Good keyword research is an essential SEO practice, but it’s usually approached with some trepidation. However, it’s actually one of the simplest SEO practices out there when you know where to start.
So let’s dive right in!
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the practice of identifying popular search terms that are being used to find companies like yours. Once you know what terms people are using to look for you and your competitors, you can amend your online copy to reflect the type of language searchers are using with the aim of maximising your online visibility.
Being aware of keyword trends can help you in a number of non-SEO ways too, chiefly with market research. Knowing what search terms people are using to find companies like yours can give you valuable insight into trends, needs, and pain points within your target market.
There are many different ways of approaching keyword research, but we’re going to look at a simple approach that you can start using today.
There may be a temptation to jump online immediately, but good keyword research often starts offline. Think carefully about how you explain what you do to people. What questions do folks generally ask you about your business? What issues do you help people to solve?
If you have a customer-facing team, ask them what questions they get regularly asked in their day-to-day work. This can help you identify which topics are of highest interest to your client base, and should give you a good initial idea of what people are generally thinking about/looking for when they’re reaching out to a company like yours.
This kind of introspection can help kickstart some great keyword research – and market research too!
Identify “Seed” Keywords
Look at the concepts you’ve identified above and boil them down into basic “seed” keywords that describe what you do or sell. Say you’re a candle shop who has identified that wooden wick candles, vegan candles and wax melts are particularly popular at the moment. Your keyword research may start with some generic terms, such as ”hand dipped candles”, “wooden wick candles”, “vegan candles”,”sculpted candles”, and ”scented wax melts”.
Make a note of all of these general terms you can think of, and build on these “seed” ideas using tools like KeywordTool.io, UberSuggest and Answer The Public to expand into longer, more precise key terms.
You’re likely to end up with a good many keywords, and as such you would most likely benefit from listing them in a spreadsheet. You may also want to split them into categories, especially if they cover a lot of different product or service ranges.
It’s also important to focus on keywords that have a strong buying intent. The candle shop in our example may want to focus on keywords like “hand carved candle” or even better “buy carved candles online”; rather than things where the buying intent is lower such as “how to repair carved candle” or “protect candles from sun bleaching”. However, don’t discard these terms entirely – they might be good ideas for blog posts at some point.
Establish the Current Search Situation
Next up, head over to Google Search Console, and go to the “Search Traffic>Search Analytics” report. This report basically shows you how many times you appeared in search for what terms (called your “impressions”) and how many times a search for that term resulted in a click through to your website (“clicks”).
Are there any particular search terms here that seem to be working well for you? Add them to your list! Take care to also check out the “position” of each term too – this is your site’s average place in search results for that term. If the number is 10 or lower for any given term, then you’re most likely appearing on the front page when people search for it – congrats!
Eyeing Up the Competition
Next up, it’s time to look at what your competitors are doing, which unfortunately involves a bit more legwork.
Sign out of your Google account, clear your web cache, and head over to Google.co.uk. Now, take one of your highest performing keywords from the Search Console report, paste it into the search bar, and search. Make a note of where you and each of your competitors rank, and do this for every keyword in your list – recording data like search positions is where using a spreadsheet really comes in handy!
Analyse your findings and ask yourself: do your competitors rank above or below you on certain key terms? Do they dominate the first page for certain terms but not others? Are there any terms where you’re performing better than them? Keep a record of your relative ranking for each term.
Gauging Popularity & Competitiveness
Now it’s time to look at the popularity of your search terms using Google’s Keyword Planner. If your list of keywords is still a little thin on the ground, then the first option “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website, or category” might help you expand it a little.
In order to assess the popularity of certain search terms, we’ll need the second option “Get search volume data and trends”. Choose this option, then copy and paste your keywords into the tool, and click “Get Search Volume”. This will give you information about each key term (or close variations), including how many times those terms have been searched on average within the date range chosen.
Weighing up which keywords you should focus on is a delicate balancing act between how competitive the terms are and how many times they get searched on average. Everybody in your field is likely to be shooting for the high-volume terms, which will make them very competitive.
Those new to the world of SEO may benefit from framing content around low-competition keywords with good buying intent and lower average search volume; at least as a jumping off point.
However, if you find a term with a decent search volume that your competitors aren’t ranking well for, that could potentially be a great find. It may be worth you creating a piece of content around it, or incorporating that term a little more within your online copy.
What do I do with all of this data?
Sure, it’s nice to have a list of keywords and an awareness of their popularity, but what exactly does it mean?
Being aware of which keywords are important to searchers and competitors can help you in a number of practical ways:
- Quality keywords can help you put together meaningful and attractive website copy, with great ideas for title tags, meta descriptions, and URLs for your website’s core pages.
- Keywords can act as a springboard for content marketing ideas. Good awareness of popular searches can help you pinpoint much-sought after topics that you can talk about on your blog, through social media, or over marketing emails.
- You can use your identified keywords as the basis of pay-per-click campaigns through Google or social media.
- Continual monitoring of keywords can help you identify emerging trends in your industry, allowing you to plan how you’ll make the most of them.
So, does that mean that my keyword research adventure is over?
No, keyword research should be carried out on an ongoing basis. Tastes and searching habits will change over time, so it’s crucial to keep an ear to the ground for online changes and trends. Continual monitoring of keywords will help you stay aware of new behaviour and changes within your market online.
Keyword research can go much more in-depth than the practices we have discussed here, but these methods are a great place to start. Though keywords are important, they are just a part of the over 200 ranking factors that Google uses to rank websites – so your SEO adventure is just beginning!Struggling with basic #keywordresearch? Check out this easy beginner’s guide! Click To Tweet
How proficient are you at keyword research? Do you have any additional beginner tips and tricks you’d like to share? Please let us know down in the comments!