically optimize your website content. And to topically optimize your content you need to leverage internal linking (a part of On-Site SEO) on your website.
And the structure which will help you acheive this is…
It is an Information Architecture (IA) used in Content Marketing to internal link between relevant contents.
The most accurate way of implementing this site structure is by using a Sales Funnel approach.
Before get in the groove…
Let me introduce you with the stages of a Sales Funnel.
A basic Sales Funnel has 4 different stages:
See how the funneling formula AIDA (an abbreviation or mnemonic device of a Sales Funnel) can be applied to your blog contents.
At this stage of the funnel, the customer or the searcher is aware of the term, phrase, or product name but doesn’t know what exactly it is.
This is purely about educating your visitors or customers.
The queries (or keywords) of this stage that get typed into a search engine are called “Informational Query“. The searcher doesn’t have any intention of purchasing something behind these queries. In this stage, she just wants to educate herself.
The contents you write based on the keywords under this funnel are called Top of the Funnel Contents.
At this stage of the funnel, the searcher is not only aware of the term or phrase but also has a good understanding of the basics.
It is purely about educating your readers further beyond the basics.
This stage has to deal with creating interest among your prospects (ideal customers) by further educating on a product or about a particular topic. The interest is typically created with the features of a product, benefits of a product, or why they might need such a product with that specific feature or benefit, etcetera.
The queries of this stage that get typed into a search engine are also called “Informational Query“. They may be a bit different than the queries that come under the “Awareness” stage but still, there’s no buying intent.
The keywords and phrases can be like:
iPhone 11 Pro Specification
Mirrorless Camera Advantages, or Pros and Cons
Benefits of Cloud Computing
The contents you write based on the keywords under this funnel are called Middle of the Funnel Contents.
At this stage of the funnel, the searcher has some buying intent but still not ready to buy.
The decision phase is all about helping your leads (potential customers) to decide which product to buy or why a particular product is better than the other (based on their needs).
The queries that come under this phase are called “Commercial Investigation Query“. For example:
iPhones 11 vs iPhone 11 Pro
Huawei P30 Pro vs Pixel 4
Best DSLR Cameras for Beginners
Top 10 WordPress Plugins for Blogs
The contents that come under this stage of the funnel are called Bottom of the Funnel Contents.
At this stage of the funnel, the searcher or visitor has purchase intent. He has already decided on his product and is ready to buy it.
The phase is all about giving your visitors a platform to immediately buy something
The queries that come under this phase are called “Transactional Query“. For example:
iPhone 11 Buy Online
Pop Up Toaster Buy Now
Galaxy S20 Cheapest
MacBook Pro Buy on EMI
Please do note that this stage usually applies to only E-Commerce websites or pages (basically you don’t need any textual content to persuade them). But still, if you have a blog (where you don’t sell physical products) and you sell some ebooks, online courses, etc. you can make beautiful “Landing Pages” to quickly convert them into customers.
The contents or webpages that come under this stage of the funnel are called Bottom of the Funnel Content.
SIDENOTE: In a blog where you promote only affiliate products the Decision stage can be considered as the Action stage (although it’s not theoretically) since you cannot go beyond this extent. And you end up making money when someone buys something by following your affiliate link (while the actual Action is taken on someone else’s site).
Now, you know what a Sales Funnel is and it’s relationship with Content Marketing.
Let’s move on to the action steps of applying a Funnel approach on a Hub and Spoke content structure.
How to Apply Hub and Spoke Structure: The Golden Nugget of STA
A Hub Page is an information-rich page with lots of subtopics around a particular broad topic.
And the Spoke signifies the pages that are created around those subtopics to extensively discuss them. The pages about those subtopics are called supporting pages or child pages.
Now pick a head keyword (seed keyword) and write a ridiculously long-form post (Hub Page) by including a lot of subtopics around that particular head keyword. You can go as high as 10,000 words or even more.
I’ve taken the head keyword “How to Start a Blog”. And I’m going to discuss almost every necessary factors and topics to start a profesional blogging activity.
In this hub page I’ll introduce them with the following related topics:
What is Blogging
Choosing a Domain Name
Buying a Domain Name
What is a CMS
See how the topics related to blogging can be extensively discussed with a number of supporting articles.
To give you a suitable example to effectively make use of the Hub and Spoke Structure…
By taking the terms “Blogging Platforms” and “Keyword Research” into account, I can craft child posts like the following:
Blogging Platforms>>How to Choose the Best Blogging Platform>>Free vs Paid Blogging Platforms>>10 Best Blogging Platforms in 2020
Here’s how the sales funnel reflects:
- How to Choose the Best Blogging Platform > Interest or Middle of the Funnel
- Free vs Paid Blogging Platforms > Decision or Bottom of the Funnel
- 10 Best Blogging Platforms in 2020 > Decision or Bottom of the Funnel
To the tidbit Keyword Research I can connect the following articles:
Keyword Research>>How to do Keyword Research>>SEMrush Review>>Ahrefs vs SEMrush>>10 Best Keyword Research Tools
See the funnel manifestation:
- How to do Keyword Research > Awareness or Top of the Funnel
- SEMrush Review > Interest or Middle of the Funnel
- Ahrefs vs SEMrush > Decision or Bottom of the Funnel
- 10 Best Keyword Research Tools > Decision or Bottom of the Funnel
Do Internal Link to Make it Work
This Hub and Spoke Structure will work when you internal link between the hub and spoke pages in the right way. This is also where you’ll find all of the On-Page SEO factors gets a twist and feels more like an On-Site SEO strategy (in fact it actually is!).
See how you can make it work:
Whenever you write a supporting article based on a subtopic or a term that you’ve used in your Hub Page, do link back to each other. From the Hub Page to the Child Page and from the Child Page to the Hub Page.
Yes, this is the correct way of internal linking and building authority as well.
Now, your site has fully optimized for Searcher Task Accomplishment…
From now on when a user lands on a page she’ll discover almost all the relevant topics connected with her initial search intent. She’ll not have to go to another site to educate her further. Eventually, it results in more Time on Site, reduced Bounce Rate, and higher Internal Link click-throughs. And all of these factors cause higher search rankings a well.
ATTENTION: When you write top of the funnel contents don’t try to hard-sell your products. Write as if you have not any interest in selling products to your readers. On Middle of the Funnel contents, write as if you have some care for your readers to point them out the right solutions for their pain points. On Bottom of the Funnel contents, endeavor to convince your readers to buy a specific product according to their needs (But still don’t try to deceive them. Just be bona fide).
Just do keep in mind the following rules every time you start writing content:
- If your primary keyword is “Informational”, write like a charity.
- If your primary keyword is “Commercial Investigation”, write like a Customer or Marketer (choose it wisely).
- If your primary keyword is “Transactional”, write like a Sales Person (In terms of E-Commerce Page and Landing Page).
What tactics do you use to get higher search rankings? Do let us know.