Keyword research is the process of discovering the terms, phrases, questions and answers that your users and customers are searching. If you want to drive leads to your site, you’ll need to know how to do keyword research. Read more to understand how to do keyword research to benefit your SEO strategy.
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is the process of understanding the search queries that may be relevant to your business and your customers when searching for your content, products and services. Keyword research involves finding, comparing and prioritising these keywords to inform your content strategy.
Why is keyword research important to SEO?
Using the right keywords can help draw in potential users that are more likely to benefit from the content on your website. Keyword research helps you:
Understand and reach your audience
Find new relevant topics to cover on your site
Improve ad campaigns to get clicks and impressions
Build brand awareness
However, it’s just as important to avoid using “wrong” keywords that will force searchers to leave your website, without finding the content that they were searching for. Fortunately, keyword research, if done correctly, can help you to discover both the good and bad keywords.
Keyword research helps you to see:
Marketing Trend Insight – Effective keyword research provides you with current marketing trend insights. This can help you to focus your content on the relevant topics and keywords that your audience is searching for.
Traffic Growth – When you understand the most appropriate keywords for your content, the higher you’ll rank.
Customer Acquisition – You can provide searchers with a call-to-action that will lead them into the buyer journey from the awareness stage to the point of purchase. By researching keywords for their popularity, search volume and general intent, you can understand which stage buyers are at in the customer journey funnel.
Keywords vs. Topics – You can use keyword research to identify and sort your content into topics that you want to create content on.
Elements of Keyword Research When Choosing Your Organic Keywords
There are 7 main elements to pay attention to when conducting keyword research.
1. Search Volume
Search volume lets you know, on average, how times a keyword is searched for each month. This metric can also help you to determine how competitive a keyword is.
Keyword competition measures how difficult it will be to rank organically for your target keyword. A keyword’s competitiveness depends largely on the market and its popularity.
It is much easier to rank using a less competitive keyword because there are less people trying to rank for that keyword. However, if a keyword is more competitive, you may need more time or resources to rank for it, so consider deprioritising it.
There’s no one set way to determine a keyword’s competitiveness. Semrush offers two metrics that can help you to quickly review competition:
Keyword Difficulty gives an indication into how difficult it would be for your website to organically rank in the top 10 of Google SERPs for that keyword. The higher the percentage, the more difficult it is to achieve higher rankings.
Competitive Density refers to the competition of advertisers bidding on the keyword in their PPC campaigns. This is scaled from 0 – 1.00, with 1.00 being the most difficult to rank for.
When formulating your keyword list, it’s important to consider any upward or downward trends for that keyword.
It’s common for certain words and terms to increase or decrease in popularity. For example, ‘Christmas decorations’ are more likely to receive more search volume during the winter compared to other seasons.
By using tools, such as Google Trends, you can input date ranges to see if your keyword has any seasonality trends, which can help determine when you publish your content.
4. Relevance to Business
Although it is important to rank for keywords, you shouldn’t aim to rank for every keyword. Instead, focus on selecting keywords within your market niche that are highly relevant to your business.
You could evaluate the relevance to your business using personas. When evaluating your keywords, consider whether they could potentially answer a searcher’s query.
5. Position in Keyword Research
In addition to the keyword research elements listed above, it’s extremely important to understand where searchers are in the purchase/conversion funnel.
In short, keywords could fall into these categories:
Awareness – At this stage you are looking for terms that will generate awareness about your products or services. These terms will have a direct relation to your product, services or content.
Consideration – The consideration phase is when searchers are beginning to compare products to find the best product for them.
Conversion – The final stage is for users who know that they want your product or service, but are searching for additional information before completing the sale.
Understanding where searchers are in the conversion funnel can help when determining your keyword strategy. Consider if the keyword is going to be used to drive conversions or increase awareness.
Cost-Per-Click (CPC) can help you determine the importance of your organic keywords. The higher the average bid on a term, the more that people believe it will lead to a conversion.
CPC could also be an indicator of how ‘valuable’ the keyword is to your business.
Google will provide more weight to sources it deems authoritative. This means that you should do what you can to become an authoritative source by providing helpful, informative content and promote content to gain social shares and backlinks.
If you have low authority or a keyword SERP is loaded with sources that you can’t compete with (such as Forbes), you have less chance of your content ranking.
How Many Terms Should I Have in My Organic Keyword Research List?
Now that you know the main elements to look for when creating your organic keyword research list, you may be asking yourself, how many do I need? The answer is, there is no right answer.
For example, you won’t always know how many keywords will be relevant for your site initially. It could be 200 keywords or 20,000 keywords.
Remember: The quality of the keywords far outweighs the volume of keywords.
The first step of your SEO keyword research is simply to accumulate your initial list. There are numerous sources for possible lists of keywords.
