While there’s been a lot of talk about content, mobile-friendly websites and building strong relationships with audiences, we haven’t touched on a subject that is still very important for SEO – I’m talking about keyword research. Website owners still need to find the right words and phrases that can attract more users and potential customers to their sites.

How has keyword research changed? What should website owners and SEOs do to benefit from keywords in 2016? To find out, in our latest SEMrush Chat, we discussed keyword research and its trends in 2016 with Per Pettersson, digital strategist, search marketing and analytics expert and consultant.


Everything evolves, including search engine optimization. This means that not all techniques and tactics that were helpful in the 2000s can be successfully applied today. At the very beginning of our chat, we asked our guests about obsolete tactics you shouldn’t waste your time on. And here’s what we found out!


Make sure that your SEO strategy correlates with modern trends and changes that are happening in the industry.


User intent is one of the most important factors in modern keyword research. First of all, when planning your keyword strategy, you should always ask yourself the following question: 'What content will my users find the most interesting, useful, and shareable?' 

Our chat participants shared their tips on how to define the modern user’s intent today.

You can start by defining popular and low-competition keywords with the help of powerful tools. We were happy to know that Per Pettersson recommends using SEMrush Keyword Analytics to look at CPC for keywords.

Dawn Anderson ‏ @dawnieando recommends adding Google Search Console to your toolkit: “Have a good look in the Google Search Console tool at some of the queries that are emerging. Many opportunities are missed there.”

The key to defining your user’s intent is knowing your audience. Make sure you understand the users that you’re targeting. By “understand” I mean that you must know what they really need and what they’re searching for.

Thorough and careful user research will help you understand users’ behavior and motivations. ”Do your research! It's important to get to know your audience, which keywords they're searching, and how they search,” according to Express Writers ‏‏‏ @ExpWriters.

Some of our guest experts recommend understanding the user’s journey, because this will help you optimize the path your future customers will take.

You can try to find related searches, as Jonathan Nuñez ‏ @JohnNunez2905 advises: “Related searches are a great way to find out what people want to know or Quora.” When using Google Trends, you can search for a term and see searches that are related to that term.

Using categories will also help you understand the intent of the search. When you make a list of keywords, you can end up with around 500 -1,000 audience keywords. But the thing is that a large part of those keywords might be less interesting for your target audience. That’s why you should refine your list and focus on the categories that are closest to your target.

Bill Slawski describes each of these categories: webpages with informational keywords must contain a good CTA and pages with transactional keywords should be set up for conversions, while pages with navigational keywords must be a final destination for that query term. Some experts also added one more search intent category – commercial investigation. Generally, this kind of search takes place earlier than a transactional query – the user has the intent to buy, but instead continues researching, probably looking for product reviews and comparisons.


Got any other tips and tricks for defining modern user’s intent? Let us know in the comments!


Search engines never stop improving their algorithms and making changes to their search result pages, because they strives to provide quality and relevant results to their users. So how have Google SERP changes influenced your keyword strategy? We received plenty of answers that contained “Answer Box.”

Search engines aim to provide the answer to any question that a user may ask. One of the modifications that we’ve seen in recent years is the expansion of the Knowledge Graph into Quick Answer Boxes. You should keep this change in mind when developing your keyword strategy, as Pablo López ‏ @popiplo suggests: “Getting into the Google Answer Box in SERPs could be a great push for your visits for some keywords.” 

Another big change that was made in 2015: the local pack now shows three results instead of seven.

Google is exploring new ways to offer its users a better search experience. Now, the local pack shows fewer business listings, which should provide people with more relevant information. As Ryan Johnson ‏@rsj8000 noticed, the space on Google’s first page has diminished: ”[Because of the diminishing space on page one], the top 10 may not be good enough – the local pack is more important than ever.”

Our chat participants also mentioned Google’s Featured Snippet box, which is usually shown in SEPRs when a question-based query is searched for.

With this update, a user doesn’t have to visit an actual website, because the snippet chooses content within one of the pages that appear at the top of SERPs and displays it.

Also, Google SERPs have a new look now that the search engine has removed its right-hand-side ads.

Check out Jesse Teske’s thorough research in his article “ Are Organic Search Results Still Above the Fold?

David Kutcher pointed out the importance of search intent optimization. As we said earlier, you can divide your keywords into categories according to search intent.

Google is not the only thing that transforms. The way people search for things online also changes. Today, they use digital systems and make voice-based queries, which tend to be longer phrases and complete questions. You should pay attention to how users are searching when optimizing your content for SEO. “With the new changes, now we need to think in conversational terms and understand the psyche of the user,” as Obed M. ‏ @MrClics assumes.


Google is constantly exploring new ways to provide its users with better and more relevant search results. People should also adjust their keyword strategies according to Google’s updates.


