Keyword Research for SEO: What, Why and How?

by | Jul 16, 2019

As Google continues to grow, you may be spending more and more on digital marketing services. If you’ve been on the fence about search engine optimisation (SEO), it can be difficult zoning in on where to spend your marketing dollars.

If you’ve done any search engine optimisation (SEO) or have been researching it for a while, it’s likely you’ve heard the term keyword research.

More than just a buzzword, keyword research is arguably the most important step in any SEO or internet marketing campaign. 

The bottom line:

If you want to improve the visibility of your business on Google, you have to get the keyword research right. 

This article breaks down what it takes to lay out and execute these campaigns, so you can decide if it’s something you and your team have the capacity to take on yourself or if you want to schedule a call.

What is keyword research?

In case you you’re not familiar with the term, keyword research is really what you likely think of when you think of SEO.  It is the process of discovering the words and phrases people use in various search engines to find your business. Discovery is just the beginning, there are a variety of ways to use them that we’ll touch on in just a moment. 

Why is keyword research so important?

People turn to search engines more than they turn to their friends to find their information online. Research shows that 9 in 10 people turn to the internet when looking to purchase. 84% of them actually believe online reviews over the opinions of their friends!

Crazy right!

At the heart of every one of these searches is a keyword. Every single one. You literally can’t search without them. Keyword research is a blueprint in the sense that it has an impact on every other SEO task that you are going to invest in. Keywords help set what your business is known for.

Having this done upfront and done properly will have a positive impact on your bottom line. 

Search Volume

A term you hear hand and hand with keyword research is search volume. Search volume is the number of people searching with the particular query in a given period of time. Search volume is important because if no one is searching for your keywords no one will find your content. But if you only go after keywords with search volume that is too high, you’ll find the top 10 filled with larger sites.  

Competition

Gauging the competition for keywords is crucial. Focusing your marketing dollars on keywords that are too difficult to rank will cost you money. 

The key is to find keywords that are realistic in the short term and work on those while building the authority to contend with some of the more competitive stuff out there. It is difficult to do this step without the assistance of SEO tools. 

Searcher Intent

It’s important to step back for a moment and talk about searcher intent. It’s not enough to simply know what your prospects are searching for and throwing that phrase into an article. You have to think about what the searcher is actually trying to accomplish when they are making the query. 

There are 4 categories searches are typically identified:

  • Navigational – searchers are looking for a specific site or brand
  • Information – searches are trying to answer a question
  • Investigational – searches are looking for information with the goal of a transaction
  • Transactional – searchers are ready to buy

If your content is devised strategically and provides what the user wants, you’ve accomplished your goal. It may not always result in an immediate sale, but will affirm in that person’s mind that your business is the authority and can be relied to answer the questions they have.

Keyword Types

There are a few components of keyword phrase. You’ve likely heard these names before as well. 

Keywords are typically classified in 3 types: the head, the body and the longtail.

  • Head keywords – 1 or 2 words, high search volume
  • Body keywords – 2 to 3 words, moderate search volume
  • Long tail keywords – 4 or more words, low search volume

Usually, the shorter the term is, the higher the competition is. And don’t sleep on the long tails. They make up the bulk of most small business web traffic. A lot of times you’ll find they convert better than the shorter phrases as each word you add on makes the search more specific. A more specific search typically indicates someone that is farther along in the buying journey.

Ways To Use Keywords

  • SEO – keyword research is the foundation of an SEO campaign. Once you’ve decided on the terms you want to target, you qualify them based on a variety of factors. Then they get sorted into different topic groups. You can either create and optimise new content for these terms or go back and optimise existing content for them. That will depend on what you currently have for content available on your site.
  • Content Strategy Map – as mentioned, keywords will help you to determine what you should have on your site in terms of content. They essentially tell you what your audience is currently out there looking for. With few exceptions, every piece of content on your site should be focused around keywords that strike a balance between low competition and high search volume.
  • Paid Advertising – We tend to get caught up in talking SEO when it comes to keywords. But the fact is that paid advertising campaigns need to be keyword focused as well. The goal should be to bid on terms that you know your prospects are searching for. 

If you guess here, you’ll effectively be sending the wrong people to your site. 

Keyword Research Tips

  • Know your customer. It can’t be stressed enough that in order to decide on which keywords to target you have to know who is searching for your business and why.
  • Brainstorm without a filter. You should think about the sales cycle of your business and write down as many terms as you can think of for each step of the buying process. Don’t filter anything when creating this list, you can qualify them later.
  • Know what you’re already ranking for. Before you can begin to get where you want to go, you need to have a firm handle on where you are.
  • Reverse engineer competitors. If you have a competitor that seems to be showing everywhere, you should dig in and see what kinds of things they are targeting. Look in the titles of the pages to see the main term. Chances are, it’s a keyword. Look specifically for terms that multiple competitors target that you don’t.
  • Analyse the keywords. Once you have your brainstormed list, it’s important to qualify and prioritise these terms. Look specifically for keywords that have a balance of high enough search volume, but reasonable competitions. Starting with the quick wins will build the foundation for going after the more difficult stuff in the longer term.
  • Look for questions. As you analyse, pay attention to keywords that form questions. If you can answer these directly on page (preferably asked in a heading), you have a chance to grab additional space in the featured snippets.
  • Be aware of seasonality. When identifying keywords, be sure to look at search volume over time. Some things may be more popular in the summer, for example. Account for that in your strategy accordingly.
  • Use Google. Google has all the answers. By searching for the terms you’re evaluating you get to see what they want to show on page 1. By taking advantage of auto suggest, you can see other terms that Google considers related.
  • Concentrate on the right metrics. Conquering high volume keywords is great, but in the end you are looking for conversions. Don’t get too caught up in search volume, make sure you focus on what really matters.

Study your niche well. Stay up to date on what’s happening and make sure you know what your competition is doing.

Should you hire someone or should you do it yourself?

For the most part, it makes sense to outsource. The experience that an SEO specialist brings to the table is hard replicate.

Being able to identify which keywords not only drive traffic but also (and arguably more importantly) know which ones convert to buyers is a nuanced skill. Much like calling in an emergency plumber, leaving keyword research to the experts has a lot of benefits.

And keyword research isn’t something you can do once and forget about. Best practice is to always be collecting data and re-calibrating strategies when needed. 

The information contained in this article barely scratches the surface of what it takes to compile and execute an effective keyword research strategy. Most small business owners we speak with find that their time is better spent closing new deals and focused on running their businesses.

Whichever way you decide to go, it’s important to understand the importance of getting keyword research right. And that there are no one size fits all strategies. Getting your best results will vary based on your website, your specific goals, your budget and the competition in your industry. 

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