This post is a continuation of the concepts introduced in the previous post about learning SEO basics. We will dig deeper here with the term keyword research.
Finding quality search terms and search phrases is usually the first step that should be undertaken when executing an SEO campaign. It can be argued that Keyword Research is the most crucial step in your planned efforts of optimizing your web pages seeing that if your target audience has little to no interest in the Keywords that you’re trying to rank for, your paid and organic SEO campaigns will be totally misguided.
Now the first question that you’re probably contemplating is:
How do I find the right Keywords that are guaranteed to drive traffic to my site?
Another question that you might also be contemplating is:
How do I choose the best Keywords?
In this post, you will learn the basics of Keyword Research for SEO. You will also learn how to come up with Keyword ideas as well as how to analyze your competition for the keywords you want to rank for. If you follow through with this guide, you will learn how to research keywords for your SEO strategy.
Here are the topics that you’ll cover:
- What is Keyword Research?
- Why is Keyword Research important for any SEO campaign?
- How to conduct Keyword Research
- How to Discover and Pick Keywords for your Website
- Keyword Research Tools
- Keyword Difficulty
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research refers to the process of finding and analyzing the search terms and search phrases that people use when querying for information on search engines around a particular topic. The goal of Keyword research is to provide insights on whether your keywords have an intent that is aligned with your website’s content, how much search volume these keywords attract, the difficulty of ranking for these keywords, and more.
Why is Keyword Research Important?
The adoption and proliferation of the internet have revolutionized how businesses and their customers interact. The financial, retail, logistics, and education sectors are a few examples of sectors that have embraced the digital way of conducting business. Now, if potential customers cannot find your business online, your business will face a bleak future.
For these businesses, there are three areas where Keyword Research can be applied to increase their visibility in the digital marketplace.
#1 For SEO
Keywords are an important metric for ranking web content on the search engine results pages (SERPS). Keyword Research can be used to optimize your website’s content for organic search by using Keywords that search engines judge to be relevant based on the audience’s search query and the content that you are publishing on your website. The insights that can be gleaned from Keyword research can reveal the search terms that your target audience is searching for on search engines and the intent behind the queries.
#2 To Fuel your Content Strategy
In digital marketing, having quality content and employing strong SEO strategies go hand-in-hand. Therefore, when crafting content, regardless of whether it’s a short blog post with 300 words or it’s a long blog post with 3,000 words, you should always write it with keywords that strike the right chord between high search volume and competition. Researching keywords can also help you to identify the kind of content that your target audience is interested in or wants answers to so that you can build content based on those topics.
#3 For Paid CPC Campaigns
When planning and budgeting for your Paid display Ads and Search Ads campaigns, you should always have Keywords at the back of your mind. This is because selecting Keywords that are related to the products and services that you’re promoting will get Ads in front of the right customers. The key takeaway here is that Keyword Research is important for all search marketing campaigns.
How to Conduct Keyword Research?
Conducting Keyword Research is the cornerstone of establishing a solid Keyword Strategy that will guarantee that you will rank high in SERPs for the search terms and phrases that your audience is interested in.
Here is a detailed step-by-step guide of how to properly research keywords for your SEO campaign.
Step 1 — Brainstorm and come up with a list of relevant topics that are related to your business
To start with, you need to first identify the topics that are relevant to the products or services that you’re trying to sell or rank for. These could be 5 – 10 categories that you think are relevant.
For example, if you are a company like Amazon Web Services, that is selling Cloud Computing Products and Services, you might have the following categories:
- Web Services (12.7K)
- Big Data (6.2K)
- Machine Learning (9.1K)
- Service Delivery Models (10.3K)
- Data Compliance (4.2K)
- Data Flow Management (13.7K)
- Security and Privacy (11.0K)
The numbers in brackets next to the Keywords represent the monthly search volume for each Keyword. You can use this information to assess the amount of interest that your target audience has for these topics, as well as the sub-categories that you could create content on based on these Keywords.
Step 2 — Add Keywords to Those Categories
After identifying the categories that you should target, the next step is to come up with Keywords that fit into those categories. These search terms should command search interest from your target audience.
For example, considering the category “Cloud Service Delivery Models”, the keyword terms that your customers might be searching for based on that domain include:
- Unified Communications-as-a-Service
- What are the different delivery models for cloud computing
- What is a cloud service delivery model
- Deployment of cloud service delivery models
The main point here is to identify Keyword phrases that you think potential customers are already using when searching for information related to that category.
