It’s easy to overlook the importance of keywords in today’s SEO environment.
Google is constantly evolving, updating its algorithm to include various components beyond simple keywords and phrases.
If you want to succeed with an incredible SEO strategy today then you’re going to need everything from a well-organised back end for your website, to plenty of backlinks from authoritative sites.
However, although you can’t rank higher on Google anymore just by stuffing your pages full of keywords, the terms you use on your pages will still have a huge impact on your ranking ability. After all, searches – even those conducted via voice, are reliant on specific terms.
While the need to conduct effective keyword research has remained consistent through the years, one thing that has changed is the keyword research process.
Here we’re going to deliver some of the best keyword research tips that you can use to transform your strategy, attract more customers and earn higher revenue results.
Let’s get researching.
Why is effective keyword research so important?
In the SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation landscape, keyword research is one of the most important things any business can do to manipulate the search engines and improve their ranking. The more you know about your customers and what they search for when they’re looking for your company, the more you can adapt the language on your site to boost your chances of traffic.
Recently, many marketers have begun to talk about how the nature of SEO has evolved over the years. When search engines like Google first appeared in the digital marketplace, keywords were the only tool that they could use to rank websites. The more instances of a certain word you had on a page, the higher you ranked. Life was simpler then.
Now, the search engines are more intelligent than ever. They can take things like context and brand authority into account when deciding where to place a website on the search engine results. Things like “intent” are changing the way we use keywords not just in content, but in the very building blocks of websites. The difference in the way that we use keywords is also having an impact on the way that companies conduct their keyword research.
Let’s take a look at some of the tips for keyword research that you can use to bring your SEO strategy back up to date, and in line with the latest algorithms.
Tip 1: Understand what people are looking for
User intent is now one of the most important factors in any company’s ability to rank well on a search engine like Google. Today, the number of times you use a keyword in your content doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to. What matters is that you’re solving the problem that your customer wanted to solve when they searched for a phrase initially.
Understanding keyword intent can be a little complicated at first, but at the core, there are four main types of “intent” to consider, including:
- Navigational intent: When users search for a specific website.
- Information intent: Where users look for the answer to a question, such as “How do I create a brand identity?“
- Investigational intent: When users search for information that could lead to a transaction, such as: “Which are the best branding companies in the UK?”
- Transactional intent: Where users look for something that they’re ready to buy, such as “Leather shoes near me”.
To succeed with your new keyword research process, you’ll need to understand that the terms your audience searches for can have many different meanings under the surface.
The best content marketing strategies for SEO and sales today focus on delivering content that responds to many different kinds of customer intent. A complete content marketing funnel will allow you to speak to your customers through every stage of their buyer journey, from awareness, when they’re looking for information, to transaction.
Tip 2: Get to know your customers
Once you know all the different kinds of intent you need to target with your keyword research strategy, you’ll need to think about how you can tailor your strategy to your specific audience. Different customers look for different things when they’re trying to find answers to their questions online. If you haven’t created user personas for your customers yet – then now’s the time to do that.
Think about the different ways that people might search for what you have to offer. Map out the research and buying journeys that each customer is likely to take and think about the sort of language your customers will use.
The kind of search phrase a middle-aged mother will use when searching for an item is likely to be a lot different to the terms that a Gen Z teenager will use. As you continue to work on your search engine strategy over time, you’ll be able to gather information using tools like Google’s keyword analytics. In the meantime:
- Look at the comments left on your website from members of your community and pay attention to the terms that they use when they ask questions, tell stories, and offer opinions on your product or service.
- Collect information through surveys sent out to your initial customers or ask beta testers to give you feedback in exchange for discount code or voucher on their first purchase.
- Ask sales representatives to collect some of the most important questions that your customers ask them and share those queries with the marketing team.
- Track the searches that customers make on your website. Countless customers will search for information on your website’s search bar. Take stock of their queries when figuring out how to rank with Google.
