Keywords are words or phrases, also known as queries, a search engine receives from its users who are looking for something.
You might type into Google a question such as “what is entrepreneurship?” This query is a keyword, or keyphrase.
Keyword research is merely doing enough research to understand what your customers are searching for and how those words rank. Knowing how those words rank will help you understand how your content can rank.
What Comes First: the Content or the Keyword Research?
Typically, it’s ideal to begin with topical research to better understand how the content should be written to provide the best result for the query.
Once you know what a user is searching for, you’ll want to drill down the content direction. Some general keyword questions to ask yourself when you’re looking for ways to create your content are:
- How difficult might it be to rank for this keyword?
- How much traffic am I likely to get if I rank for this keyword?
- What type(s) of content should I create to rank for this keyword?
- Are people searching for this keyword likely to become my customers?
Knowing how hard it will be to rank for a keyword directly plays into how much traffic a keyword may be able bring to you.
A keyword you are unlikely to rank on will not bring much, if any, traffic to your website.
However, in the same way, ranking highly for a query with no search volume will have the same result.
The best keywords are ones you can rank highly for which also have a substantial, targeted volume of search.
How Do You Find Good Keywords?
Chances are, simply creating content around the who-what-when-why-where of your product or service is going to be the ideal place to start.
Answering queries about your product or service are ideal to attract new customers as well as have a repository of information for your current customers, as well.
The basic steps we typically use to find profitable keywords are:
- Brainstorming ‘seed’ keywords
- Reviewing competitor keywords
- Utilizing market-wide keyword research
- Studying your industry as a whole
What are Seed Keywords?
Seed keywords define your niche and help you find your competitors and what they’re using to rank. You can plug seed keywords into keyword tools such as Google Ads Keyword Planner, Keyword Tool, Ahrefs, Wordtracker, and others.
These tools help you to find alternative keywords and keyword clusters (meaning groups of queries which are all aimed at the same or similar result).
Tools focusing on keyword research offer you insights and data critical to making decisions on where to begin.
They should answer questions like:
- How often does the phrase get used?
- What kind of traffic could it generate?
- Is the keyword attached to a specific brand?
- What formats of content perform the best?
Competitor Keywords (and Why They Matter)
When searching for keywords, you should check your competitors first.
Their keywords will give you an idea of what is searched, what isn’t, and whether or not you’re searching the correct keywords in the first place. The easiest way to find who ranks for a keyword is to search it and see who comes up on the first page of Google.
Your competitors have likely done their own research already, so you’re piggybacking some of this already – however, you need to look for a new angle, or be prepared to have better content than them if you want to rank higher.
Use Keyword Research Tools
Afterwards, you can plug the ranking websites into various keyword analyzers listed above to check the most popular pages on each website.
Use Google Keyword Planner, or another free SEO tool, enter some of your seed keywords and see what you get in return. Sometimes it’s worth targeting keywords that aren’t in any big competitor’s pockets.
It’s best to harvest lots of queries from all different sources, drop them into a spreadsheet, and organize them into clusters before going any further. This organization greatly cuts down the process of content generation later.
Study Your Niche
All of the above steps will generate many keywords, but the process keeps you on track strictly with services or products.
It may not capture your industry, as a whole, which can provide value traffic and branding opportunities.
Diving into your niche or industry and reviewing forums, Facebook groups, and Q&A sites can help refine your search. Often times, there are real people asking real questions here, so the queries are instantly validated.
What is a Keyword Cluster?
A keyword cluster is a group or collection of the searches used to seek an answer to a question.
Many people may have the same general question when they type a query into Google, but what they type may vary quite a bit.
Creating clusters is consolidating all these queries into one “thought” and building your content around answering the general question as best you can.
These are important because all related queries should be “nested” within the same piece of content – in other words, you wouldn’t write an article on your blog for every single query, but rather keep them all together since they are highly correlated.
How Do You Choose The Best Keywords To Target?
Once you’ve created a set of keywords you feel strongly are valuable to your end user or buyer, you’ll want to choose the ones which will have the greatest benefit the quickest.
- Identify with your customer and target audience
- Be helpful, insightful, and evergreen
- Attract additional interest in what you have to offer
- Remain realistic in your ability to rank for them
- Showcase your expertise, knowledge, or unique proposition
Something you’ll discover is after you begin ranking for many, many keywords, the greatest percentage of your traffic will come from long tail keywords.
Long tail keywords are essentially all the crazy ways people query search engines which result in your content being displayed.
A long tail keyword example might something like this:
best grill under $500 free shipping propane
The user journey here was something originally seeking a grill, but then they further defined their search by adding a budget (under $100), a purchasing restraint (shipping), and finally the type of grill they want (propane).
How Often Do You Need To Do Keyword Research?
Part of understanding keyword research is knowing it’s constantly evolving, and your content and website are likely constantly growing, too.
As you attract more and more people, and rank for more and more keywords, you’ll find you’re opening a lot more doors to additional content in a wide array.
Some of the faster evolving areas tend to be timely ones, involving:
- Keywords by competitors and new market entrants
- Keywords by seasons, fluctuations, or industry changes
- Keywords by regions, demographics, or product changes
Keywords by Competitor
Seeking out new keywords your competitors missed might be to your advantage, as well as beating the new market entrants to these keywords as well.
Missed opportunities shouldn’t stay missed for very long. You might also want to prioritize a few of your competitors high ranking keywords, especially if the competition is not ranking for them at the time.
Keywords by Season
Knowing about seasonal trends is essential in setting up a content strategy. Keep an eye on how seasonal trends are going, especially if it suits your keywords, and can help you gain more traffic.
This could relate to seasons of the year, holidays which escalate searches, or even general shopping sales cycles.
Keywords by Region
For region-specific keywords, look at how towns or counties or even states are choosing to search in Google.
Knowing geo-specifics can make content relevant to potential customers and make this content more accessible. Every region has a different way of searching for online information.
Using location unique content can really help to increase your most targeted user if geography impacts decision making.
Still Have Questions?
Keyword research is the starting point for many of your business’s online marketing efforts.
Putting the effort into keyword research can help you make the most of your digital marketing budget and connect with more consumers.
Lastly, it can help create valuable traffic to your website or business for years to come.