How To Target the Right Keywords: Keyword Research

Melissa Fach

Aug 01, 20207 min read
How to Target the Right Keywords


Keyword research sounds easy, but it is not. We all know the Semrush tools provide a lot of keyword research data that marketers can use, but what you do with that data, how you evaluate it, and which keywords and phrases you choose to use are critical if you are hoping to meet specific goals.

In last week's #Semrushchat, our community and guest  @GregGifford offered keyword research tips and suggestions to marketers and businesses to the following questions:

Read the tweets below to gain some valuable insights and tips. And please share your thoughts in the comments below or via social. 

With the introduction of Google’s BERT update, should the process of keyword research be changed?

What is BERT? 

BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. Google explained that with this network-based technique for natural language processing they can consider the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it, which is particularly “useful for understanding the intent behind search queries.”

Your keyword research needs to improve massively. Intent is critical, and determining what the intent will be after the first intent is also critical. Relevant keywords and subtopics most be considered. 

Let's see what the experts had to say:

“It really comes down to understanding the KW research process and why you are doing it — it is about creating the right content, optimized for the right query intents — shouldn't EVER be about targeting Google and not people.” —  Greg Gifford.

“You can't optimize for BERT. It's not a ranking algorithm like RankBrain, it is a language processing algorithm. Just be sure to keep writing high-quality content that will reside with your audience. Keep KW research the same as whatever works for your SEO efforts.” —  Maddie Clark.

“Depends on what you were doing before! If you were writing for a human audience before, you're likely only being rewarded from BERT. If you've been writing in a contrived over-SEO'd fashion, you might be having issues. Write for people, not robots!” —  Sam Harries.

“BERT is a natural language understanding framework where machines are now better able to understand conceptually what a webpage is about. So, tactics like Hx optimization, keyword placement are ineffective w/o topic support. Content strategy anyone?” —  Marianne Sweeny.

“If you're still doing old-school SEO and targeting one keyword per page and not thinking about targeting concepts, then you need to change that for sure — and *maybe* that's why you're worried about BERT. But it's still just regular SEO, y'all.” —  Greg Gifford.

“It’s a further move towards high quality, readable content. Thinking more about what your readers actually want and speaking to them like a real person” —  Steve Linney.

What are your time-saving hacks for creating a keyword list for your website?

SEOs have a ton of work to do, and time-saving hacks are critical to keep up and get all your work done. At the same time, quality research is critical, so save time on some tasks, but spend the necessary time for your initial keyword research. 

“Depending on the industry and product, try to explain what the business is selling to a 5-year-old, then to a teen, then to an adult, and then to an expert. You should get a global understanding of how people may refer to the business.” —  Alizee Baudez.

“You have to be careful when asking the client for important keywords. Great example — car dealers love to say 'pre-owned vehicles' cause it sounds nicer, but it has got less than a tenth the search volume of "used cars" (how people actually search).” —  Greg Gifford.

“I wouldn't use many time-saving hacks — unless it's aggregating data to then manually go through. When you automate keyword research, you lose to the people who spent the time to do it more in-depth.” —  Ryan Jones.

“Map it around:

  • your product
  • key features
  • questions around your product/service
  • conversations with your product team, sales team, and customer support.

What are customers talking about to you already? For starters ツ” —  Steve Linney.

“Here's our B2B approach:

“Ensure your keywords are mapped around your customer lifecycle, that way, personas, content strategy, and keyword research go hand-in-hand and no one is duplicating work...” —  Sarah Marks.

Youtube video thumbnail

What are the questions to ask yourself to while prioritizing your keyword list?

The questions should be different for everyone. Every business is different, and every goal and audience needs to be considered before choosing keywords that will work for your company. Below we have some considerations to keep in mind. Also, check out  The 2020 Keyword Research Guide for SEO for more ideas.

“Which keywords will actually convert? we've had great success skipping the top tier keywords with all the search volume. Going after lower-volume, longer-tail KWs bring more conversions on a shorter timeline.” —  Greg Gifford.

