At this moment, around 400 million websites are competing for their share of online attention. Some drive traffic through social media; others use paid ads to target their audience. But just about every popular website focuses primarily on the cornerstone of online success – search engine optimization.
SEO is far from a new concept, but a lot has changed in the past few years. Cloud computing, machine learning, and other new technologies have made search engines much more sophisticated.
To help you keep up with this evolution, this article will show you the key SEO trends you need to follow in 2020. You’ll also discover the best SEO keyword tools that can boost your rank significantly.
What’s the most popular recipe for SEO success? Let’s find out.
The Importance of Niche/Long-Tail Keywords
Let’s say that you want to buy a Bluetooth speaker. What would you type into Google?
You might start your research with the broadest term “Bluetooth speakers.” At this stage, you’re still not ready to buy; you’re just looking at what’s out there.
As you figure out the must-have features, your research will get more and more refined. And by the time you’re ready to buy, you might arrive at something like “JBL Flip 5 red.” You’d then compare prices and sellers before making a choice.
This is what a typical buying process looks like. Your goal is to catch your audience when they’re ready to make a purchase and not when they’re just browsing. And that’s where long-term keywords come into play.
“JBL Flip 5 red” is a good example of a long-tail keyword. It targets those who are ready to buy a specific product. The keyword’s popularity might be quite low, but it will have a higher conversion rate than an initial search term like “Bluetooth speakers.”
Of course, long-tail keywords aren’t only for sellers. As a website owner or manager, your goal should be to pick keywords related to your niche and dig into the keyword research as deep as possible. It’s how you find an audience full of true fans rather than those who only have a mild interest.
Besides, long-term keywords have far less competition than generic terms. Because of this, you can climb the rankings in your niche more easily. Google takes into account many factors other than SEO, so trying to compete against industry giants likely won’t yield results. With highly focused long-term keywords, you can clear the path to the coveted top spot in the search engine results.
Now, you’re probably wondering how to find long-tail keywords. It’s pretty easy to come up with the generic ones, but how do you know if you’re adding the right long-tail keywords to your content?
The good news lies in the many long-tail keyword tools at your disposal. You can use a long-tail keyword generator to find niche keywords related to a generic one. We’ll dive deeper into the best keyword suggestion tools a bit later in this guide.
While long-tail keywords are relevant, they’ve become somewhat of a standard. Because of this, they might not always be enough to get your pages to a higher rank. To gain a lasting competitive advantage, you’ll have to focus on a more recent SEO trend – using LSI keywords in your content.
Why Are LSI Keywords Important?
Back in the humble beginnings of SEO, it was quite simple to rank high in search engines. You only had to find search terms that your audience would type in and populate your content with them. Google’s algorithm would determine the relevance of your content, emphasizing the sheer number of keywords.
Many businesses abused this algorithm to bull their way to the top of search results. This practice became known as keyword stuffing. As you can imagine, the resulting content was usually of low quality.
To get everyone to play nice and create higher-quality content, Google has made many changes to its algorithm. Not only doesn’t keyword stuffing work anymore, but Google also punishes websites that apply this strategy. The engine sees it as a form of spamming and would lower the website’s rank in accordance. Instead of keyword matches, Google now uses LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) to determine content relevance.
LSI keywords are phrases that are semantically related and usually found together under a specific topic. Search engines rely on these keywords to understand the context of your web page. The end goal is to serve search engine users the most relevant content to what they’re looking for.
For example, if your topic/main keyword is “online marketing,” LSI keywords would include terms like “landing pages,” “lead generation,” and “blog posts.” LSI terms often don’t have much meaning on their own – it’s their semantic connection that counts.
Unlike long-tail keywords, LSI keywords don’t have to come from a generic seed keyword. What matters is their semantic relation to one another.
Let’s say that the root keyword is “Apple.” If you use semantic keywords like “vitamin C,” “fiber,” and “health benefits,” the search engine will know that you’re talking about the fruit. But if you use “iPhone,” “Tim Cook,” and “Cupertino,” it will recognize the tech giant as your topic.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see how LSI keywords can help you get entrenched in a specific niche. They can help deliver your content to the right audience and position your site accordingly.
To take full advantage of LSI and long-tail keywords, you need to be careful with your research. And this includes avoiding the mistakes that many people still make.
Common Keyword Research Mistakes
Keyword research is an ongoing endeavor. As search engines evolve and more content gets out, the most relevant keywords related to your niche may change. The last thing you want is to go about researching keywords the wrong way over and over again.
