Keyword Research Challenges and How To Master Them in 2017 #Semrushchat

Liza Voronkova

Dec 27, 201613 min read
Keyword Research Challenges

Keyword research is a critical component of search engine optimization that you need to pay careful attention to before you start a campaign. It is the most fundamental aspect of online marketing. Thorough keyword research helps companies rank in search engine results for certain words and phrases.

Keyword research is much more than collecting a long (and sometimes rambling) list of terms and phrases to prioritize. When you’re trying to find the right keywords for your content, you need to solve a deeper problem. What’s behind those words and phrases is just as important as the keywords themselves, like demographics and user intent.

To improve your keyword research strategy in the upcoming year, check out the following recap of our SEMrush Chat. Our chat guests discussed how to master various keyword research challenges in 2017.

Q1. For which marketing areas is keyword research still relevant? SEO, PPC, Content, Social Media, etc.?

The world of SEO and online marketing is constantly changing, and things are getting a bit more troublesome. Some marketers wonder if keyword research is still relevant for SEO and other areas.

We asked our chat guests to share their opinion on the topic. Most of them agreed that keyword research is still very important. It’s foundational to your overall marketing strategy, as Keith Goode pointed out.

Ryan Scollon posted a GIF showing his reaction when someone says that keyword research is pointless.

Many of our chat participants believe that keyword research is still relevant for all these areas, because it helps companies get to know their audience better.

Shawn Harding thinks that keyword research is important for everything you do, because you want to make sure there's an audience for your content and ads. But you need to think more about the topics and relationships between keywords, rather than keywords themselves.

He also pointed out that some areas will require keyword research more than others. For example, social media might not require it that much. For PPC, on the other hand, keyword research is still very important. Netvantage Marketing ‏ @netvantage agreed that SEO and PPC demand thorough keyword research: “SEO and PPC in particular absolutely need good keyword research — other marketing areas should utilize it to their advantage.”

Dawn thinks that keyword research is relevant for all marketing areas mentioned (and even more), because words resonate with both humans and search engines, whether spoken or written.

Gabriella Sannino mentioned that Google now looks for meaning, and not just certain words. It means that you need to focus on more than just specific terms and phrases. You need to pay careful attention to the context and relevance of your content.

Bill Slawski made a great comparison between online marketing without keywords and tweets in a Twitter chat without hashtags.

Let’s sum up these key points:


As you can see, our chat guests agreed that keyword research is still an inevitable element of any marketing campaign. More or less, it can improve various areas.

Q2. How should marketers use keywords to craft their content both for users and search engines?

When it comes to creating website content, it’s time to work smarter. One of the biggest challenges marketers face is writing content that’s optimized for search engines and that also appeals to people.

Our chat guests shared their tactics for using keywords correctly, so you can create both SEO and user-friendly content.

1. Focus on your users while giving consideration to search engines

First of all, you need to focus primarily on your audience. Users won’t be willing to consume your content, if it isn’t valuable, interesting, and engaging. Andy Drinkwater recommended focusing on your users while also giving consideration to search engines. Knowing your target audience will help you create content that appeals to your readers: “Knowing your audience will help hugely. There is no point in writing about apples when you want to be explaining bananas,” tweeted Andy.

2. Keep it natural

Natural language, both spoken and typed, is taking over search queries. Instead of simple thinking about “keyword research,” people are now asking, “what is keyword research?” You need to bear this in mind and use long-tail keywords and natural queries wisely.

“Keep it natural. Think about the language and phrases the user would use when searching and cater your keywords accordingly,” recommended Traffic Jam Media ‏ @trafficjammedia. Create content that sounds natural to your readers and pleases them.

3. Understand user intent

Some website owners make a big mistake by focusing too much on specific terms and phrases in their research without paying enough attention to the user intent behind those keywords. You need to understand the goal of your users and then write your content based on this knowledge.

Nate Dame pointed out that your keywords help you understand your users’ intentions and enable you to create content for users based on the language they “speak” to search engines with.

4. Craft content for users and structure it for search engines

When crafting content for your audience, don’t forget to structure it appropriately for search engines. Use meta descriptions to help guide search engines. Meta descriptions help them better understand what your webpage is about.

5. Learn to speak your audience’s language

If you want to win over your audience, you have to speak their language. Visit Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to figure out what words and phrases people use when they’re posting and commenting about your products and services. Take a look at the words and hashtags people use on Twitter. Read forums and relevant blogs. Focus your efforts on learning the same language your audience speaks.

Basic keyword research won’t get you as far as you want anymore. You need to dive deeper and try to understand what’s behind your keywords.


Use these tactics to satisfy both your users and search engines, and to create content that will ensure your growth and success.

Q3. What criteria do you use to determine the quality of a keyword?

Now that we know that keyword research is still an important element of SEO, it’s time to figure out how to determine the quality of a keyword.

Here’s what our chat guests recommended.

1. Make sure the keyword is relevant

Relevance is the one most important factors to pay attention to when choosing the right keywords for SEO. Ensure that your keywords are relevant to your audience, product or service. Understand who your customers are and address their problems, questions, and interests.

Sean Van Guilder recommended using to check whether or not your keyword is relevant. This tool is a visual keyword generator that finds keyword groups, sorted by question, preposition, and alphabetization.

