This post was made possible by Moz. The actual contents and opinions are the sole views of the author, who maintains editorial independence, even when a post is sponsored. For more details, please read our disclaimer.
The world of SEO has changed dramatically over the past decade, but one area that remains relevant and important is keyword research, and the new Moz Keyword Explorer tool is a powerful weapon in that area.
I’ve always been very skeptical when it comes to anyone on the Internet claiming to be an “SEO expert”, or any tools that promise to enhance your SEO efforts. However, Moz has always been a respected name in the SEO community, because it’s an organization that has adapted and grown alongside all of Google’s many changes through the years.
When you consider all of the advice SEO experts have offered through the years, including my own SEO tips and advice here at MakeUseOf, there’s plenty that are no longer valid. But so long as hundreds of millions of people across the globe continue to use Google to search the Internet, keyword research remains one of the single most powerful activities a website owner can use to grow a site.
Moz Keyword Explorer Metrics
The advice about keyword research that I explained years ago, remains as true today as it did back then. If you know what more people are searching for online, you can gear your website content to appeal to all of those search queries. If you think about it, this is common sense.
Imagine you are going fishing, and you have three streams of water to choose from (excuse my drawing abilities…)
The top stream is literally a stream, with maybe a fish coming by every couple of hours. The second stream is a bit wider, with a fish coming by every hour or so. Finally the last stream is basically a river, with four or five fishing going by every fifteen minutes. Which one would you rather cast your net into?
The importance of doing keyword research is in discovering which phrases represent a very big river, where you want to go fishing, because your odds of catching more fish are higher. But, it’s not just the size of the river that matters, it’s also the net or fishing rod you use. This is where Moz Keyword Explorer comes in.
The Keyword Explorer tool looks simple on the surface. You type in topics that you think you may want to cover on your website, and the tool will tell you how wide that river is — how many people over time actually search for that term, or related terms.
There are four key indicators that the Moz Keyword Tool tells you about the search phrase you’re researching — volume, difficulty, opportunity and potential.
Here’s where the tool really surprised me. I’ve written often in the past about how silly it is to focus only on volume of searches, like so many folks trying to do “SEO research” tend to do. I’ve always advocated also taking “competition” into account. Here’s why that matters, using the same fishing analogy.
Let’s say you discover that a certain keyword gets hundreds of thousands of people searching for it every month. That’s a big winner, right? Well, not necessarily. A very high volume of searches is sort of like a very big ocean full of fish. Where there are a lot of fish, there are going to be a lot of other fishing boats.
In other words, higher volume often (but not always) means more competition to catch those fish. If you have a relatively new site, and you’re trying to compete against large, well-established websites for high-volume search terms, you’re honestly wasting your time. If if you have a large, popular site, it still maybe hard to get those incoming visitors from search.
Moz – because they are truly SEO experts who get this – have incorporated competition (they call it “difficulty”) into the equation. That’s awesome. But what truly impressed me was that they also include something called “opportunity”.
What is opportunity? Really, Moz describes it best (you can get information about the metrics by hovering your mouse over the “i” next to that metric).
A score from 0 (low) to 100 (high) that estimates the relative click-through-rate of organic web results (the first ten blue links) for this keyword. When other SERP features (ads, verticals, etc) compete for searcher attention, this score is lower.)
This is absolutely fantastic. It actually takes the value of paying attention to competition and spices it up even more by letting you know when that “low competition” term may not actually be as useful to you as you think. People who do pay attention to competition (or difficulty) of a search term often wonder why they still don’t get may visitors when they cover that topic — well, “opportunity” can give you some great insight into that.
The “potential” metric is just a combined calculation of all of the other metrics, and is useful to use if you’re short on time and don’t really want to figure it all out on your own.
How Moz Keyword Explorer Works
Using the Moz Keyword Explorer is pretty simple. When you search for your term, you’ll get a quick summary page showing all of the metrics I’ve described above. If you want to see more related searches that may be relevant to the one you searched for (and much more popular), you can click to see the top 1,000 related searches.
I recommend sorting these by volume, so you can see which ones are the most popular, as a first step. When you click on one of these related terms, you’ll see another summary page for it, showing all of the metrics — volume, difficulty, opportunity and potential.
In addition to related terms with high search volume, you’ll notice that there’s also a section showing the top “organic results” on the first page of Google. This saves you the time involved in checking which sites are currently ranking high for that search — this is helpful to get a clearer picture of just how competitive it’ll be to get your page on the very top of search results.
