There are many different factors that come together to determine the success of an SEO campaign. Not only does this include the performance of your website, but also the quality of your content, and the quality of the websites that are linking to your website.
One of the key factors that can determine the success or failure of an SEO campaign is keyword research. Knowing how to conduct effective keyword research is imperative if your company is going to be successful online.
In this comprehensive guide on keyword research, we are going to discuss the techniques and strategies we use to conduct effective keyword research.
What are keywords?
Before we start looking at how to do keyword research, we first need to answer the question, ‘What are keywords?’ The answer is in the name actually, a key word. It’s a key word that people use to search for something. A search term (or search phrase) that they type into Google to find answers to their questions.
Keywords are important for SEO because they help to guide SEO tactics like content optimisation, metadata optimisation, keyword mapping (more on this soon), and other SEO-related tactics.
What is keyword research?
So, now we know what a keyword is, let’s define what is keyword research. Keyword research is the process of identifying those search terms or search phrases that people are using that are important to your business. Pretty straightforward, right? Here are some of the things that can be identified during the keyword research process:
- Keyword search volume
- Keyword difficulty
- Search intent
- Average Cost Per Click
- Questions related to the keyword
- Related search queries
- SERP features
What is Keyword Search Volume?
Keyword search volume relates to the total number of searches for a keyword over a certain period. Keyword search volume is one metric you can use to identify whether or not a keyword is going to be worthwhile spending time on.
What is keyword difficulty?
One of the first things you need to understand about keywords is the difficulty level. Keyword difficulty can sometimes be known as keyword competition.
It is one of the most critical metrics that you need to consider when you are conducting keyword research.
The higher the keyword difficulty is, the more difficult it is going to be for you to rank on the 1st page in Google.
This is because a lot of other high ranking websites are going to be competing for this keyword, which leaves you with a mammoth task on your hand. It is, therefore, a key metric alongside search intent and monthly search volumes.
It helps you to decipher the range of keywords that are going to give you the best chance of enhancing your SEO efforts, as well as which keywords to bid on during a Pay-Per-Click campaign.
So, how do you calculate the difficulty of a keyword? Thankfully you do not need to consider these manually. There are many tools out there that will calculate the keyword difficulty, often giving you a score out of 100 in terms of how possible it is going to be for you to rank highly for these keywords.
The lower the value, the easier it is going to be for you to rank for the keyword. Of course, you do need to check on the specifications of the exact tool you are using, as some may have a different format.
What is search intent?
Search intent is exactly what it sounds like, the intent behind the search. For example, a person searching for ‘corn’ will generally have a different intent than a person searching for ‘Korn’. While Search volume and keyword difficulty are quantitative metrics, search intent requires you to make an assessment.
When assessing keywords for search intent, there are four main types; Informational, transactional, navigational, and commercial.
Information keywords are education based keywords that generally start with ‘what is’ or ‘how to’. These are usually used in blog content and should be included in your content strategy.
Transactional keywords are keywords that people use when trying to make a purchase. Generally, these will include ‘buy now’, ‘for sale’, etc.
Commercial keywords are keywords that people use to investigate brands and services. Generally, these will include the service as the keyword, for example ‘accountant near me’. They could also be a comparison, for example, ‘accountant vs bookkeeper’, or a review, ‘Best accountants near me’.
Navigational keywords are keywords that people use to find a place, or even a page. These keywords could include terms like ‘where is KPMG accountants’, ‘LinkedIn’, or ‘Digimark Blog’.
What is cost per click?
Cost per click refers to what it costs you to get a click from paid traffic. This can be used in both search engine marketing and in social media marketing. For example, the cost of a click in Facebook may be a lot less than the cost of a click in Google.
What are SERP features?
There’s a couple of things here to unpack. Firstly, what is SERP? And secondly, what are SERP features? SERP is an acronym for search engine results page. It’s the page that shows up when you search for something in Google. Google has added a range of features to their SERPs, some you might be familiar with. To name a few, there’s rich snippets, the knowledge graph, and the People Also Ask box.
Rich Snippets generally appear in the search results when you search for a product or a recipe. It’s the box that provides you with an image, short description, and a review of the product.
