SEO Gem: Discover Which Question-Based Keywords Your Site Ranks For Now!

Question based keywords (same as question optimized queries) are search terms that are phrased as questions, such as “What is the best SEO strategy?” — these keywords are important for SEO because they reflect the way that people naturally search for information on the Internet, and they can help to drive targeted traffic to a website.

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Optimizing for question-based keywords involves creating content that provides direct answers to the questions that people are asking, and making sure that the content is structured in a way that is easy for search engines to understand and index.

We can find question-based keywords that a webpage on a website is ranking for, we can filter these in the Google Search Console using a regular expression (GSC regex).

This search engine optimization ( SEO ) gem regarding how to determine which questions a site ranks forΒ was spotted on LinkedIn andΒ comes compliments of Steve Toth of SEONotebook in Canada — since this is both simple and useful I captured it in this article.

In brief, we’ll need a regular expression and we’ll need to run this regular expression in the Google Search Console as a query filter under the performance option — we’ll walk you through each step in a moment but first, we need to take a look at the regular expression and in the next section we have two variants.

In the next section, we’ll explore what question keyword optimization are as well as how we can find question based keywords.

Later, we’ll take a look at question keyword optimization and explore some ideas regarding how this can be used to boost SEO.

What is Question Keyword Optimization as it pertains to SEO?

Question keyword optimization is the process of optimizing web content for specific search queries in the form of a question.

With the rise of voice search and virtual assistants such as Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa, more users are turning to search engines with questions.

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To optimize for question keywords, the content engineer or search engine optimization specialist needs to identify the specific questions that a given target audience is asking and then create content that answers those questions.

This requires using natural language in tandem with long-tail keywords that reflect the way people actually speak and search — for example, instead of optimizing for a broad keyword such as “digital marketing,” the content engineer may choose to optimize for a specific question such as “what are the best digital marketing strategies for small businesses?”.

This approach not only helps your webpage rank for more specific queries, but it also shows search engines that your content provides valuable information and can help improve your overall search engine rankings.

Which Question-Optimized Queries Perform Well?

As of August 2023, changes are being made by Google regarding the HowTo and FAQ schemas — see the article entitled Google Downgrades Visibility of HowTo and FAQ Rich Results and note that the HowTo schema will only work on desktop devices.

Building backlinks are an integral part of Off-Page SEO and there are both active and passive strategies and tactics that can form a part of a backlink generation campaign.

While refreshing this article I looked for an indication that any of these question-optimized query types (what, why, when, where, etc) performs better when it comes to attracting backlinks and there is: according to the SpyFu article entitled Guess which Content Types Get the Most Backlinks? right at the top is how-to style queries — quoting from the article:

β€œHow to” posts are some of the most popular types of content because they educate readers by leading them step by step through a process. These articles earn backlinks because they break down big ideas so other sites can easily find relevant info to link to.

This is important because it can help us prioritize which question-optimized queries we want to focus our attention on, especially if we find one in Google Search Console that we’ve not explicitly targeted and with a SERPs position that makes it attractive for optimization purposes.

If we prioritize How-To style questions we can also extend the value to the visitor by adding the HowTo schema for rich snippets to the page.

This becomes part of our Off-Page SEO strategy and may even qualify as a backlink magnet in some cases.

We want do-follow backlinks and we can either go hunting for them or we can do things that may help generate them organically over time and focusing on How-To questions falls into the second category.

Below I’ve included a picture of the HowTo schema in the All In One SEO Pack Plugin for WordPress as it has been applied to this article.

All In One SEO Plugin for WordPress schema in use option with a pointer to the HowTo Schema.
All In One SEO Plugin for WordPress HowTo Schema For How To Question-Based Queries

Once the page has been indexed by Google and the schema has been added to search results, you may see something that looks similar to what I have below.

Search Result Page for the article entitled "Discover Which Question based keywords your site ranks for now" with a red pointer to the HowTo Schema rich snippet which is visible in the Google search engine results page (SERP) as a rich snippet and should improve SEO.
The HowTo schema rich snippet is visible in the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for the article entitled SEO Gem: Discover Which Question Based Keywords Your Site Ranks For Now!

