3 significant challenges to keyword research in 2017

Keyword Research in 2017

These days, there are several challenges we need to overcome to execute a keyword research in 2017.

So, imagine you have just finished a day at WordCamp. You and some of your closest friends exit the building and you are looking to continue the conversations you started during the day.

Now, maybe you have some kind of app on your phone that will help you find a place to get drinks, and maybe you just decide to do what most of us do, open up Google.

It is, after all, 2017 and so you decide to speak rather than type in your keyword. You activate the mic and you speak, “drinks.” Google, of course, knows from your phone where you are located. It shows you a list of various bars and pubs where you can grab a drink with your friends that are nearby.

This is modern day searching the web. It is a search that is on “the go” and very mobile. Google, of course, understood your search intent when you spoke “drinks” into its search engine.

This is what searching has come to these days and it presents some of the challenges that we have in determining our website’s keywords.

Keywords are still relevant, it is just that the semantics and logistics of keyword searches have changed. And, with those changes, there are several challenges to determining keywords for the SEO of your website. Nate Dame from Marketo explains,

93% of online experiences begin with a search, and a search begins with words. As long as people use words to communicate with search engines, keywords will never die. How we use them in an SEO strategy, however, is always evolving.

Keyword research has changed quite a bit since it became a thing over a decade ago. These days, there are several challenges we need to overcome to execute a keyword research in 2017.

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Challenges to Keyword Research in 2017

Google Keyword Tool

It’s not altogether impossible to get good search volume, but the Google Keyword Tool changed some time ago and now, the results are mostly geared for those looking to buy pay per click ads. In reality, it has always been for that, but Google makes it more difficult now.

This being said, you have to have an Adwords account to really use the tool. That’s not a big deal really because you can create inexpensive ads to get some data. However, based on the fact they tend throttle lower paying ads, your data may not be very realistic.

Search Engine Land points out,

According to Google, “most” advertisers will see Keyword Planner data as usual. But AdWords users with a “lower monthly spend” could see limited data in the planner. How limited? Very. The ranges that Google will provide for those with small (or no) spends makes the tool almost useless.

Because of this, you may need to invest in a keyword planner tool. There are plenty of lists on the web with “favorite tools.” There are several to choose from.

Finding Tools

61 Experts Reveal Best Tools For Keyword Research – Robbie Richards

Keyword Research Tools – Backlinko

The Best Keyword Research Tools (For Experienced Fishermen & Fisherwomen Only) – WordStream

5 Best Keyword Research Tools for Startups – SEMRush

Latent Semantic Indexing

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) has changed everything when it comes to search. While keyword stuffing has been out for a long time, LSI helps to validate that move by Google. Basically, Google has figured out a way to count synonyms as a term that is related to the keyword.

Roko Nastic from Search Engine Journal explains it like this;

LSI looks for synonyms related to the title of your page. For example, if the title of your page was “Classic Cars”, the search engine would expect to find words relating to that subject in the content of the page as well, i.e. “collectors”, “automobile”, “Bentley”, “Austin” and “car auctions”.

This provides both an opportunity and a challenge. It means it is easier to send signals that a page is bout a certain topic because you can naturally use synonyms to reinforce the topic. The challenge comes because when you choose keywords, you have to be aware that people search a little more differently now. The use of voice searching has become a more important element as more and more people are searching mobile.

SEO Powersuite dives into voice searching at The Next Web. The result of voice search is a more conversational search and will impact SEO. If you follow Neil Patel’s thoughts, we will see more questions in searches. This is why it is still one of the best practices to answer questions in your blog posts or in choosing topics. This solves problems for readers, provides answers, and establishes your site as an authority.

Searching on the go
Searching on the go


Short Articles

For a few years now, there has been a little bit of a debate amongst online marketers about how long an article should be. Long form articles are considered the better way to go these days. The short articles get very little love from Google as well as readers.

One of the reasons that long form articles are considered important is the results that authors see. Brian Dean did a study on search engine rankings and one of his conclusions was regarding length,

Based on SERP data from SEMRush, we found that longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.

But what is long form content? It depends on who you ask. John E Lincoln wrote in 2015 for Search Engine Land that he thinks that 1,200 words are the minimum for a long form content. Copywriter Rob Marsh explains some of the reasons that long form content works best at CopyHackers.

It all comes back to Google’s search for more in-depth articles. That being said, you have to balance this with your own reader’s attention. Marsh tells of a study that Medium did to help determine the optimal post. Their conclusion, 7 minutes. Seven minutes, apparently, is about 1,600 words.

So, how long should my blog post be? Or, another way to ask it, how short should my blog post be? That will depend on who you ask (see Lincoln above). Your article should be, as writers will often say, as long as needs to be. Darren Rowse says,

My answer to this is usually “write enough to be useful, and then stop”.

If your intent is to derive SEO value from your blog post, your keyword research should be done in a way that can produce a long form blog post. Simply plugging words into a tool with an expected output of hundreds of keywords doesn’t always give you the necessary content to work with. This is why you will need a more comprehensive strategy for generating topics and keywords.


In the year 2017, we have many different challenges for keyword research. While they are challenges, they are not roadblocks. The content creator has to keep these in mind when building a library of topics and keywords for their blog.

Content creators have to adapt to the changes including LSI, Google Keyword Tool, stay away from automated article spinners, and write longer posts to get better results.

What are some of the challenges that you see in 2017 for SEO and keyword research?

2 thoughts on “3 significant challenges to keyword research in 2017”

  1. Todd, I feel that ‘the rule’ of how long an article should be is changing all the time! It’s getting hard to keep up sometimes…but, yes, at the moment, longer the better! I actually think that it makes sense and should stay that way!

    • Agreed. I think it will stay with longer for a while too because the Google gods want more in depth posts. I’m not sure that it has to be 2K words long, but 400-word posts will probably get less and less traction in the future. The “sweet spot,” I think one article put it, is around 1500-1700 words or something like that. I think for articles you want to rank well, make sure it is about 1500 words long, for the rest, do what you need to do to communicate with your existing readers.

      Thanks, Ines!

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