Hello everyone and welcome back to our blog! In today’s article, we are going to have a look at perhaps one of the most interesting and pivotal elements of Search Engine Optimisation – Keywords.
Keywords and the process of keyword research have always been essential for proper optimisation, but they have gone through several forms. This has (understandably) caused a lot of confusion, especially with the people who are not very familiar with the intricacies of SEO.
And yes, this article is going to be … a tad longer than our average posts. However, we’ve got a lot to cover, so please bear with us. For your convenience, we have compiled a simple table of contents that you can use to quickly jump to the sections that interest you the most if you happen to be short on time. Still, we would highly advise you to read the entire thing from top to bottom, regardless of whether you are an aspiring SEO expert (important learning resource!), a grizzled veteran (refresh your knowledge and stay up to date) or a business owner who wants to understand the basics of a keyword research.
So what is Keyword Research?
Keywords or focus words describe the content on your website. It’s the search term you want your website page or blog post to rank for in Google or other search engines.
Keywords are one of the main things which bring visitors to your website. If you have a website, selling “organic raw honey”, for example, you would want people to visit your website when they type “organic raw honey” in Google, right? Well, that’s exactly what the keywords are going to do.
And, this is why keyword research is one of the first and most essential parts of SEO. It is a process, during which the person doing the optimisation compiles a list of specific words, for which the website would be aiming to rank for in search engines. Ideally, before you start, you should have already decided on the details of your website.
Looking back at our example, you should figure out what your ideal customer is looking for – words, terms, questions, phrases, sentences, brands and so on, in relation to your product/service.
Armed with this information, you can produce high-quality content, which will, in turn, drive high-quality traffic to the website.
Is keyword research still important for SEO?
What makes keywords so important, you ask?
Well, keywords are the main method that will get visitors to your website.
First, they are what will tell search engines like Google that your website’s content matches the user’s search query. Then, said users would get to see the keywords, featured in your website and will want to click through to it.
Keyword research, or, well, proper keyword research, is the key to making this happen. It will clear up the search terms, most frequently used by your target audience, streamlining the rest of the process. Oftentimes, however, business owners or website managers will choose keywords that do not match the ones, used by their target audience. And, as you can probably guess, this will result in a significant loss of potential business opportunities.
SEO and marketing have to go hand-in-hand
This often-overlooked fact can make or break your optimisation. Sometimes, the people over at marketing will come up with a really creative, off-the-beaten-track name for a product. And while that would typically give you a quirky advantage over the competition (because customers might remember your name easier, for example), it can also lead to problems for your optimisation down the line.
So, if you decide to sell “beelicious honey” instead of “organic raw honey”, your target audience might have a difficult time finding the product.
If your SEO team is worth its salt, you are still going to rank for your quirky product name – search engines aren’t going to do anything to prevent you from achieving the spot that you deserve.
Your traffic, however, is almost guaranteed to suffer from it, because a considerable portion of the target audience doesn’t go out there looking for “beelicious honey”.
So, to answer the original question – Yes. Keyword research matters a great deal. It can absolutely make or break your marketing strategy and change the direction of your business in the long run.
Know your audience, do the research properly, and you are off to a wonderful start. Mess things up, and, well … you might as well go back to the drawing board.
Keyword Research Tools
Google Keyword Planner
Starting off with Google’s very own (and most widely-used) tool – the Google Keyword Planner. This is a relatively straightforward to use, but incredibly powerful tool, invaluable during the preliminary research stage of your campaign. Backed up by Google’s extensive documentation, you can look into, compare and discover new keywords, related to your niche, products and services, as well as see the estimated searches and targeting cost for ad campaigns.
Ubersuggest is one of the best free “idea generators” out there. Its algorithm can provide you with new keywords and content ideas, complete with detailed statistics, based on your criteria.
SEMrush is an extensive all-in-one toolkit (or, in their own words – suite), for keyword research and comparison, marketing insights and reporting. It is perhaps one of the most well-established third-party tools out there, loved by marketing agencies far and wide. It can help with fine-tuning your keyword strategy, improving your online presence, researching your keywords and competitors and managing your campaigns.
