Keyword research is underrated. Many SEOs have gotten the idea that keyword research just doesn’t hold the value it once did, especially in today’s environment of voice search, extreme long-tail phrases and so on.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Not long ago, I wrote a post outlining 13 uses for keyword research, but that really just scratches the surface of its value.
Traditionally, keyword research has been performed to better understand what phrases searchers are using to find the content, products or services you provide. But using keyword research for that is akin to treating the symptom rather than the problem itself.
Searchers type particular phrases into search engines based on multiple factors that are relevant to them. The question is, what makes those factors relevant? It’s the underlying motivation — need, desire and/or interest — that makes any particular phrase important. Your goal in performing keyword research should be to determine what that underlying motivation is.
With a little digging into keyword tools and some analysis of the results, you can learn a great deal about the audience using a particular phrase. Armed with that knowledge, you can create content that meets their needs and/or will be of interest to them.
And that is the point of keyword research, isn’t it? To create content that satisfies searchers’ interests, needs and desires? And to do so specifically for the audience you wish to target?
With the right focus, keyword research will help you create content that reaches the widest possible audience, generates more traffic and converts better. All it takes is looking at your keywords, not merely as search words but as information about the searcher.
Here are three things that you can discover using keyword research: Who your audience is, what they are interested in, and what their needs are.
Finding your target audience
Do you really know who your target audience is? Many businesses know a great deal about their target market and will even go so far as to create personas to help them zero in on them. But no persona can be fully fleshed out without looking at the keyword data for the products or services you sell.
You can learn quite a bit about your audience just by the keywords they use in the searches they perform. For example, business people will search differently — and use slightly different phrase variations — than students. And students will search differently from hobbyists, who will search differently from information seekers.
If you built your personas focusing on only one of these searchers, you could be missing out on traffic, sales, or even some great exposure that you wouldn’t otherwise get.
At the same time, the phrases themselves can be an indicator for you to know if you are able to provide the value being sought. For example, if you have no videos on your site, you cannot provide value to searchers typing in your keyword plus video. That’s an audience you just can’t (currently) satisfy.
Similarly, if you don’t have the type of detailed information or high-end solutions that business searchers are looking for, you can refocus your content toward the non-business audience.
In all of these searches, the primary keywords are often the same. What changes is the keyword qualifier. Even looking for the same product or service, each audience group will use certain words and qualifiers based on who they are.
Use keyword research to weed out audiences for which you don’t provide value and include those audiences for which you do. By focusing your content toward these audiences, you’ll find that you not only do a better job of targeting your audience but also increasing the value they receive when they come to your website.
Uncovering areas of interest
Now that you know who your audience is, you need to know their particular area(s) of interest. What compelled them to do the search to begin with?
Users have a wide variety of interests, and that’s what keyword research is for — to help you determine all the interests searchers have that you can meet. This knowledge helps you develop targeted content. (For sites with blog posts, these areas of interest are great content fodder that can keep you busy for months or years.)
Keep in mind, you’re not just grabbing a phrase and writing content to match. You’re looking through all your search phrases for similarities in these areas of interest in order to write a comprehensive blog post that will satisfy these seekers (or a series of blog posts, depending on the depth of the interest).
By looking at specific interests, you’re able to engage with your audience on their terms, addressing what they really want. This will help you produce better content that improves existing engagement rates.
Meeting searchers’ needs
One of the most important things you can get out of keyword research is finding the various ways that searchers are looking for what you provide. These variations can shed a good deal of light on the searchers’ particular area of interest.
Many businesses don’t look outside their own experience and knowledge in order to understand the different terminology used for the same thing. You may make a widget, but a good number of people might call it a gadget.
And for that matter, your widget might have X function, but searchers are looking for Y function. Can you add Y functionality to your widget or create a new widget specifically for that function? And instead of calling it a widget, should you call it a gadget?
Figuring out what your audience needs is critical to ensuring you are able to create content (and solutions!) that will meet them. When it comes down to it, each searcher wants to know, “What’s in it for me?” And it’s your job to tell them!
You hear a lot of talk about writing content that discusses the benefits of what you offer. But what is more important is making sure you’re addressing the desired benefits. Don’t focus on benefits no one wants or needs. Instead, make sure your content addresses the benefits your audience is seeking.
As you perform your keyword research, you’ll find that there is a lot of crossover between these three categories. It’s not your job to cater to them all, but to find those that will prove to be the most valuable for your business.
Keyword research uncovers a great deal about what you need to know about searchers. Use this information to determine who you should be trying to attract to your site and what type of content will do the job. Stop thinking about keyword research in terms of the phrases themselves, but rather in terms of what these phrases say about searchers and how to reach them.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.