Say you’ve done your research, gathered data and now you have a long list of keywords. How do you choose the right ones for a certain page?

Our special guest suggested a quite simple and very effective way that will help you get started.

After you’ve checked your keyword in SERPs, ask your client what their target audience might be seeing in this keyword, as Dagmar Gatell ‏ @DagmarGatell recommends: “I check what search engines "think" in SERPs. Then I ask the client what their target market "sees" in the keyword.”

Also, your keyword should match your brand and your business, as Express Writers ‏ @ExpWriters pointed out: “Is the keyword relevant to your business and your content? If not, it isn't the right keyword.”

Even if you think that you’ve picked the right keyword, it’s possible you haven’t. The wrong keyword can attract people that are not your target audience and are therefore not interested in what you offer.

The reason of bounce rate is not necessarily a wrong keyword. Anyway, you can check try another term and see how it works.

It may seem like an obvious statement, but sometimes people forget that a keyword must describe the page on which it is placed. “Does the keyword describe what the page is about? If it does, it's good. If it doesn't, it's bad,” propecta ‏ @propecta explains.

You should always make sure that your keyword leads people to a webpage that provides a good user experience, as some of our chat participants suggested. Otherwise, visitors will leave the page as soon as possible.

It’s interesting that our guests have such diverse opinions on the subject of specific terms. Some experts recommend avoiding them.

And the others recommend using specific long tail keywords.

So what do you think about these keywords? Do they have potential?


Check whether or not your keyword strategy is in line with the criteria that our chat participants provided. And make sure that you’re not shooting the best shoot at the wrong target.


Many people consider the Quick Answer Box to be one of Google’s most significant updates. What’s more, getting your content placed in these boxes seems to have become increasingly important.

One of the most common tricks for optimizing your content for Google’s Answer Box is creating content in response to a specific query, providing a solid “how-to” list that clearly presents an answer. However, we asked our guests what keywords can get your content featured in the Quick Answer box.

Many experts agree on the formula of the six Ws. Answering “what, where, who, when, why and how” questions significantly increases your chances of success. Per Pettersson also recommends using conversational phrases and including a FAQ section: “Use conversational phrases and make some sweet love to your FAQ sections! It’s perfect for the Quick Answer Box.”

Jacques Bouchard ‏@jacquesbouchard suggested searching for unanswered questions that have similar ones with answers: “Really, anything that can be answered in 180 - 330 characters. Find unanswered questions where similar ones have answers.”

KoMarketing @KoMarketing advises using the free tool AnswerThePublic, which helps users find out what questions people are asking Google.

Nevertheless, you must assure Google that your content really deserves to be in the Quick Answer Box.

As some of our chat participants pointed out, schema markup is also important, because it allows search engines to identify the semantic entities of your source code. In other words, Google uses schema markup to gather context about your website content. It doesn’t guarantee a place in the Answer Box, but websites with a clear semantic markup are more likely to be looked at by Google.

And here’s a visual answer to our question from Kevin Mullett:

Also, create clear, solid and comprehensive explanations without using too many specific terms, as Dawn Anderson suggests: 

To find out more on the topic, you can check out a source that Rachel Howe @R8chel_Marie recommends – the guide to Google’s Rich Answers posted on Stone Temple.


We hope that these tactics will help you optimize your content for the Quick Answer Box. If you have more tips, don’t hesitate to share them in the comments!


We saved one of the most intriguing topics for last. Voice search is gaining more power today: as early 2014, 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults used voice search more than once a day. The more people use it, the more powerful voice search becomes because the technology is designed to determine the intent of a voice request based on the searcher’s query history.

We asked our chat participants to share their tips on how to capitalize on voice search.

Voice-based queries tend to be longer phrases, complete sentences and questions.

To make your content more natural and conversational, it’s worth using long tail keywords, as Netvantage Marketing suggests:

Today you should stop thinking only about keywords and start looking at queries more. It’s important to focus on your webpage and your topic.

When Google announced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), many experts wondered if this would somehow impact local search. The thing is that AMP content appears before a local search, so if you’re not publishing with AMP, you’re missing out on increased traffic and exposure.

Chris Desadoy also recommends personalizing your webpage in order to provide quick answers for certain queries: ‏“You have to personalize the page to answer the query immediately. Alter your content based on key phrases.”

Now, let’s summarize our answers!


We hope that the tips from this post will help you make your future keyword strategy excellent.

We would like to thank our special guest Per Pettersson and all our chat participants for sharing their expertise!

Author Photo
Elena TerentevaElena Terenteva, Product Marketing Manager at SEMrush. Elena has eight years public relations and journalism experience, working as a broadcasting journalist, PR/Content manager for IT and finance companies. Bookworm, poker player, good swimmer.
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