Audience Development Strategy

How Google Has Altered Your Keyword Universe

If you maintain a keyword universe like we do for our clients, you may want to follow our lead on this update

01-good-keywords-arent-obvious-the-one-thing-you-should-do-before-you-optimizeMequoda is built on a structure of best practices. Best practices are standard conventions, methods, or processes that have proven to be successful through testing. We can’t stress enough the importance of paying attention to what others are doing. It’s what the Mequoda Method was built on, and it’s always evolving based on true stories of what publishers are succeeding with and failing with.

When we work with our Gold Member clients, we are building Google Visibility Reports, which include a Keyword Universe of all the terms we plan to optimize for, all the terms we have optimized for in the past, the search volume, keyword competition, current ranking status, and data in that realm.

Well, we recently made a big change to the way we build these reports that we shared with our Gold Member clients that I feel inclined to share with our readers.


To reflect the most recent change in Google’s search algorithm and their Keyword Planner tool, we’ll be updating all of our client keyword research and documents.

Google’s continual updates to be more inclusive of proximity keywords like pluralized versions (apple pie vs apple pies and goose vs geese) means that many keywords that are pluralized now have similar search volume.

For many clients, this means the total annual search volume for their keyword universes will double. Upon analysis, Gold Member sites saw a search volume increase of 99% on average.

Search volume in every Gold Member Universe has increased, some more than others. The lowest increase was 36% and the highest was 177%. These numbers may look like a large jump at first, but will ultimately become the new normal for a Keyword Universe.

Our methodology is going to change in the way we calculate click through rates, and we expect that these numbers may on average reduce by half. After this change, they will continue to increase or decrease at the same rate they do currently.

Ultimately, Keyword Universes will double, but the significance of the Universe will be cut in half, because we understand that Google is pairing search volume together and shouldn’t necessarily reflect a change in other metrics.

To understand how Google is now pairing search results, here is an example:

If you search for “apple pie recipe” and then search for “apple pie recipes” you’ll see that results are very similar. While most results for “apple pie recipe” use “apple pie recipe” in the title, you will find that on the search results for the plural “apple pie recipes” page, 7 out of 10 results use the singular term.

The same goes for “how to raise a goose” and “how to raise geese”. You will find similar results on both of these pages, but in this case, Google displays more results for “geese” on the “goose” page. We think this is because they know most people aren’t raising just one goose, they’re more likely raising geese.

Ultimately, Google is becoming smarter and doing a better job at displaying the best search results for the term, and it’s our job as publishers to create the best content for them to index.

More than ever, we recommend that when your Audience Development Manager is choosing a keyword from your Universe, that they first search for the term. “Intent” is more important to your success. By Googling the keyword that you want to be ranked for, you will be able to see the type of results Google is currently ranking.

For example, if you want to rank for a how-to article on “door replacement” you will find that Google has decided that term is used most likely by someone searching for a local contractor who will replace a door for you. You’ll know this because you can see that it first lists local businesses in search results, and then national vendors below it. In this case, a keyword phrase like “replace a door” would be a better choice, because when you Google it, you will find a list of how-to articles.

Learn more about other ways Google is using intent to display listings.

Currently, our team is now rebuilding all the Keyword Universes for our clients, and if anything new pops up that we think our readers should know, we’ll be sure to share it here!

By Amanda MacArthur

Research Director & Managing Editor

Amanda is responsible for all the articles you read on the Mequoda Daily portal and every email newsletter delivered to your inbox from us. She is also our in-house social media expert and would love to chat with you over on @Mequoda. She has worked with Mequoda for almost a decade, helping to evolve the Mequoda Method through research, testing and developing new best practices in digital publishing, editorial strategy, email marketing and audience development. Amanda is a co-author of our four digital publishing handbooks.

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Contact Amanda via email at amanda (at) mequoda (dot) com, @amaaanda, LinkedIn, and Google+.

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