Ahrefs is another complex toolkit, centred around search engine optimisation and analysis. Ahrefs advanced algorithms put them well-ahead of most similar platforms out there, facilitating a larger-than-usual base of links and an extensive index, delivered at record speeds. They can help you look into the backlinks of any website, gauge the visibility of content at a glance, estimate traffic for various keywords and run audits on specific pages. Additionally, they also offer a monitoring service and rank tracking, backed up by detailed reports.
Different Types of Keywords
Now, before you dive right into your keyword research, we should also talk about the various “types” of keywords out there. Because, yes, keywords also come in all sorts of … flavours?
Short-tail keywords (Generic)
Short-tail keywords, also known as “Generic Keywords” are phrases which can be used to broadly describe your product or service. In our example, this would be “raw honey”.
The competition for generic keywords is very high, and, since they aren’t highly specific, we would advise you to steer clear of them for your organic optimisation strategy.
And while it is true that if you manage to rank for a Generic Keyword, your website is going to enjoy a high amount of traffic, you should not expect to convert every single visitor.
When looking at tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, you will notice that Generic Keywords cost a lot more per click than their longer counterparts.
Middle-tail keywords (Broad)
Middle-tail keywords, also known as “Broad Keywords” are a tad longer and less generic than their short-tail counterpart.
Following our example, you would be looking at terms like “organic raw honey” or “pure raw honey”. While ranking for a middle tail keyword is going to get you fewer visitors in comparison to short-tail keywords, you are also going to encounter a lot less competition.
Additionally, the people who find your website for a more specific term are much more likely to convert and purchase your product or service.
A significant portion of the small and medium-sized businesses websites that you see out there primarily rely on middle and long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords are a bit more “specific”, and, well, as the name suggests – long. Long-tail keywords have low monthly search volume.
On average, fewer users are going to randomly stumble upon your website by entering a long-tail phrase as opposed to a shorter one. That being said, ranking for long-tail keywords is usually much easier (and much cheaper) and the conversion rates are higher.
If we go back to our example with the “raw honey” website, you could have “raw honey” vs “pure organic raw honey UK”.
Even if you have never as much as thought about SEO before, you can safely assume that the competition for “raw honey” would be a lot fiercer. And you would be right, of course.
Long-tail keywords are less likely to capture “random” visitors, but if someone ends up on your website after searching for a long-tail phrase, you can be sure that they’re there with the intent to purchase (or use your service/subscribe/whatever else you intend for them to do).
How to do Keyword Research
Here, we’ll give you a quick and simple 8-step approach to keyword research.
Step 1 – Solidify Your Business Idea
Before you begin your keyword research, you need to have a long-term goal in mind. Not just for your website, but also the business as a whole. And, you’d be surprised by the number of businesses that get that part wrong (foiling their chances for long-term success long before they’ve even begun).
Sit down, take out a pen and think about the business.
What is its main goal?
What is the “mission” of the company or organisation?
Why is it special?
Why would people choose it over the competition?
Who are these people?
What sort of solutions (products, services or information) is the website going to offer to its visitors?
Write down everything you come up with. Your answers are going to serve as the foundation of your keyword strategy (and potentially – your business strategy as a whole).
Depending on the field and niche that you have chosen, you might need to get a bit creative. The highly profitable fields tend to be really competitive, and you are likely to find yourself competing against big companies, backed up by huge budgets.
But don’t worry, because if you have the right strategy, there is always hope (especially if you have the right strategy). It is also vital, however, to remain realistic. You are unlikely to rank higher than a business like Microsoft, Google or Facebook, for example.
If you are in a highly competitive field, you will generally want to start small and build your way up. Establish your website in the market and slowly expand from there.
Step 2 – Prepare Your Keyword List
After figuring out your mission, comes the time to compile your keyword list. For this step, we would suggest using an app like Google Sheets (for easier sharing) or MS Excel.
As long as you’ve got a decent understanding of your business and its niche, you should be able to pinpoint the unique selling points of your product or service. Sit down and think about the type of person who would best benefit it.
