Why Your SEO Keyword Research Needs to Evolve & Focus on Topics

For most of us, one of the first things we do when optimizing a site is to perform SEO keyword research. Millions of pixels and column inches have been spent outlining various different keyword strategies. SEO professionals spend millions of dollars each year to track keyword rankings, much to Google’s chagrin.

The Evolving Search Query

The real estate in organic search is shrinking. There have been countless articles written around this phenomenon, but all you have to do to see this for yourself is to Google a few high-volume terms. I urge you to go to Google and type in any competitive term. Most likely, you won’t see any organic results above the fold of the SERP page. For years, Google has given marketers the ability to get “free” traffic and leads through organic search. I don’t believe that Google and the other major search engines are going to stop providing this type of traffic – but the way we will need to capture this traffic is changing very quickly. This is partially because Google wants to keep the traffic for itself, and partially because search queries are continually evolving and becoming more sophisticated.

Increasingly, people are using more sophisticated queries to find out what they want. Back in 2012, Google said that 16%-20% of the searches that occur every day have never been searched before. I suspect that number is even higher today. And people are searching more. The number of searches on Google grows roughly 10% every year.

So let’s recap thus far.

  • There aren’t as many places to get organic clicks.
  • People aren’t searching the same way they did in the past – searches are more complex.
  • There are more searches occurring every year.

So how do we, as digital marketers, pivot to optimally benefit from the current events? The answer is complicated, but it starts with reducing our focus on optimizing for keywords and moving to focus on topics.

What Are Topics?

Topics are just what they sound like – the aggregate content relating to the material around a specific subject. Topics do not encapsulate an entire search journey as keywords do. When we think of keywords, typically we are focusing on individual searches. Most take a last-click mentality when it comes to keywords. The perceived path is brief. A user types in a query in the search engine clicks on a listing, is taken to a webpage and then takes a desired action. Most search marketers know that the above scenario is rarely how any conversion is achieved.

For years, we’ve been mapping the paths of users, trying to understand the path they are taking and keywords they are searching. The holy grail is an attribution model that strings a user’s entire behavior pattern together, complete with keyword data. Oh, and this “holy grail” attribution must have the ability to aggregate all of this data together and provide meaningful, actionable insights. We aren’t there yet, and we may never be.

Read the article in it’s entirety on Search Engine Journal: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-guide/complete-guide-keyword-research/

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