Keyword analysis: how to study keywords for SEO
A combination of search volume, level of competition, type of intent, thematic relevance, potential profitability, and trends: wanting to go to extremes, these are the basic variables that should guide us in choosing a high-efficiency keywords. However, there is no precise mathematical formula that can be applied to every context, and what is needed above all is the ability to evaluate the keyword (and related cluster) without necessarily dwelling only on the small numbers, making optimal use of the available tools. In short, today’s topic is keyword analysis, which we can define as an art rather than an exact science, to understand how much it matters for SEO and how SEOZoom can help us in simplifying operations, so as to achieve maximum results with minimum effort (and minimum time, above all).
What is keyword analysis
Keyword analysis is the process of systematically studying and selecting the ideal keywords for our specific SEO goals, through which we can determine the value of each word or phrase and thus assess which ones are best suited to our campaign and content.
It is therefore a more advanced stage than a more general keyword research, because it already focuses on a group of related keywords, and it is the starting point of search marketing campaigns, because the right keywords – placed in the right context – attract active site visitors and can generate conversions and leads.
Keyword analysis is the lever to better understand the search intent and needs of the target audience, while also serving to ensure that the pages of our site provide readers with valuable, quality information. With this in mind, it is not a task to be completed only once, but a process to be performed on a regular and continuous basis, with constant monitoring of results and developments.
How to choose a good keyword for SEO
Every day, billions of people turn to Google to search for products, services, answers to their questions and more, and choosing the right keywords for our content can either enhance or destroy our SEO efforts. Even today, keywords in text still communicate some degree of relevance of the page to the algorithms, despite recent advances in identifying page relevance to the query and user intent through analysis of the overall context of the content.
We should also not forget that the terms used by users to find information on specific topics are constantly changing, and on average more than 15% of the search queries processed by Google each day are new, with word formulations of words never searched for before.
For SEO, therefore, keywords are basic because they determine the semantic field of a search and can associate a web content with the search query made by users – an association that can be natural, made automatically by Google and independent of our work, or the result of SEO optimization of content.
In light of these premises, it can be understood why keyword analysis is crucial for SEO, which precisely allows us to identify, select and use the best keywords for the current campaign, i.e., those that match the current goals and ensure the best chances of success.
What factors to evaluate when choosing a keyword
Keyword analysis thus allows us to prioritize our strategy to focus on using terms and phrases that potentially have the most relevance with respect to our intent, but more importantly with respect to the focuses identified and rewarded by Google based on search engine user queries.
To identify such keywords we need to evaluate a multiple set of factors, which include, for example, monthly search volume, level of competition in SERPs, intent, and conversion potential, but with the understanding that it is not enough to “read the numbers” and there is no standard scientific formula that accurately determines that a keyword is perfect for targeting in every situation and context.
This is why keyword analysis is an art, rather than an exact science, where the ability to “intuit” about the potential of a keyword by going beyond the single metric also counts. Indeed, in some cases, keywords with little or no search volume might be great for conversion – this is one of the typical situations of long tail keywords – while in other cases we might find words with high volume, but very poor performance.
In short, it always takes a human brain to determine which elements are most important for our site and strategy, and especially to speed things up so that the analysis process does not take too much time away from content creation, publishing and optimization.
In any case, these are some of the factors to evaluate in order to perform a good keyword analysis and to identify a good keyword for SEO:
- Search volume. The average monthly search volume figure is found in the major SEO Tools and is an estimate of the number of people using the keyword or phrase to search for information. At first glance, it might seem like the most important value to take into account, because trivially “more searches equals more potential traffic” to the Web site if we rank for that keyword, but of course the reality is much more complex and there are many other variables to analyze.
- Competitiveness and Difficulty. Having identified an interesting keyword, we need to figure out whether we realistically have opportunities to rank in SERPs with our page, and this depends on analyzing the competition and the “difficulty” of the context. To exaggerate, if the keyword is too competitive to have a chance of ranking, it is probably not worth choosing it as a target.
