SEO professionals have now had more than a year to study and analyze Hummingbird, semantic search, not provided, and everything keyword-related that Google has thrown at us. Google has sought to diminish the importance SEOs have traditionally placed on keywords for search rankings, and rethink the very way we do keyword research. You simply have to draw your own conclusions, pick up the pieces, and get a move on.

I’ve been heavily influenced by Nick Eubanks’ method of building and using matrices for keyword research. Every time I’m shuffling keywords in my mind for a new campaign, it forces me to stop and contemplate user intent. And that stands me in good stead.

The aim of this post is to keep it short (by my standards) and quickly touch (by giving examples but not explanations) on a few ways to find new words and phrases that

  • The keyword tools you love may not catch
  • You might overlook while sorting bleary-eyed through the humongous, abyss-mal keyword spreadsheets that seem to robotically build themselves

Hummingbird Droppings

Everything Google learns about keyword replacement for queries, they can also apply into the on-page analysis part of their algorithm. I’m assuming they’ve been doing this for a while, and they will only get better and better at it.

~ Stoney deGeyter, CEO of Pole Position Marketing

A search for red wedding dresses yields

On the first, second or third place, you might chance on http://www.verawang.com/EN/wedding/bridal-collection/spring-2013.

Some observations on this page, once you get past the country selector and subscription pop-ups:

  • The content consists only of images and no text. You see “wedding dresses” in the HTML meta tags (but not in the text; there ain’t any), while “red” isn’t to be found. The images don’t have any alt text.
  • Does that mean if there’s a color in the query, Google spends more time parsing and throwing up images, and you’re better off not spending time creating text about the color? So much for keywords!
  • Part of the query (and a synonym) is included in the title. Add bridal gowns to your list.
  • Spring 2013? This is the fashion industry, for crying out loud! Add to that, it’s someone’s wedding at stake! So much for QDF.
  • Why is this particular page ranking then? A cursory look at the backlink profile in Ahrefs reveals that although “red wedding dresses” isn’t used as exact match anchor text anywhere, out of the 10 strongest backlinks, 3 are from Buzzfeed and 2 from HuffPo.
  • From this HuffPo article, you can pluck a few more key phrases, such as anything but white, bold, bright colours, punchy shades of red, and symbol of wealth.

Meta Musings

Remember the times when you used to look at your competitors’ meta keywords with your index finger on C and your pinky on Ctrl? Time to move on to meta descriptions.

A search for red dot sight gives (No, I’m not seeing too much red.)

There are umpteen additional keywords you can gather from the meta descriptions…

Similar terms:

  • reflector sight*
  • reflex sight
  • holographic sight*
  • laser sight*

Related terms (product):

  • non-magnifying reflector sight
  • military grade red dot sight*
  • shooter aimpoint
  • picatinny-style mount aimpoint

Related terms (intent):

  • improve your shooting
  • get on target fast
  • shoot accurately
  • aim with eyes open

Related terms (informational):

  • how the red dot works*
  • how to zero red dot*
  • Related terms (brand):
  • BSA*
  • Crimson Trace
  • Sightmark*

The ones marked with * have exact or close matches in the suggestions given by the Google AdWords Keyword Planner in this case.

However, if you don’t have the time to keep digging deeper into nested loops of secondary keywords, if you want to cover all keywords that your competitors are optimizing (and ranking) for and not lose out on ones that don’t have enough search volume at the moment, scouring their meta descriptions is not a bad idea.

Since April 2014, Google has also been changing titles displayed in the search results to match the search query. So, just to be doubly sure, click on the results, go to each page and check the actual title tags. You might pick up a couple of new keywords.

While you’re there, quickly scan the headings too. And then press the Back button in your browser to return to the original search results (sneakily letting Google know you didn’t find what you were looking for). You bad SEO, you!

SERP Accessories

The Knowledge Graph is easily the biggest element on the search result page. Then, there are answer boxes, rich snippets, carousels, local packs and business pages.

Let’s start with the Knowledge Graph. I am fascinated by the eiffel tower:

Some keywords you can quickly glean:

  • tower in paris
  • stephen sauvestre
  • iron lattice
  • quai branly
  • notre dame

The Keyword Planner can’t think of any of the above. ’Nuff said.

Move on to the answer box. Search for september birthstone and you’ll see

Add these to your keyword collection:

  • blue / pink / yellow / green sapphire*
  • blue* / pink / yellow / green birthstone
  • loyalty
  • trust
  • protect from harm
  • birthstone beliefs
  • birthstone characteristics
  • birthstone properties

Quickly heading to rich snippets. No better excuse to search recipes for sweets like kaju katli:

Start rattling off the keywords:

  • kaju katli calories*
  • kaju katli preparation time
  • sweet in under 30 mins
  • 4+ rated sweet
  • kaju katli {publication name}
  • kaju katli {recipe author}
  • kaju katli / sweet {ingredient}
  • kaju katli / sweet {nutrition}

Notes:

  • Other recipe snippets might display the properties I’ve included within braces.
  • I looked at the Keyword Planner suggestions for apple pie for comparison here, because it’s a far more popular recipe (for which we can reasonably expect more keyword options).

Along come the carousels. Try searching for points of interest or events. Say you’re doing a gig for a hotel in New York City and happen to search for new york events:

Whip out your notepad – um, spreadsheet.

  • new york musical*
  • new york orchestra
  • new york conference
  • new york theater*
  • new york play
  • new york points of interest*
  • new york {singer / band} performance
  • new york {sport match}
  • new york {public ground or park}

Finally, if your target market “dovetails” with local search (if I may take a lame shot at Pigeon), give map results in your area of focus the once-over. You’ll be able to combine your keywords with nearby streets, landmarks and business name variations.

Reviews on Google+ pages (or even other local directories) can be an excellent source of keywords. Google is known to associate certain words from reviews with the business entity in question. If you’re checking out something like pizza in new york, click on the links that say n Google reviews next to the ratings in the local pack. You’ll get a popup like this:

Jackpot!

  • trendy pizza place
  • old fashioned pizza
  • pizza pie
  • pizza and pasta*
  • pizza great bread
  • spicy pizza
  • crispy crust
  • quick service pizza
  • downtown pizza
  • rectangular pizza
  • pizza eat outside

No, I won’t bother you with the “related searches” in the SERPs. It’s been talked about.

Competitors’ Research

Yes, the s’ is there on purpose. What better way than be a keyword cuckoo and sponge ideas off your competitor’s content? Have you noticed how the highest ranking sites in your business also tend to have the best blogs, UI and information-wise? Typically, you should pick the top two to five blogs and read the latest posts at every opportunity.

Say you’re looking for keywords related to social login. 30 seconds on Google will tell you that Janrain and Gigya are the behemoths you’re up against. Click onward to their blogs.

Without so much as a scroll, your keyword conveyor starts moving.

  • social login attack
  • social login vulnerability
  • consumer identity data
  • omni channel experience

While you’re at it, also scrutinize competitors’ posts on social media for keywords and phrases. Those that have the maximum shares and engagement are the ones you should rake through first. Remember, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and pretty much any other social network is a search engine in its own right.

This is a keyword lottery you can win every week!

If you’re exploring any new methods for mining keywords for content creation at the moment, please comment. I’d love to discuss them at length!

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Featured image: Comparison of Mann’s Digital Eye Glass with Google Glass, as part of the “History of AR Vision” exhibit at AWE (Augmented World Expo) by Glogger. Modified under CC via Wikimedia Commons