When you’re embarking on a journey to optimize your website for search engines, one term you’ll rapidly become familiar with is ‘keyword research’. This integral part of SEO can sometimes feel like staring into a vast, cryptic puzzle. However, when conducted correctly, it holds the potential to drive your website to the forefront of search engine results, bringing significant relevant traffic your way.
Essentially, keyword research is the process of identifying the terms that your target audience is typing into Google search. By understanding these search queries, you’re better equipped to create content that answers their needs, while simultaneously boosting your website’s visibility.
In this guide to keyword research, we’ll demystify the complexities of keyword research, providing a step-by-step guide. Whether you’re a business owner seeking to enhance your online presence or a beginner looking to grasp the fundamentals of SEO, this comprehensive guide is tailored for you.
What are The Benefits of Keyword Research for SEO?
Effective keyword research goes beyond just driving organic traffic to your website. It creates a deeper connection with your target audience and offers insights that can shape and drive your content strategy. In the following section, we’ll delve deeper into these benefits, revealing why keyword research is a fundamental pillar in successful SEO.
Understanding Your Online Audience
SEO keyword research helps you understand your online audience better. When you analyze the search terms that lead people to your website, you unlock valuable insights into their interests, concerns, and queries. This knowledge allows you to tailor your content to meet their needs more effectively, leading to higher engagement rates, improved user experience, and increased customer loyalty.
For example, if you notice a surge of queries around a particular product feature, you can create content that addresses this topic, providing solutions and answers that your audience is actively seeking. By doing so, you not only boost your SEO rankings but also position your brand as an authoritative and reliable source of information in your industry.
Increased Sales & Customer Acquisition
Performing detailed keyword research can have a direct impact on your bottom line by driving increased sales and customer acquisition.
By identifying and targeting the right keywords, you’re essentially attracting a stream of potential customers who are actively searching for the products or services you offer. These are people who are already interested in what you have to provide, making them more likely to convert into paying customers. For instance, if you’re an online clothing retailer and target keywords such as “women’s winter coats on sale,” you’re tapping into a pool of potential customers who are not only looking for winter coats but are also ready to make a purchase.
Through effective keyword research and implementation, you’re able to reach these customers at the perfect point in their buying journey, increasing the likelihood of sales. Moreover, by consistently ranking high in search results for relevant keywords, you can sustain a steady influx of new customers.
Building Brand Awareness
Keyword research and its implementation into your SEO strategy also play a crucial role in building brand awareness. When your website consistently appears in search results for relevant keywords, it builds recognition and familiarity with your brand among your target audience. People start associating these keywords with your brand, which strengthens your brand’s positioning in their minds.
Furthermore, ranking higher in search results places your brand directly in the line of sight of potential customers, increasing the chances of them visiting your website and engaging with your content. Over time, this consistent visibility breeds trust and credibility, crucial elements in establishing a strong brand presence online. In essence, by targeting the right keywords, you’re not only driving traffic to your website but also cultivating a powerful brand image that resonates with your audience.
Identifying New Trends In the Market
In the dynamic world of digital marketing, staying ahead of the curve is essential for survival. This is where keyword research shines as a tool for identifying new market trends. As search engines evolve, so do the keywords people use.
Keeping an eye on these changes can yield valuable insights into the shifting interests and behaviors of your target audience. For instance, a sudden spike in searches for “home workout equipment” could signal a growing trend toward home fitness, providing a unique opportunity for businesses in the fitness or wellness sector.
By identifying these trends early on, you can adapt your content and marketing strategies to ride the wave, staying relevant and competitive amidst changing market conditions. In addition, leveraging Google Trends or other keyword trend tools can help you uncover seasonal trends, allowing you to optimize your content and promotions accordingly.
The Basics of Keyword Research
Now that we have explored the benefits of keyword research, let’s delve into the heart of the matter: the basics of keyword research. This section will break down the key steps in the keyword research process, demystifying the concepts involved and providing practical tips to help you embark on your keyword research journey.
