Keyword research is vital to a successful SEO campaign. But choosing the right terms can be a challenge. The good news? You just need the right tools and knowledge (and perhaps some outside help) to perfect your game plan.
Keyword research is a key ingredient for any successful SEO campaign.
By targeting the right keywords, you are more likely to gain the interest of qualified prospects who are eager to buy your products and services. It can also help you better understand what is and isn’t working for your competitors, enabling you to capitalise on their shortcomings and stand out from the crowd.
To help you get the most out of your SEO campaign, this article is going to cover everything you need to know. From performing keyword research and competitive analysis through to choosing keyword research tools and understanding search ranking factors.
With this information, you’ll have an easier time choosing effective and relevant keywords, giving your campaign a stronger sense of direction towards reaching its goals.
Ready? Let’s go!
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is the process of finding out what search terms and phrases customers are using to find products and services online.
The purpose of keyword research is to find out what those search terms and phrases are, and implement them into your web content and sales copy to increase search visibility.
Also, keyword research is about understanding the ‘search intent’ behind search queries; specifically, understanding why people use certain terms and phrases, and what they hope to gain from them.
Some people search to acquire knowledge and information, while others do it to buy a product or service right away. Understanding the difference between the two is crucial. Why? Because it has a major impact on the type of content you provide to customers. Do you go for the hard sell? Or focus on giving information first? It depends on the mindset of the customer when they perform a search.
Step-by-step keyword research
1. Find your ‘seed’ keyword
Before beginning your keyword research, you need a starting point. ‘Seed’ keywords are just the starting point you need. These are terms and phrases that are closely related to your field or niche or industry. You can come up with a list of seed keywords on your own. Simply write them down.
Here is an example to help you out. Let’s say you run an online store that sells running shoes. Therefore, your list of seed keywords could be:
- Running shoes
- Sports shoes
- Marathon shoes
- Men’s running shoes
- Women’s running shoes
Depending on your field or niche, your list may be much longer. But you get the idea. Either way, as long as you have enough keywords to serve as a solid foundation, you can then take the next step.
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2. Find out which keywords your competitors are using
Next, type in your seed keywords into a search engine like Google. Analyse the results you see appear before you.
What types of websites show up? Do you get linked directly to product pages or articles and blogs? Are you being linked to SMEs similar to yours or major powerhouses like Amazon, The New York Times, or Microsoft?
Following on from our previous example, let’s type in ‘running shoes.’ Based on this search query, we get linked to a lot of online stores similar to ours. And most of the results link directly to product pages or in some cases the home page. However, one result links to an article discussing the ‘Best Running Shoes for 2021.’
What does this tell us? Most people who use this term are ready to shop and potentially buy. However, some are still in the very early deciding phase. They need more information before they know what kind of running shoes they want. Hence, this explains why an informative article is ranking on the first page.
Another factor to consider are the companies ranking for seed keywords. Obviously, if you’re being linked to the likes of Amazon or Microsoft, your chances of competing against them are slim. If, however, the results are linking to SMEs like you, then you will have a better idea of who your direct competitors are.
From there, check for autosuggest queries. These are the list of associated keywords that appear as a dropdown box in the search query box. Click on a few of them. See what kind of results they show you. Again, if the results are similar to your own website, you’re on the right track.
After this, you should have a better idea as to which seed keywords and autosuggest queries are of relevance to you.
Take note of the keywords that direct you to websites similar to yours. This tells you who your competitors are. And it indicates that you have a chance at ranking alongside or above them.
3. Use the right keyword research tools
Researching your competition is a great way to find viable keywords. But it doesn’t tell you the whole story. You may be missing out on identifying direct competitors that aren’t showing up for your search queries. Therefore, you need keyword research tools that can collect this information for you – quickly, easily, and affordably.
Keyword research tools come in free and paid versions. The free versions provide keyword suggestions based on your field, niche, and industry. They also provide recommendations for associated keywords, popular misspellings and permutations, long-tail keyword suggestions, and more.
Paid keyword research tools have more advanced functionality like the ability to limit keyword research to specific countries or regions, identify keyword gaps (circumstances where your competition is ranking for a keyword but you’re not), and customise how the keyword research tool feeds you recommended keywords (i.e. phrase matching, same or similar terms).
What kind of information can you expect from a keyword research tool? Quite a lot. Even the free versions can provide valuable information such as:
- Monthly search volume
- Keyword difficulty – i.e. how difficult it is to rank for a particular keyword
- Cost per click – only relevant if you’re implementing a PPC (Paid Per Click) campaign, but still useful information to know
- Number of clicks, and
- Global search volume
Keep in mind, reading and interpreting reports generated from these keyword research tools can be difficult. And if you’re a busy, time-poor business owner, you may not have time to make sense of it all.
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4. Study your niche
Your niche and industry is unique. The terms and phrases people use in your niche are unique. For this reason, it’s important that in your web content and sales copy, you’re able to speak the way your customers speak.
This way, you’re more likely to establish a relatable connection with your customers, and they’re more likely to listen to what you have to say.
How does this relate to your keyword research? When it comes to keyword research, understanding the language your customers use is vital. It can help you identify trends and patterns in your customer’s language. This, in turn, can help you identify opportunistic keywords to target.
