Traditional Keyword Research: Rethinking Strategies for SEO Success

Marketing professionals are well-versed in the importance of keyword research and the wealth of benefits it brings.

The truth of the matter is that keyword research is shifted beyond looking solely at monthly search volume and is instead taking into consideration how the customer thinks.

In this post, we’ll uncover the top keyword research strategies currently driving measurable results and the step-by-step approach to improving your site’s position in the SERPs.

Chelsea Alves

Marketing professionals are well-versed in the importance of keyword research and the wealth of benefits it brings.

Do it correctly, and your website may find itself ranking at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs), increasing visibility and potential for conversions.

If you’re not evolving how you conduct keyword research to keep up with what Google’s ranking algorithm favors, you risk falling below your competitors in the search results.

The truth of the matter is that traditional keyword research is dead. It’s shifted beyond looking solely at monthly search volume and is instead taking into consideration how the customer thinks. To find the best search terms to reach your target customers, you have to see things from their perspectives.

In this post, we’ll uncover the top keyword research strategies currently driving measurable results and the step-by-step approach to improve your site’s position in the SERPs.

How to think about search intent

Consider how you search for information. You likely use long-tail keyword phrases to find the information you need. For example, if you want to find a spinach artichoke dip recipe to make for a party, you’ll likely search for “best spinach artichoke dip recipe” or “easy spinach artichoke dip”.

In the past, SEO’s focus was less on searcher intent and more on finding keywords to compete for rank. Content ideas would be sourced from identifying the keyword phrase or search terms with the highest keyword search volume. Terms that didn’t have a decent search volume would be deemed as useless.

If we use a keyword research tool, such as SEMrush, we see that keywords like spinach artichoke dip, spinach artichoke dip recipe, and spinach and artichoke dip yield the highest monthly searches. We can also see these terms are highly competitive to rank for.

Semrush results

Historically, marketers would target these popular keywords in hopes of driving a large quantity of searchers to their website, despite the keyword difficulty. They’d be met with stiff competition and minimal opportunity to effectively reach their target customers.

It may seem counterintuitive, but your keyword strategy can’t focus too much on keywords or keyword metrics. This isn’t to say you should neglect factors such as keyword difficulty, but your main focus should be on how your potential customers search for your product or service.

The best way to determine how people search for your business is to turn to Google Search.

Using Google Search to your advantage for keyword ideas

Let’s revisit the previous example of getting your spinach artichoke dip recipe to rank higher in the SERPs and what keywords you should target. Google Search will auto-populate results based on real searches that have been done on Google. Google also considers:

  • The language of the query
  • The location a query is coming from
  • Trending interest in a query
  • Your past searches

The top terms Google autocompletes when typing “spinach artichoke dip” into the search box are as follows:

  • spinach artichoke dip recipe
  • spinach artichoke dip crock pot
  • spinach artichoke dip near me
  • spinach artichoke dip easy
  • spinach artichoke dip with fresh spinach

Google autocomplete

If we then complete the search, we will see the top-ranking pages for this search term include an image carousel, three mentions of the keyword phrase “best spinach artichoke dip recipe”, one mention of the term “easy spinach artichoke dip”, and two mentions of a crock pot spinach artichoke dip recipes. Many of these results align with Google’s autocomplete suggestions.

Spinach search results

From these results, we can gauge that most searchers seeking spinach artichoke dip recipes want to find recipes that are easy to make and considered to be the best. To match search intent, you’ll want to include the phrases “easy spinach artichoke dip” and “best spinach artichoke dip recipe” naturally within your piece of content.

We also can see each of the search results features high-quality images of what the end product looks like. Images are becoming an integral component in content marketing strategy, especially when they are needed to support content – such as in the case of recipes.

For this particular keyword search, visuals dominated the search results with the top result being an image carousel. Content creators would want to ensure the recipe landing page includes several high-resolution, well-lit photos.

How to effectively conduct keyword research step-by-step

Keyword research step-by-step

Google’s goal is to deliver relevant search results. The goal of keyword research should be to find phrases people search for on popular search engines, and then create valuable content that matches keyword intent. This begins with creating an effective keyword strategy. Follow these step-by-step instructions to guide your keyword research process.

Conduct keyword research

Use Google as a resource to determine relevant keywords and phrases your potential customers are using to find your website. Look first at the keyword suggestions that appear when you type in the phrase in the search bar. Make note of these seed keywords. Seed keywords are keywords you can use as the starting point in your keyword research process to discover more applicable keywords.

Complete search intent classification

Once you complete a search, you’ll then see the top results that Google believes most closely match your search intent. Look at the results on the first 2-3 pages and identify any commonalities in the results delivered. Count the number of occurrences of each intent that you see.

For example, if you search windshield wipers, you’ll see the following number of occurrences for each intent on the first three pages of the search results:

  • Best/best rated: 4
  • Replacement: 4
  • Brand name: 13
  • Blade size: 2
  • FAQs: 1

Bucket together the similar themes of intent you see

Identify top similar themes you can use to create a list of topics to include in your content. For example, circling back to windshield wiper results, many of the search results matched informational needs such as different types of blades, which blades were top-rated, and sizing.

You’d then want to create content that matches informational intent, which are searches performed to answer questions or learn something. This might include the different sizes available, different manufacturers you carry, answering common questions someone may ask when seeking replacement blades, and blades most favored by customers.

You would want to target keyword terms such as “blade size” and “best rated” in your content.

Leverage keyword research tools available to you

Leverage keyword research tools

There are a plethora of both free and paid keyword research SEO tools available to you. These SEO and keyword tools can help simplify your keyword research process by not only identifying long-tail keywords customers are using to find your product or service, but also revealing key metrics such as conversion rates, keyword difficulty, and competition levels.

Google Search Console is a free SEO tool aimed at existing content. It can help you identify optimization opportunities within your content by highlighting the keywords and phrases from which you’re currently getting traffic. You can use this information to strategize how to drive more organic traffic and pinpoint new potential keyword ideas.

Clearscope is a paid keyword tool aimed at content creation. It helps you produce content that’s highly relevant to what people are searching for. It also helps you produce higher-quality content through a grading tool, finding the most relevant terms to inject naturally into the content, identifying content gaps, and more.

Whether using a paid or a free tool, both can help seamlessly scale your search engine optimization and content marketing efforts.

Concluding thoughts

Keyword research, much like Google’s search ranking algorithm, is subject to constant change; this means that best practices are also ever-shifting. Digital marketers must continuously fine-tune their content marketing, keyword research, and SEO strategy to stay up-to-date with current trends.

Having a firm understanding of the basics of keyword research is a good place to start. Then, revise and optimize your strategy based on methods like the ones described above. Consider the following takeaways as you move forward with identifying the best keyword opportunities for your business.

  • Ensure your content matches the search intent of the query to provide the best user experience possible.
  • Use Google autocomplete suggestions as indicators of searcher intent.
  • Remember that relying on keyword volume is no longer indicative of the size of the opportunity.
  • Use long-tail keywords, as they capture head topic rankings and have less keyword competition.
  • Don’t forget to look at search engine results on the second and third page too.
  • Leverage a paid or free tool to do the work for you.
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