2. Check its search volume and difficulty

As many of our chat participants pointed out, if a keyword is high-volume, it isn’t necessarily the right keyword. You should also analyze other aspects, like keyword competition. Keyword competition is the measure of how difficult it would be to rank for a particular term. It’s really difficult to rank for high-competition keywords, so there’s actually no use to optimize your site with terms and phrases that are too competitive.

3. Align your SEO strategy and your buyers’ journey

In a nutshell, a buyer’s journey is the path they take when purchasing a product or service. Each action that your customers take on their way toward a purchase is a very important step in their buyer’s journey.

In his article posted on Search Engine Land, Derek Edmond recommends basing your keyword strategy on the stages of a buyer’s journey. He points out that mapping your keywords to each step in a buyer’s journey makes SEO more important for your marketing initiatives. If you give the right person the right message, you’ll be able to successfully beat the competition.

4. Understand the seasonality of your audience

When it comes to some products, it’s also worth taking seasonality into account when developing your marketing strategies. Customers’ purchasing habits tend to shift based on the various activities they take part in.

Seasonal SEO is a technique that helps your site gain more visibility during season-specific peak traffic periods. By figuring out seasonal trends in your industry, you’ll be able to develop your SEO strategy accordingly. You need to understand which keywords perform best for your product, service, or promotional offer and optimize your content for those specific keywords.

You can check out a few other answers in the following recap.


How do you find the best keywords for your SEO campaign? We would love to hear about your experience!

It’s a fact that the digital world is changing quickly. It’s important for marketers to keep up to date with all the latest changes in the industry and adjust their strategies accordingly.

Let’s see how different trends impact keyword research.

More searches now are conducted on phones and tablets. This switch in devices also means a shift in users’ search behaviors. Praveen Sharma pointed out that people today use natural language. They tend to ask questions when using voice search. Finding synonyms, related terms and phrases is becoming more important to the keyword research process. ‏”Keyword research will stick around, but it may become even more important to know semantically linked terms and search trends,” tweeted Shawn Harding.

Users tend to speak in longer phrases, complete questions and sentences. This means that marketers and website owners need to create content for these longer phrases.

Search engines are constantly learning to understand the intent behind search queries in order to deliver more accurate results. While keywords themselves will matter less, fulfilling the searcher’s intent will become more important.

Mobile voice search is three times more likely to be local-based than text. Rachel Howe believes that these new changes in the digital space will provide content marketers with the opportunity to optimize their content for searches like "what can I do?" and "where can I go?" as well as other location- and information-based queries. Therefore, it has become even more important to keep your local profiles up to date, displaying the correct address, phone number, and open hours.

Some of our chat participants also pointed out that new digital marketing trends and changes bring more challenges, because online searchers are always on the move and have different intents.

Danny Ray Lima ‏ @dannyraylima believes that voice search will create an excellent opportunity to provide direct answers to users’ questions.

I would like to sum up this discussion with a tweet from Patrick Stox‏ @patrickstox: “Now you need to answer all the questions, do it in a more organized (not shorter) way, and do it fast.”


Q5. Keywords in 2017: what are the main changes and tendencies that we will see in how marketers work with keywords?

Finally, let’s take a look at the main changes we’ll see in how marketers work with their keywords and how they can capitalize on the latest digital marketing trends.

1. Take into account mobile and local results

In 2017, marketers will have to give more consideration to mobile and local results. It’s important to do mobile-specific keyword research, because your mobile searchers might use some keywords that they don’t use on mobile.

In order to rank higher in Google local search results, you need to take into consideration your buyer persona and then figure out which terms and phrases people would use when searching for your business. To create the best opportunities for your company, you should tailor your keyword research to get your business in front of searchers with a local intent.

Our chat guests suppose that there will be an even greater emphasis on semantic search and user intent in the future. According to Sergio Redondo, semantic search includes two important concepts: intent and context. Thanks to the use of machine learning, Google learns over time, and tries to better understand the intent behind queries in order to deliver more accurate results to its users. Semantic search is an attempt to understand how a term or phrase fits into different contexts. Sergio Redondo pointed out that Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex joined forces to develop a vocabulary to implement the HTML semantic markup of the web pages— This means that website owners need to semantically mark their content correctly.

Dawn Anderson pointed out the importance of mapping your keywords to certain sections of your website to target transactional, informational, and navigational search queries and contexts.

3. More focus on answering queries

Another important change is that marketers will have to move away from keywords. It’s getting even more important to provide content that effectively answers people’s queries.

4. The importance of hybrid marketing

Today, we’re seeing more and more diversity in SERPs. When developing your marketing strategy, you need to be aware of, track and take advantage of these developments whenever possible. Keith Goode thinks that this diversity of SERPs and user queries will require marketers to increase their presence on multiple channels, including websites, social media and video to name a few. It also means that marketers need to take into account the different devices and platforms that their customers might use. This will help them create effective and engaging content for different touchpoints.

In a nutshell, as Marianne Sweeny ‏ @msweeny pointed out, it’s not about keywords anymore: “It's about concepts, topics, and semantic relationships that make sense based on users.


That was our final question!

2017 is just around the corner. Hopefully, the tips from this post will help you better prepare for all your keyword research challenges in the new year.

Many thanks to everyone who shared their expertise and made this chat interesting and productive!