- Intent. Even more important is to understand whether the person searching for the term is looking for general information or is trying to complete a transaction, because this affects the composition of the SERP but, more importantly, the effectiveness of our page.
- Relevance. Closely related to the previous point: will people searching for the keyword find the content of our page relevant? Is all the relevant information there to meet their specific need?
- Search trends. Does the keyword under consideration have a stable trend or do searches vary according to seasonality? Knowing the trend of searches for each keyword over time allows us to maximize our efforts, because timing is also critical in SEO.
- Profitability. If we are trying to get conversions, we can analyze the keyword’s CPC figure for information on its potential return: predicting the exact ROI of a placement is difficult, if not impossible, but we can at least estimate whether the keyword has the potential to bring in leads and customers.
Keyword analysis allows us, from time to time, to figure out what is then the best keyword around which to build content and strategy, selected based on a combination of the information on search volume, competitiveness, intent, trend, and potential profitability.
Not every keyword chosen as a target will have the best of all these factors, however, because there are other considerations to take into account as well: for example, depending on the culture or region of business there might be different terms and idioms, or related keywords that are more useful, or even misspellings and so on.
Underlying this are assessments of the potential and characteristics of our own site: if the project is relatively new and small, keyword difficulty will probably be a crucial variable in our strategy, but if we are working on a solid site with strong authority, then this metric is less important than others, such as profitability.
What is the purpose of keyword analysis
For all these reasons, keyword analysis is characterized as a real marketing activity, which is carried out to achieve certain goals.
If our work is effective and we choose the right keywords, we will first of all be able to structure an accurate content plan, and thus have well-constructed pages for readers and search engines, which will quickly be able to understand their relevance and value in relation to queries. In this sense, then, this operation can help us improve site performance, with strategic benefits such as:
- Increased visibility and ranking chances, because we offer pages “tailored” to the needs of Google and users.
- Targeted traffic, because we have identified the right target audience – which is why focusing too much on search volume instead risks bringing uninterested users to the pages, who then do not take the desired action or return back to the SERPs.
- Positive ROI.
Effective keyword analysis is therefore one of the first steps in serving our pages to the target audience, outperforming direct competitors: by optimizing the site and creating content for the right keywords and topics, we will drive qualified and even conversion-ready organic traffic, composed of users/customers who are looking for exactly what we can offer them.
In addition, keyword analysis helps us delve more precisely into how users do searches and, simultaneously, how well search engines understand people’s intentions and what they offer in response to meet them.
Directions to refine your page content
Keywords are somewhat the compass of (online) navigation and SEO campaigns, because they indicate the direction to follow and, above all, through their monitoring we can understand whether we are actually making progress and therefore whether the implemented strategy is working.
As the more “experienced” ones (in a chronological sense, too) will recall, exact-match keyword targeting once meant only one thing: exact match, meaning that a keyword had to match exactly (literally) the entire query used by the explorer. Beginning in 2014, however, Google began to analyze user queries differently, including, for example, plurals, misspellings, and other similar variants in its results, while in 2017 there was a new upgrade, with even understanding words entered in a different order or using function words. The following year again there was the abandonment of the classic exact match, with the exact string of terms ceasing to be the only “trigger” for appearing in SERPs related to exact match keywords.
More precisely, in the latter part of 2018 Google began to expand the exact match – the exact match between terms entered in the search bar and scanned results – no longer limiting the analysis to just the exact same string of words, but also to close variants of the entered query, including terms that share the same keyword meaning, implied words, and paraphrases.
In the post explaining this change – whose scope has since been further expanded through the application of machine learning systems, and in particular the BERT and MUM models, which can better understand human language-it was made clear that exact matches are now matched to the intent of a search, instead of specific words, and thus a keyword must intercept the meaning and intent of the query. Concrete examples of the change to exact match include the search for “yosemite camping,” which also provides relevant results for variants such as “yosemite campground” and “campsites in yosemite,” which are deemed synonymous and responsive to the same user intent, while instead excluding results such as “yosemite hotel” or “motels in yosemite”, because Google’s systems do not deem them to adhere to the same intent.
