Question-Based Keywords – How, What and Why

By August 20, 2010 SEO 4 Comments

Let me start this post with a question… How often do you pay close attention to your long-tailed keyword traffic? You know… the keyword queries with single digit visitors tied to them. My guess is that it’s not very often, and you are more focused on the heavy hitters driving the bulk of your organic traffic and conversions. Unless you are using Google Analytics keyword filters or scrolling through your entire list of organic keywords, you may not be fully leveraging keyword theme trends and using them as a new traffic opportunity to support your main keyword focus.

Question-based keywords are often over-looked in the keyword optimization process, but can ultimately have a positive impact on your keyword rankings, organic traffic and quality conversions. If you haven’t included question-based keywords in your SEO strategy, now is the time.

Below are some important questions you may be wondering about and I hope to shed some light on the answers.

How do I develop my question-based keyword list?

Start with Google Analytics. If you have well-written FAQ content on your site, you should already be getting some sort of question-based keyword traffic. Pull up your organic keywords report and do a filter for “how” and “what” keywords. Extend your date range back at least one year. This is a good indicator of what question phrases are already bringing traffic to your site. Look for common themes and questions that include your “strategic”, “marquee”, or “broad” keyword focus, and add them to your list. For the rest of this blog post I will refer to them as “strategic keywords”.

As backup, also look at the Google Webmaster Tools > Your site on the web > Search queries report. This most likely won’t show you long tailed question-based keywords, but if any of these keywords have significant volume, and you are already ranking in Google, this report will tell you where you are at.

The Keyword Discovery keyword research tool offers a database devoted to “Question Phrases”. Enter your strategic keywords into the tool to determine what popular question-based keywords are being searched.

Visit “Question & Answer” sites that are designed to let people ask and answer questions. Sites like Yahoo Answers, LinkedIn Answers, and Mahalo Answers are good places to start. Simply do searches for your strategic keywords to find out the questions people need answers to. Again, look for common themes and frequent problems people have. Start thinking about how your business can answer these questions and solve these same problems. There is no reason why your site can’t be the authority to answer that same question found on a Q&A site.

“How-to” and other “User-Generated Content” sites can also be a great source for keyword research. The step-by-step instructions can be a great inspiration to developing problem-solving content on your own site that is tied to a question-based keyword search query. A few quality sites to look at for keyword ideas are eHow, HowStuffWorks, Squidoo, and HubPages.

What type of content do I need to support more question-based keywords?

For any type of content that can answer a common question, or solve a problem, you need more of it! Start with enhancing you existing FAQ page. If you don’t have one, create it with answers to some of the most commonly asked questions you get from phone calls or web inquiries. If your FAQs can be organized by themes or categories, consider breaking them into multiple pages, or utilize an SEO-friendly knowledgebase system. If you have FAQs specific to a certain e-commerce product, put it directly on that product page to improve your entrance keywords and conversions.

For timely content that can quickly get spread around the web, consider a well-written and thorough blog post that answers a popular question tied to your keyword focus. A blog post is more suitable for reader comments, social sharing, and RSS syndication.

Online video can be a great tool to quickly convey a message that can’t easily be demonstrated in written words. Consider creating videos to support your written FAQs and problem-solving content. These same videos can be uploaded to video sharing and how-to websites.

Why should I use question-based keywords in my SEO strategy?

Many search queries originate from someone trying to solve a problem online. Because of the evolution of search engines, most people use broad searches to find the information they are looking for. However, the evolving sophistication of the searcher and the search engines will create more opportunity for sites that can solve a problem on a specific topic.

If you are in business to solve problems with products or services, then question-based keywords should be a natural fit with your content strategy. By developing question-based keyword content you can strengthen the keyword themes of your site to support a highly competitive keyword.

Informative and timely content that solves a problem on the web will naturally attract links. As we know, quality inbound links are an important factor in keyword rankings. Killer content development and deployment can save you some time in tedious link building campaigns, especially if you don’t have a resource fully dedicated to finding links. If you can solve someone’s problem, and they want to share your site with others, they’ll be much more likely to link to your site or refer it to friends.

Question-based keywords also provide an opportunity to increase conversions. If you can solve someone’s problem via your website content, then they are likely to inquire or purchase your products or services. After you get the searchers to your content, determine what you have to do to get them to convert. Proper internal linking and effective calls to action can easily point people to get more detailed information or take action on a more conversion friendly page on your site.

If your site can answer someone’s question prior to them emailing or calling you, you can significantly reduce customer service follow-up costs.

Putting it all together

Question-based keyword optimization isn’t going to double your organic search traffic overnight, but is a great tactic for steady traffic growth that will support your best converting strategic keywords. If you sense the slightest bit of opportunity to improve your bottom line, a question-based keyword strategy is worth implementing.

I’ll leave you with advice from SEO Vanilla Ice:
If there is a problem yo I’ll solve it – check out the hook while my SEO resolves it

About Fathom Team Member


  • Oh, that’s brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that? 😉 It is truly refreshing to see an SEO tip that is not overworked. Well done.

  • Thanks M.J.! This is a topic I’ve been putting into action and thinking about a lot, and finally got the time to write a post. As SEO’s we are ultimately trying to solve a problem for our clients (which is getting traffic that converts) and in order to do so we need to solve problems for the searchers. Catering to the specific questions people are asking on the web is a great way to be the expert and get new customers.

    If anyone else has tips related to this topic, please share!

  • John Scheiderer says:

    Excellent points! I search using questions a lot and I am often surprised with some of the results I see. I find I have to rephrase my question based searches multiple times before I find what I am really looking for. It’s exciting to see that sites are starting to account for this.

    I also think it is a great idea to leverage the “Answer” sites to find out what people are asking based on your industry and keywords. Great job at finding a new way to use an existing resource to improve your rankings.

  • Thank for the comments John! Great SEO content should be written for the users first, and letting the search engines determine how worthy the content is to rank for queries. As the engines keep evolving and get more sophisticated I think we’ll see better results to help solve your problems. Getting a site optimized for the question-based keywords can definitely have payoffs to help support your most strategic keywords.

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