Keyword research is the first and very essential step in the SEO (search engine optimization) process and is an integral part of your SEO strategy. Before you create your website’s content, you have to find out what search terms your audience uses. These are keywords and based on these keywords you can start writing useful and high-quality content. Here, we’ll take you through the many steps involved in keyword research.
What Is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is part of SEO (search engine optimization). It is research to identify and create an extensive list of keywords they would like a website to rank for. To do this, website owners need to dig into their desired audience and search engines. What search terms do people type into Google when looking for their products, service, business, or type of organizations? And what do they expect to find? This list of keywords helps you plan and write content that will attract high-quality traffic to your site.
How Important is Keyword Research?
Proper keyword research is important because it will identify what search terms your audience uses. We frequently came across business owners who used one set of words when describing their products, without realizing that their target audience is using a completely different set of words. As a result, potential customers couldn’t find their websites, because of a mismatch in word use.
It should make perfect sense that you don’t want to optimize for words that people don’t use. Thorough keyword research makes sure that you use the same words as your target audience which makes the whole effort of optimizing your website far more worthwhile. In addition, you want to look at search intent, you find out what exactly your audience is looking for. The results of this research will help you generate quality content.
Essential Concepts To Remember
Before jumping into doing keyword research, it is beneficial to understand the essential concepts of it.
A focus keyword or keyphrase is the word or phrase you want a certain page on your site to be found for in Google.
Long-tail keywords are more specific and less commonly searched for than, so-called, head keywords. They focus on a niche. The longer and more specific the search terms are, the easier it will be to rank for them since there will be less competition. Even though there are fewer people searching for these terms, they might be more motivated to buy, subscribe, sign up or whatever you’d like them to do.
Your keyword strategy is about the decisions you make based on your keyword research. You can decide what content you are going to create first and what the head and tail focus will be. You also need to consider how and where will you publish it and whether you will create a piece of writing, a post or a product page, a video tutorial, or an infographic?
Digging into search intent is important here. You have to discover what a person searching actually wants or needs. You’re not just looking at keywords, but the underlying goals of what they want to know, do, or buy. Your content should provide a solution to the searcher’s “problem”. This process is known as content design.
Performing Keyword Research
At the basis of it, there are 8 important steps to use while conducting keyword research. This step-by-step approach gives you practical tips to start your own keyword research.
1. Determine your end goal: Before starting anything, think about your overall goal. Reflect on questions such as:
- What is the main goal of your business or organization?
- What makes it special?
- Who exactly are you trying to reach?
- What promises do you make on your website?
- Take your time and write down your goal and once you’re able to answer these questions in detail, you’ll have taken the first and most important step in your keyword strategy.
The market you’re in determines whether your mission will prove good enough to rank high. Some markets are highly competitive and will have huge budgets for marketing and SEO. Competing in these markets is tough, which makes it also tough to rank in these markets too. If you’re launching into a competitive market, your best bet is to start out small. Aim to own a small part of that niche and then become a bigger name in the business.
2. Make a list of keywords: The second step is creating a list of your keywords. This task is easier when done using a spreadsheet. With your end goal in mind, try to get into the heads of your desired audience to think about what these people are looking for? What kind of search terms could they be using and which of their “problems” does your product or service solve? If your goal is clear, you will have a pretty clear image of your niche and unique selling points so these are the search terms you want to be found for.
3. Research your keywords: After you’ve created this first list, you are ready to dive a bit deeper into your keywords. The good news is that there are some tools that make your keyword research a bit easier. Using Google is one of them. Google the keywords you already came up with and check the searches Google suggests while you are typing. The results will be related to the questions people actually asked Google. You can also check out the “related searches” that come up too.
4. Don’t forget the long-tail: When people start out with keyword research, they tend to focus on very popular “head” terms, but these will be mostly taken by large businesses. Long-tail keywords get less search traffic, but there will be less competition too. This makes it easier for you to rank on those keywords. Additionally, long-tail keywords have a higher conversion value, because they focus more on a specific product or topic. A long-tail keyword will typically be longer and more focused but you can also use the same tool mentioned in step 3 to help you find more long-tail variants of your keywords. Include the long-tailed keywords in your spreadsheet too, so you can more effectively create a proper site structure later on.
5. Analyze the competition: Whether you should use long-tail keywords or not largely depends on your competition. If the competition in your niche is high, you’ll have a hard time ranking on competitive head terms. If you have little competition, you’ll be able to rank for more of your head terms. To evaluate which terms to go with, Google the keywords that came out of your keyword research, starting with the ‘head’ term used most often. Check out the search engine result page to find the other businesses you’ll be competing against. Are they professional websites? Company websites? Is your company of similar size and does it have as much influence in your niche? Remember, it will be harder to rank when you’re competing against sites with strong brand names. You should also take a look at their content to see if it is well written and optimized. If their site offers poor content, then you have the chance to outrank them.
