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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The Mechanics Behind Keyword Clustering

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Keyword research is the main task of any SEO strategy, and in addition to finding the most profitable keywords that you can rank for, there is a great deal of work that goes into analyzing these keywords before using them. Clustering or grouping is the process that helps you sort the keywords you have collected, prioritize them, and filter out the irrelevant ones. This improves your chances of getting a good position and we will explain why.

What is keyword bundling?

Keyword clustering is combining similar and relevant queries into groups, using entire groups for site optimization instead of separate keywords. It helps to clean the semantic core by dividing it into simpler groups.

Semantic clustering has always been an important step in building a website. It became especially apparent with the SEO-focused shift in 2013, when Google released its Hummingbird update and the algorithm began targeting phrases instead of individual keywords. The change was further supported by the RankBrain update in 2015: the algorithm got smarter and can now define search query topics and find multiple similar phrases.

There are two main types of keyword bundling:

  • lemma-based: which finds similarities in the meaning of phrases and their morphological matches
  • and SERP- based , which matches search results.

Benefits of semantic keyword clustering

The good thing about keyword grouping is that it gives you a clearer picture of what content to create and how to organize it on pages, what phrases to rank for, and how to promote different segments of your site.

By grouping your keywords, you can:

  • Better understand user intent. SEO-focused themes offer a more complete response to users: when you put together similar phrases, you’re targeting user intent rather than a single keyword, therefore you’re more likely to hit that search intent .
  • Maximize the number of keywords with which to position. With clusters, you can rank for a series of related keywords instead of targeting individual queries separately.
  • Remove unnecessary keywords. Clustering makes a large list of keywords easier and more understandable; you can easily spot irrelevant queries. SE Ranking’s Keyword Clustering software will provide you with unclustered keywords that don’t match any theme the tool distinguishes and allow you to double check if you really need them in your strategy.
  • Understand the potential of the segments. The clusters you get as a result will help you understand how different pieces of content are or should be connected. This process will allow you to view your site from a search engine perspective and assess the different categories that you have or should have.
  • Create an effective site structure or analyze the existing one. Clustering helps you analyze the semantic relationships between your pages and improve the architecture of your website.
  • Increase the visibility and authority of your site . Thanks to keyword grouping, you can have a better understanding of semantics and make your content more powerful, which, in turn, will make your website more authoritative in the eyes of search engines.
  • Save time and eliminate errors. If done automatically, keyword clustering gives you all the benefits mentioned above quickly and efficiently.

Manual vs Automatic Bundling

There are many tools to automate the bundling process, although some may prefer to do it manually with the help of Excel or other programs. It’s one thing when you have a hundred words, but when searching for a project leaves you with thousands of keywords, imagine the time it will take to sort them all manually. Manual grouping requires you to break each keyword down into terms, define their intent, and make phrase lists based on the parameters you need.

SE Ranking’s automated keyword clustering tool will save you time and effort and do the work for you. You’ll gain insight into what your keywords cover and how to segment them into useful groups without the hassle of going through each and every query you’ve collected.

How to group keywords with SE Ranking

Now that we know how powerful keyword clustering can be, let’s dive into the mechanics of doing it with SE Ranking tools.

Initial keyword research

To classify keywords into topic groups, you must first compile a complete list of keywords. Collecting as many queries as possible is your first task in the process of building and promoting your website. The initial research process will help you explore what users are searching for in your niche and how your competitors are dealing with keywords.

There are a variety of free and paid tools that will help you find keywords for your website. Use Google Trends and Google Analytics to track top search queries and current trends in search results. As you do your research, keep in mind that there are different types of search queries: you can distinguish them by length and uniqueness (one-, two-, three-, and four-word phrases, as well as long-tail keywords) and by user intent (browsing, information, etc.). , transaction). These differences will give you an idea of ​​how tough the competition is for certain keywords and what the chances of conversion are.

Defining and analyzing your competitors is another important step in keyword research. Find out who is leading the organic search results, what their most profitable keywords are, and learn about the best performing PPC ads in your niche. The semantic comparison available in SE Ranking can show you keyword overlaps between different domains: common phrases from your main competitors should be on your target list.

