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A Keywords Guide For Present-Day SEO (With Free Tools!)

There’s been much news lately on the present value of keyword rankings and debates on the need to track its progress.

Are keywords really dead? This article helps to de-clutter the relevance of keyword research for present-day SEO, including actionable tips on this topic. There’s much to consider beyond keyword rankings, but keywords are definitely still alive and kicking.

Where did the #1 rank go?

With Google rolling out new features every other month, don’t be surprised if you are actually looking through up to 7 other results to finally find that “#1” ranking.

Different Types of SERP for Different Queries
Different Types of SERP for Different Queries
The rankings you see are increasingly less universal as Google is gradually picking up heavily on machine learning. This technique, known as query chaining, is how every query contains elements of personalization to the particular user. Based on the deduced intent of the keyword query, a different SERP may be displayed for that person.
If all that was mentioned comes as a surprise to you, your best bet would be to start investing more effort on keyword research that’s relevant to trends.

By having a good understanding of the keywords in your landscape and the “display” of their respective SERP, you’ll be more certain about writing relevant content that will not only increase your ranks, but also improve the user experience to that query.

Here’re some tips for you to get researching away!

Keywords categorisation

Not every keyword behaves in the same way – we have to look at the whole spectrum of things. There are the top 100 keywords that pull much search volume. But there are also the long-tail keywords, which look like underperformers but actually take up 80% of the keywords in the market.

Here’s our little breakdown of what the different categorization means:

    • Broad-match Keyword: Single-word keywords with significant search volume and competition. Being ambiguous in nature, they are less converting. For example, a single word “furniture” consists of different intents depending on users.
    • Associated Keywords (Long-Tail Keywords): These are 2-3 word phrases that have moderate search volume (about 2,000 searches). They are slightly more specific, such as “luxury furniture”, but can get pretty competitive due to their potential to be converting.
    •  More Descriptive Phrases (Long-Tail Keywords): These are 4+ word phrases that are very specific. They have lesser search volume but are little gems that hold high converting power. In this case, “where to buy luxury European sofa”

Sort out your keywords in this manner and you’ll be able to spot potential long-tail keyword variations which will help you with your content strategy. With Google heading towards more machine learning, it’s probably more important than ever to spot and target long-tail keywords. 

Let’s get down to some tools that we can use to understand broad-matchers and long-tailers better!

Keyword research: What to focus on?

The Keyword Planner is a free tool and all you’ll need is an AdWords account. Since it’s primarily built for AdWords, there will be information related to bidding and click forecast. I’ll be explaining them below:

A Snapshot of Google's Keyword Planner
A Snapshot of Google’s Keyword Planner

Search Volume

The search volume given is by default a monthly statistic for the last 12 months. You’ll get a pretty good gauge on how well a keyword performs. The results reflect the estimated volumes for exact match keywords. You may find it useful to take into account the volumes of close keywords variants. For instance, ‘home & decor’ and ‘home&decor’.

Do take note that if your site is serving audiences beyond your local country, choose the appropriate geographic region for more aligned results under the ‘targeting options’.

Suggested Bid Prices

While this information is mainly serving to the AdWords bidding component, you will find that this number provides a good approximation of the monetary worth of that query in the market. A more expensive keyword implies greater competition and therefore might have greater converting potential.

Google Search Analytics Metrics

The Search Analytics Report can be found on Google Search Console. (Don’t worry, this is a free tool as well!) You’ll have to register and verify your website, before Google shows you valuable information about its crawling experience with your website. Read a guide here if you’d like to find out more.

A Snapshot of Google's Search Analytics Report
A Snapshot of Google’s Search Analytics Report
Here, you’ll find your top-performing keywords which can be sorted by clicks and impressions. Just by looking at these two metrics, you’ll be able to grasp a better picture of how your content strategy should respond to your keywords performance.

One classic example would be to fix queries which have high impressions yet low clicks. The actionable can simply be improving on the meta title and description to give that click-through rate a lift. Read about writing great meta titles and descriptions for SEO in this useful read.

Google Trends

Yes, it is another free tool! Here, you’ll be able to find a general overview of trending topics and queries based on location and countries. It is a great way for you to get localized keyword insights! (Especially important if you are doing a regional/global business)

A Snapshot of Google Trends
A Snapshot of Google Trends
Based on your search term, you’ll explore other long-tail keywords that you might have missed out along the way because your website has not picked it up yet. Collate a few of them and run a test on the Keyword Planner to measure its performance in your landscape.

You’ll also see what are the associations made by the general audience with the keyword. In this case, the brands ‘IKEA’ and ‘Seahorse’ are popular correlations that people make with ‘sofa bed’.

Content Targeting According to Keyword Type

Once you’ve done your categorization and analyzing with useful metrics and tools, we can start planning our content development plans around the findings!

Broad-match Keywords

As we’ve defined earlier, these are key terms that are most likely the generic query that will be included in most of your long tail keywords. They have ample search volumes and fit your business unique selling proposition well. All your following associated long-tails will include this keyword. You should also start optimizing your homepage for this keyword.

Example: ‘furniture online

Associated Keywords

These are potential queries that you’ve yet to optimize for. Start by thinking how you can incorporate them into your content development strategy. There are many types of content you can creatively think of. An interesting one that I’ve come across on a Moz.com article was to have a collaborative article with like-minded people in the marketplace. The strategic draw-in for this would be the mutual support from all contributors.

Example: ‘DIY Series: Stylish Furniture for HDB in Singapore’

Keyword Intent

Google answers queries differently and it does so by understanding the type of intent behind a query. Is it informational? Or are users looking for reviews and forum conversations?

Take a moment to do phrase searches and find out how is the SERP responding to them. You can also explore ranked articles and understand what are the components that gave them the credit to be there. It could be due to a review column or a FAQ box. Doing this type of research helps you to uncover useful keywords and find out what it takes to rank.

Moving Forward

The keyword research process is no doubt a time-consuming process, yet it actually saves you much time from having to change your content plan midway. And as we all know, it’s definitely a painful process to undo decisions which could be done right!

You may also consider collaborating with a strategic partner to work on your marketing plan and explore more SEO trends that you may not be aware of. Working with an agency helps you gain insights from the forefront and saves you much time catching up. Read about how we can step in here!

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Zachary is a Business Development Executive in Appiloque. In the after-hours, he serves as a Division Agent, taking back the city of New York when all else fails.

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