While Google and other search engines keep rolling out new algorithm updates, the need for keyword research to optimize websites has been consistent for marketers. It’s time to demystify keyword research and how it really works to improve the effectiveness of your SEO efforts. This article is a comprehensive guide on keyword research for SEO in order to help business owners and marketers understand the subject and its significance in digital marketing.
What is keyword research for SEO?
It all starts with a ‘search term’ when people try to find something on the internet. Keyword research is one of the most important aspects of any sustainable SEO strategy. It helps marketers find out what search terms their audience is using to find the products they are offering.
In other words, the objective of keyword research is to analyze what words, phrases or questions your audience is using to find your products or services. Selecting the right keywords and ranking for them can make or break your online marketing campaigns. If you’re not sure what keywords are important for your website, social media and paid advertising campaigns, how would you optimize your content?
If done right, keyword research is a valuable and high-return search marketing activity. So, what do you know about the search terms your prospects are entering into the search engines? The knowledge about these terms will play a critical role in the success of your SEO efforts.
Before we move forward and explore the keyword research process, it is important to understand search queries. According to a recent report, there are three types of search queries: transactional, informational, and navigational. However, search queries can also be of a commercial nature which represents people looking to buy something or people doing research before making a purchase.
Keyword research process
In the past, marketers were used to having some keywords that prospective customers might search for and use them based on their gut feeling. Things have changed dramatically over the past few years.
If you are new to SEO and digital marketing, make sure to learn and master the keyword research process in order to establish and execute a high-ROI keyword strategy. Here is what you need to do:
Start with brainstorming topic buckets
Most SEO beginners make a mistake right in the beginning by relying on a keyword research tool such as the Google Keyword Planner (GKP). While these tools are excellent in generating terms that are closely related to your subject, but they lack the capability to come up with new keyword ideas.
For example, what do you think when you hear the word soccer? Whether you like this sport or not, here are some words that might strike your mind: Offside, Christiano Ronaldo, world cup 2022, penalty shoot, etc. However, when you use a tool and enter the term ‘soccer’, you are likely to find terms like soccer games, soccer online, soccer games for kids etc.
So, start the process by brainstorming topics you want to rank for and come up with 8-15 topic buckets that you believe are critical to your business. If you are a blogger, these topics could be around things you blog about the most. You can use those topic buckets later in the process when coming up with specific keywords.
If you’re selling products online, Sort out topics that can help you most in sales conversion. One of the most effective techniques is to put yourself in the shoes of your readers or buyers. If you sell marketing software, you might have a topic buckets like “marketing analytics”, “inbound marketing”, “lead generation”, etc.
Understand what your audience wants
How people search for your content or products and having a better understanding of your target market plays a key role when preparing a list of potential keywords. Once you learn how your prospects are searching for your content, you start to uncover an entirely new world of strategic SEO.
Fill in your topic buckets with keywords
Once you are done with brainstorming various topic buckets, fill in those buckets with some keywords. For example, if one of your topic buckets is “digital marketing”, here are some keyword phrases that your audience might use:
- Digital marketing tools
- Does my business need digital marketing?
- Lead generation
- What is digital marketing?
- Top digital marketing agencies
The objective here is not to prepare the list of final keywords, but to brain dump phrases that potential customers may type in to look up for content related to that specific topic bucket. There can be hundreds of keyword phrases that you can consider incorporating into your content. It’s not time yet to narrow your list down. You can repeat the same process for each topic bucket.
If you are unable to come up with some helpful search terms, you can talk to your sales team or customer care department to find what terms your prospects or customers use or what questions they frequently ask. Keyword research is more about how well you understand your audience. Answer The Public is a great tool to generate some good ideas based on what your audience wants to know.
Go to Google.com
You may find it difficult to fill out your topic buckets with keywords. If this is true and you are struggling to figure keywords your audience is looking for about a particular topic, go to Google and type a topic in the search bar, you will find a list of related terms.
When you initiate a search on Google, you will notice some suggestions for related searches to the bottom of Google’s results. You can use these ‘related search terms’ to stretch your imagination and generate new keyword ideas.
Use a mix of long tail and head terms
It could be hard for beginners to differentiate between long-tail keywords and head terms in terms of their significance. Long-tail keywords are long keyword phrases that can contain three or more words. On the other hand, head terms are generic and can only contain one to three words.
Make sure to check for a mix of long-tail and head terms in your buckets. It will help develop a sound keyword strategy that addresses both short-term wins and long-term goals. It is important to take into account that head terms are searched frequently and next to impossible to rank for. Let’s have a look at an example: without looking up the keyword difficulty or search volume, which of the following search terms do you think would be easier to rank for:
- Web Content
- How to write content for a website
It is really difficult to rank for search terms like “web content”. However, there is no point in losing hope. While head terms drive the most traffic, the traffic you will get from the term “how to write content for a website” will be more relevant and fruitful. This is because long-tail search terms will help you divert more qualified traffic to your website. As a startup, it is recommended to attract a highly targeted audience or people who are using long search terms to find your products or services.
There is no use of struggling to rank for head terms in the start when they can only get you generic traffic. For instance, it is hard to tell the intent of people using the search term “web content”. While the other search term, “how to write content for a website”, clearly reveals the intent of a searcher.
Nevertheless, it is also not right to completely ignore head terms. Make sure you have a mix of long-tail and head terms. You can include head terms in your long-term SEO strategy, while long-tail keywords will help you secure faster results.
