The Evolution of Keyword Research: Navigating SEO Dynamics in 2024

Navigating SEO Dynamics in 2024

Navigating SEO Dynamics in 2024

Search engine optimization (SEO) in digital marketing is constantly changing. Because of changes in algorithms and updates that seem to happen weekly – if not daily – we often get questions on the role of SEO in modern digital marketing. For now, remember: throughout marketing and SEO evolution, keywords remain the guiding stars.

Generative Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and Google’s search engine updates are revolutionizing search optimization marketing. Can your search engine optimization strategy adapt to stay ahead of your competition?

You don’t have to do it alone. In this blog, we’ll examine the past to gain insight into the future. You’ll learn how SEO and keyword research can elevate you above your competition. Let’s delve into the best SEO practices for 2024. 

An Overview of the Last 30 Years

Experts have written entire books on the evolution of SEO, so this will be an overview. From a broad perspective, keywords lead users toward the right content and quality businesses. From the searcher’s perspective, we don’t use keywords— we just naturally search for things online. It’s the search engines that have to match your search terms to the right content. 

Search engines want to provide users with the best experience, so users find that search engine useful and keep using their site. Users want to find the right content with minimum time and effort. Keywords evolved as a way to connect the dots. 

Once people figured out that the right keywords could attract more visitors to their website, they exploited optimizing SEO. Pre-Google search engines worked by matching search terms to keywords. Some exploited these pre-Google search engines by stuffing as many keywords into their sites as possible. That made for unhelpful, clunky content.

Google rolled out in the late 90s and became dominant in the 2000s. Instead of keyword density, they prioritized relevance and authority. Relevance can refer to good, up-to-date sources, but Google is more interested in matching content to a searcher’s intentions. We’ll get to that in a minute. Google measures authority based on social signals and backlinks.

The 2010s saw a variety of innovations that essentially made people more comfortable using search engines. Smartphones made it easy to search websites while on the go. Voice assistants like Siri and Alexa turned search terms into conversational questions. People also wanted location-based results. 

Answers to a simple search for “pizza” became more complex: “authentic Italian pizzerias near me” vs. “how to make pizza dough from scratch.” These conversational and highly specific search terms are called long-tail keywords. They have a clearer intent than basic keywords.

Today, Google, search engines, and AI developers use NLP to better understand human semantics. Semantic refers to the meaning behind words, but search engines use it to understand synonyms and context. For example, sneakers, running shoes, athletic shoes, shoes for runners, tennis shoes, and gym shoes all refer to the same topic. Thanks to Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), search engines can better match keywords to their underlying topics. 

Google’s search engine and competitors will most likely continue innovating to get to the heart of our queries. Google is also currently experimenting with Generative AI (Search Generative Experience or SGE), but that’s a future article. 

What Are Keywords and Why Do We Do Keyword Research: Foundations of SEO Optimization

Keywords started as stepping stones for pre-Google search engines. They are words and phrases that connect searchers to the right content. Today, they are part of a larger, more nuanced search engine optimization strategy. Keyword research helps us understand searcher intent so we can genuinely address their needs, build trust, and create an engaging presence. 

There are four kinds of search intents. The keywords searchers use reveal their intentions and place in the buyer’s journey. Let’s look at wineries, specifically Harvest Haven winery as an example.

  1. Informational (I want to know): This begins the buyer’s journey, where they learn what’s out there. SEO content that targets these searchers focuses on raising awareness. If someone is visiting Northern Virginia, they might search for, “Tourist attractions,” “Fun things to do in Northern Virginia,” or “Agritourism places in Northern Virginia.” 
  2. Navigational (I want to go): These searchers want to get in touch or go to a location. These search terms often end with “near me.” They signal a progression in the buyer’s journey. Our example above might go from “Agritourism places in Northern Virginia” to “Harvest Haven Winery address” or “Harvest Haven Winery hours?” 
  3. Commercial Investigation (I want to do): These searchers might study ultimate guides, watch how-to videos, or customer reviews. They want a human perspective that will tell them what to expect or how to. The best way to catch these searches is by including soft influence and user-generated content in a marketing and SEO strategy. 
  4. Transactional (I want to buy): address this search intent with a user-friendly, easy-to-navigate sales page. For example, Harvest Haven would satisfy these searchers with a quick and intuitive booking page. 

How Do We Use Keywords In Marketing and SEO? 

If Harvest Haven Winery wants a content marketing and SEO strategy to support its future, it first has to step back. It needs to put itself in its clients’ shoes with buyer personas (there’s a reason we start with questions about audience). Then, it can develop seed keywords: generic, core words or phrases potential clients use to discover its offerings. 

Harvest Haven Winery finds eight seed keywords. They’ll serve as topic buckets to fill with relevant content. 

