Keyword research is identifying, analysing and targeting keywords to increase visibility and drive relevant traffic to your website. It's no doubt that keyword research is one of the essential SEO activities you need to pay attention to. However, it can also be challenging if you're not well-versed in related knowledge or have a strategy in place.
Without the proper preparation and plan, keyword research can feel like an uphill battle with no end in sight. But keyword research can be pretty fun with the appropriate preparation and strategy.
Keyword research can help your site become more visible in search engines when conducted correctly. This article will prepare you with all the necessary information so you won't get stuck during this process.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research represents the process in which a business owner or SEO specialist (if you are using one) researches search terms that users enter into a search engine. These search engines commonly use Google, Yahoo! and Bing for the industry and services or products you represent.
Once you have identified these keywords and phrases, you include them in your content and web pages, so you gradually appear higher on the search engine result pages (SERPs).
For SEO, keyword research is the beginning of the process and fundamental to any SEO success. SEO research is finding and targeting what you want to rank for.
Keyword Research History
Keyword research came to the fore in 2005. Since then, we have witnessed an evolution in search engine algorithms and subsequent requirements for success in online marketing.
Today's search engines look for quality content that matches users' search intent to rank accordingly.
Keyword density has come and gone in keyword evolution. In the past, SEO specialists focused on writing multiple keywords into content for higher rankings; today, that is penalised; so a lot has changed.
Keyword research should take place at the beginning of an SEO campaign setting the foundation for other projects and content in your business's online growth.
Keyword research helps form the core of content writing for the website and articles to publish or your blog. They alter how you label and describe your product(s) and service(s) and how you will periodically optimise each of your web pages.
Every business differs in some way, so strategies vary too. Still, everything starts with finding the right keywords to represent you and gain traffic to your website.
Why Is Keyword Research Important?
Keyword research will give you valuable insight into problems, solutions and questions and general trends of what your target market is currently searching for.
This initial analysis should form the core of your organic SEO campaign.
Driving organic traffic to your site happens once you have optimised your content and website using the keywords the users search for in the search engines.
Remember, keywords can only do so much to drive traffic to your website. The next step after keywords research and implementation is ensuring the website acts as a salesperson and helps guide the visitor to become a lead or purchase online.
Source: Brightedge Research
SEO is the most powerful marketing tool on earth. Building organic traffic is the most long-term reliable marketing strategy. To create a successful long-term campaign, taking your time (if you have it) is advisable when doing your keyword research.
Use some of the tools we will highlight in this guide. You'll find hidden gems that larger companies with substantial marketing budgets might not be targeting; there's your chance to find new business.
Gaining Visibility by Using Keyword Research
Try to change yourself into the mind of a potential customer. Go onto the search engines and type in what you would if you were looking for your services.
Once you understand what and why they are searching, you can start aligning your content with their questions and needs.
Detailed keyword research will give you a direction to optimise your website and content to rank higher and gain more visibility for searches within your field.
The higher you rank online, the more brand awareness you will get, and then you expand your online presence.
How to Perform Keyword Research?
Now that you understand the ethos behind keyword research and why we can get started on how the machine works.
Here is a simple process you can follow to help identify a list of crucial phrases and terms to use on web pages, blogs and services and use of LSI Keywords. All of which will link back to you and grow you online.
List Topics Relevant to your Business
For this, if you are familiar with spreadsheets, create a new one and then create categories for your keywords (also referred to as 'Buckets').
If you are already used to blogging, you will already have a few topics you regularly cover or look to pick around five to ten.
As an example, if you were a company that sells environmentally-friendly natural products, the categories you could focus on may be:
- Natural Health
- Healthy Environment
- Natural Beauty
- Healthy Cooking
- Natural Home Cleaning
- Natural Medicines
Expand the Topics Using Phrases Users Would Type
Expand your list once you have identified these phrases that would generally be used to find products, services or information within your list of categories.