To closely study your niche, investigate the various online communities that discuss your field or industry. Visit relevant communities on user-driven websites like Reddit, online forums, social media groups, and even Yahoo! Answers.
These are communities where both users, customers, and experts come together to share ideas, celebrate their achievements, air grievances, request help, and discuss the latest products and events.
Most importantly, people in these communities are likely to talk in a looser, more casual format than your average advertisement. This way, you can learn from the way they speak, and – where appropriate – incorporate it into your keyword research and ad sales copy.
How to analyse your keywords
There are many factors to take into account when it comes to analysing your chosen keywords. The most important are:
- Search volume
- Click rate
- Cost per click
- Keyword difficulty, and
- Traffic potential
Here is a quick breakdown of what each keyword ranking factor means, and how important they are when choosing your keywords.
Search volume relates to the number of times a keyword is used in a search query. It’s a metric that helps you better understand how popular a search term is, when (and how often) it gets used, and whether there are peak or seasonal trends.
It is important to note that one person can contribute to the volume of a search query multiple times. That is, the metric is not about the number of people who perform the query, but how many times the query shows up. Therefore, when one person performs the same search query multiple times, that would be equal to if multiple people were to perform the same search query just once.
Ideally, you want to target keywords with a high search volume, but a low keyword difficulty rank. This way, you know that the term is popular, and the chances of you ranking well for the term are high.
Clicks relate to the number of times a user clicks on a particular search result. This is an important statistic to measure.
Why? Just because a website has a top-rank, that does not guarantee people are clicking on the page. If you use an advanced keyword research tool like Ahrefs, you can find out the monthly search volume and clicks for specific keywords.
There are a few reasons why a keyword may have a high search volume but a low click rate.
In recent years, Google has begun to show the answers to a search query, before the list of results appear. This happens when Google shows large preview text of the most popular search result. Therefore, since people get the answer they need before clicking on a link, their search is likely to end there.
The presence of paid ads may also influence the click rate of a keyword. These paid ads have the potential to ‘steal’ clicks from websites using more organic methods to generate clicks and leads. If you notice PPC ads are taking clicks away from organic ads, adopting a PPC strategy may be favourable to you.
Traffic potential refers to the potential that a certain keyword has to convert searchers into site visitors. Calculating the traffic potential of a keyword is easy. Put simply, the lesser the gap between the search volume and click rate, the higher the traffic potential. So if a keyword has a monthly search volume of 1,000 and a click rate of 800 per month, this keyword would have high traffic potential.
Of course, judging the search potential on just one keyword or phrase is a mistake. Why? Because when you try to rank for a certain keyword or phrase, naturally, you’re going to rank for other associated keywords and phrases too. Therefore, it’s worth assessing the traffic potential of various associated keywords, and then using that data to make a calculated guess on the traffic potential of all those keywords as a whole.
Keyword difficulty refers to how difficult it is to rank for a particular keyword. There are many factors that determine keyword difficulty. Some of the most important ranking factors are:
- Number and quality of backlinks
- Search intent
- Domain rating
- Content length, relevance and freshness
- Use of targeted and associated keywords
Which ranking factors you deem important depend on your unique circumstances. The number and quality of backlinks is important, but so is search intent and domain rating. They’re all important in their own unique way. For this reason, knowing which keyword ranking factors to focus on can be difficult.
In saying this, we do know that building quality backlinks is very important. This involves having reputable, relevant, and credible websites link back to your own website. The more people link to your website, the more Google will deem your website as trustworthy and worth sharing.
Therefore, if you’re unsure where to start, consider starting with a tailored backlink strategy designed to encourage other relevant and reputable websites to link back to your own.
Identify the user search intent
Based on the keywords you’ve chosen so far, you should know by now: which keywords are relevant to people looking for information, and which keywords are relevant to people ready to buy. With this information, you can determine what keywords to target and how to utilise them.
For example, if you run an online store selling running shoes, you’ll want to publish a combination of informative product pages and articles. Some keywords will be better suited for product pages, because you’ve established that your competitors are using it to promote their own products as well. While other keywords, particularly long-tail keywords, will be better suited for articles and blogs, where customers are trying to educate themselves before they make an informed purchase.
Let’s say you want to target the keyword ‘best nike running shoes.’ You type it in, and you discover a majority of the results are articles and blogs. Therefore, you wouldn’t want to create a product page with this keyword, as it doesn’t satisfy the search intent of your target audience – that being, the intent to acquire more information.
It’s important that you trust the information that Google tells you, as it knows better than you – at least, at this stage – what their users want, and how they get it. By trusting the results you’ll see, your more likely to generate the right types of articles and sales pages and attract the interest of the right people at the right stage of the sales process.
SEO can be a complex beast. But if you know how to approach it, choose the right keywords, and tailor your message to the right audience, your chances of success increase tenfold.
Of course if you’re the kind of business, individual or online marketer that is short on time, then outsourcing your SEO efforts to a reputable marketing agency could be a great way for you to save time and effort while maximising your marketing dollars.
Apple Advertising is an online marketing agency that specialises in helping business plan, launch, and grow their business online. To request a free full analysis of your website, visit our home page and click ‘Let’s Talk’ at the top. We look forward to hearing from you.