You can also use a tool like Google Analytics to identify which search phrases your visitors are using to find your site.
Step 3 — Analyze How Search Intent is Related to Your Keywords
Search intent is one of the most important factors when trying to rank well on the search engine results pages (SERPs). This is because unlike in the earlier days of the internet when stuffing more Keywords than your competition would guarantee success on SERPs, these days search engine algorithms are far more sophisticated. They can identify these unfair SEO malpractices that are considered as Black Hat tactics and flag them as spam.
Therefore, the ability of a web page to address the problem that the user intends to solve takes precedence over the Keyword that the searcher used.
For instance, let’s assume that your Keywords research efforts have identified the search phrase, “how to start a blog“. Now it’s your job to figure out whether the user wants to learn how to launch a website for blogging or whether they want to create a blog post. It’s therefore important that you have clarity of the search intent before settling for the Keyword.
Step 4 — Research Related Keywords
At this point you probably wondering:
“How do I identify the additional search phrases that my potential customers are interested in?”
When searching for keywords related to a particular topic, you can make use of the Google Search Console. Enter the search phrase in the Google Search Console and take note of the results that come up.
The search console will give you a hint of other Keyword ideas that you may want to contemplate. You can even type in those Keyword ideas and drill down further to other related Keywords.
Step 5 — Make Use of Keyword Research Tools
The Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Ubersuggest, and even Ahref are some good examples of Keyword Research tools that offer advanced Keyword Research capabilities. By leveraging these tools, you can discover the right terms and phrases that are the most relevant to your business offerings, as well as getting important insights such as Keyword Difficulty, Search Volume, Organic CTR, Competitor Analysis, and other keyword suggestions.
How to Select the Right Keywords for Your Website?
At this point, you have your list of the Keywords that you want to rank for. The next step in the search process is to learn how to assess their viability and choose the best ones.
Step 1 — Understand the Key Factors to Consider When Selecting the Most Appropriate Keywords
Before settling down on Keywords and waiting for your content to rank for them, you should consider the following criteria:
As we saw earlier, search engine Page Rank algorithms are designed to rank content based on whether it’s relevant to the query. If the content on your site fails to meet the searcher’s needs, you will not rank for that Keyword. You must also ensure that your content is of superior quality compared to similar/related content in SERPs. Otherwise, you will outrank the existing content.
Authoritative content will always take precedence over content from non-authoritative sources. It is therefore important to publish genuinely helpful content on your site while also promoting that content to get backlinks and social signals.
When selecting keywords to rank for, it’s important to ensure that you’re not competing with authoritative sources (big established brands) such as Business Insider, WebMD, Bloomberg, NSA, etc. This is because you will have little to no chance of outranking such sources.
When talking about volume, we mean the monthly search volume or the number of searches that the keyword gets per month. If you end up on the first page of Google for a particular Keyword that has low search volume, it will be akin to opening a restaurant in a ghost town.
Step 2 — You should blend head terms and long-tail Keywords
In SEO, head terms are Keywords that have a high search volume, meaning a lot of people are searching for that keyword. Head terms are 1 – 2 words long. For example, “skydiving” or “skiing”.
Long-tail terms, on the other hand, are more specific and generate low traffic but on the other hand, they are less competitive since fewer people create content about them. They consist of three or more words. For example, “SEO strategies for CRM software” or “Data analysis for SaaS”.
You should incorporate both head terms and long-tail terms to get a balance between having short-term wins and achieving long-term goals.
For example, consider the following terms:
- How to host a WordPress blog on AWS
Even without taking into account the Search Difficulty or Search Volume, you will find that it’s a lot harder to rank for Hosting compared to the second option.
The second phase will also attract better traffic because it’s more specific and not generic. The generic term attracts a lot of traffic but with ambiguous intent.
Step 3 — Competitor Analysis
Competitor analysis is an SEO tactic for evaluating which Keywords your competitors are trying to rank for so that you can get a clear picture of whether you’re selecting the right Keywords and also whether there are any untapped opportunities.
Comparing three or more competitors in the same niche will give you better insights. Ideally, the Keywords should be related to the business and they should strike the right balance between Keyword Difficulty and Search Volume.
Ultimately, the best keyword research strategy for your SEO is one that considers domain authority, search relevance, and search volume. Ideally, you should arrive to find keywords that have a high search volume, and ones you can realistically compete for based on:
- The domain authority of your competition
- Your capacity to churn out high quality content