Keyword research is a guide. It’s for finding ideas, not for exact words to stuff your content with. I get that many SEO experts will have this process down to an elaborate, labyrinthine, and oftentimes labour-intense practice.
For example, you’ll often hear them use terms like:
- Keyword analysis,
- Competitive analysis,
- Page element optimization,
- Thematic keyword picking,
- Keyword mapping,
- Contextual analysis,
- Semantic theme analysis,
- User intent analysis,
- Ad nauseum.
It’s enough to make anyone’s head hurt. It does mine.
But you don’t need to overcomplicate things.
As a professional, all you should care about is helping your clients by providing them with good content. You don’t need to use specific keywords at all.
Remember, Google knows what your content is about, what the searcher is looking for, and how they both match up. It understands the situational needs of a searcher, and provides them with the best content that matches their needs.
Keyword research is useful to get an idea of what kinds of questions your audience is asking that you can answer with your content. But don’t go after broad, generic keywords that have a ton of search volume.
Remember this rule:
The more generic the keyword is, the more generic your audience will be. And the broader the keyword is, the broader your competition will be.
Professionals who chase vanity keyword metrics often spend an inordinate amount of time, energy, and money chasing dangling carrots. They want to rank for broad terms like “lawyer,” “legal advice,” or “corporate law.”
OK, I know what you’re saying: “But Michel, if Google is smart enough to know my client’s search intent and the intent behind my content, then using generic keywords is fine, right?”
Yes, you’re absolutely right. My point is that it’s not about avoiding the use of generic keywords but avoiding the futile attempt to rank for them. (If you write a lot, your content will naturally contain a ton of broad keywords, anyway.)
The issue is that, if you try to rank for them, you still have a lot of competition to contend with. If you specialize, as you should, your generic keyword will still compete with all the generalists out there vying for the same traffic that these generic keywords offer.
Instead, focus on questions rather than keywords.
Particularly questions to which your specialized expertise can answer.
If you place keywords on a chart and rank them according to search volume, going from broad to specific keywords, you will notice that shorter keywords tend to be at the top because they have high search volumes.
The more specific, longer keywords (or keyphrases) have less volume, and trail off as they get longer and more specific.
These are called “long-tail keywords.”
If you rank for broad keywords, it doesn’t often translate into clicks. Plus, of those who do click on your result, a vast majority of users will be poorly qualified. Chances are, they will leave (bounce) after visiting your content.
Your rankings will eventually suffer as a result.
Why? there’s mounting evidence that shows Google tracks post-click behaviour. Meaning, if your bounce rate is high, Google will interpret this as having offered the searcher with a result that wasn’t relevant.
But long-tail keywords, on the other hand, while they may attract less traffic, can lead to higher clicks and better quality traffic (leading to higher conversions) since their search intent is far more specific.
And the best long-tail keywords are questions.
I’ve already shared a video on how to use Google to find questions people are asking, but there are several others you can use.
- Discussion forums in your niche or on your topic.
- Other search engines like AnswerThePublic.com.
- Questions people ask on Quora.com.
- Subreddits in your field or that your audience uses.
- Trends and questions people ask on Twitter.
- And of course, questions your audience asks you.
The latter is actually important.
Your current clients are asking you questions all the time. They’re providing you with a goldmine of ideas. If you don’t know or think they do, you’re simply not aware of them or you don’t keep track.
So start tracking them. Or better still, ask them.
Then create content that answers their questions. Chances are, others are asking the same questions — others who happen to be ideal clients for you.
Ask and you shall