What metrics matter when doing keyword research for SEO
Many SEOs, marketers, and business founders rely on keyword research metrics. Ask yourself: does that make sense?
First of all, let me define search engine optimization. Definition of terms allows us to understand whether we are on the same page or have a different view of search engine optimization.
We use this definition in F5 Studio:
Search engine optimization or SEO is a process of creating relationships between your site and search engines to connect your target audience with your site through a web search.
Keyword research is a part of SEO. F5 Studio’s SEOs define this practice in this way:
Keyword research is the practice of identifying queries that drive valuable, relevant traffic to websites.
For business sites and e-commerce, keyword research determines how much revenue should be expected from optimizing for keywords.
Professional keyword research is based on a belief that we should optimize the content for search queries (keywords) that a target audience uses to find information, products, or services.
What does content optimization mean? It means making the web page content relevant for search queries that a target audience use. It is an advanced SEO practice that uses keyword research to create relevant content (a more detailed description of this practice you can find in the “Keyword research for business owners” article).
As you can see, this differs from the common SEO practice.
Traditionally, SEOs use SEO tools to discover keywords. Then SEOs put these keywords in URL, title, h1, h2, h3, in the first paragraph, use TF-IDF to place them appropriately throughout the content (term frequency-inverse document frequency, you should know Google doesn’t use that), and voila. This keyword research practice is based on the belief that the search engine determines which results to rank depending on whether keywords in those pages are aligned with what the searcher typed.
In other words, if you have relevant keywords in a piece of content, it will likely appear among the top search engine results for someone seeking content like that. As written above, you need a SEO tool to discover the “right” keywords to place them into the page content. Why? Because SEO tools provide some metrics to help you choose the “right” keywords, avoid competition, etc.
Okay, let’s look at these metrics.
Keyword metrics for SEO
SEO is a non-standard industry, so you can’t find standardized definitions of terms and metrics. Each SEO tool uses its own metrics.
SEOs have been using search volume since the earliest days of SEO. It measures how many searches are made for a given set of keywords. This metric allows SEOs to know how popular these search queries are. This metric came from pay-per-click (PPC), an internet advertising model in which advertisers pay a fee each time their ads are clicked. In PPC, search volume allows a marketer to build a strategy around popular search queries.
But how can you use it for search engine optimization? It is unclear why it is believed that using rarely searched keywords means people may not find your content. People who use a specific search query will most likely find your site. Also, it is unclear why using keywords with an extremely high search volume means you could be stuck competing with larger sites. In practice, some keywords can get high search volume because they are related to specific events. The high search volume doesn’t mean that all sites created relevant content for this query.
So, the search volume can be essential for PPC but not SEO.
The difficulty is a metric for how difficult it is to rank for top positions in SERPs. Many tools have their own way of calculating difficulty.
As SEO tool creators write, keyword difficulty is based on several factors, including domain authority, page authority, and content quality. In other words, this metric is based on metrics that Google and other popular search engines do not use. How to use keyword difficulty for SEO?
In fact, it is hard to rank for any more or less popular search query. You must be creative in writing relevant content for the “buy (famous brand) sneakers” query and invest enough in your e-commerce site.
But in truth, you do not need to use a SEO tool to know that you work in a competitive niche. You should have some experience and conducting marketing research.
Word Count refers to the number of words in a search query. For example, the keyword ‘credit cards’ has a word count of 2.
Some SEOs think smaller word counts correspond to short-tail, more generic keywords that have high search volumes, prices, and competition. It is not valid. You may have heard the term “long-tail keyword.” Google defines a long-tail query as any query that drives ten or fewer visitors within 30 days. It can be ten words, two words, or even one word.
Also, it makes no sense to know how often your competitors use a specific keyword on the page.
If you google “keyword metrics,” you can find many articles that refer to the sites of SEO tool builders. In the best case, these tools can use data from Google Keyword planner (a tool for PPC campaigns). Worse, some builders of these tools claim that they “replicated” Google to generate metrics.
Honestly, all you need to do keyword research is some experience in SEO, marketing ear, and common sense.
As written above, traditional search engine optimization is based on placing the “right” keywords on content to be ranked for them. But search engines do not work this way. You do not have to place keywords in the content because modern search engines try to understand the context. If you put some keywords in the content, it won’t make the content more relevant for a searcher or query. Google and other search engines use complex algorithms to create the search engine result page for a searcher. No matter which keywords you use, meaning, ideas, and context matter. Keywords just help search engines to understand the context quicker. In this case, using keywords makes sense. But you do not need keyword metrics.
In truth, you have to use a few keyword metrics. These metrics are how many visitors, conversions, and profit these keywords could generate. And you have to use these metrics if you do SEO for business sites.