Despite what you’ve been hearing, keyword research isn’t dead. Without keywords, there is no SEO… right? Let’s look at the facts.
93% of online experiences in 2016 started with a search, and search starts with words. Keywords will remain relevant as long as people use words to interact with search engines. The only thing that has changed are the additional factors that have influenced how we use keywords for SEO.
The truth is that search engines are no longer looking only at keywords, but also value many other factors. Keywords are now just a miniscule part of the pie. That is not to say that keyword discovery isn’t important. In fact, it is important in the way you go about it: we need to go levels deeper – to the precise level that users are searching for; and search engines are indexing for.
This post will focus on the three main focuses of valuable keyword research in 2017:
(1) user intent
(2) long-tail keywords
(3) Google voice search
User intent is critical to keyword research and discovery in 2017. Marketers need to understand how to work together with search engines to provide the content users really want. After all, it’s not about attracting visitors to your site, but the right kind of visitors.
So what exactly is user intent? User intent refers to “a user’s ultimate objective or goal” in making a search query. Every single search query has an intent, a goal, perhaps a problem the user wants to solve.
For example, a search query of “Chicago to New York” gives me flight schedules. Adding “travel” to make it “Chicago to New York travel” does not only provide me with flight results, but bus and car information as well.
Adding one word to a search query greatly impacts the results of the search as Google automatically recognizes the change in intent. In fact, Google refines its algorithms 500-600 times a year to get user intent right. And if Google is focusing on it, so should you.
You need to make user intent central to your keyword research. It is critical that you understand your user’s goals when they make search queries. This understanding or lack of it could make or break your organic traffic.
The great thing is that user intent is pretty easy to figure out the longer the search query is. Long queries give us a lot of information on what a user exactly wants so we can give it to them. They also enable us to get targeted organic traffic for long-tail keywords. Speaking of which…
I’m sure you’ve heard long-tail keywords uttered over and over again by marketers in 2016 (and even before). It looks like it’s set to dominate 2017 as well. I’m sure you’re already familiar with long-tail keywords, being that you’ve been focusing on them, but let’s cover the basics first before we delve into how to successfully incorporate it in your SEO strategy.
What are long-tail keywords? Long-tail keywords are search terms with four or more words. In fact, 51% of all search queries in 2016 contained four or more words (source).
So where should you start off on finding relevant long-tail keywords for your business? Well, you need to first find actual terms that are being used in your specific industry or field.
You don’t need to use the expensive keyword research tools to get a good list of long-tail keywords. There are some free keyword research tools that will give you a good list to start with. Keyword Finder (suggests long-tail queries and search volumes but only allows a few daily searches) and Keyword.io (suggest long-tail queries but does not provide search volumes) are free (but limited) tools you can start off with if you’re on a budget. And of course there’s always Google’s very own Keyword Planner that’s integrated into Adwords.
By far the best premium keyword research tool is Moz Pro’s Keyword Explorer. You start by searching your main keyword and it will return a comprehensive list of keywords that you can rank for relevancy and search volume. From there, you can go down the list and pick out the long-tail keyword phrases or search queries. The great thing about the Keyword Explorer is that you can click on any long-tail keyword to generate a new list of queries related to that keyword. The new list features more long-tail queries than the initial list.
Google’s Voice Search
Perhaps the most interesting development in keyword strategy is Google’s voice search and natural language capabilities. According to Google, 20% of mobile searches are now voice searches! This trend is quickly taking and has prompted Google to create answer boxes and Knowledge Graph panels. Here you can also find a fun infograph regarding the matter.
Let’s take a look at how natural language, both spoken and typed, has changed search. For example, users, like you, used to search for “keyword research”, but now ask, “what is keyword research?” or “what is the most effective keyword research strategy?” You can see the change from keywords to long-tail keywords or queries. Voice search capability is quickening this development in SEO content marketing.
So how can you keep up with this development to plan an effective SEO content marketing strategy?
(1) Look at the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for your industry or brand and match this to your existing content. Do you have pages or posts that address those questions? If so, make sure that the questions are put forward in a very natural way and are highlighted on the page.
(2) Create an FAQ page for questions that you can answer in a couple of paragraphs. Answer the questions in clear, concise and natural language.
(3) Try and come up with long-form content for the questions by breaking them up into “What, when, why, how, who and where?” components. Create subheadings for each so that search engines can index them and users can easily find the content.
A good understanding and grasp of user intent, long-tail keywords and Google voice search will help you better refine your keyword, and overall SEO, strategy for 2017. Start to figure out what your audience really wants so you can begin communicating with them in the best way as soon as possible.