Is Keyword Research Dead or is it a Hoax?

laptop showing search engine

No, keyword research is not dead.  Keyword research is still very important in planning new content and will in the foreseeable future.  Knowing search volume as well as who are competing with directly is invaluable information.

The thing to remember is that you are writing your content around a topic, not specific keywords.  Don’t load up the target keywords thinking you’ll taking the lead because it will likely instead cause a penalty.

Keyword research is, at this point, entirely looking for topics to write about.  You’re writing for an intent more than specific keywords.  Write naturally since you’re writing for people and not search engines now.

In fact, it might even be more proper to call it topic research now.  In any case, content strategy has been changing and I think for many of us putting in the hard work it’s for the better.  Content marketing is an ever-evolving system but do things right and you’ll always come out on top.

Semantic Search

Google has pushed farther and farther into semantic searching.  In semantic analysis, Google is looking more into the meaning behind the words rather than the exact words themselves.  They are making great strives into this Artificial Intelligence understanding of what sites are talking about.

Google also had a major update in October 2019 with the BERT update.  In the BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) update, Google looks more deeply into complex queries to understand what the searcher really is looking for.  This is the main reason why it’s important to note searcher intent when you are writing content around a topic.

Because of all of these changes, the old ways of just dropping keywords all over the place and ranking high on page 1 are long gone.

Now, when you write you’ll want to look further into the meaning and what type of information search engines are looking for.

User Intent

In recent days, the intent of the user is key.  If you master it, you can rank your pages high.  When you have a search phrase, it’s important to think about some key pieces on Google to help you figure out what the user intent is.

  1. Plug your search term into google and bring up the search results.
  2. Look through the results, especially the first 5, to see what type of information Google best matched to the search term.
  3. See what Youtube videos Google picked to show.
  4. Look at the People also ask section for additional related topics.
  5. Look down at the related searches section at the bottom to see what related keywords Google has matched up.

Let’s go ahead and do a real life example of the search term “keyword research tool youtube”.  This has a little trickiness because it could be a tool to help figure out what to put on youtube, or it could be information on Youtube about research tools.

Search Results

Here is what it looks like when you search for the phrase on google.

Typical Google search results

Looking at the search results, it appears that Google is expecting the user intent to looking for keyword tools to help rank better in Youtube.  Quite often the results of the rest of the check of searching intent will line up and confirm what we are seeing.

YouTube videos showing in search result

From the above picture, you can also see that Google is showing videos on YouTube keyword research as well.  Again, just confirms what we are seeing.

People Also Ask section of Search Results

People also ask section within Google search results

The People Also Ask section will show you related topics to this search as seen by Google.  You actually get more than one thing out of this.  For one, you can see if the related topics make sense with the main topic as it appears.  Secondly, you get idea for other articles and posts, as well as ideas you may be able to incorporate for a bigger article.

In this case, there are questions about keyword planners for YouTube and the best keywords for a YouTube video.

Searches Related to the Search Term

Related searches showing within Google search results

Related searches are also big, sometimes even bigger than the related questions.  You will see search results which Google feels are closely related to these search terms.

Pro Tip: One little SEO trick not everybody will tell you is that these are actually LSI (Latent Semantic Index) keywords that you can get a little advantage by pulling some of these into your article.  Covering more than one related topic gives you an authority advantage over those who don’t.

What Do These Pieces All Mean Put Together?

When you look at all of the clues on a search results page, you have somewhat of a topic and outline of what your article should meet at a minimum to rank.

In this case, someone searching for the term “keyword research tool youtube” would expect to see an article on researching keywords to rank their YouTube videos.  Because a keyword planner is in the People Also Ask box, you can see that it’s likely that the searcher is looking for a tool that provies both keywords and search volume within YouTube.  They are likely even wondering how to start doing YouTube videos with some basic research questions like how to decide on what to write and how to get more views.

Looking at the related search queries, it’s easy to see that people frequently look for chrome extensions to give them video tags and such set on videos.  It’s such a strong related search in fact for tags to put on YouTube videos that I would devote a fair amount of writing to using tools like the Chrome extension vidIQ to see what other videos are using as their tags and such.

That’s a pretty fair amount of information that you can glean just by looking at a search page.  The one thing I would add is to look at and read the top 10 results to see the quality, general topics, and length of the articles.  Yours needs to be as complete or even more if you want to aim for the top spot.  To be at the top, you need to be the best.

Keyword Difficulty

Keyword difficulty is one of the many factors that is helpful to know before you write an article.  Ideally you’ll write an article that you can top the competition given your writing skills and authority of your website.

While I feel like numbers are not everything, Domain Authority and Page Authority generated by Moz does give an idea of the relative strength of a given page in the search results.  All else being equal, the higher authority site gets a serious edge.  Have you noticed that around SEO certain sites almost always tend to be on the first page even if the search term is extremely focused and their article is in the same general area.

My two recommendations are to go to long tail keywords and to use a keyword research tool

Long tail keywords have lower search volumes because they are specific in nature, but they also have lower competition because less people are targeting many search phrases directly.  Ahrefs estimates around 92% of keyword phrases are actually long tail so there are plenty to go around.  Just pick the best ones if you can.

As for a keyword research tool, I would recommend Long Tail Pro.  It’s a great product that does wonders in helping you find top-notch keywords that can start getting you massive traffic.  Add to that a free 7-day trial and it’s a win-win.

Creating Search Engine Friendly Content

Now when you go to create your content, your keyword research really pays off.  You’ll know your topic, points to hit, and about what type of quality you need to bring to the table.  So in this way, keyword research is far from dead.