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A Strategy For Ranking Local Search Terms

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A Strategy For Ranking Local Search Terms

Location landing pages don’t get enough respect.

You set them up with your name, address, phone number & hours. Maybe you embed a Google Map for driving directions.

Perhaps you write some copy that no one will read, and if you have multiple locations, you repeat the same copy on each page and just change the location name.

If you’re feeling cocky, you put a call to action on it – maybe.

You set it, then you forget it.

And guess what? That actually works pretty well for local SEO.

I mean, what more does a potential customer want from a location page? Maybe an appointment scheduler?

But who cares about the customer? We smug SEO types all know Google is our #1 customer.

So, what does Google want from a location page? Let’s start with the basics.

1. What Is The Purpose Of A Location Page? (PAA FTW)

I can’t believe I have to explain this, but ChatGPT isn’t going to train itself. (At least, I don’t think it will.)

For retailers, location pages come in four basic types:

1. Location Detail Page

This typically represents the physical location of a business (e.g., SideTrack Bar & Grill at 30 W. Angela St. Pleasanton, CA 94566,).

2. Location Service/Department Page

This typically represents a specific service or department category available at the physical location (e.g., SideTrack Bar & Grill Catering).

3. City Page

This typically represents the city (#duh) where various physical locations are located (e.g., Pleasanton, CA),

4. State Page

This typically represents the state (#duh2) where various physical locations are located (e.g., California).

Depending on your industry, you may also want to consider County Pages (or Boroughs, Provinces, Prefectures, or whatever nomenclature your particular country uses).

For example, attorneys specializing in the laws of a specific county may find it useful to set up a page for that county.

There are likely infinite other options, but these are the main ones that 99% of you with location-based businesses need to consider.

For service area businesses (aka “SABs”), it’s basically the same setup, except you will typically want to create additional City Pages for the various areas you serve (e.g., Plumber in Livermore, CA, Plumber in San Ramon, CA, etc.).

This will help you target these queries in the Local Organic search engine results pages (SERPs) – those results that typically show up below/above Local Packs – and they can help your Google Business Profile (GBP) be more relevant for queries for those areas.

2. Why Do Location Pages Matter For SEO?

Despite their simplicity, location pages can play a big part in SEO for brands.

There are two basic types of search queries these pages are tailor-made for:

Brand Queries

These are perhaps the most important queries to show up on Google for.

When a searcher queries [Starbucks], [Starbucks near me], or [Starbucks Pleasanton], Google typically wants to show a location page for that brand.

If you don’t have a page for the specific location, Google may show your homepage, a nearby City Page, or perhaps a page for a third-party site like a local business directory that uses your brand name, plus the location for SEO purposes.

And, of course, there are all sorts of related queries like “Starbucks hours,” “Starbucks address,” etc.

Non-Brand Local Queries

These are the money queries where you can attract potential customers who may have never heard of you – or thought of you for the specific query.

Consider queries like [pizza], [pizza near me], [best pizza in Pleasanton], etc. Single-location businesses can often rank for these queries with just their homepage, which basically acts like a location page.

But multi-location businesses will typically need a page for that specific location to rank for these high-value queries in the organic results.

Links

Outside of the homepage, location pages are typically the best source of a site’s external links. Numerous local business directories link to these (aka “local citations”) and they tend to accumulate backlinks from local media sites and others over time.

They can then spread the link mojo throughout the site.

3. How Do Location Pages Affect Local Pack Rankings?

This is pretty straightforward. If you have a Google Business Profile (GBP) linking it to a location page for the area in which you are trying to rank is a critical ranking factor for Local Packs.

I have done plenty of tests where we changed the link to go to a page that did not target the city we wanted to rank in, and the Local Pack rankings suffered. When we switched it back, the rankings recovered.

It’s important to note: your homepage may have more location mojo than your location page for a given location, so you’ll want to test which one works better for GBP.

And as mentioned above, having a page for a given service area can help you rank for queries for those service areas.

4. What Are the Basic Elements Of A Well-Optimized Location Page?

Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP)

Your location’s business name, address, phone number, and hours. Make sure the name, and all other info, you use on this page matches the info on your business’s GBP.

Last year we looked at 100,000 SERPs and found that pages on local directory sites that exactly match the business name and other info of the relevant GBPs tended to outperform those that have partial or no matches.

Structure Your Data

Mark up all of the NAP elements in LocalBusiness schema. There are a number of specific business category schemas, so if there is something more targeted for your business, you’ll want to use that.

For brands with multiple related brands (e.g., IHG, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, etc.), you’ll want to acquaint yourself with Organization schema to help our robot overlords sort things out correctly.

