How to do keyword research
The words you use across your website matter – for multiple reasons. Primarily, they are critical for reaching intended audiences and having an influence. But that doesn’t just mean what you say in your news section or blog articles; this stands for content across every single landing page and written materials. And at the centre of all that is keyword research for SEO.
Every single one of these words is important to make a strong first impression and sell your brand, product and/or services to your audience. They send out the proper messaging and clearly define our products and services.
But the words on our website are even more powerful than that because they are also analysed by search engines like Google and then used to give you a chance of ranking. Users are searching keyword phrases relating to your products and services, so it’s crucial to adopt a keyword strategy that caters to this. Without it, you risk losing rankings to competitors who know how to find SEO keywords for your niche.
Googles use bots to analyse your website and index it for future searches. It looks for phrases in this process that users utilise the most. You want to target these words and ensure they’re used appropriately across your website, in order to and in front of what people search for your industry.
These terms are also vital for your success when it comes to ranking high organically in Google. In this article, we are going to run through the entire process so that you can optimise your site through search terms and enjoy the results that come from them.
What is keyword research?
This is the process of discovering common phrases that are used by your competition and also by your target audience when they conduct searches. This is how they find websites like yours. Most importantly, these phrases are used by search engines and you need to ensure you have the right balance of them to climb rankings.
There are many metrics that you will discover when conducting basic keyword research, including how popular they are (how many times they as used in Google searches), how competitive they are and insights that can assist you in finding queries you may not have considered.
Discovering these queries and keyphrases s is also going to give you insights into the intent of people that are actively searching for websites like yours. You can then get to know more about your potential audience and what stage of the customer journey they are on so you can tailor content that will reach them and get them to engage.
What is the purpose of keyword research?
While Google does not share its search volume data, we do know that the search engine giant controls 92.42 per cent of the market share, which obviously makes it the most important search engine to consider. It is estimated that 70,000 queries are carried out every second across the world, which equates to 5.8 billion searches every day – an enormous volume of activity.
The primary purpose of utilising a keyword strategy is to ensure that your website matches as many relevant searches as possible. This helps you collect more leads, sales and growth for your business. The higher you rank in the most relevant searches, the more traffic you will receive from people with intent to purchase. Choosing the keywords you want is all about understanding what phrases people are using to find websites and businesses like yours, and positioning them in your content strategically. This shows Google that you’re relevant, value-driven and able to answer its users’ biggest questions.
After you’ve conducted SEO keyword research, the next step is to focus on your content and embed them across it naturally. Gone are the days of ‘keyword stuffing’; you’ll need to create high-quality, value-driven content that utilises these keywords in all the right places, in order to get the nod from Google
How to search for keywords
The best starting point is to look for keyword ideas that your website is already ranking for on Google. You can view these by using Google Analytics or a range of powerful platforms, like Ahrefs or SEMRush. The best part of this is that you’ll also be able to see what words your competition is utilising, and then go head to head on them.
Start big with your brainstorming; think of five to 10 buckets that describe your business, its messaging, branding and what product or service you are trying to sell. Then you can start filling these buckets with keyword ideas that will be highly relevant, crosschecking them on these platforms to ensure they are the best ones to target.
Once you start building a list of these terms, you can start crafting them into phrases that people might be using naturally.
For example, if your site is promoting your accountancy business, you might end up with longer-form phrases (more like sentences) such as:
- Tax accountant near me
- Small business accounting
- Accounting firms near me
- General ledger accounting
Once you have assembled your list of keywords and phrases, it is a good idea to run through an online tool to gain suggestions you may not have thought of. You can use the Google Analytics platform which – is free or a range – of third party online tools, like those we mentioned above. You should also be able to see a list of metrics that indicate whether your keyword ideas are worth investing time and energy into. In essence, this is exactly how to find best keywords for seo without wasting resources or money.
The metrics to look at carefully:
Volume: How many searches are conducted for that phrase
CPC: The cost-per-click amount in Google Ads allocates using a bid, if you want to target that phrase
Keyword difficulty: How much competition there is and how challenging it is to compete for these terms. Try to aim for lower difficulties, otherwise, you risk targeting those that you won’t rank for.
How do keyword ideas work once you have them?