This search result occupies more search engine results page (SERP) real estate and hence should attract more visitors to the website because they get to see several steps regarding how to accomplish some task and then in order to complete the task they need to go to the page.

If the traffic to the page is significant enough and the task is important enough then backlinks to the page should appear over time and some percentage of those backlinks are likely to be do follow backlinks.

See also How-to (HowTo) structured data on Google Search Central.

How do we find question based keywords?

One way we can find question based keywords is by using the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool, as demonstrated below.Β 

SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool: Broad Match Questions with a red pointer to the "how to find question based keywords" question.
SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool: Broad Match Questions showing the "how to find question based keywords" question.

In the next section, we’ll cover a very basic introduction to regular expressions and point you to some resources that can be used to learn more about this subject.

Note that we don’t need to know much about these in order to be effective — a simple copy/paste using the text we’ve included later in this article should be adequate to get the job done in most cases.

Introduction To Regular Expressions To Filter Question-Based Keywords in the Google Search Console (GSC Regex)

We won’t introduce you to Regular Expressions (regex or regexes) here but rather direct you to several articles which will help you cover this ground if you’re new to the subject.

Regexes are used heavily in software development and are very powerful can be both tedious to write and test and can definitely be difficult to read as well.

The article in [1], from Google Webmasters, includes a link to a regex testing tool from regex101.com which can be used to run experiments.

Keep in mind that if you’re new to regular expressions there are different flavors and [1] makes it clear that the RE2 regular expression syntax is in use.

Below are just a few articles we found on the subject of regular expressions:

  1. Regular expression filter (in Google Search Console)
  2. Regular expression
  3. Regular Expressions in Google Search Console
  4. Beyond the UI – How to filter Google Search Console (GSC) data using regular expressions in Google Analytics (GA)

Finally, this page on PerlMonks.org contains a list of some complicated regular expressions and the following article on the CodingHorror.com website, entitled “Regex use vs. Regex abuse”, well, you probably see where this is going.

Fortunately, the regexes covered in the following section are fairly simple.

Use A Google Search Console Regex (GSC regex) To Filter Which Question-Optimized Keywords Your Site Ranks For

In this section, we’ll cover how to run the custom GSC query in three easy steps, including pictures — we start in the Google Search Console.

Step One: Select “+ New” in Google Search Console

SEO Hidden Gem: Google Search Console: Performance option.
Step 1.) In the Google Search Console Performance Tab choose "New".

Step Two: Select “Query” in Google Search Console

In the next step we need to choose “Query…” and then, on the right (below), we select the “Custom (regex)” choice.

Google Search Console -> Performance -> New -> Query
Step 2.) Choose "Query...".

Step Three: Select “Custom (regex)” in Google Search Console Filter

In the next step, on the left (below), we need to choose “Query…” and then, on the right (below), we select the “Custom (regex)” choice — this will filter the question-based keywords.

In this SEO Hidden Gem we execute a custom regular expression in the Google Search Console as follows: Google Search Console -> Performance -> New -> Query -> Filter -> Custom (regex)
Step 3.) Choose "Custom (regex)"

Step Four: Apply the Custom Regular Expression (Custom Regex) in Google Search Console

In the final step, we need to enter the GSC regex and then apply it — the GSC regex for the custom query has already been provided and can be seen here:

The GSC regex for the custom query has already been provided to us and has been copied here:

				
					^(who|what|where|when|why|how)[" "]
				
			

And an expanded version is included below — if you have additional modifiers that could be valuable please feel free to add them in the comments.

				
					^(who|what|where|when|why|how|was|did|do|is|are|aren't|won't|does|if)[" "]
				
			
Add the custom regular expression (gsc regex) to the query filter and apply to filter the question based keywords.
Enter the custom regular expression (gsc regex) and press apply to filter the question-based keywords.

And that’s it! Once you’ve successfully executed this last step you’ll see which questions your site is ranking for.

The following gsc regex appeared in the comments on LinkedIn and is useful as well and contains variations of other words that can yield insight into what a given page is ranking for (see also this post from Steve Toth).

