A Simple Guide – How to Do Keyword Research for SEO
Despite all the changes to SEO practices over the year’s keyword research remains one of the most fundamental SEO tasks.
This guide will get you started with keyword research the correct way and help build a solid foundation for your SEO campaigns.
In fact some form of keyword research is still one of the first things SEO professionals at all skill levels do especially for a new website or for any site for which they want to improve or expand search rankings.
Therefore learning to do good SEO keyword research and analysis is one of the most valuable skills you can build as an aspiring SEO journey.
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What Is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is a process of discovering and determining the keywords that matter most for the objectives of a given website.
In simple terms it is finding the keywords you want to rank and also the ones you should rank for – what people want and what you have to offer should nearly match.
If done correctly, keyword research also yields the topics for which you should be creating content on your site.
Competitive analysis is an area closely related to keyword research.
During research stage you could uncover what your competitors are ranking for that you are not which may lead to key insights for your SEO strategy and business.
This guide will get you started with everything you need to know to do keyword research that will build a solid foundation for your SEO campaigns.
The Keyword Research Process
Good keyword research follows an orderly process – a set of steps that help accomplish all the goals mentioned above.
However this is not a simple one and done process but an ongoing journey.
You will need to continually revisit these steps because your market situation will change over time.
Some of the changes that can necessitate new keyword research include:
- Shifting needs or desires of your target consumers.
- New queries that have not appeared before or new search terms used to look for what you offer.
- New competitors entering the market.
- Changes to search engine algorithms or search features.
- And many more.
Make the keyword research process one of your regular habits for good SEO health and growth.
There are many legitimate ways to approach keyword research but in this guide we will discover and follow these steps:
- Analyse Current Keywords.
- Formulate Your Goals.
- Build Your Keyword Wish List.
- Assess The Competitive Landscape.
- Expand Your Keyword Horizons.
- Prioritise By Opportunities vs. Investment.
We will go through this guide from the perspective of a business website trying to sell products or services to potential customers. However the basic principles apply to non-business sites as well.
Just substitute your cause, passion or interest for the products and services.
Even if you are looking for organic search traffic – you are still trying to sell something.
These are in chronological order hence their importance to follow these steps to obtain maximum result for keyword research for SEO.
1. Analyse Current Keywords
This is where you should begin if you already have a set of keywords that you are trying to rank for. If you are starting totally from scratch then skip to No: 2
If you are taking over an existing site or have been working on a site for a while then you probably have some list of keywords in mind that you have been trying to rank for.
The first thing you should do is list those keywords and run an analysis to see how they have been performing.
To analyse larger applications you will probably want a paid tool.
But for a basic site there are many free rank tracking tools available.
If your list of keywords is relatively small then you could search for them on Google to see where they are currently ranking but that would not give you any ranking history.
Look at the ranking history and search volume for these keywords from your tool of choice.
Use Google Search Console to determine what keywords your site already ranks for – if any. Your goal here is to establish a baseline of keyword performance.
You can use this for growing your keyword universe in the other steps below.
Use the metrics you have gathered on your existing keywords to separate high performing keywords from low but worthwhile.
Low but worthwhile performers are keywords that have sufficient search volume and impressions but have lower ranking and/or click-through rates.
Put the low but worthwhile keywords aside to add to the list you will develop in the section below.
You might think you are ready to start real keyword research now however without crafted goals this may be futile.
Goals in here means – the specific business and brand needs you want to earn organic traffic for SEO.
Many times keyword research will churn up keywords that you could rank for but if these keywords do not attract the right visitors as per your business goals then they would not be worth the effort.
Hence this is the most overlooked step in typical keyword research efforts. Having goals will help improve your chances of SEO success.
Plus you will save time and effort trying to avoid targeting irrelevant terms or keywords with little or no return on investment (ROI).
Here are a few questions to ask when formulating your goals for keyword research:
- Who are your target audience? Who buys what you sell and why?
- What do you sell and what is your unique value proposition in your marketplace?
- What are the chief needs and/or desires of people who become your customers?
- What are their secondary or related needs?
- What are the things your target consumers need to know to feel confident in whom they choose to buy from?
