What is keyword research? The key to unlocking your SEO
It’s a term you’ve probably heard a million times if you’re involved in any kind of online marketing or SEO strategy. But, how much do you know about researching essential terms for your website?
Effective keyword research is the key to making sure that your customers find you online when searching for common terms and phrases. Choose the right words to highlight in your meta data and content, and your traffic levels could skyrocket. The more traffic you draw to your website, the more likely it is that you’ll end up with higher conversion rates too.
Unfortunately, making the most of your keywords isn’t as simple as it seems.
In a world where the search engine algorithms are constantly changing, the way that you use your critical words and phrases will evolve too. For instance, you can’t just cram your pages full of as many keywords as possible and expect to get ahead of your competition anymore.
Instead, if you want to stand out in the digital marketplace, you need a keyword research process that highlights the most valuable terms for your customers and teaches you how to deftly place those words into the foundations of your content.
We’ve put together this guide to keyword research to help you achieve sensational SEO results in no time.
What is keyword research? The basics
So, how does keyword research work?
Well, to fully understand this aspect of SEO, you first need to know what keywords are. In basic terms, keywords are the phrases or words that identify what people are searching for, and subsequently what you write about.
Keyword research, then, is how you make sure that you’re not just guessing at what your customers are searching for. It’s how you track down the topics and ideas that you can turn into evergreen content and trending posts for your website.
Although keywords aren’t the only component of effective SEO anymore, they are a fundamental part of how you build your presence online. When Google and other search engines come across your content and decide where to rank you online, they look at several things, including the keywords and terms that you’ve chosen.
The right keyword research requires you to think not only about what your customers are searching for, but also what kind of things the search engines will prioritise when placing your website. When you know what both your audience and the search engines are looking for, you can start driving the most value from your content.
Keyword research for SEO supports not just content creation, but all of your promotional and marketing activities online too, including email marketing, PPC, and more.
Types of keyword research for SEO
One thing you’ll notice when you start to dig down into the basics of SEO research is that there are many different kinds of keywords that you’ll need to consider in your strategy.
A big part of your SEO campaign will involve looking at a combination of head, body, and long-tail keywords, and making sure you spread them evenly through your campaigns. The first thing you’re likely to consider in your keyword research and analysis, is “head keywords.” These are the brief phrases that have a high search volume, but a lot of competition, like “marketing” or “SEO.”
Next, you’ll look at your body keywords – the slightly longer phrases that have a mid-level search volume. Examples of body keywords might include things like “Bing keyword research,” or “Effective keyword research.” Finally, you’ll start to search through long-tail keywords. Your long-tail phrases are the more specific, in-depth search phases that highlight exactly what a customer is looking for. For instance, a long-tail keyword might be: “Why keyword research is important?”
During your long-tail keyword research, you’ll also come across another SEO terms, “Latent Semantic Indexing,” or LSI. With Latent Semantic Indexing, you address the terms that are likely to come up in association with the words that your customers are looking for. For instance, if you were searching for the word “Titanic” you’d get a bunch of different results covering the ship, the movie, and even merchandise associated with the Titanic.
However, if you were to search “Titanic necklace replica”, the semantic terms “necklace replica” tell Google exactly what you’re looking for. Since LSI helps the search engines to deliver far more relevant results when people are browsing online, it’s a good idea to find LSI keywords for your content. An excellent tool for this is “LSIGraph,” which provides a handful of semantic terms to include alongside your head and body terms.
There’s more to keywords than basic short tail keyword research; you’ll need to think about your strategy from a long-tail and semantic perspective too.
Why keyword research and analysis involves “intent.”
If we dive a little further into the more complicated side of things and semantic keyword research, we also start to learn more about the importance of “intent” in SEO analysis. As the search engines become increasingly more intelligent, it’s not enough for your keyword research process to separate your terms into long and short phrases. You’ll also need to understand the intent of the searcher looking for your website, product or content.
For instance, each keyword or phrase comes with a specific purpose, such as:
- Navigation: When customers are looking for a particular site.
- Information: When users look for the answer to a question.
