How to Improve Your Rankings with Semantic Keyword Research

Posted by neilpatel

From Google’s Panda, Search Plus Your World and Venice updates, in the last year alone the SEO landscape has changed. And while that means your SEO strategy will change, too, there is one thing that remains the same…keywords.

Keywords remain important to your content and link strategies. 

But there is one change coming down the Google pipeline that will change keywords…semantic search technology and the human element.

What is semantic search?

Basically, semantic search is technology that tries to determine what users mean when they type in a certain keyword.

They explore the semantics of those words…or the meaning behind them.

For example, if someone typed in “laptop” do they mean:

  • That they want to buy a laptop?
  • Have one repaired?
  • Upgraded?
  • Are they even talking about a computer, but something entirely different?

In the real world most people don’t search with one keyword…additional keywords give additional clues.

Even then search engines aren’t always right. Google guesses because all it has to go on are the keywords you enter into their engine.

Semantic search will look at how those words relate to each other and look for clues on how you entered them…location being crucial.

Say you used Google search on your smart phone to find “laptop repair.” Semantic search will recognize your location via your GPS on your phone and deliver you “laptop repair” results based on location.

In other words, results related to “laptop repair + [your city].”

How does this impact SEO?

In your SEO campaigns semantic search means you will have to identify the right keywords based upon user intent in the real world…and then create content around those terms.

This is where the semantic keyword research comes in.

In the world of keyword research you simply sought out the keywords with the highest search volume. The meaning between your list of keywords and the content you created was equal. There was a one to one relationship.

“SEO strategy tools” meant “SEO strategy tools.”

In the semantic keyword world, you build a database of keywords that are full of meaning…”SEO strategy tools” could be used in four different contexts.

Your job is to figure out how.                                                   

What are the advantages of semantic keyword research?

Having a database of semantic keywords to create high-converting blog posts is one advantage…but there are other benefits, like improved CTR and PPC optimization as Wordstream explained

  • Higher click-through rate – Whether it’s in your emails, landing pages, text ads or blog posts, highly-targeted semantic keywords will improve your CTR. When all these elements of the conversion funnel are aligned semantically…your results will go through the roof.
  • Lower minimum bids – Higher relevance and targeted action with your content due to semantic keyword enhancements will lead to lower minimum bids on your PPC campaigns.
  • Higher quality score – When you achieve high relevance around your semantic keywords…the search engines will reward your content with a high quality score that leads to better rankings.

Tools you can use to find semantic keywords

Employing a semantic keyword plan is crucial. But how do you come up with those keywords? Here are five approaches to use…including recommended tools.

Using Google advanced search

Google’s advanced search results provide a quick way to generate some semantic keywords. Just type in a query like “laptop discount codes” and click “Show search tools”:

Then click “related searches”…

…and then you’ll see all of the semantic terms for “laptop discount codes”:

As you can see from the results above, when searchers think of “laptop discount codes” they are thinking in specific terms of a brand for the most part.

In other words, the term “laptop” was changed into a brand…giving you semantic options.

And don’t forget to use Google Instant for further ideas on keywords:

By the way, all those keywords are completely different than what you got in the “related search.”

Now let’s look at a reverse case of semantic keyword use. In this case we’ll look up the term “laptop repair”:

“Laptop repair” is synonymous to screen repair, brand laptop repair and even different ways of looking at repair like “troubleshooting.”

And this is where it gets interesting. Look at the Google Instant version of “laptop repair” and you see this:

You get all the options related to location.

Keep in mind that your job isn’t simply to scoop up all of these up. You have to decide what people are thinking when they search with these terms. In some cases it will be obvious…in others it won’t be so obvious.

That’s what semantic keyword research is all about.

You can refine your results with Google Insights for Search where you can narrow keywords down via categories, for instance.

Semantic keyword research with bookmarking tags

If you want to find out how some searchers think about keywords, examine how tags are used at social bookmarking sites like Delicious.

Here’s a search on their database for my blog QuickSprout:

As you can see, there are a total of 578 posts that have been bookmarked in Delicious.

To examine the tags that people use to bookmark that content…in a sense, seeing how people are viewing the content and giving you an inside track to their mind…look at how people created “Stacks,” “Links” and “Related Tags.”

