What is the foundation of SEO? Keywords!
And in this blog we aim to explore what keywords are, how to do effective keyword research, and how to pick the right SEO keywords for your business and campaign goals.
Why are keywords important?
Picture this. You spend hours crafting the perfect blog teaching something near and dear to your heart. You promote it, get backlinks and you rank #1 for what you thought your keyword was…Then you wait…And wait…And wait…
Why, because you skipped the keyword research phase.
If no one searches for the keywords you write about, then you get no traffic from Google and other search engines, regardless of the amount of effort you put in.
SEO keywords are keywords and phrases in your web content that would make it possible for web users to find your website or specific webpage from search engines. Websites that are optimized for search engines can speak the same language as their target market using keywords for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This will help in connecting searchers to your website, which is why it’s a major element of SEO.
Because of the importance that keywords have in search engines and your online visibility, you have to know how people are searching for the info, products, and/or services you offer. This will make it easy for your target audience to find your website! If not, then they will most likely visit other results from the search engine page results, which are your competitors.
By implementing proper keywords on your web content, your site can rank above competitors. And it all begins with keyword research.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research refers to the process of understanding your target market’s language, specifically the ones they use as they search for your content, products, and/or services. This would involve analysis, comparison, and prioritizing the suitable keyword opportunities for your site.
Basically, it is discovering the keywords and phrases people use in any search engine, including Google, Bing, and even YouTube.
This may seem easy, but it’s a bit complex, as settling on the ‘correct’ keywords is a delicate process you need to invest your time in. It involves trial and error, but don’t worry, as it’s easy to understand the basics.
The Benefits of Keyword Research
Keyword research will help you identify what people, particularly your target market, would type on their search engine.
Why do you need to know this?
This is needed to avoid creating and posting content about topics that no one searches for. Surprisingly, this is a mistake a lot of website owners commit, which is why almost 91% of web pages receive no traffic from search engines like Google, according to a study conducted by Ahrefs.
Besides what was mentioned above, keyword research will help answer questions such as:
- How hard is it to rank for specific keywords?
- How much traffic would I most likely get when ranking for a specific keyword?
- What content can I create so I can rank for specific keywords?
- Will the people who search for the specific keywords you use be more likely to convert into my customers?
When you find the right answers to those questions, you’ll make the right decisions as you look into what keywords you should use and prioritize.
Furthermore, keyword research would impact other SEO tasks and efforts performed, such as looking for content topics, email outreach, content promotion, on-page SEO, and more! It’s the reason why keyword research is usually the first step of SEO campaigns.
Think of it this way:
Keywords are compasses to SEO campaigns. The results will show where you should go and if you are making progress or not. It will help you understand your target audience even better, as research will give insight into what your target market is searching for, along with the exact keywords and phrases they use.
It is the 21st century’s marketing research! Many websites that conduct keyword research, and use the data they collected wisely, experience a boost in traffic thanks to ranking higher in relevant search engine results pages.
Now that you know what keyword research is and its importance, the next question is: How can you conduct proper keyword research for a better and more successful SEO campaign?
Below are the steps and tips to follow.
How to Look for Keyword Ideas
The first step is to create a list of keywords.
Before that, brainstorm for topics that your target market would be interested in. What are topics related to my business that people search for?
If you run a digital marketing agency, then topics can fall around email or content marketing, social media, PPC, and the like. These are NOT yet keywords, but they will help you narrow down your search.
Keyword research will begin by thinking about what your potential customers would search about your business or site. Then, you can use keyword research tools to expand those ideas, finding more relevant keywords.
It is simple, but you need to be knowledgeable about your industry, have a good understanding of how to use the tools, and how to get the most out of the tools and data received.
Once you have figured out topics, here are the steps to follow:
Brainstorm seed keywords
If you have a business or product you’d like to promote, then you can come up with seed keywords easily.
If you sell equipment related to tea, then your seed keywords would most likely be ‘Tea’, ‘Green Tea’, ‘Bubble Tea, Ginger’, and the like.
Take note that these seed keywords alone may not be worth targeting on your content. They are seeds to use for the next steps, so you shouldn’t obsess over finding these keywords, as it would only take a few minutes.
When you now have broad ideas and seed keywords related to your business and website, you can now go on to the next step.
What are your competitors ranking for?
Identify your competitors first. You can do this using the list of seed keywords you created just a while ago. Search for those seed keywords on Google and look at the first few results. If you don’t see similar websites or competitors that use those seed keywords, look at the results from the ‘autosuggest’ queries.
