The 500,000-keyword approach pt 2: The benefits of keyword research at scale
June 23, 2020
Get ready to learn about the benefits of keyword research at scale.

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Let’s get this clear: traditional keyword research is not a bad thing. But, as we discussed in part 1, it is limited. In some cases those limitations don’t matter. But in others – namely SEO for enterprise sites – they do. A lot. And it’s time for digital teams to stop accepting those limitations.

It’s similar to any issue of technological progress. The Wright brothers first took flight in 1903. They travelled just over 100ft at an altitude of about 10ft off the ground, and it was momentous. Fewer than 60 years later humans had launched a satellite into space.

To put that in SEO terms: we’re well past the advent of the thing – some of people are at least cruising along happily at 30,000ft (although some are still flying around in rickety old biplanes). But they’re a long way off space travel. That’s fine; not everyone wants or needs to go to space. But if you do, keyword research at scale is your rocket. To make clear just why I felt it acceptable to go off on that hyperbolic aviation tangent, here are the major benefits.

You can see all the holes in your current strategy

Here’s one simple principle of large-scale keyword research: if you can see more of the queries you can rank for, you’re better able to develop SEO strategies to achieve full the ranking potential for your site.

Right now you might have a strategy based on a couple of thousand keywords. That number gives you a decent insight into what you can viably rank for. But ‘a decent insight’ is not ‘a holistic, all-encompassing picture of every possibility’.

The reality is there are usually many variations of and other terms related to your keyword set. If you have a large site (really, whatever you consider a ‘large site’ to be), you can probably realistically for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of keywords. If you can actually find out what they are, instead of doing guesswork based on a smaller sample set, you have the data to form a truly complete SEO and content strategy.

More efficient use of resources

Doing keyword research at scale forces you to use a lot of automation. That’s often been somewhat error-prone in the past, but we’ve fine-tuned a process that maximises human expertise and uses a combination of APIs, scripts and assorted wizardry to do the grunt work. That means the time and effort you pay for isn’t just for someone to spend days on end scrolling through spreadsheets, hitting Delete every few rows. Instead, it goes into industry expertise to set the technology on the right path to bring back hundreds times more results of better quality.

This is such an important consideration when commissioning keyword research – process can get you so far, but the real value you get from keyword research is in the expertise of the people carrying it out; not all SEOs are created equal.

Get the full picture on your competitors

The data you get with a bigger keyword set isn’t just useful for your own site. You can use it to get a full picture of all of your competitors’ rankings in the SERPs that you’re currently in and aim to be in. This means you can identify every one of your organic competitors, and their strengths and weaknesses in relation to yours.

Find opportunities you never knew existed

You might already have an idea of your site’s topic authority in different areas. But how many, and how detailed an idea? Scaled keyword research gives you so much more detail that it means you can find topics and themes your site ranks well for, and conversely areas your site doesn’t (but should). You can then exploit where you can do more of the former, and examine and fix why your site under performs for the latter

Sometimes that can mean getting new, more detailed insights into a head term. Other times it can mean revealing a whole section of the long tail that you never even knew existed. Truly mining the long tail is part of the power of keyword research at scale. What you do with that granular insight is then up to you – you can use it for content strategy, to inform landing page structure, for meta-optimisation and marginal gains at scale, prioritising content calendars based on seasonality… You get the picture. The possibilities, in SEO terms, are massive.

Who can benefit from keyword research at scale?

Primarily enterprise-scale websites, meaning ones with at least hundreds and hundreds of pages.

Anyone can make use of large-scale keyword research, particularly for editorial strategy, for example, but it’s not strictly necessary for all websites all the time. If you’re a small business that doesn’t transact much (or at all) via your website and it only has, say, 50 pages, then you can do without it.

But if you’re an ecommerce site with a couple of thousand product pages or more, and a decent number of other category landing pages, this is your special sauce; your magic dust; your potential market-dominating edge over all your competition in the SERPs. It’s no exaggeration to say this approach to keyword research can completely transform your SEO performance. Of course, that depends on exactly how you use it, but the possibilities are huge.

So how do you do keyword research at scale?

That would be telling wouldn’t it? Honestly, it’s complicated, and we can’t give it all away. There are posts out there that promise to show you ‘how to do large-scale keyword research in under an hour’ and the like.  The adage ‘you get out what you put in’ comes to mind.

Sure, you can dash off a project in 60 minutes and call it keyword research. You might get something useful; you will not get a coherent, comprehensive output that’s structured in a way that gives you an easily searchable, thoroughly analysed and categorised database of 500,000 keywords that you can use for everything from information architecture and two years’ worth of content to in-depth ranking analysis and accurate CTR modelling.

In case I’ve fudged too much there already: we use a variety of technologies and processes that include Python, various scripts, some specific APIs, and natural language processing (NLP) packages. We combine that with human expertise and industry insight to build the whole thing on a water-tight seed keyword list. In short, it’s a combination of precise, targeted automation and thoroughly validated marketing expertise.

We’ve put it all together in a process called the Keyword Universe. You can get a bit more insight into how we actually do it, and how we put it to use for our client MADE in our webcast on keyword research at scale.

If you’d like to find out more still, we’d be glad to talk you through how you might be able to benefit. Simply fill out the form below and one of our team will be in touch to book in a call.