You can perform the same process on new social bookmarking sites like Diigo, Pinterest and Licorize.

Again, it’s important to think through how to use these keywords and not just scoop them up.

Building a semantic keyword cloud through social monitoring tools

Using social media monitoring tools to track the mentions of your brand is pretty common and an effective way to stay on top of the competition and conversation.

Using these same tools for semantic keyword research is just as effective to build a cloud of keywords around a particular sentiment.

For example, in Social Mention search a keyword you type in. Here I used “Virgin Atlantic.”

Then you can get a quick look at the top keywords being used around the brand.

Other social mention tools you can use to help you build a cloud of semantic keywords are TweetDeck, Raven Tool’s Social Monitor and Technorati.

Optimizing semantic keywords around trends

A great strategy to keep in front of the public and at the top of search engines is to optimize your semantic keywords around a trending topic.

This means you have to keep your eyes on high-volume topics. Here are the tools to do that:

  • Google Trends – This is the obvious place you should check first.
  • Ice Rocket – Search the latest buzz on blogs through this search engine dedicated to blogs. While you will see what’s hot on the blogosphere…one thing you won’t see is any older posts.
  • Trendrr TV – And if you want to keep on top of what’s hot on TV, then Trendrr is the place you need to look.
  • TweetVolume – While it’s offline for the moment, sign up to be the first to use this powerful tool to see popular keywords and trends on Twitter.

Gathering semantic keywords through social search

When it comes to researching on the social web, the first place I always look for keyword ideas is TwitterSearch.

The way to use it is to look up a keyword like “SEO strategies.” Then look at what people are tweeting about that keyword phrase:

What you want to find is how people are using that term. So look at the words surrounding the keyword…and then decide how to use it to build your own semantic keywords.

OpenBook – This site will let you see what people are sharing on Facebook. And just like Twitter Search, look at the context on how the keyword is used to determine query intent:

Conclusion

There are dozens of tools out there you can use to build a semantic keyword cloud. Hopefully you understand the approach that I’m recommending so that you can then apply these principles to other tools.

Keep in mind that as much as semantic keyword research is about finding actual keywords you can use in your SEO campaigns…it’s just as much about building a complete profile of your target customer. And the better you can understand your target customer the better your campaign results will be!

What other tools do you use to create semantic keyword groups? 

About the author: Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions.

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9 Tangible Linkable Asset Ideas and How to Build Links to Them

Posted by kaiserthesage

When I started to work as an SEO for an Australian-based SEO agency in early 2010, I never knew anything about the work (optimizing websites and building links to them) and definitely unsure of most of the things that I have worked on during that time.

All I did was to follow all the instructions given to me, build links in volume and research/learn all the basics of SEO from scratch. I got the hang of it after a couple of months, and I thought that I was doing great. Then I got fired.

I guess it was a tragic story, but not quite true, since I was immediately hired by Affilorama and Traffic Travis right after getting ditched by my former employer. Fortunately, this led me to getting acquainted with the works of Ross Hudgens, Garret French and Wil Reynolds in mid-2010 – the people in this industry who have really influenced my thinking on SEO, particularly in scaling almost all encompassed processes and methodologies when optimizing a website, which certainly include building and promoting “linkable assets”.

So let’s head over to the main topic of this post (sorry for the long introduction), and start defining what a linkable asset is. Basically, a linkable asset is any part of a website or organization that its target audience will genuinely perceive as worth citing/referencing to. It could be people, content, events or anything that can be really interesting to a specifically targeted market.

This aspect of a website is so important to any form of online marketing campaign, especially these days, seeing as these materials are able to benefit a site/brand in so many ways, such as:

  • Ability to continuously attract links to the domain
  • Strengthen a site’s online brand presence (substantiates the brand’s authoritativeness)
  • Generate more interested/fascinated brand followers and leads to the business
  • Becoming more visible through search and social channels (and yield more traffic to the site)

To give you a clearer picture of how linkable assets work, I’ll give several samples below as well as the link building methods that you can implement to promote each type of content.

