So, you have a website and your business is up and running. But you need to get your SEO firing. You’ll often hear in SEO forums that content is king, but what does that mean?

Why Should You Do SEO Keyword Research?

Keyword research is also going to help you understand what your users are looking for. It’s easy to write content and post it on your site, but if your customers aren’t interested in it, that’s just a waste of resources.

Google uses the content on your website to determine what your site is about and if they should drive traffic to it. If you’re selling skincare projects your website should have content about skincare. Perhaps some blogs on tips and tricks for taking care of your skin.

Simple enough. However, finding out which topics to write about gets a little trickier.

Great content is going to engage your users and help your site rank for various queries that users search for in Google and other search engines.

When starting keyword research you’ll want to focus on a few metrics, like search volume, keyword difficulty, and intent, which isn’t always quantifiable.

What Steps Should You Take To Get Started With Keyword Research?

After doing the initial keyword research you’ll:

  • Know your audience better and know how they search for topics
  • Understand how many variations of keywords are in your niche

Why Is Initial Keyword Research Important?

Initial keyword research is going to give you a direction to go in and a firm understanding of what your users are searching for. It’s going to provide the foundation of your SEO strategy.

Imagine having a website that sells dining tables and chairs, you might think your users are primarily searching for tables by color. Some initial keyword research shows that there’s a lot of search volume around round and square tables.

Let’s look at keywords related to “dining tables”:

search results for dining tables
Source: Ahrefs

Having content related to those queries is going to provide value for your customers. We also see that “square dining tables for 8” has a keyword difficulty of 4, meaning that it’s on the easier end of ranking.

If you have limited resources that might be an article you’d want to start with. There’s great search volume and the difficulty is rather low.

Had you not done the research and started writing on other topics, you might be missing the mark.

When Should You Start Your Keyword Research?

Start keyword research as soon as you can. Even if you’re not able to start writing all the topics right away, giving yourself a plan of attack and creating a content calendar is valuable as you plan out your marketing year.

Additionally, you can start writing more valuable topics based on the research you’ve done. Doing keyword research early is also going to prevent you from writing content that your customers won’t engage with. You only have so much time, spend it where it will be most impactful.

What Tools Should You Use?

There are many tools available for keyword research. Some popular tools for keyword research are:

  • Ahrefs
  • SEMrush
  • KWFinder
  • MOZ
  • Ubersuggest

Many of these tools are similar, they show some form of difficulty (how hard it is to rank for the term), search volume (how many people are looking for that phrase every month), and some related keywords and variations.

Ahrefs also offers a “questions” field, so you can see what questions users are asking for. Often, informational content ranks well.

keyword research for questions
Source: Ahrefs

SEMrush is another well-regarded tool for keyword research. It works in a similar fashion, showing search volume, keyword difficulty, and related terms.

How To Do the Research

When starting keyword research there are a few metrics to look for:

  • Search volume: This is the average number of users searching these keywords each month. Ideally, you’ll want to target keywords with a substantial search volume.
  • Keyword difficulty: Find something that isn’t too difficult to rank for. If your site is in the early stages of growth, you won’t have a lot of authority to compete against the juggernauts in your space.
  • Related terms: Know what else your audience is searching for and group similar topics together. You can target several different keywords with a single article
  • Google: Search for the terms you’re going after and see what ranks. Is it informational content or transactional content showing up in the search engine results pages (SERPs)

Start Doing Your Keyword Research

With your understanding of keywords and the SEO tools used to find them, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do the research.

You’ll probably have a list of keywords you’d like to rank for. Start there, determine if there’s a search volume or if the keywords are so esoteric that they aren’t showing up.

Even if they aren’t, don’t worry, we’ll discuss long-tail keywords below. If your site is new, consider going after keywords with lower difficulty, you’ll have a better chance of ranking for those than more competitive terms.

One of the best ways to get started on keyword research is looking at terms your competitors rank for. Think of this as letting them do the heavy lifting for you. See what works for them and do it better.

Compile a spreadsheet with the keyword, volume, and difficulty. Decide which article is most important to start with, then start writing.

Check out what your competitors are doing and consider how you can improve upon that. Some of the SEO tools mentioned above will review your content and compare it against what is currently ranking in the SERPs.

Running your content through these tools tells you which keywords to add and if your article should be longer. It’s also a good idea to invest in a grammar checker to make sure your content is free from distracting errors.

What Are Long-tail Keywords?

We mentioned long-tail keywords earlier. Let’s dig into them. Often long-tail keywords may be overlooked in some search tools or show so little search volume that they don’t seem worth it. However, these keywords often have high intent.

In the example below, the person searching “best running shoes for kids” has a need, and probably has their credit card in their hand.

Ranking for these keywords is going to have a lower search volume than the head term “shoes” but the conversion rate is going to be higher.

These long-tail phrases may have a lower search volume, but they also have a lower keyword difficulty.

long-tail phrases
Source: Mangools

Additionally, these long-tail keywords are great to target if you have a physical location. It’s going to be easier to rank for “shoe store in Lake Placid” than it is to rank for “shoe store.”

What Is Keyword Cannibalization

It’s good to think of keywords not as singular but how they relate to topics.

The phrase “kids running shoes” and “running shoes for kids” are going to show as two different keywords in SEO keyword tools.

However, if an article ranks for one of these keywords it’s likely to rank for the other. Having two different articles on the same topic is going to result in keyword cannibalization. This means you’ll be competing with yourself for the same similar keywords and Google is going to have a hard time figuring out which version of the page to rank.

One page can rank for many keywords. The page that has the top organic result for “best kids running shoes” ranks for more than 4,000 keywords. With this in mind, you don’t need a separate page for every keyword you want to rank for. Know that one page will rank for many variations of the term you’re targeting, including pluralizations, misspellings, varying orders of the words, and so on.

search results for best kids running shoes
Source: Ahrefs

How To Perform a Content Gap Analysis

A content gap analysis is a little more of an advanced technique that yields dividends down the road. It can either be done during the initial discovery phase or later, as your site grows in both content and traffic.

Any of the tools mentioned earlier are going to help perform a content gap analysis. The gist is, you’re looking for keywords that your competitor ranks for that you don’t. This could be because you don’t have an article targeting that keyword on your site, or you’re being outranked by your competitor.

If you’re missing an article on a competitive term, go ahead and write the piece. If you’re being outranked, it’s time to review that piece of content and see what your competitor has that you don’t.

What To Do Next

A firm understanding of keyword research and a plan of attack is going to help you drive more traffic to your site and since you’ll be able to target your users, drive more meaningful traffic.

Start with some key phrases in a keyword research tool and go down the rabbit hole. After some time you’ll be able to find some keywords that have a healthy search volume and attainable keyword difficulty.