Keyword research isn’t rocket science. But you must do it right if you want your website to get to the top of the search results. In this guide, let me take you through the step-by-step of doing keyword research for better site rankings and traffic.
Read on to learn about the latest tools and techniques of keyword research. Plus, how to go about hunting for the best keywords to optimize website content and landing pages.
In simple words, keyword research is the process of knowing about popular terms that people are typing in search engines like Google, Amazon, YouTube or Bing.
When you know about trending niche search terms, you can create and optimize content by targeting those keywords. That’s how search engines judge the relevance of branded content before pushing it up the SERPs.
Are you wondering what so much fuss with keyword research is? Keyword research lays the foundation of any SEO campaign. Here are some of the reasons to do keyword research for SEO.
a. Keyword research helps you know the latest search trends. Don’t forget that search trends keep changing, and optimizing for relevant keywords at the right time, makes a big difference.
b. Keyword research helps you study the informational and commercial needs of the audience.
c. It gives in-depth insights into the needs and preferences of the target customers. The keyword research process paves the pay for audience-centric content creation.
d. Keyword research is essential to understand which keywords are easy or challenging to rank. It also helps you know about competition keywords and rankings.
Thus, keyword research helps you select a set of keywords to target for your business website.
Selecting the apt search phrases for a website and outreach campaigns is vital for earning relevant and growing website traffic.
Now that you know what keyword research is and why it’s critical for SEO let’s understand the keyword research process. In this chapter, I will teach you simple methods to perform effective keyword research for your business.
Ready, let’s get started:
The first step is to get to know your industry at a deeper level. How?
Talk to existing customers or members of the sales team to know about the problems and challenges.
Create an audience persona to analyze the behavioural preference of your ideal customer.
Participate in niche communities on platforms like Quora, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Community conversations offer a peek into trending niche topics.
A set of strategic goals should back any successful SEO campaign.
Clear-cut objectives like these,
a. How do you want to position your brand and business amidst the target audience?
b. What do you wish to achieve with your SEO campaigns—more traffic and rankings or higher sales volume and revenues, or more blog subscribers?
A set of focused goals help you narrow down keywords that work best towards attaining them.
The next step is to discuss and make a list of topics that are relevant to your business. What are the common industry problems? Let’s suppose you’re a travel company.
Most travellers are searching for vacation ideas and destinations online. Sample these topics:
New Year Holiday Ideas
Honeymoon Holiday Ideas
Places to see in Bali
Think about the needs of the target audience when ideating topics. Once you have a list, you can start using them to find new keyword ideas.
What is a Seed Keyword?
Every keyword research process needs to start somewhere. These starting points are the ‘seed keywords’.
Seed keywords are one-two word phrases that help germinate new keyword ideas.
For instance, these,
Here are some more examples from the motorcycle parts niche:
Identifying such seed keywords can help a business to identify topic clusters. Finding topic clusters enables you to build topical authority, which is a critical component of SEO success.
How to Find Seed Keywords?
In the last two sections, we learnt the process of defining goals and brainstorming topics.
Once you have these two, you can create a list of seed keywords. Let’s explore the seed keyword research process in greater detail:
Enlist Content Sources
Besides looking for content topics in online communities, you can list top industry blogs and publications. A simple way to do that is to use tools like Feedly and follow niche blogs.
Another cool way is to find the ‘best blogs’ in your niche by conducting a simple Google search.
Find Trending Content
To find trending content, you can head over to Ahrefs Content Explorer and pop any topic. The tool will give you a list of popular, topical content pieces.
Pick out the headlines from these content rockstars. Now, start extracting possible seed keywords from them.
‘The Ultimate Bali Itinerary 10 days covering the best places to see in Bali’
‘Ultimate Bali Bucket List: 30+ Must See Places in Bali’
‘5 Must-See Places in Bali For First Timers’
‘North Bali Introduction and places to see.’
Take a look at these seed keywords that I extracted from the topics mentioned above.
bali bucket list
You can repeat this exercise when making a list of topics from popular content sources and community conversations.
This way, you can make a list of hundreds of seed keywords.
Let’s move further.
Research Existing Keywords in Google Search Console
One of the things you can do while creating a keyword research base, is to head over to your Google Search Console dashboard.
It’s where you’ll find a list of keywords sending traffic to your site.