SE Ranking’s Keyword Research tool includes Keyword Suggestions where you can find similar and related words. Explore the list of phrases that have a low search volume to fully understand your niche and expand the number of keywords to rank for. You can export what was found with SE Ranking and then rank the keywords in an xls file. or csv.

Creating clusters or groups

Now that you have a full list of existing keywords in your niche, it’s time to create simple groups and remove the queries you won’t need. SE Ranking’s keyword clustering tool filters queries based on their SERP similarities. This tool matches search results for certain keywords and groups together phrases that rank on identical pages.

Let’s compare how clustering works if done manually and automatically and then review all the steps you need to take to cluster your queries in SE Ranking.


To manually create keyword groups, you can filter the list by their semantics or intent type. For example, you have a huge list of queries about “photo editing software”.

  • You can identify all the different terms that appear in the search results (for example, “photo editor”, “photo program”, “image editor”, “collage maker”, etc.) and group the keywords that contain identical terms.
  • You can group queries based on their search volume, which will help you work on your site structure: high volume keywords, lower volume brand keywords, and low volume keywords that can represent categories, subcategories, and filters. of your site respectively.
  • You can search for different types of phrases by focusing on the search intent (questions like ‘how to install a photo editor’, ‘photo editor for mac’, specifications like ‘photo editor free’, ‘best paid photo editor,’ etc.). To verify keyword intent, search Google and visit the most popular sites in the search results; This way, you’ll get a complete picture of search engine needs and be able to segment queries more effectively.
  • You can create tags for different aspects of a keyword: for example, type of use (online and offline), transaction intent (buy, download, install, search, etc.), device specification (PC, Mac, Android, iOS , etc.). Then you will have to match the tags and create groups.
  • You can review each keyword separately and group them by any other criteria you like. Manual or automated keyword clustering largely depends on your niche and your particular SEO goals.


To start grouping keywords in SE Ranking, you must select your region and the language of the interface. Focus on the regions in which you want to promote your website and do the grouping separately for each language if you are targeting several of them. Next, you must choose the level of binning precision and binning method; These are the factors that will influence your results.

Finally, you must insert your keywords; you can add them manually or import them from a file. Choose if you want to check search volume in addition to grouping (can also be done separately) and run the tool. Now you have to wait a bit while our robot looks for matching results and groups your keywords based on the number of identical pages in the top 10 results.

Choosing the clustering method and precision

Now, let’s discuss how the different settings work. There are two main parameters to select: precision and grouping method.


The keyword grouping precision (with a range of 1 to 9) indicates the minimum number of matching URLs for the queries. For example, if you set it to 3, phrases will be grouped only if they have 3 identical URLs in the search results. The higher the precision, the fewer matches there will be, and the fewer keywords will be included in each group.

Typically, similar queries have SERP similarities:

Let’s run the same set of keywords through different precision settings and compare the results. We have taken 212 queries on the topic of photo editing software and grouped them using the simple method with the highest (9) and lowest (1) level of accuracy.

High-precision grouping gives us more specific categories to work with, and also leaves many phrases ungrouped:

With this setup, we have an idea of ​​the different needs of search engines: we can see that people are looking for photo editors for different operating systems, online and offline, etc.

However, many groups separated by tool can be logically grouped together: “best photo editing software” is not semantically different from “best photo editing software”. Therefore, we need to work on these keywords manually, as well as the ones that are not clustered.

Conversely, low-precision keyword clustering leaves us with broader groups that don’t help much in categorizing different intents:

With this setup, you’ll probably need to manually regroup most keywords, matching their meanings. In general, it’s a good idea to implement both automatic and manual pooling techniques.


The method (general and exhaustive) defines how search queries are compared: general grouping compares all queries with the one with the highest search volume, while exhaustive grouping compares queries against each other.

Broad grouping gives a more general idea of ​​the niche and the different keywords your competitors are targeting. With this approach, you’ll also get fewer unclustered queries (displayed at the bottom of the results page in the unclustered cluster), which you’ll have to manually sort through and decide if you want to apply to your SEO.

