Way back in February 2013, we wrote a blog about the importance of carrying out keyword research and like many agencies, this is part of the service we provide our clients when we conduct SEO audits for them. There has however been a huge shift in the way our keyword research is carried out and we wanted to take the time to talk to you a bit more about what we do and why we do it.

Old skool keyword research

In days gone by, our keyword research would consist of checking through a client’s website, looking for key areas and selecting a series of keywords relating to their products and services. We would also take a look at their competitors and see if there was anything they were doing better and add those into the mix. Nothing rocket science about that. We would then use a keyword tool (Google Keyword Planner is as good as any) to help expand that search and provide us with a much bigger list of keyword ideas. We would then group these together and order them by audiences we want to target and our likely ability to rank for those keywords.

After carrying out some keyword analysis and depending on the site, we might then suggest some new pages that needed to be created based on some new keywords or certainly look to update copy/content on existing pages to reflect this research. Now all this was a perfectly good way of carrying out keyword research two years ago but things have moved on since then. Search engines got smarter and we too needed to get smarter. As search results became semantic and Google began to infer intent from a user’s search, we too had to look much deeper into the keywords our clients were ranking for and move them to the next level.

The future of keyword research

So, how have we moved on with our keyword research to ensure our clients are getting the best possible service? Well, instead of just looking at a potential list of keywords based on a site search, we take that one step further and look at trends. Searching on the web, news sites, news feeds like Buzzfeed, YouTube etc tells us a lot more about the keywords relevant to our client and what people are searching for and what they are consuming. This allows us to generate further keyword ideas based on concepts, topics and perhaps most importantly intents. We can then feed that back in to our original list and we start to expand those terms, finding those that are more relevant to the end user and more importantly to Google.

Segmenting keywords by intent

Once we have this expanded keyword list, we can then use Google’s free keyword planner tool to help investigate potential competition for those keywords and also generate further keywords around these new topics we have discovered (taking us back to the old school way of working). Once we are happy with our list, we can then start to segment these keywords around user intent – what is it that a user expects when they type in this particular group of keywords and what sort of content is ranking well?

Our earlier research will have also told us the type of content people are likely to consume by typing in those specific keywords; this may be a blog, a video, directions, opening times etc. It is then our job to provide recommendations based on this research to a client, letting them know that for this particular search term for example, people are most likely to engage with a piece of video content because their intent is X.

Building up your association with keywords

After the research has been conducted, we can then work closely with our clients to help them to generate content ideas around those keywords which in turn will help their brand become associated with those terms.

For example, we work with a golf professional and discover that people who type in the key phrase ‘golf shank’ are most likely looking for tips on how to cure golf shanks, or finding out why they happen. We can then work with our client to produce video content showing how to stop it happening, write blog posts about the perils of catching the ‘dreaded shanks’ on the course and help by sharing relevant content showing professional golfers shanking the ball to make the amateurs out there feel human!

Statistics from social media measurement site Buzzumo showing widely shared content around the keyword golf shank

We can see that in a given week, video content is the most popular way that people consume and share content around this topic, in this case, two videos showing how to stop shanking and one showing pro Henrik Stenson shanking a ball. The most popular piece of content is from a Golf Magazine who produce films of people getting set up in a ‘You’ve been framed’ style clip so this is an area we can certainly look into. The next piece of content after the videos is a nice blog article explaining why they happen and how to stop them.

A snap shot from a Google results page showing the top results when searching for the keyword golf shank

Google reveals similar results with the top results being a video with a Pro showing people how not to shank. This search also shows us some keyword expansion opportunities: ‘cure shank’, ‘stop shanking’ and ‘shank tips’ are just three of the terms we may now plug into our results.

Snap shot from Google's free keyword planner tool showing keywords similar to golf shank

What this now shows us is that the term ‘golf lessons’ which is a hugely searched key phrase, fits in with my keywords around ‘shanking’ and this gives us another area to focus on and potentially drive people to come to our professional for golf lessons to cure their shanks. It also gives us a great blog piece idea about the value of golf lessons when it comes to keeping your game up to scratch which could include a nice video of our client teaching someone to stop shanking.

As you begin to produce more content around these topics, Google starts to recognise your brand as being associated with the keywords and therefore is much more likely to give you a better ranking when people search for any of the keywords and phrases around this topic. It takes time to build this but by carrying out the research at the start, you give yourself a much better chance of ranking for these key, relevant terms in the long run.

If you missed it last time out, check out our post on the setting expectations around SEO and see why it is important not to underestimate the time taken to carry out effective keyword research but understand the long term benefits of doing it properly.

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