Why You Are Doing Keyword Research All Wrong
Sorry for sounding repetitive – I wrote about keywords recently – but this is so important it’s worth approaching from a few different angles. You see, keywords are the foundation for everything you do online. Best practice on keyword research changes with new insights and, of course, changes at Google HQ.
Do you write for real people, or for search engines? If you’re still writing for Google, you’re approaching keyword research all wrong.
Let me explain…
Research needs to be a continuous process. No matter what your goals are for internet marketing, keywords will figure in the picture somewhere. So if you think keyword research is something you only do for a new site, please think again.
Google’s keyword tool’s primary function is to generate terms for PPC. In a sense these are the terms Google would like you to bid on and are, frankly, competitive. Do they represent the universe of all possible keywords/phrases – of course not.
This is where customer research can really help. Long tail terms often don’t appear in Google’s keyword tool. Does that mean they don’t exist? Possibly not. In my role, I interact with clients a lot and have a good grasp of the questions clients ask about SEO. If I type a range of these into Google’s tool, quite often they return a big fat 0. Does that mean the terms aren’t valid? No. When you see patterns as I do – the same questions being asked time and time again – I am confident enough to build content around them. You should be able to do the same for your own business.
This approach doesn’t mean you should ignore the tools but the limitations of keyword tools are very real. Use them as a starting point by all means. But short terms don’t give much of an indication of searcher intent. Understanding this enables you to write the most appropriate content around a group of keywords. If someone types “hotels” into Google, it’s difficult to know what the user intent is. As a small business you shouldn’t attempt to rank for such terms.However you should have a grasp of what keywords are purely informational, and which are more related to purchase. Here’s an example. Type “SEO” into Google and you’ll find some results are informational (Wikipedia) and others are pages from SEO firms looking for clients.
Customer research, Google’s related searches feature and tools allow you to build up an understanding of what keywords should be grouped together. With Hummingbird, Google’s search engine developed sematic understanding. For example, it understands pseudonyms. It also has an appreciation of what words usually appear together. You can take advantage of this to build up realistic content likely to get found for different searches. In the old days, searches were returned based on pattern matching. Hence you’d typically find keywords stuffed into titles.
So remember keywords and phrases by themselves aren’t useful. They need to be included in appropriate content. The purpose of the content will be determined by the intent implied by the keywords. Websites really need to have both informational and purchase related content. If your site only includes purchase related information (prices, product descriptions) it can be difficult to get found and make it hard for searchers to trust you.
If you make any investment in SEO and internet marketing this year, invest in customer research, even if the research is very informal (cheap). Tapping into customers thoughts is the best way to find content to include and what search queries your content needs to address. Seriously, if you keep relying on abstract information, your site will get left behind. Writing for real people and their needs should be your goal.