And don’t forget breadcrumbs linking up to parent City/State URLs marked up with Breadcrumb schema.

Use Targeted Meta Data

The page’s title tag and H1 should ideally target the business name and location (e.g., “Starbucks Pleasanton, CA”).

You can certainly test adding additional targeting to see how it affects performance (e.g., “Starbucks Coffee in Pleasanton, CA,” “Starbucks Coffee Near Pleasanton, CA”).

Our research suggests that outside of the target category (e.g., “coffee”), the city is the most important element to be included in the title tag for “near me” searches – then the state.

Using the word “near” appears to help, but at the margins. Still, an extra 1-2% clicks couldn’t hurt, right?

Title tag factors Image from author, May 2023

5. Engagement Intangibles

“Engagement” is one of the fuzzier of the many fuzzy SEO factors.

So think about what else a potential customer might need to find a location page useful.

Calls-to-action (CTAs), like the ability to make online appointments, order something online, etc., likely send positive signals to Google about the usefulness of the location page.

6. Advanced Location Page SEO

This isn’t rocket science, so when I say “advanced,” I really mean “SEO tactics for someone who somehow got buy-in from the rest of the org to prioritize updates to the location pages that everyone forgot we even had.”

Here are some things we have seen work over time. Your mileage may vary, of course:

Optimized Copy

It’s perfectly fine to start with a basic copy block with a find and replace for the location name/city that explains what your business offers.

It’s relatively cheap and easy, and you can always go back and update the copy later. See what that gets you before spending more time or money on it.

That said, we tend to see more targeted copy outperform instances of using the same copy on each page. I recall a client site not moving in rankings for six months until we updated the copy on the location pages to be unique.

As with everything SEO, try to test this at a small scale before you make a bigger investment.

Hopefully, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it: using phrases relevant to the topic you are targeting in your copy couldn’t hurt.

Certain businesses may also benefit from adding “Points of Interest” (aka “POIs”) to the copy. For example, people often search for hotels with modifiers like “near the airport.”

So adding those phrases and POIs to your location pages can make your page more relevant for these queries while also improving the relevance for the target city “entity.”

That’s a fancy way of saying that because you mention JFK Airport, Google may think you’re relevant to the great borough of Queens, NY. Mentioning the neighborhoods you serve is also a good one.

Link To Nearby Locations

Multi-location businesses should link to nearby locations (the distance depends on what you think is best for customers) from their location pages.

There are two good reasons besides customer convenience to do this:

  • The more locations you have, the harder it is for Googlebot to find them, so linking to them from these pages creates more reasons for Googlebot to crawl them.
  • Adding the other location names to the copy of the location page may make it more relevant for Google. For example, if there’s a link to “Starbucks Livermore” on the “Starbucks Pleasanton” page, the phrase “Livermore” might give Google more confidence about the Pleasanton location, since Livermore is the next town over.

Use Topically Relevant Images And Videos

Since these lowly location pages get no respect to begin with, they often are launched with copy only.

But check this out: We have found that for some niches, merely adding relevant images to the pages can help with ranking improvements.

For example, if you have a truck driver school, consider adding a picture of a person driving a truck (#duh3). If you are a remodeler, maybe add some shots of recent projects.

A good rule of thumb is to look at the top-ranking pages in the Local Pack for your query and make sure you have just as good, if not better, images and/or videos on your location page.

Use Google’s Vision API to ensure it understands what your image is about.

Link To Product/Service Category Pages

Last year we looked at Local Packs across 10,000,000 keywords for 40 ecommerce categories in 5,000 U.S. markets (the things we do for SEO…).

One of our key findings was that location pages that linked to category pages (e.g., Target.com’s Dublin, CA page linking to its Video Games Category Page) tended to outrank those sites that didn’t do this.

This simple tactic can have a significant impact.

Pick the categories you want to prioritize and link away.

Add Local Reviews

Adding a feed of customer reviews to these pages, particularly if the reviews are from the page’s target area, can often improve performance.

One of my theories is that a regularly updated review feed gives Google a good reason to visit the page often and prioritize it.

Before you implement this, be sure to bone up on Google’s guide to user reviews and its rules for marking up “self-serving” reviews.

Note: I have rarely seen a site penalized for violating these rules, but you may not want to be Patient Zero on this one.

Meet The Team!

We recently did a project for a moving company where we observed that many of the best-ranking pages in their markets had pictures of the local team.

According to my friend Carrie Hill of Sterling Sky,

“Any time someone goes into a client’s house, car, or business, I advise putting employee faces on websites, confirmations, and reminders.”