What are you offering? What people are going to be looking for it and why? Where would they hang out? What would be their interests, problems, likes and dislikes?
Now, if you are familiar with marketing strategies, this is probably starting to sound familiar. But, remember how we said that marketing and SEO go hand-in-hand? This is precisely why.
Going through the questions above will help you “figure out” your ideal customer. This is the type of person that you will be working to attract to your website, and this will be the primary audience for your product or service.
And, just like that, you’ve got the search terms that you will want to appear for.
Step 3 – Get down to research
So, you’ve got your idea, your mission, your customer and your list of keywords. Congratulations. Now, it’s time to pull up your sleeves and get digging. You’re going to want to take each and every keyword from your list and put it to the test.
But don’t worry, it’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds, because there are a bunch of tools that can help you out (like the ones we mentioned a couple of sections ago). You can take your pick (or spend a bit of time with each of them). However, we would suggest that you start with Google’s search engine.
Open up your browser and run a quick Google search for each of your keywords. Pay close attention to the suggestions provided by the algorithm – “people also search for” and “related searches” are your best friends here.
People also search for
People use Google differently. Some search for specific terms, while others prefer asking questions. And these questions are going to do a lot of the job for you.
After running the entirety of your list through Google search (and writing down what you find), you can move on to the other tools. Take your time and don’t rush – this is one of the most important foundational steps before the actual optimisation begins. If you don’t have a solid foundation, the entire project will suffer.
At the end of the entire process, your spreadsheet should feature a lot more information. You will have keyword variation, related key phrases and synonyms. Do a bit of research on all of them as well and add them to the list if they fit the bill.
Step 4 – Look for the long-tail
Now, let’s talk long-tail.
While it is true that not a lot of people are going to search directly for your long-tail keyphrase, using them well can definitely improve your overall performance by a ton, especially in the more competitive fields.
Here’s how it works:
The shorter and broader the keyword, the more likely you are to encounter big, well-established businesses in the first positions.
Since long-tail keywords get fewer searches (and less traffic overall), you will face a lot less competition. Besides, if someone is searching for a very specific long-tail phrase, they’re much more likely to convert (that’s not just an opinion but a fact – long-tail keywords will have a much higher conversion value on average).
Going back to our earlier example, if someone is looking for “pure organic raw honey UK”, they are likely prepared to make a purchase.
Write down your long-tail keyword ideas and repeat the process from Step 3, running them first through Google Search and then through the rest of your chosen tools.
Then, add them to your spreadsheet, by setting aside a separate column(s) for them. As a side-note, this will also help your web development team create a solid website structure. The longer the keyphrase, the further down into the site stricter it belongs.
Step 5 – Consider the Competition
So, we’ve already mentioned your competitors a couple of times, now let’s have a look at how exactly they impact your strategy.
Analysing your competition plays a big part in choosing between generic and long-tail keywords.
If you are dealing with very serious and dedicated competition, long-tail keywords are going to be your best bet, especially if you are working with a modest budget.
Lower competition, on the other hand, will allow you to rank easier on head keywords. A bit of testing and competition research goes a long way here.
One of the best and easiest tools that will help you with this is Google itself. Running a quick search on each of your keywords (starting with the main one) will show you where you stand.
Take a quick look at the first page results, and you will see your main competitors. Now, go through their websites one by one – are they well-made? Does it seem like they were created by a team of experts, or were they hastily put together in an afternoon? Are you going up against large companies and corporations or small and medium-sized businesses that you can realistically match? How does your project idea fare against the things that you see on-screen? Are you likely to have an impact on this niche?
Don’t underestimate yourself, but try to be realistic. A small business show is unlikely to dethrone Amazon, but, provided you know what you are doing, you have a very decent chance of competing against your average small or medium-sized business.
If you happen to find a major brand in your way, your chances to take the first position are going to be much smaller. Still, you shouldn’t give up just yet. Take a closer look at their website and check to see if their content is well-optimised. As long as you aren’t selling the exact same thing as they are, you could still beat them if you create a better website.
Now, shift your attention to the Ads that Google is showing you (if there are any). Here, your Google Ads account will come in handy, as you can use it to check for the pay-per-click pricing quickly. Usually, the more expensive keywords are going to prove more difficult.
