Query Research

Updated June 13, 2015

Doc Sheldon

Virtually every SEO, myself included, has been heard to say “keyword research is the cornerstone of any SEO campaign”. While it was certainly true at one time, and is still partially valid, it’s important to consider how search engines have evolved – particularly since SEO must evolve along with them, in order to be effective.

At one time, a user might type a term like ocean predator into Google’s search box and be rewarded with a ranked list of pages using that term. Then their algorithms began to match queries and pages with synonyms and variations, so the SERPs might show documents containing phrases like sea carnivore. Gradually, they began to consider associations with terms that were found in their knowledge graph. Now, you’ll find great white shark and orca in the search results. Clearly, this is evidence of evolution.

Now, however, Google has put learning algorithms to work. This is a giant leap forward, because the algorithms can actually infer associations by what they encounter in their index. With each successful inference, the algorithm “knows” more, which in turn, enables it to make more inferences.

This learning ability is a key step toward a semantic search capability. While the current state of semantic search is far from perfect, it’s even further from where it was when everything hinged upon keyword research.

Today, search queries are matched with documents through a number of additional factors. These factors encompass much more than just the words typed into the search box. They represent an attempt to understand the intent of the user. They consider temporal elements, geo-location, search history, user demographic… the list is long and the elements are intricately bound together to determine what the user probably is really searching for.

This means that we need to research more deeply, so we can attempt to be matched for similar search terms in various contexts. We need to perform query research to see not only what terms are being used, but also what types of searches are being performed, when, from where, by whom, with what goal… and plan our optimization accordingly.

When you hire us to do your query research, that’s the sort of information we’ll find for you, so you can prepare content that will match precisely the searches you want to rank for.

Of course, if you want to do old-fashioned keyword research, you can do that, too… just be prepared to learn that it may not have been the best use of your money.