Keyword research is a key component of SEO. It’s the act of finding keywords or topics that people are typing into a search engine.
With a proper keyword research strategy, you’ll be able to learn what people are searching for and create targeted content to drive users to your site.
If you don’t do keyword research and write content with no direction, you’re shooting in the dark and risk creating content with no user base.
Like anything in SEO, there are a million ways to go about keyword research. But a few constants are:
- Creating an initial list of keywords
- Evaluating data like search volume and keyword difficulty
- Understanding how to group keywords
- Finding a tool to aid in keyword research
Find What You’re Looking For
Where To Start Keyword Research for Your Small Business
There are many ways to begin keyword research. Perhaps the simplest way is to compile a list of words that you feel are relevant to your brand. What would you imagine a user would search for to find your site.
These can range from a simple phrase like “shoes.” This is often called a head term. Then, there are more complex phrases like “best shoes to run in the cold weather.” This is called a long-tail keyword.
You have to know your product and have some idea of what matters to your website, this gives you a start.
Researching Keywords for Your Paid Ads
If you run paid ads, you probably have data on keywords that convert and don’t convert. There are different philosophies, and some say target those same keywords that are already converting in your SEO strategy to dominate the top positions.
Others steer away from creating SEO content on those same terms to prevent putting multiple resources toward the same term. Whatever strategy you choose for your business is completely valid.
An audit on competitors’ content and rankings is another common practice. Look at what is and isn’t working for others and go from there. Many keyword tools help you run an analysis of how competitors are performing.
In all cases, you need to use a keyword research tool to validate any theories that you have and put some data behind your decisions. Once you have a list of keywords, examine them in a keyword research tool to find out which keywords you want to target.
Some keyword research tools provide a list of keywords or questions that relate to your original queries. This is a great way to widen the net and discover new topics to target.
Considerations During Keyword Research for Your Small Business
There are a few metrics to look at when doing keyword research. There’s no magic formula to determine which keywords you should go after.
You may want to steer away from terms that aren’t relevant to your brand, or you feel are too broad. But if that’s the best possible keyword, don’t be deterred.
However, be aware that it’s going to be a long road to rank, and it might not pay off.
What Is Search Volume?
Search volume is the number of times that a specific keyword is searched for a month. This number is often a monthly average based on the volume over 12 months.
This may throw you off if you do research based on seasonal terms. Ahrefs shows the monthly search volume for “Christmas” at 627,000 visits a month, but you can also see the peaks and valleys when those searches happen, the peaks are in December.
Additionally, each tool you use has different figures for search volume, so take those numbers more as an approximation than fact.
Consider that a single page can rank for multiple terms so, collectively, the search volume might be higher than the figures presented in a keyword tool.
A caveat is that new trends won’t always show up in a keyword research tool. Don’t be afraid to create content that doesn’t have data behind it, especially if something is topical. You can be the first to create content on it.
What Is Keyword Difficulty?
Keyword difficulty is how hard it is to rank for that keyword. The higher the difficulty, the more competition there is to rank for that keyword, and the harder it is to rank.
Each tool you use takes different metrics into account when considering difficulty. Unless you have an established site with a strong Domain Authority (DA) you probably want to avoid targeting keywords with a high difficulty.
Those keywords are out of range and hard to rank for. Of course, there are exceptions, just set expectations appropriately when going for more difficult keywords.
Types of Keywords
Not all keywords are created equal. The keywords you rank for can target users at different stages of the funnel.
Head terms or focus keywords are usually more general terms. While there’s a lot of search volume around these terms, they can be vague. Ranking number one for a head term can bring in a lot of traffic, but it might not necessarily be the type of traffic you want.
Long-tail keywords are more specific. While there isn’t always a lot of volume around these terms, they can be more qualified. There’s also less competition to rank for long-tail terms.
Digging for these more complex, more qualified queries takes more research, but it pays off in the end.
Consider the intent behind the keyword and what results are returned on the search engine results page (SERP). Keywords and search intent generally fall into four buckets:
- Transactional keywords: The searcher has a clear intent to buy; an example is “buy running shoes”
- Commercial keywords: These are keywords with a buying intent but the user is still doing research like “running shoe reviews” or “best running shoes”
- Navigational keywords: This is typically a branded search, and the user is looking for a specific company
- Informational keywords: The user is seeking information, and these keywords can include who, what, and why, such as “how tall is Shaq?”
By looking at a few modifiers you can determine the intent of keywords. Examine the SERP for your valuable keywords and see what type of content is ranking. You won’t rank a product for a keyword with informational intent. However, you could rank a blog post.
What Tools To Use for Keywords Research
There are several keyword tools on the market. They all deliver the basics in terms of showing keyword difficulty and search volume. Some tools let you create projects to track the keywords you target. Ahrefs and Semrush are great at tracking competitors’ keywords as well as running a content gap analysis with competitors.
Take advantage of the full suite of offerings from each product. Semrush, for example, has a writing assistant that can help you craft content once you’ve finalized your keywords.
Here’s a list of some popular keyword tools to check out:
- Keywords Everywhere
- Google Keyword Planner
Of course, you can always Google a phrase and look at the “people also ask” section to get some ideas, and that’s a great place to get started, it’s also free.
What To Do Next
It’s time to rank your keywords. Look through the list and find opportunities where the difficulty is low but the search volume is decent. If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) company, many of your keywords are likely low search volume, which is OK. If you’re an e-commerce company, you’re probably looking at higher search volumes.
Once you select your keywords, it’s time to create article titles and the general structure of the article. There are many tools like Clearscope, MarketMuse, and Topic that can help you structure your article. These tools tell you what an article targeting that keyword should have. Another option is to search these phrases and see how the top articles are written.
Since a single page can rank for many terms, group similar keywords together and figure out how they work into the structure of your site. A keyword tool might show “women’s shoes” and “shoes for women” as two different keywords, but these are the same.
If a page ranks number one for one of those terms, it’ll rank for the other. You don’t need to create two different articles for these keywords. Be sure to include variations and synonyms of the keyword in your content.
Now, start writing. Your content doesn’t have to be blogs only. You can add content on category or product pages to target keywords.
There are almost as many ways to go about keyword research as there are keywords. Find which keywords are important to your brand, and you have a shot of ranking for them and go all in. Start by choosing a platform from our Best SEO Software of 2022.