Take These Perspectives for Effective Keyword Research Beyond the Spreadsheet

Keyword research is a foundational pillar of any successful SEO strategy. But just exporting a giant list of “relevant” keywords from a research tool is not enough. To get real results out of your SEO strategy, the research will have to take into consideration multiple perspectives. Here are some of the main ways you should look at SEO when doing keyword research to set your site up.


Keyword Research is Very Misunderstood


A common misconception is that keyword research is just about finding high-volume, low-difficulty keywords to target. But as SEO expert Ben Goodey points out, most keyword spreadsheet dumps are not actually useful. Effective keyword research is about identifying queries you can realistically win based on your site’s current authority, that show buyer intent for your product/service, and where the current top-ranking content is weak. This type of analysis takes time and experience.


Technically complex tools and formulas can be helpful to an extent when dealing with large datasets. But the best keyword strategies blend multiple types of subjective analysis, looking at the ability to rank, business value, realistic timelines, the competitive landscape, your site’s strengths, and the resources you can allocate. Over-engineered spreadsheets often end up being fake busy work.


Using Business-Generating Topics


It’s important to target both top and bottom-of-funnel keywords that align with your business goals. For B2B companies with complex sales cycles, simply ranking for awareness-level keywords usually isn’t enough to drive leads and revenue. You need to balance educational content that addresses prospects’ pain points with bottom-funnel pages that help convert researchers into buyers (product comparisons, demo requests, etc.).


Strategic keyword research uncovers those critical “bridge” keywords, like product alternatives and comparisons, even when search volume estimates are low. Sophisticated buyers are already evaluating you against competitors before reaching out, so target those comparison keywords to get in front of them during the research phase. Trust your intuition and customer feedback more than artificial numbers in a spreadsheet.


Your Chances of Ranking


Everyone wants to rank for the “money” keywords in their industry. But the harsh truth is, not everyone deserves to yet. If you’re an unknown brand trying to unseat established leaders for a core keyword, you need to be realistic. Assess the likelihood of breaking into the top 10 within the next year based on the current competitive landscape and your own site’s authority.


If you probably can’t rank for that huge keyword within the next 12 months, adjust your strategy. Target relevant keywords that are more attainable in the short-to-medium term while building towards those ambitious long-term targets. Successful keyword strategies are holistic – each piece builds upon the next to help you reach your ultimate goal.


Keyword Difficulty and Strength


Most keyword difficulty scores are misleading or inaccurate. They usually only look at the raw number of backlinks to the top-ranking pages, ignoring the quality of those links and the overall site strength. So just because a tool says a keyword has “low” difficulty doesn’t mean it will be easy for you to rank.


When evaluating difficulty, look at the domain authority of the top-ranking sites, not just individual page metrics. Even if a couple of pages have low authority, if they’re on extremely high authority domains, they’ll still be tough to beat. Filtering a spreadsheet for low-difficulty keywords leads to unrealistic expectations.


A Timeframe for When You Will Rank


Align your keyword targets with your business goals and team expectations. If leadership wants to see results within 6 months, you’ll need to focus mostly on lower-competition keywords even if search volume is small. Keep the long-term vision in mind, but make sure you have enough winnable keywords to demonstrate progress in the short-term.


A helpful framework is to target keyword clusters where you can:


  1. Rank for long-tail variations within 1-6 months
  2. Achieve page 1 rankings for the core keyword within 6-12 months
  3. Use that dominance to then go after the most competitive keywords 12+ months out


This stepped approach manages expectations while still making progress towards ambitious targets. Think about setting up a progression of wins to hit your ultimate goal.


Current Site Strengths


Your site’s current topical authority has a huge impact on how quickly you can rank for related keywords. Strong rankings for lots of relevant keywords acts like a rising tide to lift other related content.


On the flip side, a lack of topical authority creates a glass ceiling, capping your potential rankings until you build up more strength in the topic area. Assess your topical authority by looking at whether you already rank well for closely related keywords and concepts.

If you’re struggling to rank for a big pillar topic, look at your rankings for the supporting subtopics. Without strong rankings for those supporting pieces, the pillar page will have a tough time ranking. Building up authority in those areas should be the top priority.


Get in Touch with ALM Corp. for SEO Services and Digital Marketing Strategy


Want expert help with your keyword research and SEO strategy? Contact the team at ALM Corp. Our SEO specialists will analyze your space, align keyword targets with your business goals, and create a custom content strategy to reach them.


We’ll help you take the guesswork out of keyword research and create an action plan for search success. Get in touch to discuss your SEO needs and other digital marketing strategy services.