4 under-utilized SEO research approaches to tackle in 2024


SEO is turbulent right now. Between tons of algorithm updates and reports of Search Generative Experience (SGE) taking over the SERPs, there’s a lot of uncertainty and anxiety about the path forward.

To me, it’s the perfect time to put some under-utilized SEO research initiatives that we know are effective back in the spotlight. My list of these includes:

  • Keyword trend analysis.
  • Customer research.
  • Analysis of non-search channels for content.
  • SERP analysis for “striking distance” keywords.

By the time you’re finished reading this, my hope is that you’ll feel like (despite all the winds swirling around) you have more control over your SEO success in the coming months.

1. Keyword trend analysis

There’s keyword analysis, and then there’s keyword trend analysis. The latter helps SEOs surface things like:

  • New keywords.
  • Changes in the keyword landscape.
  • How your in-focus keywords might have changed since you originally optimized for them.

My favorite tool for keeping a pulse on trends is the Glimpse Google Trends extension, which adds much data and functionality to the usual Google Trends insights.

Use this extension for a wealth of long-tail keyword data, trending topics, trend alerts and data exports. The tool (and a bit of a mentality shift) helps you apply a real-time approach to your top keywords, not a set-and-occasionally-review process.

Dig deeper: Beyond search volume: Future-proofing keyword research for SEO

2. Customer research

You’re undoubtedly doing some version of customer research (right?) to determine intent, needs, pain points, etc. But in my experience, it’s rare for SEOs to take a comprehensive approach to customer understanding that involves conversations across teams and fluency with different tools.

Some tools to play immediately if you haven’t yet include:

  • Heat mapping tools (I like Hotjar because even its free version gets you plenty of information about how users interact with your site).
  • Survey tools, like SurveyMonkey, Typeform or Google Forms. 

A note on surveys: don’t overuse them. Be explicit about how the data will be used. If the data you’re collecting is valuable enough for your campaigns, you may even consider offering small gift cards or rewards.

As far as different teams go, your brand or client’s sales and customer service teams have a wealth of real-time information about customer questions, issues, use cases, challenges, etc. Recurring check-ins with those teams (hint: keep it as easy as possible for them to communicate learnings with you) is a great use of your time.

Whether you’re working in an agency or in-house setting, your paid teams are also great – and often under-tapped – resources for data about what’s working and not working.

From high-CTR ad copy to surging keyword volume to insight on the audiences performing best, paid media insights can be incredibly valuable in optimizing organic search strategies and priorities.

Dig deeper: An SEO guide to audience research and content analysis

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3. Analysis of non-search channels

Forums like Reddit and Quora, communities, brand and competitor FAQ pages, social media and YouTube comments are rich sources of real-time information for user understanding and emerging themes to tackle with content.

Slack communities are one of my favorite data sources (and have also helped me bring in new clients). Active Slack communities on topics related to your business are often incredibly fruitful, with users asking questions and looking for recommendations you can address directly. 

To get the most out of Slack, always respect the rules of the community, don’t be overly pushy or sales-y unless it’s a question explicitly looking for your product or service and look for ways to add value to ongoing conversations even if you don’t benefit directly.

4. SERP analysis for ‘striking distance’ keywords

With Google’s old page system, it used to be that moving from 11 to 10 (the first page of the SERPs and away from the “where do you hide a dead body” jokes) or even from 4 to 2 (above the fold), were movements with multiplier-effect growth. 

Now that Google uses infinite scroll in the SERPs, consequential improvements depend less on page breaks and more on position relative to other SERP features, like embedded videos or People also ask sections that push content down the scroll.

Still, not all keyword ranking improvements have equal ramifications, so make sure your reporting reflects the opportunities to assess the cost and benefit of making highly consequential leaps. 

Going forward

I’ve been in the SEO industry for a long time – enough to remember many seemingly seismic shifts in the search landscape that had marketers scrambling to adjust. This is perhaps the most dynamic period I’ve experienced; the introduction of AI-generated content is an entirely new dimension for search marketers.

That said, during times of change, I’ve almost always seen brands lose track of certain SEO fundamentals that are proven to drive growth. Whatever shape the rollout of SGE takes, the best way to prepare is to control what you can control and get your best practices humming in the meantime. 

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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