Awards

Awards

Samples:

How to build links to online Award-giving Bodies:

  • Provide embeddable widgets – Offer widgets that the award’s nominees, finalists and winners can use and embed to their sites/blogs, which will link back to your site.
  • Get press mentions – find columnists and authority bloggers who will most likely be interested to cover your online event (particularly those who write about your business’ industry). Engage and pitch a newsworthy angle about your upcoming event. For a more in-depth guide on pitching news to authority news sites, you can check out Chris Winfield’s recent post on getting press coverage.
  • Reach out to content curators – identify the top curators in your industry, probably bloggers who have published lists of top blogs and resources in your field. Contact these people and ask if they’ll be interested to make a write up about your event, or offer to do a guest post for them.
  • Leverage social sharing to nominees, members and/or winners – encourage participants to share their entry, as the more your content gets across their network and audience, the greater chances of getting second wave coverage/links from small and medium-sized blogs.

News Voting Feature

News Voting

Samples:

A news voting feature is best built to already existing communities that have a strong following base, like industry-specific forums and blogs, since they already have users who can regularly submit articles and contribute to discussions. It’s also a great way to engage an already existing community, seeing that you can incentivize the approach by allowing your community to promote their own content within the site.

How to build links to a news voting section of a site:

  • Get press coverage – as always, getting links from news sites that have strong readership can help drive massive traffic to your site, especially in its launching stage, and can eventually bring more natural link acquisition opportunities from bloggers in your industry who might write about your site’s news voting section. Track and make a list of the people who’ll share the news articles about your launch, and segment those who have blogs, as you can also reach out to these people and ask if they’ll be interested to link to your news voting page.
  • Embeddable widgets for top members – you can also choose to offer widgets to your active members to generate more links to your site.
  • Acquire links from industry resources pages – Find resources pages in your industry and offer your news voting section to be included on their list of resources (you can start with queries like “keyword news” + inurl:resources). Given that this area of the site will be mostly user-generated, your link requests will have higher chances of getting approved.
  • Get blogroll links – start with blogs that have already linked to your site in the past and with individuals that you have already connected with, and pitch the idea of including your news voting site to their blogroll links. Psychologically, the request will have more impact, since the page will surely be offering fresh pages/articles about your industry around the web (which means the page is able to offer real value to possible click-through visitors).

Free Learning Tools and Extensive Lessons

Codeacademy

Samples:

How to build links to free lessons:

  • Contextual links from externally distributed content – cite your extensive free lessons whenever you contribute to other blogs through guest blogging. Place the links within your guest posts’ content and always vary your links’ anchor texts. You can also link to them through the other formats of you content you distribute, such as free whitepapers, slide presentations and newsletters.
  • Push content via social media – increase awareness by launching a social media campaign for your free lessons. With more people discovering the content, the more it can translate to possible editorial link opportunities and acquisitions. You can start with a Stumbleupon marketing campaign through paid discovery or by just promoting the shared links through su.pr to increase unique pageviews to your free lessons.
  • Linker Outreach – make a list of known linkers and social sharers in your industry and let them know about your free course. You can easily identify these people by tracking your competitors’ social and link data, particularly from your competitors’ strong content. To learn more about this method, you can check out this guide on linker outreach that I wrote several months ago.
  • Request links from .edu sites – this type of material will almost always have higher response rates when pitched to .edu sites, knowing that the offered content is providing high-value information. Search for .edu sites (ex: “keyword resources” site:.edu) who might be interested to add your lessons on their resources pages.
  • Build links through community discussions – search for questions that relates to the information supplied by your lessons on related forums and Q&A sites. Link to your free lessons’ page when contributing to these highly-relevant discussions and make the link serve as a reference.
  • Get featured on other bloggers' newsletters – if you’ve done your homework and have managed to build relationships/connections with bloggers in your field that have a substantial amount of email subscribers, then pitching to have your lessons featured on their newsletters is a very feasible idea. Absorb their audience to take a look of your site and try to contain them once they land on your free lessons page.