To guard against this, here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid:
1. Not Thinking About Your Audience
Many keyword generators can help you find high ranking and converting keywords, but machines aren’t the ones performing Google searches – people are.
Because of this, you need to use keywords in the same way as your audience. A simple difference in grammatical number (singular vs. plural) can return completely different search results. This also means that sometimes you may need to use keywords that aren’t grammatically correct (e.g., “Blackpool limo hire,” “office space rent London,” etc.)
Don’t assume all keywords your SEO tool returns are the right keywords for you. In addition to keyword popularity and keyword difficulty, you should identify your target audience’s search intent and consider only relevant keywords.
Terms people use in their search will reveal their intent. If a user’s search query includes words like buy, discount, deal, budget, or a specific product name, then they intend to buy something, while if it consists of a single word (e.g., turmeric), then they are looking to find more information.
There is a clear difference in search intent when typing the following keywords into the search box:
- “DSLR definition photography” or “how to use a DSLR camera” – User is new to this topic and wants to learn more
- “back button focus Nikon d750” or “best DSLR cameras for astrophotography” – User is looking for information/specifics
- “Nikon z7 vs. d850” or “Nikon Z7 review” – User is interested in a specific product and is looking to read some honest reviews
- “best cheap DSLR cameras under $500” or “best budget DSLR for video” – User is looking to buy a specific product/service but is on a tight budget
- “DSLR video manual focus tips” or “Nikon Z banding issues” – Advanced user looking for tips/help from an industry expert
2. Being Too Specific
Using generic keywords is never a good idea unless you’ve already secured a top spot in search results. In almost all cases, established websites will win the race. With long-tail keywords, you don’t have to try to beat the more established competitors at their own game. Instead, you’re creating a new playing field or entering a much less competitive one.
But this doesn’t mean that your keywords should be as specific as possible. Again, remember that you have to use search terms that your target audience will use.
If your long-tail keywords are too specific, they won’t have too many matches or drive enough traffic. You need to find the sweet spot between being overly generic and overly specific.
The best way to do this is to look at the keyword search volume. Some tools make this possible, and we’ll cover them later in this guide.
3. Not Looking at the Competition
Are your competitors ranking higher than you at the moment? Do you even know who your immediate competition is?
When you find out who you’re up against, look at their best- and worst-performing content. Find out which online marketing or SEO strategy drives most of their traffic and use it in your SEO game plan.
Outperforming your competitors on SERPs is possible, but it will require dedication and more in-depth insight into the winning marketing strategies.
4. Forgetting to Re-evaluate Your Keywords
SEO is fluid. What works today might not work tomorrow.
If you focus on a few successful keywords for too long, you risk losing your competitive edge. As mentioned, both search engines and high-performing keywords change, and you need to follow these changes as closely as you can.
Every once in a while, revisit your content and see how it’s doing. As soon as you notice a drop in traffic, it’s time to shake things up a bit.
5. Using Only One Type of SEO Strategy
Most people don’t think beyond keywords when it comes to SEO. However, this is only one of several key components.
Keyword optimization falls under on-site SEO. This is where you focus on every component of the website and make it SEO-friendly with your content.
While this is vital to optimization, you’ll want to shift your attention to off-site SEO as well. As the name implies, off-site SEO encompasses your efforts to climb the rankings beyond tweaking your website.
For the most part, off-site SEO has to do with obtaining high-quality backlinks. This brings us to the next important point.
Which Links Will Have the Most Impact on Your Rankings?
You probably know that backlinks are important to effective SEO. But do you know what kind of links to obtain?
It’s not about getting as many backlinks as possible and wherever you can get them.
At first glance, this might make sense. The more backlinks you have, the more relevant your content, right? Not exactly.
You know what they say: Every person is the average of the people they spend the most time with. That’s precisely how search engines look at backlinking.
If you associate your site will poor-quality, spammy websites, Google will place you in their category. Even if your content is much better and all the right keywords are there, your links can drag you down the rankings.
Because of this, you must focus on high-quality sources of backlinks. Ideally, you’d get the most reputable websites in your domain to link to your content. Even if this means just a handful of links, quality always trumps quantity.
Securing high-quality backlinks is one of those things that are simple but not easy. Simple in the sense that you only need to push high-quality content and get the authoritative websites to notice you. This might take some time and effort, but it can pay off handsomely.
