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SEMrush ToolBox #1: Keyword Magic Tool


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Craig: Hi guys, and welcome to today's SEMrush webinar. It's the first in the series of the SEMrush Toolbox, where we'll be talking through all the tools that SEMrush have got.

But, today, I am joined by Kevin. So, Kevin, for anyone who's not aware of who you are, can you get them just a little bit of information about yourself?

Kevin: Yeah, sure. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I run SEO here at Atlassian. I also mentor startups in a German accelerator, in a bit broader constellation than just SEO, it's more about growth, user acquisition, retention, monetization, that kind of things.

SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool Overview

Craig: I think we should probably get started, Kevin. I will go first and just give people an overview of the Keyword Magic Tool, what it is, what it does. And then we'll do some questions and answers.

I'm just gonna run through all the different functions and features that the tool does. You obviously log in to your SEMrush, you scroll down to keyword analytics, open that up, and you'll see the Keyword Magic Tool there.

So it's got a nice big search bar, all the usual databases. I'm in the UK, so I'm gonna use the UK as an example. And you stick in a keyword like used cars. Search. And up crops a whole bunch of keywords. The total volume, obviously the average volume of monthly searches for all of those keywords is 2.3 million. An average difficulty is 3.89. So we'll talk about that in a moment.

It pulls all this data together, and it's gonna show you the volume, the trend, keyword difficulty, average cost per click, the competition, score, SERP features, and results in SERP.

But results in SERP, I'll start with that one. That's the number of URLs displayed for any given keyword. That doesn't obviously determine how competitive a keyword is. There can be 67.2 million competing pages out there for that particular search term, but it doesn't mean it's gonna be the most competitive search term or whatever. It sometimes does, but it's not always the case.

SERP features is the number of SERP features that appear in the search results for a given keyword. So what is a SERP feature? That could be your featured snippets and all that kind of stuff. So there are four SERP features there. The knowledge panel, site links, reviews, and video. Some of these have more SERP features than others. And it just gives you a rough idea of what SERP features you can go for when going after that keyword.

Competition. This is a score that is given on a scale of zero to 1.00, with 1.00 being the most difficult to rank for. This one's a 0.07, so according to that score, it's not the most outrageously competitive search term within your pay-per-click campaigns. The average cost per click is the average cost per click, whether it's a pound or 89 pence or whatever.

Keyword difficulty is a score that SEMrush gives from one to 100. And it shows you how difficult it would be to outrank your competitors in the organic top 20 for any particular keyword. So you can see here, 75, I would imagine, as far as I'm concerned, that's relatively high. And there are some others down here that should be a lot less than that, further down the page or further down on page two. But when it comes to used cars, it is gonna be relatively competitive.

The other part I've got here is the N-trace of searchers over a 12-month period. Obviously, the graph remains the same, so the kind of trend for this search is relatively consistent throughout the year for that search term. And volume is the average amount of monthly searches.

But going on to the tool itself. It's got 112,000 keywords here, but you can obviously filter this stuff down. If it's Ford cars you sell you can click on Ford, and the Keyword Magic Tool is gonna filter everything down and just give you the keywords that relate to Ford cars. And you can see that the volume here is only 47,000, and it's got all the same metrics. So you can basically scroll down this list. And if you were a dealership, for example, all the keywords relating to dealership crop up.

So the Keyword Magic Tool does also have advanced filters. Now, you can include specific keywords, or you can exclude certain keywords to further filter down the keyword list that the tool provides you with. You can also use filters for the average cost per click, the search volume and various other things here.

But what is quite a cool feature is, you can filter it down by SERP features as well. So if you want to go after any particular SERP feature there, whether that's a feature snippet or a knowledge panel, then you can use this to filter down what keywords have the knowledge panel and stuff like that.

So the filter part here is a part that anyone I speak to, they normally didn't really realize that was there, they don't click on it or whatever. It's not hard to find if you know what you're doing. But you can open that up and filter a lot of this kind of stuff down further.

