One of the fundamentals of SEO is carrying out in-depth research to determine which keywords your customers are using to find the products or services you’re offering.
If you want to achieve strong search visibility that leads to actual conversions, you’ll need to figure out which words and phrases are the most searched-for within your niche, then optimise your landing pages, blogs and other digital content for these terms.
There are many different approaches to SEO keyword research, and a plethora of readily available tools and resources that will help you find out which phrases are worth targeting (and, on the flip side, which will bring you little to no web traffic).
Here, we’ll talk you through the various stages of the keyword research process, based on tactics that have worked well for our SEO consultants in the past. Scroll down to the bottom of this blog to find links to some of the best-loved research and analysis software available.
Start with what you already know.
Based on your own experience, and the conversations you have with your customers, write a list of the keywords that you would expect them to use when looking for a company like yours. This list may change – but it’ll help you get into your buyers’ psyche.
Ask your staff and customers for their ideas, too.
This is an important but often neglected stage in the keyword research process. If you have linked your platform to Google Search Console, you’ll be able to see which topics people are looking for when they arrive on your site, and get a direct insight into the keywords you’re already ranking for naturally.
In your Search Console dashboard, go to Search Traffic > Search Analytics to see which words and phrases people are using to find you. You may be surprised by some of the results!
This rough primary data is a great starting point – but how do you know if people are actually using these keywords in search?
How do you know that, by targeting these keywords and ranking well for them, you’ll be exposing your web pages to real traffic, and placing your content in front of users with genuine buying intent?
You run them through a keyword analysis tool to get recent search volume data, that’s how!
The search volume of any given keyword will tell you how many people are typing this keyword into Google on a monthly basis. The higher the volume of searches, the more people you’ll be exposed to, as long as you can get your website’s pages to rank well.
Search volumes give you a valuable insight into how your customers’ minds might work. But you do need to take these statistics with a pinch of salt. They are often based on averages, so it’s often more useful to look at search volume trends over a year or so.
(You also have to allocate a percentage of any search volume to the business owners, marketing managers and SEOs who are checking the results as part of their keyword analysis and competitor research, just like you are!).
It can be tempting to immediately try to target highly searched keywords. But remember, the higher the search volume, the more competition there will be to rank for that particular keyword – because all of your competitors will want a slice of this same pie. Adding some less popular terms into your keyword targeting strategy could help you capture the market from a different angle and achieve quicker wins.
You’ve crunched the numbers, and now it’s time to think about why the user might use each keyword on your (now, much shorter) list.
Will they be using it because they know what they want to find, and they are ready to buy it? Or will they be typing it in to get an answer to a question; a solution to their problem?
Ideally, you want to put your pages in front of users who are further along in the buying cycle, and therefore more likely to convert into a paying customer. If this is the case, be sure to choose search terms with clear transactional intent.
However, there’s a place in every keyword targeting strategy for informational and commercial queries, too. Informational searchers may be unfamiliar with your brand and currently in the throes of their own research, but if they like what they see, they will bookmark your business and come back to it when they’ve considered all other options.
If you’d like to do a little more reading around keyword intent, check out this excellent article from SEMRush.
Once you’ve analysed the search volume data and picked out the phrases that you want to work with, you need to put together a page-by-page keyword targeting plan.
Look at your sitemap as a whole, then start assigning sets of keywords to each of your landing pages (and, if you want to go one step further, your blogs).
Try to target no more than 5 to 7 similar keywords with each page. It’s much better to make a piece of content highly relevant for a handful of terms than confuse the algorithms with too many different keyword mentions.
The below keyword research and analysis tools are bound to help you in your quest to find the perfect target key phrases for your ongoing SEO campaign.
Every SEO specialist has their preferred piece of software, but it’s important to try as many different tools as possible to see which works best for you.
Google Keyword Planner: Get search volumes and trend data straight from the horse’s mouth! This tool collects keyword data from Google’s own search database and uses it to generate new ideas. It’s free to use, as long as you have a Google Ads account.
Ahrefs: Powerful, intuitive and packed full of insights, Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer tool bills itself as the ‘most complete keyword research tool on the market’.
SEMRush: Its Keyword Magic Tool is especially helpful for keyword generation, as you can filter the results by common themes. SEMRush offers a range of paid plans for both businesses and agencies.
Moz Keyword Explorer: It’s held in very high regard amongst SEO professionals, not least because it contains data on over 500 million traffic-driving keywords.
Buzzsumo: A great find for those of you who want to identify the best-performing content on the web, and find keyword ideas based on the topics that are trending right now. Buzzsumo isn’t cheap, but it is effective – and you can try it out for 7 days, for free.
Google Trends: View top stories from different regions and gain real-time insights into global search behaviour. You can also use this tool to search and compare specific keywords for use within your own strategy.
Google AutoComplete: Just type one of your main targeted keyword phrases into Google’s search box, and some of the most popular related terms will appear in the drop-down list.
AnswerThePublic.com: Enter one core keyword into its generator, and you’ll soon find out how people are really searching around relevant topics. The ideas thrown into the mix by this handy piece of kit will help you decide which longer-tail phrases and questions are worth targeting with your wider content marketing strategy.
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