Connect with us

SEO

Three critical keyword research trends you must embrace

Published

on

30-second summary:

  • Exact-match keywords are useful for researching patterns and trends but not so much for optimization purposes
  • When optimizing for keywords, optimize for intent and solve problems, don’t just match your page to the keyword
  • Brand-driven keywords should be your top priority because you cannot control SERPs but you can rank assets that will drive people back to your site
  • Instead of focusing on keyword strings, research your niche entities and find the ways to associate your business with those through on-site content and PR/link building efforts

If you ask an SEO expert to name one SEO tactic that has changed the most over the years, they are likely to confidently answer “link building.” Some will point out to “technical tasks”, and very few will ever think of “keyword research.”

The truth is, most SEO tasks look completely different these days but few SEO experts have changed the fundamental way they do keyword research and optimize content for those keywords.

Yes, we seem to have finally left keyword density behind (unless Google forces it back) but fundamentally nothing has changed: We run keyword tools, find relevant keyword strings and use them as much as we can throughout a dedicated page.

In the meantime, Google’s understanding and treatments of keywords has changed completely.

Advertisement

1. Exact-match keywords are getting obsolete

Google has a long history of trying to understand search queries beyond matching word strings in them to the documents in the search index.

And they succeeded.

It started years ago with Hummingbird being first quietly introduced then officially announced in August of 2013.

Yet, few SEOs actually understood the update or realized how much of a change to everything they knew it was.

With Hummingbird Google made it clear that they were striving for a deeper understanding of searching journeys and that would ultimately fix all their problems. As they manage to know exactly what a searcher wants and learn to give them that, no fake signals or algorithm manipulations will impact their search quality.

Hummingbird was the first time Google announced they wanted to understand “things” instead of matching “strings of words.” In other words, with Hummingbird exact-match keyword strings started becoming less and less useful.

Advertisement

Then, after Hummingbird came BERT that helped Google to enhance its understanding of how people search. 

Exact match keywords becoming obsolete after the Google BERT updateImage source: Google

There’s a short but pretty enlightening video on the struggles and solutions of Google engineers trying to teach the machine to understand the obvious: What is it people mean when typing a search query?

That video explains the evolution of SEO perfectly:

  • Context is what matters
  • Google is struggling, yet slowly succeeding at understanding “context, tone and intention”
  • Search queries are becoming less predictable as more and more people talk to a search engine they way they think
  • Stop words do actually add meaning, and are often crucial at changing it.

The takeaway here: Keyword research tools are still useful. They help you understand the patterns: How people tend to phrase a query when looking for answers and solutions in your niche.

But those keywords with search volume are not always what people use to research your target topic. According to Google, people search in diverse, often unpredictable ways. According to Google, on a daily basis 15% of searches are ones Google hasn’t seen before.

Every day Google encounters 15% of completely new search queries. That’s how diverse searching behaviors are.

Moving away from keyword matching, Google strives to give complete and actionable answers to the query. And that’s what your SEO strategy should be aiming at doing as well.

Advertisement

Whatever keyword research process you’ve been using is likely still valid: It helps you understand the demand for certain queries, prioritize your content assets and structure your site.

It’s the optimization step that is completely different these days. It is no longer enough to use that word in the page title, description and headings.

So when creating an optimization strategy for every keyword you identify:

  • Try to figure out what would satisfy the search intent behind that query: What is it that searcher really looking for? A list? A video? A product to buy? A guide to follow? Even slight changes in a searchable keyword string (e.g. plural vs singular) can signal a searching intent you need to be aware of.
  • Search Google for that query and look through search snippets: Google is very good at identifying what a searcher needs, so they generate search snippets that can give you lots of clues.

Notice how none of the high-ranking documents has that exact search query included:

Ranking resources for diverse keywords vs exact match keywordsImage source: Screenshot made by the author

2. Branded keywords are your priority

More and more people are using search to navigate to a website, and there are several reasons for that:

  • A few strongest browsers allow people search from the address bar (those include Safari on both desktop and mobile and, obviously, Google Chrome)
  • People are getting used to voice searching, so they just speak brand names to perform a  search.

Ranking for branded keywords to funnel target audience to assets

Image source: Screenshot made by the author

In other words, your customers who likely know about your brand and are possibly ready to make a purchase – those hard-earned customers are forced to search for your brand name or for your branded query.

