Just as Google continues to evolve its search algorithm updates, so too must search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing professionals evolve their keyword research strategy. Tactics that once worked—think focusing on keyword density and keyword stuffing in the early 2000s—are now completely outdated. Which is why it’s imporant to consider, is your startegy out of date too?
Recently, we were joined by an exceptional panel of digital and content marketing and local SEO experts to help us discuss how to simplify your keyword research strategy to help your business rank higher and, in turn, convert more searchers.
The panel included:
- Carrie Hill, Local SEO Specialist/Analyst at Sterling Sky
- Joe Sperzel, Group Director of SEO at Horizon Media
- Chad Klingensmith, Senior SEO Strategist at Rio SEO
Here are eight key takeaways from our keywords research strategy webinar.
Understand the thought process of your searchers
Understanding the thought process of your searchers helps you better meet their needs, deceases bounce rates, increases time spent on your site, and draws them to your landing pages by using keywords and phrases that will provide the best solution for their query. But, getting them on your site is only half the battle. The other half is determining how to get them there.
To understand how and why previous customers chose your business as the solution to their needs, Joe recommends reading online reviews. Mine these reviews to see how people are talking about your product, services or brand. Is there a core topic that surfaces in your reviews. Use core themes to generate a list of topic ideas to write about in future content.
Joe also suggests talking to people to understand how other people search for your brand. This enables your business to think like a customer rather than an expert. As marketers, we our keyword analysis we tend to consider terms we think are most relevant to our business, rather than what our end-consumers might use to find our product or service.
Incorporate Long-Tail Terms in Your Strategy
Short keywords that are typically 2-3 words tend to be a popular target. However, long-tail keywords present an opportunity to rank for longer search terms your customers are using to find your business or your products. Because long-tail keywords tend to attract smaller amounts of SEO traffic, marketers will opt for targeting only short keywords.
While long-tail keywords are usually more specialized and have lower search volumes, they also drive higher-intent amounts of traffic. An example of a long-tail term Chad shares is if someone searches for “french doors installation near me”. If you’re a home improvement store that offers this product, there is a high chance the searcher will visit or contact your store. The searcher is looking for something specific, and you’re delivering a relevant result.
Now, say your home improvement business is trying to target the word doors instead. The competition levels for this keyword will be high and its a broad topic. Additionally, someone using this term may only be in the gathering information stage of their buyers journey. Or, their search intent may have been for The Doors band.
In this instance, using a popular keyword with a high volume of searches per month outweighs the benefit of using a more niche, long-tail keyword term.
Keyword Research Tools Can Help Determine Keyword Importance
Your keyword research process should never be a guess. In most industries, its already a competitive landscape out there trying to attract your ideal customers. That’s why the keywords you target must be well-researched planned, prioritized, and continuously tested and refined.
A common misconception in keyword planning is when keyword tools tell you a term has decent search volume, assuming that you will receive that exact amount of monthly searches if you rank for the term. The predicted search volume is in fact a prediction, rather than a factual amount of search traffic you can expect.
This is not to say your business should never use a keyword tool. Rather use these tools to instead create a hierarchy of importance, as Carrie mentions. Determine the keyword competition and search volume for the term, then create your list of keywords in order of importance.
Keywords Can Be Too Competitive
While it’s not impossible to optimize and improve ranking for competitive keywords, its sometimes not worthwhile. For example, if you’re a grocery store, and consumers are searching for the term “apples”, you’ll compete against many non-relevant search results. Some of these results may include the Apple store, Apple products (such as the iPhone or iPad), or different types of apples. Because this term is highly competitive, it’s unlikely even if you optimize for this term it will deliver a large amount of organic traffic.
Instead, Chad recommends considering keyword phrases that have local intent. Some of these terms a grocery store may want to seek out instead are “apples grocery store near me” or “apples grocery store in [insert city and state here]”. These keywords will be less competitive to target, are more relevant keywords potential customers may use in your area, and have high local intent.
Avoid Content Cannibalization with Keyword Clusters
Google consistently reiterates its looking to deliver the relevant and high-quality pieces of content any time a search is conducted. Its also sophisticated, and can understand semantics and grammar nuances. If you’re attemptin to target multiple potential keywords in one piece of content, you can risk Google evaluating what term is most important to target. This is particularly true if the focus keyphrase is too similar to the other secondary keywords you’re targeting.
Using too many similar keyword phrases in a piece of content can lead to content canibilization, and, in turn, cause the content to perform poorly. Carrie notes if your topic clusters are related, your content should support these phrases. To determine your content, look at tools, such as AnswerThePublic or Soovle to see what people are searching for related to the phrase seeded in the search box.
An SEO plugin, such as Yoast SEO, will also help you pick one core term and how to optimize for that specific term. Yoast SEO will also give you insight into how to optimize your content for readability and SEO value. At the time of this publication, there is a free version of Yoast SEO and a paid Yoast SEO Premium. Yoast SEO Premium builds on the free version’s features, to include internal linking suggestions. Yoast SEO Premium also allows you to optimize for synonyms or related additional keywords.
Look At Search Traffic to Measure Performance
Determining ROI is essential for any marketing-related activity and keyword optimization is no different. Keyword rankings have been a KPI that’s been around since the inception of the SEO industry. It’s something most SEO professionals will consistently report on to prove ROI. However, given the volatility of search rankings and more importantly the personalization of Google search results, keyword rankings can’t be seen as a gold standard of a SEO campaign.
Chad recommends to instead focus on traffic results and look at keyword rankings over time. Ranking position for your head keywords can change quickly and be impacted by proximity, look at trends over time
Identify Your Customer’s Pain Points
Content optimization software can help your business create high-quality content, identify organic keywords, and questions search engine crawlers are looking for on the page, and generate content ideas. It can also give you a keyword overview to include ranking difficulty, lists of keywords to target such as head keywords and shoulder keywords, and more.
For authoritative domains, high-quality content can rank quickly. For smaller brands starting to build out different types of content, seeing an impact from content optimization may take more time. As Joe states, whether you’re a large business with massive amounts of content or a small business formalizing your content strategy, well-optimized content is key.
Content Square, a digital experience platform, helps your business understand the how and why of your customer’s behavior. Are they getting to a certain point in your content and always leaving? Which content types resonnate best with your audience? Knowing the answers to these questions will improve your overall SEO strategy.
Focus on Optimizing Keywords On-Site Rather Than Your Google Business Profile
One of the most common questions Rio SEO receives from clients is if they can optimize their Google Business Profile for keyword opportunities. While you can optimize your website’s content, you can’t directly optimize your Google listing for keywords. While you can’t target an exact keyword with your business listing, you can and should make it more relevant and up to date for searchers.
The only facet this doesn’t apply to on a Google Business Profile is your business name. If your business name contains your target keyword, then this does and can impact your ranking for that term. Unfortunately, many business names don’t contain an SEO keyword.