Effective keyword research begins with seed words. Each seed word can turn up dozens of long tail keywords that you can rank for on Google.
In this article you'll learn how to use seed words to:
- find keywords you can rank for
- understand the topics and sub-topics that make up your niche
- improve your website's topical authority
But first of all, what exactly are seed words?
1. What Are Seed Keywords?
Seed keywords are primary keywords, also known as ‘head keywords’ or ‘main keywords’.
They typically consist of just one or two words.
One characteristic of seed keywords is they have not been qualified by a modifier.
In the screen shot below Google Auto Suggest has added various modifiers to the seed keyword ‘copywriting’:
By contrast, long tail keywords are seed keywords plus a modifier.
You can also think of seed keywords as ‘focus topics’ – they are the main topics within a given niche.
For example, if your niche was weight loss, your seed keywords might be ‘recipes’, ‘diets’, ‘fitness’, and ‘lifestyle’.
If you run an online business, your seed keywords will usually be your website’s products and services.
A good way to start thinking about your seed keywords is to fill in the blanks in the following statement:
“My business is in the [XYZ] niche and I provide [ABC] products and services to clients trying to find solutions to ”.
2. Why Do You Need Seed Keywords?
Compiling a list of seed keywords is the first step in finding long tail keywords.
The latter are simply seed keywords that have been modified by the addition of one, two, or three additional words.
In the following example, Google Auto Suggest has created long tail keywords from the seed keyword ‘blogging’:
But more than that, seed keywords help you map out the territory occupied by your niche.
Why is this important?
2.1 Understand the Geography of Your Niche
What’s the first thing explorers like Christopher Columbus and Captain James Cook did?
That's right - they drew maps.
Anyone wanting to explore and conquer a new territory needs a map. And the seed keywords within your niche provide you with that map.
If you don’t understand the territory of your niche, there could be whole areas of that niche that you’re ignoring, that you aren’t covering in your blog posts.
And that brings me to the second reason you need to understand your niche territory - topical authority.
But before I get on to that, there’s something I need to clarify.
Compiling a list of your seed words is not about imagining what your ideal niche would look like – it’s about putting together a list of keywords that other people in your niche are already writing about.
2.2 Increase Your Topical Authority
You may not have heard about topical authority. But it’s something you’re likely to hear a lot about in the months ahead.
Until recently, links from other websites were the most important factor in building domain authority.
Backlinks have traditionally been the No.1 factor Google used in deciding how to rank a web page.
Why were backlinks so important?
Because unlike humans, search engines weren’t able to read and understand content.
So they relied on humans linking to content. The search engines reasoned like this:
The more incoming links a piece of content had, the more valuable and authoritative it must be.
But that’s all changing…
With the advent of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) and the Hummingbird algorithm (announced by Google in 2016), Google is now able to understand your content. Google can now assess how authoritative your content is without relying on backlinks as a measure of authority.
In short, topical authority is replacing backlinks as the factor that Google uses to rank pages in the results.
And Google can now determine topical authority for both individual pages and for your website as a whole.
3. How Do You Get Topical Authority?
One of the ways to increase your domain’s topical authority is to cover all the primary keywords or focus topics within your niche.
Through Latent Semantic Indexing (which is a fancy term for being able to understand context) Google now has a pretty good idea of what the main topics are in your niche.
Google will assign greater topical authority to a website that covers 80% of the topics within its niche than to a website that covers only 50% of the topics within its niche.
And that brings me back to seed words:
Your seed words will provide a map of the territory of your niche. And that map will show you if there are gaps in your content.
The fewer the gaps in your content, the better your site will rank for topical authority.
4. My Technique For Finding Seed Words
One of the problems with brainstorming seed words is that you’ll most likely end up with big gaps. There'll be whole areas of your niche that you're not covering.
Another method that people often recommend is using Uber Suggest.
But if you enter your main niche topic (e.g. content marketing, blogging, weight loss) into a keyword tool like UberSuggest, you’ll be given literally hundreds of long tail keywords. Not very helpful, when you're looking for 20 to 50 seed words.
So what's the solution?
5. Extract 10 Keywords from 10 Blogs in Your Niche
Make a list of 10 prominent blogs within your niche.
In my case this list might contain the following blogs:
- Successful Blogging
- Blog Tyrant
- Blogging Wizard
- Jeff Bullas
- Neil Patel
If you’ve been blogging within your niche for more than a few months you should be able to pull these blog names off the top of your head.
Then visit each blog site and look at the titles of the 10 most recent blog posts.
These are the seed keywords you're looking for!
Extract these seed words from each of the 10 blog titles and note them down under the name of the blog.
Do this for each of the 10 blog sites that you identified for your niche.
When you’ve completed this exercise, you should have something that looks like this:
6. Place these Seed Keywords in a Mind Map
When you’ve finished, your mind map will look something like this:
7. Organise Your Seed Words By Topic
Now you need to sort the seed keywords into categories.
To do this, create 10 to 20 upper-level topics and start grouping your 100 focus topics under these 10 to 20 categories.
You’ll end up with something that looks like this:
This is the map of your niche territory.
8. Convert Your Mind Map into a Word document
Now export your mind map as a text file and then save the text file as a Word document.
You’ll now have a document containing about 100 seed keywords divided amongst 10 to 20 upper-level categories:
You can use this document in two ways:
- Use the main categories to make sure there are no gaps in your content strategy. The topical authority of your website will depend on the degree to which you’ve covered all the main topics within your niche.
- Use the seed keywords to find long tail keywords.
Compiling a comprehensive list of seed keywords for your niche is a vital part of your content strategy.
It will give you ideas for new blog post topics and help you research new long tail keywords.
But more importantly, having a comprehensive list of seed keywords will help you improve your topical authority by ensuring that there are no gaps in your content.
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This post was most recently updated on July 13th, 2020