Keyword Research: A Hero’s Journey

A recent email chain I participated in got me thinking. Post-Hummingbird, what does keyword research look like?

With all the talk of search entities, structured data and schema flying around, my immediate reaction was my usual: forget everything and remember.

The first thing I remembered was a basic process we learned in storyboarding class in college. We learned story structure, which starts with mapping out the beginning, middle and end of whatever we wanted to animate. We’d have to set up the conflict and bring it through to resolution. So when writing pages for SEO, why not think of taking readers through that same journey: beginning, middle and end?

SEO Storytelling

The concept of SEO storytelling starts with mapping the keyphrases used at the beginning (informational based queries such as  “what is …”), keyphrases during the hero’s journey (“how do I  …”) and keyphrases used during resolution (“buy, hire, get, slay, defeat [whatever]”) of your post/page. Note: I see a ton of these types of phrases being used to find a variety of product and service pages.

For blog posts, the storytelling concept works better. You don’t need to include transactional keyphrases (such as “buy [whatever]”) but the story of each post should be mapped out ahead of time and then keyword research be performed to find keyphrases that relate to the beginning, middle and end and not just the theme of the piece.

Moving beyond schema

Moving beyond schema (which is an easy tech fix and only applicable in certain situations) there needs to be a deeper and more uniform understanding of semantic search in the SEO industry.

One way to establish that understanding with ourselves and with our clients is to revise the traditional approach to keyword research.

A revised keyword research approach starts with acknowledgement that there are beginning, middle and end keyphrases. Keyphrase repetition is irrelevant. Keyphrase placement is important. Not all keyphrases will relate to the root keyphrase but all will relate to the theme, issue, problem or whatever else customers/readers will think of or otherwise be concerned with.

Expanded synonym and close match discovery

This process is, in effect, an expanded synonym and close match keyphrase discovery process that spreads out over several related concepts and not just the singular concept of the page/post. This process also creates more opps for internal linking which tie sets of pages to one another physically in a matter that is more organic.

Agree or disagree? I’d be happy to discuss below.


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