Difference Between Keywords and Topics
Although the terms ‘keywords’ and ‘topics’ are often used interchangeably in the context of SEO, they represent distinct yet interconnected concepts. Keywords are specific words or phrases that users input into search engines when seeking information, products, or services. They serve as the foundation of SEO by helping search engines comprehend the content on your webpage and assess its relevance to a user’s search query.
On the other hand, topics encompass broad themes or subject areas around which a cluster of related keywords revolves. For instance, if ‘fitness’ is your chosen topic, associated keywords might include ‘home workouts,’ ‘fitness tips,’ ‘gym equipment,’ and so forth. While keywords drive individual searches to your site, topics enable the creation of an interconnected network of content that collectively ranks for numerous related keywords, thereby expanding your digital reach.
Understanding the search intent for a keyword is another important aspect of the research process. Search intent, also known as user intent, refers to the purpose or goal behind a user’s search query. Essentially, it’s about figuring out what a user is looking to achieve when they type in a certain keyword. There are typically four types of search intent: informational, navigational, transactional, and commercial investigation.
- Informational intent involves searches where the user is looking to gain knowledge or information about a certain topic. Keywords for these searches might include ‘how to,’ ‘tips,’ or ‘guide.’
- Navigational intent refers to searches where the user is trying to navigate to a specific website or webpage. For these searches, keywords typically include brand names or specific website names.
- Transactional intent involves searches where the user intends to make a purchase or complete a transaction. Keywords for these searches often include words like ‘buy,’ ‘price,’ or ‘discount.’
- Commercial intent refers to searches where the user is looking to compare products or services before making a purchase decision. Keywords for these searches might include ‘review,’ ‘best,’ or ‘compare.’
Search volume is a critical factor in keyword research. Essentially, search volume refers to the number of times a particular keyword is searched for in a given period on search engines. It indicates the popularity and demand for that keyword, which can be instrumental in deciding which keywords to target in your SEO strategy.
High search volume keywords are often highly competitive, as many businesses vie to rank for these popular search terms. While ranking for such keywords can bring significant traffic to your site, it may require substantial time and effort due to the high level of competition.
On the other hand, low-search volume keywords, often referred to as long-tail keywords, may have less competition. This means it would be easier to rank for a keyword since they are typically more specific and can attract a highly targeted audience that’s more likely to convert. For example, a keyword like “women’s waterproof hiking shoes size 7” may have a lower monthly search volume than “women’s shoes,” but users searching for the former are likely to have a clear purchase intent, which can lead to higher conversion rates.
Therefore, when considering search volume in your keyword research, it’s important not just to chase high-volume keywords but to find a balance between search volume, competition, and user intent. Using keyword research tools can help you identify keywords with the optimal combination of these factors, enabling you to devise an effective and efficient SEO strategy.
Keyword relevance is a vital component of an effective SEO strategy. It refers to how closely related a keyword or search term is to the content, products, or services on your website. The more relevant a keyword is to your offerings, the higher the chances of attracting quality traffic—visitors who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer and are more likely to convert into customers.
When conducting keyword research, aim to identify keywords that not only match the language your target audience uses but also align with your business’ offerings and objectives. For instance, if you’re a fitness trainer specializing in high-intensity interval training (HIIT), relevant keywords could include ‘HIIT workouts,’ ‘HIIT training tips,’ or ‘benefits of HIIT.’ These keywords are directly related to your services and are likely to attract users seeking this type of fitness training.
Keep in mind that relevance goes beyond merely choosing keywords that describe your products or services—it’s about understanding the needs and interests of your target audience and catering to them effectively. It’s also important to ensure that the content you create around these keywords genuinely delivers value and matches the search intent of the user. Keyword stuffing, or overusing keywords in an attempt to manipulate your site’s ranking, can lead to penalties from search engines like Google and should be avoided.
Long-tail keywords play a crucial role in an effective SEO strategy. These search phrases consist of three or more words and are highly specific. Although they may have lower search volumes compared to shorter, more generic keywords, they have the advantage of attracting a more targeted audience, resulting in higher conversion rates.
