Keyword Searches, and How to Make Sense of Them



You know the feeling. You’ve done your keyword research and in front of you is a long list of words you think might work for your niche. Among them are some shining gold nuggets, but the way the phrases are written just doesn’t sound right.

Now what? Leave a perfectly good keyword with monetization potential behind because it sounds a little strange?


What to do, then? The answer lies in recognizing the difference between a search query and a potential topic.

Looking beyond the keyword.

For a moment, let’s forget that what you’re seeing is called a keyword, or keyword phrase. Forget too (for a moment) about the numbers.

Editor’s Note: When we talk about numbers in this context, we are referring to the fact that most keyword research tools include numbers in their results. Those can be indicators for a keyword’s popularity, competition or worth (e.g. what an advertiser is willing to pay for that keyword). You’ll find a list of the best keyword research tools, including SiteSell’s own Brainstorm It! tool, here.

Instead, consider this: is this subject something about which you could write a high quality content page? Can you help your audience with whatever their issue is when they type those words into a search engine?

In other words, can you look behind the keyword, into the minds of your audience?

Let’s consider an example.

Your passion and chosen niche is ‘Your Dream Home’ – an interior design site. One of your ‘golden nuggets’ is ‘small bathroom design remodeling renovation’.  It’s not a phrase you’d ever use in normal conversation – written or spoken. So how to use it in an article?

The important point is that users looking for information often type in strange combinations of words, or miss out non-essential words – or both. It doesn’t mean they want to see those exact words, in that exact combination, on your website. It means they’re typing words which come into their mind as they try to find an answer to a problem, or strive to fulfill a dream.

This peculiarity is set to become less common in the future, as digital assistants like Siri and Cortana enable searches more reflective of common speech. But for now, the majority of users are still searching by typing words into a search box.

Whichever is used, what searchers are looking for is simple: information about the topic.

Ah – there’s that word again. Topic.

Keyword vs Topic

The critical point here is understanding the difference between a ‘keyword’ (or keyword phrase) and a ‘topic’.

The keyword is what the user types into the search engine. The topic is the information  they’re looking for – the plain English version.

The keyword is what the user types into the search engine.Click To Tweet

It may seem a minor difference, but it’s one which can help make sense of your keyword list and, importantly, guide you to write pages your audience actively wants to see.

There was a time when even awkward keyword phrases needed to be kept together so that search engines could understand what the page content was about. Not any more. Search engines are sophisticated now, and look at the page as a whole.

As long as the words appear on the page, the order in which they appear really doesn’t matter. The important point is that you look behind the keyword to the purpose of the search.  The best way to optimize a page for keywords is, actually, to write an article which not only answers the question, but reads and sounds right to your human visitors.

What our interior design audience is looking for when they search for ‘small bathroom design remodeling renovation’ is simple: ideas for remodeling a small bathroom.

Does One Topic = One Keyword?

No. The same topic can be represented by many keywords. Let’s go back to our dream home niche for an example. Here are some keywords:

  • Bathroom design
  • Bathroom design ideas
  • Bathroom interior designs
  • Bathrooms designs ideas
  • Bathroom designing

… which all essentially have the same search purpose. Different people looking for the same information have used slightly altered combinations of words to find it. What they’re looking for is straightforward: good quality information about how to transform a bathroom into the room of their dreams.

The numbers may be slightly different: ‘bathroom design’ has a larger number of searches than ‘bathroom design ideas’, for example. But the difference here isn’t relevant to the content you’ll be writing. It’s probably just to do with efficiency of search – more people search with fewer words.

Taken as a whole, though, it’s clear that ‘bathroom design’ is a popular topic – and, as an added bonus, one which can be well monetized.

Grouping your keywords into categories in this way has three advantages: it simplifies your keyword list; makes sure you write only one page covering one intent; and, by taking the overall number of searches, you have a good indicator of how popular the subject matter will be.

Which keywords would not be the same topic as ‘bathroom design’?

  • ‘Bathroom services’: A broader category, which may include the wish to remodel but equally be someone searching for a good plumber.
  • ‘Small bathroom design’: This search is more explicit. It’s asking for information in one particular aspect of remodeling: designing for a small space.

These topics, though, all have the same search purpose:

  • Small bathroom designs
  • Small bathroom ideas
  • Small bathroom makeovers
  • Small bathroom design ideas
  • Remodel a small bathroom

… and can be covered in a single article. Equally, these are one theme:

  • Luxury bathroom designs
  • Create luxury bathroom
  • Luxury marble bathroom
  • High end bathroom design
  • Opulent bathrooms.

The words ‘luxury’, ‘high end’ and ‘opulent’ all mean the same, and ‘marble’ is a word suggestive of luxury. Which one to use for the article?

The numbers of searches for ‘luxury’ are higher, and the number of websites offering information about luxury bathrooms is lower than the other keywords. Your page will therefore have ‘luxury bathroom designs’ as its title, with ‘high end’, ‘opulent’ and ‘marble’  scattered around the content.

In that way, your article will be found by people searching for any combination of those words. None will go to waste.

Fifteen keywords, four topics.

Using just these example keywords, here’s how the bathroom section of our interior design site could begin to take shape:

T2 (hub page) topic: Bathroom design

T3 (subcategory) topic: Small bathroom design

T3 (subcategory) topic: Luxury bathroom designs

T3 (subcategory) topic: Luxury small bathroom design.

In Summary …

In the end it comes down to this: keywords are a way into your audience’s mind. Looking beyond the words to the purpose of the person’s search can expose the problems, needs, desires, and potential solutions your customers are looking for.

They’re a way of analyzing not only what content is most needed but, importantly, they’re an indicator of potential monetization opportunities.

For if your customers are searching for the answer to a problem – how to remodel a small bathroom, for example – they’re also keen to find a solution. And that solution could be the start of your monetization stream.

So, use your keyword list wisely. Consider it the key to your customer’s mind and heart. Remember to bear these three considerations in mind when you review it:

  • What was the customer’s purpose (aka her search intent) when she used that particular keyword to search?
  • What is the problem she’s trying to find a solution to, or the desire she wants to satisfy?
  • And most importantly, consider the article you’re about to write. How can you meet that need, or satisfy that desire, in a way which makes you stand out from your competitors? What content can you write which speaks in your authentic voice of passion and experience? What products can you sell or, better yet, design yourself which will enable you to create a monetization stream?

The term ‘keyword’ is just that: a word, or series of words, which is a key to your audience’s fears, problems, needs and desires. When you use those words to write high quality content pages, you are the key to providing the solution, and your product – whether it’s your own or the ideal affiliate product – is that solution.

Never rush a review of your keyword list. Give it attention, use it wisely, and it will repay you well.

Are you eager to get started with your own keyword research? SBI! for WP comes with a 30 day free trial and full access to Brainstorm It!, our advanced keyword and niche research tool.

Keyword Searches, and How to Make Sense of Them
SiteSell Content Team

SiteSell Content Team

The SiteSell Content Team is responsible for creating the premium “distraction-free” content for our customers, including the Action Guide, the Video Action Guide, online Help, Tips and Techniques articles, Monetization articles, and much more. The team also supports our customers in the Community forums.