Let’s face it, keyword research is one of those subjects that’s been written about to death. It’s often boring, it’s certainly not sexy, and chances are everything I’m about to say, you’ve already read before on a dozen other blogs.
So why cover it again?
Before you think about clicking away, hear me out. If you’re thinking that this article is going to be another one of those, “choose keywords with lots of search volume and no competition, then create pages for those keywords blah blah blah…”
I can assure you that it’s not.
Instead, I want to talk about how keyword research has changed over the past few years and why it’s important that you are aware of those changes.
I’m hopeful that this article will do two things –
- Change the way you think about keyword research
- Improve the effectiveness of your keyword research strategy
The reason I wanted to publish this article is because I still see a lot of site owners performing keyword research the same way they were 7 years ago.
Believe me when I say this – a lot has changed since then.
The basic fundamentals of keyword research remain the same
Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to keyword research, the basic fundamentals are still pretty much the same.
That of course being, identify keywords that –
- Are highly targeted and relevant
- Have a reasonable or high amount of search volume
- Have low or next to no competition
- Can be targeted easily in an effort to bring organic search traffic as quickly as possible
That’s pretty much it.
So what’s the big deal? What’s changed?
Before I continue, I want to show you something.
You can see that I’ve performed a search here in Google for “how to keep SEO site upgrade”, and one of my articles is listed first in Google.
What’s really interesting is how this particular article is ranking first page in Google for a term that doesn’t necessarily contain many of the actual search terms.
Especially not within the title tag, which in the past was crucial as a potential ranking factor. Previously for your page to stand any chance at ranking for a desired term, you had to at least –
- Have the exact phrase (or something very very close) in the title tag
- Have the keywords in the URL (page name)
- Have the keywords in the meta description
These were 3 critical “must haves” that were essential to rank.
It’s also interesting to note that many of the other pages listed, also aren’t an exact match in terms of keywords (with perhaps some exception to the first result).
Admittedly my article does have *some* of those phrases in the title and description tag but this tells me two things …
- Google is getting much better at returning results based upon relevancy more-so than just keywords
- Traditional keyword research strategies may no longer apply
How keyword research used to be
In the past keyword research was quite simplistic in nature.
The process typically involved analyzing keywords of interest using Google’s keyword tool (which is now called the planner), checking search volume, picking out a few keywords of interest, then lastly – creating webpages that were targeted strictly at those terms.
This then meant, building out numerous pages, all focused on ONE keyword.
The intent here was pretty straight forward. Build out a page that was highly optimised for a phrase, then wait til it hit first page. Needless to say, in most cases it worked, and occasionally it still does, but things are definitely changing.
To give you a quick example, if I was interested in ranking for the same phrase, my page might have looked something like this in the search results.
Of course this is just an example, but my point is pretty clear. Keyword research, and the way in which pages are now ranking have changed.
The problem with this strategy
There are two main problems with this approach.
When site owners start focusing on one term per page, the search results suffer. For instance, if someone is searching for “car insurance Sydney”, then chances are, almost every page shown in the search results page, contain the same information. That of course being –
- ……and so on.
When you’re faced with search results like this, it begins to look really spammy, and the quality drops off. When the quality isn’t there, people consider searching elsewhere, and when that happens, Google gets nervous.
Secondly, doorway pages.
The other problem I see with this strategy is that eventually, over time (as you add more and more pages built to rank for specific terms), your site turns into one big mess of standalone doorway pages. Doorway pages are essentially pages that are built in an effort to capture search traffic for one term or phrase. This is a common problem for small business owners that want to rank for lots of different suburbs.
To give you a visual representation of how a site looks that’s built like this, see below.
Google hates this stuff and is constantly looking at ways to get rid of it. (And yes, this includes business owners that buy heaps of keyword focused domain names!) I also believe this may have been why Google pulled Google Analytics keyword information and replaced it with “not provided”.
Because they want site owners building sites that are helpful and provide a great user experience, instead of building thin, keyword stuffed, useless doorway pages.
A smarter keyword research strategy
So now that we’ve covered that, what’s the solution?
Alright, I’m going to share with you a strategy that I use myself. This is by no means a “perfect” method, nor do I claim it’s the best, but it works, and it makes sense. See below…
Stop building out pages that focus on one keyword
I shouldn’t need to repeat myself. If your site gets penalised because of multiple doorway pages, then the whole site is likely to go down. Don’t make that mistake.