Video Series

Samples:

How to build links to a page with series of videos:

  • Embed and incorporate videos when submitting guest blogs – this will make your guest posts look more comprehensive and it also gives you the right to link back to the category or main page of where you host your videos.
  • Promote via Stumbleupon – this social platform is a home to millions of cerebral and social media-savvy users, they basically know how social media works, so you’ll definitely want to have your page filled with high-quality videos in front of their users. You can invest $20 – $100 on paid discovery just to get a jumpstart with your social media campaign and probably expect to have your pageviews multiplied if you’ve positioned your social buttons well to act as obvious CTAs. The more the content gets exposure from these types of viewers, the more opportunities your page get for link acquisition.
  • Track the links and social shares from your competitors’ videos – you can use tools like Topsy and Ahrefs to identify the sites and Twitter profiles who have shared their content. List these people/blogs and try to be in touch with them, and then ask if they’ll be interested to see your videos and perhaps share and/or link to it as well.

Job Boards

Job Boards

Samples:

How to build links to Job Boards:

  • Blogroll links – most independent blogs are publishing tutorials to help their readers learn, earn and probably get a job, and with that being said, requesting for them to link to your site’s job board makes it absolutely reasonable and relevant. Start with blogs who have already linked to your site in the past, as these blogs are already aware of your brand and somehow trusts you as a resource in your field of expertise. You can eventually expand to your other link/blog prospects along the process of building relationships with them.
  • Acquire links from those who are posting job offers in your site – some of these businesses could be a good link/content partner for your site, so it’s best to build relationships with them as well.
  • Encourage visitors to socially share their entry or the job board page – building social signals is quite important these days, as it will not just help in making the page more visible through search and social, but it also denotes high-activity and usage of the page.
  • Request links from .edu sites – there are tons of .edu sites that list job vacancies/openings from different companies, primarily to make it easier for their students to find jobs right after they graduate. Use Google Search to find job resources pages from .edu sites and make contact to ask if it’s possible for your site’s job board to be included on their resources page. Specificity is the key to get high approval rates from your link requests. Ensure that the jobs being offered in your page will bring value to the page you’re trying to get a link from.

Graphic design jobs

Bonus tip: You can use this scraping method and CitationLabs’ contact finder to easily extract each of your target .edu site’s contact details, because they really do reward links to job listings.

Data Visualization

Samples:

How to build links to these types of rich-media content:

  • Create news through your data and pitch the story to news sites and authority blogs – journalists and top/pro bloggers love data and numbers, so if you can do an extensive research about your industry, which can provide stats that could be helpful to build a newsworthy story, then you can improve your chances of getting solid links from authority domains just by presenting your data to columnists/bloggers who specifically write about your industry.
  • Offer embed codes – make it easier for others to copy and embed your rich-media content to their own blogs (that links back to the original source of the content – your site).
  • Feature it on your guest blogs to increase approval rate – you can also build more content that supports the data/information provided by your infographic/video and submit those as guest blogs, along with your infographic/video embedded within your guest entry. This will then amplify the reach of your data, as more brand signals will be sent out to people (your blog prospects’ audiences) who will be able to see your contributed content.
  • Promote heavily through social media – reach out to known influencers in your industry and ask for feedback or if they can share your content on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc…). It's important to evaluate your content, if it's really compelling and share-worthy, before sending your pitch.

Coin a term

Inbound Marketing

Samples:

Creating your own brand’s industry term or technical terminology is a form of thought-leadership, and it’s definitely a linkable asset, wherein people will give credit to your brand whenever they use the term you have created. That’s why it’s imperative to build a definition page for the term(s) that you’re planning to invent, which should clearly define the meaning, usage as well as the history of the word, to own it in the SERPs.

How to build links to your technical terminology’s definition page:

  • Use it frequently when distributing content externally – use the term and make it link back to your term’s definition page (hosted within your domain) when you’re submitting guest posts to other blogs, participating on community discussions and distributing free downloadable ebooks or slide presentations.
  • Create a Wikipedia page for your industry term – use your definition page as well as other high-authority pages/articles that have used the term as references.
  • Set up Google Alerts for your term – track blogs/sites that might use your term through Google Alerts, and try to ask for link attribution whenever you see it getting mentioned by other sites (if it’s not linking back to your definition page).