The Kitchen Sink

Other items that could make sense on your location pages and improve engagement include:

  • Philanthropy and community connections.
  • Local sponsorships.
  • Hiring and careers info.
  • Pricing info (marked up with Price schema, of course).
  • Business license/insurance info.
  • Social proof and trust signals like BBB accreditation for each location and/or “Voted Best Boba Shop in Pleasanton!”

Use Google Merchant Center Data To Increase Conversions

If you are running product listing ads (PLAs) you likely have a ton of data in Google Merchant Center that can give you hints on how to improve conversions on your location pages.

The TL;DR: Check your Google Merchant Center (GMC) to see what products get the highest impressions and click-through rate (CTR) when they are connected to your GBP in the SERPs.

This can be found in the “Local Surfaces” report. These products should be featured on the relevant location page.

see whats in store: google searchScreenshot from Google, May 2023

Google is showing you that people are already interested in them.

See Google Merchant Center: A Local SEO Goldmine for Retailers for more detail on this wacky trick.

7. What Should I Not Do With Location Pages?

Over the past decade or two, we have tried pretty much everything you can think of with these things. Here are a couple of things you’ll want to be wary of:

Unnecessary Location + Service Pages

We’ve seen many brands launch location + service/department pages linked off the location detail page. For example, Home Depot has these pages for Home Services, Truck Rental, and its Garden Centers.

There are plenty of good non-SEO reasons to have these pages. If you are looking to rent a truck, having a specific page about renting a truck in your city might be helpful.

But be clear that this will often not be a net-new traffic play.

Why do I say this?

Because, after looking at organic traffic data to tens of thousands of location + service pages, we have observed that most of the time, 90% of the organic traffic to these pages is brand traffic, and they are likely cannibalizing searches you were already getting.

Local dept service pagesImage from Semrush, May 2023

This is not the case in every situation, and it may be worth it to roll these out merely to improve conversions.

But you should be aware that these may not be a net positive in terms of organic traffic, and they may even have negative SEO effects due to increasing the number of “thin” URLs on the site.

Multilocation SEO problemsImage from Semrush, May 2023

In one case, we had a client with about 100,000 URLs launch these pages, which created about 1,000,000 new URLs. Guess how well that went.

Our rule of thumb is that if a department or service can get a GBP, it may be worth creating a local page for SEO purposes. This doesn’t apply to all cases, of course.

Location Pages With No Location

We recently worked on a retailer site that created pages for cities that were near their locations, but where they had no locations.

The pages looked like every other location page, but instead of presenting NAP info for a relevant location, it linked to the nearby locations.

This was a national site, so they had over 130,000 of these. And, of course, they were getting virtually zero organic traffic.

For SABs, this tactic is necessary if you want to rank outside of your physical location’s area (more on that in a moment). But it seems that, for queries that imply a searcher is looking for a physical location, Google doesn’t want to show you these types of no-location pages.

Oh, and don’t add insult to injury by creating local pages for every brand you carry (e.g.,/ca/pleasanton/flaming-hot-cheetohs). This client had about 500,000 of those and, you guessed it, virtually no organic traffic.

Beware Thin Content Location Pages

A common tactic for service area businesses or SABs is to create a ton of location pages for the areas they serve.

They may even make the content on them super unique.

Manual actions: issue detected on GSCScreenshot from Google Search Console, May 2023

The challenge is that we are starting to see these types of plays get manual actions for thin content.

Of course, Google does not seem to apply this across the board. I still see plenty of “thin” location pages for various queries.

So what can you do? It’s the same challenge every other SEO has.

Look at what type of content is doing best for a particular query type and create a better page. Let’s face it: when it comes to location pages, the bar is pretty low.

Only Create Pages When There Is Clear Local Intent

We just finished up a project for an attorney with practices in 30+ cities. They have 54 practice areas and have created location + practice pages for each. That’s 1,620+ pages for Google to figure out.

The first thing we did was to determine how much “local intent” there was for search results for each practice area.

“Local intent” can be determined by what % of a SERP has “local” content (e.g., Local Packs, cities or states in the titles, suggested or related searches, etc.).

You don’t need a location page for a query with relatively low local intent. This particular attorney had 300+ location pages targeting queries that had no local intent.

In these cases, it would be better for SEO to redirect these pages to a single “national” service page.

So before you invest a lot in creating location pages, check for local intent first. It might save you a lot of time and cash.

I could keep going.

These deceptively simple pages have near-infinite possibilities for SEO, but my guess is that if you have made it this far, you now have plenty of JIRA tickets to prioritize.

Gunga galunga.

Special thanks to Carrie Hill, Amy Toman, Mike Blumenthal, Joy Hawkins, Brandon Schmidt, and Will Scott for providing feedback.