Click on the queries tab in your Google Search Console dashboard, and you’ll get a complete list of existing traffic keywords.
Up next, the keywords are sending traffic to competing sites.
Look For Competition Keywords
One of the best tactics to start doing keyword research is to look for keywords generating traffic for competition websites.
The first step is to identify key competitors. You can simply type a few sample topics in the Google search bar to see which sites rank on the search results’ first page.
A faster way to enlist competitors is to use the Ahrefs Competing Domains feature.
Once you have a list of competing domains, you can start by popping one of them in Ahrefs Site Explorer. Now look for the Top Pages report.
This report gives you a list of top pages of a site and the top keywords sending traffic to those pages.
There you go, you have a list of a competition’s top priority keywords!
There is another cool way to find competition keywords.
You can use the Ahrefs Content Gap tool to see what the competing site ranks for. The best part about this method is that you can exclude those keywords your site is ranking for. Here’s how to generate a quick report:
This way, you’ll get a list of keywords that are exclusive to competing websites.
Once you have a list of seed keywords, there are many cool ways to find keyword ideas.
Related Searches in Google
The first one is to look for related searches at the bottom of the Google search bar:
Fairly straightforward, right?
Google Suggest and YouTube Suggest
One of the best things about today’s search engines and social media platforms is that they suggest search terms as soon as you start typing something.
And what do you get? A bunch of keyword ideas!
Here are some suggestions from YouTube:
Next, you can pop the seed keywords in a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs. I use the SEMrush Keyword Magic tool to find some exciting keyword ideas. Take a look:
As you can see in the screenshot above, I have chosen the board match filter. As an SEO manager, you can use other filters like Phrase Match, Exact Match, and Related to find even more keyword ideas!
Let’s look at some keyword ideas by choosing the Related filter.
Wow, these are more keyword ideas. It’s easy to export these keyword lists so you can add them to your bucket list.
Remember, you can generate new keyword ideas from seed keywords or the existing keyword ideas you have added to your bucket list.
Hence, the keyword idea list keeps growing.
As you continually perform keyword research, the list of prospective keywords keeps growing. But each keyphrase is different in terms of how much traffic it can fetch. Some keywords may be easier to rank for, while others might take a lot more time and effort. That’s why it’s critical to qualify keywords before putting them on the target list. In this chapter, let’s get an in-depth understanding of the keyword qualification process:
How would you know which keyword is more popular among the target audience? The search volume metric indicates the monthly searches of a search term.
Pop a key-phrase in any keyword research tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs to find its regional or global search volume.
For instance, the keyword ‘bali travel guide’ has 300 monthly searches in the United States.
Its global search volume is 1.7k searches.
Let’s go deeper into this vital metric:
a. The search volume metric tells you the average monthly searches and not the number of people who performed those searches.
b. The figure shows the average of the annual searches of a specific search term.
c. The search volume metric does not indicate whether the keyword will generate a high amount of website traffic.
How do you find which search-volume keywords are best for your website?
The trend graph indicates seasonal fluctuations in a keyword’s popularity.
When we say that a keyword’s difficulty or competition level is greater, it means that the search phrase is harder to rank. Here are things you need to know about this crucial keyword metric:
Search volume is typically the tip of the iceberg. Look beyond, and you figure out a keyword’s true worth.
So what’s the bottom line?
The higher the clicks, the better. You must analyze this critical metric before qualifying a specific keyword.
As I said earlier, a keyword’s search volume is the primary metric to learn about its worth. You don’t gather how much traffic a keyphrase can fetch.
How to find a keyword’s traffic potential?
As you can see, traffic potential is a fantastic metric when you need to select between similar keyphrases with an equal search volume and difficulty level.
CPC is a metric used by Ad professionals, also comes in handy when doing keyword qualification for SEO.
A lower CPC, on the other hand, shows that the searcher’s intent is informational.
What does this mean for an SEO professional?
Frequently track the CPC data while optimizing the commercial pages on the site, and make amendments accordingly.
A short tail keyword has a length of three words or less than three words. For example, ‘bali travel guide’ is a short tail keyword.
Some searchers type longer search queries. It happens when they are looking for answers to specific questions. Take a look at this search query: ‘best season to visit bali for honeymoon’.
When we look at an overall comparison, long-tail keywords have a lower search volume. At the same time, longer queries have higher rates of conversions. Here’s another example of a long-tail keyword:
What does it mean for you?