Advertisement

And what will they see?

It is astounding how many companies have no idea what comes up for their branded search, or how many customers they lose over poorly managed (or more often non-existent) in-SERP reputation management.

There are three crucial things to know about brand-driven search:

  • These are mostly high-intent queries: These searchers are typing your brand name intending to buy from you
  • These are often your existing, returning customers that tend to buy more than first-time customers
  • Both of the above factors make these your brands’ top priority.

And yet, you don’t have control over what people see when searching for your brand. In fact, monitoring and optimizing for those brand-driven queries is not a one-time task. It is there for as long as your brand exists.

  • Treat your brand name as a keyword: Expand it, optimize for it, monitor your site’s rankings
  • Identify deeper level problems behind your customers’ brand-driven searching patterns: What is it you can improve to solve problems behind those queries?

Identifying customer pain points for keyword researchImage source: Screenshot made by the author

Your branded search queries should become part of your sales funnel – everything from About page to product pages and lead magnets should capture those brand-driven opportunities.

In many cases, when you see a large amount of brand-driven keywords, you may need a higher level approach, like setting up a standalone knowledge base.

3. Entities are key

Entities are Google’s way to understand this world.

Advertisement

Entities are all proper names out there: Places, people, brands, etc.

Google has a map of entities – called Knowledge Graph – that makes up Google’s understanding of the world.

Entities help Google understand the context and the search intent.

Using entities and semantic searchImage search: The beginner’s guide to semantic search

Being Google’s entity means coming up in searches where you were implied but never mentioned:

Using Google entities for keyword researchImage source: Screenshot made by the author

Through entity associations, Google knows what any search is about.

Entities should be the core of your keyword research process: What are known entities is your niche and how do you associate your brand with those entities?

Advertisement

Conclusion

Search engine optimization is evolving fast, so it requires an agile strategy for brands to keep up. If you are doing keyword research the old, exact-match, way, your business is about 10 years behind!


Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

Join the conversation with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Advertisement

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address

SEO

Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

Published

on

By

Measuring Content Impact Across The Customer Journey

Understanding the impact of your content at every touchpoint of the customer journey is essential – but that’s easier said than done. From attracting potential leads to nurturing them into loyal customers, there are many touchpoints to look into.

So how do you identify and take advantage of these opportunities for growth?

Watch this on-demand webinar and learn a comprehensive approach for measuring the value of your content initiatives, so you can optimize resource allocation for maximum impact.

You’ll learn:

  • Fresh methods for measuring your content’s impact.
  • Fascinating insights using first-touch attribution, and how it differs from the usual last-touch perspective.
  • Ways to persuade decision-makers to invest in more content by showcasing its value convincingly.

With Bill Franklin and Oliver Tani of DAC Group, we unravel the nuances of attribution modeling, emphasizing the significance of layering first-touch and last-touch attribution within your measurement strategy. 

Check out these insights to help you craft compelling content tailored to each stage, using an approach rooted in first-hand experience to ensure your content resonates.

Advertisement

Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or new to content measurement, this webinar promises valuable insights and actionable tactics to elevate your SEO game and optimize your content initiatives for success. 

View the slides below or check out the full webinar for all the details.

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address
Continue Reading

SEO

How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

Published

on

How to Find and Use Competitor Keywords

Competitor keywords are the keywords your rivals rank for in Google’s search results. They may rank organically or pay for Google Ads to rank in the paid results.

Knowing your competitors’ keywords is the easiest form of keyword research. If your competitors rank for or target particular keywords, it might be worth it for you to target them, too.

There is no way to see your competitors’ keywords without a tool like Ahrefs, which has a database of keywords and the sites that rank for them. As far as we know, Ahrefs has the biggest database of these keywords.

How to find all the keywords your competitor ranks for

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Organic keywords report

The report is sorted by traffic to show you the keywords sending your competitor the most visits. For example, Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword “mailchimp.”

Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.Mailchimp gets most of its organic traffic from the keyword, “mailchimp”.

Since you’re unlikely to rank for your competitor’s brand, you might want to exclude branded keywords from the report. You can do this by adding a Keyword > Doesn’t contain filter. In this example, we’ll filter out keywords containing “mailchimp” or any potential misspellings:

Filtering out branded keywords in Organic keywords reportFiltering out branded keywords in Organic keywords report

If you’re a new brand competing with one that’s established, you might also want to look for popular low-difficulty keywords. You can do this by setting the Volume filter to a minimum of 500 and the KD filter to a maximum of 10.

