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How to do keyword research for SEO in 2019

Google changes its search algorithm between a whopping 500-600 times every single year.

After the latest launch of its RankBrain update, Google have explicitly stated the context and semantic meaning of a search query are now strongly emphasised, as opposed to just a particular keyword.

Google now uses neural matching on 30% of all search queries. This makes it easier for searchers to get answers based on what they mean rather than what they type.

Which begs the question, is keyword research irrelevant for SEO in 2019?

After all, a recent study carried out by Ahrefs found that 75% of pages that rank in Google’s top 10 results don’t have a single mention of an exact keyword in their content.

Google has told us that synonyms affect 70% of user searches. That would suggest that it is the topic that matters more than the exact keywords repeated over and over.

So why put in the time and effort into researching keywords?

Well, keywords are still important for ranking in 2019. Google has just become smarter than counting the number of keywords you can stuff into your content. In 2019 keyword research is all about uncovering the intent behind a user’s search.

In this article, we’ll explain how keyword research needs to be undertaken in 2019 in order to boost your ranking and drive traffic to your site.

How has Keyword Research changed in 2019?

A lot. Back in the day keyword research was as easy as heading over to the Google Keyword Planner Tool to look up some popular keywords before going on to create dedicated pages around each of those keywords in order to rank for them.

Yes, this method worked at the time, but then Google dropped a bomb on us. They started to restrict the keyword data exclusively for Google Ads users.

Coupled with huge changes to Google’s search algorithm throughout the years, most recently with the introduction of RankBrain, things are very different in the world of keyword research today.

If you’re brand new to Keyword Research make sure you check out our awesome guide to keyword research for SEO to gain an understanding of the basics.

In 2019 keyword Research is all about Intent


Yep, in 2019 you’ve got to get smarter than creating content around a few keywords and hoping the traffic will pile in.

You’ve got to consider the intent behind your keywords in order to rank.

When people say ‘keywords are dead’ what they really mean is that we need to stop obsessing over ‘optimising’ our content for a particular keyword because no matter how smartly we insert our keywords into our titles, subheadings, meta descriptions or copy, Google is now completely focused on whether your content matches the intent of the searcher.

Think about it this way. Every single keyword we type into Google has multiple intents.

What this means is that a person searching for ‘Social Media Marketing’ might want to learn about the basics of this type of marketing, or perhaps they want to learn how to use social media to gain more customers or learn about how to gain more followers. The list goes on.

In 2019, Google wants to learn what the intent behind searches really is in order to give searchers the most relevant results possible.

As stated in their official explanation:

“Last year, we saw people search for deodorant in more than 150,000 unique ways. That’s a lot of different ways to say the same thing. But you shouldn’t have to manage an exhaustive list of keywords to reach these consumers.”


For this reason, you will need to dig a little deeper when it comes to your keyword research to find the intent behind a search.

What about search volume?


Where search volume used to give a good assessment of keyword performance, nowadays, search intent should be the priority.

A Study by Search Engine Journal analysed over 3 million searches and concluded that:

  • There is no fixed limit on the number of keywords a page can rank for
  • Search volume is not a good indicator of search traffic

The key takeaway was that search volumes can be misleading and that it should be intent that is more important.

Take a search for the term PPC. This search yields 122M results in Google. But how do we know what a searcher typing this in is looking for? It could be a PPC agency, it could be a simple definition, or it could be some top tips. We don’t know, and Google doesn’t either.

This is why intent is so important.

Likewise, you can have a high search volume for a keyword but that doesn’t mean a high number of clicks.

For example, a search for ‘Donald Trump Age’ has a search volume of 51,000 monthly searches in the US, but in reality there are only 7,2000 clicks that happen on the search results page each month. That means only 14% of searches get clicked on. This is because Google shows an answer box for this search, meaning there’s no point in clicking anywhere else.

When carrying out keyword research in 2019 rather than focusing on search volume, instead you should always ask yourself ‘what is the searcher looking for and how can I fulfil this intent?’

The 4 Search Intent Categories

There are 4 main categories that almost any search query with clear intent will fit:

  • Informational: this is typically where people are researching and looking for general knowledge on a topic such as how, what, where, who, why, guide, tips, help
  • Navigational: these are usually branded queries e.g. brand name, product name, service name
  • Commercial Investigation: This is where a searcher is looking for information on a future purchase including – best, review, vs, top, attribute of a product such as size or colour
  • Transactional: this is when someone is ready to make a purchase e.g. buy, download, order, cheap, purchase


What if you’re unsure about which intent category is right for you?

