What is keyword research for SEO?
Keyword research is the process of searching for which words you would like to optimise your website for.
That means discovering keywords that you want to appear for in Google’s search results.
Want to know why keyword research is so important?
Your end goal for your website is to get as many users to it, and then to convert.
But you can only do this, when you have a successful keyword strategy in place. That means, in an ideal world, you’re ranking in the top position in the listings for at least your priority keywords.
For example, we worked with a client in January 2020 and optimised their page entitled ‘Modular Housing’. The primary keyword for this page was ‘modular buildings’ with a search volume of 1600 per month.
As a result of our work, we saw an increase to position 1 for this keyword.
The on page optimisation our experts carried out on the page is reflected in our reporting, and you can see how this position 1 has been maintained over five months, which is very steady.
How did this affect the organic traffic to the client’s website?
We can see in Google Analytics that there was a strong year on year increase from January 2019 to January 2020 in new users.
So, it’s because of the keyword strategy in place for this page that it was bringing in this level of organic traffic.
So, what are the 3 key considerations when evaluating keywords for search engine optimisation?
Frequency, competition and relevance, in a nutshell. So, that’s the number of mentions of your primary, secondary and tertiary keywords, how competitive those terms are, and how relevant they are on that page to your user.
Or, in other words, how do you know how to find keywords for SEO?
It’s not as simple as throwing some terms onto your page and hoping for the best.
You need to conduct keyword research thoroughly first to begin developing a plan of optimisation.
But before you can start your discovering keywords, you need to assess who your audience is.
Think of your audience before you start your keyword research process
This can be overlooked sometimes. But it’s crucial to think about your audience before you start searching.
Don’t assume that you already know what your users are searching for, because you know the ins and outs of your business.
That’s what keyword research is all about.
- Why are they searching? Do we they want a better understanding of the product or service? Or are they ready to make a purchase straight away?
- Is your product or service a one-off investment for a potential customer, or would they make multiple purchases over time?
- Where are your users based? Are they in the US, UK or somewhere else? And, are they local, national and international?
Understanding keyword intent
Asking those questions is the first in your process to building a keyword strategy.
Once you’ve started to build a better idea of who your potential users are, you can begin to understand the different types of keywords and their intent.
What is keyword intent?
Keyword intent is the motive or intention behind the user who is searching.
For example, if a user searched “ps3 vs xbox”, they are likely to be still undecided between the two products, in their customer journey.
They would be looking for an easy, visual comparison in the form of a table, video or an infographic that highlights the differences between the two products they’re interested in, like this:
Whereas, if a user searched “where to buy Xbox”, they are more likely to be much further down the funnel.
They’re much closer to a purchase, and would be looking for a pricing page or information on companies they can buy from.
This search would look like this:
What happens if you get keyword intent wrong when you optimise a page?
If your users don’t land on the content that answers the question behind their query, they are more likely to exit the page. This is what causes a bounce rate, which means you lose your organic traffic, and thus get no conversions.
What is the difference between long tail and short tail keywords?
Long tail keywords are those that have three or more words in. Whereas, short tail keywords have only one or two.
Why do they matter? Often, long tail keywords have a much more niche search volume, than short tail ones.
It would be very difficult to rank first place for the short tail keyword “shoes” because it has 101,000 searches on average every month.
This is why you use targeted and longer tail keywords to optimise a given page, for example, a “women’s shoes” category page.
You might choose “women’s shoes” as your primary target keyword, which has a search volume of 9600 a month.
Then, you can conduct keyword research to find further long tail terms that you could include in your plan as secondary relevancy.
Longer tail keywords might include mentions of the type of product, such as colour, style or a USP.
Alternatively, there may be simple variations of the wording, like “shoes for women” instead of “women’s shoes”, which offers you another opportunity.
Now we’ve dipped into what short tail and long tail keywords are, let’s break down some of the types of searches.
This is when someone is requiring information and wants the solution in that one search. In fact, there is a type of search result for exactly this type of query, called the ‘quick answer’. It looks like this:
You might come across question terms, including ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘how’, ‘when’, and ‘why’, in your keyword research.
Depending on the term, these could form new content opportunities for you to consider, be it creative content in the form of a helpful user guide, or a service page on site.
Once you’ve understood the keyword intent of a user, you can look at the different types of keywords.
First, let’s look at long tail and short tail keyword research.
A local search is when a user wants to pinpoint something local.
For example, “bistros near me” has an average search volume of 100 every month, and the results look like this.
Google recognises the geographical demand in the search and provides the user with the map, as well as the review ratings, location and brief description of the type of bistro.
You would need to do keyword research for local SEO if you had, for example, different location pages on your website, or if you found that people are searching for ‘your service/product + location’.
But we’ll go into this later.
A transactional search is when the user wants to do something in particular.
For example, “flights to Amsterdam” has a search volume of 58,000 per month. Google recognises that the user could be ready to purchase their tickets now, and returns these results.
As you can see, the user is provided with links to some popular airlines.
They also see the dates, times and cost of the next available flight to their searched location, as well of the duration of the flight itself.
Understanding competition in your research
When you’re discovering keywords and selecting the ones to include to your plan, knowing how your competition is and how difficult it may or may not be to rank against them in the same space can be make or break.
So, how do you know?
The first thing is to look at what your known competitors are ranking for.
Are there any keywords they’re ranking for, but you’re not? If so, consider if you’d want to rank for them.
We’d always recommend doing an incognito search every so often for your primary keyword, just to keep an eye open for any potentially new competitors that you might want to be aware of.
Another point to note is the level of competition for certain keywords, as well as who your competitors are.
For instance, there might be 250,000 users searching for “boots”, which is competitive because there are so many people looking so it could be very difficult to get into the space.
The tricky part is that lower search volume doesn’t necessarily mean easier competition.
But you can use keyword research tools that help indicate how difficult it might be to rank.
For example, Ahref’s Keyword Explorer tells us that “english handmade shoes” only has a search volume of 70 people per month, but the other number of 76 (called the difficulty number) tells us it’s very competitive
What keyword research tools should I use?
There are lots of keyword research tools available, depending on your budget. Some of the most popular choices are:
How to do keyword research for local businesses
Now you know the basics of local SEO, you can follow the steps provided from our SEO specialists, to learn how to do keyword research for local businesses.
- Make a list of the location pages you already have, and want to create – this can work the other way around with step two, if you identify a gap to create a new location page
- Use one of the tools above to find out if there is search volume around your “service/product + location” – this can be time consuming
- Peek at your competitors to check if they are ranking for a location keyword that you’re not – this could give you an opportunity to compete
Top tip! Don’t forget to start your local keyword research broadly so that you’re less likely to miss any locations. For instance, searching for keywords around UK
How to do keyword research for SEO in 2020
- Think of your ideal customer persona – so, who and where are they? What do they like? Do they have any weaknesses?
- Map out your web pages you want to include in your optimisation plan
- Decide on a logical primary keyword for that page
- Use one of the above tools to research for your ideal primary term
- Look at the other keyword suggestions, and get the ball rolling
It’s worth remembering the keyword research process is definitely one of trial and error.
Sometimes, it can be quicker than you think, and other times you have to dig around a while longer to find the opportunities.
Start your keyword research to build up a keyword map for your site. Then, use this as part of your SEO and content marketing plan.
Those are the basics to get you started. Why not head over to our blog to keep in the loop on everything you need to know when it comes to digital marketing?