You’ll need to use your judgment as you determine who your competitors are. List down websites that resemble yours, and once you find them, you can use competitor analysis tools to see their popular pages and the keywords they use for them.
This will help you study your competitors, what they are writing about, what your target market is looking for, and the like. This will give you a bunch of keyword ideas!
Utilize the right tools
While competitors are a good source when finding keyword ideas, there are opportunities to use keywords your competitors aren’t. You can find these keywords through keyword research tools.
These tools would work by inputting a seed keyword. Then, you’ll have a lot of keyword ideas from their database. One of the most popular tools is the Google Keyword Planner, which is free. While it’s for advertisers, site owners can utilize its features for keyword research.
Other keyword research tools are free or more affordable, though they have their limitations. You may want to consider investing in a subscription or premium versions of these tools to make the most out of the keyword research process.
Study the niche
While the tips above can help you generate a lot of keyword ideas, these suggestions kind of keep you in your box. This is because the generated keywords are limited by seed keywords, along with the size of your tool’s database.
This means you might miss out on other good ideas and opportunities. To help you out, you can study your niche more by reading industry forums and groups, as well as Q&A websites like Reddit or Quora. You can find even more things and questions your target market struggles with that did not show in the tools you used, and what your competitors didn’t cover.
Besides forums and other websites, your customers are also a great source of keyword ideas. You can chat with them to ask what more they would like to know and see on your website, check past emails and customer support requests, or recall questions that they have asked before.
A lot of keyword ideas are a good thing, but you can’t use everything at once and expect the same successful results. You will need to further narrow down that list of keywords and find out which one is best. However, going through all of those keywords one by one is nearly impossible.
The solution? Utilize SEO metrics so you can narrow your list down, separating the best from what can be used later. Then, add the best keywords to the content calendar!
There are five keyword metrics you can use when analyzing keywords and seeing which is best:
Search volume shows you the number of times keywords are searched per month.
Take note that this is an average number that shows the number of searches and not how many people searched for the keyword. It also won’t tell you how much traffic one would get through ranking.
People would search online for something, but this doesn’t mean they will visit the top-ranking pages. The Clicks will tell you how many clicks were made on specific keywords.
Many keywords may have a huge search volume but far fewer clicks, as search engines would answer the question in the search results itself, so they won’t have to click on sites to find what they’re looking for.
Traffic potential is another important aspect! When you rank for certain keywords, your page may also rank for other related keywords and/or synonyms.
This is why you should look into the traffic top-ranking pages receive rather than estimating potential search traffic from just one search query. It’s normal to rank for more than one keyword, which is why you shouldn’t judge keywords by just search volume and clicks alone.
Make sure that you also check the top-ranking results so you can see the search traffic potential of your chosen keywords and topics.
SEO professionals would measure the keyword difficulty manually by checking the top-ranking pages for their keywords. This would account for other factors to judge the difficulty of ranking for specific keywords. Some of these factors are:
- The number and quality of backlinks
- The freshness, length, and relevance of content
- Use of the target keyword, as well as its entities and synonyms
- Domain rating
- Search intent
- And more
While the process would vary and there isn’t a consensus on what factors are more important or what. This would make it a bit difficult for keyword research tools!
But based on the experts, one thing is for sure: Backlinks are vital to rank. That is why you may want to consider basking the keyword difficulty score on the unique websites that link to top-ranking pages.
Go after the high-KD keywords sooner and see them as linking opportunities for you to rank higher! Keyword Difficulty isn’t what deters you from targeting keywords but would help you understand what it takes for you to rank on certain keywords and their link-worthiness.
Cost Per Click would show how much advertisers would be willing to pay for every ad click from specific keywords. This is a metric more suitable for advertisers than those focusing on SEO. BUT it does have its use in measuring keywords’ values.
For every keyword on the list, you’ll have to create the right type of content and webpage to address the keyword, topic, and/or query. It is crucial to know how to target keywords, and you can do so by following these steps:
Identify your parent topic
So, you have further narrowed down your keywords and have a shortlist. Now, you’re probably thinking: Do you create a different page for every keyword or target all in one page?
This depends on how search engines see the keywords! Do search engines see them under the same topic or as individual topics? You can learn the answer by checking the search results pages.
If you get similar results in some keywords, then it is best to target those keywords on one page rather than create separate ones. But if you see different results, then it’s best to create separate pages for each keyword.
