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How will Keyword Research for SEO be different in 2015? 28 SEO Pros Weigh In

Anthony Martello February 16th, 2015

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The search engine marketing world is an ever-changing landscape. Your best strategy in 2014 may not lead to the same results in 2015. We decided to ask the search marketing pros about how they are planning to change their keyword research strategy for 2015 – here are their responses!

Rand Fishkin (Moz)

“I suspect we won’t see a huge evolution from 2014, but as compared to prior years, we’re having to reach many more sources (search suggest, related keywords, using non-Google sources to get ideas) as AdWords continues to obsfucate data. I also believe we’re going to be expanding ways in which we consider volume, and possibly stop paying as much attention to the often-wrong/weird numbers from AdWords.” ~ Rand Fishkin

Founder and Wizard of Moz

Loren Baker (Foundation Digital)

“I think that over the past few years Google has done a much better job getting away from the exact match keyword and getting deeper into semantic modifiers and natural language. With search still being the core discovery tool with mobile users (54%) and mobile use’s aggressive growth (I have some clients in the 65% mobile device range), adding natural language and verbal queries to the keyword research process is critical to predicting the queries that sites should rank in. Overlooking verbal queries, in any way, could be a major missed opportunity. Siri may not know everything yet, but she’s getting there.” ~ Loren Baker

Loren Baker is the founder of Search Engine Journal and works with multiple national retailers and Hollywood studios at his agency, Foundation Digital.

Michael King (iPullRank)

“I think it depends who you ask. From what I can tell by the deliverables that come across my desk from other shops, there’s a lot of people are still not mapping keywords to audiences, user journeys or even historical conversion opportunities. I’m still seeing a lot of keyword research that just lists keywords and search volumes. It would be ideal if more marketers invested the time into intelligent keyword research that drives better content strategy.

We’ve already been doing that for years now.

What’s a bit newer to keyword research is entity mapping to account for Hummingbird and accounting for other semantically relevant terms to account for Google’s topic modeling. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of that in 2015 as Google continues to improve its understanding of language and relationships.” ~ Michael King

Michael King founded boutique digital marketing studio, iPullRank. Mike consults with companies ranging from SAP, American Express, HSBC, to a laundry list of promising startups and small businesses. Mike King is a dynamic speaker who is called upon to contribute to conferences and blogs all over the world.

Cyrus Shephard (Moz)

“In all honesty, people are so confused about keyword research today because it no longer means what it used to. You can optimize for a keyword, but Google may use synonyms, close variants, and/or entities to replace the user search query – and where does that leave you? Throw in Google’s predictive search and autocomplete, and the landscape for knowing what keywords you should be targeting becomes very murky. Don’t even get me started on “not provided” and the lack of accurate keyword data in Google Webmaster Tools.

What’s a marketer to do?

I’ve come up with a few basic rules that allow me to target keyword topics fairly effectively without changing the fundamentals of research. First of all, I research keywords like we always have, using Google’s Keyword Tool, Übersuggest, and increasingly, Keyword IO. What’s different about today’s approach is that I’m not so much concerned with the keyword itself as I am with the phrases SURROUNDING the keyword. What phrases most often appear with my target phrase in both searches and web documents? What are the topics covered?

Instead of finding a list of keywords, I group phrases into topics and make sure to craft my copy in a way that broadly addresses the entire spectrum of my primary keyword phrase target. Keyword IO, for a fairly new tool, does a good job of exploring these additional keyword relationships. This is also a great way to tackle high competition “short tail” keywords. If I target and incorporate many of the concepts that surround my hard-to-rank-for keyword, I can offer capture much of the long-tail search traffic that accompanies this query, without actually ranking for the tough keyword itself.” ~ Cyrus Shephard

Head of Content and In-house SEO at Moz. Likes grapefruit.

Neil Patel (NeilPatel.com)

“In 2015 I see companies doing a lot less keyword research. The trend I have been seeing is that companies are more so focusing on a long tail strategy, in which they blog and naturally rank for keywords. Fewer companies each year are actually doing keyword research and manually building links to rank for specific keywords.” ~ Neil Patel

I’m the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hellobar. I blog at Quick Sprout and NeilPatel.com.

Zac Johnson (Zac Johnson)

“In 2015 SEO will still be important and ever changing like always. We will continually see companies and web sites try to game the system with garbage backlinks and content, which Google will eventually find and penalize. Instead of looking for shortcuts, focus on minimal higher quality links and content versus low quality and high volume.

