So. Google Hummingbird. If you haven’t heard of this punk, let me fill you in. Google Hummingbird flitted onto the scene last year and dropped a bomb onto our cozy SEO bubble. For years, we’ve polished and perfected our keyword strategies, but Hummingbird threw all of that careful consideration to the wind. Or so they say . . . Many SEOs have claimed that Hummingbird killed keywords, that they are suddenly irrelevant and unimportant, but that’s not the full story.
Today we’re going to talk about how to do keyword research in 2014. That’s right—keyword research. Google’s algorithm has changed, yes, but that doesn’t mean that keywords are meaningless. They’re just a little different.
How to Do Keyword Research in 2014
Let’s get right to it.
Since Hummingbird’s inauguration, Google has been processing search queries differently. In a way, the search engine is smarter. It understands more. It knows synonyms and can swap in different words to find better results (for more on this, see our post “What is the semantic web?”). It might translate a long search query like “Where can I get great Thai food?” into something simpler and localized, like “thai food springfield mo.” This happens most frequently when people search on their phones using voice recognition.
The fact of the matter is this: Google cannot read minds (yet). And if it can’t read minds, people still need to type in words. And if people type in words, those words will be important.
Keywords are still very relevant, but we may need to adjust the keywords we’re using. Now that Hummingbird’s around, it’s important that SEOs really focus on keywords that use natural language, language that imitates the way we speak. If you were already doing this—great! If not, pay more attention to it as you learn how to do keyword research in 2014.
So What Should You Do?
Think about both what people are searching for and how Google might translate their queries. Try integrating in words that you weren’t originally trying to rank for, shifting your keywords subtly to better fit the human voice. Listen to the way people talk. Turn off the SEO-, keyword-focused part of your brain and just listen.
If you want to use tools to find your keywords, you should know that some of the old standbys have disappeared, like server logs and Google’s old keyword tool. Instead try, PPC Campaign Planner, Wordtracker, or keyword cloud tools.
Most importantly: rather than working keyword phrases into your content, try to work the words within the keyword phrases into your content. Keep it natural. Work in the keyword you’re hoping to rank for as well as other keywords that you had no intention of ranking for. They’ll improve your content’s relevance.
How Should You Do It?
How do you know what these unintended keywords might be? Well, that’s a little trickier. Think about what other terms people might be using to search for you. You’re looking for synonyms, words that are frequently found together, and contextually-related words.
You should be able to use your keyword research tools and competitor’s sites to find some qualifiers and synonyms (maybe a lot of your potential customers are searching for “couches” instead of “sofas”). Try to work some of these words (not entire phrases) into your content to improve your ranking without screaming, “I stuffed this page full of keywords!” These keyword alternatives are the key to working well with Hummingbird.
How to Do Keyword Research in 2014
So don’t let that spirited little Hummingbird get you down! Queries and keywords are different now that Google’s algorithm has changed, but most of the same rules still apply. There’s no need to freak out. When the times are a-changin’, change with them! Incorporate some of the new information we have about keywords. Think about your customers’ voices. Learning how to do keyword research in 2014 might take a little more effort, but I think you’re up to the task.