  1. Agritourism experiences
  2. Wine tasting
  3. Vineyard tour
  4. Local winery
  5. Winery events
  6. Wine and dine
  7. Vineyard stay
  8. Vineyard weddings

Next, Harvest Haven will have to use a keyword research tool to develop head terms. Head terms are shorter, generic keywords that have a high volume of monthly searches. These search terms reflect someone early in their buyer’s journey. Stick around, and we’ll share some recommendations on keyword research tools. Examples of head terms might be: 

  1. Wine Festival
  2. Winery dining
  3. Farm-to-table winery
  4. Winemaking classes
  5. Seasonal wine events
  6. Winery vacation
  7. Family-friendly winery
  8. Wine and food pairing
  9. Local winery
  10.  Wine Country
  11.  Wine tasting

These head terms might become core keywords for future blog posts or advertorials. However, Harvest Haven should also examine some long-tail keywords. These are longer, more specific keywords that reflect a closer point-of-purchase. They might be “family-friendly vineyard tours near me” or “local wine events coming in July.” 

Harvest Haven combines their seed keywords with head terms and long-tail keywords to develop a long list of potential keywords. SEO and keyword search tools share two key insights on keywords: volume and competition. Volume is how often the keyword is searched for. Competition is how often the keyword is used by various sites. Everyone wants keywords that are high in volume and low in competition, but search engine optimization in digital marketing is a balancing game. 

Again, this is an overview, there are entire college courses on search optimization marketing. This example search engine optimization strategy for Harvest Haven Winery would guide them in developing a plethora of content that satisfies search intentions. They could satisfy informational search with information on agritourism, why it’s important, and what they offer. They could catch navigational searches by collaborating with local publications and news outlines. They could answer commercial investigations by showcasing some offerings like their wine-making class or their wedding venue. They could invite influencers to tour to encourage user-generated content.

It’s important to note that a successful search engine optimization strategy takes time, sometimes years. You need to continuously publish content so Google learns you’re an authority on your seed keywords. It’ll take time, but if you earn audience trust and engagement by routinely publishing helpful content, you’ll get noticed. 

Current Trends and Best Practices in Keyword Research: Navigating the Digital Marketing Landscape

AI is on everyone’s minds, and every business is experimenting with it. However, search engine optimization in digital marketing has always been sensitive to innovation and industry trends. 

In 2023, the rise of generative AI made it easier than ever to create large amounts of content. Most businesses asking ChatGPT to write blogs had a rudimentary understanding of marketing and SEO. They flooded the web with poorly optimized content that had no strategy. That content did not rank partly because it read like a robot. 

The best practice for search engine optimization in digital marketing is seeing it as a long-term strategy. Remember the ultimate goal is to build trust, authority, and engagement by satisfying your target audience’s needs and questions. AI— like those embedded in the recommended tools below— can help with research. Yet, keyword research and those AIs tools are part of a holistic strategy. 

Small to mid-size businesses are often expected to do more with less. AI tools exacerbate this. It’s not realistic for employees to stay up to date with all marketing and SEO innovations. Google is changing and will always change. Instead of struggling to adapt to the constantly changing SEO landscape, you should partner with experts – experts who are surveying the horizon and adapting before your competitors even realize there’s a change. 

Ready to supercharge your SEO strategy and harness the power of keyword research for your business? Loud & Clear Marketing can help!

Recommended Tools and Platforms for Keyword Research in 2024: Enhancing Your SEO Strategy

  1. Ahrefs Keywords Explorer is a free SEO and keyword search tool. It allows you to research keywords and the search questions associated with them. Although it is a little basic on its own, Ahrefs Webmaster Tools can expand on backlinks and domain authority.
  2. SEMrush is a very comprehensive SEO tool. It can compare your SEO with your competitors, generate topic ideas, and enhance your writing with generative AI. While it can help at every stage of your search engine optimization strategy, its subscription tiers are expensive. 
  3. ChatGPT can certainly help with brainstorming and topic generation, but its content writing reads like a robot. ChatGPT-4 is more advanced and more reliable than its free counterpart but costs a monthly subscription. 
  4. Google Keyword Planner is great for generating keyword ideas; however, it is limited to that. 
  5. Ubersuggest can perform a reverse search on your site to see what it is already ranking for. That is certainly helpful for businesses who just started optimizing SEO. However, it limits you to three free searches a day. 
  6. Good old Google Search Engine. You could type a seed keyword or a head term in the search bar and let autofill reveal what else people are searching. For example, “wine making classes” autofills with “for beginners.” Now we know, searchers want an easy, beginner-friendly experience. 

Conclusion:

Search engine optimization in digital marketing has undergone significant transformations over the past three decades—and it’s only bound for more! From humble beginnings to sophisticated strategies, keyword research is the cornerstone of search optimization marketing. To stay ahead, you’ll need more than current trends, best practices, and recommended tools. You’ll need marketing experts to help you navigate the ever-changing digital marketing landscape.

Loud & Clear Marketing does not take a one-size-fits-all approach. Our team of digital marketing experts will work with you to develop a custom action plan around lead generation, SEO, content, digital advertising, and public relations to support you in reaching your revenue and brand awareness goals. Schedule a free consultation today and let’s discuss your company’s future!

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About Loudoun Clear Marketing

LCM was founded in Leesburg, Virginia, by Sharon L. Wright in 2012. Joined by Deb Haynes Swider in 2019, today Loud & Clear Marketing is a woman-owned, integrated marketing firm specializing in brand-led lead generation. From public relations to digital and social media marketing to web development our team of community builders help businesses and nonprofits grow, so our communities will prosper.  More about Loudoun Clear Marketing is at loudandclear.today.