6. Look carefully at search intent: Today’s SEO strategies should focus on answering the questions that people have or providing the best solution. The reason people enter a search query into a search engine is to find an answer for something. Every type of question needs a specific answer. Try to find out the intent your audience has when they search for a certain key phrase on Google. Do they have:
- informational intent, looking for information on a specific topic
- navigational intent, wanting access to a specific website
- commercial intent, wanting to research before they buy
- transactional intent, wanting to purchase something.
By looking closely at the type of pages that already rank for a specific query, you can learn a lot about intent. Do you mostly see product pages or are there more informational blog posts? Do you see videos? These are all hints to what Google assumes the search intent of a certain query is.
7. Determine a keyword strategy: Based on the data you’ve collected through research, you can now develop a keyword strategy. Having followed the steps above, you should have a spreadsheet with a substantial amount of key phrases, information about your competition, and the search intent of your audience. The next step is to evaluate how well your website holds up compared to the websites that come up in the search engine results. If they are of equal size, you can focus on head terms but if they are bigger, focusing on long-tailed keywords will be more beneficial for you. Once you’ve managed to rank for those long-tail keywords, aiming for more head terms will become easier. Then it is time to think about the type of content based on the search intent and what your audience is looking for.
8. Start constructing landing pages: In theory, this step is out of the scope of keyword research itself, but creating valuable landing pages is essential if you want to get traffic to your website. You will need to build landing pages for your search terms, but you don’t have to create all these pages immediately. Your keyword strategy will help you prioritize where to start. For your most important keyphrases you’ll create cornerstone content articles which are articles that provide the best possible content about that keyword. All the long-tail articles will link to this cornerstone content.
Top Tips for Keyword Research
This all might sound pretty straight-forward or it may seem confusing. There is a lot of work that goes into this, and when put to practice, you might come across some common issues or questions. Here are some of our top tips to help make it as easy as possible.
Prioritize your keyword list: There is no exact number of keywords you should have, but we can tell you that you need a lot of them. Note that more than 1000 keywords is probably too many and even small businesses typically end up with a couple of hundred keywords. You don’t need to create pages for all of these straight away and it is often better to add content a little at a time. Think about what keywords you want to rank for now and which ones aren’t as important right away.
A focus keyphrase only needs one page: It used to be that every keyword you wanted to be found for, got its own landing page. Today, search engines are smarter and use search intent to give searchers the best answer and this is the page that will rank on top. Search engines also understand subtle differences between keywords so you don’t have to create landing pages for all subtle variations or synonyms of each.
Add related keyphrases: This helps Google understand your text. Related keyphrases are words and concepts that deepen and broaden the understanding of your focus keyphrase. By using related keyphrases in your text you can paint a complete picture of your focus keyphrase in the article you’re writing.
Singular or the plural keyword? Your choice will depend on the query. As Google is learning more about the search intent of your query, it can better guess what you’re looking for. You need to make sure you know what you offer on your page and that it fits with the query and results in Google gives on that query. We can help you with identifying your focus keyphrase so you no longer have to optimize your post for a specific word form. Optimizing your post has become a much more natural process.
Use a keyphrase only once: Do not use your exact focus keyword more than once. Doing so can cause your rankings to suffer from keyword cannibalization. This is when Google has a hard time distinguishing between content that is very similar and it ranks the pages lower. You need to keep track of keywords you have used before and we have tools to help you do this.
Try, evaluate, and try again: After you have analyzed your chances of ranking, have great content and are optimized, it is time to publish. Wait a little while before checking your rankings. Does your article pop up or did it hit the first page of Google’s results? Or is it hidden away on page 2 or 3? This is the time to evaluate your articles island to Google the terms you’ve optimized your articles for. If you’re not able to rank on the first page, try to write another article, focused on more long-tail keywords. Make it a little bit more specific, and more closely suited to the niche. See how it fares this time, evaluate again, and continue until you make it to the first results page.
Now you are armed with the steps to get your website noticed and ranking high with Google. You can start writing now. Keyword research should be the start of any sustainable SEO strategy and the result will be a long list of keywords for which you’d like to be found. This is actually the easy part, the writing is more challenging. You should write articles and blog posts on every single keyword you would like to be found for. But with this guide, you are already on your way to a great SEO start.