Is keyword research still necessary?
This has become an increasingly popular question over the last two years in the online marketing space. Google has made a lot of changes to their data displays and algorithms, making SEO’s and business owners wonder the same thing – “Is my keyword strategy still relevant?”
Here’s a breakdown of some of the changes that impact organic search and keyword data collecting:
1) (not provided) appears in Google Analytics, which Google did in order to “protect” users’ private search data from being viewed by businesses for marketing purposes.
2) Increased focus on local search results – Search from a certain geographic location for a particular service, and you’ll get one set of results. Search from another, and you’ll get different results. Of course this is a sensible change – if you search for “water damage restoration,” you probably want a local company, not one 1,000 miles away.
3) Personalized search – If you’re signed in to a Google account and you search, results from people within your Google+ circles, or results from previous sessions, appear much higher in the search results.
4) Social media now plays a much more important role in your search rankings. The more followers, and especially the more shares you get, the stronger your rankings in the search engines.
These 4 factors appear to make keyword research a bit less relevant to your overall strategy, but the right way to look at keyword research is that it’s less straightforward than it was a few years ago – but still just as critical to the success of your internet marketing campaigns!
“So, Why Do Keyword Research? Can’t I Just Pick My Important Terms?”
Google still uses keywords to serve up sites and ads, and organic search still accounts for the majority of traffic to a properly optimized website. Google has to incorporate keywords into their algorithms because that is what searchers use to find what they’re looking for.
Also, f you are trying to rank for a specific keyword and/or target a specific keyword in your organic or paid advertisements, you have to optimize your website for that keyword. Google looks at the page the link or the ad points to. If the keyword isn’t specific to the page it’s pointing to, you are likely not going to achieve a high quality score for that key term. So, clearly your keyword research and strategy is key for on-page optimization reasons (as well as off site SEO – such as content and link building).
Issues with Selecting Keywords
Problem 1: One problem we often encounter when determining the target keyword strategy for a client is that businesses call their products and services one thing, while searchers may call them another. (Hey, not everyone is as technical as you, okay?)
Solution 1: Allow an outside team to brainstorm and throw out their own personal ideas for search. People who aren’t already familiar with your product/service are great candidates for keyword discovery. Once you have developed a list of ideas – you can then expand on them to discover all of the various ways someone might search for your products/services. Of course once you decide on a strategy and implement it, you have to give it some time and test. If one strategy doesn’t work, you can always adjust from there – it does some times take a bit of trail and error to get the strategy just right.
Problem 2: Sometimes a business wants to sell a new product or service and there is very little to no search volume for the keywords that would be relevant to this new idea. Or, the terms relevant are very broad and would possibly drive targeted traffic, but then again, maybe not… (and who has the time and money to test that theory?).
Solution 2: This problem takes a lot of creativity in your research and possibly a branding campaign to raise awareness for the new product/service. You can always start with the closest keywords to your offer and then promote your specific product/service through paid ad campaigns, social channels and viral marketing pieces
Problem 3: Other clients may be in a highly competitive space and their desired keyword phrases are so difficult it seems impossible to rank for the terms. (I mean, who can really compete with Adobe or Nike for example).
Solution 3: This is also an obstacle we can overcome – it just takes some deep keyword discovery to identify the longer-tail keyword phrases that are lesser competitive. We realize that long tail keywords generally have lower search volumes which makes them less desirable – but our experience says that long tail actually usually means “low hanging fruit”! When someone is specific in their search they are generally more apt to convert. So, although the search volume is lower, you might have better success with a long tail strategy.
The solution to all of the issues mentioned above is expert keyword discovery and research. When we do keyword research, we help you find keywords related to your products or services that you can realistically rank for within your budget. We determine how competitive your space is and how realistic it is for you to compete for specific keyword phrases. And hey, if you can’t go after your “money” keywords at first due to budget restrictions or lack of authority with Google – then we start where we can, helping you meet your short term goals while still working towards your big keywords as a long term goal.
A Quick Look at How Keyword Research Works
Clients often come to us and want to rank for vague terms like “kids shoes” (just a pretend example). If you go into Google Adwords and do some quick keyword research, the following information is revealed:
- 33,100 searches and high competition
We can never promise how long it will take to rank for short-tail keywords, but with a term like this, you’re usually looking at 6 – 12 months or more (and a lot of money) before even have a chance to rank at the top of the Goolge search engine results.
However, for a long tail term, such as “best kids basketball shoes,” there are 110 monthly searches and medium competition. Generally, with a lower number of searches like this, that means there’s less organic competition (the high competition in Adwords refers to the number of advertisers paying to display PPC ads for that keyword), and therefore you have a much better chance of ranking high for that keyword in a shorter period of time.
Of course we don’t base our suggestions off of the Google AdWords difficulty numbers alone, this just helps us narrow the list. Once we have narrowed the list down we can take the exact keywords and use other tools to better determine their organic levels of difficulty.
As mentioned above, in addiction to being easier to rank for, long-tail keywords generally lead to better conversion rates. People who enter a string of keywords as a phrase have a better idea of what they’re looking for. If they type in “kids shoes,” they are likely just doing research and aren’t quite ready to buy yet.
How Long Will Keyword Research Remain Relevant?
This is the real question. Although Google and the other search engines are clearly moving towards personalized results, the terms used to search will still be very valuable. Google makes their money by selling paid advertisements for business owners. Business owners bid and buy ad placement based off of the keyword data. If Google doesn’t provide search data – how will their advertisers know which keywords to bid on?
Keyword research might be changing, but it’s definitely not going to die as long as Google can make money from keyword based advertisements.
What do you think?