Blog Series

Getting Back to the Roots of Keyword Research

The most recent negative SEO topic is that “Keyword Research is Dead!”. It really hasn't though, it has just changed... quite a bit. 

Not only is it not dead, but it's still a very important element of online visibility. 

How Keyword Research has changed (or, how Google have made it more difficult):
  • The keyword data we once had is gone with keyword (not provided) and encrypted search. Although we can still pull keyword data from the Google Search Console's analytics report, we can’t match conversions or onsite activity to these specific keywords. 
  • Google’s Hummingbird updates focus on semantic search and Google is now interpreting the meaning and intent behind search queries instead of just focusing on keyword relevance. It is no longer a case of just over-optimising a page for a given keyword, instead we have to make sure we're answering questions.
  • Statistics from Google Keyword Planner is questionable. (See a recent Moz Whiteboard Friday about how the Google keyword tool probably hides data in favour of commercial keywords.) So we can only place so much weight to it- even if it is still the starting point. 

  • The days of building separate landing pages for different variants of the same word are gone. Google knows that for example that “House” and “Home” mean the same thing or “Car” or “Motor” are the same. Therefore, we need to start grouping keywords by search intent.
Keyword Research isn’t really dead.

However, keyword research is not dead. Keywords and search queries are at the heart of search at the end of the day. Keywords and search queries are at the heart of search at the end of the day. Keyword research guides us in volume, interest and demand of products/services/queries that your consumers are using to find businesses like yours. We still need to determine what information our target market and customers are searching for, and how to prioritise content to match such queries.

However, the approach to keyword research is no longer just a list of keywords, the search volume beside it followed by a target page.

We need to think of the search queries surrounding the consumer journey and sales funnel. It is easy to think of the final search query keywords and landing page. For example, if you are an online travel agent and offer “family holidays to the Red Sea”, keyword research and content strategies has gone beyond just focusing on this one page and short tail keywords surrounding it. We need to consider the journey searchers may take to decide to go on holiday to Egypt. We need to be at every stage of consideration. 

The following queries may have been asked:

search funnel

How do we research and provide meaningful data behind each funnel stage?

At the start of any project, I always start keyword research for SEO with Google Keyword Planner (despite how untrustworthy it may or may not be).

However, these types of long tail search queries may not always have the search volume behind then in the Google Keyword Planner. This is generally the nature of long tail keywords as there are various ways the same question can be worded. So how do we assign data to content answering long tail search queries? Simple actions such as scraping forums to see what people are asking about the products offered by your business (i.e Holidays to Egypt), using Google auto-suggest or just simply speaking to the actual staff communicating with customers to discover what they are being asked.

So keyword research isn't dead, it has just moved beyond basic practices of a list of short tail keywords, their search volume and target pages. SEO specialists have to become more resourceful to pull the data to inform their content strategies, the data that Google is making harder to access. Despite all of this, the Google Keyword Planner still to the day shows us the simple demand for certain products and services and the types of words they are using.

Which is why I say... long live keyword research. 

Featured image: Aaron Escobar