The Knowledge Graph
The Knowledge Graph is the panel that usually appears on the right when you’re searching for a business, or sometimes even a person. It provides you with the opening hours, usually some photos of their business, and information about the business.
People Also Ask
The People Also Ask box provides you with quick answers to your questions. It usually holds 2-4 questions that you can expand out to get a quick, short answer to your questions.
It’s important to understand what SERP features are available when doing keyword research as, while it may be too competitive to rank number 1 for the keyword, it may be less competitive to be featured in the SERP feature. Alternatively, if you’re already ranking number 1 for a particular keyword, this may be another way to acquire more real estate.
Why is Keyword Research important?
Keyword research helps guide the seo strategy, the content strategy, and the overall marketing strategy. It helps to identify words and phrases that are relevant to what people are searching for, have a high search volume, and aren’t too competitive. It gives you ideas around marketing trend insights, traffic growth, and traffic potential.
Keyword research also allows you to determine whether the ‘juice is worth the squeeze’. You may know of a really popular search term that you want to rank for, but you may never rank for it. It may simply be too competitive, and so it may be more beneficial to work toward ranking for another keyword rather than wasting time, money, and effort.
How many types of keywords are there?
There are nine different types of keyword; Short-tail, long-tail, short-term, long-term (evergreen), geo-targeting, intent targeting, customer defined, product defined, and LSI keywords.
Short-tail keywords are keywords that have higher search volume, but are less specific. These keywords will only have 1-2 words in them and will generally be broad keywords, such as ‘jeweller’.
There’s a bit of a misconception when people talk about long-tail keywords. Often, people will make the mistake of thinking that long-tail keywords are keywords that have 3 or more words in them. While this is usually true for long-tail keywords, it isn’t the actual definition. A long-tail keyword is a specific search term that may have less search volume, but has a higher conversion rate.
For example, if you run an antique jeweller’s shop in Melbourne, someone who searches ‘antique jeweller in Melbourne’ is going to be much more likely to purchase from your business than someone who simply searches ‘jeweller’ on Google.
To help illustrate this phenomenon, looking at the typical step-by-step process that a customer takes when buying will help you to get a better understanding, the customer journey if you will.
- A consumer becomes aware of a service.
- This person then begins to look for information about the service in question to determine whether or not this is something that they want to purchase.
- They then evaluate alternatives to the service in question.
- The person will make their purchase decision.
- The customer then gets their card information and finishes the transaction.
- The customer will then receive the service and they will determine whether they are satisfied with the service, or if they want to request a refund.
Now, think about the different search terms that a customer would input into Google during this process. They are going to be very specific, right?
Therefore, by incorporating long tail keywords into your marketing campaign, you can ensure that your website features high up on Google while customers are engaging in the sales process.
Like a lot of things in this article, short-term keywords are what they sound like. They have a short lifespan, and will generally spike in traffic for a brief period of time before filtering out into irrelevance. Events are a good example of short-term keywords. Christmas is a good example of a short-term keyword category. It happens once a year, in which traffic will spike for particular short-term keywords, before dropping suddenly after Christmas.
Long-term (evergreen) keywords
Long-term, evergreen keywords are those keywords that aren’t likely to change in a hurry. They’re a lot less volatile than short-term keywords in terms of search volume. While you may get a lot more traffic during the peak times of short-term keywords, the traffic will be more consistent for evergreen keywords.
Geo-targeting keywords, otherwise known as location based keywords are fundamental if you’re trying to improve your visibility in a local area. These will have lower search volume than non-location based keywords, but they will also be less competitive. There is also the added benefit of there being a higher conversion rate and more specific search intent behind these searches.
One example of a geo-targeting keyword is SEO Toowoomba. We have a specific page set up for this keyword on our site to help people find our services in that specific area. You can find out more about local SEO by reading our guide – Local SEO: Your Guide to Ranking in Your City.
Intent targeting keywords
We’ve mentioned intent-based keywords previously under ‘search intent’. These are informational keywords, commercial keywords, transactional keywords, and navigational keywords.
Customer-defined keywords are keywords that include your target audience within the keyword. One example of this type of keyword is ‘health insurance for young families’. Young families is the target audience, and health insurance is the service.
Product defined keywords
Product-defined keywords are similar to customer-defined keywords in the sense that they use the product name in the keyword. For example, ‘Nike running shoes’.
