Keywords and Keyword Research – #Pubcon Liveblog

Keyword research — it’s the first step in the search engine optimization process, according to Bruce Clay, Inc. In this Pubcon Las Vegas session, Bruce Clay himself along with fellow presenters Craig Paddock (@craigpaddock) and Ash Nallawalla (@ashnallawallatalk about how to perform the best possible research methods for your keyword processes.

Craig Paddock: Content and Topic Research

Hummingbird is making it so we’re not targeting keywords, but topics and multiple synonyms, says Craig Paddock.

Seventy percent (70%) of queries now involve synonyms, and 98 percent of the time Google properly serves results for synonyms.

The SERPs for “boxing equipment” and “boxing gear” are the same.

We’re losing keyword data from analytics at a rapid rate. There are some workarounds for “not provided” replacing actual data in Google Analytics (GA). His agency provides an organic report by URL in GA. It includes some partial data from Bing/Yahoo/Google.

He mentions that you can get some data from Google Search Console. And you may want to implement a site search if just for the data intelligence. You can also get data from paid search and running AdWords ads. Here are some keyword data sources:

  • Search Console Queries: The Queries report doesn’t show you performance data (such as goals, $$$) and is limited to 90 days.
  • Search Console data in GA: Again, no performance data, limited to 90 days.
  • AdWords Organic report: Connected to Search Console account, AdWords account under Dimensions tab. There’s no performance data, landing page data or historical data, but it’s great because it shows organic click-through rate (CTR) with paid impact, which can inform your keyword research.

Keyphrase (content) research selection factors:

  • Popularity
  • CTR
  • Quality
  • Competitiveness
  • Engagement

Paddock stresses the importance of being an authority in your topic. To have authoritative content, don’t just target top sales terms. Be an authority and be interesting.

Keyphrase ideas:

  • Best — target with anchor text
  • “Wholesale” in the retail businesses is not as competitive and has 50+ percent CTR
  • Glossary can add keyphrase depth.
  • “Nearby” queries are up 100 percent year-over-year
  • “How to” queries are up on YouTube 70 percent
  • “Your company reviews/complaints” — provide a direct option for complaining before they post to Yelp or consumer affairs

Opportunities to target your brand name — your most important keyword phrases:

  • Primary site
  • Paid search listing
  • YouTube channel/Vimeo
  • Facebook/Twitter/Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Wiki
  • Flickr/Pinterest/Instagram/Tumblr/Slideshare
  • Microsite
  • iTunes app page/Google Play
  • Amazon

Here’s a case study. Paddock searches for “Bruce Clay.” You can see that Bruce Clay controls the content on the first TWO PAGES. (We were not expecting this, and Bruce, on the stage, does a double take! ;) )

Industry tools:

  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Google Trends – NEW & IMPROVED July 2015
  • SEMrush
  • SpyFu
  • Screaming Frog – easily pull competitor’s Title Tags/Headers
  • Supermetrics – downloading/transferring data

Paid search campaign data

Paid search campaign data

Heads up: Google Analytics’ Matched Search Query is very broad and getting broader. Travel keywords are matching for “time travel,” for example.

The paid impact on organic: Google says paid ads don’t impact organic rankings. However, a $2M paid search campaign later, he found that people link to pages and share pages more as an indirect result of a paid search campaign.

When looking at your rankings, be sure to look at the non-personalized results.

You may also look to take advantage of result clustering, in which Google takes a website’s results at multiple positions and groups them in the listings all together. The result is like you have more results ranking higher.

CTR by position segmented by query type (branded, ads by the brand on the page, etc.):

CTC by position

In summary:

Keyword research Summary

Ash Nallawalla: Lateral Keywords for Writers

Ash looks after eight brands in the Suncorp Insurance and banks company based in Melbourne, Australia. He’s speaking to the writers and SEOs working with writers, sharing discoveries and an Excel file (published by Eric Enge) and how he modified it to become something else.

Keyword Research Basics

Everyone’s using the Google Keyword Planner to get a feel for the most searched terms. You probably use it and your competitors do, too. We use it as a starting point. Search intent is important. Intent can be navigational, informational, commercial, or transactional. This is the background, to set the scene.