Knowing the answers to these questions can help you focus on the keywords that will really matter to your business.
This section is strictly for internal research. It begins in your own head or the collective heads of your team if you have one.
Using the answers to the questions in Section 2 combined with the experience of your business or industry – list out the keywords you think best describe what your potential customers search for when they are in various phases of their buyer journey.
- What would they search for when they are just trying to educate themselves about the kinds of things you sell? – Informational
- What would they search for when they are trying to make an informed decision about who to buy from? – Navigational
- What would they search for when they want to buy specific things you sell? – Transactional
The purpose of these brainstormed lists is to provide some guidance in your research in determining what matters for your business.
Do not assume that the keywords you come up with from this exercise are all actually valuable.
One of the best sources to find keywords you should be ranking for are ones that are not on your competitors list.
If they have been in the game longer than you then they have probably uncovered and capitalised on more opportunities by either careful research or just stumbled upon them.
Many SEO tools will show you the top-ranking keywords for a given domain but you may need to invest in one of the paid tools to delve into all the levels discussed below.
Let us look at some different ways of approaching competitive keyword research.
This is the simplest free method of competitive keyword discovery – Google.
This method can uncover a lot of opportunities but it is dependent on a certain amount of guesswork to give the full picture.
Nevertheless it is a good way to start if you do not have good tools handy.
Google is most helpful in identifying who your top online competitors are.
Keep in mind these may not be the same in real world competition if you and others are selling your products and services through brick and mortar stores.
Start by searching for the products or services you sell and see who comes up in the top few results consistently.
As an example let us say one of your products is garage door openers:
Skipping past the paid ads – it is evident that Home Depot and Lowes are your top organic search competition for this product.
If you sell multiple products or services and if these two show up again and again in search term then add them to a list of top competitors.
Be sure to look out for any alternative names searchers might use for your products or services.
Next do a Google site: search for each product and its alternative names for each competitor domain.
To do this:- enter into Google – the search term and then site: competitor’s domain name.
This search tells us the alternative keywords that the competitor ranks for in Google for this product.
In the example above we see that Google might show Home Depot’s garage door opener products to people searching for belt-drive garage door openers, chain-drive garage door openers and 4-garage door openers.
Add all of these to your keyword list.
Using Keyword Research Tools
For more sophisticated competitive research you will need a third-party tool.
Some of the free tools can provide you with limited access to this intelligence but almost all of the paid tools can show you a much more complete competitive picture.
Many tools allow you to input a competitor’s domain to discover the keywords they rank highest for.
To identify competitors who share your audience you can use a few free keyword research tools.
Enter their website and start looking at your competitors. The report shows sites that might not be direct competitors but share an audience with you.
These sites and their keywords can help you find topics and keywords that attract your target audience.
They are in no order of importance since all of them are equally important and relevant in their own objectives.
This tool has lots of cool features that focus on blogs, video and social media cool stuff.
You enter in a search term either a keyword or a company and the tool will tell you what is being said about that term across blogs and social platforms.
You can see how many times and how often it is mentioned and you can even subscribe to an RSS feed for that term so you never miss a beat.
Best ways to use this tool:
- Monitor and track keyword mentions
- Monitor company mentions
- Cross-analyse what is being said across different social networks
Formerly the Google Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator – now this tool seems to have it all.
Although it does not focus specifically on competitor analysis and more on your own website, finding competitor data is one feature of the tool. Because it is from Google and it is considered one of the best out there.
Best ways to use this tool:
- Find competitor keyword data – paid and organic.
- Monitor your own website as well as those of your competitors
Price: You need to sign up for a free AdWords account to access the tool.
This is a really cool tool because you can place it right on your site and then get information about your competitors all in one place.
In other words it is more of a gadget than a tool which means that it is a little button you can use to find information using another competitive analysis tool which the installation will give you.
Best ways to use this tool:
- Place the tool on your site for easy access
- Gather information on your competitors in one place
- Use it in conjunction with another tool of your choice
This is a cool tool because it gives each of your competitors an overall score based on social media activity, blogging success, SEO, and lead generation.
It is fun to see if their score fluctuates and then to notice if your score does the same.
