Starting keyword research can be a daunting task. At times, it can feel like trying to find your favorite combination of words from a dictionary. There are ways to bypass that feeling and give you a firmer foundation as you map out the keywords for your website.

Choosing Keywords: Where Is Your Site Now?

If you have a new site, you want to focus on keywords with a low keyword difficulty. There aren’t a lot of David and Goliath stories on the search engine results pages (SERPs), a new site isn’t going to outrank Amazon for a term like “shoes.” You have a better chance of outranking them for a long-tail keyword.

More established sites with higher authority have a broader range of keywords that they can target. If you have a site like this you can target more difficult keywords.

If you’re just launching your site, don’t fret. Soon, your site will have enough authority that you can target more broad and higher volume keywords.

Knowing where you stand gives you guardrails when identifying keywords.

Start With a Keyword List

Start broadly, make a list of the dozen or so keywords that you would love your site to rank for. Not all of these are attainable but it provides a place to start. Try to think like your customer, what do they search for, and what’s their intent when they search. What is your product? That’s the keyword you want to start with.

Once you have this list put those keywords into a keyword research tool and see how feasible it’s to rank for those terms. Several of these keywords are going to have either high difficulty or low search volume. Don’t worry about low search volume if the keyword is an ideal match for your site but avoid high-difficulty keywords.

Who Are Your Visitors?

Ideally, you want your visitors to engage in some conversion on your site. Keyword searches typically fall into three categories:

  • Navigational: Users searching for a specific brand
  • Informational: Users looking for information on a topic, and these users are typically at the top of the funnel
  • Transactional: These are users ready to buy and are looking to make a purchase, which is especially important if you have an e-commerce site you work on

Many general keywords show an informational result.

google results for keyword research
Source: Google

With your list of desired keywords, think about which bucket each keyword falls into. Find keywords in either the informational or transactional categories to target. You can discover that transactional keywords are tough to target, but still worthwhile.

You want to create content for users in each of these buckets.

Informational keywords are a great way to introduce users to your brand. From these pages, you can spotlight products or link to them to familiarize users with your brand.

Target Long-tail Keywords

Don’t worry if a keyword has low search volume. Often, these terms have a higher conversion rate. While you may be targeting a smaller segment of the population, you’re targeting people farther down the funnel, those who are ready to buy.

As you start your business and your keyword research, home in on these keywords. Once identified, you can create content on these topics.

Long Tail Keywords Graph
Source: Semrush

SEO Keyword Tools for Small Business

The quickest way to discover topics to rank on is to use a keyword research tool. These tools give you an understanding of the monthly search volume a keyword has and how hard it’s to rank for one.

Often, after you put in a head term, you’ll see a list of related keywords. This is a rabbit hole worth going down. You’ll learn a lot more about the industry and your customers. You’ll also find some gems that you can create content around.

Semrush and Ahrefs are great tools to get started with. Not only do they help you in the keyword research phase, but they’ll also help you keep track of your keyword rankings and how you’re doing against your competitors. A great research tool is necessary, it’s going to surface a lot of new ideas and help you determine what’s in reach for your website.

Ahrefs' Keyword Ideas
Source: Ahrefs

What Are Your Competitors Doing?

A great place to start with content is to dive deep into your competitor’s content. Use a keyword research tool to run a content gap analysis. See what terms are working for them and check out those pages. Chances are you’ll be able to create a piece of content more valuable and peel away their traffic for your site. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, let your competitors invest their time and money in experiments. You can learn from the results and capitalize on them.

Export a list from your keyword tool of choice and look at your competitors’ pages. You can see traffic, search volume, and keyword difficulty. At this point, you can either go through line by line or find keywords that you like. If you’re a master of Excel, you can create some filters to winnow down the data.

You want to find keywords that drive traffic and are attainable. You also want to discard branded keywords, or keywords that you suspect might have a high bounce rate.

Highlight these keywords and add them to your list.

Examine the SERP

If you’re doing smaller content pushes, such as a few articles a month, look at the SERP for each term you want to write an article on. If you want to rank a product page for the term but see that only informational pages are ranking, rethink that strategy. Write an informational article on the topic instead and link to your product page from the article.

Do you see content that’s short or uninformative ranking at the top? Is it from a domain you don’t recognize? If this is the case, then you can try to outrank those competitors with your content.

If you produce content at scale, you might not be able to do this step. Rely on your keyword tools to help categorize content and determine what the intent is of each keyword.

Rule out keywords where the SERP is overly competitive or the intent is off from your site. If you write content on topics like that it won’t perform well.

What To Do Next?

After you do these steps, you should have a list of keywords to target. Shorten your list to keywords that you feel confident will rank but also drive meaningful outcomes for your business. Create content on these 10 to 12 topics and see how they perform. It takes some time for the content to be indexed, rank, and drive clicks, but it happens.

Start writing. You know what your competitors are doing and how they’re formatting their content. Use that as a guide while you create new content. Make sure as you write content you keep on-page fundamentals in mind and include keywords in title tags, H1s, and H2s.

Determining which keywords are best for your site gives your site the best chance of showing up in the SERPs. Start with a small list of keywords to create content around. Then, in a few months, examine the performance and see how your content is ranking.