Special thanks to the LSG team for yelling at me like they were my mother when I was procrastinating while writing this article.

More resources:


Featured Image: DEEMKA STUDIO/Shutterstock



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Google’s AI Vision Driven By Panic, Not Users: Former Product Manager

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Hand pressing the red button. vector illustration

A 16-year Google veteran is raising concerns about the company’s current focus on AI, labeling it a “panic reaction” driven by fear of falling behind competitors.

Scott Jenson, who left Google last month, took to LinkedIn to critique the tech giant’s AI projects as “poorly motivated and driven by this mindless panic that as long as it had ‘AI’ in it, it would be great.”

Veteran’s Criticism Of Google’s AI Focus

Jenson stated that Google’s vision of creating an AI assistant for its ecosystem is “pure catnip” fueled by the fear of letting someone else get there first.

He parallels the ill-fated Google+ product, which he calls a “similar hysterical reaction” to Facebook’s rise.

Jenson wrote:

“This exact thing happened 13 years ago with Google+ (I was there for that fiasco as well). That was a similar hysterical reaction but to Facebook.”

Lack Of User-Driven Motivation

Jenson argues that Google’s strategy lacks motivation driven by genuine user needs, a sentiment echoed by a recent Gizmodo article that described this year’s Google I/O developer conference as “the most boring ever.”

The article, which Jenson linked to in his post, criticized Google for failing to clarify how Gemini’s new AI technology would integrate into its existing products and enhance the user experience.

See Jenson’s full post below:

Can You Turn Off Google’s AI Overviews?

One prime example of Google’s AI overreach is the AI overviews feature, which generates summaries to directly answer search queries by ingesting information from across the web.

This controversial move has sparked legal battles, with publishers accusing Google of violating intellectual property rights and unfairly profiting from their content without permission.

Related: Google’s AI Overviews Documentation: Key SEO Insights

Turning Off AI Overviews

While Google doesn’t provide an official setting to turn off AI overviews, a viral article from Tom’s Hardware suggests using browser extensions.

Alternatively, you can configure Chrome to go directly to web search results, bypassing the AI-generated overviews.

Here are the steps:

  • Open Chrome settings by clicking the three dots in the top-right corner and selecting “Settings” from the menu.
  • In the Settings window, click on the “Search Engine” tab on the left side.
  • Under the “Search Engine” section, click “Manage search engines and site search.”
  • Scroll down to the “Site search” area and click “Add” to create a new entry.

In the new entry, enter the following details:

  • Name: Google (Web)
  • Shortcut: www.google.com
  • URL: {google:baseURL}/search?udm=14&q=%s
  • Click “Add
Screenshot from: chrome://settings/searchEngines, May 2024.

Lastly, click the three dots next to the new “Google (Web)” entry and select “Make default.”

1716224163 590 Googles AI Vision Driven By Panic Not Users Former ProductScreenshot from: chrome://settings/searchEngines, May 2024.

After following these steps, Chrome will now default to showing regular web search results instead of the AI overview summaries when you perform searches from the address bar.

Tensions Over Data Usage

The controversy surrounding AI overviews creates tension between tech companies and content creators over using online data for AI training.

Publishers argue that Google’s AI summaries could siphon website traffic, threatening independent creators’ revenue streams, which rely on search referrals.

The debate reflects the need for updated frameworks to balance innovation and fair compensation for content creators, maintaining a sustainable open internet ecosystem.


FAQ

What concerns has Scott Jenson raised about Google’s AI focus?

Scott Jenson, a former Google product manager, has expressed concerns that Google’s current AI focus is more of a “panic reaction” to stay ahead of competitors rather than addressing user needs. He critiques Google’s AI initiatives as poorly motivated and driven by a fear of letting others get ahead.

How does Scott Jenson compare Google’s AI strategy to past projects?

Jenson parallels Google’s current AI focus and the company’s response to Facebook years ago with Google+. He describes both as “hysterical reactions” driven by competition, which, in the case of Google+, resulted in a product that failed to meet its objectives.

Why are content creators concerned about Google’s AI overviews?

Content creators worry that Google’s AI overviews, which generate summaries by ingesting web content, could reduce site traffic. They argue that this practice is unfair as it uses their content without permission and impacts their revenue streams that rely on search referrals.

How can users turn off Google’s AI overviews in Chrome?

Although no official setting exists to disable AI overviews, users can use a workaround by enabling a specific Chrome setting or using a browser extension.

