There are lots of ways to perform key research to put together an SEO strategy. But, if you need to get a sense of your ranking opportunities quickly or are looking for new ways to refine your own research process and increase organic search traffic, this will be valuable for you.
Our process involves using n-gram analysis to drill down on optimal keywords and terms you can target to drive traffic and increase rankings. This has been successful for our clients and is an effective method for finding new opportunities you may not see just using common SEO tools.
- What Is An N-Gram Analysis?
- How to Approach Keyword Research
- How to Identify Optimization Opportunities
- Prioritizing Keyword Clusters
- The Local Intent Of Keyword Clusters
- Strategy Implications for Nation vs. Local Intent
- National Keywords
- Local Keywords
- Using Automated Tagging
What Is An N-Gram Analysis?
An n-gram analysis in digital marketing or SEO (Search Engine Optimization) refers to the examination of sequences of words or terms (n-grams) used in website content to determine their frequency and importance.
The goal of this analysis is to identify and analyze patterns in the use of language on a website in order to improve its search engine ranking and visibility.
By analyzing the frequency of common n-grams, you can optimize the website content for relevant keywords, improve the relevance of the website to search queries, and increase the website’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).
How to Approach SEO Keyword Research
When you are crafting a strategy to optimize for organic search, approach your keyword research with these goals in mind:
- What types of keywords do you rank well for?
- Where are the majority of your clicks coming from?
We start by taking the entire database of search queries from Google Search Console, run that through an n-gram analysis tool, and then find the word combinations that generate the most clicks. This allows us to get at the best keywords and search terms to start optimizing.
How to Identify Optimization Opportunities
In the word cluster analysis below, you’ll see how to start identifying opportunities. We’ve taken the output from our n-gram tool and GSC data to create bi-grams (2 keywords). From there, we’ve sorted them by clicks with impressions and their average ranking position.
Every cluster below that does not have a green ranking is an opportunity.
You can see that the branded keywords here all rank around the #1 position, but the non-brand keywords are ranking much lower.
Zeroing in on these, many are attracting a fair amount of users to the site but are on pages 2-5 in Google SERPs.
So, there’s an opportunity for these to be targeted due to the fact that queries containing these 2 keywords have proven they are already generating clicks and impressions despite their low rankings.
Now, we have our list of keyword opportunities, we can start digging deeper and prioritizing.
Prioritizing Keyword Clusters
One important cluster of bi-grams you can quickly notice are questions, particularly ones with transactional intent like, “How much.”
For example, looking at the table, if keywords 10 and keywords 11 are “how much,” then you can filter in GSC for all queries that contain both words and sort them by impressions.
Then you’ll be able to check out queries where you are not ranking in the first few positions.
In this case, they rank in position one or two for “how much” questions, but people are asking a ton of other “how much” questions where this site is not ranking, which brings their ranking down to an average of 55th.
So, there’s a ton of opportunity there to create a content strategy that includes FAQ pages to address this. You can also consider making more SEO-friendly product landing pages if we find words such as “[product] cost” in the analysis.
The Local Intent Of Keyword Clusters
Another layer of your keyword research analysis should include grouping keywords by their local intent. This will help you determine what content and page architecture you need to rank successfully. The most obvious ones might look like:
- [product] + near me
- [product] + [city]
- [product] + [zip code]
But, many local keywords are not obvious. For example, the Google algorithm treats queries like “dog food” and “car insurance agent” as local queries, and their SERPs return a map pack in the SERPs.
Because it’s not always intuitive what is and is not a local keyword (and this has a big impact on how successful your strategy will be), so it’s necessary to:
- Analyze existing SERP results over multiple geos
- Look for a map element in the SERP
- Look for city or state-specific pages
- Analyze titles and URLs
- Analyze consistency and make an intent determination
If you need to do this at scale, it’s worth considering consulting with an agency or building a local intent tool to help. This is particularly vital if your site is a Multi-location, Service area business, or your brand may have priority queries that have local intent.
Strategy Implications for Nation vs. Local Intent
To effectively build or optimize a webpage, it is essential to comprehend various search intents and how they should complement your SEO approach, investments, and efforts. Some of the strategic implications for national and local intent include:
National websites will require both a lot of content and authority. If you’ve identified your target keywords are in queries that have little or no local intent then you want one main website where you invest the bulk of your SEO budget to get that ranking by building backlinks.
If you’ve identified that your keyword is considered to be local by Google then this is where a different site structure will really start to matter. By building a directory of state or city pages, you will be able to capture more search volume.
- Locator index page
- State page
- City page
- Location page
Trying to rank local content for national keywords is unlikely to be successful due to a lack of site authority and content.
On the other hand, attempting to rank national content for local keywords does not align with the intent of those keywords, leading to wasted time and resources without the desired outcomes. It’s crucial to correctly match your efforts and initiatives to the appropriate keywords.
Using Automated Tagging
As a best practice, we segment branded and non-branded queries into different buckets. At LSG, we use automated tagging to make this simple. The purpose of this is to identify different opportunities and get a sense of which non-branded terms can be prioritized to increase keyword rankings and get the most meaningful results.
This can save you a lot of time and deliver better actionable data that’s easy to sort through and can be uploaded to a dashboard so you can view the relevant metrics. Additionally, because we have automated tagging of keyword categories and page types, we can also track the progress over time. Check out our breakdown of how to implement this here.
Additional Organic Keyword Research Tools
There are plenty of N-gram analysis tools out there. We’ve built our own at LSG (you can signup to be a beta tester here), but some free tools include:
It’s also worth mentioning that you can also use paid keyword research tools to augment your analysis such as:
These can be useful for refining your research for terms where you don’t have GSC data and aren’t trying to optimize terms you already rank for.
They can be helpful with projecting monthly search volume, estimating keyword difficulty, and doing a search competition analysis to find keyword gaps. But, there are also free tools like Google keyword planner to identify new keywords.
However, these keyword tools can give inaccurate search volume estimates and miss patterns or insights you get when doing an in-depth n-gram analysis as part of your research process.
Using n-gram analysis for keyword research can help better analyze which terms you are ranking well for and areas of opportunity. It also allows you to cluster your keywords into buckets, find related keywords, and prioritize SEO initiatives. Furthermore, it allows you to recognize different kinds of search intent to ensure you are investing in the right keywords and implementations to deliver results.
Local SEO Guide has successfully developed SEO strategies using these and other keyword research methods. If you are looking to improve your visibility in organic and drive more revenue through SEO, grab a free consult or drop us a line below.