As marketers, we want to be able to rank high on search engines because of a few things: exposure, traffic, and conversions. It’s tricky business figuring out the methods of optimising for search engines, considering there are so many ways people might look for something related to what we have to offer. Fortunately, we’ve got keyword research to help us stay visible to our target audiences.
The involvement of keywords in the SEO world has gone through many changes over the years. From keyword visibility gradually disappearing off Google Analytics to the emergence of a more sophisticated algorithm and the integration of AI ranking—which we all know by the names of Hummingbird and RankBrain—it’s clear that things have taken a turn for a more challenging route.
Whether people type in a keyword or use voice search, the terms they use can vary from as simple as a one-to-three worded query to a whole phrase put in its most colloquial form. It’s up to us to optimise these searches with the appropriate keywording so that SERPs can efficiently promote our content. Enter the all-encompassing importance of keyword research.
When you’re planning out your SEO strategy, and you know you want to appeal to your target audience effectively, keyword research is your answer. If you aren’t aware of the things your audience is more likely to look for, then you might be missing out on some big potential customers. That’s something we don’t want, and it’s why we need to do our keyword research right.
Why you need to do keyword research
In essence, keyword research is how you limber up before competing with opponents vying for a spot at first page results. And as its name suggests, keyword research is about compiling a list of terms you want your business to be associated and, eventually, rank with.
We’ve seen how SEO has evolved, and it’s way more than just about keyword stuffing. Search engines have always positioned itself as a tool to cater to its users, providing what they want and need on a whim. It’s therefore focused on delivering the ultimate customer satisfaction. To do this, you need to be able to understand the people using search engines truly. Keyword research is all about three things:
It matters that you collect the topics of interest from your audience, so you can make sure that the content you’ll be putting out is relevant to them. Based on the trends, you can draft up what your website should be offering.
When you’re looking at the bigger picture, you focus on analysing how your audience thinks. What words do they use to talk about it? How does it shape what they talk about? How many people use these same terms? If the numbers show you a big chunk of what your target audience utilises, then use it to your advantage. Take the opportunity to make this information reflect the kind of content you create.
The last but not the least thing to consider is how they would search for it. Would it be in a sentence? A phrase? Maybe just three words? This as a way to position—or reposition—your content. What is their intent? Use this information to package the kind of content you have to appeal to your audience.
To rank high on SERPs, your content must provide the answers your target audience is asking. This is where user’s intent comes in.
The role of user intent
User intent is arguably one of the most crucial factors that can make your content rank high on search engines. It can be used as an instrument to drive the direction of what you create. For instance, you can appeal to your audience with content that coincides with the different kinds of search intent:
The most basic type of search is to find information. It could be about the simplest things, such as what the colours of the rainbow are to something as complicated as theoretical physics.
Contrary to what its name suggests, people aren’t looking for directions to get from one location to another when they do a navigational search. This refers to finding a specific website without knowing its URL.
If someone is looking for something like crafting materials for a DIY project but don’t know where to find it, the intent is commercial.
When the priority involves paying for something, the intent is transactional. It could be to buy clothes, order food, or trade an item through a third-party website.
One word can have multiple meanings or unwritten intent. Take, for example, if someone typed in “cookies,” they could have easily meant cookie recipes or cookie stores. This means they could be looking for either an article about a delicious recipe or a business’s website selling cookies.
If your page is well-optimised for user intent and you’re a store selling cookies, you should likewise be turning up in the results depending on a myriad of other factors such as location and language.
User intent impacts your SEO strategy. When you have a good understanding of what your target audience wants to see, it affects the way you structure your website—bringing convenience to the user and encouraging them to further engage with your content.
How to do keyword research for your SEO strategy
There’s more to keyword research than merely compiling a list of terms which you think may work. To be able to build a strong SEO strategy, you’ll need to conduct thorough keyword research that considers different perspectives. That means matching your business’s identity with your target audience in a seamless fashion.
In this guide, you’ll go through a series of five steps that will reposition your thinking for a more holistic approach to your research.
Step 1: What is your business’s goal?
Start with what you know best: your business. The goal you have to identify should be an overall mission to stick by throughout your business’s lifetime, both offline and online. Sounds simple enough, but be warned—establishing such a basic thing might be something quite challenging if you sit down and think about it.
The most important thing for this first step is that you have to set the time to think this one through. This goal should become a promise that you should honour to your customers and refer back to, especially when you’re building or rebuilding your website and its content.
Here are some helpful questions you can use as a guide to arrive at that goal:
- What are you offering and why?
- Who are you offering your products or services to?
- How are the products or services you provide helpful to your users?
- What makes you different from your competitors? What is your unique selling point?
- What do you guarantee to deliver?
Step 2: List down essential, relevant topics based on your business
What topics important and relevant to your brand and field that you want to rank for? List down at least five which fully capture what your brand is all about. These are usually your key messages, products, or most talked-about subjects.
If you’re in retail, it’s beneficial to think about the kinds of buyer personas. In other words, put yourself in the position of someone who is looking at your brand from the outside. Depending on your target audience, you can have quite a few buyer personas to explore and consider when you’re prioritising their needs.