Here are the steps:

  • Open Chrome settings by clicking the three dots in the top-right corner and selecting “Settings” from the menu.
  • In the Settings window, click on the “Search Engine” tab on the left side.
  • Under the “Search Engine” section, click “Manage search engines and site search.”
  • Scroll down to the “Site search” area and click “Add” to create a new entry.

In the new entry, enter the following details:

    • Name: Google (Web)
    • Shortcut: www.google.com
    • URL: {google:baseURL}/search?udm=14&q=%s
    • Click “Add

This will force Chrome to skip AI-generated overviews and show the classic list of web links.


Featured Image: Sira Anamwong/Shutterstock

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How To Use ChatGPT For Keyword Research

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How To Use ChatGPT For Keyword Research

Anyone not using ChatGPT for keyword research is missing a trick.

You can save time and understand an entire topic in seconds instead of hours.

In this article, I outline my most effective ChatGPT prompts for keyword research and teach you how I put them together so that you, too, can take, edit, and enhance them even further.

But before we jump into the prompts, I want to emphasize that you shouldn’t replace keyword research tools or disregard traditional keyword research methods.

ChatGPT can make mistakes. It can even create new keywords if you give it the right prompt. For example, I asked it to provide me with a unique keyword for the topic “SEO” that had never been searched before.

Interstellar Internet SEO: Optimizing content for the theoretical concept of an interstellar internet, considering the challenges of space-time and interplanetary communication delays.”

Although I want to jump into my LinkedIn profile and update my title to “Interstellar Internet SEO Consultant,” unfortunately, no one has searched that (and they probably never will)!

You must not blindly rely on the data you get back from ChatGPT.

What you can rely on ChatGPT for is the topic ideation stage of keyword research and inspiration.

ChatGPT is a large language model trained with massive amounts of data to accurately predict what word will come next in a sentence. However, it does not know how to do keyword research yet.

Instead, think of ChatGPT as having an expert on any topic armed with the information if you ask it the right question.

In this guide, that is exactly what I aim to teach you how to do – the most essential prompts you need to know when performing topical keyword research.

Best ChatGPT Keyword Research Prompts

The following ChatGPT keyword research prompts can be used on any niche, even a topic to which you are brand new.

For this demonstration, let’s use the topic of “SEO” to demonstrate these prompts.

Generating Keyword Ideas Based On A Topic

What Are The {X} Most Popular Sub-topics Related To {Topic}?

Screenshot from ChatGPT 4, April 2024

The first prompt is to give you an idea of the niche.

As shown above, ChatGPT did a great job understanding and breaking down SEO into three pillars: on-page, off-page & technical.

The key to the following prompt is to take one of the topics ChatGPT has given and query the sub-topics.

What Are The {X} Most Popular Sub-topics Related To {Sub-topic}?

For this example, let’s query, “What are the most popular sub-topics related to keyword research?”

Having done keyword research for over 10 years, I would expect it to output information related to keyword research metrics, the types of keywords, and intent.

Let’s see.

ChatGPT keyword prompt subtopicScreenshot from ChatGPT 4, April 2024

Again, right on the money.

To get the keywords you want without having ChatGPT describe each answer, use the prompt “list without description.”

Here is an example of that.

List Without Description The Top {X} Most Popular Keywords For The Topic Of {X}chatgpt keyword research prompt for most popular keywords

You can even branch these keywords out further into their long-tail.

Example prompt:

List Without Description The Top {X} Most Popular Long-tail Keywords For The Topic “{X}”

chatgpt keyword research prompt longtail keywordsScreenshot ChatGPT 4,April 2024

List Without Description The Top Semantically Related Keywords And Entities For The Topic {X}

You can even ask ChatGPT what any topic’s semantically related keywords and entities are!

chatgpt keyword research semantic intentScreenshot ChatGPT 4, April 2024

Tip: The Onion Method Of Prompting ChatGPT

When you are happy with a series of prompts, add them all to one prompt. For example, so far in this article, we have asked ChatGPT the following:

  • What are the four most popular sub-topics related to SEO?
  • What are the four most popular sub-topics related to keyword research
  • List without description the top five most popular keywords for “keyword intent”?
  • List without description the top five most popular long-tail keywords for the topic “keyword intent types”?
  • List without description the top semantically related keywords and entities for the topic “types of keyword intent in SEO.”

Combine all five into one prompt by telling ChatGPT to perform a series of steps. Example:

“Perform the following steps in a consecutive order Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Step 4, and Step 5”

Example:

“Perform the following steps in a consecutive order Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Step 4 and Step 5. Step 1 – Generate an answer for the 3 most popular sub-topics related to {Topic}?. Step 2 – Generate 3 of the most popular sub-topics related to each answer. Step 3 – Take those answers and list without description their top 3 most popular keywords. Step 4 – For the answers given of their most popular keywords, provide 3 long-tail keywords. Step 5 – for each long-tail keyword offered in the response, a list without descriptions 3 of their top semantically related keywords and entities.”

