How to use N-grams to find new opportunities

There are many ways to do key research to put together an SEO strategy. But if you need to get a feel for your ranking opportunities quickly or are looking for new ways to refine your search process and increase organic search traffic, this will be invaluable to you.

Our process involves using n-gram analysis to drill down into optimal keywords and terms that you can target to drive traffic and boost rankings. This has been successful for our clients and is an effective method of finding new opportunities that you might not see just using common SEO tools.


  • What is an N-Gram Analysis?
  • How to approach keyword research
  • How to identify optimization opportunities
  • Prioritizing keyword clusters
  • The local intent of keyword clusters
  • Strategic implications for Nation vs. Local Intent
  • National keywords
  • Local keywords
  • Use of automatic coding

What is an N-Gram Analysis?

An n-gram analysis in digital marketing or SEO (Search Engine Optimization) refers to examining sequences of words or terms (n-grams) used in a website’s content to determine their frequency and importance.

The goal of this analysis is to identify and analyze patterns in language use on a website in order to improve rankings and visibility in search engines.

By analyzing the frequency of common n-grams, you can optimize your website content for relevant keywords, improve your website’s relevance to search queries, and increase your website’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). ).

How to approach SEO keyword research

When you’re crafting an organic search optimization strategy, approach your keyword research with these goals in mind:

  1. What types of keywords do you rank well for?
  2. Where do most of your clicks come from?

We start by grabbing the entire search query database from Google Search Console, running it through a file n-gram analysis tool, then find the combinations of words that get the most clicks. This allows us to get the best keywords and search terms to start optimizing.

How to identify optimization opportunities

In the word cluster analysis below, you’ll see how to start identifying opportunities. We took the output from our n-gram tool and GSC data to create bi-gram (2 keywords). From there, we sorted them by clicks with impressions and their average ranking position.

Each cluster below that doesn’t have a green ranking is an opportunity.

You can see that the branded keywords here all rank around the #1 position. 1, but non-branded keywords rank much lower.

By focusing on these, many are attracting a fair number of users to the site, but they are found on pages 2-5 in the Google SERPs.

Hence, there is an opportunity for these to be targeted due to the fact that queries containing these 2 keywords have shown that they are already generating clicks and impressions despite their low ranking.

Now that we have our list of keyword opportunities, we can start digging deeper and prioritizing them.

Prioritizing keyword clusters

An important group of bigrams that you may notice quickly are questions, especially those with transactional intent like “How much”.

For example, looking at the table, if keywords 10 and keywords 11 are “how much”, you can filter all queries in GSC that contain both words and sort them by impressions.

Then you will be able to check the queries where you are not in the top positions.

In this case, they place in position one or two for the “how much” questions, but people ask a bunch of other “how much” questions this site doesn’t rank in, which brings their ranking down to an average of 55th. .

So, there are tons of opportunities there to create a content strategy including FAQ pages to address this issue. You can also consider making product landing pages more SEO-friendly if we find words like “[product] cost” in the analysis.

The local intent of keyword clusters

Another level of keyword research analysis should include grouping keywords based on their local intent. This will help you determine the content and page architecture you need to rank well. The most obvious might look like:

  • [product] + near me
  • [product] + [city]
  • [product] + [zip code]

However, many local keywords aren’t obvious. For example, Google’s algorithm treats queries like “dog food” and “auto insurance agent” as local queries, and their SERPs return a map pack in the SERPs.

Since it’s not always intuitive what is and isn’t a local keyword (and this has a big impact on the success of your strategy), so you need to:

  • Analyze the results of existing SERPs across multiple geographies
  • Search for a map item in the SERP
  • Search specific pages by city or state
  • Analyze titles and URLs
  • Analyze consistency and determine intent

If you need to do this on a large scale, consulting is worth considering an agency or build a local intent tool to help. This is especially important if your site is a multi-location business, in a service area, or if your brand may have priority queries with local intent.

Strategic implications for Nation vs. Local Intent

To effectively build or optimize a webpage, it’s essential to understand the various search intents and how they should complement your SEO approach, investment, and efforts. Some of the strategic implications for national and local intent include:

National keywords

National websites will both require many content and authority. If you’ve identified that your target keywords are in queries that have little or no local intent, then you want a top website where you’re spending most of your SEO budget to get that ranking by building backlinks.

Local keywords

If you’ve identified that your keyword is considered local by Google, then this is where a the different site structure will really start to matter. By creating a directory of state or city pages, you will be able to capture more search volume.

  • Locator index page
  • Status page
  • City page
  • Location page

Attempting to rank local content for national keywords is unlikely to succeed due to the site’s lack of authority and content.

On the other hand, attempting to rank national content for local keywords is not in line with the intent of those keywords, leading to wasted time and resources without the desired results. It is crucial that you correctly match your efforts and initiatives to the appropriate keywords.

Use of automatic coding

As a best practice, we segment branded and unbranded queries into different segments. At LSG, we use auto-tagging to make things easier. The purpose of this is to identify different opportunities and get an idea of ​​which non-branded terms can be prioritized to increase your keyword rankings and get the most meaningful results.

This can save you a lot of time and provide better actionable data that is easy to sort and can be loaded into a dashboard so you can view relevant metrics. Also, because we have auto-tagging of keyword categories and page types, we can also track progress over time. Check out our breakdown of how to implement it here.

Additional tools for organic keyword research

There are many N-gram analysis tools out there. We built ours in LSG (you can sign up as a beta tester here), but some free tools include:

It’s also worth mentioning that you can also use paid keyword research tools to boost your analysis such as:

These can be useful for narrowing your search for terms for which you don’t have GSC data and aren’t trying to optimize for terms you’re already ranked for.

They can be useful for projecting monthly search volume, estimating keyword difficulty, and performing a search competition analysis to find gaps in keywords. But there are also free tools like google keyword planner to identify new keywords.

However, these keyword tools can provide inaccurate estimates of search volume and miss patterns or insights that are gained when performing in-depth n-gram analysis as part of the research process.

Final thoughts

Using n-gram analysis for keyword research can help you better analyze the terms you’re ranking well for and areas of opportunity. It also allows you to group your keywords into buckets, find related keywords, and prioritize SEO efforts. It also lets you recognize different types of search intent to make sure you’re investing in the right keywords and implementations to deliver results.

Local SEO Guide has successfully developed SEO strategies using these and other keyword research methods. If you are looking to improve your organic visibility and increase revenue through SEO, take a free consultation or drop us a line below.

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