With each update to Google's search algorithm, approaches to SEO keyword research become outdated. Despite being dedicated to their SEO strategies, many businesses aren't seeing any results due to misconceptions related to keyword research.
If this is resonating with you, then you should try to get a more modern keyword research strategy. Here are a few tips to get you started on the right track.
Keep a healthy mix of head terms and long-tail keywords
Head terms refer to short and simple keywords while long-tail keywords typically contain three or more words. Here's a quick example:
- Head term: Cooking tips
- Long-tail keywords: How to make the best guacamole
Now, one major difference is that head terms are usually much more competitive. There are thousands of websites that target "cooking tips," making it hard to rank for that term.
Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are less competitive, but also less likely to get searched for. The better you understand your target audience, the more effective and accurate long-tail keywords you can make.
Modern SEO strategies should have a balance of head terms and long-tail keywords. You'll be better off if you don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Don't force keywords where they don't belong
Some businesses define an arbitrary keyword density goal in their SEO strategies. This usually leads to redundant and superfluous phrasing that reduces the quality of their content.
Shoving keywords into articles doesn't improve your SEO anymore. This recent Practical Ecommerce article explains why your content is more important than your keyword density:
"Modern SEO focuses on using the variations of the word or phrase that work naturally within the content because users will have a better experience, and search engines are capable of rewarding rankings to sites regardless of the variation of that keyword used. In other words, when a shopper searches for 'books,' the pages that best serve that user’s search query will, in theory, be ranked highest regardless of whether the content reflects the word 'book' or 'books.'"
It's simple. If you can naturally include your keywords in your content, then you're more than welcome to. But if doing so distracts your reader or sounds choppy, then just leave it out. In the case that you can never naturally include keywords in your content, you should go back to your research and select new ones.
When in doubt, prioritize your user experience. That's what Google is looking for anyway, and you'll make a better impression on your target audience.
Focus on what consumers are looking for
It's easy to lose sight of the big picture when you focus on the nitty gritty of SEO. Sometimes it's good to remember what's more important than anything else: what your target audience is looking for online.
Yes, it's simple and obvious, but it should also be at the center of your SEO strategy. According to this Search Engine Journal article, this will dictate your ranking on Google:
"Since consumers know what they are looking for, you can optimize your content around the core needs and problems your target audience experiences. It is your job to build an SEO strategy by knowing what your customers are looking for. This will allow you to create relevant content that your customers want to read, and as a result, your content will rank higher in Google."
If you can't imagine consumers typing your current keywords into Google, then get new ones. But even more importantly, create content that will serve a purpose for your target audience.
Narrow down your list
Since people have the tendency to target too many keywords, you can probably benefit from narrowing down your current list. If you don't know what to leave out, then you should evaluate your keywords quantitatively.
Google gives you a couple of tools to do just that. With Google AdWords Keyword Planner and Google Trends, you can look up the search volume with respect to certain terms. If one of your keywords has a low volume in relation to the rest of your list, then you should remove it altogether.
You should try to narrow down your keyword list a few times a year. You won't always have to remove something, but you'll find that some words go in and out of style over time.
Don't overestimate the power of individual keywords
While there are always a few crafty marketers who come up with SEO exploits, Google is never too far behind. Its mission is to eliminate every hole in its search algorithm that businesses are taking advantage of.
Since individual keywords are often at the center of black-hat SEO tactics, Google is moving away from them. According to a recent Forbes article, we are currently seeing the rise of topical themes:
"As semantic search continues to become even more sophisticated, the power of individual keywords will continue to diminish, while the power of topical themes will continue to rise. Google is always 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 solely in terms of individual words. Google will eventually force all businesses to move away from this style of SEO.
It's important to revisit keyword research every couple of months. You might need to come up with new long-tail keywords, remove ones with low search volume, or imagine what your prospective customers are searching on Google.
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