As promised in this guide, I will provide you with some analytical tools; some you must sign up for, others for free. The biggest names in the industry are:
But there are plenty of others to take a look at, including:
As a rule of thumb for beginners, given that Google is the most used search engine, you are better to start under the Google umbrella. Google Keyword Planner and Google Analytics work hand-in-hand and are easy to understand.
Use these analytical tools to help your keyword research. By looking through the organic searches, you will quickly identify what matches what you provide best, which forms the basis for moving forward.
Although this won't be what you'll eventually settle on, it'll give you food for thought and start a solid brainstorming session of what you want to target.
Still using the environmentally-friendly natural products model, under the category of "Healthy Environment" as an example, you create a sub-list of:
- Best Water Filters
- Compare Air Purifiers
- Aroma Diffuser
- Essential Oil Diffuser
- Non Toxic Paint
- How to Purify Indoor Air
- Natural Allergy Cures
Create a sub-list for each main category you listed on your spreadsheet and add these. This is an excellent opportunity to get your staff involved and see what ideas or input they might have. Remember, they may spend more time on the internet than you do!
Find Relatable Search Terms
Here is a point where you can get creative in adding to your keyword lists.
- Type into Google a keyword phrase, then scroll down. At the bottom, Google shows you two rows of related searches (bolded).
- To go further into the search terms, do the same on one of the related searches, scroll down, and check out more related search terms and phrases.
- Another tool is AnswerThePublic this is an excellent search tool and will allow up to three searches a day for free.
- Another alternative, as I mentioned above, is using Google Keyword Planner, another free tool that will help you find relatable phrases.
Analyse Keyword Strength
Using one of the tools I have listed in the guide, this is what you are looking for when you start keyword analysis.
What is the precise search term? Ensure your keyword phrase is an exact match to what people are using.
What is the monthly search volume? If no one is searching for this phrase, then there's no point in building content and a strategy around it. Look for popular search terms.
How big is the competition? When using one of the analytical tools, look to differentiate between paid ads and organic search. You are looking for the highest search volume against low organic search competition. That is where your potential customer base is.
Verify Search Intent
Every time users enter a search term into Google, they are looking for something. The search engine's job is to provide the most accurate companies that answer that search.
So getting to the point where you understand your customer's intent is the first step. Then you can start researching what information and companies the search engines are providing that user for that search term. What pages rank, what are they offering, and how good is their content?
There is a fine line between identifying the intent and immediately bombarding someone to buy. This can equate to the user leaving the site and increasing your "Bounce Rate".
Note: A bounce rate is when someone clicks on and off again quickly, this tells Google your website is not providing a suitable experience for the user for that search term. Your rankings will suffer as a consequence.
So this is where you need an on-site strategy (separate from a keyword strategy) to help your conversion rates once you attract traffic.
At this stage, it is wise to make notes on buyer intent for every keyword phrase you have listed in your spreadsheet. Also, it is an excellent habit to get into to check for keyword intent each and every time you start to create new content or write another blog.
Keywords To Help SEO
Let's clarify that there are no magic wands or 'Best' keywords to help SEO.
The process involves identifying the most highly searched keywords and phrases to build your online presence, drive traffic, and convert them into new business.
However, there are some basic rules for finding keywords to help your SEO strategy, and these will account for:
You are looking for a balance between keywords with high search volumes but ones that you can at least compete with based upon:
- The competition level
- Your ability to produce better content than is already ranked on the first page
Search intent comes in as Google's algorithm ranks for relevance. You are in direct competition to provide more value than the following website. The content you write on your website, blog, and social media will rank only if it meets the searcher's needs. Plus, once it does, you must prove you are the best resource to satisfy the user.
As I mentioned in this guide, you must ensure that a search term has a monthly volume of searchers. When using any of the analytical tools, you may see the term "MSV" - this stands for Monthly Search Volume. This figure will take into account all audiences searching for that specific term. If you are a small business, try not to compete for search terms with thousands of monthly searches. All the biggest companies in your industry already have been targeting them. Look for keywords and phrases with a volume of less than 1000 per month at the start. With good keyword-rich content writing, you can get on page one of Google quicker.