For example, a generic keyword like “shoes” may have a high search volume, but it caters to a broad audience with varying intentions, from casual browsing to potential purchases. On the other hand, a long-tail keyword like “men’s leather loafers size 9” is much more specific. Although its search volume may be lower, it is likely to attract users who are specifically looking to make a purchase, ultimately leading to higher conversions.
Furthermore, long-tail keywords generally face less competition than generic terms. This means that by incorporating a variety of long-tail keywords related to your business offerings into your SEO strategy, you can improve your website’s visibility and increase your chances of ranking higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). Ultimately, this will help you attract a highly targeted audience and further enhance your conversion rates.
SEO authority, often referred to as Domain Authority or Page Authority, is a key metric in search engine optimization that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine results pages (SERPs) for a given keyword. It’s a score developed by Moz that ranges from 1 to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.
Your website’s authority is determined by various factors, including the number and quality of other websites that link to your pages (backlinks), the age and reputation of your domain, and the overall structure and content of your website. Having a high SEO authority implies that your website is trusted by search engines and users alike, which can significantly improve your visibility in SERPs.
Gaining SEO authority isn’t an overnight process. It involves consistently producing high-quality content that your audience finds valuable, ensuring your website is technically sound with a practical structure and no broken links or pages, and fostering robust backlink profiles by earning links from reputable sources.
Different Query Types
Understanding different query types is crucial in honing your keyword research and SEO strategy. Broadly, search queries can be classified into three categories: navigational, informational, and transactional.
- Navigational queries are conducted with the intent of reaching a particular website. For instance, a user typing ‘Instagram’ into a search engine typically wants to find the Instagram website rather than sites about Instagram.
- Informational queries are searches conducted to find information on a specific topic, answer a question, or learn how to do something. These queries could range from ‘What is the weather today?’ to ‘How to bake a chocolate cake’.
- Transactional queries indicate the intent to complete a transaction, such as making a purchase. Examples could include ‘Buy iPhone 12’ or ‘Nike running shoe sale’.
How to Find the Best Keywords for Your Website
Discovering the optimal keywords for your website is a crucial element in crafting an effective SEO strategy. This process involves more than simply identifying popular or relevant terms.
It requires a keen understanding of your target audience, the language they use, their search behaviors, and the topics they find valuable. In the following section, we will explore practical steps and useful tips to help you uncover the best keywords for your website and strengthen your SEO game.
1. Make a Keyword List
The first step in your keyword research is to compile a comprehensive list of keywords relevant to your business and audience. Begin by brainstorming and jotting down words or phrases that you feel your target audience might use to search for your products or services. Understand the language they use, their concerns, and their motivations.
First, identify your seed keyword. These keywords help you identify broader search trends and user intent within a specific industry or topic. Then, you can use some of the free keyword generators to identify keywords that contain your seed keywords.
Also, expand your list by including synonyms, related terms, and variations of your keywords. For example, if you sell “men’s leather shoes,” your list could include variations like “men’s leather footwear,” “men’s dress shoes,” or “leather shoes for men.”
Consider also your competition. Tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs can help you find out which keywords your competitors are ranking for. This does not mean copying them, but rather understanding keyword gaps in your list or discovering new keyword opportunities.
2. Identify Your Content Buckets
Content buckets, also known as content pillars, are key themes or topics that your content will revolve around. They essentially represent the core areas of interest or expertise for your business and audience. Identifying your content buckets is a crucial part of your keyword research, as it helps ensure that your search engine optimization efforts are focused and relevant.
Start by reviewing your business offerings and defining the primary categories or areas that encompass your products, services, or areas of expertise. For example, an online clothing store might have content buckets such as “women’s clothing,” “men’s clothing,” “children’s clothing,” “fashion tips,” and “seasonal trends.”
Once you’ve identified your content buckets, you can delve into each one and identify subtopics, each of which can be a potential source of long-tail keywords. Continuing with the online clothing store example, the “women’s clothing” bucket could yield subtopics like “women’s summer fashion,” “professional attire for women,” “women’s plus-size clothing,” and so forth.
