Qualitative Keyword Research

Keyword research can often be divided by quantitative and qualitative approaches. By quantitative approaches I mean all those that want to explore new opportunities via tools such as keyword planner, keyword.io, semrush, ahrefs. In other words, they use these tools to understand what people already searched for.

Qualitative approaches, however, want to do something extraordinary – they not only want to account for what people have searched for but claim to be prepared to anticipate major discussions in the field.

I sometimes am confused with the intentions of qualitative researches – and I also feel they are themselves confused about what their intentions are. Of course they depart from a broader assessment of the changes that are moving google towards a more ‘user-centred’ approach.

Rand Fishin’s Approach

One prominent exponent of this qualitative approach is none other than Moz.com. In a number of videos Rand Fishin claims to have found the formula that made Moz.com the project it is today. But I am sometimes confused as to what this formula really is.

It implies that we need to hear what people are asking and talking about in forums and then run a search on google keyword planner to see if this provides any real solid results. Qualitative researches, therefore, reverse the process. They start with the query and then run volume search.

In the end, what I feel, is that qualitative research is really useful for websites that are already fully implemented on the market and have a readership that allows for an assessment of what this audience wants.

In other words, there needs to be an interaction between the public asking the questions and the content production process. The higher the number of messages about a certain topic, the more likely it is for a landing page to be created around it.

Even though this may be an efficient strategy, its subjectivity is something I do not feel comfortable with. I therefore would rather focus on quantitative strategy and explore opportunities through the use of these methods.

Brian Dean’s Strategy

Brian Dean is a master in qualitative keyword research. He claims that he has a better understanding of keyword research and therefore provides a guideline to move beyond ‘google keyword planner’. Google keyword planner is ‘hiding information’, and ‘everybody is going to google to look for keywords and that’s why they are so competitive’.

What he suggests? To go to forums, blogs and other resources where a particular community is discussing the topic.

Let’s sum up his approach

Phase 1: Find topics of what your customer’s care about. Where do they hang out and find keywords they seem to like. If we look at the topics we can then create a list of much better developed keywords.

Find at least 5 topics and then drill down to find keywords.

Phase 2: Tactics to find keyword ideas/topics:

  • Google suggest
  • Quora.com
  • Reddit
  • Related searches
  • Wikipedia sections

Phase 3: Analyse keyword commercial intent to separate good from bad keywords.

  • Look at suggested bid in google keyword planner
  • Look at keyword search volume

Phase 4: look at google trends to separate between good and bad keywords when in doubt.

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It’s really hard for me to understand what the innovation is of all these people telling google keyword researchers to ‘move beyond google keyword planner’. In the end that’s pretty much what they are claiming. They all end up doing quantitative analysis of keywords.

The key to keyword research is to identify powerful secondary messages and from this research run quantitative keyword research. User’s intent discovery is therefore in this step of identifying powerful secondary messages.