A new site with low traffic should start with long-tail keywords. These keywords are easier to rank as their competition level is comparatively low.
Voice search makes it easy for online searchers to get answers to their queries without typing them. That’s why voice search has become so popular.
Did you know?
How are voice search queries different from text-based searches?
Voice search queries are conversational. Take a look at this key-phrase for instance:
Considering the growing relevance of voice search queries, targeting super-long conversational search terms is critical for SEO success.
You must have seen blocks of text that offer a relevant answer to a search query. These are called featured snippets. Google launched featured snippets as a way to improve the searcher experience.
Featured snippets offer SEO managers and content creators a tremendous opportunity to earn the desired website visibility. If you optimize a site’s content for Google’s featured snippets, there are chances it will get featured.
Ahrefs studied 2 million featured snippets, and they discovered that a featured snippet steals a significant percentage of the clicks that would otherwise go to the first page of the search result.
Google offers many types of featured snippets to online searchers. These include paragraphs, lists, and tables.
Now, here comes the critical question,
How to find keywords to target and get listed on Google’s featured snippets?
Look for question-based search queries. Keyword research tools like KWFinder offer a Questions tab—an easy way to find such search terms.
Next, you need to look at the search terms in the ‘People also ask’ section of the Google SERPs.
You can also find question-based search terms in tools like Answer The Public and communities like Quora.
This way, you can find a bundle of keyword ideas to earn your site a place in Google’s Featured Snippets and People also ask sections.
There are also keywords specific to a location. If you’re a local business, then these keywords are your bread and butter. Take a look at these search terms:
architects in san jose, ca
architects in california
Whether you’re running a local architectural firm or a restaurant or a salon, you need to ensure that you’re looking to target geo-targeted keywords first. It’s the best way to find a place in Google’s local search results.
If your business is a well-known brand, then it’s likely to get included in popular search queries. If that’s the case, then targeting these search terms is essential to drive the relevant traffic from these queries. Here are some examples of branded search queries:
nike jogging pants
hubspot training videos
You don’t want to miss out on potential customers who’re typing product or service related queries in the Google search bar. Take a look at the following example:
Most businesses have multiple audience personas and customer segments. You can target a separate set of keywords for each of these customer segments. All such keyphrases can be categorized as customer-focused keywords.
Take a look at this example:
It’s a common question SEO managers and business owners ask all the time. You would be looking at all of the above parameters to define the right set of keywords for your business.
As a general rule, however, you must include targeted and broad keywords. Such keywords are likely to help your business meet some of its vital SEO objectives.
Targeted keywords are those search terms that are relevant to specific products and services. Take a look at these search terms, for instance:
website development services
software development services
Targeted keywords are likely to fetch traffic that’s apt for your site. Plus, it increases the conversion rate of site visitors.
Every niche has specific services under one umbrella service. For instance, many digital marketing agencies offer website development, social media marketing, search engine optimization, content creation, etc.
Hence besides targeting keywords about these specific key-phrases, they need to choose umbrella search terms. This way, they can connect with audiences who are typing either of the two types of keyphrases. Now take a look at these keyphrases:
digital marketing services
digital marketing agency
Therefore, a set of good SEO keywords is a healthy mix of broad and targeted search terms. Choosing between the two types also depends on how you wish to position your business among the target audience.
For instance, some companies may find it profitable to become specialists and focus on targeted keywords. While others may lay equal emphasis on broad search terms, it works to come across as a one-stop solution.
Investment vs. Returns
Everything ultimately boils down to those goals you have, the worth of a keyword in terms of those goals, and the possible outcomes.
And so on.
You’ll also come to realize that some of these goals are interlinked, and you can tie them together through integrated SEO campaigns,
Once you have a bunch of targeted keywords, you need to analyze their performance every few months; why?
Tracking keywords will help add more to the kitty. Plus, you can make the necessary amendments to the keyword targeting strategy.
This chapter will discuss everything you need to know about searcher intent for selecting keywords based on user intent and query purpose. How each query has a different purpose, and why do you need to know about it?
There was a time when you could stuff a bunch of keywords in a content piece, and it would rank on SERPs. We’ve come a long way since then. The search algorithms have evolved—they’re still changing.
Search engines are working harder to offer a great experience and the right content to online searchers.