Finding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywordsFinding popular, low-difficulty keywords in Organic keywords

How to find keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter your competitor’s domain in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis reportCompetitive analysis report

Hit “Show keyword opportunities,” and you’ll see all the keywords your competitor ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap reportContent gap report

You can also add a Volume and KD filter to find popular, low-difficulty keywords in this report.

Volume and KD filter in Content gapVolume and KD filter in Content gap

How to find keywords multiple competitors rank for, but you don’t

  1. Go to Competitive Analysis
  2. Enter your domain in the This target doesn’t rank for section
  3. Enter the domains of multiple competitors in the But these competitors do section
Competitive analysis report with multiple competitorsCompetitive analysis report with multiple competitors

You’ll see all the keywords that at least one of these competitors ranks for, but you don’t.

Content gap report with multiple competitorsContent gap report with multiple competitors

You can also narrow the list down to keywords that all competitors rank for. Click on the Competitors’ positions filter and choose All 3 competitors:

Selecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank forSelecting all 3 competitors to see keywords all 3 competitors rank for
  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  2. Enter your competitor’s domain
  3. Go to the Paid keywords report
Paid keywords reportPaid keywords report

This report shows you the keywords your competitors are targeting via Google Ads.

Since your competitor is paying for traffic from these keywords, it may indicate that they’re profitable for them—and could be for you, too.

Advertisement

You know what keywords your competitors are ranking for or bidding on. But what do you do with them? There are basically three options.

1. Create pages to target these keywords

You can only rank for keywords if you have content about them. So, the most straightforward thing you can do for competitors’ keywords you want to rank for is to create pages to target them.

However, before you do this, it’s worth clustering your competitor’s keywords by Parent Topic. This will group keywords that mean the same or similar things so you can target them all with one page.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Export your competitor’s keywords, either from the Organic Keywords or Content Gap report
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
Clustering keywords by Parent TopicClustering keywords by Parent Topic

For example, MailChimp ranks for keywords like “what is digital marketing” and “digital marketing definition.” These and many others get clustered under the Parent Topic of “digital marketing” because people searching for them are all looking for the same thing: a definition of digital marketing. You only need to create one page to potentially rank for all these keywords.

Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"Keywords under the cluster of "digital marketing"

2. Optimize existing content by filling subtopics

You don’t always need to create new content to rank for competitors’ keywords. Sometimes, you can optimize the content you already have to rank for them.

How do you know which keywords you can do this for? Try this:

Advertisement
  1. Export your competitor’s keywords
  2. Paste them into Keywords Explorer
  3. Click the “Clusters by Parent Topic” tab
  4. Look for Parent Topics you already have content about

For example, if we analyze our competitor, we can see that seven keywords they rank for fall under the Parent Topic of “press release template.”

Our competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" clusterOur competitor ranks for seven keywords that fall under the "press release template" cluster

If we search our site, we see that we already have a page about this topic.

Site search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templatesSite search finds that we already have a blog post on press release templates

If we click the caret and check the keywords in the cluster, we see keywords like “press release example” and “press release format.”

Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"Keywords under the cluster of "press release template"

To rank for the keywords in the cluster, we can probably optimize the page we already have by adding sections about the subtopics of “press release examples” and “press release format.”

3. Target these keywords with Google Ads

Paid keywords are the simplest—look through the report and see if there are any relevant keywords you might want to target, too.

For example, Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter.”

Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp is bidding for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

If you’re ConvertKit, you may also want to target this keyword since it’s relevant.

If you decide to target the same keyword via Google Ads, you can hover over the magnifying glass to see the ads your competitor is using.

Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”Mailchimp's Google Ad for the keyword “how to create a newsletter”

You can also see the landing page your competitor directs ad traffic to under the URL column.

The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”The landing page Mailchimp is directing traffic to for “how to create a newsletter”

Learn more

Check out more tutorials on how to do competitor keyword analysis:

Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address
Continue Reading

SEO

Google Confirms Links Are Not That Important

Published

on

By

Google confirms that links are not that important anymore

Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed at a recent search marketing conference that Google needs very few links, adding to the growing body of evidence that publishers need to focus on other factors. Gary tweeted confirmation that he indeed say those words.