How Long Does It Take for SEO to Show Results?
You’re probably impatient to climb the rankings and start gaining traction as quickly as possible. But SEO is a marathon. It’s all about a steady pace. While there’s a lot that you can do to get the desired result faster, it’s not going to happen overnight.
Most SEO companies will tell you that it takes four to six months for results to show, though it’s almost impossible to state for sure. What’s certain is that SEO results grow over time, which means that the traction you experience at 12 months will be higher than at six months.
Looking at the big picture, this is a reasonable amount of time. You might as well use this time to create a stable foundation for long-term online success.
The rest of this guide will show you how to make this happen.
How to Research Keywords
So far you’ve learned about some of the essential keyword trends that you need to follow. You’ve also become aware of the biggest mistakes that you need to avoid.
Now it’s time to see how to do a keyword research the right way. Effective keyword research consists of the following steps:
1. Understand Your Niche
How would you share your brand’s core idea with a total stranger? What message would you like them to receive?
These are some of the questions that you must ask before you start working on your SEO. You need to look at your website and offer from the perspective of your potential customers.
The best way to do this is to get to know your existing customers. In doing so, you can get many ideas about how to approach marketing and SEO as a whole.
2. Create Topic Buckets
Knowing your audience, think about the topics that they’d find interesting. Since consistency is critical to both content marketing and SEO, you don’t want to run out of things to write about.
Based on your goals and customers, you can design the ideal buyer personas. Put yourself in their shoes and think about content that’s both educational and entertaining. Create as many topic buckets as you can while staying connected to your brand’s core.
3. Think About the Search Intent
As mentioned, effective SEO can do so much more than attracting those who are ready to buy. Some people might have a question that your content can answer; others may only want to be entertained.
You need to know exactly why people are coming to your website. Align your goal with that of the audience to match your keywords to their potential search terms.
After that, it’s time to do actual keyword research.
4. Identify Seed, Long-Tail, and LSI Keywords
Based on your topic buckets and search intent, you need to find general keywords for use as the root of all other keywords. Most of the time, you’ll be able to do this on your own by either searching for topics related to your niche or looking at what the competition is doing.
When you have the seed keyword, things get a bit more complicated. LSI and long-tail keywords can be almost impossible to identify without the right tools. You may not be able to do any better than guessing, but that’s going to take a lot of time and probably not for much.
A much better option is to go with an SEO keyword tool. Luckily, there are so many of them these days. To help you find one, let’s take a look at some of the most capable.
10 Keyword Research Tools That Can Help You Climb the Rankings in 2020
SEMrush is one of the most comprehensive online marketing tools out there. It helps with everything from backlinking to finding semantic keywords. SEO and PPC campaigns are both supported, and SEMrush comes with a plethora of features to help you execute effective strategies.
Some standout features include:
- Competitor keywords and ad budget analysis
- Tracking of new publishers and their performance
- Market and niche analysis
- Semantic keyword suggestions based on the best-performing competitors
As far as pricing goes, SEMrush offers a 7-day free trial and three subscription levels:
- Pro – $99.95/month
- Guru – $199.95/month
- Business – $399.95/month
There’s also a custom Enterprise plan, which is tailored to your specific needs and workload.
2. Google Keyword Planner
If you need help dominating Google’s search engine, why not go straight to the source? If you’re still not at a point where you need an all-in-one SEO solution, Google Keyword Planner can be the best free keyword research tool.
It may not be packed with features, but it’s a highly reliable keyword research tool. It comes with a few handy options such as:
- Volume checking
- Bid estimates for paid ads
- Customizable advertising plans
As mentioned, Google Keyword Planner is free to use with your Google account, so you can start experimenting with it right now.
If you’re looking for a capable yet simple SEO tool, you might want to try Ubersuggest. Google Keyword Planner’s more capable relative uses the same database as Google’s own tool, with a bunch of additional functions that can be very useful.
Some of the notable features include:
- Reverse engineering your competitors’ SEO
- Seed and long-tail keyword suggestions
- Content topic ideas
- Backlink data
If you don’t want to commit to one SEO tool, you’ll be glad to know that Ubersuggest is free. While some back-end issues may affect the accuracy, the tool can still be of great help.
4. Long Tail Pro
As mentioned, long-tail keywords are necessary for SEO success. And Long Tail Pro can spit out hundreds of long-tail keywords and support your SEO strategy in many other ways.
