Keyword research is the foundation for all good SEO. But the way we research keywords is changing in 2018, largely because the search engines are getting smarter.
How Keyword Research Used to Be
In the “old days” (2010-2015), exact match keywords were critically important.
The search engines could not distinguish that poodle dog food, dog food for poodles and dog food poodle had the same user intent. It saw them as three totally unique searches, but we know the user is looking for the same thing.
Thus, when the search bot crawled your webpage, you needed to have an exact match of the keyword or keyphrase on your page in order for the bot to say, “Oh yes, this page is about this exact match keyword.”
This also meant using a content strategy for each variant of the exact match keyword.
You needed to make sure you either had those exact match keywords on the page or if they were important enough, create a unique page or post for each derivative of the exact match keyword.
Smarter Search Engines in 2018 Indicate a Different Keyword Research Strategy
With AI (artificial intelligence) the bots are now getting smarter on recognizing synonyms and inverted forms of the keywords. Now Google knows poodle dog food, dog food for poodles, and dog food poodles share a similar meaning and typically correlate with the same user search intent.
What does this mean for real-world SEO practices?
01. Not as Exact Match Focused
SEO agencies can’t game the system as much looking for exact match keywords that few others seem to have recognized as important to grab the low hanging fruit. Note: “as much.” This will still be a viable strategy until the search engines get even smarter and it won’t hurt you as an SEO practice as long as your search engine optimization provider hasn’t keyword stuffed (where they load a ton of exact match variants in a single article or page).
02. Write More Naturally
You can write more naturally for the end reader. The search engines have been touting the importance of writing for the end reader and not the bot for a long time. However, the bots limited ability to understand an article made it important to kind of ignore this advice and ensure exact match keywords were used for ranking purposes.
03. On Page Elements Related to the Keyword Still Matter
The way a page or article is written will still have an important effect on the SEO rankings. Headlines containing the keyword, links, relevant words used on the page, word count, interlinking between articles within a silo structure that relate to the keyword and other important elements that a good SEO agency will utilize in your content creation still do matter.
04. Using Niched and Long-Tail Keywords Matters More Now
Using unique niche or longer-tailed keywords is a viable strategy to differentiate your content from your competitors. French poodle dog food would be a way to niche since the qualifier french differentiates the product from merely poodle dog food. We’ve added a specific qualifier.
Yes,french poodle dog food gets less search volume than poodle dog food, but it will be easier to rank on it, and you will have a specific niche audience you can target with unique content that will tend to have a very high conversion rate. That means French poodle owner’s money in your pocket as you deliver a product they need.
05. Geo-Modifiers Matter More Than Ever
Related to the item above, add geo-modifiers to your keyword, as Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others are rewarding hyperlocal search results more and more. So an article on poodle food Dallas might land you some great results if someone searches poodle food in the Dallas area and they are looking for a store to get further advice versus a national online order site.
06. How to Handle Multiple Products with Multiple Service Area
What if things are more complex and you offer multiple services/products to multiple cities?
In the old days you’d create a page for each: poodle food Dallas, golden retriever food Dallas, poodle food Fort Worth, golden retriever food Fort Worth.
Because the bots are smarter now, you don’t have to do this. In fact, the danger of using duplicate content on those pages actually makes it ill-advised. One simple way to do this is to create a city page for each city you serve. Example: companyname.com/service-area/dallas and companyname.com/service-area/fort-worth.
Then link to the location page that from the bottom of the poodle food page. You can put a simple bulleted list of areas served at the bottom of the page:
You can then link to Dallas from the poodle food page and the golden retriever food page, etc. Google is smart enough to know the difference between a location silo and a service/product silo. It will connect the two together.
07. Use Relative Keywords to Acquire an Audience
Use related keyword targets to acquire a similar audience. There is a high affinity between people who take their dogs to dog parks and those who buy dog food. By targeting dog parks in city name you can answer the searcher’s question about finding a dog park near them (which is of high value as a result of their search) and subsequently introduce them to your product. You provided them a valuable and needed answer, now they are more apt to like and trust you more.
If you want more insights into keywords, check out this Keyword Research Guide by Hazel Jarrett.
You are Building a Bridge Through SEO
Keyword research is the foundation to your SEO. And SEO is the bridge from the user to the great solution or product you have that matches their search. Get them connected properly and great things will happen.
This is where a great local SEO company or national SEO company can help you, like Moon & Owl or if you need local Los Angeles SEO check out our friends at Digital Green Tea | Los Angeles SEO.