Guest Blogs

Keyword Research: Best Practices in a Changing Landscape

Cyrus Shepard shares his views on SEO practices and its role in connecting businesses. He highlights the need for designing products according to customer needs.
SEO strategy

Keyword research has long been the backbone of successful SEO campaigns, and it requires commitment. It’s much easier said than done to invest the resources in a strong SEO strategy, but without that information, it’s impossible to know what consumers are searching for, and your campaign will lag.

In recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have changed their search habits and increased their online presence. People are no longer just using the internet to look up a phone number for a restaurant or find the hours of a clothing store; the web is the primary source of education and entertainment for many.

With significant changes in consumer habits and changes to the design and management of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) from Google and others, SEO strategies need to shift, too. Following the best practices in keyword research will help modern-day content marketers stay agile amid change and stay ahead of the competition.

Ask questions and build a broad list.

A proper keyword research plan starts with asking yourself questions about purpose, products, customers and goals.

This is arguably the most critical step because you cannot execute a great SEO strategy without planning first. But corners are often cut to shorten the process because keyword research takes a lot of resources. Even if you know what words and phrases you want to prioritize, it’s still important to see what consumers are looking for because the difference might be significant.

First, ask questions such as:

  • What is the purpose of your website?
  • What is being sold?
  • What words or phrases would users search to find your website?
  • Who is searching for what products or services you offer?
  • Where are they located? 

Once you know more about who your consumers are, what they want, how they’re searching for it and more, consider what you want to prioritize:

  • Are there keywords where you want to rank highly?
  • What keyword ads would you buy?

Narrow it down and re-prioritize.

After asking fact-finding questions to organize your priorities and understand your consumers, you’ll probably have a sizable list of keywords available. But you can’t keep all of them; a successful SEO strategy means honing in and shortlisting the best primary and secondary keywords to maximize your resources. Picking the right keywords relies heavily on relevance and takes into account factors like volume and click-through rate. Ask yourself:

  • Do consumers care about this?
  • Can I offer the product or service that this keyword describes?
  • Can I create content around this keyword?

Consider the chunky middle and the long tail as you narrow down to the most relevant keywords. It’s nice to rank highly on something like “pizza,” but if someone wants to order pizza and your website aggregates pizza reviews, that ambiguity will bring traffic that you can’t service. Your energy is better spent focusing on lower search volume terms that more specifically relate to your business.

Optimize your website page by page.

Once you build the shortlist, your keyword research can continue to pay off as you optimize each site page. The best optimization strategy uses a mix of primary and secondary keywords and incorporates popular question phrases. Questions can be SEO gold when used correctly. After building out each page, keep metrics like these in mind:

  • Ranking position
  • Expected click-through rate
  • Keyword volume
  • SERP features

In addition to relying on your keyword research, take a look at your competitors. See what high-volume keywords they target and prioritize what they ignore. If your competitors target similar terms from your shortlist, emphasize those when tagging site pages. The first strategy fills the gaps your competitors missed; the latter is an aggressive push to outdo them at their own game.

Be ready and be agile.

Keyword research is a long-term commitment and should be done regularly.
Events like the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrate the need to always be conscious of SEO strategies. People began ordering groceries online and cooking, which meant more searches for recipes and cooking tips. They started looking for online
companion videos and connecting through video games. They began buying gym equipment or instruments to learn new hobbies. All of these changes brought on by COVID impacted internet search usage and thus keyword research. 

How do you handle monumental changes in behavior? Focus on your research. Re-evaluate your website: are people finding your recipes, or are other recipes better suited to search changes? Does your music have a new audience, and can you create content to maintain that? Plus, with something like COVID, you have to decide if you want to lean in on ranking for coronavirus-related terms or lean out and watch for the algorithm flagging you for misinformation.

SEO success comes with honing in on your best practices — make plans to prioritize keyword research today.

Check Out The New Martech Cube Podcast. For more such updates follow us on Google News Martech News


Cyrus Shepard, SEO at Moz
Cyrus Shepard is an SEO, online marketer, content publisher, speaker, and writer. He has several years experience building highly qualified traffic through SEO and content marketing. His experience leading SEO at Moz and teaching others has introduced him to 1000s of top online marketers across the globe.

Previous ArticleNext Article