But as you have noticed, this manual process is a slow and tedious one, as there would be a lot of keywords to analyze, taking more time.
That’s where keyword research tools come along to help you out! You can utilize the tool and let it identify the keywords “Parent Topic”. Doing this will show you whether you can rank for target keywords while targeting broader topics instead.
Identify the search intent
Next up is to identify the search intent.
For example, you have an online store that has a blog. You will need to identify what keywords to target using product pages or blog posts.
You will know by judgment, as some keywords are obviously used for blogs rather than product pages (or vice versa).
However, some keywords may be a bit confusing, which is why identifying search intent is crucial to avoid losing opportunities to rank higher.
Search engines would understand search intent better than anything else, so you can try to research using the search results pages. For better chances of ranking, create similar content you see at the top results.
You can use your keyword research tool here, finding the top results of your chosen keyword and analyzing the following:
- Content angle is the content’s major selling point
- Content format is all about informational content, such as listicles, news, opinions, reviews, or how-to’s
- Content-type would fall under the following: Blogs, Products, Categories, Videos, or Landing Pages
Once you have these in mind, you’ll have an idea of how to create your content to rank higher. But note that while it is crucial to align content with what searchers expect, don’t follow what everyone else is doing and stay within the comfort zone of searchers’ expectations.
Catch searchers’ attention with different angles, formats, or types, if you are confident, it will be a successful effort.
Prioritizing keywords isn’t exactly the last step throughout the process. This is something you need to do while going through the aforementioned steps!
When looking for, analyzing, and grouping keywords, ask yourself these questions:
- What’s the keyword’s estimated traffic potential?
- What’s the competition like and what will it take to rank high?
- Do I have content about the topic and keywords? If not, what should I do to create and promote competitive content and pages?
- Do I already rank for the keyword? If I do, can I boost traffic by improving the ranking?
- Will the traffic most likely convert to leads and/or sales, or just provide brand awareness?
While it is important to consider what I mentioned in the ‘Analyzing Keywords’ step, you should consider the worth of the type of traffic will bring to your website.
But how can you do that? A lot of SEO and content marketers would judge keyword value by mapping them into the buyer journey. This journey is a process that consumers would go through before purchasing anything. The earlier one is in this journey, the less likely one will purchase anything.
A popular method is to group your keyword ideas into these levels:
- Top of the Funnel
- Middle of the Funnel
- Bottom of the Funnel
The top has the highest traffic potential, but visitors aren’t interested in purchasing anything yet. The middle and bottom would bring less traffic, but the searchers will most likely become customers.
While this is useful and sensible, the concept is a bit limiting! Here are some reasons why:
- It won’t take into account the fact you can take searchers from the top and walk them through the entire process of the buyer’s journey
- It is tough to assign keywords specifically to the top, middle, and bottom labels, as it would vary from person to person
- The definition of ‘top of the funnel’ is very broad in that it covers unrelated topics
Rather than following the top-to-bottom of the funnel labels, you can try using a business score to determine the value of a keyword. This would be based on how well products or services can be pitched in the content.
These are the scoring criteria you may use:
- 3 – the products or services are irreplaceable and valuable solutions to specific problems
- 2 – the product or service helps a bit but isn’t absolutely essential to solve the specific problem
- 1 – the product or service would be mentioned, but fleetingly
- 0 – there isn’t a way to mention the product or service
When pairing the scores above with the estimated search traffic potential of topics, then you have an idea of what topics are most valuable for your business.
Remember that you are not and should not focus on keywords that are easy to rank for. Rather, you want to get those with the highest ROI.
When you focus on low-difficulty keywords, you’re making a mistake and only looking into the short-term. You end up missing opportunities from lucrative keywords. But if you only look into medium or long-term ranking goals, it will take a very long time to get traffic.
Balance is needed and you should have short, medium, and long-term goals!
Wrapping It Up
SEO and keywords are directly connected when you want to implement a successful search marketing campaign. Since keywords are the foundation of other aspects of SEO efforts, it’s worth your time and investment to conduct keyword research. This will help ensure that the keywords you use are relevant to your target audience and will be organized efficiently, and ready for action.
I hope that this guide on keyword research helped you out and encouraged you to do keyword research the right way! Use the points mentioned above to do excellent keyword research and use that data to implement proper action now. Good luck!
Do you have any questions or want to share your insights on keyword research, share them in the comments section below? All of your thoughts are much appreciated!