What is keyword research?
Keyword research is the process of finding the right keywords for your business -but it’s not only that. It’s also one of the best ways of getting to know your target audience. As Brian Dean, a well-known SEO expert, stated: “keyword research is market research for the 21st century”.
The goal of keyword research should be creating a list of keywords which are:
- Relevant to your business
- Specific (consist of more than one word)
- Captures the intent of the searcher (preferably commercial intent)
- Provides high traffic
- Has low organic competition
- Provides good conversion rates
- Provides good engagement
- Why is doing keyword research important?
Why is Doing Keyword Research Important?
Thorough research of actionable keywords for your site is crucial in your online marketing strategy. Without it, you will never succeed, due to failing to provide relevant content and targeting the wrong users. Starting other SEO practices without keyword research is pointless, so make sure you do it first before moving on to content creation, promotion and earning links.
How to do keyword research?
You shouldn’t skimp out on devoting your time to keyword research. It should be done very thoroughly. If this is your first time researching keywords, start by following these steps:
STEP 1: Check which keywords you’re ranking for right now.
Go to your site and look closer at your content. If you’re consistent with it, you should already be able to see some patterns and find potential keywords. Use Google Search Console to find the keywords you’re already ranking for.
Every page on your site should be optimized for one or two keywords. This means your content should be written in a way that convinces your readers it is relevant to the keywords they were looking for. Your goal is for your content to be a solution to a customer’s problem. If, however, you lack both consistency and relevancy, you’ll notice a major increase in your bounce rate, and eventually you will see drops in your rankings.
STEP 2: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
Do a brainstorming session and ask yourself these questions:
- What am I offering?
- What problems am I solving with my services?
- What are the most frequent questions asked by my customers?
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about what they are typing into a search engine box to find you. Use their language, not yours.
To help you identify the way your customers talk about your services, or services like yours, go to:
- Your comments section
- Online discussion sites about your industry
- Q&A platforms
- Your Sales and Support Teams
- Your customers
Your Sales and Support Representatives know your clients the best. However, if you can talk to your clients yourself, you’ll be even more successful.
STEP 3: Identify your customer demographics.
By identifying the demographics of your target audience, you’ll be more successful with finding the right keywords and creating content that will meet your customers’ expectations.
Define your “buyer persona,” these are considered your ideal customers. If you are selling a lot of products or are offering a few different services, it is possible that you will have more than one “ideal” customer.
These are just some of the demographic characteristics, that you should know: * age * gender * profession * income * search and shopping habits * interests * goals
You should also be able to define why they are buying your product, and which of their problems the product solves.
To identify your current audience profile, use Google Analytics. After logging into your account, go to “Audience” and see all the data and statistics that Google stores for you.
By going to “Demographics”, you’ll find out what age and gender your main visitors are. You can set various filtering options and dig deeper into the behavior of certain groups of users.
Go to “Geo” and you’ll be able to identify the places your audience are from, and the dominant language they’re using. This can give you a hint at what markets you should be focusing on, how to tailor your advertising campaigns to your most important users, or where you're already focusing most of your marketing campaigns.
In the “Mobile” section, you’ll also find information about which devices your visitors are using to view your site. Make sure you optimize your site and make it both desktop and mobile-friendly.
STEP 4: Make use of free tools for keyword research available online
You can use many tools that can help you with keyword research. Take a look at the ones below. They will help you create a broad list of actionable keywords that are very likely to bring traffic to your site.
Google Suggest and Übersuggest
As soon as you start typing your thoughts into Google’s search box, you get some suggestions of most frequently searched terms in this particular search engine. Make sure to use this information to your advantage.
Want to see all the suggestions from Google in one list? If so, then make sure you go to ubersuggest.org.
Type your keyword into a search box (I’ve taken “keyword research” as an example) and voila! You now know what the most frequently searched for terms that begin with “keyword research” are. And they’re all in an alphabetical order!
Play around with this and come up with some great terms that fit your needs exactly. Make sure you monitor all the terms in Positionly, because even if it’s not the exact keyword you are optimizing your page for, you could still be ranking for it.
Google Related Searches
When you type a keyword into Google, scroll down to the bottom of the search results page, and look right below the 10th position, there you’ll find Google Related Searches. The list may be a great source of long-tail keywords that you haven’t thought of before. Make sure to add these to your list that you'll start monitoring.
Although Google is the predominant search engine, you cannot forget that there are other powerful search engines that people use to find things online. Soovle.com is a great tool that will show you which keywords are popular not only on Google, but also Yahoo, Bing, Amazon, YouTube, Answers.com and Wikipedia.
Just type a short-tail keyword that you’d like to make more precise into a search bar, and the tool will return a list of most popular searches for those different search engines.
Bing Webmaster Tools
31% of all searches are done using Bing; therefore, it is also an important search engine that you shouldn’t omit while targeting and monitoring your chosen keywords. To find some great keyword ideas, use Webmaster Tools and their Keyword Research Tool, which will give you some great insights into the searching habits of Bing users.
After typing a keyword into a Keyword Tool’s search bar (see above), what you will get is a list of phrases related to your search query, along with their search volumes and trends. The results are from organic search at Bing.