But what is quite a cool feature as well...you can add certain keywords do the Keyword Analyzer using the Keyword Magic Tool. So just say it's only two keywords; I'm going to use an example. I can add them to Keyword Analyzer, and then I can go to Keyword Analyzer. And what I'm gonna do is just click update metrics, first and foremost, on both of those keywords.

And what I will do while that is just updating metrics is, you can send these keywords to other tools as well. You can also send these keywords to your pay-per-click keyword tool, and you can also send it to the position tracking tool. So within this tool, you can send it to other tools that are within SEMrush. And that's quite a cool feature there as well.

But once this updates, what it's going to basically show you is the trend, keyword difficulty, competition, SERP features, click potential, and the top search engine results for a given keyword. So it updates those metric

SEMrush are known for having great keyword research, it's something they've always been known for. And they have updated their database to something ridiculous like nine billion keywords are in this database. It's just going through that and filtering out the potential keywords that you're gonna use on your campaigns.

And you've also got a new feature up here as well, which is related. So it's gonna show you related keywords to the seed keyword that you put in the search bar.

You'll also see the broad match, the phrase match, and the exact match. I'm sure many of you, if you do a pay per click, will be familiar with what broad phrase and exact match mean. Obviously, this (broad match) will give you any variation of your seed keywords, in any order.

If it's a phrase match, it gives you the exact keywords that you used, but you can vary the order. And the exact match is only the keyword that you select. So you can, again, use that to filter things down a bit as well. Because obviously if you use broad match then you're gonna get a lot more keywords.

So I would normally use phrase match and exact match. And it's also good to have a look at related keywords, because previously in the past what you had to do was go through your competition and check out what keywords they were ranking for. But using this tool, it does it all for you. So you can just click on related and it will give you other keyword ideas that you may have not thought about.

And yeah, so that is pretty much the Keyword Magic Tool, just a generic overview. It's now time to give Kevin the opportunity to show us guys what Kevin uses the tool for.

Content Marketing Research Approach

Kevin: So let me share my screen real quick, and I'll walk you through a couple of things. So a while ago I wrote this article, A Better Approach To Research For Content Marketing, and in it I basically flipped the regular approach to keyword research around a little bit. And instead of starting with a reactive list of keywords that you then expand upon or search the volume for, I suggest to start with the actual problem.

So the first one is topic. You basically don't wanna optimize for specific queries or keywords anymore as a primary focus. You much more wanna look at topics, and create content that covers each aspect and subtopic of this main topic. And then you have these problems. And again if you read the article you'll understand how to get to these problems.

But one of the core aspects are the questions actually. Obviously, Google is a search engine, and people look for questions on search engines. But we oftentimes don't do a good enough job in compiling all the important questions that are related to a topic. And this is a really big feature that I love in the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool.

And then, of course, you have your queries, and then you have search features. You're probably aware that things like featured snippets, or direct answers, catch a lot of attention in the search results. And if you rank in them or if you ever have ranked in a featured snippet, you know how much traffic and attention that can get you. But it's also interesting if you want to understand the user intent behind a certain query.

I worked with a couple of startups, and one of the startups has a great product in the tax saving space, and so I wanna use that as an example. So obviously the keyword tax savings has a lot of volume, but the problem space of tax savings is vast. Actually, I file taxes in Germany and in the US, so I have a little bit of a broader view than most people, but in no country is it very pleasant or very easy.

So first, I added the tax savings keyword, I get a lot of good suggestions for keywords that are related. I actually use all three, or the first three features of the Keyword Magic Tool; the broad match, phrase match and exact match, all the time. And I rotate through them to get the broadest view possible of the keyword query that I want to rank for.

What you might have already seen is that the results vary a little bit. For me, it's really helpful to just look at all the three matched types and see what keywords are coming up for the main query that I wanna rank for. The exact matches are obviously all the queries that are important to rank for the topic, tax savings. But, under broad match, I might find topics that are related to tax savings but might need their own content, or their own article. They might be too broad to cover in a piece of content for tax savings.

And if you're familiar with content creation models like the hub or the topic clusters, then we obviously deal with the pillar piece of content for tax savings, which is very broad, it's a high-level view, maybe an introduction. And then there are a couple of other smaller pieces of content that deal with specifics. And so the research the high-level, broad piece of content I use the broad. For specifics, I use exact match.