In terms of research, it’s all about getting as niche as possible. Go as deep as your niche can go, then move sideways… more specifically, go after long tail keywords and exact topics that people are searching for. Look at your competition in the search results.

See what they are ranking for, how they are creating content and then do it better.” ~ Zac Johnson

Zac Johnson is an entrepreneur, blogger and host of the Rise of the Entrepreneur Podcast.

Troy Ireland (Digital Current)

“People using voice search naturally form longer search queries that generally consist of question-based phrases. The Hummingbird update allows Google to return better results for people that type questions into their search box and as SEO experts adopt content marketing, they begin to realize the benefit of focusing on answering user questions rather than concentrating on how to rank for keyboard-based search queries.

Keeping those points in mind, what will be different in 2015 is that question-based keyword phrase development and mapping the intent of those phrases to the sales funnel will become top priorities. We are beyond the early adopter stage; SEOs in 2015 realize that they need to get better at building questions into their keyword themes and that they need to align those themes to the stages in the sales funnel for content creation. As a result, you will also see an increase in topic ideation coming from your SEO department and a greater integration between Search and content marketing. If things are working well together, you should see an increase in conversions.

Question-based keyword development will demand that SEOs consider an ever-growing volume of phrases, which will result in an increasing number of themes that require mapping to pages of content. Synonym replacement, long tail mining, data aggregation from many tools and simplified mapping of keyword themes will become more important. This is a cumbersome, time-consuming and overly complex process, as it exists currently. I am looking forward to spending more time beta testing Keyword Studio; I saved a lot of time during my initial tests and the visual theming made the process more manageable.” ~ Troy Ireland

Troy Ireland is the managing partner at Digital Current, a leader in conversion-based digital marketing specializing in content marketing and SEO.

Ross Hudgens (Siege Media)

“More than ever before, we use keyword research as a primary driver of identifying link intent. When you can combine keyword research with the ability to earn placements, businesses can grow extremely quickly.

I don’t think that’s necessarily “different” in 2015, but I think more and more people will be doing it than they were in years previous as it becomes obvious it’s the quickest way to explosive business growth. ” ~ Ross Hudgens

Ross Hudgens is the founder of Siege Media, a content marketing agency with a speciality in SEO.

Amanda DiSilvestro (HigherVisibility.com)

“I have a feeling most people are going to say this, but to me it’s all about semantic search. Google has been moving toward putting a value on the context around keywords as well as variations of different keywords/ keyword phrases, so it’s all about the long-tail phrases. Users will generally type in a a search query with a conversational tone, so many of the variations of words you should be optimizing for are not going to show up in your Keyword Planner.

With this is mind, my strategy is going to be thinking about related terms and then coming up with a list of possibilities. There are tools like Ubersuggest that I like to use that can help me think creatively, and then once I have exhausted all variations of a keyword or phrase I will drill down and see what’s getting the traffic. It’s one of my favorites and I think it will be helpful this year! ” ~ Amanda DiSilvestro

Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO Company HigherVisibility.com that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.

Julie Joyce (Link Fish Media)

“With regards to link building I think we’ll see it become slightly less important as we strive towards a more natural anchor profile, but that certainly doesn’t mean we won’t be doing it. ” ~ Julie Joyce

Julie Joyce owns Link Fish Media and is a founding member of the SEO Chicks blog. In addition, she writes monthly link columns for both Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch.

John Rampton (John Rampton)

“Keyword research will be a lot more machine learning focused. We’ll use different softwares to do the work and analyze data for us. We will use data to tell us what we need to pay attention to and should be looking at over what we think would be right.

Everything will become a lot more revenue focused over traffic focused. So many businesses are focusing around traffic and getting more when they should be focusing around driving revenue to their business. 10 amazing visitors to your site that convert is a lot better than 10,000 random visitors.” ~ John Rampton

Best known as an Entrepreneur and Connector… John Rampton was recently named #3 on Top 50 Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine as well as a blogging expert by Forbes. Awarded Top 10 Most Influential PPC Experts in the World for the past 3 years. He currently advises several companies in the bay area.

Ian Cleary (RazorSocial)

“When writing an article there will be more focus on including many longer keyword phrases instead of focussing on one main keyword phrase. As a result your keyword research needs to be broader and include research on forums, Google suggest, social media sites etc to find a range of terms that people are using related to your content.” ~ Ian Cleary

Ian Cleary is founder of RazorSocial which is a site dedicated to helping companies improve performance on Social Media through the smart use of Social media tools and technology.