Study your competitors
When it comes to developing an effective SEO strategy that can survive a tough competition, It is important to learn what keywords your competitors are looking to rank for. You don’t have to copy everything your competitors are doing. Just because a keyword is critical to the success of your competitors doesn’t mean you should also focus on it. However, it is helpful to learn what keywords your competitors are focusing on so that you can evaluate your list of keywords.
The important thing to consider here is that you shouldn’t miss keywords your competitors don’t care about. This will help you claim market share on important terms. It is a good approach to maintain a balance between terms that are difficult due to competition and terms that are a little more realistic. Again, the objective is to have a list of keywords that can generate quick wins as well as help you achieve more challenging, long-term SEO goals.
The question is how one can find out keywords one’s competitors are ranking for. There are tools like SEMrush which generate various reports helping you find the terms your competitors are looking for. You can also do it manually by searching for keywords in an incognito browser. The search result will help you see what positions your competitors are in.
Use Google Ads Keyword Planner to refine your list
Now that you have a list of estimated keywords, it’s time to utilize Google Ads Keyword Planner to narrow down your extensive list using quantitative data. There are other tools you can use to streamline a keyword research process. Keyword Planner will make things easier for you by showing traffic estimates and search volumes for various keywords.
Keyword Tool, an old version of Keyword Planner, was more diverse in terms of functionality. However, you can still perform well by using a combination of Keyword Planner and Google Trends.
Keyword Planner can be used to highlight terms on your list that have too much or too little search volumes. However, before removing those terms from your list, check out the trend history and projections in Google Trends. Platforms like Google Trends will help you understand which terms are trending upward.
Strategies for identifying keywords
As mentioned earlier, one of the most natural and effective techniques to improve your website ranking in SERPs is the use of keywords that are likely to be used by your prospective customers. From content marketing to paid advertising, your list of targeted keywords will serve as the foundation for your digital marketing strategy and the subsequent creation of all content.
1. Keyword value
It is important to have a list of keywords that have the highest relevance to your products or services. Your selected search terms must receive a reasonable high number of monthly search queries. Being on top 5 or 10 search results for keywords that no one is searching is of no use. Moreover, incorporate variations of your important keywords to get the maximum exposure.
2. Consider Keyword Difficulty
Let’s say you want to write an article about Chow Mein and you need to do keyword research to rank high. If you focus entirely on the search volume, you are likely to select keywords like “Chow Mein Recipe”. However, when you see the keyword difficulty metric, you will find that competition for these keywords is very high and it would take you years to beat the competition and rank your article. On top of that, your blog or website is probably not as authoritative as so many other sites in your niche.
When you study keyword difficulty, you will explore many other search terms that are not difficult to rank for. For example, the use of keywords like “Chinese Pork Chow Mein Recipe” will make it easy for you to produce the desired results.
Search terms with lower difficulty are not as popular as the main search terms, but you will face lower competition and save time that you can invest somewhere else. The ultimate goal of keyword research is to generate more qualified leads not irrelevant traffic.
Best SEO keyword research tools
Keyword research is the core of any search campaign. When learning how to do keyword research, there are plenty of SEO keyword tools that will make things easier down the road. Here are the top 4 SEO keyword research tools you must have:
KWFinder is one of the best long tail keyword research tools. It helps you understand variables such as search volume, difficulty level, trends, CPC, etc. As the name suggests, it functions as a keyword finder. When you click on an individual keyword, it shows its difficulty level, what domains are focusing the keyword, traffic, social shares, and page backlinks. This information plays a vital role when you have to integrate your content marketing with SEO. Moreover, you can also dig into local keyword research using KWFinder.
2. Google Keyword Planner
When it comes to keyword research tools, it’s not wise to miss Google Keyword Planner which will help you reach the right customer with the right keywords. You can start by searching for phrases or words that are relevant to your business. Google Keyword Planner will find you the keywords that are most relevant to your products or services.
3. Moz Keyword Explorer
Moz a great tool to help complete a keyword research project in an effective manner. Keyword Difficulty & SERP Analysis is a smart tool that shows the percentage of difficulty for each keyword on your list explaining how difficult it would be to rank for a keyword or how critical a keyword is to your campaign. You can also see the top 10 websites ranked for your carefully selected keywords. Moz offers tools that can add real value to your SEO and paid advertising campaigns.
SEMrush is considered one of the most diverse keyword research tools offering a broad range of features. From SEO and PPC research to competitive analysis, SEMrush will help you boost your overall SEO results.
How to use keywords in your content
You need to strategically incorporate targeted keywords into your web pages. Not every keyword placement will yield equal results. There are places on your site that are more critical than others. Here are some elements on your site that must be optimized for your chosen keywords:
- Image titles and alt text
- Web copy
If you haven’t yet optimized these places using relevant keywords, prioritize this task. Small tweaks or rewriting the above-mentioned elements will pay off in the long term. Focus more on pages that get the most traffic or pages that are critical to your business. Don’t forget to optimize pages you will create in the future.
Keyword research is the first step when it comes to writing web content or SEO copywriting. Before you write web copy, a blog, an ad copy or anything that presents you on the internet, get inside your prospects’ heads to figure which words they use when searching.
Mastering keyword research will help you build highly productive SEO campaigns. Make sure to learn how to do keyword research before working on any SEO strategy. Conclusively speaking, work your way through the keyword research process and use keywords to guide your content efforts. Write valuable blogs and articles for every single keyword you would prefer to be found for. Use this guide on keyword research for SEO to build a profitable online presence.
If you’re not sure where to start or how to develop a successful SEO strategy for your business, consult a result-driven digital marketing agency. Reach First is one of the top online marketing agencies in Canada where we help our clients get maximum online exposure through strategically developed and implemented SEO strategies. Contact us to discuss your online marketing needs!