From an operational perspective, however, for those operating online, this change has meant the need to pay more attention to keyword research by going beyond just finding exact match keywords, and especially to study the SERPs well in the analysis phase to see how Google is interpreting and possibly changing its responses.
Basically, then, there remains the issue of the “beneficial purpose” that pages must have, discussed within the guidelines for quality raters: by this expression, Google tells us that websites and pages must pursue the user’s benefit and help them, offering them added value, and also that this criterion allows them to distinguish pages of low or good quality from those of highest quality. In theory, for BigG, there should be no pages that do not pursue the beneficial purpose, and in fact it is pointed out that those who do not “comply” (including pages created without a goal of helping users, pages that spread hateful, misinformation or deceptive messages) could receive the lowest rating.
Not just keywords: analyze clusters, contexts and topics
For some time, however, Google has moved beyond the old concept of keyword – we have taken the trend to extremes by telling you that there is no keyword! – and rather thinks in terms of contextual clusters around which to build content that, at that moment, can offer something useful for people and for Google.
To put it better, Google is increasingly able to understand meanings, contexts, correlations and co-occurrences, and therefore no longer relies only on keywords, but on topics.
On the practical side, this means that keywords are not all the same, and, thanks in part to SEOZoom, we can identify at least three major categories in which they belong:
- Main Keyword is the main word that Google has identified as most relevant to the search intent of the query
- Secondary keywords are terms that fall within the same search intent as the main keyword, sometimes even various declinations of the main keyword.
- Related keywords are terms that fall within the same semantic field as the main keyword, with which they have a relevance relationship, but do not meet the same intent.
Only by identifying the semantic field, that is, the set of words, terms and phrases that revolve around each topic, can we actually know what concepts are related to the main topic, and thus give depth to our keyword analysis and, subsequently, to our content.
How to do keyword analysis with SEOZoom
With its tools and metrics, SEOZoom makes keyword analysis easy and allows us to optimize the time and result of the work of improving a site’s organic visibility, letting us know everything that is happening to our keyword rankings.
Our suite, however, has never been limited to trivially providing data available on any rank tracker, because it has always had a more “holistic” approach to SEO and keyword analysis, which is even more evident with the new release, which in practice allows you to launch a true SEO analysis in real time in any study context.
To get the best feedback it certainly pays to include the site by design, but alternatively we can effectively analyze any type of URL or keyword, as we will see.
The metrics to analyze the keywords: Keyword Difficulty and Keyword Opportunity
For each type of analysis, in fact, SEOZoom provides us with all the key information to understand the value and potential of a keyword, such as average search volume, seasonality, main type of intent, and CPC value, which represents an estimate of Google advertisers’ spending on that term and can serve us to understand the conversion potential related to the term (usually advertisers do not invest in keywords for which users are poorly likely to convert).
Then there are two proprietary metrics that help us understand at a glance whether the keyword may be a good fit for our strategy, namely Keyword Difficulty and Keyword Opportunity.
Keyword Difficulty (KD) measures how difficult it is to position a keyword even with respect to context: in fact, it estimates the level of competitiveness of a SERP based on the analysis of competitors positioned in TOP10 and their Zoom Authority, providing a value from 0 to 100 on a logarithmic scale as a reference – the higher the value, the greater the difficulty of ranking for that keyword because the more competitive and authoritative the competing domains are, which have high levels of ZA.
Keyword Opportunity (KO), on the other hand, is a metric that estimates the chances of getting into Top10: it is a summary parameter on the possibility of ranking a keyword in TOP 10, based on the analysis of the level of optimization of the snippets of pages currently in TOP10 and the level of competitiveness of the SERP. Again, it is indicated with a numerical value from 0 to 100 on a logarithmic scale, but for KO the higher figure signals a greater ease of getting the desired result, because the less optimized the results and the less strong the trust of competitors in TOP10.
