As search engines become more advanced, stuffing a website full of keywords will no longer produce a high Google ranking. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should tear up your Excel spreadsheets (whew). Keyword research is still an important part of the complete breakfast that is a modern SEO strategy. Here’s why!
The Benefits of Keyword Research
Most people never look past the first search engine results page (SERP) that shows up after their query. In order to capture organic search traffic, it’s crucial that your website ranks highly in the results.
Although Google is getting better at understanding user intent and context, search engine algorithms still match query keywords with website content in order to generate the most relevant results for their users.
That means that if your website is optimized for the right keywords, you are still more likely to rank highly on SERPs.
Here’s a simplified example: Your mom’s birthday is coming up, and you want to buy her some beautiful homemade chocolates as a present. So, you type “artisan chocolate gift box” into Google.
Out of all the chocolatiers in your city, only those whose websites use the words “artisan chocolate” and “gift box” will likely show up at the top of the search results.
It’s crucial to know exactly which keywords people are using when they are trying to find your product so you can match your content accordingly.
How to Do Great Keyword Research: The Basics
There are two factors that affect the impact of any given keyword on traffic to your website.
1. Search Volume
How many people search for this keyword at all?
How many other websites are incorporating this keyword into their content as well?
A high search volume means the potential traffic to your site is high. However, keywords with high search volume also tend to have lots of websites vying for top rankings.
The trick is to find really specific keyword phrases (also called “long tail keywords”) that have decent volume and low competition so you have the best chance of ranking for them.
Does this sound exciting? Pause here and check out our step-by-step guide to long tail keyword research.
If you’re ready for a more advanced look at keyword research, press on!
How to Do Great Keyword Research: A Deeper Dive
The SEO gurus at Moz have gone one step further and put together their own mathematical formula that calculates the potential usefulness of any keyword based on four factors.
Two we’ve already seen:
2. Competition/Keyword Difficulty
And two more that go a little further:
3. Keyword Opportunity: If you actually type the keyword into a search engine, what opportunities are available on the resulting SERP?
Let’s say you wanted to write a blog post about the best workout clothes. You might think Lululemon would be a good keyword.
But wait! What happens when you Google Lululemon?
Almost the entire SERP is dominated by Lululemon’s own website, the knowledge graph sidebar, and their branded social media accounts. No matter how great your article is, there isn’t room for it to rank against a powerful brand.
As an aside, if you want your own website to have sweet subheadings and appear in the knowledge graph, check out our post on data-rich snippets, semantic markup, and schema.org.
4. Importance: How important is a keyword to your client (i.e. the person who knows the most about their own business)?
Business owners have a unique understanding of their market, and sometimes they’ll know that a certain keyword or phrase is important to their customers, even if it’s not showing up on traditional keyword research engines like Google’s keyword planner. Just also be aware of ‘ego queries’, which may be more industry competitors search each other rather than customers.
We love cold, hard data but it’s also important to listen to people (as this post from Search Engine Land points out).
Keyword Research is Awesome, But it’s Not a Magic Bullet
The take home message today is that keyword research is still an important way to improve the SERP ranking of your website.
Just remember, there are over 200 different factors affecting Google rankings. To supplement your awesome keyword research, make sure you are thinking about semantic markup, 10x content, and other factors that improve your website’s ranking.
Agree? Disagree? Think keyword research is dead? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!