Creating content without keyword research doesn’t pay off. You’ll lose a lot of time and website traffic. Keyword research is a natural part of content creation. You’ll be forced to do it anyway. It guides you what people search for, who are your competitors and how hard is to compete with them. It’s a navigation, an extremely useful navigation.
Keyword research recently became a widely discussed topic. These are the main reasons why:
1. Google Keyword Planner changes
Last year’s changes in Google Keyword Planner (GKP) caused a bit of an earthquake on the keyword research tools market. GKP became worthless for many users. This was, and still is, a great opportunity for specialized tools to acquire new customers. However, some of them depended on Google API and weren’t able to continue providing exact data anymore.
2. Keyword optimization over user engagement
Over the last years, content creators did keyword research only to find the keywords with high search volumes. They stuffed them into content to trick search engine algorithms. This no longer helps!
3. Overall keyword research relevancy
Based on the previous point, you could ask us, whether keyword research is still important. Definitely! Even more than ever. It’s a complex part of SEO. Picking meaningful keywords alongside with a perfect content flow and user engagement takes more effort than copy/pasting.
How NOT to do keyword research
This time, we’ll start from the opposite side. Here’s how not to do keyword research.
Content packed with the “best” keywords won’t help you anymore.
Don’t create content on purpose. Users will unveil it. Moreover, search engine algorithms have improved. For example, Google works with context. It means you don’t need to use exact keywords. You can focus on content flow instead.
Newbies and impatient content creators do this:
- Select a keyword that might be searched.
- Check its search volume in Google Keyword Planner or any other keyword research tool while not thinking about other metrics.
- Pick one or a few keywords they somehow think are okay and put them into the heading, sub-headings, every paragraph and CTA.
The fact is, they’re wrong! On the other hand, there’s more space for you to make quality research and profit from that.
Another mistake is data misinterpretation. A common example is “Competition” score in Google Keyword Planner. There’s a confusion between the metric and keyword competition, so-called keyword SEO difficulty. The competition in GKP isn’t overall competition of the keyword. It doesn’t represent how hard it’s to rank for that keyword. It’s only the level of competition in Google AdWords.
A misstep we have to mention is when people find only one niche keyword, not the niche/main seed keyword topics. Let’s say you write a food blog about pizza, so “pizza” could be your first (incorrect) niche keyword.
These are just a few of related keyword suggestions to “pizza”. They’re barely relevant for a food blog, aren’t they?
How to find more niche topics
We have to find more related topics that are appealing to readers of pizza food blogs. How to do so? There are multiple ways to find useful topic ideas:
- other blogs
- Google Autocomplete
- keyword research tools
For example, readers may search also for:
- how to make pizza
- types of pizza
- where did pizza originate
- history of pizza
To keep it organized, write down the topics. Do research for them. You’ll find many relevant keywords. The more keywords you have, the better you can analyze and pick the valuable ones. Be aware, you should end up optimizing for a couple of keywords, not dozens. You can track the topics by creating lists in keyword research tools.
Test the potential of a keyword you currently don’t rank for in Google AdWords campaign. Try to test various keyword matches to get more ideas for long tail keywords.
LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are semantically related to the main seed keyword. They are a great add-on to keyword research. Moreover, they aren’t based on any SEO metric. LSI keywords change all the time based on the current trend. Adding semantic keywords to content is SEO friendly. These keywords help Google to understand your content easier. You can use LSIGraph to generate a bunch of beneficial keyword ideas.
Search volume, long tail keywords and keyword difficulty
Long tail keywords with high search volumes and low keyword difficulty – an ideal combination of three biggest buzzwords of keyword research.
How about long tail keywords vs. search volumes?
Long tail keywords are the beginning of success. Someone might love to rank #1 for the keyword “pizza” with more than 4 million of monthly searches globally. Well, we wouldn’t. Look at the SERP for this keyword.
It wouldn’t make sense to be there unless you compete with Pizza Hut or Dominos. We know these keywords are very attractive but they represent only a few of searches all across the world. The majority of searches are long tail queries.
Long tail keywords have lower search volumes but there are thousands that represent an opportunity for you. Count them up and you’ll see their enormous potential.
On top of that, users who find you via long tail keywords will engage with your content a lot more and their conversion rates are higher. It’s because their query is specific enough to find relevant results. And you want to be on top of those relevant results.
The biggest con of long tail keywords is search volume. It’s sometimes about 100 searches per month. You need to find the right balance and that’s why there’s keyword difficulty and other metrics to help.
Once you understand the power of long tail keywords, you’ll need to evaluate what would it take to rank for them. Keyword difficulty or keyword SEO difficulty is a very useful metric for keyword research. It’s usually indicated on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher the score is, the harder it is to optimize for the keyword.
Keyword difficulties may vary. It can happen you get score 30 in one tool and 50 in another. It’s because of the calculation can be based on various ranking factors. On the other hand, it’s partly caused by the fact that no one honestly knows how Google exactly rank websites.
Generally, it’s easier to rank for long tail keywords. It’s a promising start. If you build authority and your score is high enough, you can start ranking for keywords with a higher search volume and difficulty.
When talking about the keyword difficulty, we are often asked questions such as:
“The green SEO difficulty means that if I use the keyword I will rank on the first position, right?”
“I’ve implemented low difficulty keywords but my rankings don’t improve, why?”
The answer is “the real keyword difficulty”. It’s your unique on-page and off-page SEO skills. Keyword optimization is only a part of it. It’s a combination of finding the right audience, on-page and technical SEO, content quality, user engagement, link building and other off-page SEO activities.
What are they? Let’s start with search volume trend which helps you to evaluate the potential of the keyword throughout a year. Then, there’s average CPC (cost per click) in paid advertising and overall level of PPC (pay per click) advertising. These are metrics related to the keyword itself.
Now, it’s time for competitive analysis. This a necessary element of keyword research. Never skip competitive analysis, i.e. SERP analysis.
Well-known Moz metrics are one of the widely used keyword research metrics all over the world. You can get them in various ways. They have a dedicated browser extension called MozBar, where you can see PA (Page Authority), DA (Domain Authority) and the number of links in the free account.