Another type of keyword that are worth noting are LSI keywords. LSI stands for latent semantic indexing.
LSI keywords are important because they can bridge the gap between the manner in which content is being created now and how content is going to be created in the future.
After all, if you think about the face of marketing today and compare it with five years ago, the difference is astounding.
So, what exactly are LSI keywords? Firstly, you need to understand what LSI is. This is a system that search engines utilise in order to assess the other words people use surrounding a certain topic.
This means that LSI keywords are phrases and words that have a high level of correlation to your target topic.
Search engines utilise latent semantic indexing so that they can determine the quality of a page’s content by checking for words that should appear alongside a given keyword or search term.
For example, you may expect to see the words ‘holiday’ and ‘accommodation’ alongside ‘hotel.’ It gives context to the entire page, and this is what LSI keywords are all about.
How do you choose keywords?
As you can see, there is a lot that needs to be considered when it comes to conducting keyword research and selecting the right keywords for your content.
So, what sort of approach should you use when you are searching for the right keywords for your website? Here are some of the things that you can do to ensure you choose the right keywords…
Use keyword analysis tools – The first thing you need to do is make sure that you use one or several of the keyword tools that are out there today.
It is impossible to choose keywords effectively without making the most of the software that is available.
These tools will assess all keywords so that you can get a better understanding regarding the level of competition, the relevancy, and what you are going to need to do to rank or the keyword in question.
You will get a thorough understanding of the keyword landscape for your business. In the next section, we will reveal some of the best keyword analysis tools that are out there today to help you get a better understanding.
Think like a customer – Another important step that you need to take when you are choosing keywords is to think like a customer.
You need to think about what people are going to type into search engines when they are looking for a product or service similar to what you are offering.
Ask yourself: If I wanted one of these services or products, what would I type into Google?
You can also ask other people the same thing, and this should enable you to come up with a list of keywords and phrases that are suitable for your online marketing campaign.
What is the competition doing? – The third piece of the puzzle when it comes to choosing the right keywords for your website is looking at what the competition is doing.
It is a good idea to simply make a list of your main competition in the industry. You can then go to their websites to discover what keywords they are targeting.
By viewing their meta tags and reading their content, you should be able to tell pretty easily what keywords they are targeting.
This step is important because it will help you to broaden your idea and make sure you are not forgetting anything.
How do you do keyword research
Step 1: Define your goals
The first place to start any sort of keyword research is to define what you want to achieve from the keyword research. The most obvious would be ‘to find another lead generation source’ or ‘to increase the amount of traffic coming to your website’. While this is a good place to start, it’s not the only purpose of keyword research. Keyword research should guide your content strategy, your local strategy (if relevant), and which keywords to map to your product/service pages.
Here are some common goals we set with our clients:
- Find keywords to map to service/product pages.
- Find keywords for content optimisation
- Find keywords to assist with Google Ads campaign
- Find keywords to develop a content strategy
- Find keywords to expand territory
Step 2: Define Your Target Audience
A bit cliche’; it seems anything these days comes back to defining your target audience, but it’s marketing 101 and it is always surprising how many businesses don’t have a clear idea of who their audience is.
Often it’s much worse than this, they market to everyone because “Everyone needs my services.” While this may be true, trying to market to everyone is not cost-effective, lacks that personalised approach, and has been proven time and time again to be one of the worst ways to market your business.
Instead, we are going to do this strategically. In order to do keyword research well, we need to get into the mind of the customer, and if we’re trying to get into the minds of 9 billion people, it’s going to be a monumental task.
We’ve written a guide on how to define your target audience, so we won’t cover this in detail here, but here are the key points:
- What are their demographics? Age, gender, location.
- What are their interests? Dig deep
- What keeps them up at night?
- What is the problem they have that your company solves?
- How much of a priority is that problem?
- What does life look like for them if they don’t solve the problem?
- What does life look like for them if they use your solution?
Step 3: Brainstorm ideas
If you’ve followed step 1 and 2 up until now, you should know why you are doing keyword research and who you are researching for. With your goals and target audience in think about what words your audience will be using that fit in with your goals.
