Keyword Research Tips: How to Build a Keyword Universe Through Data
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In my last SEO article, we talked about SEO basics and how does SEO works, including the initial steps of SEO strategy and planning. Now that we’ve thought through our website personas and their unique challenges, it’s time to begin working on our keyword universe.
I’m a strong believer in data-driven SEO. I believe the combination of data, psychology, and empathy is the key to strong SEO performance and website conversions.
In the world of digital marketing, data is abundant. Free and paid tools are plentiful and there are many sources of data to help guide our SEO journey. Today we’ll explore my favorite software tools and data sources for building up a robust keyword universe.
What is Keyword Research and Keyword Universe?
Before we dig into my favorite data sources, let’s first discuss the concept of keyword research, keyword universe, and why we need it.
Keyword research is somewhat self-explanatory, but if we want a specific definition, we might say that keyword research is a primary SEO task which involves identifying words and phrases people use to search online.
A keyword universe, on the other hand, is the total number of keywords or phrases that are used to drive organic search traffic into your website or blog. These keywords can contain phrases you hope to rank for, as well as, phrases you already rank for in search.
A keyword universe could be as small as fifty keywords or as large as a million keywords. It really depends on the size of the website and the industry it serves.
Let’s look at a real-world example.
According to SEMrush, Siteground.com has a keyword universe of 98,700 keyword phrases. While that may seem like a lot of phrases, SEMrush also estimates only about 10,500 keyword phrases are bringing in website traffic. That variation of total keywords and those bring in actual website traffic is fairly common.
And while there is a large number of keywords not driving traffic, that doesn’t mean that the other 88,200 keyword phrases aren’t important. These inactivate keywords may be very important and they may be a critical part of our keyword universe and overall SEO strategy.
As we do keyword research, we want to review all phrases to start, then narrow down our list to those phrases that matter most to our target market and our offering. We’ll look at keywords we rank for already and we’ll consider keywords we want to rank for in the future.
Interesting Statistics About Search and Keywords
I could ramble on about my views on the importance of keywords, but it will make a much larger impact by providing tangible data for you to truly see the impact of search and keywords.
Here are some of my favorite data points on keywords:
- Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average, which translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.
- Google sees about 15% of brand new searches each day. This tells us keywords are always changing and keyword research should be done often.
- Google’s introduction of BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) allows it to process searches in a much more complex manner. This allows humans to input long, conversational searches and still receive high-quality results. Stated another way, you can search like you are talking to a friend, and Google will reply with a great answer. This changes the nature of our keywords.
- Ahrefs analyzed 1.9 billion keywords and found that 92.42% of those only receive 10 or less searches per month. This tells us to consider keywords of all volumes and not just the ones with massive search volumes.
- Ahrefs also discovered that 29.13% of keywords with 10,001+ monthly searches are made up of three or more words. This points us to long-tail (aka longer phrases) keyword phrases.
- 8% of all the search queries made on Google are phrased as questions. This tells us we should not just look at simple phrases. We also need to think in terms of questions that use who, what, where, when, and how.
- One-third of the search queries made through Google are at least 4 words long. This again reinforces the need for long-tail search terms.
Those last two data points are important because they illustrate a shift in search.
Ten years ago, people still searched with one or two-word phrases. They did so because Google wasn’t sophisticated enough to produce quality results for longer phrases. But that has changed and this change has driven lots of shifts in search and keyword research.
Artificial intelligence and voice search have quietly taught humans that they can search complex queries and Google will provide them with correct answers. This is a game-changer for SEO and keyword research. It means we need to think about short searches, long searches, and searches that involve questions.
An important part of building a quality keyword universe is to do research, keep your mind open and think about your website personas and how your target market uses search in Google or Bing.
You might be thinking you have no idea how your target market searches. Guess what? You’re not alone!
We are all in the same situation because it is hard to think outside of our own limited view. This is why software tools and third-party data sources are an important part of building up a strong keyword universe.