Tip 3: Learn how to find and analyse your keywords
Once you know who your customers are, what their research and buyer journeys look like, and what kind of language they use to search for your products and services, the next step is to make the most of your keyword research. Most of the time, effective keyword research starts with some basic brainstorming. The research you did into your customers, and user personas should have given you some ideas as to what your customers are looking for and the terms that you need to rank for. What’s more, if you’re familiar with your business and niche, then you should be able to guess at the kind of information that people would want as they move through each stage of their interaction with you.
The selection of potential keywords that you come up with should break down into a number of categories, including:
- Head keywords: The terms that include only one or two words and have a high search volume. These keywords are much harder to rank for.
- Body keywords: The 2 or 3-word phrases that come with a mid-level search volume and a less competitive ranking environment.
- Long-tail keywords: The long-form terms that string together to form questions and other more complex queries. These terms have a low search volume, but they also account for a lot of web traffic.
Most keyword research starts with basic head or “seed” terms. These are the terms like “content marketing” that you can use with content mapping techniques to create new pages for your website. For instance, if you know that your users are searching for things to do with content marketing when they look for your website, you could create a blog page on the definition of content marketing for customers in the “Awareness” stage of the buyer funnel.
You can also create eBooks and case studies that cover how your business has helped other companies with content marketing to support customers in the consideration stage of their journey and set up a pricing page for people in the “decision” or “transaction” stage.
Typing your head keyword into Google will give you a list of LSI (Latent semantic indexing) terms that you can use to build out a more comprehensive list of keywords.
While you’re looking for terms to add to your keyword strategy, remember to take a look at the related search terms at the bottom of your results pages too. This space is often particularly good for finding long-term keywords that customers search for frequently.
Tip 4: Find out what works for your competitors
If you’re looking into tips for keyword research, then you’re probably also hoping to find advice that you can use to beat your competitors when it comes to search engine results. After all, effective SEO is all about appearing before other companies in the result pages.
Of course, before you can come up with a plan for outranking your competition, you’ll first need a better understanding of who your competitors actually are and where they rank for the keywords you want to target. There are a lot of excellent tools available today that can help with this aspect of competitor analysis.
For instance, the SEMRush Position Tracker service allows users to simply enter a company’s URL and get instant insights into their rankings for particular words and phrases.
Many tools available for SEO competitor analysis show you both the organic keyword ranking results and the Google AdWords results too.
Start by picking the top four of five competitors that you want to track in your industry and analyse what they’re doing on-site to keep their rankings high. Should you be focusing on some of the same keywords and phrases? Are there important phrases that your competitors aren’t ranking for that you could be taking advantage of?
Remember, you’ll need to keep checking back on your competitors to ensure that you don’t miss any opportunities as your business starts to grow.
Tip 5: Aim for the Google featured snippet
As the way that people search for information continues to change, the demands in place for the keyword research process are evolving too. When you “Google” something today, you’ll probably receive a little box of information. This “featured snippet,” comes from one of the top results for that query. Crucially, the featured snippet is also the part of the Google SERPs that informs smart speakers like Google Home, and assistants like Siri.
Around 6.6 million people own a smart speaker in the UK, and that number is increasing all the time. What’s more, the number of people using their smart devices to search for information is increasing too. If you want to reach all kinds of searchers today, your top tips for keyword research should include aiming for the featured snippet.
To boost your chances of appearing in the featured snippet section of Google, start by:
- Focusing on long-tail keywords: While short-form keywords have their place in an SEO strategy, it’s the long-tail terms that are going to make an impact on voice search. Make sure you think about this.
- Making sure you use title tags and headers correctly: If you want to appear in the featured snippet section for “What is work-life balance,” with your article “How to improve your work/life balance,” then your title tag needs to be “What is work-life balance?” This will help Google to figure out where to rank you.
- Answer questions succinctly: Once you know which questions you want to rank for in the featured snippet section, make sure that you answer those questions clearly and succinctly. The search engine snippet section can only show so much content.
Tip 6: Use the right tools
Running a successful branding and marketing strategy is always easier when you have the right tools. For instance, you’ll have a much better time creating a logo that stands out when you use the right graphic design software or a branding company like Fabrik to help you. The same applies to your keyword research strategy. Accessing tools that help you to learn more about the terms your users are looking for will make your life a lot easier.
