Keyword Research Beyond The Numbers

For many SEOs, keyword research starts and ends with the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. But columnist Dan Bagby believes we need to go deeper for optimal results.

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You may have recently read Rand Fishkin’s article, “Why Good Unique Content Needs to Die.” In it, he basically says that good, unique content is no longer enough; instead, marketers need to create content that is 10 times better than the top results in SERPs in order to really do well.

This got me thinking — not only do we need to create content that is 10 times better than our competition, but we need to step up our game in all aspects of SEO, starting with research.

Keyword research that starts and finishes with Google Keyword Planner, or whatever your tool of choice is, needs to end. If you want to see results, you must do more than simply putting in a few keywords and putting a bullseye on a few targets to go after. Instead, increase the likelihood of success with the keywords you ultimately decide to go after by digging deeper during keyword research.

A Step Beyond Keyword Research

Start keyword research by going to Google Keyword Planner to get some ideas, identifying ones that are relevant and have decent search volume. I suspect this is what most people do.

I remember when this would be the end for me. Sometimes, I would gauge competition by looking at the number of exact “intitle” matches, but nothing more. Today, I take it further to really improve the likelihood of success by answering the following questions.

What Is The User Intent And How Is Google Answering?

Check keyword intent by performing a search of each phrase to review what content is returned. Google has a preference for certain content types for each query and has a data-driven understanding of what content users are looking for based on the keywords.

I’ll give you an example using queries related to acoustic guitars that allows you to see the differences in content type and results. A product-related search like “Fender FA 100” results in product pages on e-commerce sites, most of the pages featuring product reviews and additional article and video reviews.

A broader search related to acoustic guitars produces “best beginner guitar” results in long-form articles with descriptions of recommended beginner guitars, as well as a few category pages. More informational queries, such as, “how to play bar chords” or “how to tune an acoustic guitar” receive answers in the form of Google Quick Answers, long-form articles by sites of many sizes, shorter articles from more authoritative sites, videos and forum conversations.

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Also, take a moment to review the articles to see what other information is being provided, beyond what is being asked in the query. This can help you find other keywords to target and also make sure you are covering the necessities to rank.

How Did These Pages Get Links?

Now that you have an idea of what content is ranking, review how they gained links. Review the competitive metrics including Page Authority, Domain Authority, number of links and linking root domains to get a better idea of what it will take to rank (the Moz Chrome extension makes this easy).

Review links going to other pages to see patterns. With a quick look at some of the queries mentioned above, I noticed a few sites on the first page only had links created through comment spam.

Others had only a few links from guitar-related blogs or educational sites. It’s likely you will find publishers that have linked to more than one competitor. These are great targets for outreach. Review these sites you are considering reaching out to with your content ideas to start a relationship that can be helpful during content planning through publishing and promotion.

What Will You Create?

At this point, you have a strong grasp of the competitive outlook for the keywords you want to rank and what content types typically rank. Listen to Rand Fishkin, and think, what can I create that is 10 times better than anything I have just seen?

Just as good, unique content isn’t enough any more, quick keyword research isn’t going to cut it, either. Doing keyword research this way will take longer, but it is sure to improve your results.

Not only will it help with individual keywords and campaigns, but you also will start to notice patterns in SERPs that you would not have seen otherwise. You will also find the insights you need before you start creating content, instead of having to change course during or after some work has already been done.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Dan Bagby
Dan is an experienced online marketer focused on SEO. He is currently leading SEO strategy for Whole Foods Market.

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