SEO has changed a lot over the years. What worked 2 years ago might not work today. Voice search is emerging, site speed is important, the experts tell us that backlinks are everything, and then there’s the small matter of machine learning AI.
But what about keywords? Where do they fit into all this? Do they still matter? Is “keyword density” even a thing still?
Keywords still matter. Google’s algorithm still looks out for them, and they should still form the backbone of an online marketer’s SEO strategy. It’s just that they should no longer be the sole focus of your SEO or content marketing strategy.
In the early days of the Internet, it seemed like all we had to do to achieve top position in the SERPs was pick the right keywords and keyword density. Eric of My4hourworkweek.com did this and it worked well for him. It worked well for many people.
Times have changed though, and so has the Google algorithm. The SEO landscape is very different and Google won’t rank you if you focus just on keywords. But it will rank you very highly if you do your keyword research right and use it to improve your content marketing strategies.
This means that, yes, you still need to carry out that time-consuming keyword research thing you hate doing.
But it’s okay because this article is here to save you time and beef up your keyword research with expert level tips. You will improve your rankings and free up some time to work on other aspects of your SEO strategy.
Gather a List of Topics Related to Your Business
Think of different categories and topics that relate to your business. You don’t have to get too specific to begin with.
Organize the topics that you have brainstormed into different tabs in a Google sheet.
If your business sells babies goods, break down your topics by the type of products you sell. For example baby bike, baby walker, baby swing etc.
Use Google’s Keyword Planner
Next you will need to brainstorm keyword ideas. If we go back to the baby products example and take the topic “baby bike”, we could write down ideas such as kids bikes, balance bike, bike trailer, toddler bike, baby bike seat and child bike seat.
After this part, it’s impossible to go any further with expert keyword research without access to data. Everyone has their preferred keyword research tools, for this step we’ll use Google’s Keyword Planner.
Providing you have a Google Adwords account, you’ll be able to get started straight away. If you already have one set up, you’ll need to do that.
Once you’re logged into your account click on the tools button at the top right and then click “Keyword Planner”.
There are two key tools you can choose from:
- Find new keywords
- Get metrics and forecasts for your keywords
These two tools alone can draft thousands upon thousands of potential keywords for you.
Let’s take a look at the find new keywords tool:
The first thing you’ll be prompted for is a word, phrase or URL related to your business. To help you get the best results, use the keywords you previously brainstormed.
Once you’ve slotted in your word or phase, tap “Get Ideas.”
You’ll be taken to the Keyword Results page, which is where you’ll find potential keywords out of literally thousands of suggestions.
To whittle the suggestions down to the best ones, here are some important tools on the Keyword Results page:
- Keyword Text – this is where you tell Google Keyword Planner to always include a certain word or phrase in its keyword suggestions. For example, you might want “bike” included in all suggestions.
- Average Monthly Searches – Use this tool to filter out insanely popular keywords. Why? Because the last thing you want to do is try to rank for a keyword that’s already got a huge amount of competition. You can also use this tool to rule out keywords that aren’t popular enough.
- Competition – Use this tool to show you keywords that have either “High”, “Medium” or “Low” competition.
This is all you need for now as you get started, but the more you get into Google’s Keyword Tool, check out this article for in-depth strategies.
Use Google Related Searches To Understand User Intent
The great thing about Google is that it offers so many free tools that help you plot your keyword campaigns and track your performance (Google Analytics).
Google’s Related Searches isn’t a tool like their Keyword Planner. Instead, it’s just the the eight “related” search results that appear at the bottom of your search results.
For example, I just typed “best baby bike” into Google and at the bottom I got a further eight related searches, which included “best child bike seat 2017” and “baby bike seat 6 months”.
The first thing I can do with these related searches is copy and paste each one into my keyword research tool to see how popular they are.
Below you can see that the keyword “best baby bike” has a search volume of 30.
So far, so simple. But there’s more to Google’s Related Searches.
Since 2013, when Google updated Hummingbird, the search engine has been increasingly looking for the intent and context behind a search query. This means that, while keywords still matter, the overall content experience and strategy matters more.
Basically, Google matches up content with user intent. If you understand user intent, you can deliver top quality content that people are actually looking for while using the right keywords. Google’s Related Search helps you to understand the intent behind a search query.
Google will rank you for keywords in 2018, but only if you show them that you’re prepared to go the extra mile to understand your customers. The search engine giant has even said that “the future of search is to try to build the ultimate personal assistant.”
Research Question Keywords
With question keywords, you can rank on position zero in the SERPs.
What does this mean?
Position 0 has become the holy grail for businesses. It’s the featured snippet – the search result that appears at the top of the page before even position 1, and it’s always content that Google considers is the best response to a particular question.
Google say that any content that is a featured snippet has achieved position 0 because the search engine “automatically detects pages that answer the user’ question and displays a top result as a featured snippet in the search results.”
You need to research relevant question keywords before sprinkling them into in-depth content that provides the answers.
Below is another snippet that provides a birthday checklist.
What Google is ultimately looking to do is match the best content to the right user. If you bulk up your content with the right question keywords and then answer the question with in-depth, valuable answers, Google will put you in front of the right people.
Researching the questions is actually the easy bit. All you need to do is use forums or platforms like Reddit to find out what questions your customers are asking.
AnswerThePublic.com is also a great data mining tool. Below is all of the questions that this website found for “baby bike”.
It isn’t enough that you use one or two question keywords in your article, because people ask the same question in different ways.
When researching question keywords, always keep in mind the paths each customer takes to find your page. Consider the various adjectives and synonyms and do your research accordingly. Cover all angles and then pick 3-4 of the best question keywords to put in your article.
“Spy” On Your Competitors
Competitive keyword analysis is what all the big game players are doing and it’s a great way to get ahead in the SERPs.
But how on earth do you check out your competitor’s keywords? Like with so many things in life these day, there are tools for this.
Check out Wordstream Advisor that has a free Competitor Keywords Tool. All you need to do is put your competitors URL into the tool and it will generate new keywords for you to consider using in your own search marketing campaign.
SEMRush is an excellent keyword research tool, and it also has a competitive intelligence section that lets you find the keywords your rivals are ranking for. Search according to Domain or keyword and filter accordingly.
As an example I typed in the domain mothercare. You can see the keywords that it is currently ranking for and their positions in google.
Once you’ve found what your competitors are up to, simply reverse engineer it – provided the keywords are relevant to your content and user intent, of course.
Expert keyword research in 2018, then, is a lot different to what it was 10 years ago. From now on, start focusing on user intent, tie a strong content marketing campaign in with your SEO campaign and use tools to help you plot SERP domination.