Keyword Research & Targeting – Tricks to Doing it Right

keyword research

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A few years ago, Google took away our keywords.  What was easy became a bit harder, and many competing arguments regarding keyword research have arisen. But how do you know who to believe?

The various arguments have kernels of truth on each side. In fact, we don’t write content around keywords at all – for a couple reasons.

First of all, too many keywords can be too much of a good thing that makes your content sound like it was written by a robot. The days of keyword stuffing are long gone, and you can actually be penalized in the SERPs if you page looks spammy on account of your keyword density.

Then there’s the trust and marketing factors to consider. Some SEO professionals engage in content marketing, where the core goal is providing something of value for their audience. This strategy certainly has merits in the social media space, and as we all know, content is king. However, for those of you who want to incorporate an appropriate amount of keywords into your content, there’s a few things you need to know. Let’s take a closer look at Rand Fishkin’s ideas regarding keyword research.

The Adwords Keyword Research Tool

The Adwords keyword tool is a fantastic little piece of work. Often times it is the first – and last – place people go to do their keyword research. But it isn’t the end-all-be-all research tool. In fact, there are many other useful keyword tools that will help you uncover long-tail search terms and help uncover related keywords such as And you really should use more than one tool to do your keyword research.

As Rand pointed out in the first minute of the video, the Adwords keyword tool actually hides some data from you. Well, I don’t know if ‘hides’ is the right word. Perhaps a better way of describing reality is by saying that the Adwords keyword tool isn’t granular enough to be taken at 100% face value. In addition, they don’t always show other related keywords that could benefit your campaign because they don’t think it holds value to people who want to advertise. And if you didn’t know already, Google certainly wants to maximize their profits from advertising. Rand advises that you incorporate the following factors into your keyword research:

  • Google autocomplete/related search terms (or a tool like UberSuggest)
  • Customer and staff interviews
  • Forums and online communities to see how real people express their search terms (my favorite is Yahoo! Ask)

Focusing Pages on a Select Targeted Keyword

In the past many SEOs tried to target a single keyword, or only the slightest variations of a keyword or phrase, per page. While this may have worked years ago by increasing the chance that each page was ranked higher in the SERPs for the term it used, Rand explains that that’s not the case today. Instead, we need to be focusing keyword research on the intentions of the user. For example, if two keywords are essentially synonymous and we would expect a search to return similar results with different keywords, we should incorporate those into the same page.

Building Your Keyword Spreadsheet Priorities

Who hasn’t, in the scope of their website ownership, downloaded a mega-spreadsheet chock full of every keyword we could find related to our industry? Too often we are concerned with the raw search volume, and it’s no wonder why. When you see a keyword related to your industry with 30,000 searches per month, wouldn’t you want to rank number 1 in Google to capture that organic traffic stream?

However, as Rand pointed out, there are a lot of ancillary factors that we need to take into consideration to make the best judgement. You must also factor in how crowded the keyword space is, and how many authority sites you are competing against. In addition, most people don’t consider how opportunistic a keyword is for various reasons such as:

  • Paid advertising that influences search results
  • Instant answers
  • Knowledge graphs
  • News boxes
  • Images

Last but not least, Rand points out that you also need to be aware of the requirements for ranking for any given search term. For example, let’s pretend that you want to rank for the long-tail keyword phrase ‘how to cook potatoes.’ But when you do a Google search to feel out the competition, you notice that most of the top ranking terms are cooking videos hosted on YouTube, you’ll have some work to do.

You likely won’t be able to rank for those terms unless you play on an even playing field by creating your own potato-cooking videos. Understanding the ranking requirements before you begin can save you a lot of time, effort, and money.

Just think, if you had tried to rank for those terms without understanding video requirements, you might have been doomed to failure from the beginning due to poor planning!

In Summary

Keyword planning isn’t as simple as firing up the Google keyword planner and selecting related keywords with the highest monthly traffic volume. There are a lot of things you need to consider before you begin targeting keywords. Without the proper planning, you might very well fail before you begin. Remember these facets of keyword research to increase your chances of success.

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