As the new decade begins, marketers are bracing themselves for what is coming ahead in terms of SEO. Just last year, Google made several significant core updates (including the BERT update) which had some major ramifications on rankings and keyword strategies.
2020 is gearing up to be a year full of change in the way that consumers search and how search engines determine ranking results. Competition is only getting fiercer as Google’s algorithm becomes more sophisticated and particular in providing optimized results for users.
When it comes to keyword research, there is little room for error if you want to keep your website high up on the SERPs.
Here are three things to keep in mind when you conduct keyword research in this new decade.
1. Get to the Bottom of User Search Intent
When conducting keyword research, many marketers get so caught up in search volume numbers that they miss the bigger picture. Yes, search volume is important – but search volume metrics are not always the end all-be all when it comes to solid SEO strategies.
Google has been making lots of updates to improve its understanding of intent for more relevant results. The BERT algorithm update specifically focused on word correlation by allowing the language processor to understand full phrases within a query, as opposed to processing words one by one.
Your keyword research strategies should be heavily rooted in the intent behind each word or phrase. Some intent keywords are easy to determine as they are often verbs, like “find” or “buy”, while others can be a little bit more subtle.
For instance, say that you enter the following search: “Vancouver restaurants.”
Google must determine the intent of your search based on a bit more than just the keywords here since it is quite limited. Do you want:
- To book a reservation for a restaurant in that area?
- To see lists of the most popular restaurants in the city?
- To learn about the food scene in Vancouver?
Now, Google may rely on other data to provide relevant results. If you had just booked a hotel, for example, it may assume that you are planning a trip and provide more informational pieces. On the other hand, if you have been entering other localized searches like “coffee shop near me Vancouver”, it might assume that your intent is to see nearby restaurants to book a reservation.
Of course, when you are researching, you are not privy to this kind of data. But you can get a little bit of help by looking at related searches to your chosen keywords on tools like Google Trends, Keyword Planner, etc…
You should also track your current keywords on Search Console to see which searches drive in which types of actions.
- Are certain blog posts driving in highly converting traffic?
- How did this content influence their decision to purchase?
- Which links have the highest or lowest bounce rates?
- Which ones are often followed by a click to a product page?
User intent should be the foundation of your keyword research. The better you understand this, the more valuable your SEO plan will be.
2. Identify Informational, Navigational, And Transactional Keywords
Understanding the information that your target customers are seeking is the best way to create keyword-infused content that drives in relevant traffic.
There are three general categories of keywords: navigational, informational, and transactional.
Informational keywords typically cover broader, educational topics (towards the top of the sales funnel).
So, say that you run a design agency that specializes in helping e-commerce stores to create functional websites. Some informational keywords you would want to target would be ones like “building e-commerce store”, “online store website design”, or “how to create an e-commerce site.”
Fun fact: Searches for informational keywords with the additional phrase “to avoid” have increased by 150% since 2019. This could be a good keyword to target in addition to other phrases, with guides like “SEO mistakes to avoid” or “How to avoid going into debt.”
Informational keywords can be used across your website, but are ideal for educational content – like blogs, guides, whitepapers, etc.
Navigational keywords and queries are related to searches that have clear intent, typically for a specific brand or location.
An example would be if someone entered in “United Airlines contact customer service” as they are clearly looking for the contact page of that company’s website to speak with a customer service representative. Another example would be if someone searched “marketing agencies in San Diego” – the intent is crystal clear on this.
Navigational keywords are best on webpages – like your home page, location page(s), and service pages.
Transactional keywords are related to searches that have high purchase intent. These typically include keywords like “pricing” and “buy”, as well as the product or brand names.
Targeting transactional keywords for certain products or service pages is important if you want to drive in converting traffic. Once again, it is important to get specific here with product details, brand names, or service descriptions. That way you can still rank for ambiguous queries like “hire digital marketing agency” or “download traffic analysis software program.”
Transactional keywords are, you guessed it, best on product pages, services pages, or any other page with purchase intent.
3. Optimize For Voice Search Queries
As you have most likely heard by now, 2020 is the year that voice search will take over. Experts predict that over half of searches will be made with a voice-activated device and 30% of browsing will occur without a screen – thanks to tools like Alexa and Google Home.
Therefore, you will need to include keywords within content that are specifically optimized for voice search. One of the best ways to do this is to answer common questions, considering that the majority of voice searches begin with the word “how” or “what.”
Another tip is to create content specifically for featured snippets or the “Answer Box” since voice-activated search devices often rely on these for instant answers. This is known as “snippet bait”. Essentially, it involves answering a question concisely in roughly 60-80 words towards the beginning of the piece – then expand on it through the remaining content.
This will, again, require some keyword research into the intent of your audience. Really get to know the types of questions they are asking and the content they are searching for – then try to condense the answers into concise snippets that Google can easily use.
Keyword research will always be a significant element of a successful online marketing strategy. But relying on old tactics and failing to adapt to the changes is one of the greatest mistakes you can make.
While there is no telling what the future holds in terms of Google’s algorithmic changes or consumer search behavior trends in the upcoming year, these tips can help to guide you through the research process for the new year.