This process not only helps you to identify a plethora of relevant keywords but also aids in structuring your website in a way that’s user-friendly and search engine-friendly.
3. Understand the User Intent
User intent, or search intent, refers to the reason behind a user’s search query on search engines. To identify the best keywords for your SEO strategy, it’s crucial to align your keywords and content with this intent to provide valuable and relevant answers to your audience’s queries. Broadly speaking, user intent can be classified into four categories: informational, navigational, commercial investigation, and transactional.
- Informational intent implies that the user is seeking information on a particular topic or question. For example, a search like “How does SEO work” indicates informational intent. For these search queries, your aim should be to provide comprehensive, high-quality content that answers the user’s question.
- Navigational intent implies that the user is trying to reach a particular website or webpage. For example, typing “Nike website” indicates the user intends to visit Nike’s official website. In this case, your website needs to be easily navigable, with a clear, user-friendly structure.
- Commercial intent refers to searches where users compare products or services before making a purchase decision. For instance, a query like “best SEO services” indicates commercial investigation intent. To target these users, you need to highlight your unique selling points, customer testimonials, and why your offerings are superior.
- Transactional intent implies that the user is ready to make a purchase. They have decided on what to buy and are looking for a place to make the purchase. Searches like “buy iPhone 12” suggest transactional intent. To optimize for these queries, ensure that your product pages are well-optimized with clear calls-to-action and a smooth, easy-to-use checkout process.
4. Research Related Keyword Ideas
Exploring related keyword ideas is a powerful way to expand your list and discover new opportunities for ranking. While your initial list may be focused on your core offerings or expertise, related keywords can help you tap into additional, relevant search queries that your audience may use.
One of the easiest ways to find related keyword ideas is to use the “Searches related to…” section at the bottom of Google’s search results page. Simply type in one of your primary keywords or phrases into Google, scroll down to the bottom of the results, and you’ll see a list of queries that are related to your search. These are excellent starting points for discovering related keywords.
Another effective method is to use keyword research tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Google Keyword Planner. These tools provide comprehensive lists of related keywords, along with useful data such as search volume and keyword difficulty, helping you to prioritize your efforts and focus on the most promising opportunities.
Make sure to also consider the relevance of these related keywords to your business and audience. While it might be tempting to target high-volume keywords, if they aren’t closely aligned with your offerings or the interests of your audience, they won’t drive valuable traffic to your site. Instead, focus on related keywords that reflect the needs, interests, and search behaviors of your audience. This will ensure that the traffic you attract is more likely to engage with your content and convert into customers.
5. Analyze Competitors for Their Keywords
Analyzing your competitors’ keywords is a strategic move that provides insight into the keyword strategies that are working for other businesses in your industry. It allows you to identify potential keyword opportunities that you may have missed in your initial research and can give you a clearer picture of the competitive landscape in your niche.
To start, make a list of your main competitors and use keyword analysis tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz to explore the keywords they rank for. These tools provide valuable data such as the search volume, ranking difficulty, and the top-ranking pages for each keyword. This information can help you understand not only what keywords your competitors are targeting, but also how effectively they’re managing to rank for these terms.
When analyzing your competitors’ keywords, pay attention to long-tail keywords and the content that ranks for them. Long-tail keywords are less competitive and more specific, making them easier to rank for and more likely to attract highly targeted traffic. By studying the content that ranks highly for these keywords, you can gain insights into what type of content performs well in search engines and resonates with your audience.
6. Use Different Keyword Tools
Utilizing various keyword tools is essential to build a robust keyword strategy. These tools provide a wealth of data — which they usually pull from Google Analytics and Google Search Console — and can uncover valuable long-tail keywords that may be less apparent.
- Google Keyword Planner is a free keyword research tool integrated with Google Ads. It can provide insights into keyword search volumes, and competition level, and even predict future trends. However, it’s important to note that Google’s keyword planner tool offers broad data and may not provide the exact search volumes for a specific keyword unless you’re running Google Ads campaigns.
