4 Steps to Modern Keyword Research in 2015

Google’s Hummingbird update created a lot of anxiety, but ultimately, it could be a good thing for the industry, because it frees us from the tyranny of competing for a limited number of top keywords. Essentially, the role of the Hummingbird algorithm is to better answer those longer-tail queries users are typing in Google. If your pages are optimized for these more conversational queries, you have a better chance of top rankings. Try a new, niche-based approach to keywords, which allows you to double or even triple the list of profitable keywords in your SEO arsenal.

This article explains the four steps for doing keyword research the modern way, using SEO PowerSuite or other tools.

1. Ideas:

Most search marketers simply think of the main keywords related to their businesses, plop them into a tool like Google Keyword Planner, and then run with the keyword list it delivers. However, search habits vary widely: Searchers may use hundreds of different word combinations to describe the same thing, so this tactic omits hundreds of potentially profitable keywords.

Instead, try a more creative, ideas-based approach to your research. For example, if you hear the phrase office furniture, some associations you may have are chairs, tables, equipment, cubicles, or office design.

But none of those associations will show up in Google Keyword Planner, because it shows you only the most closely related search terms. To get ideas based on these niche associations, first use your brain: Come up with as many associations that you can. Check competitors’ sites and blogs. You’ll be able to find more keyword ideas and also spot if they target just the key phrases from the Google Keyword Planner or if they have a smart keyword strategy.

Next, turn to multiple research methods to come up with still more niche keyword ideas:

  • Related searches in Google, Bing, and Yahoo
  • Google auto-complete
  • Yahoo Search Assist
  • Competition Research harvests keywords from your top-ranking competitors’ meta tags
  • SEMRush provides keywords from its unique keyword database
  • Word Mixer shuffles the keywords you enter to build more variants of phrases
  • SEO PowerSuite’s Rank Tracker automates the search-engine suggestion process

Other good sources for keyword ideas include forum discussions, dictionaries and the thesaurus, and Wikipedia topic categories and articles related to your topic. The more research methods you use, the better. Each method will generate new suggestions.

2. Words:

Now it’s time to pick the keywords that are truly relevant. Go through the list and remove the terms that don’t seem very relevant to your product or service – even if a keyword tool said they were. Effective as they are, automated keyword research tools are not humans, so the results need to be evaluated by you.

Why not just use the Google Keyword Planner? Certainly, it’s quick and easy, but it can be misleading. For example, the average monthly searches metric is just a rough estimate, not an accurate indicator of search volume. As well, search volume can vary widely from month to month. For example, seasonal keywords like “Christmas gifts” may get 350,000 searches in December and 100 in June. Meanwhile, the competition metric reflects the number of advertisers bidding on that keyword; if you’re doing organic SEO, this metric can be pretty useless.

Instead, focus on longer, less popular keyword phrases. Those long-tail phrases don’t receive huge search volumes, but they are less competitive, so it’s easier for you to squeeze into the top 10. They tend to be more targeted and therefore better-converting. As a bonus, they already include the competitive short-tail words, so when you optimize for long-tail, you also optimize for the shorter, “head” words.

If you’re looking for keyword phrases that will convert, choose words that signal commercial intent, rather than a hunt for information. Look for quick-sale words including buy, coupon, discount, deal, cheap, or shipping. Product-description words that people use to find out more about the products they are already interested in include review, best, and top 10, as well as product categories, specific products, and brand names.

3. Analysis:

Now that you’ve developed a solid list of potential keywords and phrases, it’s time to do some analysis. Instead of relying on the old search-volume metric, use the more robust keyword effectiveness index (KEI) and Keyword difficulty score to see how hard it’ll be to rank for a keyword. These metrics take several niche-based factors into account, thus giving you an opportunity to prioritize your keywords based on their difficulty.

Additionally, you can detect keywords with higher commercial intent by looking at their estimated cost-per-click bids. Some keywords cost multiples more compared to other related ones. This means that more people compete for these words in Google AdWords, since they bring them more conversions and sales.

4. Competition:

To finalize your list of keywords, you need to understand how hard it will be to outrank competitors for each of them. This is the best way to evaluate your true opportunities.

Here are the factors that you need to check for within the top-ranking pages in the search results for your main keywords in Google:

  • Backlinks – Identify the backlinks to the search landing page. The search engines consider backlinks as votes for a certain page, so the more links your competitor has, the harder it may be to outrank this site.
  • On-page SEO – Evaluate the quality of on-page optimization of the competing pages by scanning their titles, descriptions, content, and internal link anchors.
  • Content – Users love unique and useful content – and so does Google. Inspect competitors’ page for quality content.
  • Domain authority – Finally, check the age of the competing domains, their Alexa rank, and their popularity in social media.

If you are just beginning your modern SEO strategy, you may want to remove all keywords that your competitors have ranked for, even if the KEI is good. With millions of sites competing for rankings for a given keyword, it will take you a while to rank high for the term. Also discard keywords and phrases with the worst KEI; these terms have both intense competition and low search volume, so optimizing for them is not worthwhile at this point.

Out of the remaining keywords, choose the ones with the best KEI. You should now have a list of lucrative, low-competition keywords that will bring you lots of conversions.

If you’re struggling with the research, let Rank Tracker easily find these keywords for you. For more information on how to use Rank Tracker to find the best-performing keywords and phrases, read our Ultimate Guide to Keyword Research with Rank Tracker. Happy hunting!


sps-logo* Sponsored content in collaboration with Link Assistant. Views expressed in this article are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect Search Engine Watch’s opinions.

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