- Investigation: Where people search for information that could lead to a transaction.
- Transactional: Where people are ready to buy.
For instance, if someone were looking for the words “wedding cake ideas,” they’d be in the “Investigation” stage with their keywords. On the other hand, if they’re looking for “Local wedding cake shops,” then you know that they’re ready to buy.
Understanding the intent behind keywords is very valuable. It helps businesses to know what kind of language they need to use when they’re writing blogs, designing videos, or just publishing copy onto their product pages.
Why keyword research is essential to your brand
Now you have a basic keyword research definition to work with, let’s examine why it’s so important to do this kind of homework in your SEO strategy.
After all, keyword research takes a lot of time and effort.
However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth your time. Google alone processes more than 2 trillion search queries each year – or around 5.5 billion per day. That means that the search engines are dealing with a vast number of keywords on an almost constant basis.
Useful keyword research is essential to helping your business grow and thrive in today’s digital environment. However, there are three particular areas where research becomes particularly crucial:
1. Your SEO strategy
The first and most apparent reason that fundamental keyword research is vital is that it fuels your SEO strategy. Search engine optimisation is how you help Google bots crawl through your content and rank your website for specific search results. The easiest way to make sure that you meet your customers wherever they might be is to rank for the right keywords and semantic terms.
Though Google is always changing its algorithm, and even Bing keyword research and other search engine solutions aren’t set in stone, it’s likely that keywords will never lose their importance.
2. Your content strategy
Search engine optimisation and valuable content go together like salt and pepper. Without content on your website, it’s impossible to optimise anything. The right keyword research process will ensure that you’re putting the right content on your website to answer the most pressing questions of your target audience.
Knowing which terms your audience are searching for will tell you which topics you need to write about to get the attention of the search engines. However, it will also give you an insight into the kind of questions you need to answer to delight your audience.
3. Paid campaigns
Not every company will rely on PPC to grow its digital presence. However, paid campaigns can be an excellent way to give your business the boost it needs. All of your paid campaigns have to be keyword focused to ensure that you’re getting the most value out of your investments.
When you start using PPC, you’ll bid for individual keywords. Knowing where to spend your money will help to drive a good ROI from your marketing budget. With the right keyword research, you can even ensure that you’re attracting the audience most likely to buy from your website – like those searching with “transactional” intent.
How to perform the most efficient keyword research
Now that you know what keyword research is and why it’s important, let’s take a look at how you can do it for your brand.
There’s rarely a one-size-fits-all strategy for any keyword research process. However, for most companies, the plan will begin with a list of important, relevant topics that are related to your business. Start by thinking about the issues you want to rank for in terms of generic content buckets. For instance, if you’re a marketing team, your content buckets might include things like:
- Inbound marketing.
- Lead generation.
- Email marketing.
- Search engine optimisation.
- Social media marketing.
As you discover your content buckets, look for their search volume. The chances are that the buckets that guide your SEO and content strategy will be your “head” terms – the ones that have a high volume of searches, and a lot of competition. Once you have your content buckets, you can:
Start brainstorming keywords
Your content buckets will give you the general topics that you’re going to cover with your keywords. The next step is looking for the long-tail keywords and short-tail solutions that fit into those buckets. For instance, within “Social media marketing,” you might cover terms like:
- Instagram marketing.
- Social media automation tools.
- What’s the best Facebook marketing strategy?
- How to advertise on Twitter.
- How to appeal to customers on LinkedIn.
Remember, the point of this step isn’t necessarily to come up with the complete list of keywords that you’re going to use in your future marketing. Instead, you want a basic brain dump of the phrases that you think potential customers will be interested in looking for. You’ll narrow this list down a little later in the process.
Don’t forget to look for related search terms too. If you’re struggling to think of the kind of keywords that your audience will be interested in for each of your content buckets, go to Google, and scroll to the bottom of the page. You’ll see a range of related terms connected to your search. You can even click through to those searches and see what their associated terms are too.
Refine and cut down your keyword list
Once you’ve finished the brainstorming section of your keyword research process, you’ll probably have hundreds, if not thousands of terms to consider. Before you start building a vast content strategy that covers every word, you’ll need to do some refining.
