Sunday, October 8, 2017

Why Keyword Research for SEO Still Matter

Why Keyword Research for SEO Still Matter

Keyword Research

Every couple of years, the online marketing community and its various publishing outlets revisit the question many search engine optimization professionals dread — are SEO and keywords dead? It usually happens after Google, the number one search engine in the world and the search engine most of us think about when speaking about search engine optimization, (This is an affiliate link and i will earn commissions if you decide to purchase the tool) releases a game-changing update. Feathers get ruffled, rankings drop, the community clamors, and — keywords and keyword research still remain relevant. 

In 2011, Google released the Panda update, which aimed to deal with "over-optimization," or practices such as keyword and link stuffing. Some websites were hit so hard they were still recovering two years later — Hubpages' SEO visibility was 62% lower than its pre-Panda status, Mahalo's was 92% lower, and Suite101's was 96% lower. But did marketers suddenly decide to cancel their subscriptions to keyword research tools? No. They adapted to the new rules of the game, which made it clear that a new, smarter approach to keywords was what is needed.

The Rise of Semantic Search

Google has been slowly moving towards the semantic search for years. The update that ushered the new era of entities, concepts, contexts, and intents was released in 2013. Dubbed Hummingbird, it was a new search engine algorithm that once again prompted marketers to ponder on the mortality of search engine optimization and related concepts.

With semantic search, Google has been placing a stronger emphasis on serving results that match the searchers' intent. To determine that intent, the algorithm changes established a new category called "entity," which can represent an idea, a concept, a place, object, or person. The relationship between the entity and the words people use to search are used to gauge intent. This, along with other changes such as placing the PageRank among one of over 200 rankings the new algorithm uses to determine the authority of a page, was seen as further demoting of SEO in general, and keywords in particular.

Organic Search Isn't Going Anywhere

The desire to excel at organic search result rankings (This is an affiliate link and i will earn commissions if you decide to purchase the tool) is the major driver of search engine optimization. Numbers show that it pays to be in the top five organic search results — they get slightly over two-thirds of clicks, which is a much better click-through rate than that of ads. Marketers are very aware of this — B2B marketers in the United States, for example, rate organic search as their second most important lead and revenue-driving channel, slightly behind email.

So we know that SEO is still relevant because organic search is still going strong. We also know, however, that the rules of the game have changed drastically, and that they keep changing with every new update Google rolls out. With one keyword-related optimization practice being degraded after another, what good can a keyword research tool do anymore?

It's All About Giving People What They Want

All of the major changes Google has been implementing over the years have been done in an overt attempt to increase the usefulness of search results. Google is in the business of giving people what they want, or at least what they want enough to search for it online. And can the keyword research tool  (This is an affiliate link and i will earn commissions if you decide to purchase the tool) in finding what people want? Of course, it can.

Using keyword research has always been about three things —finding low-competition keywords that would be able to generate the highest amount of traffic by attracting people who will find your website relevant to their search. Let's focus on the relevance for a moment.

Finding out what people are searching for is a great guideline for generating content. It's possible to find out not only what people are looking for, but also what qualifiers they are using to further narrow down their search. Grouping the keywords into similar clusters can help generate ideas, which can then be targeted through content or other optimization techniques.

Finding Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are not a new concept, by any means. The usual description of a long tail keyword says that it's a keyword that has more than three words. In reality, long tail keywords refer to the more specific keywords that are used less often in search queries.

But if there is some logic in the idea that more specific terms would require more words to describe them, it could be said that long tail keyword makes up 41.7% of all search terms. At least, that's how many keywords consist of five or more words. They also get fewer than 50 searches a month each, but they compensate by sheer volume — there are billions of possible long tail keyword combinations.

Pointing a keyword research tool towards finding long tail keywords has several advantages. For one, long tail keywords tend to have low competition. For PPC marketers, they have a lower cost, but that doesn't affect SEO. They are also more targeted, which means that they can be used to provide insight into the intent of the people using them. This might be one of the reasons why it's commonly said that long tail keywords generate more qualified traffic and are generally seen as beneficial for conversion rates, if not for traffic volume.

Finally, using keyword research tools to identify long tail keywords might be beneficial because long tail keywords resemble natural language more than short tail keywords.

Keyword Research Matter, Even Locally 

Google's local search "snack pack," the three results that show up after a local search, has created a very competitive local search landscape. Brick and mortar business are rushing to open their My Google Business pages, generate reviews, and generate online listings. The fact of the matter is that the business page and the reviews are probably the most important things in local search optimization. But keywords still matter.

Local keywords are the usual keywords with local modifiers. Their aim is to approximate the way people would search for a local business that nearest to them. So, instead of a keyword that says "best pizza in town," the local keyword used in local search would be "best pizza west of 3rd street," or "best pizza near the mall in Georgetown," or "best pizza in Williamsburg." Local modifiers are actual locations such as neighborhoods, or landmarks, or important streets, that people can use to narrow down their search.

With a keyword research tool, it's easy to find out which terms people are using to modify their local searches. The important thing to remember is that the appropriate modifier should be used, not the one that has the largest search volume, although they can be one and the same. Business can use keyword research to identify how people who are near them are searching for products or services like the ones they offer and use those keywords to further optimize their website or content.

With Google being Google, it's expected that search engine optimization will see further changes as new updates are rolled out. SEO has changed a lot in the past couple of years alone, let alone the past decade. And as new updates bring new challenges, it seems unlikely that optimization, and the role keyword research plays in it, will stop being relevant anytime soon.

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