Here are some guide questions to get you started on your list of topics:
- What information should you have related to your product or service?
- How do you entice your audience to make a purchase?
Step 3: Determine your keywords
Given the goals and topics you have determined above, you should have an idea of what your voice as a brand should sound like to appeal to your target audience. If you’ve chosen to employ the use of shaping your buyer personas, keyword research should be easier.
The keywords you choose should be something your target audience already use. Otherwise, they won’t be able to relate, and you may lose their interest in your product. You must also be able to see that these keywords are something that you can seamlessly incorporate into your content, whether they already exist or are still in the pipeline.
This is ideally where user intent comes in. You want to be seen as something your target audience can connect with. Consider what they’re looking for.
Some great questions to consider when thinking about your keywords:
- What are some questions that they will ask that you may have to offer?
- What are the terms they will use to refer to your business?
- How should you package your content in a way that gets them interested in your product or service?
Some key points for your keywords: relatable, consistent, and informative.
Step 4: Do research on related search terms
Capture everyone’s perspective—or at least those in your target audience. Don’t forget that people now also use voice search to send in their queries. That being said, there’s a lot more room for other keywords, spanning from one-word entries to long-tail keywords and more casual terms.
While it may seem like a little bit of a tedious task, the more keywords you cover for your site, the better chances there are for you to rank higher. One-word searches keep the main topic aligned and visible to the related term. The keyword phrases, meanwhile, are more explicit in their goals, making it easier to find a niche-specific audience.
Step 5: See what competitors are doing
It’s always a good move to stay vigilant of who you’re up against. This means considering other businesses that are in the same field. Knowing what others are doing can help you in three ways.
Spying on the enemy gives you a slate to compare notes with. It can provide you with the ego boost you need if you’re ahead of your competitors. If you’re a little behind, you’ll at least get an idea of what they’re doing well, which you can potentially adapt as your own practice.
Not sure how to find out who your competitors are? A quick search of your listed keywords will be able to help you with that. Take any shortcomings you spot in stride. It isn’t the end of the world; in fact, it opens up more possibilities of success now that you know better.
Tools that can help in your keyword research
The actual researching stage might seem challenging, but it shouldn’t have to be that hard. At least not when there are some great tools you can use to find the right kind of terms that will work for your brand. Here are some nifty resources you can tap into to get your research started.
Gather large quantities of targeted keywords with this tool. When you search for a keyword in their database, you’re given a considerable list of relevant terms, along with valuable data, that shows you how many people have used this term, how much competition you have, and the opportunity scores for each relevant keyword. Your research can also be further filtered down from industry and country.
There’s actually a lot more you can do with Wordstream. You can conduct competitive keyword research by logging in a URL, or you can find a ton of resources to help you improve your research. The best thing about this tool? It’s free. You don’t have to worry about paying any premiums.
- Relevant search terms and data
- Competitive keyword research
- Keyword research resources
While this tool is primarily for paid ads, it’s equally helpful for SEO, too. With it, you’ll be able to research organic keywords if you customise your results for a competitor. You can also monitor trends for monthly searches and find more keyword and ad group ideas.
- Organic keyword research
- Competitive keyword research
- Keyword trends
Use Keyword Tool to support your research with Google Keyword planner. This resource collects keyword data from Google Autocomplete’s database. That means you’ll be getting a list of long-tail keyword suggestions—the ones you see when you’re typing in search engines. It comes at a price though, after your first 750 keyword suggestions, you’ll be prompted to upgrade.
- Long-tail keyword research from Google, Youtube, Bing, Amazon, App Store, etc.
KWFinder is the ideal tool for connecting your research to content marketing. Here, you’ll be able to look at long-tail keywords, see the trends, search volume, and level of difficulty in results. Once you click on a keyword, you’ll see a comprehensive analysis of the keyword—what domains are targeting this, backlinks, and social shares. It’s great for getting insights into how you should be approaching your content creation.
- Long-tail keyword research
- Keyword analysis
- Content planning guide
- Competitive keyword research
Get a fantastic look at keyword data with this tool. See beyond the search volume and look into the breakdown of SERPs. See whom you’re up against in first page results, and whether or not they’re performing well in terms of CTRs. You also get something called a Keyword Difficulty score, which pretty shows you how many backlinks you need to get the ranking you want. Talk about actionable information.
- SERP data breakdown
- Actionable information to improve ranking
When you do your keyword research right, you’ll be able to efficiently and effectively optimise. There’s genuinely no easy shortcut to keyword research if you want to rank high and sustain it in the process. It takes time and hard work considering all the information you need to be aware of as you’re building out your website.
The good news is it does become a little more manageable. If you’re able to get a good grasp of what your business is and who it is you want to appeal to, then everything else should flow easier.
The next step would be to keep abreast of the trends that take shape over time. Look into how your audience is continuing to change. Observe how and where they conduct search queries—such as with mobile and voice searches. Stay a beat ahead of your competition with information that considers the way your audience evolves.