It might seem odd to be talking about the goals of keyword research in 2015. After all, this has been the backbone of SEO for the best part of ten years, hasn’t it? Well like our entire industry, the need and purpose of keyword research has evolved. At the heart, it’s still finding the average search volumes of key terms and using this to shape SEO strategy. But there’s so much more to it than that as we’re about to discover…
Isn’t it just Average Search Volume?
Quite simply, no. While this is the key figure we take away, there’s so much more to it. Proper keyword research, using a number of different tools and then combining the data can open up avenues for content and optimisation that you may have never even considered. This raw data, when the segment by month option is checked, can also reveal some vital information about seasonal trends. Clearly, we don’t need the keyword planner to tell us that ‘Christmas trees for sale’ is going to be popular around November and December but there are some trends to be found if you know where to look.
Uncovering Hidden Terms & Trends
When we do keyword research here at SiteVisibility, we use a number of different tools to aggregate a serious number (thousands) of potential keywords from a very small number of seed terms (typically between 3 and 6 depending on the area) and with a bit of manual filtering these can surprise you.
Let’s imagine you’re a holiday company that operates destinations all over Europe. Clearly, terms like ‘holidays in…’ ‘All inclusive … hotels’ are going to be the high value, high traffic examples to come out of this process. Because of this, all the world’s major tour operators are likely to fill the SERPs alongside sites like TripAdvisor etc. Even for a medium to large company, breaking into this bunch is going to be hard.
But how about if your keyword research showed up some interesting long tail terms you could go for? This is the main goal of keyword research: Finding those gaps that will still deliver you traffic and ultimately revenue.
Once you’ve got your keywords and filtered them however you see fit, sorting them into similar groups will show up these trends. Imagine now then that you’ve found that terms such as ‘hotels in southern Spain with free airport transfer’ have a good level of searches and they’re not too competitive. I’d imagine a lot of hotels there will offer free airport transfer but I’d also be willing to bet that not a lot of them make a big deal of it on their sites. Suddenly we’ve found a gap to exploit by either modifying existing content or creating new landing pages to capture this
Any agency or business owner has probably been guilty of this at some point – assuming we know what our audiences are searching for. There is of course an element of common sense here but you still may find that the term you thought you should be targeting is actually unlikely to deliver results.
A great way of finding out where your competitors are outperforming you comes from keyword research. If you’re doing it, chances are your competitors will have too. Once the research has been done, run a ranking report against your competitors and yourself.
Note: ranking reports are far from the most accurate representations in modern search but they can be useful for identifying trends, especially if you take averages over a few weeks.
Are there any groups or trends of keywords that competitors are clearly outperforming you on? If so, look at those pages against the equivalent on your site and look for the differences. You’d be amazed how many times that a page aimed at selling ‘blue shoes’ for example, has no instances of that phrase on the page.
To take it further, if you combine this with some simple forecasting about traffic gains with regards to positional gains, and cross reference it with the Moz keyword difficulty score, you’ll get a spreadsheet that shows potential gains against the supposed difficulty of achieving them. While both of these figures are estimates and should not be taken as gospel, you can identify areas to focus on for maximum effect/minimal work.