I’m firmly of the opinion that if you don’t enjoy keyword research it’s because you’re not doing it right. There’s definitely something to be said for the buzz of uncovering a new, potentially valuable search term (*cough* geek! *cough*), I just don’t feel that you can do it properly using keyword volume tools alone.
Yes, search volumes matter, and I would always use them as a way to qualify potential terms in or out, but they aren’t the be-all and end-all. If you rely solely on tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, SEMrush or Moz, you could be missing out on some really useful keywords (and therefore traffic), plus, there’s a danger that you end up chasing the same terms as everyone else.
Keyword tools can give you data, but they don’t always necessarily give you context. Yes, it’s great to have a 40,000 pm search volume keyword, but it’s a bit redundant if the phrase isn’t highly relevant to you, or if you’re only likely to move up from page 8 to page 6. You won’t see any extra traffic, so your efforts are better spent elsewhere. That’s why it’s so important to identify the right terms before you begin to optimise.
Much like the wise man who built his house upon the rocks, setting your SEO strategy up with the right keywords is everything. Here are a few creative methods to consider in your keyword research.
Use site search data
Through Google Analytics, you can see how visitors are using the search function on your website. Log in to your account, head over to Behaviour, select Site Search and then Search Terms to find the phrases being typed into your search bar.
Aside from being completely free and really simple to use, this data is so valuable because these people are interested enough to have got to your website in the first place, as well as stuck around long enough to make a search, so it’s safe to assume that a healthy portion of them are going to be your target audience.
The phrases you find here may be slight variants or nuances in the language of terms you’re already targeting, which can be really useful. But it can also uncover completely new opportunities that go beyond keyword research.
If you find a couple of frequently searched terms in your site search data, that are relevant to what you do, this is a great opportunity to create new content or pages around these terms. If people are commonly searching for terms that you do already have pages for, then this might be an indication that you need to make these more easily navigable. Some people will always gravitate straight to a search bar without looking around for what they need, but if it’s happening a lot, you might want to consider linking to them from your menu or finding better ways to signpost this content.
Get inspiration using Wikipedia
Wikipedia has information on, quite frankly, everything in the world. With over 30 million articles, whatever your business does, the chances are, Wikipedia has a page (or several thousand) relating to it.
Enter one of your main keywords or phrases into the search bar, and scan the content for natural variants and new suggestions. I typed in digital marketing, and already from the screenshot below, I’m thinking about ‘online’ and ‘internet’ as alternatives to consider to ‘digital’. Then there are longer tail phrases such as ‘digital marketing campaigns’, as well as specific types of digital marketing to bear in mind, such as SEO, content marketing and social media.
The contents bar just below it is also great for throwing up a few more ideas, while the pages that shoot off from this list can provide you with some more niche keyword suggestions.
The ‘See also’ feature at the bottom of the page is good for some additional keywords too, as well as to spark some content inspiration.
Use Quora and Answer the public for question-based searches
Answer The Public might just be one of my favourite digital tools. It uses data collated from Google and Bing searches and presents you with all the questions people are asking about any given topic. Within seconds! Simply type in your phrase and in return you’ll see a spider diagram of questions that are great for getting in the mindset of your target audience, as well as providing you with a selection of longtail keywords to optimise for. You may choose to work one or two seamlessly into your copy, or they might form the basis of some Q&A content, or even entire blogs or pages of their own.
Similarly, forums like Quora are a great way to find out how real people are actually talking about your subject matter, the language they use and the questions they ask.
Future-proof your keyword research with Google Trends
Whilst Google Trends might not be your first port of call for keyword suggestions, it is ideal for validating and prioritising search terms. Setting time and location parameters allows you to see whether a particular keyword is rising or declining in popularity.
For example, you may identify a couple of search terms, both relevant to you but with subtle differences in language. Both could have an average of 1,500 searches per month, but one might be steadily climbing over the past year or so, while the other may have already peaked and be less commonly used now.
Google Trends also has a useful feature to allow you to directly compare search terms with each other.
Find other popular queries with Google’s People Also Ask feature
Despite Google having its own keyword research tool, the Keyword Planner, there’s arguable two or three other Google features I’d put ahead of this for keyword research and one is the PAA (people also ask) feature.
Usually appearing between the paid search results and organic listings, this box of additional search queries is designed with the end-user in mind, to enable them to find the best results for their query, but it’s a tool that SEOs can, and should, take advantage of as well. When I search for ‘digital marketing’ the questions I’m presented with below could be a reminder to take things back a step. I may be about to launch into an in-depth piece that assumes too much knowledge, when we consider that one of the most popular searches is ‘What is meant by digital marketing?’
Other Google features I think trump the Keyword Planner, include the Related Searches feature right at the bottom of the page, which again is designed to help the user refine their search, but every now and again you’ll find a gem you hadn’t thought of.
Even Google’s auto suggest function can surprise you with some interesting (and let’s be honest, sometimes disturbing) popular searches.
Take advantage of your own real-life data with Google Search Console
This wouldn’t be a proper keyword research article without a cameo appearance from Google Search Console! In my opinion, not enough people use GSC for keyword research but this is always where I would ideally start. It’s the only tool that uses your own data. Not just estimates (let’s face it, guesses) at how many faceless individuals type a particular phrase per month, but the actual words your own website visitors used in order to find you.
I find this gives you the best start at not only finding the most relevant terms, but the ones that you have the best chance of seeing realistic results for. Filtering out branded terms, ordering by impressions, and strategically looking for terms you’re already starting to rank for, is a great way to find keywords that will bring you a substantial increase in traffic.
There’s a whole world of keyword inspiration out there without even setting foot in a keyword research tool (virtually speaking), but the best results occur when they work together.