To keep it really simple, let’s use a cafe as an example. The target audience is likely to be people who enjoy drinking coffee and socialising. The goal is to increase the number of navigational keywords so as to help people find the cafe more easily. Here are some examples of the types of keywords that you would start with for the hypothetical cafe:
- Coffee shop near me.
- Cafe near me.
- Where to get the best coffee in [location].
- Cafe around me.
- And so on.
Step 4: Filter down the ideas to 10-15 seed keywords
Ideally, you’ll construct a list of 20-30 keywords from your brainstorming session. Then you’ll want to filter down to 10-15 ‘seed’ keywords.
Step 5: Find keywords based on seed keywords
Use Google Suggest
Go to Google and type in your seed keyword, but don’t press enter. You will see a dropdown menu appear with 7-10 options. Write each of these down in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. It’s important to note that we are not trying to discriminate between good or bad keywords at this point. We are just collecting all possible keywords.
Use People Also Ask
Once you’ve written down the suggestions from the Google Suggest section, press enter. Once the search results appear, scroll down until you see the ‘People Also Ask’ box. Write each of these down. Click on one of the answers, and write down any additional questions that appear. Repeat this process until no more new questions appear.
Use Related Search
Once you have all of the questions from the People Also Ask box, scroll down to the bottom of the page. Here you’ll see ‘Related Search’. Write each of these down.
Use Answer the Public
Answer the Public is a fantastic tool that provides you with the above information from a single search. The downside is, unless you’re willing to pay for the tool, you only get 2 searches per day. So, you can run a couple of keywords through Answer the public and finish the rest off with the above process, or you can search 2 per day, until you’re through all your seed keywords.
Use Wikipedia Table of Contents
Wikipedia is a great source of information, and also a great way to do keyword research. Go to Wikipedia and enter in your seed keywords. Usually, a Table of Contents will appear as part of the article. Write these down in your spreadsheet.
Use Booktopia Table of Contents
Similar to Wikipedia, Booktopia provides a great resource for the tactical keyword researcher. Enter your seed keywords into Booktopia, then look through some of the books that appear. Look specifically at their Table of Contents. There’s usually some gems just waiting to be pilfered.
Use Quora and Reddit
Quora and Reddit are forums that can be somewhat useful for finding keyword ideas as well as content ideas. Go to Quora/Reddit and enter your seed keywords. Then write down any of the questions that appear.
Use a Keyword Research Tool
There are a wide range of great keyword research tools available. Mostly they’re paid, but there are a few that will allow you to run a few searches. One of these is SEMRush. We recommend checking it out and putting your seed keywords through here as well.
Review Your Competition
The last thing you should do is review your competition. As in, you should do it, but do it last. We recommend this because it can skew your research toward competitive keywords, whereas, if you do the preliminary research first, you’ll be able to be a bit more discerning. The best way to do keyword research on your competitors is to put their website into SEMRush and see what shows up. Write down the result in your spreadsheet.
Step 6: Review Search Volume and Competition
Google Keyword Planner
Now that you have a comprehensive list of keywords, it’s time to filter them down. One way to do this is through search volume and search difficulty.
You can get information about search volume and search difficulty from the Google Keyword Planner within Google Ads. You will need a Google Ads account to access the Google Keyword Planner, but you don’t need to be running ads, you just need an account.
Login to your account and navigate to the ‘Tools and Settings’ dropdown menu in the top right corner, and select “Keyword Planner’ under ‘Planning’.
Select ‘Get Search Volume and Forecasts’ and enter your keywords. You can upload a file, but you will need it in .csv format.
Once you’ve entered your keywords (it’s easier if you copy and paste them), click ‘Get Started’, wait for the list to populate, then download the list using the download button in the top right corner.
Now that you have a comprehensive list with search volume and difficulty, it’s time to go through and select the keywords you want to focus on based on search intent, search volume, and search difficulty.
Keyword Research Tool
The process is similar to the above when you’re using a keyword research tool, however, you’ll likely get more information about each keyword. Keyword research tools are covered later in this article.
Step 7: Identify Keyword types
This is a step that most people miss. Not all keywords are equal, and often a keyword will be disqualified because it has low search volume. However, low search volume isn’t a bad thing. If you have 10 searches per month, but all of those searches are hot leads, wouldn’t you want those searches?
By identifying what each keyword is, you’re able to map the keyword across the customer’s journey.