Exhaustive grouping can help eliminate irrelevant search queries and distinguish many user intents. Comparing queries against each other gives a wider selection of specific intents and creates more groups even with the lowest level of precision:

However, low precision clustering, even when done using the exhaustive method, ignores many important differences within each cluster. For example, a list grouped under “free photo editing software” includes keywords that are not directly related to each other: “photo editing software for Windows,” “easy photo editing software,” “photo editing software downloadable photos”, which represent different search intentions.

High-precision exhaustive clustering, in turn, might ignore similarities between multiple groups. For example, we got “best photo editor” and “best photo editing software” as separate groups, which doesn’t make much sense semantically.

Let’s summarize the characteristics of each type of keyword grouping available in SE Ranking:

 Number of clusters or groupsUngrouped keywordsdifferentiation of intentionsBetter for

Soft method / Low precision many large groups Considerable number of keywords High relevance within groups; some similar keywords placed in different groups Discover your niche in general

Soft method / High precision Considerable number of very small groups Most keywords Some missing search intents segment your niche

Hard method/ Low precision Considerable number of small groups Considerable number of keywords Multiple intents detected; low relevance within groups Meet different needs of search engines

Hard method/ High precision Few very small groups Most keywords Some lost search intents; high relevance within groups Target keywords to the maximum

Manage clustering results

Regardless of the chosen setting, each group is named after the keyword with the highest search volume. On the results page, you can access information about the number of matching URLs, the top 10 results with the keywords included in the groups, and snippets containing these keywords. If you choose to check search volume, the grouping results will also show this metric.

Once you know which groups work for you, bookmark them and export them to your project. In the project settings, you can create and name your own groups, as well as add comments to any keyword. There is no automation in how the groups are distributed on the pages of the website: you can create several pages to cover a large group of keywords, as well as combine some groups.

It makes sense to mix manual and automated approaches : By running your keywords through an automated tool, you’ll be able to analyze how search engines view those phrases, and then regrouping the groups will allow you to take into account your goals and website structure in particular.

Create content and ads based on groups of keywords

Keyword clustering helps you sort your semantics and build an effective website structure . Based on the groups you get as a result, you can develop the hierarchy of pages, categories and subcategories, filters and more, of your website. While bundling is an important step in creating structure, it can also make it easier to create content and ads.

By having separate groups of keywords on your hands, you can maximize the number of phrases with which to rank for your content. When you decide which group corresponds to which page and section of your website, you can discover more terms to include in your content: exploring the full list of keywords within a group will allow you to find some new concepts and intentions to cover. In this way, you will make your content more trustworthy and match user expectations.

The same applies to your paid campaigns. Google Ads allows you to create ad groups in a similar way to how you create keyword groups. Each displayed ad is chosen by Google from ad groups based on its relevance to a particular search.

Promoting your website offers with the help of keyword groups is more effective. For example, if your goal is several “healthy snacks” and you don’t limit your campaign to several specific ad groups, such as “weight loss snacks”, “vegan snacks”, “organic snacks”, “kids snacks”, etc. ., you could end up with your ad being totally irrelevant to the search intent. And if your ads prove useless to search engines, you’ll get a low Quality Score and Ad Rank. But keyword organizing tools can distinguish different intents and group those that are similar, making your content and ads more useful.

To end

Semantic keyword clustering is a powerful SEO tool that will help you organize content, diversify your language, and rank for more terms. When you expand your keyword list, break it down into separate groups that are closely related and use them to encompass different user intents.

There are different ways to group keywords: you can sort the selected queries based on their meaning or by the number of URLs they have in common. Choose the method, general or exhaustive, and the level of precision according to your SEO objectives, whether it is to obtain general information of the industry, carefully select the most relevant phrases or something else.

With SE Ranking’s Keyword Grouper, you let the algorithm filter queries for you, specifying your search engine preferences and grouping settings. While bundling gives you a better understanding of your niche and search engine needs, if done automatically, it frees you from extra effort and provides everything you need in one place.

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