Danny Goodwin (Momentology)

“Keyword research in 2015 should start with your customers. What problems are they having that you can solve? Generate content around that. Answering unanswered questions is a big keyword opportunity because you will essentially own that keyword.

If you have a sales or support team, find out what your customers are asking about your product/service. Interview your customers and ask for feedback. Better yet, talk to people in your target audience/demographic and find out why they aren’t using your product/service.

Visit Q&A sites (e.g., Quora) to see what potential customers are asking. You can also see what your potential customers are discussing on Twitter (research hashtags and use Twitter search to find potential opportunities) and LinkedIn (join groups in your niche to discovering hot topics and conversations).

Google Autocomplete is still your friend, as it will show you popular searches. Your analytics and Webmaster Tools are also decent sources to discover keyword opportunities. And there’s always the AdWords Keyword Planner and several other keyword research tools that can help generate lots of great ideas.

Remember, it’s better to create meaningful content for people, optimized with keywords that matter to your business objectives, rather than just trying to create content for search engines to rank for as many terms as possible.” ~ Danny Goodwin

Danny Goodwin is Managing Editor of Momentology, a digital marketing publication that helps marketers understand consumers and the digital media they use and engage with throughout the purchase funnel.

Jason White (DragonSearch)

“Keywords have taken some major blows over the last two or three years which have resulted in some maturation with how the SEO industry uses and researches keywords. The bundling of phrases based on intent and relevance is a trend that has been growing in popularity which jives nicely with how search is gaining in complexity based on device type. I see 2015 focusing less on targeting singular keywords in favor of building clusters of related keywords. We’re no longer going to silo ourselves into one keyword strategy but rather look more holistically at all of our keyword targets and how they can play off of each other.

A bit tin-hat but it’s never sat right with me that we collect keyword ‘suggestions’ from the same organization that we rely on to deliver our daily bread. The reduction of data from this singular source has enabled the creation of absolutely fantastic tools which collect even better data than we were previously getting from our keyword research. These tools offer the ability to draw deeper insights from our keyword research process enabling more informed and perhaps accurate, strategy decisions.” ~ Jason White

Jason White is VP of SEO and SMM at DragonSearch in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley.

Marcus Tober (Searchmetrics)

“First, we should make a comment about the phrase “Keyword Research” and “SEO“ itself. Avoid research for SEO purposes when the term is understood as Search Engine Optimization, but instead, the research should be focused on Search Experience Optimization. The optimization of content and webpages is not a technical (machine) approach, thus the focus is not on single keywords (anymore), but whole topics.

So instead of researching single keywords for single landing pages, go a step ahead and find entities and topic-cluster which are interrelated and build a complete area around a certain topic. Of course, these topic areas can be broken down into subordinate single keywords again, but always keep in mind, that it’s the superordinate topic that should be focused. Some analyses we conducted shows, that the total number of different search results declined because Google is delivering similar, if not even the same, results for slightly different but semantically equivalent search queries.

That means that landing pages are more successful if they are holistic and cover multiple facets of a topic. Landing pages that are in the eye of the user and the search engine doesn’t create that value can also disappear on single keywords they used to rank because of that.

Focusing on topics rather than single keywords when researching, makes your content both more attractive and useful for the reader and helps you to improve your existing Google positions and earn new rankings for similar keyword queries at the same time.” ~ Marcus Tober

Marcus Tober is the founder and CTO of Searchmetrics.

Kaila Strong (Vertical Measures)

“In my opinion, keyword research will be different in the sense that it will be less of a stringent focus and more of a best practice. Keyword research in the mind of SEO’s often revolved around very specific exact terms for their use in ranking websites higher. Find the magic keyword combination, optimize your site accordingly and bam! Rankings galore.

There are so many other uses for keywords than to simply rank in search today!

As content marketers keywords are often looked at to gauge popularity of a topic or reinforce the main topic of a page. Search volume is just one metric available to us to help guide the final decision making process of which keyword to choose over another.

Less and less, the process for keyword research is used to optimize a page super precisely as before, but more so providing a guide to naturally integrate phrases into copy. There exists at the present time the need to find a way to merge these two practices for the greater good.

Keyword research to me in 2015 will be different in that mindsets will shift and the intended use of keywords will morph into something more applicable to today’s voyage into content marketing.” ~ Kaila Strong

Senor Director of SEO Services at Vertical Measures, a Phoenix based digital agency focusing on helping clients drive profitable growth through content marketing.

