New-Look Keyword Research and Topic Focus for Content

an apple cut up then reassembled in a different order.
Thanks to for the excellent image.

A few posts ago I confessed my keyword research sins. I’ve been mostly ignoring them for ages, focusing on the topics I think people might be interested in instead. Now it looks like I’m not alone.
Rand Fishkin from Moz has been mulling over the same tactic, asking, “Should you ditch keyword targeting entirely?” in a recent blog post. 
Here’s a simple precis, without all the supporting evidence and fine detail. Follow the link above for the full story – tech warts, travel industry examples and all.

Moz insight into topics versus keyword research

Should we forgo old-school keyword targeting in favour of concept targeting? The thought process goes like this: “Whatever the (search) volumes are, they are. If I do a good job of targeting searchers’ intent and concepts, Google will do a good job recognizing my content and figuring out the keywords that it maps to. I don’t have to stress about that.” 

Will Google ‘get’ what you’re doing?

So far, so good. But the problem is, no matter how brilliant your concept-led content, without at least some keyword mapping Google won’t necessarily recognise the content for what it is, nor will it surface the content in response to search queries containing those keywords. Or not yet, anyway. Apparently some marketers are already taking the idea ‘too far’, losing natural search engine traffic hand over fist.

Combining old and new tactics for better results

On the other hand a ‘smart combination’ of old and new techniques can deliver even better results than either tactic on its own. Intelligent concept and topic modelling lets you fulfil searcher needs closely, and at the same time you target multiple keywords via your meta titles, headlines, sub-heads and the page content itself.

  1. Take keyword research ideas
  2. Add topic, concept brainstorm and user research results
  3. Blend the two to create a list of needs and associated concepts for your content to fulfil, each with appropriate keywords

Do all this and your search-led keyword matches will be allied to carefully-researched concept and subjects. It makes sense to me, since by doing so you fulfil Google’s algorithmic needs and focus on the things your target audience genuinely wants to know. As Fishkin concludes:

This kind of model, where we combine the best of these two worlds, I think is the way of the future. I don’t think it pays to stick to your old-school keyword targeting methodology, nor do I think it pays to ignore keyword targeting and keyword research entirely. I think we’ve got to merge these practices and come up with something smart.


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