By: Jaclyn Gannon

3 Quick and Easy Ways to Narrow Down Your Keyword Research

January 24, 2018 4 minutes

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Much has been written about how to find extensive amounts of high quality keywords for enriching one’s site ranking visibility. Many experts have found ways to generate and multiply keyword ideas through tools like Ahrefs, competitive analysis, Adwords Keyword Planner, Google Search Console’s ranking report, and even Google’s autocomplete suggestions. The keyword ideas and possibilities are endless.

Not sure where to start? Here are steps forAdvanced Keyword Research with a free template download here.

Finding keywords is easy – narrowing them down is hard. You know the feeling of having crashed your Google Sheets when trying to sort through hundreds and thousands of keywords? This step-by-step post focuses on a very specific part of the keyword research process that will help resolve  your Google Sheet issues and quickly cleaning up keywords that don’t belong. This post also targets what comes after keyword sorting, based on volume, difficulty and KOB score and before categorization.

This process is simple, but it’s easy to rush and overlook steps. This can leave you with a larger and less usable keyword list than you’d like to see on your final steps of a long keyword research process.

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Competitors

To clean your keyword list of irrelevant terms,  first scrub the list for competitors using a “Data” >> “Filter” >>”Text Contains” and then the competitor name.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 4.09.25 PM

That will only show you the rows that include your competitor’s name in the keyword. Highlight and delete all those rows. Don’t worry – this will only delete the rows included in the filtered view.

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 5.01.22 PM

This will quickly eliminate keywords that include your competitor’s name, which you don’t want to be ranking for. Do this with all of the competitors on your list until you’ve narrowed down all competitor’s branded terms.

Singular and Plural Keywords

Google wants to provide searchers with relevant content. So, it uses a complex algorithm to deliver the results it thinks you want. Understanding how Google chooses its results allows us to narrow down a keyword list.

Singular and plural terms are largely treated the same by Google. So if you rank for the singular term (i.e., tennis racket) you will also likely rank for the plural term (i.e.,tennis rackets). Check this against your volume metric and eliminate the one with the lowest volume. In the example below, our plural words have a higher search volume, so we’d eliminate the singular version of the keyword:

used tennis rackets for sale
used tennis racket for sale
for sale used tennis rackets
used tennis rackets sale
second hand tennis rackets sale
second hand tennis rackets for sale
second hand tennis racket for sale
secnd hand tennis rackets for sale
cheap tennis rackets for sale
cheap tennis racket for sale

Then we look for stop words like the, it, for, when, and, or, etc.; search engines have been largely programmed to ignore these keywords because they don’t affect the meaning of the search. For all search purposes these will return the same results with or without the stop words.

The exception to this rule occurs when a stop word is central to the meaning of the phrase. For example, searching Google for the Beatles’ hit “Let It Be”, which consists entirely of stop words, yields lots of relevant results.

We can assume that Google includes intent as a ranking factor for these results as well. So we should be operating the same way in trying to speak to a searcher’s intent and produce content that is written well. So when in doubt always go with the phrase that is easier to read.

Now we’ve bolded the keywords below that have a counterpart with a stop word. Their counterpart keyword is easier to read and uses better grammar.

used tennis rackets for sale
for sale used tennis rackets
used tennis rackets sale
second hand tennis rackets sale

second hand tennis rackets for sale
secnd hand tennis rackets for sale
cheap tennis rackets for sale

Misspellings, Improper English or Awkward

Next, we looks at those keywords that are spelled incorrectly or phrased awkwardly. The second term in this list is  similar to the first, but the first uses better grammar and reads better. Since SEO no longer appeals to bots, but to users instead, the fourth term in the list won’t even rank. Even if you see a high search volume and opportunity with a misspelled term, Google won’t rank it – so don’t try.

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 4.59.45 PM

used tennis rackets for sale
for sale used tennis rackets
second hand tennis rackets for sale
secnd hand tennis rackets for sale
cheap tennis rackets for sale

When doing keyword research, it’s important to remember these simple steps.

  1. Eliminate your competitor’s name from your keyword results.
  2. Check for singular and plural words. Use the one with more search volume.
  3. Finally, check for misspellings and bad grammar. Google knows how to filter out stop words, so don’t waste your time including them.

These simple steps are based on data and common sense. They can help you develop an understanding of how search engines rank and provide you with a keyword list you can really use.

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Written by Jaclyn Gannon on January 24, 2018

Jaclyn is an SMB Campaign Manager running campaigns ranging from reputation management to email marketing and everything in between. She's a Utah Jazz fan from San Diego who loves skiing, tennis, and Diet Dr. Pepper.

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