You’ll notice that Moz includes useful metrics for those top ranked pages — page authority, domain authority, linking RDs to page, and linking RDs to root domain. In my opinion, page authority and domain authority are the two most important metrics here — it’ll show you quickly whether or not the folks who’ve managed to rank high for that term will be easy enough for you to beat out (assuming you have a good handle on your own site’s page and domain authority).
So what do those metrics all mean? Here’s a quick summary:
- Page Authority – Self explanatory, this is the overall authority for the specific page listed here.
- Domain Authority – Overall authority of the root domain where this page is hosted.
- Linking RDs to Page – The number of “RDs” mean “root domains”, not individual pages, that link to this page.
- Linking RDs to Root Domain – The number of root domains that link to this root domain.
- Facebook Shares – Number of Facebook shares to this page.
When you look at the examples above, these values make sense.
Going back to the page of search terms listing search volumes. That’s the page where you’ll want to pick and choose the terms that are most important to you, with the highest volumes. You can add the terms you want to follow by clicking the check box next to each of them, and then use the dropdown box at the top of the page to organize those terms into your own personal lists.
On your main dashboard page, you’ll see all of the lists you’ve created, and when you click on each list, you’ll see a consolidated summary of all of the metrics, tallied up for all of the search terms you’ve collected.
Ideally, your collection of terms should have high volume, low to moderate difficulty, and high opportunity.
The SERP Features bar graph is a neat metric that you shouldn’t overlook. It gives you a summary of how many “features” like adwords ads at the bottom or top of the search results, or how many answer boxes, featured snippets, or other elements there are that’ll distract from your own page listing, even if you happen to land in the top organic slot.
This can be really helpful if you’d rather not waste your time competing against those features, and would rather seek out other high-potential terms where there are few distractions.
Once you add terms to your lists, on the list page you’ll see all of the metrics that didn’t show up on the simple volume listing of top 1000 search terms.
Off to the right, you’ll see the “Importance” and “Potential” metrics, as well as when you last had Moz obtain an analysis of the search term.
“Importance” is a manual setting that you can use to assign a ranking for how important you feel that search term is to your purposes. You might use it to rank how relevant it is to your site, or whether you think it’s a term you could cover well or not.
Whatever reason you use to rank it, the Importance you apply will impact the “Potential” rank that Moz gives that keyword. If you don’t want to tweak the Potential, then your best bet is to leave the Importance at the default of 3 for all terms.
The last “Analyzed” date is important for keeping track of how stale your keyword metrics are. The popularity and competition for search terms change constantly over time, so it’s nice to know when the numbers in your list may be outdated.
If you want to see what the latest metrics are for a keyword, you can just delete it from your list, look it up in the Keyword Explorer search bar again, and then re-add it to your list. When you do this, Moz will perform another analysis and the Analyzed date will update to today.
Mostly Great, With Room for Improvements
The Moz Keyword Explorer is a new app added to the Moz Pro family of SEO tools. I’m sure it’ll be added to and expanded over time, but even in its current state it’s probably one of the most powerful SEO research tools I’ve seen online. Even Wordtracker, which has been a leader in the keyword research area for many years, is knocked flat with this new tool.
With that said, there are a few small issues I found, that I’m sure the Moz team will likely update in short order. For example, I noticed that the dropdown filters only allowed you to filter out the upper end of metrics. For example, if you want to see only keywords with an Opportunity metric over 50, you can choose “50+” from the dropdown list. This is logical when you’re talking about something like Opportunity.
But when you’re examining something like difficulty, you may actually want to filter out the upper end of the spectrum, listing only keywords with lower difficulty to rank. Unfortunately the dropdown doesn’t let you do this. Thankfully, the Volume filter does let you select checkboxes for any volume range, so a similar solution for difficulty would work just fine.
With that minor issue aside, I have to say that just using the Moz Keyword Explorer for about a week now, I’m completely sold. In fact, I’m in love with this tool and may beg the ownership here to let me subscribe!
The easy-to-understand metrics, the ability to combine meaningful measurements that are important like competition and SERP metrics, and the fact that you can organize your searches into lists — all of these things make using Moz Keyword Explorer a no brainer for anyone running a website. Coming from a skeptic like me — who never usually promotes anyone or anything in the SEO community — that does say a lot.
Do you do keyword analysis for your own website? What has been your experience with other sites out there? Do you think that Moz may have developed the perfect solution? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.