Having the right list of keyphrases is the first step; now you need to put them to work so that they are having the maximum impact. So how does the process work? Google sends out artificially intelligence programs that are referred to as Google bots, web crawlers or spiders, basically because they crawl the internet, visit every single web page and then index suitable URLs in their indexing system. This index is used for Google searches, connecting users with the most relevant websites instantly.
Once you have a solid keyword ideas list, you need to apply them to your website so that these crawlers can index your updated and optimised pages and improve your search rankings.
Where to start for keyword optimisation
The best starting point is to use Google Analytics and take a look at each individual page on your website. As you should have done this initially when determining how to find keywords for seo, you’ll know that this area of the platform will tell you which pages are already optimised, those that may need some minor tweaks and which ones will need heavy work.
Google also favours fresh, original content so ensure that you are regularly releasing news articles or blogs. This content can be used to roll out new keywords and phrases as well (on a decreased space) so that you are getting a double SEO benefit and improving your chances of achieving high Google rankings – as well as providing value to your potential customers in your content.
Pro tip: Link your blog articles through to your SEO landing pages, using your keyword ideas.
Thinking about your audience in the process
The first step when it comes to discovering and selecting the right keywords for your website is to step into the shoes of your current and potential clients or customers. Try to understand their persona, their motivations, their demographics and their intent when you are building your initial list of keywords because those are likely to be the keywords and key phrases they are using to discover websites and businesses like yours.
The next step is to do a thorough analysis of your competition. There are third-party tools available online that can help you peek behind the curtain and get a look at which keywords your opposition is using, how difficult it will be to challenge them for those keywords and also opportunities for keywords and phrases that they are not using.
Using keyword research tools to analyse these websites is critical because it gives you the bare minimum required to be on a level footing with your competition so you can build on that and be better than they are. A great option is Keyword Planner – Google’s native platform for Google Ads.
While digital methods are going to be highly important when it comes to finding your initial keywords, old school methods are going to reap rewards as well. That means putting together brainstorming sessions within your team to create a list of words while putting together focus groups or finding other ways to learn about your customers and their search behaviours will also obviously be very beneficial.
Discovering keywords is not a one-time process either, ensure that you are regularly analysing your site and your competition and making the necessary adjustments is vital to ensure you stay ahead of the curve.
What are short-tail and long-tail keywords?
You may have heard of the terms long tail and short tail keywords, but do you understand the difference and why both are important when it comes to your keyword SEO strategy? In terms of what they are, it is pretty self-explanatory. Short-tail keywords are the primary terms people may search when looking for you specifically and generally only use one or two words, like “accountant” and “Sydney accountant”.
Long-tail keywords involve more words and are used to link with people making more specific searches, for example: “local accountant in Parramatta Sydney” or “best tax accountant in Sydney”. There is also a third type of keyword set to consider which is body keywords, around 2-3 words that have high search volumes like: “tax accountants” and “small business accountants”.
Long-tail phrases have become more popular because they are specific and more natural. It means you are more likely to be linked to the right target audiences that have the right intent and there is also less competition than you would experience with shorter tail keywords.
That doesn’t mean short-tail keywords should be ignored, though. They are an excellent tool to cast a wide net and reach a much broader audience. It will mean that you in competition with more businesses and a portion of the traffic to your website might not be totally relevant, but you will reach more people, improve your SEO and combined with long-tail keywords you are going to reach relevant and motivated customers.
What is the best keyword research tool?
As we said, the Google Keyword Planner is an excellent place to start. It is totally free to use, but you can only access it if you have a Google Ads account (free to create). On a purely economical level, you can’t beat the price and Keyword Planner is a powerful tool to help you assemble the right list of keywords and phrases for your website.
While Keyword Planner is a great tool and comes at the right price (nothing), there are several third-party options available that have more advanced functions and a better ability to be able to see what your competition is doing. These include keyword research tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs Keyword Explorer which are highly popular and should be viewed as an investment rather than an expense because of the ROI they will deliver.
Of course, businesses and websites come in many shapes and sizes with different budgets, goals and competition when it comes to keywords. So it is best to try a few different keyword planning tools to see which ones deliver the results you want at the right price point for your budget.
