Keyword research for SEO
14 Feb 2020
By Jodie Palmer
Did you know that keyword research is one of the highest return SEO activities that you can do and that it’s essential for your marketing success?
In this guide we will cover what keyword research is, how often you should be doing keyword research and our top tips on how you can get started with your own research today!
What is keyword research?
Keyword research involves identifying words and phrases (keywords) that lots of people are searching for on search engines. It also includes investigating the different ways that people use language to explore ideas and topics. But why is this important?
By researching these words and phrases, we’re able to gain a better understanding of the demand for particular keywords and identify how easy they would be to compete for in organic search results.
From keyword research we’re able to see what topics people care about and how popular they are amongst our audience. By researching the words people type into search engines, we can use our findings to craft targeted content and as a result, drive the right traffic to our website.
How often should I do keyword research?
Search language is constantly changing, and new keywords are being created all the time. This means that keyword research isn’t just a one-off task.
Aim to do your keyword research whenever you want to create new website content. This could be if you’re starting a brand new website, modernising an old site or when writing blog posts.
The content on your site should be created with your audience in mind, it’s there to fulfil their needs. If you look at the ways people search on a regular basis and pinpoint both popular searches and the ways that people search for content within your niche, then this will help you to create content that your audience will enjoy and want to engage with.
Before you begin your keyword research…
Before you can start to grow through SEO, it’s important to understand who you are, who your customers are and what their goals are. You might already think that you know exactly what keywords you want to rank for and that’s a great start, but the truth is, what you want to rank for and what your audience actually wants can often be two very different things.
Try to understand a little more about your customers like:
o What are people searching for around your niche?
o Who is searching for these terms?
o When are people searching for these terms, is there a seasonal trend?
o How are people searching? What words do they use? What questions do they ask? What device are they using?
o Why are they searching for what they are searching?
o Where are they located?
Once you have this information you then need to consider how you can help to provide the best content about a topic to grow a community and fulfil what everyone is searching for. Asking these questions is a crucial step that will guide your keyword research and help you to create better content.
Create a list of topics
You’ve identified who your audience is, now you can create a list of topics that your target customer is interested in. These topics aren’t your keywords, they are just broad topics that you can use to drill down to specific keywords later on in the process.
For example, at Zogz our customers might be interested in topics such as:
o Website design
o Website Integrations
o Search Engine Optimisation
o Website Traffic
o Content Marketing
Once you have your list of topics it’s time to identify some keywords. A good start is to type each of these topics into the Google search bar, making a note of the terms that Google suggests to you. Hit enter to run the search then make sure to check out the “Searches Related To” section at the bottom of Google’s search results. Click on one of the “Searches Related To” keywords and then scroll to the bottom of those results and you will find a new list of related keywords!
Other ways to find keyword suggestions:
o YouTube - Just like Google, you can type your topics into the YouTube search bar to get lots of suggestions.
o Reddit - Find keywords on Reddit by searching your broad topics. From this, pick a subreddit which your audience might be part of. Scroll down the different threads until you find ones that have a lot of comments. Make note of the title of the thread and structure your keywords around this.
o Wikipedia - Type in one of your topics, this will take you to the related page, but then look for the “contents” section of the page. This shows you all the subtopics covered on the page. Some of those subtopics make for great keywords! This goes for the internal links too.
o Answer The Public - This is a free tool that populates commonly searched for questions around a specific keyword. You can use this tool in tandem with Keywords Everywhere to prioritise Answer the Publics suggestions by search volume.
Uncovering keyword search volume
The higher the search volume for a keyword, the greater the competition is, and as a result more work is typically required to achieve organic ranking success. This is often referred to as keyword difficulty.
Keywords Everywhere is a free tool (Chrome extension) that shows you keyword ideas from all over the web. Once installed, the next time you visit Google, YouTube or Amazon you will see a list of keyword ideas and data on each of the terms including the monthly search numbers.
Ubersuggest is another free tool that generates keyword ideas from Google’s search suggestions, but it also gives you data on each keyword.
Google Trends is also great for checking out your keywords trend history. You can see if some low-volume terms might be something that you could invest in now and reap the benefits of later. It can help you to determine what is trending upwards and thus worth more of your focus.
Identifying keyword difficulty
So how do you know if a keyword is too hard or competitive to rank for?
If you choose a keyword that’s really competitive then you'll probably find that your site is lost on page 20 of Google. Identify a keyword that doesn't have too much competition and you’ll have a good chance of landing in the top three. Popular search terms that have 50,000 or even 5,000 searches a month only make up a fraction of the overall searches performed on the web. These terms could even indicate unclear intent, which, if you target these terms, could put you at risk of drawing visitors to your site whose goals don’t match the content your page provides.
There are three main categories that keywords can be divided into:
- Head Keywords – These are usually single-word keywords with a high search volume and consequently high competition. Examples of these are “shoes” and “coffee”. Because the searchers intent is not very specific, head terms usually don’t convert very well.
Body Keywords – These are 2-3 word phrases that get a good search volume (at least 2,000 per month). They're more specific than Head Keywords and almost always have less competition.
Long Tail Keywords – These are 4+ word phrases that are very specific. These terms don’t get a lot of search volume individually (10-200 searches per month) but, add them all together and long tails make up the majority of searches online. Don’t underestimate these less popular keywords. Because they aren’t searched as much, this makes them less competitive. Someone who is looking for something so specific is probably a much more qualified searcher for your product or service than someone looking for something really generic. Long tail keywords with lower search volume often convert better. A person searching for "coffee" is probably just browsing. On the other hand, someone searching for "best priced organic turmeric latte blends" is ready to buy!
To find out if your keywords are really competitive you can use your keyword research tool, the majority will have some form of competition feature. You can also search for your keyword on Google and look at the type of sites that are ranking on the first page. If the first page is made up of high authority sites, it might be best to forget about that keyword, but if there are a few smaller blogs, that’s a sign that you have a good chance at making the first page too!
Survey the SERP (Search Engine Result Page) landscape
Get a clear picture of the type of content your target audience wants by looking into the SERP landscape when searching for your keywords in Google. The behaviour of billions of searches has been evaluated by Google to try and provide the most desired content for each specific keyword search.
If we take coffee again as our example, the shopping carousel is the first thing that shows up on the SERP. Google has determined that many people who search for coffee want to shop for it online. There’s also a local pack feature, which indicates Google’s desire to help searchers who might be looking for local coffee shops.
There are a wide array of result types that Google can show depending on the query, so if you’re going to target a keyword, look to the SERP to understand what type of content you need to create.
How to pick a keyword
Unfortunately, there aren’t any tools out there to tell you exactly which of your keywords is the best one to pick. You need to assess each keyword on a variety of factors.
o Search volume – The more people search for a keyword the more traffic you can gain from it. There is no “good” search volume as search volumes between industries can vary quite a lot. So, you need to figure out what a high and low search volume number is in yours. Then choose keywords based on what’s normal for your industry.
o Difficulty – If your site is new or doesn’t have a lot of backlinks yet, then it’s best to target low-competition terms at first. As your site grows in authority, start to target more competitive keywords.
Keyword Research Tips & Tricks
o Entire websites don’t actually rank for keywords, pages do. For big websites, their homepages rank for many keywords, but for most websites this isn’t the case. Most websites receive more organic traffic to pages other than the homepage, so it’s important to diversify your websites pages by optimising each for uniquely valuable keywords.
o Discover what questions people are asking in your niche and add those questions and answers to an FAQ page. This can yield incredible organic traffic for your website!