Google adds more weight when it deems a source as "Authoritative". To attain this standing, your site needs to have helpful, engaging, informative content that earns social signals and is becoming rich with backlinks. Remember, it is not about quantity but quality, so make sure you post and update keyword-rich and up-to-date content regularly using your targeted keywords.
If your quality of content is superb, you can compete with the more prominent brands. Sometimes they can take their foot off the gas, thinking brand awareness alone will give them a better ranking. The truth is only if their content and keywords are used correctly!
Keywords To Drive Sales
Use Google Analytics in Keyword Conversion Tracing
Google Analytics, which we discussed earlier (the link is above), is as good a place as any to start. Google simplify it to get accurate conversion rate information. You will need to set up either "e-Commerce tracking" or "conversion goals". Once you have done this, you have insight through a snapshot to see how your website's overall conversion rates stand.
You can access these in Google Analytics by following this: Standard Reporting -> Conversions -> Overview.
If you want further information, review your 'Goal Funnels' by: Standard Reporting -> Conversions -> Funnel Visualisation
NOTE: If you are currently at less than 2 percent for conversions, you need help, so it’s best to keep reading.
Following that, you need to establish your conversion rate for the specific keywords that drive traffic to you.
Following the guidelines above will show you only source/medium conversions.
What you need is "Conversion by keyword". Setting up a custom report is the best way to gather and use this data in future analysis. Just do this:
- Custom Reporting (click) "New Custom Report"
- Add a Title (e.g. Conversions per Keyword)
- Click "FLAT TABLE"
- Click "KEYWORD" for your dimension Note: Both organic and paid keywords will be included)
- Click "Goal Completions" - 1st Metric
- Click "Goal Conversion Rate" - 2nd Metric
- Click "Save'"
Here is an example of a baseline report you should see:
As you can see, I have based on a tiny sample of data. Still, you can see how each keyword is performing. I feel it is a good starting point to get you used to analyse what is underneath the car's hood. And get ideas on how to structure differently and start thinking outside the box.
This example shows that optimisation is needed for those keywords.
Keywords To Help With Product Awareness
User-Intent Related Keywords Help your SEO and Brand
Now that we have established how vital keywords and SEO are to making people brand aware let's look further into how we can use keywords to enhance the SEO strategy and subsequent online visibility.
Once you have established your categories and sub-lists of relevant keywords, you are moving on to optimisation.
- When you optimise for brand awareness, focus your content around informational keywords. These keywords need to match the initial user searches that are the start of their 'Buyer's journey'. This is where they need to learn more about the service(s) or product(s).
- If you want an alternative to Google for analytical tools at this stage, click here for a 30-day free trial of - Moz Keyword Explorer. This will help you identify the keywords within the industry and your competitors.
- Once you have them, start building content based on them. For example, suppose you are selling summer fashion wear and find a keyword for 'New Summer Bikini'. In that case, this could give your content writer ideas for an article or blog titled '"5 new Bikini Ranges to Kickstart Summer". Also, this gives you a chance to utilise what we call a "Cluster Model".
- Now use the keywords everywhere, in your headline, the body of content and your image titles in the article or blog. The more indicators there are in a cluster, the easier Google's crawlers will pick up on it.
Note: Remember what I said about "Keyword Stuffing" - make sure your content is keyword rich, but don't overdo it; it has the reverse effect of what you are looking to achieve.
Keyword research is your foundation.
The search engines use keywords to crawl, identify and index each of your web pages, articles, blogs and social media posts.
However, as you will already know, this is just the first step in building a successful organic SEO presence.
The next goal is to create great content that will supersede your competition and gain a loyal and ever-growing following. Your content must pack a punch and be quirky, engaging, keyword-rich, and informative.
Remember, there are no set rules with the search engines. They focus on value for their users, so for some keywords, you may rank high quickly; for others, it can take time and effort, but you'll get there. Good luck on your SEO journey.