The platform comes with many useful features, including:
- Up to 400 long-tail keywords in a few seconds
- Determining keyword profitability
- Keyword and competitor analysis based on 13 metrics
Long Tail Pro offers free training along with a 7-day trial. Once the trial ends, you can choose one of three subscription plans:
- Starter – $37/month ($25/month if billed annually)
- Pro – $67/month ($45/month if billed annually)
- Agency – $147/month ($98/month if billed annually)
Long Tail Pro also comes with a 10-day money-back guarantee for all plans, so you can take it out for a spin without any risk.
KWFinder is one of the most capable semantic keyword research tools available. It packs a variety of tools in a user-friendly interface. It’s also quite affordable, making the platform suitable for those looking for the best keyword research tool for their needs.
The standout features include:
- Filtering unprofitable keywords
- Detailed SERP analysis and SEO metrics
- Finding hidden long-tail keywords
- Organizing keywords into lists
With annual billing, the pricing for KW Finder is as follows:
- Basic – $29.90/month
- Premium – $39.90/month
- Agency – $79.90/month
There’s also a 10-day free trial for you to try out the platform and see if it’s for you.
6. Keyword Tool
Keyword Tool is another Google Suggest scraper, but with a few exciting twists. It helps you generate long-tail keywords for multiple platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and even Play Store. It offers more keyword suggestions than most tools, so it’s great for experimenting with LSI and niche keywords.
Keyword Tool has a few useful features, all related to keyword suggestions:
- Up to 750 keyword suggestions with the free plan
- Keyword search/volume checker features
- 47,035 locations supported
There’s a free version, and if you decide to go with one of the Pro plans, you get even more suggestions and additional features. The starting price of each plan is as follows:
- Pro Basic – $69/month
- Pro Plus – $79/month
- Pro Business – $159/month
7. Moz Keyword Explorer
Moz covers just about all features that you’d expect to find in the best keyword research tool. The free version alone has many useful tools, such as domain analysis, location audit, and online presence checker.
Moz is full of handy features, with the most notable as follows:
- Organic CTR score
- Priority score
- Comprehensive page optimization
To let you explore its numerous features without making a firm commitment, Moz offers a 30-day free trial. At the end of the trial, there are four subscription levels to choose from:
- Standard – $99/month
- Medium – $179/month
- Large – $249/month
- Premium – $599/month
If you decide to pay annually, you can save 20% on all of the subscription plans.
How would you like to take a peek inside your competitor’s strategies? Say no more. SpyFu can give you detailed insights into the competition’s SEO and their most successful tactics. You can then use the platform’s other features to adopt those tactics for your site.
SpyFu offers a host of useful features such as:
- Comparing multiple websites for one search term
- Ranking difficulty analysis
- AdWords keyword advice
You can choose one of the following plans (annual billing prices):
- Basic – $33/month
- Professional – $58/month
- Team – $199/month
This is a very interesting tool. If you need help identifying questions that your content can answer, QuestionDB can be perfect. The platform does only one thing and does it well.
Everything about QuestionDB is stripped-down, in a good way some may say. It does come with a few useful features, including:
- 40 questions with the free plan
- Sorting questions by popularity
- CSV download
If you go with the Pro plan, you can access unlimited searches and up to 1,000 results per search. For only $10/month, QuestionDB can help you find many new content ideas regularly.
Last but not least, SECockpit is an SEO tool that focuses primarily on in-depth analyses. It offers many capable tools, most of which are designed with SEO pros in mind. It’s nowhere near the most casual tool, so you might want to take advantage of the free training beforehand to see if it’s for you.
If you decide to go with SECockpit, you’ll get access to some high-end features like:
- Keyword market potential and niche analysis
- Lead magnet advice
- In-depth competitor analysis
After you go through the free training, you can choose among the three subscription plans. Billed annually, you’ll be paying the following:
- Personal – $25/month
- Pro – $42/month
- Agency – $75/month
Climb to the Top
As you can see, there’s a lot that a winning SEO strategy needs to cover. Now that you know which trends to follow in the year ahead, it’s time to get down to work and start to push your content up in the search results.
Luckily, you don’t have to do it on your own. Some tools can do most of the legwork, leaving you with SEO’s creative and exciting aspects. Do your part right, and your website will attract the attention it deserves.
So, what’s your approach to SEO? Have you tried any of the tools described above? If you have any questions or comments, go ahead and drop them down below.