As with all of the previous steps, we would urge you to take detailed notes and save the URLs of your main competitors in your spreadsheet. If you want to be really thorough, you could also screencap some of their websites for quicker reference.
Step 6 – Determine the intent
Search intent also plays a crucial role in determining your strategy. The majority of modern SEO strategies rely on knowing your audience. Generally, when people want to know more about a subject, they are going to go on the online and look for answers. So, they open up their browser and “ask” their favourite search engine (usually Google). For some niches, a significant portion of the traffic is going to come from being able to answer these questions.
Okay, but how do you find out the intent of your ideal customer? Well, remember how we talked about marketing and SEO? That’s yet another place where the two come together. Understanding your ideal customer will allow you to figure out what they’re after.
Are your customers after information about a specific subject (informational intent)?
Are they trying to research a product before spending their money on it (commercial intent)?
Do they want to go to a specific website (navigational intent)?
Or are they ready to purchase and looking for a place to do it (transactional intent)?
Lucking, Google has your back here. Searching for your keyphrases and examining the types of pages that show up can tell you a lot about the kind of visitor that you would get if you were to rank there. For example, if your query brings up mostly retailer websites and online stores, then you’re looking at a transactional keyword. Product review websites, on the other hand, would suggest a commercial intent-focused keyword. You get the idea.
Figure out the type of search intent for your keywords before adding it to your spreadsheet and moving on to step number seven.
Step 7 – Solidify Your Strategy
If you have been following closely up to this point, you should have a pretty solid spreadsheet, complete with a long list of phrases, long-tail keywords and information about your competitors. Now comes the time to take your research and make it work for you.
Take a good look at your data and, using the knowledge about your niche, think how well your website fits with the competition. Take all aspects into consideration – quality, budget, content variety and product or service selection. If you are equally matched with the websites on the top places, you can safely focus on this keyword. If they aren’t, it’s best to take the long-tail approach. But don’t let this get you down – a good mixture of long-tail keywords can drive a substantial amount of traffic to your website.
Before you move on, there is also one other thing to consider here – the type of content that you will be publishing on your website. Here, the understanding of your target customer is going to play a vital role. For optimal results, you will want to focus on the type of content that your customer is after. Everything else takes a back seat. Your content production team should be not just knowledgeable but also passionate about the subject as well. Remember – you want to really get into the head of your customers here. What are your customers looking for? How are you going to give it to them? Can you produce something ground-breaking and original? Something they won’t be able to find anywhere else? If that is not an option (and for a lot of niches, it isn’t, so don’t worry too much about it), how can you stand out from the competition?
The answers to these questions are vital for the long-term success of your business, going well-beyond the Search Engine Optimisation part and straight into the marketing strategy.
Step 8 – Build Your Landing Pages
While this isn’t technically a part of the keyword research process per se, landing pages are intricately connected to Search Engine Optimisation and vital for your success. Because, as we often like to point out, SEO is now what gets you sales. Traffic is important, but it does nothing to guarantee that your visitors will make a purchase.
Once the users arrive on your website, they need a reason to stay there. The content of the page needs to be perfectly aligned with the intent that brought the visitor there. Otherwise, you run the risk of your visitor quickly losing interest and hitting the back button to return to Google Search. Of course, crafting the perfect landing page is not easy. It can take a lot of time, effort and research. You want authoritative and well-researched content, backed up by solid visuals and good internal linking. This is more of a long-term goal, so take your time and don’t rush.
Are you ready to start your keyword research?
And, there you have it, folks – you now know keyword research 101. And while this guide won’t turn you into an SEO guru or a marketing expert, it will at least give you the basic understanding of how it all comes together. In closing, we would like to remind you that Search Engine Optimisation is not a one-time deal and that every strategy can benefit from a quick refresh every now and then. The trends in the digital world change rather quickly, and losing positions due to negligence is sadly a common occurrence.
If you need help with the Search Engine Optimisation of your website, or advice, regarding your Marketing Strategy, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our experts will be more than happy to help.