Google’s John Mueller on intent research vs keyword research for 2020

Is Google all in on intent research versus keyword research for SEOs? Maybe not...

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Frédéric Dubut of Bing told us that SEOs should focus on intent research over keyword research in 2020. “Keyword research are probably going to become slowly obsolete and you’ll need to switch to intent research as a practice,” he said in a short video he made for us at SMX East in November.

Keyword research won’t go away? I asked Google’s John Mueller, who is a webmaster trends analysts at the company, his thoughts on that topic. In short, he seems to be in agreement that search engines will continue to get better at understanding intent and rely less on keywords. But Mueller did not go as far as to say keyword research practices will or should go away anytime soon.

The question. In a video hangout at the 51:52 mark, I asked, “Frédéric from Bing basically made a short video saying keyword research practices are kind of going away and should be replaced by intent research practices. So it’s not thinking about keywords, thinking about intent. Do you have any thoughts about that?”

The response. “I didn’t see that but I think, in general, that there’s probably always gonna be a little bit of room for keyword research because you’re kind of providing those words to users. And even if search engines are trying to understand more than just those words, showing specific words to users can make it a little bit easier for them to understand what your pages are about and can sometimes drive a little bit of that conversion process. 

So I don’t see these things going away completely but I’m sure search engines will get better over time to understand more than just the words on a page.”

The video: Here is the video embed, fast forward to 51 minutes and 52 seconds to jump to this part:

Frederic’s video. Here is the video from Frédéric Dubut of Bing at SMX:

Why we care. SEOs historically since we first began working to improve clients’ rankings in search have been doing keyword research. It has been how SEOs do their work and if that goes out of the window, SEOs will have to adapt to understanding user intent or searcher intent. It isn’t a huge leap but a different way of doing research. The big question is, how much keyword research should one be doing relative to intent research. It seems the tide is shifting in 2020, so be prepared.

About the author

Barry Schwartz
Barry Schwartz is a technologist and a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics.

In 2019, Barry was awarded the Outstanding Community Services Award from Search Engine Land, in 2018 he was awarded the US Search Awards the "US Search Personality Of The Year," you can learn more over here and in 2023 he was listed as a top 50 most influential PPCer by Marketing O'Clock.

Barry can be followed on X here and you can learn more about Barry Schwartz over here or on her personal site.

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