What Is Modern Keyword Research?

Now, we move on to the new and improved modern keyword research process observed by authoritative websites nowadays. Drawing from the changes in how Google delivers search results to users, below are the major iterations in researching keywords for your site:

Identify User Intent

As mentioned, user intent refers to the reason why users searched for the keyword on Google. In other words, you, as site owners, have a better understanding of what they want to know when searching for that query.

In doing so, you will provide them with relevant information on the content that you want to rank for the keyword.

There are three types of keyword intent:

  • Navigational – answers the question, “where can I find this specific page on their site?”
  • Informational – normally answers the 4 Ws (what, why, when, where), and 1 H (how).
  • Transactional/commercial – provides information to users with the goal of helping them make an informed purchasing decision.

Modern Keyword Research

From the examples above, navigational keywords apply mainly to big brands and household names. People searching for these keywords are fully aware of the brand, but they don’t know the website URL.

For most website owners, however, the focus is on finding informational and transactional keywords. Optimizing for these keywords allows them to create useful content that helps build trust among their audience (informational), which they can leverage into conversions later on (commercial).

The clear distinction between informational and transactional content is that the former merely educates your audience while the latter allows you to profit from them.

Back then, since the purpose of building a website was to monetize it, searching primarily for commercial keywords made sense. You want to rank for keywords that people search for when they’re ready to make a purchase. From here, you can generate more product sales and affiliate commissions.

However, with topic relevance in effect, it’s impossible to rank a website that consists of pages optimized for commercial keywords.

In particular, Google’s product reviews update targeted affiliate websites that contain pages with content optimize for transactional keywords. In essence, sites with content optimized for the following keywords below are devalued by Google’s update:

  • Product reviews ([name of product] review)
  • Comparison posts ([product 1] vs. [product 2])
  • Round-up posts (best [product type])

The logic behind devaluing sites with most content targeting commercial keywords is that they don’t add value to their audience. While their reviews may be well-written, the fact that they don’t

have informational content shows to Google that they’re merely interested in profiting off their website and not provide their target audience with the best information about a topic.

There are lots of websites that fell victim to the product reviews update. One of the more famous examples is GearHungry.com:

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The site’s organic traffic started its sharp drop at the start of 2021 and continued its downward spiral up to April 9, 2021, a day before Google released its blog post about the product reviews update.

The update forced the hand of site owners to create more informational content, which is in line with the onus put on topical relevance as a ranking factor.

Therefore, the question now is: what’s the ideal informational to commercial content ratio on your site?

There are no documented figures regarding the number of informational content vis-a-vis commercial content. However, Byron Brewer of Human Proof Designs says that he has 50-70% informational content on his affiliate sites.

The percentage suggests that you need to create fewer commercial content and  more informational content. And while you won’t make money from this content type, they nonetheless help keep your money pages afloat on SERPs and sustain your site for a long time.

Determining the keyword’s user intent is not very difficult, although it could be time-consuming if you’re not using a tool.

Commercial keywords are the simplest to find. As discussed earlier, examples of commercial content include product reviews, comparison posts, and the like. By adding modifiers like “review,” “best,” “vs.,” and others, you can brainstorm for keyword ideas that will help you profit from your site.

However, since you want your money pages to generate traffic on Google, you want to make sure that they have search volumes. This way, you can scale your efforts once they start ranking on Google and make the necessary improvements to help increase their positions on SERPs.

Using Ahrefs, click on Keyword Explorer and type in your site’s topic. On the next page, show all keyword ideas so you can see all of the potential commercial keywords you can use for your site.

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On the Keyword ideas page, you can filter the results to show you queries that contain the modifiers above.

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You can also see keyword metrics so you can narrow down your choice if necessary. Take these metrics as suggestions to help guide your research and not as full-proof data about the keywords.

From here, you should have a handful of commercial keywords that you can create content for your site.

The next thing you need to do is find informational keywords to complement your money pages.

From Ahrefs, you can see the questions tab on the keyword results. Click on that one to show you all the possible keywords you can optimize on your website about the topic.

