Since Google released the Hummingbird algorithm several years ago, there have been no shortage of proclamations stating that keyword research is dead. It’s not, but Hummingbird has changed the way (most) SEOs do keyword research. (I added in “most” because I think they were doing it wrong to begin with. Topical optimization may be a new concept to many web marketers, but we’ve been doing it for over a decade!)
Topical optimization doesn’t do away with the need for keyword research; it confirms its importance. But instead of finding what keywords to shove into a site’s content, today’s keyword research is more about organizing the keywords into meaningful topical groups with a specific focus on searcher intent.
From that, you create meaningful, authoritative, topically relevant content.
I’ll soon be coming out with an update to my Ultimate Guide to Keyword Research and Selection ebook [Preorder Free Ebook Now!], but to give you a quick sneak peek, we break our research into two phases: 1) core term research, and 2) phrase research. If you get Phase 1 wrong, you’re going to have problems with Phase 2.
(Note: the process also includes two additional phases about how to analyze, sort and organize your keywords into topical groups for optimization.)
Essentially, the core term research portion entails finding as many relevant keyword topics as possible. For example, if you sell salon products, your keyword topics might be shampoo, conditioner, hair color, hair dye, acrylic nails and so on. Each of those is a separate core term/topic.
Once you have found all relevant topics (including customer-centric variations), you then take each core term and dig deep to find all relevant phrases associated with it. This can give you a pretty lengthy list of potentially viable keyword phrases.
For example, you might find “childrens shampoo,” “full body conditioner,” “permanent hair color,” “natural hair dye” and “acrylic nail kits.” That’s just a single example for each core term we mentioned above. Your keyword research is likely to produce a list of anywhere from 50 to thousands of phrases for each core term.
It’s these “keyword” lists that help you build authoritative content around your topics. The research provides specific ideas that help you flesh out those topics into authoritative content. The Keyword Research eBook fleshes this out a lot more for you, but for now, don’t give up on keyword research. It’s important, necessary, and very much not dead.