Extremely Useful Apps and Browser-based Tools

Open Site Explorer

Samples:

How to build links to Web-based tools:

  • Every major tool version update is newsworthy – if your site is offering free web-based tools, you should take advantage of its major updates, as you can publicize it through content distribution (press release and blog posts). Google is doing it, why shouldn’t you?
  • Get links from bloggers (experiential reviews) – reach out to highly relevant blogs, and see if they’ll be interested to try out your tools. Provide them with all the resources that they might need to help them understand how your tool works, as this can somehow make them more interested to write about your tool. You can also check this list of alternative blogger outreach techniques to improve the chances of acquiring links from them.
  • Obtain links from list pages (top and best resources/tools in your niche) – find pages that list the best tools and resources in your field. Engage the publisher of the content and invite them to try out your tool. Send a link request if they’re satisfied. You can also use the broken link building method to speed up the process of acquiring links from these list/resources pages.
  • Guest blogging – write advanced tutorials on using your tool and/or on how it can improve its target users’ productivity, and then submit it to high-traffic and highly relevant blogs. Use strong calls-to-action on these guest entries, to have better chances of absorbing and converting their readers.

Custom Categories

Eric Ward's Best Practices

Samples:

Custom categories or high-quality resources pages can easily attract links, seeing that it contains links to highly resourceful pages, in which the traffic it’s able to acquire will more often than not save/share/bookmark the page, particularly if they have found the links that the page host very useful.

This type of page also has greater chances of achieving higher search rankings for industry head terms, since the absolute relevance of the content (based from both internal and external links it hosts as well as the anchor texts used pertain to thematically related subtopics).

How to build links to custom categories:

  • Guest blogs – build contextual links to your custom categories through your guest blogging campaign.
  • Interviews – link to it whenever you get a chance to be interviewed by other bloggers, given that it’s a good page to refer their readers to, wherein they can see almost all of your published works in one place.
  • Author, Social and Forum Profiles – building links through your external profile pages (from other web communities) is also a great way to make this page more visible to your target audience. This will also allow search engines to regularly crawl the links in your custom category/resources page (as well as the new links that will be continuously added to the page).
  • Constantly drive new traffic to gain more natural links – based on my experience, once the page is constantly generating new visitors (when it’s ranking highly for its targeted head terms), the more it can naturally attract and acquire links.

Finding possible linkable assets

There are also other types of web content that could possibly fit as a linkable asset that you can work on for your link development campaign. It could be a well-researched blog post, crowdsourced content, a forum thread, or even sales/product pages.

You can simply find and identify these strong pages resting within your site through assessing and sorting your site’s pages by:

  • Most linked pages or pages that are naturally attracting links (via Google Webmaster Tools)

Google Webmaster Tools

  • Most visited pages with high user-activity, particularly from search engines (via Google Analytics)

Google Analytics

Once you have distinguished pages that can possibly help you build more links with minimal effort (by just constantly bringing targeted traffic to the page that have high probability of sharing or linking to it), start enhancing these pages to strengthen its ability to automate a fraction of your link building process. Enhancements could be on areas/elements of the page such as:

  • Design
  • Usability
  • Length Content
  • Call to action
  • Sociability
  • Internal links to the site’s other important pages
  • More inbound links to the page

It’s also best to understand the linking behavior from your newly discovered assets (or even the linkable assets of your competitors). Know why people are naturally linking to it, so you can have more ideas of how you can replicate the approach for your content as well as to your site’s other possible linkable assets.

Discerning the natural linking activities to your pages will also enable you to create powerful outreach templates that you can use to build more solid links to these pages, as you’ll be able to weigh the value that resonated to your previous linkers, and could then be elaborated as the value proposition of your outreach copy.

Prolong the purpose of the content

Optimize for search

Optimize the page to target industry-specific keywords as it will have better chances of competing for tough keywords, given that you’ll be working on to drive powerful links to the page, as well as with the page having the capability to attract links (where natural linkers will mostly use the content’s title as anchor text when linking to it).

Always Test and Update calls-to-action

This is vital, especially if your site’s strong and link-worthy pages are constantly driving new traffic to the site, as you can always change its call to action whenever you have new offers and/or products, which will allow you to effectively convert new visitors.

Brand strengthening

Let the continuously driven traffic to the page know who created the content. Highlight brand and trust signals on some parts of the content to improve brand retention.

Social CTA to force multiply social sharing

Make the content’s social buttons very visible, to continuously gain social shares, along the process of getting new visitors to the content (probably from search engines and other referring sources).

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