Jayson DeMers (AudienceBloom)

“Keyword research is changing because search engines are changing how they view and analyze keywords. With the shift toward semantic search as well as the release of the Hummingbird algorithm, Google is becoming more attuned to the intent of a search query rather than the words comprising it. As such, valuable content that’s shared and creates buzz is more important than keywords or keyword density. Of course, if a page of content doesn’t contain the words that the user searched for, it’s less likely to display in search results. But beyond the inclusion of your keywords within the title and body of the content, I wouldn’t recommend spending any more time worrying about keywords.

Keyword research itself can be performed using the same tools and tactics as usual, such as SEMRush, Google’s Adwords Tool, and even Google Webmaster Tools. But the actual implementation of keywords has changed dramatically.” ~ Jayson DeMers

Jayson is the founder & CEO of Seattle-based SEO & content marketing agency, AudienceBloom.

Ted Ives (Ted Ives)

“Consider the following:

1.) Google has already invaded the Organic SERPs with shopping results.

2.) Local Search results are an ordered, structured list – now managed through the recently-launched Google My Business.

3.) Google My Business is a lot cleaner and straightforward than the mess that Local/Plus Business Pages/Places were…and is now even tied into AdWord’s call extensions feature.

Because of all of this, I will be shocked and stunned…stunned and shocked…if Google doesn’t start figuring how to monetize Local Search in 2015 somehow – it should be a no-brainer for them to start doing so.

All the pieces are there for them to start doing so are there, except for resolving the AdWords Express/AdWords chasm somehow.

If this happens then geotargeting volume and geomodifier keyword research are going to become a *lot* more important.” ~ Ted Ives

Ted Ives has worked for tech companies ranging through every layer of the IT stack including Apple and Microsoft. He helps enterprises to scale up their online marketing efforts through custom engagements tailored to their unique situations.

Gabriella Sannino (Level343)

“If you’re still doing it the old way, rest assured that it’s dying a slow death. The old way of keyword research was all about synonyms, competition, and word variations. That’s proving to be old hat.

For a couple of years, my team and I have been all about context, relevance and semantic search. Google has finally started catching up with us. They now know how to handle natural language queries and questions. Now, you don’t need a title like “how to …. ” or to have that in the title or the content as a question…. things like “best method of”, “easy way to”… etc… get picked up, too.

Semantic search obviously isn’t 100% here, yet. But it’s come a long way… far enough that we no longer have to divide our attention between the user and the search engine. Writing great content is a lot easier now, because we can concentrate on the user, knowing that Google will usually understand the context and match it to a corresponding query.” ~ Gabriella Sannino

Co-Founder of Level343. Passionate about international marketing with enough SEO to be dangerous. My favorite things in life: Family, sailing & Nutella.

Annie Cushing (Annielytics.com)

“I don’t foresee that it will. I just think there might be a bit more of an emphasis on it for the right reasons: to brainstorm content ideas to regale readers instead of spamming the SERPs.” ~ Annie Cushing

I make data sexy at annielytics.com.

Stuart Walker (http://nichehacks.com)

“It surprises a lot of people but I don’t do keyword research. I just focus on creating (or having created) good content and that naturally will have KWs in it. But I never go out searching for low volume keywords that I think will rank.

On occasion I’ve spent a total of around 5 minutes after creating a post looking for a relevant keyword, high competition or not, that I can slot into the post without ruining the flow of it. Hasn’t stopped me ranking for some decent terms.

But I just went for the obvious keywords that have high volume searches and would have been competitive. The content is good and picked up a lot of links naturally and ranked. Still it’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time on in 2014 nor do I plan to in 2015. It’s nice passive traffic if it comes but not something I like to chase.” ~ Stuart Walker

You can find me over at http://nichehacks.com where I regularly reveal profitable affiliate niches.

Ruud Hein (Search Engine People)

“At the top of the tail keyword research is still a lot like it was before. Identify common phrases for your product, find search volume, find out how many compete against you, and work with that. There isn’t a whole lot of magic going on.

What’s different is an increased focus not on what ranks, not on what gets visits, but what *converts*. And then we’re not only talking about what converts at the first click; we’re also talking about which searches eventually lead to sales.

That’s where analytics and marketing automation come in to help identify what is working. To help find the query spaces where you have to expand, experiment.

Especially for smaller sites, smaller companies, finding a (search) niche and clawing your way into it allows you to become established. To start to earn CRT. From there you can expand to neighboring terms.

For some sites that means thinking hyper-local. Not just city but neighborhood. For others it can be product + edge case.