“Are these keywords actually valued by the customer? Do they care?” —  Alizee Baudez.

“Three questions to ask: 1. What are people searching for? 2. How many people are searching for it? 3. In what format do they want that information?” —  Ben Austin.

“What words best describe what we offer our customers? How would a potential customer unaware of our industry and what we offer articulate their search.” —  Green Rope.

“What keyword/query is my site the PERFECT solution/answer for?
What keyword/query has the strongest intent from the customer related to the goal I'm wanting to achieve?
What's too broad? (those go to the bottom of the list)” —  Diana Richardson.

Is this relevant long term? Are people actually looking for this? Am I actually offering this? Will this help get people in the funnel? What part of the funnel is this?” —  Youness Bermime.

Recommended Reading:

Youtube video thumbnail

In your opinion, what is the most overlooked step in the process of keyword research?

“Tons of people forget to talk to the client too... all the KW research in the world won't matter if you don't really understand the business and its goals.” —  Greg Gifford.

“Deciphering the user’s real need. Keywords are codes the audience uses to retrieve information. You have to know (1) what they’re really asking and (2) what type of content they really want.” —  Alexis Katherine.

“Do a sense check!! Just because it's on the list, doesn't mean it makes sense for the client.” —  Reva Minkoff.

“The manual work for sure. I don't wanna hate on SEO tools but they are getting so lazy! No one wants to get their hands dirty anymore.” —  Youness Bermime.

“In my opinion, the most overlooked part of the keyword process is understanding your audience (who they are), what they would use to find your produce, and using keywords that are relevant to them and your content.” —  Bernie Fussenegger.

“The most overlooked step is considering the humans! We get so caught up pleasing the computer and the algorithms we have to remember that actual people are behind the searches.” —  Builder Designs.

Recommended Reading:  How Your Agency or Brand Can Afford SEO Tools

How much time does it take to see the results of your keyword research and optimization?

This is a common question that SEOs here, and the truth is there is no guarantee. Anyone that guarantees you results in a short amount of time is being dishonest — unless it is a keyword no one is interested in and that has no competitor. 

Let's see what our participants had to say:

“It depends*. What's guaranteed is that you'll see improvement if you've done you work the right way. *Results in SEO can never be guaranteed. Results depend on your niche, your site, your commitment, your investment, and Google's web crawlers.” —  Youness Bermime.

“Depends on the competitiveness of your keywords and search landscape, but patience is a virtue!” — Paul Gregory.

“String length of? Anything from days to months, according to a lot of variables :-) SEO is a long-term game, so be very grateful for any short-term wins.” —  David Rosam.

“Really, it depends on whether or not you're targeting high volume/high competition terms or not. Those obviously take MUCH longer... but sometimes the long tail/low competition stuff can catch fire quickly...” —  Greg Gifford.

“What's a 'result'? Impatience with SEO is one of the biggest failure modes with clients and agencies. Been in way too many meetings where teams mined analytics for some nugget of joy without considering KPIs or causality. Look for some rate of change on KPIs.” —  Don Dingee.

Youtube video thumbnail

Have tips for targeting the right keywords? 

We would love your thoughts on the questions above. Please share in the comments below. We also want to thank everyone that participated in the chat. We will be looking for your expert insights this week. Join us for  Semrushchat at 11 am ET/4 pm BST every Wednesday.

A Free Course on Keyword Research

Semrush offers a free Keyword Research Course taught by Greg Gifford. The course includes 8 lessons: 

  1. Introduction to Keyword Research
  2. Understanding the Business
  3. Query Intent
  4. Create a List
  5. SEMrush Tools
  6. Not Provided Keywords
  7. Check Your Competitors
  8. Create Content

There is a lot to learn sign up today! 

Author Photo
US Personality of the Year 2017 Winner and die-hard Star Wars fan. Herder of cats. Non-cook. Find me on Twitter @SEOaware.