So there are two other features that I love to use. First of all, Craig already hinted at the clustering the categorization of the keywords here on the left side. And I think this is actually really important. This is not just a visualization of nice-to-have things, you can actually use it to structure your content.

I think both views are really important, I prefer the volume view slightly more. Obviously, the number of keyword views shows you how many keywords there are in this specific subtopic or category. But I love the volume a bit more because sometimes a single keyword has a very very high volume and is therefore much more attractive than others. And vice versa.

So what I look for are categories that help me to understand the deeper search intents and situation that users have when they use, you know in the space of tax savings. So for example when we expand on plan, tax savings plan, then the first thing that we see is that there are a couple of categories that are really interesting. Like college or deduction, or Trump, that might not be obvious at first, but when you expand another time, you'll see that actually in the big space of tax savings, people have questions around tax savings while being on college, for example.

So this is a great segue for me to deepen my research and find more subtopics that I wanna address with my product or with my company.

So you delve into this whole world without even having looked a single time at the search results, and you find a lot of interesting topics that you can cover on your site. But also a lot of suggestions for structure. And I bet, at least to me, that a lot of these things are not apparent.

And all of that in sum, all of that taken together, will then drastically increase my chance to actually rank for the keyword tax savings if I haven't done so already. So these are just a couple of thoughts and best practices that I love to use. I love the SERP feature integration.

Importance of Answering Questions to Rank Well

So I mentioned before that questions are not only important to answer in your content as a whole, but also explicitly. And I'm saying that because of featured snippets. So if you wanna rank for a featured snippet...first of all you have to write the question down on your page specifically, and you have to answer it within 50 to 70 words I think is the standard right now, at least for most of the featured snippets, unless you have a list or a bulleted featured snippet. But I just wanted to bring the awareness to questions, because they can be such a big traffic driver. And it's obviously really easy to find questions with the Keyword Magic Tool, lots of these are not apparent to me. And lots of these can be clustered on the same page.

So when, for example, people look for how much will the tax cut save me, or how much will I save with the new tax plan, these are very similar questions that I could address on my page, and maybe even use that phrasing a couple of times and increase my likelihood to get a featured snippet.

I think SEO here is really just the starting point into a broader conversation with your audience and making use of the information you have here.

Tracking Article SERP Ranks

Craig: Perfect. So the first question is from Annie Tandy. So after using the drilldowns and including them in her articles, how can we then check how the article ranks or changes rank to see if it worked?

Kevin: Yeah, I'm happy you asked that question. Coming back to the list that I showed earlier, where I exported my keywords to the keyword analyzer, you can then select them, and there's a little button that says "send to other tools." And here you can either send them to the PBC or Position Tracking Tool. First of all, you can keep an eye on your organic position, but you can also use this for other channels.

I think this is highly relevant and a bit underestimated, undervalued in this tool, is the transferability to PBC, social, email and whatnot.

Claiming the Featured Snippet in SERPs

Craig: You mentioned featured snippets, and that being in the top five helps you get featured snippets. Can you just give us some other recommendations as to what else would help you claim those positions?

Kevin: I wanna say that I think AJ Goodridge published a great study on the SEMrush blog about this. First of all, you wanna be in the first five positions, you wanna have the question and the answer explicitly on your page. You wanna try to answer that within 50 to 70 words, that's like a rough estimate. And then when it comes down to lists, of course, your format has to be different. You have to have bulleted lists, whether numbered or unnumbered.

Now the thing is that in a lot of cases, you know there is a featured snippet because somebody else is already ranking in the featured snippet. So the best thing you can do in this case, if you want featured snippets, is to actually look what the content structure of the existing featured snippet looks like, and what the core information is.

And this is your chance where you can differentiate a little bit. Maybe you put the topic into a greater perspective; maybe you jump into more details. Maybe you show what the subtopics are, etc, etc. So that's your chance of maybe taking the featured snippet from somebody else.

What Keyword Scores Are Too Competitive?

