Previously, I talked about why using Google for your SEO research is important. By understanding how your audience searches Google, and how Google answers their searches, can tell you a lot about search intent.
Google listings are great. But remember, there are five areas that can provide some great insights into organic rankings and search intent:
- The search results themselves.
- Search autocomplete suggestions.
- “People also asked” after the first few results.
- “People also search for” section further down.
- Related searches at the bottom of the page.
As you type your search query, Google usually drops down a list of suggestions. But did you know that you can get suggestions for suggestions? (I know, sounds like something from “Inception.”) But here’s how it works.
When I start typing “hire seo,” for example, I get the following list:
- hire seo specialist
- hire seo freelancer
- hire seo expert
- hire seo experts
- hire seo content writer
- hire seo agency
- hire seo writer
- hire seo services
- hire seo copywriter
Sounds simple. But if you choose one of them, say “hire seo specialist,” then when I click on it I will go to the next SERP (search engine results page). There, I see the new term in the search field at the top. If I click on the search field at the end of the query and hit my spacebar, I get a new list of search suggestions:
- hire seo freelancer
- freelance seo specialist
- seo freelancer salary
- find an seo expert
- seo freelancer jobs
- seo freelancers
- seo freelancer meaning
- seo freelancer near me
Now you can see that the suggestions are quite different.
In the first search, Google thinks I’m looking to hire someone to do SEO. It gave me suggestions based on the assumption that I want to find someone in SEO to hire. That’s a commercial investigation intent.
But in the second search, I get a mixed bag: I got some commercial intent but also some information intent, too, such as “SEO jobs,” “SEO salary,” “SEO meaning.” Not all about hiring but also about being hired.
The reason I bring this up is to prove a point: long-tail searches are far more powerful because they express intent. And remember, matching your content to the searcher’s intent will help to increase your quality rating.
Let’s say you’re a plastic surgeon in Phoenix, Arizona. Among other procedures, you offer abdominoplasty (i.e., “tummy tucks”).
Trying to rank for “plastic surgery” by itself is going to be tough. It’s desirable because the search volume is 110,000 right now. But fighting for that top spot is going to be as tough as learning how to sumo wrestle.
While walking a tightrope.
In clown shoes.
But if you were to write content around “tummy tuck,” that’s better. Still tough, but a better one may be “tummy tuck cost Phoenix,” “Phoenix plastic surgeons that do tummy tucks,” “book consultation Phoenix plastic surgeon tummy tuck.”
(When I looked up the last phrase, I got “also asked” suggestions that included “mommy makeover,” such as, “how much does a mommy makeover cost in Arizona” or “in 2020?” These are great long-tail topic suggestions.)
Google’s machine-learning algorithm no longer ignores stop words (e.g., prepositions, articles, conjunctions, etc). Stop words like “and,” “this,” “to,” “as,” “for,” etc provide context and search intent, such as “where can I book a consultation with a Phoenix plastic surgeon for a tummy tuck?”
You get the picture.
The point is this.
Yes, you can try to rank for generic keywords. But generic keywords will give you generic traffic. Shorter keywords are hard to rank for and very competitive. If you try to rank for them, one of four things will happen:
- It will take you a very long time to rank for them if ever, and you will have to constantly work at it. It’s an uphill battle.
- If you don’t rank well, you will get very little traffic because you’re at the bottom of page number seven or 22.
- If you rank well, you might not get as many clickthroughs because of the search intent mismatch (i.e., your title and description that show in the SERPs may not be what the person is looking for).
- If you rank well and get some clicks, the traffic you will get might be completely unqualified and never convert. They may even be your competitors trying to check you out!
So don’t be afraid of long-tail keywords.
Would you rather generate 0.1% of a short keyword with a volume of 5,000 searches per month? Or 5% of 100 long-tail keywords that have an average of 10-50 monthly searches each? The first will bring you just five visits, the second, 50-250. And these 50+ will be a lot more qualified.
Back to Google suggestions.
When getting suggestions, don’t limit to end-loaded ones. You can get front suggestions, too. For example, after typing “hire seo company,” I go back to beginning of the search field (before “hire”) and hit the spacebar, and Google will then spit out a new list of suggestions that also include:
- why hire seo company
- should I hire seo company
Let’s do it again: I choose “should I hire seo company,” click on it, and then on the next results page I place my cursor inside the search field at the end of “company,” hit spacebar, and I get these:
- why hire seo company
- benefits of hiring a seo company
- questions to ask seo agency
- benefits of seo company
- why seo matters
- benefits of hiring an seo expert
- search engine optimization
- seo agency benefits
You can do this with every search. And you can drill down and find the subsequent related searches with every page.
Now, you don’t have to do all this manually. There are some tools that can help you. I use three of them, and they are browser extensions:
These tools are useful in many ways, but the way that I use them is to give me a list of these suggestions as I search Google. That way, I don’t have to do rabbit-hole detective work. They are usually found on the sidebar.
- With Keywords Everywhere, I get trend data for the search (at the top), a list of “related keywords,” and a list of “people also searched for” keywords. I can easily export the lists into spreadsheets for reference.
- With Keywords Surfer, I get keyword ideas, how similar they are, and their respective search volumes. It also gives me inline data, where it adds to each listing the estimated traffic and occurence of the keyword.
- With SEO Minion, I get a SERP analysis, with the total number of results for the search term per category (i.e., number of organic results, ads, videos, local listings, images, product listings, etc), which I can export.
(When I do my competitive scan for SEO, I use SEO Minion for this purpose. It saves me a lot of trouble.)
Now, for related searches and questions under “people also asked,” I use AlsoAsked.com. Here’s a look at my “hire SEO” example. You can easily spot the intent behind each question, and choose the questions you want to write content that answers them.
Nevertheless, the real gold is not in the keywords.
Ultimately, I’ve said before that keyword research sucks and keyword-first SEO is not what I’m advocating here. The key is to look at the search results and understand what they are telling you.
Look at the top results: the top three are best, the top five are good, but don’t go past the first 10. The second page is where they hide dead bodies, anyway.
If the same-page results vary in terms of search intent, it means that Google may not know what you’re looking for. Try to avoid the keyword. It’s too generic. Go for search intent, not keyword. Go for what people want and what Google thinks matches that they want.
The more you do, the better the traffic.