When building your initial list, attempt to capture the following information for each keyword:
The exact keyword
Monthly search volume
Top 10+ ranking results for this keyword
Check the monthly search volume for keywords you’ve chosen
At this point, you may or may not have user personas built already. If you don’t, you can use tools like Hubspot’s Persona tool, where you can create the type of person you are looking to target with your keyword research.
As a result of understanding who you want to target, you can get a better understanding of the types of things they may be searching for.
Factor in SERP features as you choose keywords
There are many SERP features that Google will show if used correctly. An easy way to find out about them is to look up the keywords that you would like to use and see what the first result looks like.
Below we will give you a brief overview of some of the SERP features that you could take advantage of with keyword research.
List snippets are snippets made for posts outlining steps to do something from start to finish. List snippets often appear for “How To” searches.
Posts with direct, clear instructions and formatting can help in winning this placement.
Video snippets are short videos that Google will display at the top of a search query page.
You will find that video results will only appear for certain keywords. At the minimum, video schema markup must be present on the page.
Posting a video on both YouTube and your website can help you win this placement if tagged in the targeted keywords people are searching for.
Check for a mix of head terms and long-tail keywords
Head terms are keyword phrases that are generally one to three words and are quite generic. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are keyword phrases containing three or more words.
It’s important that you use a combination of head terms and long-tail terms. This is because it’ll give you a well balanced keyword strategy with long-term goals and short-term wins.
Generally, people search for head terms more frequently, making them more competitive and harder to rank for than long-tail terms.
Consider when you make a search: you are more likely to search for the term ‘keyword research,’ opposed to ‘how to carry out keyword research.’
Whilst head terms generally gain the most search volume, the traffic you’ll get from the term ‘how to write a great blog post’ is usually more desirable.
However, because long-tail keywords are often more specific, it’s usually easier to tell what people who search for those keywords are really looking for.
So check your keyword lists to make sure you have a healthy combination of head terms and long-tail keywords.
See how competitors are ranking for these keywords
Understanding which keywords your competitors are trying to rank for is a great way to help you further evaluate your keyword list. However, just because certain keywords work for them, doesn’t automatically mean they will work for you too.
If your competitor is ranking for certain keywords that are on your list too, it definitely makes sense to work on improving your ranking for those. Although, you should also consider looking into the keywords that your competitors don’t seem to care about as this could be a great opportunity for you to own market share on those terms.
Remember: the goal is to end up with a list of keywords that provide some quick wins but also helps you make progress toward bigger, more challenging SEO goals.
So, how do you figure out what keywords your competitors are ranking for? You can manually search for keywords in an incognito browser and see what positions your competitors are in. Alternatively, Arel=”noopener” target=”_blank” hrefs allows you to run a number of free reports that show you the top keywords for the domain you enter. This is a quick way to get a sense of the types of terms your competitors are ranking for.
Current Keyword Lists
Now that you’ve brainstormed a list of keywords, you need to ensure that they’re organised and easily accessible in one place.
You can use tools like Semrush’s Keyword Manager for example. Below we will show you how to keep track of your keywords using this tool.
1. Open the Keyword Manager tool
Use keyword research tools to your advantage.
2. Name your keyword and click on it once it appears under “All keyword lists”
Now you’ll be asked to select how you would like to import keywords into this list. For this example, we will show you how to manually input your keywords.
Once you have them all in, select “Add keywords.”
3. You’ll be taken to the overview of your list in the Keyword Manager tool
Your list might take a few minutes to generate. Once it does, you’ll see the overview of your list in the Keyword Manager tool.
Best Keywords for SEO
In short, there’s no “best” keyword. The best keywords for your individual SEO strategy should consider relevance, volume and authority at the minimum. You’re looking for highly searched keywords that you can reasonably compete for based on the level of competition. You should also produce quality content that exceeds what’s currently ranking, in order to rank above the competition.
Free Keyword Research Tools
Google Keyword Planner – A useful resource for building strong keyword lists. This free feature within Google Ads allows you to generate keyword ideas and bid estimations can help you plan your marketing strategy.
Google Trends – Google Trends provides access to a sample of actual search requests made to Google.
Google Search Console – This free service helps you monitor, maintain and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google search results.
Ahrefs Webmaster Tools – Much like Google Search Console, this tool helps you monitor, improve and report on your website health, backlinks and keyword rankings.
Keyword Rank Checker – Detects the position of a website or URL in the search engine for a given keyword as per competing with other websites for the same keyword.
Semrush Keyword Overview – Provides a top-level report to look up any keyword in the Semrush database. After entering your word or phrase in the search bar you’ll see the keyword’s search volume, intent, number of results, CPC, competition level, volume trend, and more.
People Also Ask – A dynamic Google search feature containing sets of questions related to the original search query.
Related Searches – The 8 search results you see at the bottom of the result page. Google’s algorithm generates related searches to determine terms related to your search. They are very useful for SEO as they help you find suitable keywords for your content.
If done correctly, keyword research can significantly benefit your SEO and PPC strategy. It can help to create highly targeted content, engaging readers and ultimately, leading to more conversions.