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April 1, 2015

How to Use Conversational Keyword Phrases for Better SEO

SEO Targeting
Photo Credit: Augur Marketing via flickr

With all changes in Google’s algorithm, it’s difficult to keep your SEO strategy on point all the time. The constant improvements in the search engine software can mean only one thing: you need to turn SEO into a permanent, progressive and persistent part of your overall marketing campaign.

Among the latest trends in search engine optimization, there is one particular tendency that attracts a lot of attention: conversational keyword phrases. Google’s Hummingbird update understands the conversational phrases that users enter in a search query. Rather than focusing on each word, Google perceives the phrase as a whole.

For example, try entering “how do I use a panettone mold for something other than panettone?” and you’ll see that the algorithm doesn’t always work in practice. The user gets recipes for panettone and websites where he can purchase molds. This is really frustrating and Google is doing everything it can to change it. Although some of these queries don’t work right now, they give us an idea where the search algorithm is headed.

What does this mean for a SEO expert? The main difference is that you should no longer focus on a few keywords; you need to think about meaning, sense, and natural implementation of larger word combinations into your content.

How to Use Conversational Keyword Phrases

The first thing you should do is find the larger word combinations that your target audience is searching on Google. You don’t have to rely on special strategies for this part; simply think of different questions people have about your business. For example, if you are promoting an online flower store, your potential buyers will probably wonder “how do I take care of a mini ficus bonsai?” Think of different phrases that would come up in a conversation and try to implement them naturally into your SEO strategy.

Internet users don’t want to bother figuring out what keywords Google would understand. They want to ask the question and get the answer they need, so you should do your best to list your website into the relevant results. These tips will help you incorporate these conversational keyword phrases into your strategy:

  • You need to have an “organic” approach toward your SEO efforts. Instead of focusing on particular words, you should understand how your target audience thinks and implement natural phrases in the content.
  • Pay a lot of attention to the anchor texts linking back to your site. You should no longer focus on isolated keywords, so make sure the text is conversational.
  • These are the main questions that will help you build some keyword phrases: who, what, why, where, when and how. Implement such questions into the content you create and make sure to answer them directly.
  • Your SEO campaign should go hand-in-hand with your social media campaign. Establish a strong presence across all important platforms and pay attention to the questions you get. This is the most valuable source of conversational keyword phrases that you can use for search engine optimization.
  • Google users always search for superlatives. They want to know about the latest trends in fashion, the coolest haircuts for 2015, the best restaurants in New York, the top recommended online shopping sites… the list goes on and on. When you provide content that answers such questions related to your niche, you’ll most likely improve the visibility of your website.
  • Create a detailed FAQ page. Collect the most common questions you get from your visitors and make sure to answer them as clearly as possible.
  • Don’t forget to implement negative questions. When someone is looking for a solution to a problem, they usually ask a question with a negative format. For example: “Why doesn’t my acne go away?” or “Why won’t my iPhone update?” You can even build a blog section within your website to provide solutions for such problems.
  • Talk to your users in their own language. Include different conversational phrases into the content and keep it natural.
  • The trend of using conversational phrases doesn’t mean that keywords are no longer relevant. However, don’t use the same (or similar) keywords too many times in one piece of text.

Bottom Line: Make Your Website Useful! 

Although it’s hard to predict the steps toward Google’s eventual destination, the Hummingbird update reveals the focus: providing results that answer the questions of Google searchers.

The thing SEO experts should always keep in mind is that good content solves all problems. Offer valuable information, help your readers find solutions and you’ll most likely implement some conversational keyword phrases without even thinking about them. The point is to make your website focused, useful, and entertaining.


Michael McPherson is a graduate student from Boston University, freelance blogger and a regular contributor at You may follow him on Twitter: @McPhersy