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3 January 2018

What are we really searching for? Keyword Research in 2018

Written by: Louise Heap, Senior Content Manager at Edelman

Digital Trends, Innovation

How we search is changing. Over half of all product searches now start on Amazon and by 2020 50% of all searches will be voice search. Google is getting smarter at working out our intent, but they’re not the only player anymore. We’re seeing a greater number and a different variety of search engines such as Amazon, Ebay and YouTube. But although how we search is changing, we are still using words to search – we just might be saying them rather than typing them.

So what words are we using? As search engines are becoming more sophisticated in understanding search intent, to appear in their results we have to make sure that the content we produce really answers a user’s query. The basis of this is keyword research. Up until fairly recently this was a case of identifying individual terms, finding out their volume, grouping them into relevant keyword clusters and going off and creating content. By doing this we’re most likely hitting the key topic areas, but there’s a good chance that we’re only scratching the surface of what a user is really hoping to find the answer to.

There are some great tools out there that can help with identifying the more original and obscure topic areas. At the last Brighton SEO back in September, Stacey MacNaught did a great presentation on the evolution of keyword research and the tools available that I know will change how we approach our keyword strategy and content development. Of these, there were two tools that really stood out:

Soovle: search engine curator

We’re using more engines to search, and to create content that answers the user’s intent, reviewing the queries across these engines is important. And time-consuming. Luckily, there’s Soovle. This customisable engine curates key terms and phrases from all the major providers (Google, Bing, Amazon,, Yahoo, Wikipedia, YouTube and more) all in one place. You type in your search term and the tool pulls up the suggestions from the different providers. You have options to customise engines, save your suggestions and see the top keywords by engine.

For keyword research this is really useful as it provides insight into a wider range of queries around a topic. It’s also helpful in understanding the different types of queries on each platform. Because what a user is searching for on Google might be different to what they’re searching for on YouTube. This helps in defining what content we should be developing for which platform.

The engines that the tool currently pulls in are based on what queries we type. So are there plans to incorporate voice into this? We got in touch with Soovle and this was their response, ‘that’s a neat idea… not sure if I can find web API’s into those queries, but I’ll look around a little’. It would be great to go that step further and see how voice queries compare to traditional engines, and if there’s a difference between voice devices. We’ll be keeping an eye out for any developments.

Answer the Public: accessible audience insights

For anyone tasked with doing keyword research, Answer the Public is game-changing. The tool effectively collates and presents key terms and phrases in a way that is accessible. The queries and questions the tool generates are generally more holistic than what you get from other tools providing genuine insight around what users are searching for. This is great for developing content strategies, but the tool’s uses stretch beyond that.

Sophie Coley explained three ways you can use Answer the Public to really get the most out of the data in her presentation for Brighton SEO. To briefly summarise, the tool works by splitting search queries into three wheels: a question wheel, a preposition wheel and a comparison wheel. Specific branches of these wheels can help with understanding who your audience are (the ‘for’ branch on the preposition wheel), who influences them (the ‘like’ branch on the on the preposition wheel) and what they think of your brand (all of the branches on the question and comparison wheels). Sophie’s blog post gives more detail on these.

To see volume data alongside these queries, install Keywords Everywhere. This useful plugin pulls in data from Google Keyword Planner to save you from having to copy and paste between tools. Scroll down to the bottom of Answer the Public once you’ve plugged in your term and you’ll see the volume alongside each term.

Understanding your audience at this level is important not just for SEO and Content Strategists, it’s useful for PRs and Creatives too. If you’re a women’s fashion brand for instance, knowing your audience are searching for ‘dresses like Kate Middleton’ could inspire an influencer campaign. Definitely a tool to share with your wider agency.

So, back to the question, what are we really searching for?

Whilst we don’t know exactly what our audience are searching for, Soovle and Answer the Public are great tools for getting a deeper insight into the type of queries users are searching for across the different platforms we’re now using.

As engines get smarter at working out our search intent, having a holistic approach to search behaviour is important. Keyword research is no longer an Excel sheet that tells you that 2,400 people are searching for ‘dresses’ on a monthly basis, but an in-depth document that tells you that your audience are women in their 30s looking for dresses like Kate Middleton on Google.

What’s more, as search data is becoming more holistic, its use for other practices is becoming more apparent, giving search insight the recognition it deserves as a valuable data source.

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