If your keyword research methods haven’t kept up with search engine algorithm changes, which includes the shift in emphasis from search to searcher, you may be missing out on the potential ROI for critical keywords in your industry. Keyword research has undergone a major overhaul since the early days of the Internet. The golden days of stuffing landing pages with keywords are long gone. Today it’s all about the quality of content, not the quantity.
With a bird’s eye look at how keyword research is evolving, we can better prepare you and your clients to make better SEO choices, optimize for algorithm updates, and stay ROI positive.
The Evolution of Keyword Research
Back in the good ol’ days, like the late ‘90s, search engine algorithms were ridiculously simple by today’s standards. They looked for the presence of keywords on a webpage and used those as the primary metric for assessing whether a potential search result was relevant to a particular query. But, just as nature is red in tooth and claw, according to Darwin, websites and keyword researchers were not only quick to adapt to this change — they evolved! In turn, the search engines themselves became more sophisticated in their evaluation and ranking methodology. Fast forward to 2019. Even minute changes to a search engine algorithm can wreak havoc on a keyword strategy!
Did you know that one of Google’s first major updates to its algorithm was to expand its assessment of a website beyond keywords to include inbound links? If you think about it, this makes perfect sense as a quick way to assess the authority of a website. For example, does anyone around the office really care how great you think your PowerPoint presentation was? Nope. But if ten other colleagues around the water cooler think it was the bomb, then yeah, it was probably some dynamite stuff. Now, if you’ve got a couple of departments over at the home office talking you up, you’ve reached atomic-level critical mass relevancy.
With the rollout of Adwords and their subsequent Keyword Planner services, Google pretty much wrote the book on keyword research — for a time. Performing keyword research using these tools and following Google’s rules made it possible for companies to achieve search engine visibility they probably wouldn’t have reached otherwise. Companies could “look under the hood” at Google not just for keyword ideas, but also deeper-level insights into what the competition might be thinking. Google is certainly the biggest shark in the waters, but there are other leviathans hidden in the deep.
Google’s Keyword Planner worked insanely well because it was based on reliable data, but they were Google’s own metrics. There was a direct correlation between keyword research and results. And while this information was really important, it also brought about another big and unexpected shift. “If this is what we can do with what Google gives us, what other metrics can be captured? And what can we do with that data?” All of a sudden, every guppy, minow, and trout-sized company began measuring absolutely everything. Thus, the ‘big data craze’ was born.
It’s About Walking the Buyer’s Journey with Your Customers
Okay, so I have a little confession to make. I think we all made a lot of assumptions about what customers wanted in the early days of keyword research. We thought what people wanted was exactly what they asked for in their search string. But, alas, I was wrong. The entire industry narrowly focused on the ‘decision stage’ of the buyer’s journey. Nobody even stopped to ponder whether some Internet searchers were still in the awareness or consideration stages. It’s basic marketing, right?
I think we all see the value in developing keyword research strategies that also serve these user segments. Hey, I encourage you to do the same. Not only can we give a wider audience the help — the information — they’re looking for, but we can foster an actual relationship. By the time they’re ready to commit, there’s a good chance it will be to the company they’ve been engaging directly with.
An uptick in competition for online engagement pushes us all to engage customers earlier in the buyer’s journey pipeline. That’s why I can’t stress enough how important it is to reach out to prospective customers in the awareness and consideration stages, and modify your keyword research to reflect that.
Grow Your Website with Topic-Oriented Keyword Research
In support of reaching prospective customers where they are in the buyer’s journey, we also need to utilize topic-oriented keyword research when putting websites together. Marrying content and keywords can give each a little added bump as shorter-tail and long-tail keywords work in tandem.
Building a website with topic-oriented keyword research is like planning and planting an English garden compared to a field of wildflowers. In the English garden, every patch of flowers is intentionally placed next to other plants for an overall complimentary design that’s cohesive and strategic. If done right, flowers will be in bloom all season long. In a topic-oriented website, the main pages address awareness and consideration while satellite pages (think blogs and FAQ pieces) help with decision-making.
In a field of wildflowers, plants just grow as best they can wherever the seeds land. It’s not that it isn’t pretty but it can look very haphazard. When a website’s pages are added without a thoughtful plan, the disorganization can hurt site ranking. Once upon a time, I believed this method of keyword research allowed me to be responsive to sudden changes in keyword popularity but then I saw how I was just chasing a bouncing ball. Once I pivoted toward topic-oriented keyword site building, I had a framework to build on — even quickly, if needed — but in an organized and logical way that made sense to me, the client, the customer, and the search engine.
Adopting a topic-oriented keyword strategy aligns better with how search engine algorithms have also evolved. When a search engine queries your website for inclusion in a SERP, a well-organized framework that’s intentional suggests authority and reliability; a haphazard site does not. Carefully plotted internal links should emphasize your desired high-level topics, and website design, like building a house with a good foundation, should start with keyword research to ensure strong organization around keywords as a foundation.
Partner Keyword Research with Content Gap Analysis
When there’s a strong topic-oriented framework for site development, it’s possible to strategically apply content gap analysis and identify areas where content development is needed to maximize keyword usage. While awareness and consideration stages of the buyer’s journey may have lower conversion rates, overall, they may have greater ROI because of the potential for relationship building with the customer. Keyword analysis tools help sort keywords into categories and rank them according to the three major steps in the buyer’s journey. This gives me the ability to map the content according to my keyword research, with ongoing evaluation and analysis for making changes as needed.
Looking to the Future
The evolution of keyword research from an action-oriented process to a user-oriented process has given us the ability to embrace the customer earlier in the buyer’s journey while still effectively navigating ever-changing search engine algorithms with confidence. If it’s been a while since you’ve brushed up on your keyword research, turn to iwebcontent for expert advice and guidance. Book a call today and let’s fine-tune your keyword research strategy for maximum performance in today’s competitive online environment.