There are many ways to perform keyword research. You can use an array of different tools, methods and services but my favourite is definitely SEMrush. With SEMrush I can reverse engineer my competitors to see what keywords and phrases they’re sites are performing for. You can also use the Google Keyword Planner, Google suggest, related searches and more.
I’m not going to go into detail about how to perform keyword research in this article, but with SEMrush, the process is very straight forward.
You simply enter in a competitors site (or any site of interest) then spit out a report. It looks like this…
SEMrush shows –
- The performing keyword
- Position in Google
- The ranking page for that term
Along with a bunch of other metrics, including search volume and competition etc. It’s pretty awesome stuff.
Whether you use SEMrush or not makes no difference to what I’m going to show you here, so don’t worry, you DON’T have to have it. So long as you can put a spreadsheet together of your chosen terms, you’ll be fine.
The next step in this strategy involves what I refer to as “keyword grouping”.
Keyword grouping essentially means, grouping keywords together based upon their similarity.
To do this, do the following –
- Order your spreadsheet by keyword ascending (or descending it doesn’t matter)
- Group terms of interest by how closely they match
Here’s an example.
Firstly, my keywords sorted by ascending.
Then grouped by best match.
Once we’ve done this, we can get a better idea of which terms or phrases we can use to build out our “themed” pages.
Keyword “themed” pages
Firstly, what are keyword “themed” pages?
Keyword themed pages are pages that are built around a certain theme or subject matter. These are unlike traditional “one keyword” type pages, because they focus on numerous terms within the one page.
The reason we do this is because –
- We don’t want to build out thin, low quality doorway pages that are susceptible to Google penalties
- We want to maximise the likelihood of our page performing for a LOT of terms, not just one.
- We want to cash in on as much search traffic as possible, by using ONE page, as opposed to a lot.
- It’s much more effective, given the nature of how pages are currently performing in Google.
To do this, we need to strip out our terms and break them down into something we can use (as well as make sense)
Let’s say for instance we’re interested in using the top grouping in that image above (“car insurance, price/calculator”).
We have the following phrases –
- car insurance auto
- car insurance best
- car insurance best deals
- car insurance best price
- car insurance brisbane
- car insurance brokers melbourne
- car insurance budget
- car insurance calculator
I’ve left a few out there on purpose because I’m not interested in all of them.
So what do we do now that we have this keyword group?
We implement what I refer to as “keyword mashing”. Keyword mashing allows us to use all of the keywords of interest, and mash them up into something like this.
- Page Title – Car Insurance Pricing Calculator. Best Deals Guaranteed – iSelect
- Page URL – iselect.com.au/car-insurance/pricing-calculator
- Meta Description – On a Budget? Use our auto car insurance pricing calculator to find the best deals and pricing. We have brokers standing by in Brisbane and Melbourne. Call now.
Of course this is purely an example, but hopefully you can see what I’ve done here.
- Page Title – In the title, I’ve used *some* of the terms but not all. It’s important we don’t get carried away here. Be mindful of the terms you’re using, but always work towards keeping it natural and relevant.
- Page URL – This again, doesn’t need to be keyword stuffed. Infact if you perform a search in Google.com.au for “car insurance Sydney”, you’ll see that many of the results listed on the first page, don’t have the exact keywords in the URL.
- Meta Description – This is where the real magic happens. With the meta description tag, because you have more characters, you can really ramp up the mixture of phrases and terms here and make it work.
Don’t forget of course to ensure that your page content is informative, useful, share worthy and actually contains relevant terms. What’s super important here is that you keep it NATURAL. The minute you start stuffing keywords is when you revert back to 2007. Don’t do that.
This method is safe, and can work long term, giving your pages much more depth, and the opportunity to perform across multiple terms, as opposed to you building out single keyword focused pages.
I speak at great length about this strategy within my SEO training course. I’ve seen some great results from those who have implmented this strategy because it WORKS.
Start building out pages that are designed to accommodate numerous (similar) terms, instead of thinking – “one keyword at a time”.
If you’ve got something to say then be sure to post up a comment below. I’d love to know if you’ve tried this strategy, or intend to.
I reply to every comment posted, so hit me up.