Is Keyword Research Still Relevant?

A tip to empower you online

SEO, Search Engine Optimization, is a term that is shrouded in clouds of geek, and many “not so professional” people take advantage of that. You know, the emails and phone calls you get that promise “we can rank you on Google” that smell spammy enough that you (hopefully) know not to respond to. Factors like these increase your hesitancy to trust because of your fear of the unknown. And, if you’ve been unfortunate enough to have a bad experience, it exponentially increases that fear.

So, we’re going to clear the clouds of geek for you and translate the Geek into English. Not that you have to do the work yourself… but that you have a better understanding of what’s involved. Meaning you’ll be able to have better conversations when you do reach out to a professional, and have a better understanding of what they’re talking about.

There are over 200 things that Google considers when it comes to ranking a site. We’re going to focus on the main pieces that you’ll encounter (or should encounter) when doing your own SEO or working with a professional.

Let’s start with Keyword Research. In this tip, we’ll cover some general info. In our next tip, we’ll dive into the nuts and bolts of doing some Keyword Research, and provide practical steps you can take to get started.

Keyword Research is Still Relevant

Keyword Research isn’t dead, it’s just had to adjust to having more than one “important” element on the plate over the years. And now, more than ever, it’s important because as long as there’s an internet, and you want to have people find your business, they need to type in words and phrases in order to find you.

A million years ago on the web, keyword stuffing – in places you could see and those you couldn’t – would get you ranked #1 on a search engine. Until someone came along and stuffed more keywords than you did on a page. Then they were #1 and you were #2. Google is all about giving us relevant results when we search (otherwise, we’d no longer use it), so many times over the years they have leveled the playing field.

Through all the changes Google has made over the years, and indeed continue to make, there’s a consistent thread: using solid key phrases in the right places and within your content will impact your ranking. Used well… your ranking improves. Used poorly or not at all… you slide down the list of found sites that answer the searcher’s words or phrase.

Key Changes in Using Keywords

Above, we briefly touched on the early days of the web and how in many ways it was a wild, wild west. Back then, there were many different search engines, and Google wasn’t king. As Google gained popularity over the years, they’ve put effort into making sure that they deliver the best “answers” to our questions. That includes two key elements – ‘long tail’ keywords and synonyms.

General keywords vs “long tail” keywords

How often do you do a super general search on Google? For example, “Restaurants in Grants Pass”. Chances are you don’t – why? You’ve learned that in order to extract the best result from Google, you need to be more specific. “Best burger restaurant in Grants Pass” will (should) return all the restaurants in Grants Pass that serve burgers – and should exclude the Italian or Mexican restaurants.

Let’s take this one step further.

  • If I’m in the market for a new camera, my 1st search on Google may be “best digital SLR cameras”. Am I ready to buy one? No. I’m just starting my research.
  • Next search “Nikon SLR cameras”. I’ve now decided on the brand of camera, but I’m still not ready to buy one. I need to figure out which Nikon camera is the best for me.
  • Next search “Nikon D7500 DSLR camera”. I’ve decided on which camera to get, and am now nailing down the final details before I’m ready to buy it.

Now, if you’re selling cameras, unless your website covers all the information that will answer my questions from choosing which brand of camera to which Nikon to buy, you’ve got the best chance of converting me into a customer if I find you once I’ve decided on which camera to buy. And, that last search was a “long tail”, i.e. detailed, keyword search.

Google Understands Synonyms

Back in the early days of the web the search engines didn’t really understand misspellings or the use of synonyms. It truly was just a huge index of words. And it was crazy to see people actually, deliberately, putting common misspelled words related to their industry or business on their website, just so they would rank high on searches from ‘sloppy’ typers.

Luckly, search engines today understand synonyms. Along with just synonyms, especially Google uses artificial intelligence in order to understand the “conversation” you have on your website. This doesn’t mean keywords have lost their importance, it means that Google is looking for a coherent sentence around those keywords and understands what you mean when you use similar words.

What Keyword Intent Means & Why It’s Important

Keyword Intent is simply what people are looking for when they search. As we saw in the example of selling cameras, along with simply the brand or name of the camera, depending on which step I was at, I would add additional words to that search to make it more specific to exactly what I was seeking.

We can boil all searches down into 4 main buckets:

  1. Investigation – comparative terms, best x on the market, etc.
  2. Information – who, what, when, where, why, how, etc.
  3. Navigation – business name, location, etc.
  4. Transaction – buy, special, deal, product name, etc.

When you think about what people are trying to accomplish with each of the different types of search, it’s easy to see the importance of making sure that your website has the needed answers. It also gives us guidance on how to organize our content into that logical flow to be able to meet the needs of the early search and guide them down the path to the transaction.

If you take the time to match your website content, landing pages, product pages, etc to the different reasons that people are searching, you will increase your conversion rate. Why? Because people will easily find what they are looking for.

For a winning combination, take your clearly identified customer (target market), and speak directly to them from the aspect of why they are searching… Are they investigating? Looking for information? Trying to find you (biz name, location, etc)? Or ready to buy from you? Wondering what that looks like? Here are some examples:

  • Home and About pages – Information
  • Contact Us – Navigation
  • Product/service/sales pages – Transaction
  • Blog articles – Investigation

In our next tip (keywords part 2), we’ll take a look at how to identify Keyword Intent and some simple tips for doing Keyword Research.


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