Keyword research is not something most business owners look forward to in their online marketing strategy, but it's an essential part of making sure that your marketing efforts are heading in the right direction. Because of advances in how search engines rank content, the keyword process has become incredibly nuanced and sophisticated, so you need to make sure that your approach takes recent developments into account. Here are three big things you need to keep in mind when planning out your keyword strategy in 2020.
1. Focus on matching searcher intent. You may be hitting a ranking target consistently and feeling good about it, but it's not going to make a difference to your bottom line if it was the wrong target in the first place. Knowing what users are actually looking for when they do a particular web search - i.e. searcher intent - can help you understand the gap between web traffic and conversions.
For example, let's say your business is selling birdhouses. Your site may be ranking highly when people search for "how to build a birdhouse," but of course when people click through, they're not finding what they're looking for. They want to build their own birdhouse, not purchase one, so your site is useless for them. You need to get out in front of that user thought process - what terms will people search for that will accurately match the products or services you provide? Locking into searcher intent is one of the biggest ways that you can improve your keyword research to start getting more conversions.
2. Think beyond volume. We've all been conditioned to think 'the more traffic, the better', but growing visitor numbers are not the best indicator of performance if your bounce rates are also off the charts. While it's tempting to pick high-volume industry keywords to try to rank for, it's more important to assess whether the keywords you're choosing are actually accurate for the niche your business is in.
The other factor with this is attainability - unless you're already an established global brand, you're more likely to achieve high rankings using moderate-volume keywords that are less saturated, rather than trying to rank for major keywords against thousands or even millions of competitors. Know your target market on a more specific level, and aim for them instead of trying to cast your net too widely.
3. Be natural. Thanks to the miracle of AI and natural language processing, it's no longer necessary to cover every single permutation of a keyword when you're trying to get the attention of search engines. Back in the day, websites and blog posts were stuffed with endless variations of keywords, to the point where text was ridiculously repetitive and often didn't make any sense. Now, search engines are smart enough to understand what your content is about, as long as it's well-written and on-topic. You don't need to pack pages with "birdhouse, bird house, bird houses, birdhouses, houses for birds, homes for birds" and so forth to get search engines to see you, and in fact most of the major search engines will actually penalize for excessive keyword stuffing. Just write things out naturally, in the same way you'd explain them to a friend, and focus on getting your point across effectively.
Quality keyword research does require some thought and effort, but luckily the SEO process is no longer about tricking the system. It's about understanding your value, and demonstrating that value to an audience who is looking for exactly what you have to offer. This is great news for marketers who have better things to do than endlessly copy-pasting the same keywords over and over - instead you can concentrate on what your business does best, and let that shine through.