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Since informational keywords aim to answer a specific question about a topic, expect all the questions you’ll find on Ahrefs to fit the bill.

Outside of Ahrefs and premium SEO tools in general, there are other ways you can find informational keywords for your site.

Hopping onto Quora, the most extensive Q&A site in the world, should help provide you with questions that you can use as keywords to answer on your website.

Type in the topic of your website and check the results for the most relevant questions.

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Some questions and answers are organized into Topics and Spaces. You can use these as the different categories on your website as well.

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Another good thing about Quora is that most of the questions have answers as well. Not all of them are great by themselves, but you can combine the best solutions for a question and use them in the content you’ll write for it.

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To help you identify the best answers, check the number of upvotes it has. The more upvotes it receives, the better and more helpful the answer is.

Another tool you can use to help you unearth informational long-tail keywords is Answer the Public. It’s a freemium keyword research tool that provides you with an exhaustive list of questions about the topic you entered.

Upon searching for your site’s topic, the next page shows you the different keywords organized into questions, prepositions, comparisons, and alphabeticals. You can even export the data in a visual format to help you make sense of things much better.

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Create Content Silos

By researching keywords based on intent, you can beef up your website with the right mix of informational and commercial content that search engines will reward later down the line.

However, even if you’ve found the best keywords for your site with intent in mind, it won’t necessarily guarantee you increased rankings over time.

As mentioned, you need to make sense of the keywords you found to help boost your topic relevancy. While it’s true that all of the keywords are about the same theme or topic, how you structure them into your website is what matters in this case.

 To do this, you need to create topic clusters for each subtopic on your website. Here’s an example of a clustered content structure:

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There are a handful of subtopics for a website in the exercise niche that you can discuss  and turn into clusters. The workout routine is one of them, located in the middle of the content pieces in the illustration above.

You can turn “workout routines” into a category that houses all related content on your site. However, it’s best to turn this subtopic into a piece of content that discusses the different workout routines people can do depending on their goals. For the sake of this discussion, let’s refer to this particular subtopic as your target page.

The other shapes surrounding the target page are supporting articles. They optimize for question keywords to provide more insights and context about the subtopic. For example, “working routines to get abs” falls under the working routine subtopic, but its user intent is to learn the specific exercises that will help people develop abdominal muscles.

Now, what turns these into a content silo are internal links. In the diagram above, all supporting articles link to the target page and vice versa. This is done to help users seamlessly navigate through the different related pages on your site. For example, your target page can serve as the content hub where people can find the links to all articles about the subtopic on your site.

More importantly, topic clusters help Google understand the relationship among the related pages on your websites. By linking them to one another, you’re telling search spiders that these content pieces share a common theme. And once Google identifies the context of all the articles in a topic cluster using its NLP methodology, it can help increase your site’s topic relevance as a result.

 The diagram is one of the many approaches you can take for your topic clusters. Another method to group your keywords according to relevance is by using the reverse silo approach of Kyle Roof:

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Image source: YouTube

The principle here is the same: you want to interlink related pages to help Google determine your site’s topic relevance. However, the difference is how the links flow from one another.

In the reverse silo structure, the supporting articles link with each other like a daisy chain, such as:

  • Article 1 links to article 2
  • Article 2 links to articles 1 and 3
  • Article 3 links to article 2
  • Articles 1 and 3 don’t link to each other

All supporting articles link back to the target page. However, the target page only links back  to one supporting article. The purpose of doing this is to limit the link juice from escaping the target page, which is what you want to rank on Google in the first place.

Regardless of the approach you choose, you should be fine as long as you can present your content in a topically organized manner.

At this point, you should have found keywords for your site using the methods in the previous section. Your job now is to organize them in different clusters.

You can build the clusters manually by identifying the subtopics from the keywords you’ve researched and trace their respective long- tail keywords in your list. However, going the manual route may not be a feasible option if you have thousands of keywords in your list.

Thankfully, there are tools you can use to help you get the job done. Keyword Cupid is one such tool that you can use to clusters the keywords you’ve researched in minutes.