But there is more: in the new release of SEOZoom we can immediately find out whether the keyword we are studying activates particular Google SERP features and thus assess the actual potential for visibility. Beyond mere position, in fact, the true CTR is affected by the presence of all the Google boxes and spaces, which take away visibility from search results (as one of our reports revealed some time ago) and also risk eroding organic traffic.
Advanced keyword analysis features in Projects
As we were saying, the best way to do in-depth keyword analysis is to enter our site in Project: by navigating the Keyword submenu, in fact, we can delve into the main aspects related to the analysis of the keywords on which the site competes, and in particular we can check the trend of the monitored keywords, find out which are the best and potential keywords, and still know the ones that are going up, down, those that have entered or left the TOP10, up to viewing all the keywords for which the domain is positioned in Project.
The heart for the study is the Keyword Studio area, from which different avenues of analysis, different visualizations and tables start, keeping us up-to-date on the Keyword performance of the site at Project. Here we find, in particular, the tables with:
- Ranked Keywords, the top keywords ranked in the top ten positions on Google.
- The Keywords divided into Increases and Decreases in Traffic, i.e., the keywords that entered or left the TOP10.
- The Potential ones, which groups the keywords ranked from the eleventh to the thirtieth position, which with an effective optimization activity such as a content improvement intervention or possibly an OffPage SEO activity we could bring to TOP10 getting more organic traffic.
- The Zero Results, the keywords that have gained a featured snippet in the Google SERP.
- The SERP Features, with keywords placed in a SERP in which there is at least one Google feature.
- The Branded Keywords, to check which keywords are related to the Brand or brand products (based on the information you entered in the project settings).
- All Keywords, which lists precisely all the keywords placed for the domain at Project.
Keyword analysis with SEOZoom
However, if we are working on new keywords or those of competitors, the features of the keyword analyzer tools come in handy: basically, we simply enter the keyword we are interested in in the top bar and click on “Analyze” or press enter from the keyboard to start the scan. SEOZoom immediately responds to us with some useful data, summarizing the main strategic information related to the keyword, namely monthly search volume, estimated Keyword Difficulty and Keyword Opportunity, total number of indexed pages, cost per click and seasonality.
From this screen, then, we can deepen our study through four different features:
- SERP info is a comprehensive snapshot of the search results page related to the keyword, with the top 50 results ranked, history of positions and trends, Google page composition, and so on, so as to provide us with all the basic information we need to begin to actually evaluate the organic competitiveness of the SERP and make informed assessments regarding strategic opportunities to work on the keyword for our content.
- Competitor Info provides us with a real time analysis of the URLs placed in TOP10 for the keyword being analyzed, with the ability to point to a URL of our choice to compare against those present. From here, we can also view the SEO analysis for each page, presents you with in-depth data on the level of optimization of its content.
- Search Intent is a key section, because it goes beyond the classic single keyword values and metrics to delve precisely into search intent, the search intention of users and identified by Google, an increasingly central aspect in the most modern SEO and keyword research. SEOZoom’s innovative algorithm is able to first identify whether the keyword being analyzed is the main focus keyword and proposes us very important information to analyze the keyword not as a single entity, but as an element of a cluster of keywords afferent to the same intent. For example, we can see:
- Total Main Intent volume, which is the total search volume for which we can potentially compete with a single article, calculated on the basis of all keywords included in the main search intent.
- Keyword with Same Intent, total number of keywords with the same search intent as the main keyword.
- Main Topics, number of relevant topics identified by analyzing the content of sites in TOP10.
- Secondary Topics, all keywords and topics related to the intent, but good for writing related in-depth articles, because search engines are preferring topic-specific pages and a general article focused on the Main Key.
- Correlated Keywords, which links directly to the Keyword Infinity tool, which is already set up on the analysis of the keyword we are studying and with the possibility, therefore, to go deeper into this term with all the features available in this section.