Keyword research is the foundation of search engine optimization (SEO). Keyword rankings, as a means of tracking SEO progress is still big.
A few years ago, following a Google decision to ban use of the Adwords API to some big SEO tools software brands, there was a slight attempt of deviation keyword monitoring for SEO purposes. Google decided that some SEO tool companies were overusing or abusing their Google API to power their tools.
It was the time when the concept of Inbound Marketing was born. Many SEO celebrities began advocating for a non-keywords SEO world or for alternatives to measure SEO. This fad didn’t last long as most SEOs thought that, without keywords, it was much harder monitoring the fluctuations of rankings and organic traffic. Of course!
Keywords and keyphrases provide a compass that alerts you to your progress. They point you in the right direction, toward the fears and desires of your potential customers. Without carefully selecting your top keywords, your SEO becomes wobbly. Do not listen to advice saying keywords do not matter.
Keyword Research methodologies
I will make the assumption that that you have already done market research and know what your niche is. If you work in-house as part of a team you do of course already what products or services you should promote.
It’s important however to learn the keyword research process properly. These days, the best methodology is often referred by many experts as ‘topics research’, ‘topics targetting’ and ‘topics optimization’. This trend and new way to look at the semantics of keywords began with the arrival of the ‘Google Hummingbird‘ algorithm.
Keywords can fall under one of the following categories:
On top, keywords can often be researched better when interlaced with adverbs, prepositions or adjectives. These being properties for the noun to be researched. For example: colour, type, model, location, time, audience age, origin… each of those when combined with a product, service or noun can unveil a whole pool of keyphrases, all of which should be taken into account when conducting keyword research, and depending on the business objectives, decide the degree of priority in the selection process.
There are three ways of conducting keyword research:
- the traditional way, which what I’m going to cover on this post.,
- the agile way, competitor analysis, kind of keyword-stealing way.
- or both
Tip: Option 2 is handy for ‘on-the-fly’ keyword research if you just need to know what specific terms a competitors’.
high-ranking landing page targets. That tactic alone can take you straight to some good outcomes for your SEO
The Head, Body, and Tail
So, how do you analyze keyword phrases and how do you know it is the right keyword? As I mentioned earlier, since Hummingbird you do not need to worry much about targetting single keywords. Go and grab those that kind of belong to the same bucket (category).
The next thing to take into account is the number of words in the phrase. The more words there are, the better chance you have of ranking for that term. Four-word phrases are easier to rank for and bring you higher conversion rates than a single head or terms keyword.
There is a term for the single-word top keywords: the head. They are also often referred to as vanity keywords. These terms will return results from a multitude of industries, and they can be great for brand building if you manage to rank high for them.They are extremely competitive though.
This searcher that uses ‘Head’ terms is just starting their research into a topic. They haven’t yet found the information they need to make a final decision. This is often why they their conversion rates are not great.
Head – Body – Tail
One step narrower than the head terms are body keywords, often comprised of two terms, though they can be three words, and are still very high volume. Many people search using two terms. However, unless you are a well-known established business, you shouldn’t target these words exclusively. You need to find top keywords that entail are lower competition.
Your salvation lies in long tail keywords, especially if your site is new – those that contain four words or more. These keywords will help you connect with your target audiences pretty well.
In many ways these keyword pool is the one that feeds search engine algorithms like Rankbrain or AI technology like voice search recognition, which aim, among other things to efficiently match human intent.
When you add all longtail keywords in your niche together, these long phrases make up the majority of search terms. The only flaw with long tail keywords is that they may get only 100-1000 searches a month, often less. So the key is to properly research the questions asked by your target audience when doing the keyword research.
By finding out about these questions you can write targeted content that provides useful customer’s answer. This can really give you the edge over your competition if you bring it into your overall content strategy efforts as a coordinated plan to generate new leads.
So how do you get started? go to your preferred tool for keyword research, eg: Google Keyword planner
- If you already have an Adwords account, head for Google Keyword Planner in the first place. It is fundamental to tap into this in-depth buyer analysis.
- Start with a few head terms
- add variations
- add additional related keywords
- add questions about the head keyword
- add other informational phrases
- click on the keyword ideas to find more top keywords
Why do you need to add so many keyword ideas?
The Google keyword planner tool can come up with more and better keyword and keyphrase ideas. The planner will only spit out variations of your original entry though. So, you will need to brainstorm quite thoroughly to come up with a variety of related terms your customers might be searching for. If you struggle with going beyond just a small group of keywords it may be because you don’t have a paying account with Adwords, so Google is then less likely to let you have keyword information for free.
Luckily, there are alternatives to Google Keyword Planner? The best for me, these days, is KW Finder, followed by Ahrefs. Both tools are premium though. KW Finder is a beginner-friendly tool that boasts a beautiful and easy-to-use interface. It’s probably the most user-friendly keyword research tool on the market these days. You can get a free account and start running queries in no time.
What shall I do with all the results?
I recommend that you systematically export all your targeted keyword results to excel. There you can better manage the different groups. If your niche is small you may be ok with just putting all your keywords onto a tab, create a table and then filter them by topics and add one extra column for the topic name. Add colours to make it easier to scan through them.
