Throughout 2014 we saw Google move to a more semantic approach for search. The Google Hummingbird update helped push marketers toward the direction of focusing on long-tail queries. The idea is that people search by asking questions or as if they were in a conversation, so related words and phrases should be more important than optimizing for only keywords. In fact, Google Analytics no longer offers keyword-specific traffic information. Google wants to move marketers away from this approach because it was leading toward over-optimization for one or two words and away from user experience.

In short, the way that you should be conducting your keyword research in 2015 is very different than you might be used to in the past—keywords are not nearly as important as those long-tail queries and thinking about context.

How to Perform Keyword Research in 2015

Performing keyword research in 2015 is all about semantic SEO, which you can learn more about in detail here. Below are the two major things to take into account based on the changes we saw to the Google algorithm last year:

Think semantically and optimize for those similar terms and phrases.

You can feel free to start at the Keyword Planner to see search terms that are related to a term that you’re trying to optimize for, but then it’s important to move about from the Keyword Planner and start thinking of related terms. For example, if you’re interested in the keyword term car washing, come up with terms like car detailing, car carpet shampooing, auto shop, car scratch repair, etc. Remember that these are not terms that will show up in the Keyword Planner, but they are going to follow that semantic mentality that Google is starting to implement.

There are also other ways to come up with related terms aside from just thinking of them out of the blue. Tools like Ubersuggest and SEMRush can be helpful, or even paying attention to Google auto-correct. Below is a screenshot example from Ubersuggest that shows how the tool works. As you can see, it goes down the alphabet to think of any and all related words:


This will then give you a nice list of long-tail, semantically relevant keyword phrases for you to focus on when it comes to optimization. Learn more about semantic SEO here.

Analyze whether or not your lists of keywords have a high search volume.

You can use something called a Keyword difficulty score from SEO PowerSuite to see how hard it will be to rank for one of the keywords you have in mind. This is a cool tool that will take different factors into account to help tell you which terms are most popular. Below is a screenshot from the website that shows how it works:


The Takeaway

Keep in mind, however, that targeted keyword research can still be worthwhile. You still want to rank well on a Google SERP, and sometimes starting at a popular keyword is a good way to help you branch off into some of the other tactics discussed above. You want to understand your audience, and the “old” way of doing keyword research can help you get there. How long this lasts, however, is unclear.

Jayson DeMers, Founder of AudienceBloom, wrote on Forbes, “Measuring your keyword rankings is becoming an obsolete practice. If you want a good snapshot of your current success, it’s better to take a look at your traffic growth, month over month, and collect users feedback.” With this idea in mind, it is a good idea to start preparing yourself for other options aside from keyword research to get that big picture.

What do you think about keyword research in 2015? Let us know what tactics and methods you’re going to use in the comments below.