Here are some of the best tools that we found to help you out when researching keyword research tips:
- AnswerThePublic: Ideal for helping you to track down the questions that you want to answer to appear in Google’s featured snippets, AnswerThePublic is a free keyword research tool. This service crawls the Google search suggestions and finds questions among them that you can attempt to answer. It’s a great way to get inspiration when you’re trying to create valuable content for your audience.
- Ahrefs: A complete suite of keyword research process tools. Ahrefs is one of the most popular services online today for companies that need help tracking down valuable keywords and phrases, or even just boosting their SEO strategy.
- Google Adwords Keyword Planner: One of the simplest and most accessible keyword research tools on the market today, the Google Adwords Keyword planner allows you to evaluate the potential impact of your keywords according to metrics like competition levels and local search volume. You can also expand your search with the “Find New Keywords” option.
- SEMRush: A SEO-focused portfolio of digital tools that provides access to insightful keyword data and helps you find related words to your main search terms. This tool comes with a host of premium features to tap into.
- LSIGraph: A helpful keyword research tool for people who want to go beyond the related search results that they get when they look for a head or seed term with Google. While some entries won’t provide very helpful results, others will give you some excellent inspiration for your content creation strategy.
Tip 7: Learn as you go
One thing to keep in mind when you’re reading through tips for keyword research is that SEO and keyword analysis is an ongoing process. You can’t just research the right keywords once and never update your strategy again. As your company evolves, and your customers share more information with you through the searches, you’ll be able to enhance and improve your SEO.
For instance, using Google Search Console, you can collect data about your site visitors to figure out which keywords people are actually searching for when they want to find your website. You might even be able to use Google to find sub-niches for your keywords that you hadn’t considered before.
Go into your Google Search Console account and click on your performance report to start gathering information. In the Average Position filter section, you’ll be able to find a list of the keywords you rank for and their position in the search engine pages.
Using this data, highlight the keywords and phrases that you want to increase your ranking potential for. If you see a keyword that’s been used a lot to access your website, then you might need to just reoptimize the page that uses that keyword a little before you can accelerate your position in the rankings. You might even notice some similar keyword phrases that you haven’t targeted as well as you should be.
Tip 8: Learn what to do with keywords once you find them
Finally, remember that keyword research is just the first part of an effective SEO keyword strategy. You can’t just spend all of your time searching for the most competitive keywords and expect to get excellent results. You’ll also need a basic idea of what you can do with those keywords once you have them.
Learning how to use SEO effectively means figuring out how to tailor your website to speak both the language of your target audience and the language of the search engines too. With your list of keywords in-hand, make sure that you have a checklist that you can take with you into the creation of every piece of content. This checklist covers some of the places where your keyword research might pay off. For instance:
- Meta title and headline: Google picks your meta title and caption as the clickable link in the search result pages. Including a keyword in this area can help to boost your organic click-through rate and gain you more traffic.
- URL structure: Remember that your URL structure also shows up in your search results and attracts the attention of browsers. Try to use your primary keywords from your keyword research process within the URL, with dashes instead of spaces. For instance: www.yourwebsite.com/keyword-research-tips
- First paragraph: The first paragraph is the content that catches your reader’s eye as soon as they click through to your web page. Let your customers know that they’re in the right place by addressing the keyword or phrase that forms the inspiration for your piece.
- Subheadings: Keep tight hold of reader attention as they scroll through your page. Your audience will expect to see keywords in your subheadings, while Google spiders and crawler bots use heading tags to understand the context in a page.
- Image alt text: Google isn’t smart enough to fully understand what an image covers yet. Your alt text will help to provide the search engines with more of the information they need to rank you properly.
Making the most of your keyword research
Keywords might not be the only thing worth considering in your SEO strategy anymore, but the words and phrases you choose to try and rank for will still make a difference to your website’s growth potential. By discovering the language that your customers already use and making sure that you deliver the content that speaks to your audience, you can boost your chances of ranking.
What’s more, the more you learn about your audience through your keyword research, the easier it will be for you to create website pages and blogs that are optimised to their needs.
What are your top tips for keyword research? Let us know in the comments below.
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