That said, you need to create content that meets searcher-intent. And to do that, you need to get behind the purpose of each keyword you’re targeting.
The ideal way to start is to segment keywords based on searcher intent. So let’s understand the types of searcher intent and the keyword types that fall under it:
When a searcher types a query like this, she is looking for some information. Sample these search queries:
bali travel guide
who is roger fedrer’s best friend
rafael nadal’s net worth
You can put all informational intent search terms in a separate list. That’s how you begin creating content that meets the informational needs of the audience.
Searchers often type in specific site names in the Google search bar. Such users know about their destination. These searchers could either be interested in your business or they’re probably existing customers. Take a look at these search queries for instance:
beginners guide to CRM hubspot
hubspot free website grader
When you know that several people are searching for your site or brand name, you can optimize some pages on your site for those keywords.
Put such search terms under the navigation segment.
Some buyers know the solution to their current challenge. That’s when they go online to search for the best products and services. Take a look at the following search queries, for instance:
mailchimp vs. mailerlite
best restaurants in san jose
The intent is commercial, but the user is looking to understand individual products and services’ worth.
So whether you target these search terms with comparative product pages or by getting backlinks from such pages, these keywords make a big difference to the overall conversions.
A buyer is ready to make a purchase, and this is when she uses transactional search queries. The idea is to find websites or stores that offer the said products and services.
buy macbook air
book bali holiday package
trello premium price
A user looking to make a purchase needs to land on a page that makes it easy for her to do so. Create such products and services pages and optimize them with these keywords. But before that, you need to add all such keywords to your transactional intent bucket.
Search intent governs the branded content you create.
Intent-based content optimization is indispensable to attract relevant traffic and higher search rankings.
Successful keyword research is about hanging in there and staying hungry. It’s also about using the right tools. In this chapter, let’s learn about all the popular tools for performing keyword research for SEO.
Google’s Keyword Planner is probably the oldest tool to find keywords for your SEO campaign. Input a seed keyword and your website URL to get a bunch of new keyword ideas.
The tool is available within Google’s free Adwords tool.
You can also see historical statistics to see a keyword’s past performance.
Answer the public is an exciting keyword research tool.
Use this tool for free or upgrade to the pro version for a starting price of USD 79 per month. Here’s what all you get in the paid plan:
Ahrefs is a popular end-to-end Search Engine Optimization tool. The tool comes with many intuitive features.
Ahrefs comes at a starting price of USD 99 per month.
SEMrush is another popular SEO tool useful for keyword research.
All-in-all, SEMrush is a user-friendly and feature-rich keyword research tool. You can use SEMrush for a starting price of USD 99.95 per month.
If you’re looking to analyze a keyword’s relative popularity, this free tool from Google is a terrific option.
Keyword research tools like KWFinder help find long-tail search-terms that have a low difficulty level.
This robust keyword research tool comes at a starting price of USD 29.90 per month.
If you’re a small business owner and looking for a cost-effective keyword research tool, then Ubersuggest might prove to be your best bet.
This tool’s starter plan comes at a throw-away price of just USD 12 per month. Now that’s a steal because Ubersuggest also offers you additional features such as Domain Overview, Top SEO Pages, Content Ideas, and Backlink Data.
Moz is one of the oldest solutions for end-to-end SEO needs.
Moz Pro comes at a starting price of USD 99 per month. If you pay annually, the SEO solution will cost you USD 79 per month.
WordStream is another incredible free platform to help find the right keywords for your SEO campaign.
If you’re looking for a free keyword research tool, then WordStream is undoubtedly an excellent option for you.
LSIGraph is a unique keyword research tool that helps find semantically linked search terms.
You can upgrade to the premium version for a starting price of USD 12 per month.
So now you have a list of priority keywords, what next? You need to optimize the landing pages and website content for these keywords. In this chapter, let’s briefly look at the keyword optimization strategy.
a. Create content from your experience by covering all the relevant topics that you found in your keyword research. Being familiar with a subject will automatically help you create content that includes keywords pertinent to your niche and the context.
Keyword research is the foremost step of any successful SEO strategy. The exciting part is that it's through keyword research that marketers get a deep understanding of their target audience.
Knowing about the current search trends and picking the precise keywords are two critical ways to earn higher search rankings and relevant web traffic. I hope this guide helped you understand the nitty-gritty of keyword research. Do share your experience and ideas in the comments section below.