Step 8: Map Keyword Across Customer Journey
The customer journey is important. Not all customers are the same, but they often take a similar journey before making a buying decision. This is usually something similar to the following; they aren’t aware of the problem, then something happens and they become aware of the problem, but they don’t know about the solution.
They begin to research, and find a solution to their problem that suits them. They might try and solve the problem themselves, or they might reach out to someone who will solve it for them. They will usually research you and your competitor at this stage to see who is the better option. Then, they will make a decision to purchase from you, or your competition.
If you have pages across each step of the customer journey, you start to pop up whenever they’re searching for answers. This means, that when it comes to making a purchasing decision, you’re in their head. You’ve helped them a lot already, and so the decision becomes obvious, you.
Step 9: Implement
After all of this, you are finally at the point where it’s time to implement. This comes in the form of applying focus keywords to pages, creating a content strategy for blog content that needs to be created, and a landing page plan for keywords that you need pages for.
What is keyword Grouping?
Another important part of the keyword research process is keyword grouping. Also referred to as keyword clustering, keyword grouping is a list of keywords that are semantically related.
When the list has been compiled, the keywords will be distributed throughout pages in a way that helps to drive organic or paid traffic.
For example, let’s say you have a Chinese takeaway business. You have two similar search queries – order Chinese online and Chinese delivery.
Should you use these terms on different pages or should they be used together on the same page? Research is needed to determine the answer to this question.
This is why keyword grouping is important. The trouble is that it can take days to conduct this research and assessment yourself, which is why you need to use one of the many effective SEO and keyword tools that are out there at the moment.
Is it a Good Idea to Use Low Competition Keywords?
Earlier, we spoke about keyword competition and how this plays a critical role in search engine marketing. Now, you may be wondering whether or not you should target low competition keywords.
You may think that the best thing to do is invest all of your efforts into trying to conquer one of the keywords that are highly contested at the moment.
However, this is not advised. The best thing to do is try to find keywords that have low competition yet a high volume of searches.
This means that a lot of people are searching for the terms in questions, however, not a lot of businesses are trying to rank for these keywords.
This presents you with a great opportunity to try and target the keywords in question so that you can get to the top of the search engine result pages as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, the reality of the matter is that your site is not going to be able to beat the big players in the industry when it comes to SERPs if you are only just getting started with your search engine optimisation competition.
Because of this, finding keywords with low competition should always be the starting point. This does not mean you cannot target the highly contested keywords later.
Once you start to win in the arena of low competition keywords, you can then move up to those that have a greater level of competition. You will be in a much better position to try and make ground in this area.
How do I add keywords to my website?
Once you’ve done the keyword research, the next logical step is to add the keywords to your website. The easiest way to do this is to start creating fresh content based on the keyword research. By creating content that answers questions thoroughly based on words that people are using to search, you’ll find that implementing keyword research is quite easy.
Another thing you should consider, if you’re using WordPress, is installing a plugin like Rank Math or Yoast. Install one or the other, but not both. These plugins will provide you with a tool on your website that will help you setup your focus keyword, and ensure that you’re using it appropriately in the page title, url, and headings. It saves a lot of time with consideration to content optimisation.
Add Keywords Using Rank Math
Add Keywords Using Yoast
How many keywords should a website have?
There’s a couple of concepts here that need to be considered to answer this question thoroughly; focus keywords and keyword density. Your pages should have a focus keyword, otherwise known as a primary keyword. This is likely the keyword with the most relevant keyword with enough search volume to justify the page being created. You should also include LSI keywords and other relevant keywords to optimise your content further, but it needs to be natural.
In the past, SEOs have scrutinised keyword density, or how often a keyword should be used on a page. These days, with the introduction of artificial intelligences that allow Google to ‘understand’ the context of content and effectively ‘read’ the content, it’s not as necessary to use keywords as frequently. So long as your content reads naturally and has relevance to the keyword, you don’t need to worry about keyword density. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the keyword at all. You do still need to mention it, especially your focus keyword, but again, this should just happen naturally.
What are negative keywords?
Negative keywords don’t have much to do with SEO, but they are an important part of keyword research if you’re thinking about running a Google Ads campaign. The CPC of a keyword can be quite substantial if you’re running Google Ads, and so you don’t want to waste that spend on keywords that don’t have the right search intent, or enough search volume to justify using them.