				
					^(are|can('t)?|how|if|wh(at|en|ere|y)|who(m|se)?|will|won't|((c|sh|w)ould|did(n't?)|do(es)?|was|is|were)(n't)?)\s
				
			

Next we’ll add the GSC regex and review the result.

Run The Google Search Console Regex (GSC regex) Example Output

The article entitled “Why is Technical SEO Important?” was designed to answer this exact question using long-tail keyword data sourced from the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool.

We can see the result of this SEO strategy below where the red pointer in the top query demonstrates that the exact title of the article is in the results, which is what we’d expect.

Even more importantly we can see other questions that this article ranks for and what position they occupy.

This can be valuable in that if we’re refreshing this content we may optimize for the same query, with the goal being to push the position into the top ten results; we may also choose to optimize for another question based keyword too, if it makes sense.

Google Search Console Regex (GSC regex) for question-based search queries that the article entitled "Why Is Technical SEO Important?" ranks for with pointers to the GSC regex, the page, and the title of the article.
Google Search Console Regex (GSC regex) For Questions About The Article Entitled "Why Is Technical SEO Important?"

For example one of the top queries is “why technical seo is important” — this is a variation which has 368 impressions associated with it and the query appears, on average, in position 15.4.

This query also appears in this article several times — if we were to refresh this page and modify the content in such a way that this query performs better, Google may push this into a better position and since this is not too far from being on the first page this could boost traffic nicely.

Other Regular Expressions To Use In Google Search Console

I came across the following regular expressions today in a post on LinkedIn by Bill Gaule, who is based in Dublin, Ireland and and specializes in SEO.

Find Research Intent Keywords / Top of the Funnel (TOFU) Keywords

What is Top Of Funnel Content?

Top of the funnel is the awareness stage when potential customers are just realizing they have a problem or need and are looking for more information.

Top of the funnel content is typically educational and aims to answer general questions and concerns.

Examples of top of the funnel content include blog posts, e-books, videos, and other educational resources.

We can find top of funnel keywords using the following regex:

				
					^(what is|how|why is|history of|definition of|meaning of|explain|how does|overview|can)
				
			

Below I’ve includes output for top of funnel keywords that this query produced when I executed it in Google Search Console.

Example output from Google Search Console of several Top of Funnel (TOFU) how-to style research intent keywords.
"How-To" style research intent keywords: top of funnel (TOFU) regular expression example output

Find Consideration Intent Keywords / Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) Keywords

What is Middle Of The Funnel Content?

Middle of funnel is the consideration stage when potential customers are evaluating different solutions to their problem.

Customers at the middle of the funnel are considering various options, which might include your products or services.

Middle of funnel content often dives deeper into specific solutions, showcasing features and benefits.

Examples of middle of the funnel content include case studies, product webinars, and comparison guides.

We can find middle of the funnel keywords using the following regular expression:

				
					^(best|advanced|techniques|strategies|reviews|on-page|checklist|insights|guide|how to)
				
			

Below is the example output including several results that this query produced when I executed it in Google Search Console.

Example output from Google Search Console of several Middle of Funnel (TOFU) consideration intent keywords.
Middle of Funnel (MOFU) Consideration Intent Keywords Regular Expression Example Output

Find Decision Intent Keywords / Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) Keywords

What is bottom of funnel content?

Bottom of funnel is the decision stage when potential customers are ready to make a purchasing decision.

Customers at this level have likely narrowed down their choices and are looking for final assurances or incentives.

Examples of bottom of funnel content might include product trials, demos, discounts, or testimonials.

We can find bottom of the funnel keywords using the following regular expression:

				
					^(vs|versus|alternatives|alternative|competitors|buy|price|purchase|deal|order|sale|discount)
				
			
Below is the example output including several results that this query produced when I executed it in Google Search Console.
Example output from Google Search Console of several Bottom of Funnel (BOFU) decision intent keywords.
Example output from Google Search Console of several Bottom of Funnel (BOFU) decision intent keywords.

Find Long-Tail Keywords

What is a long-tail keyword?

