The #1 goal of keyword research is to find out precisely what your target audience is searching for online as well as what it will take to rank for those keywords. This is why keyword research tools should always be the basis of any online marketing campaign you plan to launch.
SEO (search engine optimization) practice has undergone several changes over the years. Many keyword research tools have also been launched which SEO specialists at all levels utilize since keyword research is a fundamental SEO task for new websites or any website they want to expand or improve search rankings.
If you don’t know what or which keywords you should be targeting, there is practically no way you can efficiently optimize your site, target specific phrases for link building or even know the type of content to develop for your target audience.
This is why it is vitally important to learn how to do excellent SEO keyword research as well as analysis. This is one of the most valuable and sought-after skills you can build or develop as an aspiring SEO professional.
By the time you read this article to the end, you will know how to approach keyword research the smart way. But let’s start from the basics, shall we?
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research refers to the process of finding and analyzing specific search terms or discovering as well as determining the particular keywords that matter most for the goals of a given site. It has to do with those search terms that people enter deliberately into search engines with the singular goal of utilizing the data for a particular purpose, usually for SEO.
Keyword research uncovers queries to target and their popularity as well as their ranking difficulty, and even more. It is about finding those keywords you want your site to rank for as well as the ones you should rank for.
When done correctly, keyword research can yield the specific topic you should focus on when creating valuable content for your website or blog.
Another area that is closely associated with keyword research is the Competitive Analysis.
When carrying out research, there is an excellent chance that you will unveil precisely what your competitors are ranking for that you are not. This, of course, may result in crucial insights not only for your well-planned SEO strategy but also for your business.
Keyword Research: The Process
Smart keyword research follows a pristine and orderly process, a series of steps that enable you to accomplish every goal stated earlier. However, this is not a do-it-once-and-forget procedure.
You will need to regularly visit and revisit each of these steps since your market situation will change from time to time. Some of these changes that may necessitate new or fresh keyword research include:
- New competitors are entering the niche market.
- New search queries that had not appeared before now.
- New terms searchers are actively using to look for what you offer.
- Shifting desires or needs of your target audience.
- Significant changes to search engine features or algorithms, and so much more.
This is why it is essential to make keyword research processes one of your frequent habits for remarkable SEO growth and overall health.
You can approach keyword research in several legitimate and excellent ways, including the use of keyword research tools. However, in this definitive guide, the following steps will be outlined:
- Scrutinize current keywords.
- Develop your goals.
- Create your keyword agenda.
- Evaluate the competitive landscape.
- Enlarge your keyword horizons.
The basic principles outlined here apply to both business and non-business websites. This is because this guide is formulated from the perspective of a business site that sells services or products to prospective customers.
All you need to do is to substitute your interest, passion, or cause for the services and services. The ultimate thing every website owner is looking for is to secure hordes of targeted, organic search traffic. And to do this, you still need to sell something in one way or the other.
Step 1: Scrutinize Current Keywords
If you already have a set of well-researched keywords that you want to rank for at hand, this is the place to start your keyword research. However, if you are starting from scratch, then move over to step 2.
This step is also vital if you are just taking over an existing website, or you have been working on a particular website for a specific period. In these cases, you probably have a list of keywords in mind that you are trying to rank for.
The first step is to list the keywords and then scrutinize them by running analysis to see precisely how they have been performing before now.
To analyze larger applications, however, you may need to invest in paid keyword research tools. But if your website is pretty basic, there are a ton of free rank tracking tools available on the internet.
If the keywords with you are relatively small, you may search for each of them on Google to see precisely where they are ranking presently, though you may not discover any ranking history whatsoever.
Check the search volume and ranking history for the keywords on your list using any of your favorite keyword research tools of choice.
Then, make use of Google Search Console to determine the keywords your website is already ranking for, that is if any.
Your primary goal is to set up a baseline or standard of keyword performance. This is what you will use for growing your keyword in the following steps. Make use of the metrics you have garnered on your existing keywords to separate great-performing keywords from worthwhile – but poor – ones.
Worthwhile but poor-performing keywords are those that have ample search impressions and volume but have a significantly lower ranking or click-through rates. Set them aside to add to the list you will eventually develop in the steps outlined below.
When you have the new keywords discovered in your keyword research, they become the guide you need for all subsequent SEO work, especially when it has to do with link building as well as content optimization.
Your #1 goal is to establish a standard or baseline of keyword performance that you can utilize for growing your entire keyword universe in the following steps.
Step 2: Develop Your Goals
You need to specify or craft some goals carefully, or else your keyword research will produce little or no result. What we mean by goals in this aspect refers to the specific brand and business needs you want to earn that organic traffic for.
But why does this matter, you ask? It matters because the goals will give you an acute sense of direction when performing your keyword research.
You will come up with several keywords that you could rank for as you undertake keyword research. But if these keywords have no potential of attracting quality visitors who can be the stated solutions mentioned in your goals, they will not be worth the effort you should put into trying to rank for the keywords.