A great digital marketing strategy requires a certain level of focus, after all. A good way to start narrowing down your keyword choices is to see how your competitors are ranking for some of the same terms and phrases. The more competition there is for a specific keyword, the more money you’re going to need to spend to get ahead of the curve.
Some smaller businesses prefer to keep their costs low by aiming for the low-hanging fruit in the search engine keyword research first.
You can also narrow your list down a little further by using tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. You’ll need a Google AdWords account to access this tool– but it’s worth having one. With the Keyword Planner, you can get the traffic estimates and search volume information for each of the keywords that you’re considering. This means that you can track down which terms are most likely to give you the best results with minimal immediate investment.
Tips for your keyword research process
So you know the essentials of how to begin your keyword research and analysis.
We’re not just going to abandon you there. Instead, let’s take a look at how you can make your keyword research even more effective and valuable. For instance, before you start working on your keyword campaigns, it might be worth looking at the terms that you already rank for.
If you’re working on developing a website that’s already been around for a little while, then you might already have a few keywords in your repertoire. Use the Search Analytics report in the Google Search Console to see what terms are driving your current customers your way. The Search Console will show you your average position for each of the keywords you rank for, and how many clicks and impressions you’re gaining overall. From there, you can decide where you want to go next with your search engine optimisation strategy.
Other ways to implement more effective keyword research include:
1. Using your user personas
When it comes to keyword research, you need to know exactly who you’re trying to connect with. The more you know about your ideal buyers and dedicated community of followers, the easier it will be to speak their language. Looking at your buyer personas will give you an insight into the kind of questions your customers are likely to ask when they go to Google, and even the sort of words they’re planning on using.
For instance, if you’re appealing to a particularly young audience of tech-savvy customers, then it’s more likely that they’ll be searching for your content using questions asked directly to their smart speakers or virtual assistants. The number of searches being made through intelligent assistants is increasing drastically. It may be more beneficial for you to focus on answering questions like “What do I need to do to improve my search engine ranking,” than attempting to rank for keywords like “Search engine optimisation.”
2. Using competitor analysis
We mentioned above that looking at your competitors can give you an insight into which keywords and terms are more likely to be challenging to rank for. However, competitor analysis can also deliver other benefits to your keyword research process too. For instance, if you can find out what kind of terms your competitors are ranking for, then you may also get ideas of topics you need to cover that you hadn’t thought of during your brainstorming sessions.
A quick competitor analysis adds to your list of keywords to explore. Just make sure that you don’t ignore the phrases and terms that your competitors aren’t doing very well at ranking for. These low-search-volume keywords could be ideal for you to snatch up some of the traffic that other companies in your space are missing out on.
3. Using keyword research tools
Finally, remember that keyword research can be tough, but there are a lot of tools available on the market today to help you accelerate your campaigns and strengthen your strategy. The easiest way to develop your keyword research process is to invest in a few helpful tools like ubersuggest.io or answerthepublic.com.
If you’re struggling to find inspiration when it comes to deciding what kinds of words and phrases you need to rank for, have a look on Google at some of the top-performing tools for keyword analysis. You’d be surprised how quickly these automated algorithms can give you plenty of exciting ideas to work with.
Don’t underestimate effective keyword research
Keyword research might not be the sexiest or most exciting part of building an SEO strategy, but it is one of the most important. Over the years, as other aspects of the SEO environment have changed, the importance of keywords has stayed remarkably consistent.
One point to keep in mind when it comes to keyword research and analysis is that searching for the right terms isn’t something that you’ll only need to do once. You can’t just look into your keywords once and expect them to last forever. The language in the digital world is constantly changing and evolving, with new customer preferences and queries to guide it. What’s more, Google, Bing, and other search engines are always updating their algorithms to make the search engine experience more efficient for today’s users.
Make sure that you’re not falling behind the trends, or your competition by setting aside some time in your schedule to check-in on your keyword research and make sure that you’re still up-to-date. Don’t underestimate the importance of ranking for the right words and phrases.
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