AnswerThePublic Visual Keyword Research Tool
Answerthepublic.com is a great tool, which shows the most frequently searched-for queries through visual graphics. You’ll get three different graphs, constructed according to:
- most frequently asked questions
- e.g. how to start keyword research, why we do keyword research
- prepositions used within a search term
- e.g. keyword research for ebay, keyword research broad vs exact
- alphabetical order of phrases
- typed into a search bar after the main keyword
With this tool, you’ll be able to easily spot some patterns in the way people search for different things, and come up with new keyword ideas as well.
See the ‘question’ graph below:
Trends change. Google Trends is a great tool that helps you monitor them, so that you know which keywords to invest your time in right now, and which to exclude. Keep in mind, since trends change, your content has to remain fresh too.
First of all, you can compare the popularity of your chosen terms. Taking “iPhone 4”, “iPhone 5” and “iPhone 6” as an example, you can monitor how people searched for these terms over a specific period of time.
Choose the region you want to see the results for, set a time frame, category, and type of search (web, image, shopping etc.). Then, add the terms you want to compare.
Notice above that there was a huge interest among searches in iPhone 5 at the end of 2012, and in iPhone 6 at the end of 2014. The trend for iPhone 4 is quite even. For all keywords, however, the trend is decreasing.
When you scroll below the graph, what you can also monitor is the Regional interest for all three keywords. According to the data provided by Google, people from Miami, New Orleans, and Hialeah were searching for “iPhone 5” most frequently. You can also see the results for two other phrases and see the interest in a specific Subregion and Metropolis.
Google Trends also has its own ‘Related Searches’ section. There you can see the related terms for all the keywords you want to compare, and see which of them are frequently searched for, and have an increasing trend. In addition, you can monitor the topics related to that keyword. Make sure that when picking keywords for your business, you focus on popular and trending topics. Of course, do not forget about creating content that will never go out of date and look for so-called evergreen keywords as well.
This simple tool will help you find keywords that your potential customers may search for, and which correspond with the phrase typed into a search bar.
Looking at the example above, you can see that people who typed “SEO tools” into Google are probably also looking for “backlinks”, “seo companies”, or “adwords keyword tool”. Play around with the tool and find some inspiration.
Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner is the most frequently used keyword research tool by both newbies and SEO professionals, as it is considered to have the most accurate data. The tool is intended for paid advertising campaigns, but it’s also a mine of ideas for users whose goal is to find the right keywords for their SEO marketing campaigns.
The tool is free, you just have to create an AdWords account to access it.
Once in Google AdWords, select Tools from the top navigation bar, and then select Keyword Planner. See below:
From there, you’ll be prompted to choose one of the three options below. To look for keyword ideas, select the first option.
You will then be asked to enter words or phrases associated with your business or product. In addition, you will have to add an URL of your domain, or of a specific landing page, and/or the category of your product. The keyword ideas will be more relevant if you put more than one of the above.
After that, you should set targeting options. You can narrow down the location, language, and date range. Other customizing options in this view are intended for the Adwords campaigns, so to proceed, just click ‘Get Ideas.’
The first thing you’ll encounter are the ‘Ad group ideas’, which we’re not interested in. In order to view keywords, simply select the ‘Keyword Ideas’ tab.
What you can see in this view is your targeted keyword with the average monthly searches, which is the amount of people that type that phrase into Google every month. The phrase “keywords” in the example above has been searched 6,600 times. This is the result for the selected date range and location. It is also an exact match, so the user searched just the word “keywords”, not e.g. “keywords definition”, or “how to find keywords”.
Below the results for your targeted keyword, you have a list of keyword ideas. You can sort the data in the table in ascending (or descending) order. The data you should be interested in are:
- Average monthly searches
- which is the average number of times people have searched for this exact keyword
- (high/medium/low) in paid ads, which is the amount of people (advertisers) bidding on each keyword
- Suggested bid
- which is the amount of money advertisers pay for the click in PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns for this particular keyword
In addition, by clicking on the graph next to the average monthly searches, you’ll see searches broken down into monthly periods so that you can see trends in the popularity of particular keywords.
You might think that looking at competition and suggested bid is useless, considering that the data is intended for advertisers, not SEO specialists. However, this is not the case, as the suggested bid won’t so much give you insights into popularity, but rather the nature of chosen keyword; whether it brings high conversion or not. For instance, the keyword “keyword search volume” has a bigger value than “keywords”, because the commercial intent of the user is more explicit in the first one. That is why advertisers are more prone to spending more money on it, and you should consider targeting this keyword as well.
If you’re doing thorough research of keywords for your SEO campaign, it may be easier to browse through and analyze the list of keywords suggested by Google Keyword Planner, by downloading the table and working on it at your own pace. It is then also way easier to upload it straight to Positionly and start monitoring if the chosen keywords and the strategy selected is actually working.
STEP 5: Analyze your competitors
Lastly, in order to find some great keywords, what you should definitely do is analyze your competitors. Find out what keywords they care about and aim at to rank for, and draw inspiration from their actions.
How should you do that?
- Look for the keywords they are ranking for by crawling their site with Screaming Frog SEO Spider tool. Thanks to this tool, you can scan their metadata: headings, subheadings, and ALT attributes. Then, you’ll know which keywords they optimize their site for.
- Read the articles they publish online and analyze the audience they’re targeting and the problems they want to solve.
- Set Google Alerts with their brand name and monitor their mentions to be up to date with the content they’re launching.
- Use Google Keyword Planner and do research based on your competitor’s landing pages. Thanks to their sophisticated algorithms, Google will show you a list of keywords that your competitors are using in their campaigns.
Here are more helpful hints about spying on your competitors