Craig: On the tool, it gives a keyword difficulty score between one and 100, what figure would you consider very competitive, and also, is there a figure there that you would consider that's fairly easy to rank?

Kevin: With most of these metrics, like backlink strength and competitiveness and keyword difficulty, they usually exist on a bell curve. So most of the content, most of the keywords, will probably have the average keyword difficulty, something in the middle. Probably something between, I don't know, a 35 and 75. So I assume that the amount of keywords with a very high keyword difficulty is much lower than those with for example below 80 or 75.

And so, it, of course, depends on how strong your own domain in, and how relevant your domain is for this specific keyword. For me, this helps me to understand, are there strong other sites ranking for that keyword, and are there lots of results? Is this kind of a newcomer keyword that might gain a lot more search volume in the future, or is it something that's evergreen for ages? So this is how I think about keyword difficulty and competitiveness in general.

Best Website Location to Answer Questions for Featured Snippets

Craig: Ross Kumar was asking, what is the best place on a website to place these questions for featured snippets?

Kevin: It is definitely not on an FAQ page. Having one single page where you collect all the questions and answers usually doesn't work. An FAQ page is too broad in its topical focus. So you wanna try to rank, for featured snippets, on the page that is the most relevant for the question. Some article, it's usually not a landing page, I don't think I've ever seen that. But usually some sort of blog article format.

And on the page itself, it usually doesn't matter much where you answer the question, as long as it is in the main content. So obviously some side navigation, I don't think anybody would ever do that but I just wanna point out here, the main content is important. And then after my experience, it doesn't matter much if it's at the bottom or at the top, I don't think there's a kind of above the fold bonus for featured snippets.

Craig: Perfect. So the next question would be, when you're selecting keywords for an organic campaign using the Keyword Magic Tool, if you also had some budget for paid search, would you just use the exact same keywords or do you do something different?

Kevin: So I would use most of the keywords. I would shy away a little bit from bidding on keywords where I am ranking the featured snippets for. Because usually, those attract so much attention that they have a negative impact on the click-through rate of PPC campaigns or of AdWords. Now that being said, I think that there are different user intents, and Google shows search results and search features accordingly. So if you have, if in your keyword research you have a couple of middle of the funnel, or transactional keywords, where you look for something like, I don't know, Jira versus Asana, or product comparisons, that kind of keywords that hint at a transactional intent, for those it makes a lot of sense to bid on a PPC. And those should be part of your keyword research.

So that's where I see the overlap of using those keywords also for PPC. But just simply compare the click-through rates for your PPC campaigns on keywords that show a featured snippet, and those that don't.

Craig: Perfect. So, the next question, how many keywords do you recommend targeting per page maximum? I'm assuming that's just relating to generic search.

Kevin: Yeah, that's how I would understand the question. So my experience is that a single page can rank for thousands of keywords. And once again, it really depends on what your basis is and what your domain is. If you're somebody like Airbnb for example, with obviously a huge domain power, then it is fairly easy for you to set up a single page that ranks with thousands of keywords.

Now again, if you just started a young site, you will probably be much more on the end of 10 to 20 keywords. Craig, what would you say?

Craig: I would agree with yourself. You can look at different tools and stuff with that, and I've got pages that rank for 59 keywords or whatever it may be. So it's one of those questions that there isn't a specific number you can put on it. I put articles out there, and only specifically really went for two or three keywords, but I've not really thought about the long-tail stuff or whatever.

And obviously, I go back to articles as well, and add to them and tweak them and stuff like that. That leads me on to the next question very well, actually, is it recommended to use each keyword as a heading in the article, or can they just be included in the copy? As far as I'm concerned, just including it in the copy can sometimes rank you well. As a matter of principle, I do use headers. But the question is for you, Kevin.

Kevin: I very much agree with you. I think the most important is in the copy. And again, Google has become really good at understanding the topical relevance of content. Meaning basically how relevant is this specific article or landing page for a specific topic. And within that topic, there are several variations of the query. So I just mentioned Airbnb and the things to do in city pages, so for example, as soon as Google has understood this is actually the most relevant and best page for people who want to know what they can do in specific cities, it will rank this page for lots of different variations of the query.

