Every few months we hear of a new hurdle Google throws in the way of SEO practitioners. A challenge, a catch-me-if-you-can of sorts. Yes, I refer to the inevitable updates to Google's algorithm that every online marketer lives in dread of.

With almost every update you know there will be changes to your search traffic. Your conversion predictions will go for a toss. And in the worst case you get hit some new-fangled penalty Google dreamt up.

But in spite of all the changes that rock an SEO marketer's life, there's one constant that hasn't changed in the last 20 years. Keyword research. Whether you run your own blog or had the bright idea of monetizing it by adding e-commerce, there's no getting rid of keyword research.

While most of us know how the basics of keyword research go, we can all use some extra help every now and then. So, here are some result-oriented ways of improving your keyword research strategy.

Go Beyond The Keyword

One of the biggest mistakes any SEO marketer can make is sticking to long lists of keywords generated by the keyword tool of choice.

There are more efficient and elegant ways of arriving at keywords, or rather keyword phrases, relevant to your business. Listen to conversations about your brand, competition, or product category. It gives a clear picture of what your target audience cares about and what type of content will work for them. Questions on Quora, LinkedIn groups, and forums related to your industry niche are great starting points.

Talk to customer care representatives and sales teams that interact with customers on a daily basis. Find out what your customers pain areas are, what kind of data they look for online, and what they don't understand about your product.

And if all else fails, turn to Google for keyword research.

See What Content Works Best Irrespective Of Keywords

Yes, you read that right. Sometimes, the future is best predicted by looking at the past.

Dig into your analytics to discover which content has worked for you so far. This gives you an idea of the types of content as well as the related keyword phrases that might work in the future.

Don't stop there. Match popular content themes with Google Trends. This way you find the topics predicted to grow in popularity.

I like using Buzzsumo to see which pieces of content work exceptionally well in my industry. It gives a good indicator what direction to head in. It also shows me which publishers to target for guest posts and which influencers to reach out to.

Focus On Making Money: Long Tail Keywords

We hear this advice from the best SEO's, and yet we obsess over our head keywords. The ones every other competitor is focusing on. The result? Measly organic rankings and intense competition for the same set of keywords from a PPC perspective.

70% of searches reflect long tail keywords, not commercially successful PPC keywords  [1]Doesn't it make you feel a little silly wasting all your time on the 30% of searches that happen?

Many marketers avoid spending too much time on long tail keywords. There are simply too many and there's too little time to do justice to them all.

But what if I tell you that these long tail keywords may not bring in loads of traffic, but their conversion rates are exponentially better than mainstream keywords.

The reason for this is simple.

By the time a user searches using specific details, creating long tail keywords, they have already matured in their decision making process and are closer to making a purchase.

Spare A Thought For Semantic Search Queries

The average business has hundreds of keywords relevant to it and hundreds more like them. It would be a huge waste of resources to create content and run PPC campaigns for every single keyword your keyword tool throws out.

Thanks to Google's Hummingbird algorithm, similar keywords, synonyms, and phrases that replace keywords are all measured with the same yardstick.

Searches for similar keywords end up showing similar results. So if you spent money on Keyword A and the very similar Keyword A1, your money on A1 is completely wasted. In such a scenario it makes sense to group similar keywords into buckets. Let each keyword bucket be driven by the objective of the keyword acquisition, engagement, newsletter sign ups, repeat purchases and so on.

Besides the goal of the keyword, it helps to consider the natural language queries related to the keywords . Not only are these not limited to keywords, the user intent drives what the search results will be. So when you want to bake an apple pie, you don't simply search for apple pie on Google. You would search for "easy apple pie recipes" or "apple pie recipes with best reviews".

This strategy helps conserve limited resources by targeting keywords for different contexts. With result oriented keyword buckets, you create content that is relevant and not repetitive. This means goodbye to thin content and the associated risk of earning a Google penalty.

Wrapping Up

These were some of the tips and tricks that have worked for me in the past. What tactics do you and your team love? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Were all ears!

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* Lead image adapted from torbakhopper