Generating Keyword Ideas Based On A Question

Taking the steps approach from above, we can get ChatGPT to help streamline getting keyword ideas based on a question. For example, let’s ask, “What is SEO?

“Perform the following steps in a consecutive order Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, and Step 4. Step 1 Generate 10 questions about “{Question}”?. Step 2 – Generate 5 more questions about “{Question}” that do not repeat the above. Step 3 – Generate 5 more questions about “{Question}” that do not repeat the above. Step 4 – Based on the above Steps 1,2,3 suggest a final list of questions avoiding duplicates or semantically similar questions.”

chatgpt for question keyword researchScreenshot ChatGPT 4, April 2024

Generating Keyword Ideas Using ChatGPT Based On The Alphabet Soup Method

One of my favorite methods, manually, without even using a keyword research tool, is to generate keyword research ideas from Google autocomplete, going from A to Z.

Generating Keyword Ideas using ChatGPT Based on the Alphabet Soup MethodScreenshot from Google autocomplete, April 2024

You can also do this using ChatGPT.

Example prompt:

“give me popular keywords that includes the keyword “SEO”, and the next letter of the word starts with a”

ChatGPT Alphabet keyword research methodScreenshot from ChatGPT 4, April 2024

Tip: Using the onion prompting method above, we can combine all this in one prompt.

“Give me five popular keywords that include “SEO” in the word, and the following letter starts with a. Once the answer has been done, move on to giving five more popular keywords that include “SEO” for each letter of the alphabet b to z.”

Generating Keyword Ideas Based On User Personas

When it comes to keyword research, understanding user personas is essential for understanding your target audience and keeping your keyword research focused and targeted. ChatGPT may help you get an initial understanding of customer personas.

Example prompt:

“For the topic of “{Topic}” list 10 keywords each for the different types of user personas”

ChatGPT and user personasScreenshot from ChatGPT 4, April 2024

You could even go a step further and ask for questions based on those topics that those specific user personas may be searching for:

ChatGPT and keyword research based on personaScreenshot ChatGPT 4, April 2024

As well as get the keywords to target based on those questions:

“For each question listed above for each persona, list the keywords, as well as the long-tail keywords to target, and put them in a table”

question and longtail and user persona using a table for ChatGPT keyword researchScreenshot from ChatGPT 4, April 2024

Generating Keyword Ideas Using ChatGPT Based On Searcher Intent And User Personas

Understanding the keywords your target persona may be searching is the first step to effective keyword research. The next step is to understand the search intent behind those keywords and which content format may work best.

For example, a business owner who is new to SEO or has just heard about it may be searching for “what is SEO.”

However, if they are further down the funnel and in the navigational stage, they may search for “top SEO firms.”

You can query ChatGPT to inspire you here based on any topic and your target user persona.

SEO Example:

“For the topic of “{Topic}” list 10 keywords each for the different types of searcher intent that a {Target Persona} would be searching for”

ChatGPT For Keyword Research Admin

Here is how you can best use ChatGPT for keyword research admin tasks.

Using ChatGPT As A Keyword Categorization Tool

One of the use cases for using ChatGPT is for keyword categorization.

In the past, I would have had to devise spreadsheet formulas to categorize keywords or even spend hours filtering and manually categorizing keywords.

ChatGPT can be a great companion for running a short version of this for you.

Let’s say you have done keyword research in a keyword research tool, have a list of keywords, and want to categorize them.

You could use the following prompt:

“Filter the below list of keywords into categories, target persona, searcher intent, search volume and add information to a six-column table: List of keywords – [LIST OF KEYWORDS], Keyword Search Volume [SEARCH VOLUMES] and Keyword Difficulties [KEYWORD DIFFICUTIES].”

Using Chat GPT as a Keyword Categorization ToolScreenshot from ChatGPT, April 2024

Tip: Add keyword metrics from the keyword research tools, as using the search volumes that a ChatGPT prompt may give you will be wildly inaccurate at best.

Using ChatGPT For Keyword Clustering

Another of ChatGPT’s use cases for keyword research is to help you cluster. Many keywords have the same intent, and by grouping related keywords, you may find that one piece of content can often target multiple keywords at once.

However, be careful not to rely only on LLM data for clustering. What ChatGPT may cluster as a similar keyword, the SERP or the user may not agree with. But it is a good starting point.

The big downside of using ChatGPT for keyword clustering is actually the amount of keyword data you can cluster based on the memory limits.