So what are negative keywords? Negative keywords are a way that you can prevent your ad from showing up for particular search terms. This helps to use ad spend more effectively and increase both return on ad spend and overall return on investment.
Keywords to Avoid
It is not only important to understand how to find the best keywords but you should also have an understanding of the sort of keywords that you should avoid.
These are keywords that are pointless and will do nothing for your ranking. There are then even some keywords that could harm your ranking, so you do need to be cautious.
Below, we reveal some of the common keyword errors that a a lot of businesses are making today so that you do not make the same errors…
Unrealistic keywords – There is only one place to begin, and this is with unrealistic keywords. A lot of niches are very competitive.
If you are just starting your business or your website, it can be extremely difficult to rank in those competitive niches.
Instead, you should not aim for the ‘head’ keywords just yet. This will come later. Instead, you should be focusing on keywords with low competition and long tail keywords.
Long tail keywords are typically a lot easier to rank for. For example, let’s say you are opening a website for your personal training business, it is going to be way too hard for you to purely rank for the term ‘fitness.’
Therefore, make sure your keyword more specific, whether this means incorporating your location or the areas of fitness that you specialise in.
Focusing on one keyword per post – Another big mistake that a lot of people make is only focusing on one keyword per piece of content.
Yes, you should have a focus keyword. However, you also need to include additional keywords that are related to what you are writing about so that you increase the value and relevancy of your content.
Choosing keywords that do not have traffic – Earlier, we discussed the importance of long tail keywords.
The reason why long tail keywords are effective is because they are very specific and so they boost conversion rates and, at the same time, keyword competition is going to be low.
However, you do need to make sure that you do not take things too far and go so specific whereby no one is searching for your keyword term online. There still needs to be traffic for the keyword that you select.
Irrelevant keywords – You also need to stay away from keywords that are not relevant to your service or your target consumer base.
You always need to make sure that you are using the same sort of language that your customers would be using.
For example, if you sell dresses for gala events, people are going to be more likely to search for evening dress or gown, rather than searching for gala dresses.
What is the best keyword research technique for SEO?
There is not one set technique that you need to follow when it comes to researching keywords. All businesses have different ways of going about it.
However, one thing you will have learnt by reading this guide is that it is not an easy and straightforward process. There are so many different types of keywords available today.
Plus, not only do you need to determine the keywords that you are going to use but you need to factor in how regularly they are going to be used and what other keyphrases they are going to be grouped with.
This is why the best thing to do is align yourself with an experienced SEO company. They will have all of the tools and knowledge that are needed to determine the best keywords for your business.
They will be able to use their tools for powerful analytics. They will also be able to assess the competition. Plus, they can continue to monitor your campaigns so you can make sure that you are always moving forward and achieving more.
What are the Best Tools for SEO Keyword Analysis?
There are a lot of great tools out there that can assist you when it comes to keyword analysis. Some of the best are as follows…
SEMrush – With SEMrush, you can expect keyword data that will help you to locate the right keywords that are related to your main keyword search terms. There are a lot of features that come with the paid version of the tool.
Google Adwords Keyword Planner – This tool gives you the ability to assess monthly local and worldwide volumes for keywords, as well as an estimated cost per click and competition levels. You can also get keyword ideas by using the Keyword Planner section of the tool.
Ahrefs – The third tool that the vast number of SEO experts use today is Ahrefs. This is a complete suite of SEO, content, and keyword research tools. It includes everything you need for the basis of your keyword research and SEO strategy.
UberSuggest – This is a free tool that provides you with an ever-increasing suite of tools. Neil Patel bought Ubersuggest in 2016 and since then he has added a free backlink checker and site audit tool to it.
WordTracker – The fifth and last tool on this list is WordTracker. This tool provides keyword research and analysis, helping you pick keywords that are both relevant and effective.
As you can see, there is a lot that needs to be considered when it comes to conducting keyword research for your SEO marketing campaign.
We hope that you now have a better understanding when it comes to the way in which keywords should be used and how to research them effectively, as well as some inspiration regarding the sorts of keywords that are going to be right for your business.
After all, if you do not understand how to research and use keywords effectively, you are never going to be able to implement a truly successful marketing campaign.