Make sure you have a process to eliminate the duplicates. As you go through the research and selection process, whether you just use one or several tools, you will like be exporting groups of keywords that contain keywords already used in other groups. Make sure you use the ‘remove duplicates’ function in excel, to end up with a unique list of keywords without duplicates.
If you have a complex and rather large topic you will want to add each unique topic entity onto a tab and then add groups on each tab to cater for the different subtopics, segments, locations, etc.
And lastly, if your remit if huge and happen to be running international keyword research for a large company with a multi-product bouquet in their portfolio, you may consider to use one sheet file for each country or location and then within it use the tabs, filters and colour grouping system to organize your keywords.
What is the end goal for each keyword finding?
The goal is to get to find out the real user intent for the keyword or keyphrase in question. If you manage to craft that and then build a content plan around that, you will multiply your chances for success with every topic pursued.
The most profitable keywords you will find are those that are very close to, but not exactly matching, what you sell. There will be many businesses clamoring for the top keywords. So, by choosing adjacent ones, you reduce your competition. Google Kw Planner will often help you find the topics you need to develop content around.
Keep digging into the process
- the uses of your product
- Ask yourself how they might impact the life of the person doing the searching.
- the actual intent behind the search query (keyword)
- the level of competition for the keywords you decide to target
Often you will come up with an ambiguous topic list for the same niche, but which could potentially target three different niche markets. This is where you need to be careful and engage the product owner into the process. For example take these there keywords:
- nutrition for toddlers
- feeding your infant
- and food for children
All three are about the same thing but it’s three very different queries with different user intents. Feeding your infant is much more generic than ‘nutrition for toddlers’ which is specific to toddlers. If you get this wrong and begin targetting something that’s just similar but not to do with your product, you will lose a lot of time and money.
Consider using personas
If you have trouble while you are brainstorming, there are some strategies that can be used to help. One is creating a buyer persona. This persona will include pertinent information about your customers. Think about things such as their average age, gender, and income. You should also add the hobbies, interests, and goals of your target market. Some industries have multiple buyer personas that you will need to focus on separately.
This kind of specialization is what will capture an audience for your sales pitch. You must become in touch with your base. Learn all about their needs to maximize your profits.
Seek for Commercial Intent
When you are looking for top keywords, you will want to make sure that they have commercial intent. Getting a high volume of traffic to your website is nice. However, that doesn’t ensure those impressions will become conversions. Use the search phrases that people who are ready to buy are using.
If you want to be sure you have picked a good word, look at the Adwords Suggested Bid. This will give you real-world data on the commercial intent of web surfers. When you find the top business keywords coupled with informational keywords in your niche are, you will have mastered a very lucrative art form.
Tip: do not fall in the trap of thinking that every single keyword you target should deliver commercial ROI. Some of them could be driving in interest, backlinks and valuable traffic that may need special nurturing via an email list or a different lead-to-customer tactic.
Use non-mainstream keyword research tools
One of the best tips for coming up with long tail keywords is looking at the “searches related to…” section. This is typically located at the bottom of a basic search results page (SERP). This can be a goldmine of long tail keywords, and a free way to run keyword research for informational and questions queries to help you rank in ‘position 0’ type of results.
Or if you prefer something with a user interface, UberSuggest is another useful tool for coming up with top keywords, and it’s free. It takes your search term and adds every letter in the alphabet after it to give you many more results. This is a great way to really branch out in the diversity of your search terms. I often find that with the long tail terms and questions suggested by KW Finder it is more than enough to inform my strategy.
Answer The Public can also be a helpful keyword tool. You can enter broad search terms. Then, it will generate common questions that are searched related to that topic.
If you are truly stumped, head over to a forum website like Reddit. You will be able to find tons of honest and accurate opinions of any keyword you type in. This can help you realize where you are in the marketplace.
One of the last parts of the selection process is examining if the competition is already using that keyword. You want to see if it is likely that you will be able to get on the first page of search results. Pages that have more authority, generated by time and size of the site, will rank higher on search result pages. Google is simply tallying the votes for what its searchers are looking for.
This is where tools like Kw Finder really give you the edge to competitor analysis as you are able to see in real-time the level of domain authority needed to rank for specific terms or phrases, based on the domain that ranks N. 1 for each term.
Keyword research should be an essential component of your overall market research.
After learning about the keyword generation process, you should now have a list of lucrative top keywords. Now, use those terms in your website copy to bring searchers to your page. There are extensive guidelines to writing the perfect blog post and squeezing more out of your headlines.
The criteria to properly select and target your top keywords should include search volume, commercial intent, and organic SEO competition.
Keyword research, selection and targetting is still today a pivotal part of an SEO strategy and, in many ways, the bread and butter of SEO. Once you master keyword planning and targetting process, and build a content strategy around them, no doubt you’ll see an incredible jump in search engine traffic. You will also come to know your customers in a way your competition just can’t keep up with.
Take some time to read multiple perspectives so you can benefit from everyone’s experience. SEO is as much of a talent as a tool. And it’s a tool that you should now be ready to use.
I have mentioned several different keyword research tools in this article. There are many more out there. Using one of these options will help you set you ahead of your competition. It will also help you to get that coveted first-page spot. Please note that, based on your business and industry different keyword planners will work better for you. Do some research and go with the ones that you feel comfortable with.