Many of these planners include free trial options so that you see for yourself whether it meets your needs and then you can decide which one (or ones) are the right fit for you and come at the right price with their subscription service.
What is an example of a keyword?
We have already explored short-tail, body or mid-tail and long-tail keywords and why they are all important. But there are also many other kinds of examples to consider as well.
A list of these examples could look like:
Market segment phrases: These are industry-specific keywords or words that are directly linked to a product. For example, if someone wants running shoes they are going to use the market segment keywords running shoes to filter out other kinds of shoes.
Customer-defining words: When your product or service is geared towards a specific demographic, you use customer-defining keywords to target them. That could include phrases like “men’s gym shorts”, “women’s running shoes” or “children’s clothing”.
Branded terms: These keywords are for when a customer is seeking out a very specific brand in the search, for example, “Nike”.
Product keywords: This takes market segment keywords and branded keywords to another level, identifying the sub-section of the brand as well. For example, “Nike Air Jordans”. This is for when customers are looking for a hyper-specific item.
Competitor terms: Using third party keyword analysis tools, you can see the keywords that your competitors are using which can be used in your own campaigns. If you are selling running shoes, using the keywords “Nike running shoes” can position your product in front of a large, interested audience and offer them an alternative.
Geo-targeted phrases: Position your products and services in front of the audience you want from a geographical point of view, for example, “running shoes in Brisbane”.
Google Ads also uses the following types of keywords when you are building display or search ads:
Broad match: This captures people that might have used incorrect spelling or used a similar phrase to search for your products. For example, somebody might type “athletic shoes” or “running shoes” and they will be matched with the keywords running shoes.
Phrase match: This helps you get specific by only matching searchers who use the exact keywords or very close variants.
Exact match keywords: Exact match makes it even more strict, only linking searchers who use the exact, single keyword you have selected or a close variant.
Negative keywords: This allows you to exclude keywords that might be delivering non-relevant traffic.
How to do keyword research to find opportunities
We have already run through the basics on how to find keywords that will be effective for your business and your brand. Now we are going to dive a bit deeper and work out how you can find the best keywords for your website to enable you to be better than your competition, earn more leads, make more sales and grow your business.
One of the big mistakes a lot of brands make with their website is only doing their keyword research once. While this may give them the best possible list of phrases at that moment, this is constantly shifting and evolving.
There are new businesses popping up all of the time with different strategies and different keywords and phrases and customers are also using different terms and phrases when searching. For example, more and more people are using voice assistants to do their searching for them. This means they are asking direct questions that are different from the way they type, which mean new keywords and phrases that you need to be considering.
Picking the best high-volume list of keywords is not going to be effective because it is way too competitive. While you need to include these keywords, it is the ones with the low keyword difficulty and the higher volumes that you want to be targeting because there are less competition and a proven audience out there using these terms to find websites like yours.
Let’s talk about local SEO
Local keyword research is about finding the right a list of terms to get people in a geographical location to locate your business. When people put coffee shop into Google, for example, they are going to be shown a list of coffee shops that are close to them. This is especially the case with searches being conducted on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets that use the location of the device.
People may also search ahead of time, for example, if they are going on holidays, for restaurants, coffee shops, accommodation vendors and more so that they can plan their visit and make bookings. For both of these circumstances, you want your business to show up in geographic searches. So people could be searching for a coffee shop to find options in their suburb or coffee shops in Parramatta when they are planning ahead – you want to appear in both of these kinds of searches.
This can all be broken down into three terms that you should be using in your keyphrases. The first is the core term – which, in this case, is a coffee shop. Its variants are cafe, coffee room, java seller, tea shop, etc. The second term is the modifier to make the core term more specific. This is phrases like best “coffee shop near me”, “coffee shop best reviews” and the like. The final part is the location, so you could have long-tail keyphrases like “where can I find the best coffee shop in Brisbane?” and enjoy the most success.
Why keyword research is the most important part of SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is ultra-important to ensure that the content on your website marries up with the queries that people are putting into Google and other search engines. Keyword optimisation remains a huge part of SEO and it needs to be a cornerstone of your content creation.
In the modern age, there has been a shift away from keyword research for content and a move towards generating content that it is tailored directly towards the user. The bottom line is, though, that both are important. You want to include keywords and phrases in your content but you also want that content to be original, relevant, topical and informative.