So, who is winning in your niche? Check out the competition. See the content they use on their sites. He has a one-hour presentation (link: to show us how to make a ranking spreadsheet. “Visibility” is important, but what is your way to measure it? Which competitor is more visible? Choose your top five competitors. [Note: You can also try our Top-Ranked Websites tool to get unbiased rankings for a keyword.]

The content writer’s dilemma: The spreadsheet shows the winners, not the losers. We can see who is using the most searched phrases. What content are they using that you are not using? Ranking involves many other factors. And this is also about selling!

Looking for that light-bulb moment? It’s time to think about keyphrase frequency. See Eric Enge’s TF-IFD Moz article.

Term Frequency: Term frequency (TF) refers to how frequently a term appears in a document (including stop words). There’s a fancy formula on the screen that you can presumably get from Eric Enge’s article. No need to fear the formula. Once you plug it into Excel you never have to look at it again, but can get all the benefit of its analysis.

Getting Back to Term Frequency

Look to sell, not to rank. If it helps you rank, great, but don’t have that as your goal.

Get n-grams (one-word, two-word and three-word phrases) from a keyword density tool analysis of your five competitors. Those are the key phrases to include in your worksheet. Get a count of each word or phrase used by the top five pages and your page(s). Then, do the TF number crunching. Use conditional formatting to pick a range of TF values and compare your TF column with the average TF of the competitors. You will now see significant words to consider. When doing this you’ll find that the pages you’re analyzing may not contain some obvious words. This is the beauty of this technique.

Bruce Clay: How We Look at Keyword Research

Bruce agrees that Ash’s description of keyword research is right on and the way to do it. The SEOToolSet Multi Page Analyzer does the analysis of what Ash describes, minus the statistical analysis. But it does identify competitors and their most-used words.

Talking about subject matter experts and speech recognition and basics of research @bruceclayinc

A photo posted by Bill Slawski (@billslawski) on

Use the right keyword when building your site. All keywords should be based on search volume, how people are searching and what people are doing to find you. Understand what you’re trying to get across to your audience, and know that there are different keywords based on regions, and much more. Also, pay attention to keywords based on media (including voice).

Keywords and keyword research: the steps

The steps of keyword research

  1. Generate a seed list (basic 101)
    1. The client keyword list
    2. The site
    3. Search Console Traffic > Search Queries
    4. Google Analytics

Step 2 Find More Keywords

  1. Find more keywords — Look at the related searches at the bottom of every SERP.

Step 3 Find more Keywords

  1. Find more keywords — Use Google Instant to view suggestions.

Step 4 Keyword research

  1. Understanding keywords (or, using wisdom to evaluate and select keywords)
    1. There is a difference between data and wisdom.
    2. Having a keyword list is not enough.
    3. Most lists are excessively broad.
    4. Each keyword is a new SEO project.
    5. Most sites cannot produce expert content for too many keywords.
    6. What worked in the past is past.

Panda-related quality penalties come down to trying to be too broad and thus not an expert. Choose wisely. Narrow your focus. Know your market. Do this by considering:

  • Google audience and personas
  • Transactional or navigational (commercial or informational)
  • Millennial + gender and region
  • Voice, mobile and desktop
  • Expertise focus

Focus on a specific, high-level expertise. Be the subject matter expert for any keyword you’re trying to rank for. How close can you get to being recognized as the expert? A poor selection of poorly matched keywords and mediocre content on too many topics is going to hurt rankings. Two years from now, the only viable keyword will be the one you’re an expert on.

Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

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2 Replies to “Keywords and Keyword Research – #Pubcon Liveblog”

Well I didn’t understand very much as it was complex for a newbie SEO like me. But one thing I got from here is what is past is past. Got some strategic tips to find more relevant keyword by using wisdom with research :)
Thanks Virginia :)

Virginia Nussey

Hi Abhishek. I’d consider this post a starting point for keyword research information. As you gathered, keyword research methods and ideas have changed in the last few years. As you’re new to the industry, you may find our SEO Tutorial useful: Step 1 in the tutorial covers how to do keyword research. :)


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