What does keyword research look like in 2016

Keyword Research Sources: Past, Current and Future

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Any digital marketer can tell you change happens fast in this industry. Evolutions in consumer behavior and technology cause organizations to rethink the ways in which they market their products and services on a continual basis. Keyword research is no exception in this wave of constant change.

The importance of keyword research has not altered. With content marketing at the core of digital strategies, keyword research is essential to create engaging pieces of content for any particular stage of the buying process. However, the way we think about keyword research and how we use the current tools has progressed.

Keyword Research Sources: 2016 Edition

Learn the 7 keyword research sources to kick your content marketing strategy into high gear.

In days of old, marketers could get away with choosing their keywords based solely on search results and their determination of what they wanted to be found for. Essentially, digital marketing, as with traditional marketing, resulted in consumers being told what they wanted.

Today, your audience leads your marketing strategy. Social media and mass communication have turned marketing on its head, causing marketers to realize their consumers are no longer listening to traditional messaging. Today, your audience is already having conversations about your products, services or industry. Marketers have to pay close attention and figure out how to be invited into the conversations.

Keyword research now stems from this understanding and a barrage of tools and strategies have been developed as a result. Google has followed suit with this change, making many adjustments over the past few years to its algorithm. These adjustments have been made to bring the act of searching and the results closer to consumer behavior online.

To highlight the past, current and future of keyword research, I asked the team here at gShift three questions:

  1. What previously popular method for keyword research and deeper keyword insights is no longer used by digital marketing professionals today?
  2. What is the most important method for keyword research used today and why?
  3. What are the emerging technologies that will shape keyword research methods in the near future?

Here are some of the insights on keyword research for 2016 they shared:

Raphael Renucci - Digital Marketing Strategist“The trend is pointing towards identifying mindsets and psychological behaviors online by combining multiple keywords; building a cloud that shows the target’s mentality in relation to the brand, product, or industry. We are trying to come up with a more holistic way of identifying audiences, momentum and brand perception by translating emotionless keywords into empirical information, which might reveal subjective mind states.” – Raphael Renucci, Digital Marketing Strategist, gShift

“Identifying mindsets & psychological behaviours online.” @raphaelrenucci via @gShiftLabs #keywordresearch2016Tweet this. 


Jeff Riddall, gShift Director of Product Strategy“Keywords driving traffic from Google Analytics is no longer used since over 80% is now considered Not Provided. The most important method today should be one which taps into multiple sources including search engines, competitors, social networks and Adwords for search volume/competition metrics to gauge relevance. As we move forward, natural language processing and machine learning will be leveraged to identify patterns in how people use topical keywords in search and social to ultimately create better-targeted content.” – Jeff Riddall, Director of Product Strategy, gShift

“Important method today is one which taps into multiple sources.” @JRiddall via @gShiftLabs #keywordresearch2016Tweet this.


Brandon Gilmore, gShift Business Support Specialist“In addition to what Jeff mentioned, I would point out Google Trends. This tool is a great way to see what is relevant, trending and ultimately what keywords or topics matter right now. Google Trends is a great way to ensure current keywords are relevant and also generate new content ideas. The use of clusters is growing in importance every day as the need to group and manage related keywords is so important in today’s challenging digital marketing space. Especially important given the rise of semantic searching.” – Brandon Gilmore, Business Support Specialist, gShift

“Google Trends is a great way to ensure keywords are relevant” @gilmorebrandon via @gShiftLabs #keywordresearch2016Tweet this.


Jessica Vanderlee, gShift Digital Content Strategist“Keywords are going social. Search behavior is always changing and as we become more accustomed to communicating online there is a huge change in the way users search for everything. Social search will outgrow organic (search engine) as more and more users continue to search online the way they talk. Due to voice search, it’s no longer a Google search term, it’s a conversation. We ask for answers now, not simply a search result. “Google, why is the sky blue?” instead of a less connected “reasons the sky is blue.” Technologies like Mblast, which leverage the conversations happening online and via social, generating targeted user lists will continue to flourish as the hard sell online marketing methods continue to disappear.” – Jessica Vanderlee, Digital Content Strategist, gShift

“It’s no longer a Google search term, it’s a conversation.” @wordusmaximus via @gShiftLabs #keywordresearch2016Tweet this.


Alma Bailey, Digital Marketing Strategist, gShift“Optimizing a site and content around one particular focus keyword is becoming less and less relevant for search engines. As the algorithms change, Google shows relevant content based on what it thinks is the intent of the query. Using a variety of relevant topical keywords related to the industry and creating a strong diversification of keywords throughout a website is the best way for a site today to be indexed and ranked on search engines. Heading into 2016, many of the social sites (such as Twitter) have announced they will not be showing content that is heavily auto-generated and scheduled on their news feeds. Even Facebook has announced they may start penalizing those who use CTAs in their post copy such as “Like this post” and “Share this post.” In 2016, there will be a stronger emphasis and call for more natural speaking, conversational and human posts on social media.” – Alma Bailey, Digital Marketing Strategist, gShift

“Strong diversification of keywords throughout a website is best.” @abaile6 via @gShiftLabs #keywordresearch2016Tweet this.


To recap, topical, semantic and intent based search keywords gathered from multiple sources and most notably social sources should all be top of mind for marketers who want to stay in tune with their audiences online search behaviors.

How would you answer these questions? What past methods are you no longer using for your brand and which tactics have taken over your keyword research strategy? Where do you see the industry heading? Sound off in the comments below.

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