When we say “SEO”, keyword research is probably one of the first things that comes to your mind. This is testament to its status as one of the cornerstones of search engine optimisation – that is, using popular search terms in your copy to allow that page to be indexed on Google.
It may sound simple enough, but in truth, the way in which you research and identify these keywords has changed massively since the practice first became mainstream. What you did back in 2010 simply isn’t enough to keep you competitive now.
Make sure your keyword research is worth your while by checking out our five top tips below on how to do keyword research in 2015.
The Adwords Keyword Tool now hides data, and the data it does provide can be a bit off – it doesn’t include non-commercial terms (check out the recent Whiteboard Friday from Moz’s Rand Fishkin) for more information on this).
For this reason, we all need to start being a bit more creative and looking a little further afield when it comes to selecting keywords. Good places to start are Google Suggest (the searches which appear under where you type in Google’s search box), related searches (appearing just above your search results), or try conducting customer and staff interviews to brainstorm ideas.
A few years ago, keywords needed to be included exactly as they were in your copy to give you a chance for ranking for them. For example, the keyword “plumber south London” would need to appear in your copy as: “plumber south London”. Not exactly the most natural sounding phrase is it?
Fast forward to 2015, and context plus semantics are a lot more important when it comes to rankings. Google will take into account the text around your keywords, so can pick up on what is being discussed, and index for this, without that exact keyword appearing. This is a good thing both for you and for customer experience – as long as you have a good idea of your topic, you don’t need to focus so stringently on exact keywords. You should rank naturally.
If the only metrics you take into account during keyword research are volume and popularity, you need to update your methods. A great place to start is to take a good look at your content strategy (the content you’re creating, why, and for whom), and start mapping your keywords against this.
Let us explain. User journeys, historical conversations and audience types all provide you with valuable data, illuminating what the most popular and effective keywords might be at each stage of the journey (for more information on this, check out this fantastic blogpost from ipullrank.
Continuing on from point two, keywords can now be much more easily and naturally inserted into copy. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take into consideration the long tail keyword when identifying which particular phrases to target. The way people are searching using Google is changing, so we all need to change with it. We’re less likely to enter a nonsense string of keywords (florist wedding Kent) into Google, and more likely to actually ask it a question or enter a logical sentence (florists in Kent with wedding flowers). Answering questions and engaging in conversations with users will not only benefit your SEO in this way, but is also a way to sustainably invest in your content strategy.
Don’t be afraid to delve into niche keywords and “think sideways”. In the past, it might have been easy to be put off by a low search volume but, as we’ve already discussed in point one, this isn’t always the most reliable indicator of how well that particular search term might perform.
When you’re operating within a small or growing industry, it’s more important than ever to keep one eye on your competitors and examine how they’re conducting their research. Take what they do – and do it better.