This is a very simple and easy to use tool that will send reports right to your inbox.
If you want to know every single time your competitor is mentioned online, whether as a link or simply a mention then you will get that report.
You can monitor keywords as well and it is up to you what you want to track it.
Best ways to use this tool:
- Get competitors’ backlinks
- Monitor social or other website mentions of your company
- Monitor keyword mentions
Once you know the SEO leaders in your industry then you can research their keywords in the following ways:
- Research top keywords for a single competitor showing what keywords are driving traffic to that site plus other details such as their keyword share of voice, the percent of their search traffic that comes from each keyword and more.
- Find and combine the keywords for a set of industry leaders showing the top keywords driving traffic to that group of sites. The set of results can be filtered by various metrics depending on your goals and the types of keywords you want to find.
Add any relevant keywords and variations to your list.
With these tools you can usually dig to another level where you can discover:
- Keywords both you and a competitor rank for and if you rank lower, what would it take to boost you above them.
- Keywords where they rank but you do not then it is time to create or improve some pages to get in that game.
5. Expand Your Keyword Horizons
The previous section have enabled you to build a list of keywords to use in confidence and as base to help you find keywords that you are not aware of.
While keywords are still foundational to good SEO optimising for them alone will only get you so far.
Google has made vast improvements in its ability to recognise topics and all their related terms so now every keyword is really the gateway to a topical universe.
There are a number of free tools designed specifically for suggesting related topics for any given keyword.
Most of these tools work by scraping Google search engine results pages or SERPs to discover the search terms and questions consumers use most frequently for a given topic or keyword.
As always some paid tools will give you more in-depth terms related to your keywords.
We will now look through your expanded keyword list to pick out the high level topics and then group the remaining keywords under these according to relevance.
You can use this organised list later to guide you in building out interlinked content that will give you broader topical relevancy with search engine optimisation – SEO.
This final step is not really research per se but it is a critical bridge to converting what you discovered in your research into actions that lead to results.
In this process your first priority should be the best opportunities but these must be weighed against the cost of winning those opportunities.
If a particular keyword has high traffic potential but if you will have to spend too much time trying to win a good rank for it or you are unable to convert that traffic into one of your business goals then it is not worth the cost
Gather the Metrics, Analyse and Sort
Put all the keywords you have accumulated into a spreadsheet and create columns for key indicators of value and cost such as:
- Average search volume.
- CPC bid price.
Even though CPC is not an organic search metric it can serve as a good indicator of how competitive the keyword is.
The higher the CPC the more competitive it is and the more difficult it may be to win a good organic position for it.
Another metric you may want to look at is trends.
- How has this keyword performed over time?
- Is it growing in search volume?
- Has its CPC risen or fallen?
If you do not have a tool that tracks such trends – Google Trends can give you an idea of search interest in a topic over time though you would not find every keyword there.
Which keywords are most likely to contribute at each step in a buyer’s journey for you to accomplish your business goals?
Decide which keywords from your list relate to content you already have.
Look at what ranks in the SERPs for a keyword determine its primary search intent as Google sees it.
- Local – something people enter when they want to find a nearby store or facility.
- Informational – something people enter when they want to learn more.
- Navigational – something people enter when they know exactly what they want and who they want to get it from.
- Transactional – something people enter when they are looking to buy.
Now evaluate whether each piece of content is well-optimised for the keyword/s you mapped and if that content also fits the search intent of the keyword.
If it does not then plan to improve that piece of content or build something new to do the job better.
You can now learn more all about strategies and how to via our comprehensive guide to keyword research.
As mentioned earlier you will probably spend a lot of time on keyword research at the beginning but it is a process that should never end.
Fluctuations in the marketplace, new competitors, changes to Google, changes in your business and more can necessitate further research and prioritisation of keywords for seo.
Ongoing keyword research is one of the best ways to keep up with competitive edge and seo.
However if you are finding it difficult then seek an experienced marketing agency like Best–Digital Marketing Services to help you set up strategies to recover sales through shopping cart abandonment.
Contact us today and see how we can help you increase or boost your conversion rates through implementing these trust badges.
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