One way is to learn from Google’s top-ranking results.

Type your keyword in to Google and take a look at the top results. Chances are they will all share search intent in common. Are they all guides? Are they all transactional pages? Then that’s what your content should be too. If the top results are all guides, don’t try and rank with a product page as it’s likely that you won’t be able to match the search intent and rank for it.


Methods for Determining Intent

Having established a category, it’s time to dig a little deeper to find out what the searcher is looking for within that category.

By understanding how, what and why people are searching, you’ll be able to find the best keywords to drive traffic to your site.

There are several ways of doing this.

Try checking out niche-specific blogs or question and answer forums like Quora or Reddit. These pages and sites are perfect for digging a little deeper into your chosen topic to see how real people and potential customers are talking and typing about them.

Let’s say we’re a PPC Agency. We want to find out what people are talking about in our area.

In handy forums such as Quora, we can type in our keyword, in this case PPC which will generate a list of results of what real people are asking about in this subject area:

We can then click through on a particular question to see how people are answering them, again gaining more inspiration for how people are thinking and talking about the topic which is great for gauging intent behind your chosen keyword.

Perhaps we see that users are consistently asking ‘What are the benefits of PPC?’ We can then go on to create resourceful, useful content around this for our searchers.

Similarly, scoping out blogs in your niche will offer valuable insights. If you stay up to date with your industry then chances are you’ll already know some. For example, in the digital marketing sector the likes of Neil Patel or HubSpot will be great resources.

To find helpful blogs in your niche carry out a Google search for:

  • ‘Keyword’ + ‘blog’
  • ‘Keyword’ + blogger

You can also use Google itself to help identify users’ search intent. Type in your chosen keyword and have a look at the top results. What do the people searching for the keyword want? Information? To purchase a service? Answer a question?

Scroll to the bottom of the results page to the ‘People Also Ask’ section. These queries are suggested by Google according to what people are searching for around a particular topic, offering some amazing insights into what and how people are searching.

For our search on ‘PPC’ Google tells us that people are searching around the following topics, giving us a real insight into what people are thinking and searching about in this area.

Make use of keyword research tools


There’s also a plethora of amazing tools out there to help you along the way.

We’d suggest tools such as Ubersuggest, Google Keyword Planner and Answer the Public. Simply type in your keyword and watch the suggestions flood in.

All of these methods are great for uncovering intent and will leave you with a healthy list of long-tail keywords.

In 2019, more often than not it will be long-tail keywords that are going to be hugely important in driving targeted traffic to your site. As we’ve touched on above, choosing keywords based on high search volume simply won’t cut it anymore. It’s the long-tail keywords that really tap into a searcher’s intent that matter.

Although you’re probably familiar with long-tail keywords, for those that aren’t long-tail keywords are:

  • Phrases that are very specific
  • Whereas ‘oven’ is a broad keyword, ‘Smeg Freestanding Oven’ is a long-tail keyword
  • Long-tail keywords have significantly lower search volume but they are a better way to connect with searchers and their intent
  • Those searching for long-tail keywords


Make a Keywords List


By now you’ll have a healthy list of long-tail keywords that tap into the searcher’s intent.

Now, head over to the Google Keyword Planner where you can extract the search volume of a keyword, competition and sort them by popularity.

You can read all about how to use the Google Keyword Planner for your keyword research in our handy guide here.

As we touched on earlier, don’t simply choose keywords based on search volume.

You want to prioritise keywords by their intent. So, where ‘Freestanding Oven’ gets a fraction of the search volume of ‘Oven’, those users searching for ‘Oven’ are likely at the very beginning of their buying journey, in the research process, and haven’t yet realised their requirements.

On the contrary, those searching for ‘Freestanding Oven’ have already passed through this process. They know what they want and are ready to compare providers.


Finally, those searching for ‘Smeg Freestanding Oven’ have already compared models, know which branded oven they want and their intention is to know look for a site to purchase it.

Next Steps – ready to find keywords that drive traffic and convert?


SEO is constantly changing. What worked a few years ago simply won’t cut in today’s digital landscape.

In 2019 keyword research isn’t all about search volume, it’s about intent. To uncover highly effective keywords that will drive targeted traffic to your site, you need to consider the intent behind user’s searches and how you can fulfill that intent. For more help with keywords or your SEO strategy get in touch with the Report Central team today. We’re all about finding the little changes that make a big difference.

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