- SEMrush is a comprehensive SEO tool that offers an excellent keyword research feature. It can provide valuable insights such as keyword variations, questions related to your keyword, and the top-ranking pages for each keyword. With its keyword magic tool, you can explore millions of keywords and phrase matches, helping you find the most effective keywords for your content.
- Ahrefs is another powerful SEO tool with a comprehensive keyword explorer. It helps you generate relevant keyword ideas and also includes a keyword difficulty checker with difficulty score and analysis for the top 10 results on SERPs.
- Moz’s Keyword Explorer is another excellent tool that gives you keyword suggestions, SERP analysis, and a comprehensive view of organic competition and search volume data.
- Answer The Public is one of the best free keyword research tools that visualizes search questions and suggests autocomplete searches in an image called a search cloud. It’s particularly useful for finding long-tail keywords for your SEO strategy, especially those formatted as questions, which can be a great way to rank for voice search.
Keyword research plays a crucial role in a successful SEO strategy. It offers invaluable insights into your target audience’s search behavior, enabling you to optimize your content, expand your reach, and improve your search engine rankings. By exploring related keyword ideas, analyzing competitor keywords, and utilizing various keyword tools, you can effectively identify, evaluate, and implement the most promising keywords for your business.
Don’t forget that the goal is not just to generate traffic, but to attract the right kind of traffic—users who are genuinely interested in your offerings and more likely to convert into customers. With a thoughtful and strategic approach to keyword research, you’ll be well-positioned to achieve this objective.
What is Keyword Difficulty?
Keyword Difficulty, often abbreviated as KD, is a metric used by various SEO tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz to estimate how challenging it would be to rank on the first page of search engine results for a particular keyword. It’s typically measured on a scale from 0 to 100, with higher numbers indicating a more competitive keyword.
This estimate is based on several factors, including the number and quality of sites currently ranking for the keyword, the relevance of the content on these sites, and the strength of their backlink profiles. By understanding keyword difficulty, you can make more informed decisions about which keywords to target, balancing the potential traffic benefits against the resources and effort required to rank.
Which Keyword Research Tool is Best?
Determining the best keyword research tool largely depends on your specific needs and goals. Each tool has its strengths and unique features. Google Keyword Planner is an excellent starting point, especially if you’re on a budget, as it gives you direct information from the largest search engine itself. For a more comprehensive analysis, SEMrush and Ahrefs offer extensive keyword data and competitive analysis features, but they come with a subscription fee.
Moz’s Keyword Explorer is known for its accuracy and ease of use, making it a popular choice among SEO beginners and experts alike. Answer The Public is particularly effective for discovering questions and long-tail keywords related to your main keyword. It’s recommended to use a combination of these tools to gather as much data as possible, as this can provide a more well-rounded view of your keyword strategy.
How Many Keywords Should I Use for SEO?
The optimal number of keywords to use for SEO can vary widely depending on the length and nature of your content. As a general rule, you should focus on one primary keyword or keyword phrase per page or post. This should be a highly relevant keyword, has a good search volume, and aligns with the intent of your content.
While you can and should incorporate related keywords and long-tail variants to cover related topics and improve your content’s relevance, it’s important to avoid keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing can lead to a poor user experience and may incur search engine penalties. Instead, aim to use your keywords naturally and in context, ensuring that they add value to your content and align with user intent.
Can You Make Money from Keywords?
Keywords play a crucial role in monetizing your website or online content, offering a significant opportunity. By strategically using high-value keywords—those with substantial search volumes and commercial intent—you can attract more traffic to your site, increasing the chances of conversions, whether it’s sales, sign-ups, or ad clicks. Two common ways to monetize your traffic are Google AdSense and affiliate marketing. With Google AdSense, you earn money by displaying ads on your site, with revenue typically based on the number of clicks (CPC) or impressions (CPM).
Affiliate marketing involves promoting someone else’s products or services on your site, earning a commission when visitors click through your affiliate link and make a purchase. Choosing the right keywords can attract a highly targeted audience, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of these monetization methods. However, it’s crucial to remember that while keywords are important, providing valuable, high-quality content that genuinely serves your audience’s needs should always be your primary goal.