How to utilise keywords in content
The proper use of keywords is going to position your website in the searches where it needs to be, in front of the right audience. But creating the right thought-provoking content that provides value is what is going to encourage this audience to stay on your site. The two kinds of content work hand in hand and it is important to not neglect keyword research in your content creation as this is the tool that is going to deliver an audience to your content which has a user focus.
Finding the right keywords for your SEO strategy can be challenging, but when you find these right keywords and weave them through your content then it is going to be a powerful SEO tool. There are many great tools and technologies for discovering these keywords but when it comes to really discover what your customers are thinking and feeling then old school methods still work very well.
What are the best sources for keyword research?
Going beyond keyword research tools, there are a number of other online platforms that you can use to assist in finding keywords that will benefit your site. Some of these include:
Google Trends: Keywords that worked yesterday may not have the same appeal today and there is no guarantee that they are going to work tomorrow. Google Trends is a free tool that allows you to track the popularity of keywords over time so that you assess trends like a spike or dip in popularity and act accordingly.
Keyword Generators: There are many free tools available that will populate large lists of related keywords, generated from just a single keyword. These include keyword difficulty scores and search volume so that you can discover the most searched keywords and also spot gaps in the market where there is less competition.
Keyword Sheeter: Autocomplete in Google searches is a great way to find out what people are searching for. It can be time-consuming to take all of these down to Keyword Sheeter does the heavy lifting for you. This is an effective way to generate a lot of keywords ideas in a very short period of time which can then be exported to use on your website.
Keyworddit: Reddit has become an extremely popular forum/social media platform and this tool helps you extra search queries from this platform that can be used to improve your Google ranking as well.
Google Search Console: Another free platform that is provided by Google itself. This allows you to track the performance of your website and all of its URLs so you can see how they are performing in searches in real-time. This allows you to make the changes you need to ASAP and keep ahead of your competition.
Bulk Keyword Generator: This is a great, free source of local SEO terms. It is industry-specific and will give you instant lists of keywords that are associated with your business that people are using in their searches right now.
How do you do keyword research in 2021?
So now that you are well versed on keyword research, it is important to understand that Google and the other search engines routinely change their algorithms to improve operations and the user experience for people searching for sites, services and products. It is also important to monitor changes in technology and user behaviour which changes year on year. So what are the trends you should be looking at in 2021?
Understanding user intent is something that needs to be addressed every year as this is a constantly evolving trend. Having strong knowledge on what users intent is and what they are typing into Google puts you ahead of the curve and allows you to position your keywords and phrases in response to these queries so you will match with more relevant searches.
In the year 2021, you can expect a further transition away from keyword volume as well, with more of a focus on behavioural analytics. Just because a keyword has a high volume doesn’t mean it is going to be effective for your website or your business. You will have a high level of competition, you will have a high volume of traffic with no intent to purchase and you will have to work harder for strong leads and sales. Understanding behaviour allows you to have a roadmap on what customers are doing when they are doing it and why they are doing it.
What is keyword stuffing and what are the penalties?
Now that we have learned all about keyword research, its relevance to SEO and its importance in attracting the right traffic to your website, it is time to conclude with a bit of a warning. Unfortunately, there are websites out there that look to game the system by “stuffing” keywords into their content without any real relevance or context. It makes for unreadable copy that provides no value to the visitor and this practice is designed purely to boost rankings in Google.
This is called a black hat practice and Google will penalise any website that its crawlers find is guilty of keyword stuffing. This is not just sites that are going overboard with keyword repetition, it can also be a problem for a normal website that has simply used the same keyword too many times. Being penalised means you will not appear on the first page of Google which is a massive hit for any website.
Unfortunately, there is no hard metric or magic formula to determine how many times is too many to use your keywords. As a rule of thumb, just make sure your content reads naturally and that there is no obvious repetition and you should avoid penalty. For example, sentences like “Mike’s running shoes have the best running shoes in the Brisbane region, so if you are looking for running shoes look no further” are likely to earn the ire of Google.
This repetition extends to your headlines, subheadings and all written content.
Contact the team at Edge Marketing to get SEO guidance and speak to an industry leading professional.