Aside from using tools, there is a much simpler way to build topic clusters for your site, and it involves using Google search.

On Google, simply search for your keyword on keyword. From the search result, scroll down the page to find the People Also Ask section, where you can find relevant questions about your query:

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The beauty here is you can expand the list of questions here by opening one of them. It will then show at least two additional questions at the bottom:

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In doing this, you have to be aware that the new questions that will appear in this section become less and less relevant to your search query.

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In this case, stop opening new questions. It’s best to use the questions to have at the moment and analyze them further.

Regarding this matter, expect these keywords not to have lots of search volume — if any at all

— when you run them using a keyword research tool. However, as mentioned earlier, the traditional keyword metrics are no longer the focus here.

The fact that these questions appeared on Google for the keyword you typed means there is a strong correlation between each of them with your seed keyword. Therefore, you need to create informational content optimized for these questions to increase your topic relevancy.

Optimize for Topics

When you already have pages ranking on Google, there’s a good chance that those pages are also ranking for other keywords aside from your target keyword.

SEO tools allow you to see which keyword a page ranks for by entering the URL of the page your want to analyze.

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 But as mentioned, tools work best as a guide on how you should proceed with your  SEO strategy. In this, conduct competitor keyword research using these tools since that will be the only way you can estimate which keywords your competitor pages are ranking for.

To analyze your site, it’s best to Google Search Console (GSC) instead. Since the data will  be coming from Google themselves, expect to receive the closest approximation of accurate SEO data as you’ll get.

Upon logging in to your account, go to Performance > Search Results and click on the Pages tab to show you pages on your site that are attracting the most clicks and impressions.

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Next, click on the Queries tab to show you which search queries users type in to find your page.

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From here, it’s also possible that your page is ranking higher for keywords you weren’t targeting in the first place compared to your target keyword!

This shows you that Google does look into the context of your content and determine which among the queries you should rank for. From here, it can decide other keywords that the content should appear in on SERPs.

Optimizing for topics work best for existing content. Since the content has proven itself to  rank for multiple keywords, all it takes now is a nudge in the right direction to help it improve its traffic even more.

Once you have the keywords from Google Search Console, export them to a spreadsheet. You’ll want to re-optimize the page not just for a keyword but for all.

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To help you optimize your content for multiple keywords, use Surfer SEO’s Content Editor tool. You can enter up to 20 keywords for each editor. If Google Search Console found more than 20 keywords, just take the top 20 and paste them onto the text bar. Next, click on “Create Content Editor for x Keywords.”

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After a few minutes (the tool processes the Editor longer if you entered more keywords), copy and paste your content onto the Editor to see your score. The higher the score, the more optimized it is for the keywords you entered.

Surfer SEO uses NLP methodology to help provide words and phrases that you must include in your content to help make your content more contextually relevant to your keywords.

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What’s even better is Surfer SEO analyzes content beyond NLP. Its score is divided into different factors. Therefore, you can’t just mention all the words and phrases on the right just to get a high score. There are other variables you must worry yourself about such as structure, headings, and terms.

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Again, Surfer SEO’s score isn’t reflective of how Google ranks its pages. Just because you have a high Content Score doesn’t automatically mean your page will rank on top of search engines for the keywords you included in your optimization process.

At the very least, tools like this point you to where you should be going if you want to rank on Google with your website.

Another great thing about Surfer SEO is it can research and cluster the keywords for you. To do this, click on the Content Planner and enter your site’s topic.

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On the next page, you will all the best-performing articles on your site after connecting the software with Google Search Console. Then click on the Low Hanging Fruit filter to narrow down your site pages that aren’t ranking high on SERPs.

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From here, it’s also possible they don’t have a very high Content Score. This leaves you with an opportunity to edit your content by re-optimizing it for multiple related keywords.

Using Content Planner, you can also research for subtopics that you can optimize on your  site. Click on the Keyword tab and enter the topic on the search bar to create the Content Planner for this topic.

On the next page, you can filter the keywords according to user intent, the number of keywords clustered into a group, and search volume.

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You can then create Content Editors from the various keyword clusters that appear here.

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