So, you may find a keyword clustering tool or script that is better for large keyword clustering tasks. But for small amounts of keywords, ChatGPT is actually quite good.

A great use small keyword clustering use case using ChatGPT is for grouping People Also Ask (PAA) questions.

Use the following prompt to group keywords based on their semantic relationships. For example:

“Organize the following keywords into groups based on their semantic relationships, and give a short name to each group: [LIST OF PAA], create a two-column table where each keyword sits on its own row.

Using Chat GPT For Keyword ClusteringScreenshot from ChatGPT, April 2024

Using Chat GPT For Keyword Expansion By Patterns

One of my favorite methods of doing keyword research is pattern spotting.

Most seed keywords have a variable that can expand your target keywords.

Here are a few examples of patterns:

1. Question Patterns

(who, what, where, why, how, are, can, do, does, will)

“Generate [X] keywords for the topic “[Topic]” that contain any or all of the following “who, what, where, why, how, are, can, do, does, will”

question based keywords keyword research ChatGPTScreenshot ChatGPT 4, April 2024

2. Comparison Patterns

Example:

“Generate 50 keywords for the topic “{Topic}” that contain any or all of the following “for, vs, alternative, best, top, review”

chatgpt comparison patterns for keyword researchScreenshot ChatGPT 4, April 2024

3. Brand Patterns

Another one of my favorite modifiers is a keyword by brand.

We are probably all familiar with the most popular SEO brands; however, if you aren’t, you could ask your AI friend to do the heavy lifting.

Example prompt:

“For the top {Topic} brands what are the top “vs” keywords”

ChatGPT brand patterns promptScreenshot ChatGPT 4, April 2024

4. Search Intent Patterns

One of the most common search intent patterns is “best.”

When someone is searching for a “best {topic}” keyword, they are generally searching for a comprehensive list or guide that highlights the top options, products, or services within that specific topic, along with their features, benefits, and potential drawbacks, to make an informed decision.

Example:

“For the topic of “[Topic]” what are the 20 top keywords that include “best”

ChatGPT best based keyword researchScreenshot ChatGPT 4, April 2024

Again, this guide to keyword research using ChatGPT has emphasized the ease of generating keyword research ideas by utilizing ChatGPT throughout the process.

Keyword Research Using ChatGPT Vs. Keyword Research Tools

Free Vs. Paid Keyword Research Tools

Like keyword research tools, ChatGPT has free and paid options.

However, one of the most significant drawbacks of using ChatGPT for keyword research alone is the absence of SEO metrics to help you make smarter decisions.

To improve accuracy, you could take the results it gives you and verify them with your classic keyword research tool – or vice versa, as shown above, uploading accurate data into the tool and then prompting.

However, you must consider how long it takes to type and fine-tune your prompt to get your desired data versus using the filters within popular keyword research tools.

For example, if we use a popular keyword research tool using filters, you could have all of the “best” queries with all of their SEO metrics:

ahrefs screenshot for best seoScreenshot from Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, March 2024

And unlike ChatGPT, generally, there is no token limit; you can extract several hundred, if not thousands, of keywords at a time.

As I have mentioned multiple times throughout this piece, you cannot blindly trust the data or SEO metrics it may attempt to provide you with.

The key is to validate the keyword research with a keyword research tool.

ChatGPT For International SEO Keyword Research

ChatGPT can be a terrific multilingual keyword research assistant.

For example, if you wanted to research keywords in a foreign language such as French. You could ask ChatGPT to translate your English keywords;

translating keywords with ChatGPTScreenshot ChatGPT 4, Apil 2024
The key is to take the data above and paste it into a popular keyword research tool to verify.
As you can see below, many of the keyword translations for the English keywords do not have any search volume for direct translations in French.
verifying the data with ahrefsScreenshot from Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, April 2024

But don’t worry, there is a workaround: If you have access to a competitor keyword research tool, you can see what webpage is ranking for that query – and then identify the top keyword for that page based on the ChatGPT translated keywords that do have search volume.

top keyword from ahrefs keyword explorerScreenshot from Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, April 2024

Or, if you don’t have access to a paid keyword research tool, you could always take the top-performing result, extract the page copy, and then ask ChatGPT what the primary keyword for the page is.

Key Takeaway

ChatGPT can be an expert on any topic and an invaluable keyword research tool. However, it is another tool to add to your toolbox when doing keyword research; it does not replace traditional keyword research tools.

As shown throughout this tutorial, from making up keywords at the beginning to inaccuracies around data and translations, ChatGPT can make mistakes when used for keyword research.

You cannot blindly trust the data you get back from ChatGPT.