Background Of Links For Ranking

Links were discovered in the late 1990’s to be a good signal for search engines to use for validating how authoritative a website is and then Google discovered soon after that anchor text could be used to provide semantic signals about what a webpage was about.

One of the most important research papers was Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment by Jon M. Kleinberg, published around 1998 (link to research paper at the end of the article). The main discovery of this research paper is that there is too many web pages and there was no objective way to filter search results for quality in order to rank web pages for a subjective idea of relevance.

The author of the research paper discovered that links could be used as an objective filter for authoritativeness.

Kleinberg wrote:

Advertisement

“To provide effective search methods under these conditions, one needs a way to filter, from among a huge collection of relevant pages, a small set of the most “authoritative” or ‘definitive’ ones.”

This is the most influential research paper on links because it kick-started more research on ways to use links beyond as an authority metric but as a subjective metric for relevance.

Objective is something factual. Subjective is something that’s closer to an opinion. The founders of Google discovered how to use the subjective opinions of the Internet as a relevance metric for what to rank in the search results.

What Larry Page and Sergey Brin discovered and shared in their research paper (The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine – link at end of this article) was that it was possible to harness the power of anchor text to determine the subjective opinion of relevance from actual humans. It was essentially crowdsourcing the opinions of millions of website expressed through the link structure between each webpage.

What Did Gary Illyes Say About Links In 2024?

At a recent search conference in Bulgaria, Google’s Gary Illyes made a comment about how Google doesn’t really need that many links and how Google has made links less important.

Patrick Stox tweeted about what he heard at the search conference:

” ‘We need very few links to rank pages… Over the years we’ve made links less important.’ @methode #serpconf2024″

Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted a confirmation of that statement:

Advertisement

“I shouldn’t have said that… I definitely shouldn’t have said that”

Why Links Matter Less

The initial state of anchor text when Google first used links for ranking purposes was absolutely non-spammy, which is why it was so useful. Hyperlinks were primarily used as a way to send traffic from one website to another website.

But by 2004 or 2005 Google was using statistical analysis to detect manipulated links, then around 2004 “powered-by” links in website footers stopped passing anchor text value, and by 2006 links close to the words “advertising” stopped passing link value, links from directories stopped passing ranking value and by 2012 Google deployed a massive link algorithm called Penguin that destroyed the rankings of likely millions of websites, many of which were using guest posting.

The link signal eventually became so bad that Google decided in 2019 to selectively use nofollow links for ranking purposes. Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that the change to nofollow was made because of the link signal.

Google Explicitly Confirms That Links Matter Less

In 2023 Google’s Gary Illyes shared at a PubCon Austin that links were not even in the top 3 of ranking factors. Then in March 2024, coinciding with the March 2024 Core Algorithm Update, Google updated their spam policies documentation to downplay the importance of links for ranking purposes.

Google March 2024 Core Update: 4 Changes To Link Signal

The documentation previously said:

Advertisement

“Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

The update to the documentation that mentioned links was updated to remove the word important.

Links are not just listed as just another factor:

“Google uses links as a factor in determining the relevancy of web pages.”

At the beginning of April Google’s John Mueller advised that there are more useful SEO activities to engage on than links.

Mueller explained:

“There are more important things for websites nowadays, and over-focusing on links will often result in you wasting your time doing things that don’t make your website better overall”

Finally, Gary Illyes explicitly said that Google needs very few links to rank webpages and confirmed it.

Why Google Doesn’t Need Links

The reason why Google doesn’t need many links is likely because of the extent of AI and natural language undertanding that Google uses in their algorithms. Google must be highly confident in its algorithm to be able to explicitly say that they don’t need it.

Way back when Google implemented the nofollow into the algorithm there were many link builders who sold comment spam links who continued to lie that comment spam still worked. As someone who started link building at the very beginning of modern SEO (I was the moderator of the link building forum at the #1 SEO forum of that time), I can say with confidence that links have stopped playing much of a role in rankings beginning several years ago, which is why I stopped about five or six years ago.

Read the research papers

Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment – Jon M. Kleinberg (PDF)

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine

Featured Image by Shutterstock/RYO Alexandre

Advertisement



Source link

Keep an eye on what we are doing
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Invalid email address
Continue Reading

Trending

Follow by Email
RSS