As mentioned in one of my previous posts, part of a good life science SEO strategy revolves around your scientific content marketing.
Life science content can encompass many different forms, but without creating the right content for the right audience, your efforts are going to go to waste. And if you are thinking about a science-based blog, or just improving your existing one, I strongly suggest you learn about keywords.
In this post, I am going to introduce the topic of keywords; covering aspects such as what they are, how to do keyword research and common issues that are likely to arise when implementing for life sciences.
What is a keyword?
When it comes to creating content for SEO, you first need to understand the concept of keywords.
Keywords can be defined as words (or phrases) that defines or describes a topic, usually single words or a few words put together.
Example of scientific keywords include:
- ‘Medical Devices’
- ‘Drug Discovery’
When many words are used together, they are often referred to as ‘keyphrases’, or ‘long-tail keywords’. These are searches that are a lot more specific and looking for highly relevant information.
Examples of scientific keyphrases of longtail keywords are:
- ‘What is the difference between GMP and GLP’
- ‘What is the cause of split peaks in my chromatogram’
- ‘How does mitochondria work’
Regardless of how you define keywords/ keyphrases, the terms are used interchangeably and mean the same thing.
The more keywords that you can find that are relevant to your business, the more content you can create which increases the likelihood you will generate more traffic to your site. The likelihood is that there will be a lot of keywords that you can consider.
Now you know what a keyword is, you need to learn how to find, prioritise and rank these keywords for your SEO.
Finding your initial keywords should be logical; what does your business do?
Here’s some top-level keywords examples that could cover your life science business:
- ‘Lab Consumables’
- ‘Raw material supplier’
- ‘Polymerase Chain Reaction’
If you already have a website and utilise GSC (Google Search Console) or similar, then you can already find a wealth of higher-relevancy keywords that your business is already visible for in search results.
If not, one of the easiest ways to find additional, related keywords, is to make a series of your own Google searches related to the top-level keywords you have identified. The more searches you make, the more you will identify.
Here’s an example of how to do it, using one of the above examples ‘Polymerase Chain Reaction’
Scroll down to the bottom of the page, and you will see the ‘related keywords’ section.
You can keep clicking on these, bring up more and more. Remember to save these into a spreadsheet or document so you can use them at a later point.
Repeat this process as many times as you like; generally the more you do it, the better. Remember to manually review all keywords yourself before saving them. If they don’t relate to your current business or future business aspirations, don’t add them to the list for now.
Not all keywords are equal.
Some keywords are more popular than others, in that the number of searches they get weekly, monthly, yearly etc varies.
Sometimes, this is logical; where single keywords or short phrases get more searches than long, detailed questions. But generally, the number of searches a keyword/ keyphrase receives it directly related to how many people are searching for relevant content.
To anybody that is new to the whole concept of SEO, this may come as a bit of a surprise. But it is possible to find how many searches keywords get on a monthly basis, and from what countries.
To do this, you need to use one of many online tools available.
These vary in price and functionality, but some of the tools I recommend include ahrefs, keyword explorer and XXX.
These tools have a wealth of functions that can help with advanced SEO and other content marketing, but one of the key functions I want to discuss is the keyword volume.
Keywords volume is the average number of searches for a keyword per month. This gives you an idea of how many people are looking for keywords and an estimate of how many people are looking for relevant content each month.
Once you know this, you can start to predict how many people will visit your site each and every month.
So, surely, you want to target as many high volume keywords as possible? Not necessarily…
There is a lot to do with keyword volume and relevance.
For example, ‘science’ is a high volume keyword – over 900,000 searches a month according to SEMrush.
But how does it differentiate your brand from the millions of other businesses that are somewhat related to science? Answer; it doesn’t.
You should be targeting keywords that have a reasonable search volume AND some sort of relevancy to your business.
High volume keywords are usually too generic and you also face more competition from other websites. Knowing this, targeting the low-volume, high relevancy keywords, you are likely to rank better in search engines and receive actual visits to your site.
Consider this diagram which shows a the relationship between search volume and relevancy:
It doesn’t mean finding keywords that are totally unique to your business (branded scientific keywords are a different story altogether) but finding multiple keywords that you can categorise into multiple topics.
Let’s consider some examples of generic versus long tail keywords:
This isn’t to say that you should always go for low volume keywords, but the more low volume keywords you can target, the more likely you are going to rank for a general topic. You can do this with a good keyword site architecture.
So, once you know what keywords people are looking for, you can use these to generate keyword topics
Finding keywords is the relatively easy bit. However, there are few considerations to take into account during and after your research step.
Below are a few – but not exhaustive – things you need to take into account when you are doing scientific keyword research.
Taking care with acronymns
Even if you haven’t being involved in science for a long time, you will already know that the industry loves an acronym.
But just because an acronym means something to you, doesn’t mean that people searching for it also do.
Here’s a good example:
ATP – To a biochemist, it obviously stands for ‘Adenosine Triphosphate’ – the molecule known for transferring energy. But to the general population, ATP stands for ‘Association of Tennis Professionals’. As such, a Google search for ATP brings up the latter search result:
This is not the only example. But it stresses the point that when you are doing any keyword research – or writing content for that matter – make sure to understand what search results return.
To combat this, make sure to write out keywords in full and use them as your focus keyword(s) in your content.
Keyword cannibalisation is the term used to describe when a keyword ranks on more than one URL across your site. This means that one or more URL will appear when a user searches for that keyword.
This might not seem like a problem – a benefit in-fact. However this usually means you means that each URL performs sub-par, rather than one well-performing URL. Although it is a minor issue, preventing rather than fixing the issue at a later date is recommended.
To avoid cannibalisation, it is best to check what keywords you are already ranking for. If you have a tool like GSC or BWMT (Bing Webmaster Tools) set up, they will tell you what you are ranking for in their respective search engines. If you don’t have these set up (you should do that ASAP), then use an external tool (such as SEMrush or Ahrefs) to give the best approximation.
In the case keyword cannibaisation is already occuring on your site or you want to prevent this happening as part of your updated content strategy, consider updating existing URLs, use canonicals, or utilise an internal linking strategy.
BONUS: Copy Competitor Keywords
So far in this article, I have talked about how you can do your own keyword research from scratch – or from your existing keyword data. However, a popular strategy is to use external tools to find and copy your competitors keywords.
If you already know who your real life or online competitors are – or even if you don’t – it is possible to get a list of their keywords, where they use them on the site and how their website is structured.
There are many tools that will let you do this, but recommended tools include SEMrush and Ahrefs for finding keywords and ranking URLs and Screaming Frog for finding the overall site structure.
I would always recommend doing this as it gives you an idea of how much organic traffic your competitors get, and how realistic your own content and SEO strategy is likely to perform!
As part of an SEO strategy, keywords play a big part towards successfully increasing the quantity and quality of visitors from organic search such as Google and Bing.
Keywords help search engines – and in turn, users – find and understand what the content on your page is about. This increases the chance that users find the resources they are after and interact with your business thereafter.
You need to find the right keywords based on search volume and intent to make sure that your strategy is as successful as possible. Of course, these keywords should relate back to your business. In turn, keywords may even help shape the overall direction of your business to ensure you turn visitors into paying customers.
SEO is constantly evolving, but doing the right research with keywords is one of the fundamental aspects. This will help bring consistent traffic to your website now and in the future.
If you have any questions or need further help understanding your scientific keywords, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.