However, it can offer a shortcut to understanding any topic for which you need to do keyword research and, as a result, save you countless hours.

But the key is how you prompt.

The prompts I shared with you above will help you understand a topic in minutes instead of hours and allow you to better seed keywords using keyword research tools.

It can even replace mundane keyword clustering tasks that you used to do with formulas in spreadsheets or generate ideas based on keywords you give it.

Paired with traditional keyword research tools, ChatGPT for keyword research can be a powerful tool in your arsenal.

More resources:


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Google Hints At Improving Site Rankings In Next Update

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Google Hints At Improving Site Rankings In Next Update

Google’s John Mueller says the Search team is “explicitly evaluating” how to reward sites that produce helpful, high-quality content when the next core update rolls out.

The comments came in response to a discussion on X about the impact of March’s core update and September’s helpful content update.

In a series of tweets, Mueller acknowledged the concerns, stating:

“I imagine for most sites strongly affected, the effects will be site-wide for the time being, and it will take until the next update to see similar strong effects (assuming the new state of the site is significantly better than before).”

He added:

“I can’t make any promises, but the team working on this is explicitly evaluating how sites can / will improve in Search for the next update. It would be great to show more users the content that folks have worked hard on, and where sites have taken helpfulness to heart.”

What Does This Mean For SEO Professionals & Site Owners?

Mueller’s comments confirm Google is aware of critiques about the March core update and is refining its ability to identify high-quality sites and reward them appropriately in the next core update.

For websites, clearly demonstrating an authentic commitment to producing helpful and high-quality content remains the best strategy for improving search performance under Google’s evolving systems.

The Aftermath Of Google’s Core Updates

Google’s algorithm updates, including the September “Helpful Content Update” and the March 2024 update, have far-reaching impacts on rankings across industries.

While some sites experienced surges in traffic, others faced substantial declines, with some reporting visibility losses of up to 90%.

As website owners implement changes to align with Google’s guidelines, many question whether their efforts will be rewarded.

There’s genuine concern about the potential for long-term or permanent demotions for affected sites.

Recovery Pathway Outlined, But Challenges Remain

In a previous statement, Mueller acknowledged the complexity of the recovery process, stating that:

“some things take much longer to be reassessed (sometimes months, at the moment), and some bigger effects require another update cycle.”

Mueller clarified that not all changes would require a new update cycle but cautioned that “stronger effects will require another update.”

While affirming that permanent changes are “not very useful in a dynamic world,” Mueller adds that “recovery” implies a return to previous levels, which may be unrealistic given evolving user expectations.

“It’s never ‘just-as-before’,” Mueller stated.

Improved Rankings On The Horizon?

Despite the challenges, Mueller has offered glimmers of hope for impacted sites, stating:

“Yes, sites can grow again after being affected by the ‘HCU’ (well, core update now). This isn’t permanent. It can take a lot of work, time, and perhaps update cycles, and/but a different – updated – site will be different in search too.”

He says the process may require “deep analysis to understand how to make a website relevant in a modern world, and significant work to implement those changes — assuming that it’s something that aligns with what the website even wants.”

Looking Ahead

Google’s search team is actively working on improving site rankings and addressing concerns with the next core update.

However, recovery requires patience, thorough analysis, and persistent effort.

The best way to spend your time until the next update is to remain consistent and produce the most exceptional content in your niche.


FAQ

How long does it generally take for a website to recover from the impact of a core update?

Recovery timelines can vary and depend on the extent and type of updates made to align with Google’s guidelines.

Google’s John Mueller noted that some changes might be reassessed quickly, while more substantial effects could take months and require additional update cycles.

Google acknowledges the complexity of the recovery process, indicating that significant improvements aligned with Google’s quality signals might be necessary for a more pronounced recovery.

What impact did the March and September updates have on websites, and what steps should site owners take?

The March and September updates had widespread effects on website rankings, with some sites experiencing traffic surges while others faced up to 90% visibility losses.

Publishing genuinely useful, high-quality content is key for website owners who want to bounce back from a ranking drop or maintain strong rankings. Stick to Google’s recommendations and adapt as they keep updating their systems.

To minimize future disruptions from algorithm changes, it’s a good idea to review your whole site thoroughly and build a content plan centered on what your users want and need.

Is it possible for sites affected by core updates to regain their previous ranking positions?

Sites can recover from the impact of core updates, but it requires significant effort and time.

Mueller suggested that recovery might happen over multiple update cycles and involves a deep analysis to align the site with current user expectations and modern search criteria.

While a return to previous levels isn’t guaranteed, sites can improve and grow by continually enhancing the quality and relevance of their content.


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