Long-tail keywords, in the context of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), refer to specific and longer keyword phrases that searchers are likely to use when they’re closer to the point of purchase or when they’re using voice search.

Long-tail keywords are called “long-tail” because if you visualize keyword popularity on a graph, these specific queries tend to have lower search volumes and would be located at the long-tail end of the curve.

The regular expression below shows a minimum of seven keywords (six spaces indicates seven keywords).

				
					([^” β€œ]*\s){6,}?
				
			

Below is an image of some example long-tail keyword output including several results that this query produced when I executed the regex in Google Search Console.

Example output including Long-Tail Keywords from Google Search Console.
Example output including Long-Tail Keywords from Google Search Console.

Capture Seasonal Trend Keywords

What are seasonal trend keywords?

Seasonal trend keywords refer to search queries and keywords that experience predictable spikes in search volume at specific times of the year due to seasonal events, holidays, cultural occurrences, or other time-bound factors.

These spikes spikes in search volume can be influenced by various annual events or occasions.

Recognizing and optimizing for these keywords can be beneficial for businesses that offer related products, services, or content.

The regex below can be used for finding seasonal trend keywords in the Google Search Console.

				
					^(summer|winter|spring|fall|holiday|christmas|black friday|halloween)
				
			

TODO: Add an image for this query.

Find Localized Queries

What are localized queries?

Localized queries refer to search queries that have a specific geographical intent or are influenced by the searcher’s location.

These queries often aim to find local businesses, services, events, or information relevant to a particular area, city, or region.

The regex below can be used for finding localized query keywords in the Google Search Console.

				
					^(near me|london|harlow|bishops stortford|local|nearby|closest)
				
			

Below is the example output including several results that this query produced when I executed it in Google Search Console.

Example output In Google Search Console for finding localized queries using a regular expression.
Example output In Google Search Console for finding localized queries

Find Queries Ending with a Specific Word

Reviewing queries that end with a specific keyword in Google Search Console (GSC) can be beneficial for multiple reasons, especially as it pertains to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and content strategy including for intent analysis, competitive advantage, content gap analysis, keyword expansion, improved ad targeting, geographical insights, user concerns and questions, and content structuring.

The regex below can be used to find queries that end with a specific word in the Google Search Console:

				
					KEYWORD$
				
			

The article concludes below.

Question Based Keywords Article Conclusion

We can use what’s referred to as question keyword optimization to boost SEO targeted content that answers questions and I can see the results of this myself as several of the best-performing articles I’ve written answer a question.

According to the SEMrush article How To Boost SEO With Question Keywords Optimization, “…approximately 8% of search queries are phrased as questions” and as per Google, the search engine is processing over 3.5 billion searches per day as of April 3rd, 2021, which equates to ~280,000,000 question-focused queries.

Exploiting question keyword optimization by targeting high-value and complex questions [10] with solid, well-researched, and well-written content could lead to a potentially significant boost in traffic to a website.

Question Keyword Optimization falls within the realm of Content SEO as it involves researching, identifying, and strategically incorporating question-based keywords into your content.

Question Keyword Optimization ensures that your content directly addresses the questions users have and provides valuable answers or information.

While question keyword optimization is a crucial aspect of Content SEO, it is also somewhat relevant to On Page SEO as well.

Incorporating question-based keywords within appropriate on-page elements, such as headings or subheadings, can improve the relevancy and visibility of your content to both search engines and users.

And that’s it for this article — if you found this information to be helpful, let me know in the comments!

I’ve included aΒ Tweet on the right from Ian Nuttall, who posted several additional regular expressions that can be used in the Google Search Console.

Search Engine Optimization and Question Based Query References

ThosPFuller

When it comes to Digital Marketing as a/an: Organic SEO Consultant: I can help improve your website traffic, increase search engine rankings, and increase brand visibility; Technical SEO Consultant: I can help improve your website performance, identify and fix errors, improve crawlability, and optimize your website structure and code; WordPress SEO Consultant: I can help improve your WordPress website ranking, improve your WordPress website usability, and optimize your WordPress website content and plugins. I am based in Northern Virginia -- which is in the Washington DC metropolitan area.