As for my preferred tool: search. Try to search for the thing yourself. Learn what the query space looks like. Get a feel for what’s missing. Follow the scent trails searchers would.” ~ Ruud Hein

Ruud Hein is the Senior SEO and editor of Search Engine People, Canada’s largest digital marketing firm.

Razvan Girmacea (Monitor Backlinks)

“People realize more and more that going for the short keywords is really hard, takes time and big budgets, so they will focus more on finding long tail keywords in their niche, building lots of content.

Unfortunately, we will see a lot of low quality content because of that, people just creating content for SEO and not for the user, not hiring experts to write something unique and useful.” ~ Razvan Girmacea

CEO & SEO of Monitor Backlinks

A.J. Ghergich (Ghergich & Co)

“I do not see any massive changes on the horizon for keyword research in 2015. However, I do think people will become more aware of the power of suggestion-based tools like http://keywordtool.io/.

Entering phrases like Who, What, When, Where, Why & How + Your Keyword can bring back some awesome long tail searches. This is great for finding and filling content gaps on your site.

For more advanced keyword mining more and more people will be implementing tools like http://grepwords.com/ to process of ton of data very quickly.” ~ A.J. Ghergich

Founder of Ghergich & Co. I focus on SEO driven Content Marketing.

Evan Prokop (TopRank Online Marketing)

“I think keyword research will follow along with the trend that search engine optimization (SEO) in general is seeing, which is a tighter integration with the overall digital marketing strategy.

Rather than living in a vacuum (i.e. the SEO department), SEO and keyword research needs to sync with the overall brand messaging strategy, which means a shift towards:

– Customer persona pain point centered messaging, instead of only focusing on a small set of product / service based target keywords.

– Bigger focus on optimizing for semantically related keywords / concepts outside the core set.

– Optimizing across the entire sales cycle, rather than focusing only on attraction / awareness themed keywords and content.

To sum it up, I think there will be a big push towards the full integration of search into digital marketing. Brands that move quickly will be rewarded.” ~ Evan Prokop

As digital marketing manager for TopRank Online Marketing, Evan Prokop has experience leading and implementing SEO strategy for a number of Fortune 500 companies. Evan’s approach to SEO focuses on putting people before algorithms, and he counsels clients that the key to success in search is to provide customers and prospects with unique, memorable, valuable and findable experiences across all digital channels.

Lisa Barone (Overit)

“With the popularity of voice search on the rise, long-tail phrases are becoming increasingly more important to our keyword efforts. Think of how you search when using voice – you pose questions and form queries in a more conversational tone. You ask things like, “why does,” “how do you,” “can you,” etc. It’s less about ranking for “running shoes Albany, NY” and more about “where can I buy running shoes in Albany.” This is something marketers and businesses need to take a closer look at – are you visible for these queries? If not, the time to act is right now. ” ~ Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone is the VP of Strategy at Overit, a digital marketing agency specializing in content marketing, social media, design, development, SEO/PPC, public relations and motion graphics.

Razvan Gavrilas (CognitiveSEO)

“Since Google stopped sending keywords referrer information a lot of people lost their overview on what keywords they are ranking on. In order to get a quick view on what kind of keywords a site is rankings you could use services such as SearchMetrics or SEMRush.
For example if you want to study a niche you could run an analysis on the most influential sites on that particular niche and extract all the keywords they rank on and analyze the top rankers and bottom rankers.

Once you did that you can identify the most expensive keywords as well as the most searched ones by using the Keywords Planner from Google.

This way you have a complete overview on the niche and understand where the top guys are struggling to rank.

Using the historical data from the providers mentioned above will also provide information on whether they may be interested in some specific keywords by analyzing the PPC data they provide. This way you can also identify the most profitable keywords.

Happy Keywording!” ~ Razvan Gavrilas

Razvan Gavrilas is the proud Founder & Chief Architect of cognitiveSEO, an SEO Toolset focused on in-depth analysis of ranking signals. With over 8 years experience in affiliate marketing and search engine optimization and 12 years in programming and web development, he has gone from Web Developer to Super Affiliate for large international networks.

Pieter S Verasdonck (SalesCycle)

“With the push towards marketing automation solutions and the emphasis into buyer persona’s, I believe that we are finally ready to dig deeper into the psychology of search and analyse the intent behind word phrases within the specifics of linguistics and tie it back to the phychographics of the specific buyer persona.” ~ Pieter S Verasdonck

I love what I do and my passion is psychological marketing in the digital age of data driven marketing and automation. My 10+ years in digital marketing has taught me to keep on the pulse of innovation.

What are your thoughts on keyword research for SEO in 2015? Please share in the comments below!

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