What is keyword research?
Keyword research is a process of finding and analysing the best keywords you should use for your website. It is one of the most important steps of the search engine optimization of the website.
Keyword research is about finding what language people use when looking for the information on the web and optimizing your website for these keywords.
When to do keyword research?
For most content creators, keyword research is not a one-time action, but rather a continual process. There are several occasions when keyword research is necessary:
Looking for a new niche
Keyword research is a must when looking for a new niche for your website or blog. It will help you to evaluate the popularity of the niche, reveal possible topics you can cover and of course, see what is the competition.
It is a crucial step as it helps you to decide whether to invest your time (and money) into a certain project or not. The more thoroughly you do it the first time, the higher is he chance that you’ll eliminate unpleasant surprises you could encounter down the road.
You don’t want to find out that the competition is too hard or the niche is too boring and you run out of new topic ideas after a couple of months of hard work…
Looking for new topic ideas
In a smaller scale, this happens every time you look for a new article idea within a certain niche. Not only you do the keyword research with every new topic you want to cover on your website, keyword research can actually help you to find new topics.
Once you understand your niche and see the way people look for new information, you’ll also find the topics you probably wouldn’t think of the first time if it wasn’t for a proper keyword research.
Optimizing your existing pages
Sometimes it is great to look back at your existing content and analyze the missed opportunities – a kind of “reversed keyword research”.
The main idea is to use the keywords from your old piece of content (a great way is to look at all the keywords you rank for in Google Search Console) and see the missed opportunities. Very often, there are sub-topics that are closely related to the original topic (Google detected the relevance and therefore, you rank on lower positions for the relevant keywords), but are not covered enough in your content.
Evolution of keyword research
Together with the development of SEO over the years, the keyword research has evolved too. Let’s take a look at what keyword research meant in the past, what it means today and what are the prospects for the future.
The beginnings of keyword research
In the early stages of the search engine optimization, keyword research could be often reduced to visiting Google Keyword Planner, selecting the keywords with the highest search volume and using them frequently in the text of the website.
Many webmasters took advantage of the fact that the keyword density played a huge role as a ranking factor and used the keywords as much as possible in an unnatural way – a tactic also known as keyword stuffing.
Of course, Google responded to these shady SEO tactics accordingly. The algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin in 2011 and 2012 focused on the quality of the content and hit most of the websites that produced low-quality thin content stuffed with keywords only to get higher rankings.
Growing importance of the search intent
The biggest game-changer came in 2013. The Hummingbird algorithm update began the new era in which Google looks at what intent lies behind the search query.
Hummingbird focused on synonyms and theme-related topics and used context to deliver the search results closer to the user’s intent, not only the exact search phrase. It encouraged the authors to use natural language instead of keyword-focused content and it gave a new prominence to the so-called long tail keywords.
In other words, Google wants to be more “human” – to understand the context of the search query and to respond in the most natural way.
Keyword research of today (and tomorrow)
The evolution of keyword research is clearly heading towards the topical research. The trend of Google focusing on intent rather than exact keywords can be clearly seen in Google Keyword Planner changes over the last few years.
Google Ads has been gradually grouping the keywords based on their similarity – first just close variant keywords (singular/plural, abbreviations, typos, etc..) and now also paraphrases, implied words and words with the same meaning or intent.
Although Google Ads are not about organic search, it gives us a hint about the direction of Google’s understanding of keywords.
An example of exact match from Google
In today’s SEO, it is better to focus on building authority in your niche and dominate the topic with your website rather than optimize for single keywords. In other words, keyword research is becoming more and more topical.
This doesn’t mean that keyword research is no longer important – quite the contrary. It will just look a little different than in the past.
You don’t have to care about single and plural forms of the keywords, or overthink the order of the words in the phrase. Instead of that, you should analyze the SERP to identify what is the search intent that Google found behind the query.