And for that, it is not necessary to have all these variations in different headings. It definitely helps to look at the user intent. To think about, what are people actually trying to achieve when they get to my page, and then give them the best user experience possible. And user experience is often times written text and content, but it can also be a map, or it can be a list or something in those regards. And then it becomes not that important to have specific keywords in headings, even though I generally try to do that. But only when it looks natural and only when it makes sense. So it's not a prerequisite anymore.

Craig: So L4 Group is asking, at what point do you identify a topic as being too broad for a single page?

Kevin: I decide it is too broad for a page when I personally understand that it targets too many different user groups and too many different intents. I want one page for one type of people, it could be two as well, but not five different user groups.

But to be fair, this is something that is really hard to just do with sheer numbers, you have to have a certain ... You have to immerse yourself a little bit in the topic space and understand it to a degree to be able to say, okay this topic deserves its own page and this one can actually be clustered with another one.

Craig: Perfect answer. What should be the ideal content length for writing content for service and local service area pages? Is it a specific number that you use?

Kevin: For my part, I always look at the top 10 results and see how long their content is, and then I try to be slightly longer. And not because the content length is actually important, but it is much more likely to cover relevant subtopics when the content is longer.

But generally I look at the best performing results, I look at how long their content is, and then I try to see if I can add more depth and more substance to it. But there is of course not this broad number that you can give across every industry or across ... like this magic number.

Craig: Personally speaking, you hear figures, people saying you have to do long-form content, it's got to be 200 words. And you hear other people say, "Nah, 500 is enough." I'm a bit like yourself, where I don't actually have a specific figure in my head. What I tend to do when I write a blog post, is I'll record a video for it at the start. So I'll talk, or if it's a video tutorial, I'll record it. And what I do is I get it transcribed.

And obviously my videos are normally between five and 10 minutes long, so they're always gonna be probably 1500 to 2000 words long anyway. I think that long-form content does work to a certain degree, but I know people don't always want to read hordes and hordes of text. So to capture both I always do that video thing and that's the way I do it.

So certainly, I don't have a figure. If I don't hit the 2000 mark or whatever it may be, I don't care, as long as I've covered off the points that I'm trying to get across.

Getting a Ranking Edge over Competitors

Craig: But Ross has one other question. It says they're doing well compared to the competitors in terms of backlinks, traffic, citations. But they're still not ranking at the top, what should they do? Are there any suggestions? It's a very very vague question, but let's see what you've got to say on that.

Kevin: That is a very broad question. So one thing that I spend more time doing in the last 12 months maybe, is when I don't rank well for a keyword, is to really look at the competitors. But not only in terms of content and back-links, but also in terms of user experience and internal linking.

So user experience, I look at how are their pages designed and laid out, is it something like the font size, something very simple? Anything that could contribute to making it as comfortable and easy for people to consume the content. Sometimes it's factors like that. Sometimes the design of a site is very outdated and just looks a bit spammy, and that is enough reason for people not to click on it or not to return, or to bounce right off.

And then internal linking I think has become a really strong lever. It always has been, but it's one of the few levers that we can still control to 100%, and a lot of people underestimate that. So if you have a larger site, then the larger your site the more important internal linking becomes, and the more I would set up a crawl. You can do that with SEMrush recurrent crawls, look at the technical errors. But also look at how interlinked the page is that you want to rank for a specific keyword. And then see if maybe you can add an internal link from a page that gets lots of back-links to that specific page, and see if that maybe moves the needle.

I made lots of good experiences with internal linking, so these two, user experience and internal linking are what I wanna give you as advice.

Craig: I think a lot of people are under the impression that it's just backlinks and stuff. But what I would also add to that, on top of what Kevin's saying, is things like click-through rate as a ranking factor. But obviously, you can get massively quick wins out of good internal linking and all these. And again, site speed, your site might be slower than theirs. You've got to fine tune everything and beat these guys.

Thanks again everyone for watching, thanks for everyone who put your questions in. Thank you, Kevin, for being my first guest. Kevin: Thank you so much, appreciate it.

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