All content campaigns begin with the same thing:
And there’s a good reason for this. Targeting keywords will lead to lasting organic search traffic for your website.
Unfortunately the dilemma is that 80% of SEO experts and marketers do keyword research wrong. They just put in a core keyword into Google’s Keyword Planner, download the results, and then start cataloging through them in a spreadsheet.
Having said that, exactly thousands of other marketers and SEO experts have already searched that exact same keyword!
With this strategy you won’t find anything similar to a low-competition keyword to aim.
Now, if you have a site with high domain authority then this is not a big deal. But if you’re working on a less authoritative domain, or a brand new one, you need to find practical keywords to rank for.
The perk is that the keyword planner only shows a very small section of keywords you can target. If you can find “veiled” keywords that have a decent search volume, but less competition, your organic search traffic will grow rapidly.
Here are 5 modern keyword research methods that you can use to reveal keywords that haven’t been targeted by your competitors.
Understand what keyword research really is
Keyword research not a science, it’s an art.
While there are many good tools out there, they should be the start of your research, not the end. Most SEOs use keyword research to figure out how much search traffic they could potentially attract for free. Experienced SEO experts use keyword research to recognize their readers.
Keywords, their search volumes, and their competition tell you a few things:
- What your audience’s main problems are –if 5,000 people are searching for a fussy keyword, it shows that it’s a common and important problem in your niche? Create your content around the most popular problems.
- The language they use –people describe problems in different ways. If you can recognize which keywords your reader uses to portray their problems, you can write more convincing content.
- Which topics are becoming more important or less important over time –as niches evolve, keywords gain and lose popularity. Good keyword research will help you recognize which queries are becoming more common so that you can create more content around those terms.
Once you understand how your reader searches for their terms, you’ll be able to find untapped keywords that are perfect to target.
The first stage of keyword research includes coming up with new keyword ideas.
Sometimes this is the most difficult part of the process as many people unfamiliar with keyword competition will select very broad words to target such as pizza, hotel, or Los Angeles.
Others will pick obscure phrases that no one will likely search such as SEO/Link Building/Social Media (yes, I’ve seen people trying to similarly over-punctuated phrases).
So the first thing you will need to do is find suitable, related phrases for their business.
You can always start with some simple brainstorming. Look at what the main focuses are on the website and jotting down keywords. Then, you can always expand on those ideas and keep on searching for some great keyword tools.
1. Twitter chats are a gold mine
All SEO experts know that Twitter is an influential platform for marketing, but few know how to use all its features effectively.
When people want to talk about a particular topic on Twitter, the only way to do it is to incorporate a hashtag in their tweets. Then, other users can search for that hashtag to see the most recent results and work together with them.
A Twitter chat uses an exact hashtag so that users can discuss topics. They are typically hosted or moderated for a short time in order to inspire discussion if needed.
To take benefit of Twitter chats fully, you’ll need to use a tool designed specifically for them. Here are a few options:
All of these tools work fairly similarly. You just have to enter a hashtag for a particular chat and you will see the tweets from other users:
Always look for established Twitter chats also the best way to take advantage of Twitter chats for keyword research is to essentially participate in them in real time.
The idea is to watch the chats, which naturally consist of followers looking for answers from influencers. These questions often include useful keywords, just like they are in forums.
When you go with a hashtag of an old chat, you’ll typically only see the most popular (re-tweeted and shared) posts. Alas, these aren’t generally the questions, but rather the answers.
So, if you really want to take advantage of chats, plan to attend a few upcoming ones.
Make a list of chats you’d be interested in attending from each of the four sources as well as the times they run.
2. Find the questions your readers are asking
The best keywords come from the readers themselves. Previously, it was tricky to find them, but now you have quite a few options at your disposal. If you find a forum in your niche, you can look at the threads to extract keywords for your list.
You can also learn more about the kind of language your readers use. By looking at the words and short phrases that are used most often, you will begin to see a picture of what matters most to your audience.
Quora is probably the biggest, but there is other question and answer sites you could use for research:
- Yahoo Answers
- Stack Exchange
- Wiki Answers
- Ask Metafilter
The reason that Question and answers sites are more useful than forums for keyword research is that unlike many forums, which are ordered according to the reply dates, Q&A sites have algorithms which can show you popular content, both past and present.
- Pay Attention to Both Head Term and Long Tail Keywords
Head terms are described as single words or two words that will practically form a part of any search in a related field. For instance, Appliance Repair will feature when one is talking of the furnace, heater, cooler and a whole range of equipment in the air conditioning field. On the other hand, “How to fix a broken pipe’ is what is known as a “Long Tail’ keyword.
Head terms and long tail keywords have a place in any strategy you will develop for SEO. The problem with Head Terms like writing my thesis is their competitive nature. Everyone is targeting these words and will, therefore, cause a lot of competition.
While you cannot ignore the head terms, you must find a perfect balance. Both terms will propel your blog to the top with every search. This strategy will transform your SEO experience.
- Narrow Down Your Target List
Search engines are particular on the content that captures their attention. Narrow down your target words to the least possible audience. Target one or two head terms in an article.
It is impossible to provide content that captures all the services or goods you are offering. This explains why successful websites create a blog or description of every product. This saves you from spamming and also gives value to readers whenever they click onto your site.
- Don't overestimate the power of individual keywords
While there are always a few sneaky marketers who come up with SEO exploits, Google is never too far behind. Its mission is to eradicate every gap in its search algorithm that businesses are taking advantage of.
Since individual keywords are frequently at the center of black-hat SEO tactics, Google is moving away from them. According to a recent Forbes article, we are at present seeing the rise of topical themes:
"As semantic search maintains to become even more refined, the power of individual keywords will continue to shrink, while the power of topical themes will continue to mount. Google is continuously improving and getting better, and that means simple, calculated approaches will become less relevant over time."
The message here is clear: don't think of keyword research exclusively in terms of individual words. Google will ultimately force all businesses to move away from this style of SEO practice.
It's important to return to keyword research every couple of months. You might need to come up with new long-tail keywords, get rid of ones with low search volume, or envision what your potential customers are searching on Google.
Keyword research and competition go hand in hand
Keyword research will allow you to accumulate a list of hundreds or thousands of relevant keywords. However, this is ineffective until you assess the competition level of each keyword.
If quite a few experts are targeting a particular keyword, it’s naturally better to move and find an easier one to go after.
Examining the existing search engine results for a keyword and analyzing how competitive they are is a whole different topic which can be discussed.
Also remember that most keyword research or tracking tools have some sort of built-in metrics for competition. However, some are more precise than others.
It’s time to stop talking about keywords in volumes, but in terms of intent and how valuable they are to the business.
SEO is difficult and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, but there are few good practices that can be employed to provide steady results.
So it’s important that we inform and update our clients about modern keyword strategies and explain why some ideas are good (or bad).