When you have set goals, it significantly boosts your chances of SEO success. Moreover, you will save more effort and time than necessary while avoiding the target of irrelevant terms – known as vanity keywords – or keywords with little or no return on investment.
As you develop those goals, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is your target market or audience? Who buys what you sell, and why do they buy them?
- What are the chief desires or needs of people who become your clients or customers?
- What exactly do you sell, and what is your unique value proposition in the marketplace?
- What are the secondary but related needs?
- What are those things your target customers need to know to feel confident and assured in who they choose to buy from?
When you supply answers to these questions, you will focus only on the exact keywords that matter to your entire business or website.
Step 3: Create Your Keyword Plan
For this step, you will need the answers you supplied to those questions in Step 2 and combine them with the experience of your industry or business.
List out the keywords you are sure best describes what your prospective customers search for online when they are in various phases of their buyer journey.
But what would your potential clients search for when they want to purchase specific things you sell? What would your prospective customers search for when they are trying to educate themselves about the items you sell?
And what would they search for when they are trying to make a very informed decision about which merchant to buy from?
The primary purpose of this brainstormed list is much similar to the purpose for which Step 2 was created. And this is to provide some useful guidance in your research to determine what matters for your business.
Do not assume that those keywords you came up with from this particular exercise are valuable ones. Read on to find out whether they are all valuable or not.
Step 4: Evaluate the Competitive Landscape
Do you know your competitors are one of the best sources of the keywords you want to rank for but aren’t? If that competitor has been in business for a much longer period than you and is making waves and impact in your industry, they have probably done the hard work of uncovering and also capitalizing on several opportunities.
Of course, they could have found those keywords via careful and meticulous research or just stumbled on them by chance.
Several SEO keyword research tools will reveal the particular top-ranking keywords for a specific domain. However, you should invest in one of the paid keyword research tools to delve deeper into every level that will be outlined below.
Keyword Research: Using Google
The simplest and free method of discovering competitive keywords is via Google. It has been proven to unveil lots of opportunities, though it depends primarily on some guesswork, and so won’t give you the full picture.
Google helps to identify the top online competitors in your industry or market. Take note that these competitors may not necessarily be the same as those in the real world, especially if you sell products from a physical store, for instance.
Search for the services or products you sell and see who comes up within the top few results in a consistent fashion.
Skip past paid ads and focus only on the immediate results that show up right after. These are your top organic search competition for the products or services that you sell.
What if you sell multiple services or products? Well, the two show up consistently in searches, add them to the list of top competitors. Make sure you also search alternative terms or names that searchers might use for your services or products.
Then, perform a ‘Google site: search’ for each service or product as well as its alternative terms for each competitor domain. Let’s say you sell car tires.
Bring up the Google search page and enter the following search terms e.g.
Site:domainname.com. The ‘domain name.com’ is your competitor’s website.
e.g. enter the following terms without the apostrophes in Google: ‘car tires site:competitorsdomainname.com.’
The search will reveal all the alternative keywords your top competitor is ranking for in Google for this particular product. Add all these alternative terms and keywords to your keyword list.
Using Keyword Research Tools
You can carry out more sophisticated and highly competitive research using paid third-party keyword research tools.
Some of the free tools can only provide limited access or results to this intelligence. But nearly all paid keyword research tools will expose more competitive terms.
Some of these paid tools even allow you to enter a competitor’s domain to discover the keywords they rank the highest for. Using any paid tool of your choice, you can dig deep to another level to find the following:
- Keywords where your competitors rank, but you don’t. This means you will need to create or improve some pages to get right in the game.
- Keywords both you and your competitors rank for. What if you rank lower, you ask? Well, what can you do to boost your site above your competitor’s? Think about it.
Step 5: Enlarge Your Keyword Horizon
Now that you have some keywords, you still need to find some suggested keywords that you don’t even know about. Some free keyword research tools have been designed to present specific and related topics for any given search term or keyword.
- Keyword Explorer
- Answer the Public
- Keywords Everywhere, etc.
The majority of these keyword research tools scrape Google’s SERPs as well as websites that rank the highest for terms or keywords related to yours to discover the particular questions and search terms searchers use most frequently.
Of course, paid keyword research tools will churn out even more in-depth keywords, including those terms that are semantically related to your keywords.
Now, go through your expanded keyword list to pick out high-level or relevant topics. Group the remaining keywords under these according to how relevant they are. This is the list you should use as a guide when building interlinked content which will end up giving you broader topical relevancy with Google and other search engines.
As you can see, approaching keyword research, the smart way is hard work and is not something that you should do once and forget. It is a process that must remain consistent according to the fluctuation in the marketplace, changes to Google and its algorithms, new competitors, and even changes in your business over time.All these will call for additional research as well as prioritization of relevant search terms and keywords. Ongoing keyword research, therefore, is one of the best – and vital – ways to remain on your toes so that you don’t lose your competitive edge.