Getting keyword research right is the difference between a thriving online presence and being a whisper in the digital wind. But how do you ensure this “right”? In this article, I will share some insights into my approach to researching keywords and review a few mistakes beginning SEO specialists commonly make.
Why Do You Need Keyword Research?
Keyword research is, first and foremost, about understanding your audience and their language. It allows you to peek into their thoughts, needs, and desires. If you manage to identify it right, you will know how to position your content to meet your audience exactly where they are. You’ll have answers to their questions and solutions to their challenges. If I were to name three reasons to conduct this research, my top three would be
- to drive organic traffic
- to boosts conversions
- to solidify your brand’s authority in your niche.
Of course, traffic, conversion, and other indicators of your website’s health are not solely dictated by keywords. This is why I always recommend my clients to start their website optimization with a holistic audit. You can use this audit report tool to run a free check and pinpoint factors impeding your website’s performance.
The Building Blocks of A Good Keyword Research
Keyword research starts with uncovering the precise words and phrases that your target audience uses when searching online. If you do it well, your website will have greater chances to be discovered by potential visitors. Your primary task here is to pick a good instrument. For example, I usually use Rank Tracker KW Difficulty Tool which does most of the work for me and helps me pick the best SEO keywords possible. And there are three more considerations that are vital at this stage.
- Exploring Competitor Keywords
Competitor analysis is super powerful. Examine the keywords your competitors are ranking for and you’ll discover many hidden opportunities. But don’t just blindly copy. Use this data to identify gaps and unique angles that your competitors might have missed.
- User-Generated Content
Online forums, Q&A websites, and social media platforms are all your sources of user-generated content. People often express their concerns and questions there. I typically mine such platforms to discover keywords that might not be on my radar. It works really well in combination with AnswerThePublic which aggregates questions and phrases for the research.
- Content Gaps
Put simply, content gaps are topics that are underrepresented but have potential demand. To identify those, you need to analyze the most shared and engaging content in your niche. And if you manage to fill these gaps, you will position yourself as an authority in uncharted territory.
Analysis is where strategy begins to form. Beyond the basics we all know, there are a few nuances my practice has taught me.
- Search Volume vs. Seasonality
A keyword might show a high monthly search volume, but is this consistent? Or is there a spike in December, for instance? I always use tools like Google Trends to get a clearer picture.
- Keyword Difficulty
While many tools provide a KD score, you must understand its foundation. Typically, it’s based on the number and quality of backlinks the top-ranking pages have. But remember, while backlinks are crucial, Google’s algorithm considers over 200 factors. That is, a low KD doesn’t always guarantee an easy win.
When tacking KD, I usually choose high-quality software. It analyzes various SEO metrics and forecasts how hard it will be for the page to outrank its competitor for this particular keyword. That’s very helpful!
- Current Ranking Position
If your website already ranks on the second or third page for a keyword, don’t rush to target a new keyword. Very often, it’s much easier to push it to the first page with some thoughtful optimization.
- Relevancy and ROI
Here’s my little trick — always ask, “Is this keyword directly tied to a potential business outcome?” If you’re an eCommerce store, for instance, “how to tie a tie” might have high volume, but it’s “buy silk tie online” that will likely lead to sales.
It’s not enough to just find and analyze — you must understand the intent behind each keyword. Is the searcher looking to buy, learn, or navigate to a specific place? Remember, intent is the soul of a search query and you need to be VERY good at reading it.
- Types of Intent
Broadly, search intent can be classified into four:
- informational (want to know)
- navigational (want to go)
- transactional (want to do)
- commercial (want to buy).
Your task is to segment your keywords into these buckets. And then, you’ll be able to align the content. For example, for transactional queries, users often expect a product page or a service landing page. For informational ones, they prefer a blog post or a guide. If your content matches the intent, you’ve done the job right!
- Secondary keywords
After you are done with the primary keyword and its intent, look for secondary ones or LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords. These are terms related to the main keyword. I always integrate them into the content to make it more comprehensive and resonate better with user intent.
Major Don’ts in Keyword Research
Even experienced marketers make mistakes when researching keywords. Here are a few of those I come across especially often.
❌Ignoring Long-Tail Keywords
SEO specialists, especially beginning ones, usually target broad terms with high search volumes and overlook long-tail keywords. The latter, meanwhile, often have a clearer intent and less competition so I wouldn’t write them off.
❌Rarely Updating Keyword Lists
Search trends change. What was relevant a year ago might not be today. This is no rocket science and yet, many SEO specialists I know use the same lists for 6-8 months. Mine are revised every 3 months — this I think is the optimal regularity that helps you stay current.
❌Multiple Pages for One Keyword
I don’t know why exactly this happens but I often encounter blogs with multiple pages targeting the same keyword. Whether it’s done on purpose or not, this is something you should avoid. Your pages will compete against each other in search results and Google will not know how to rank them. Plus, backlinks will be split. It’s really best to focus on creating comprehensive, in-depth content that covers a wide range of related topics within a single page that targets your primary keyword.
If you want to succeed in keyword research, you need to approach it with the big picture in mind. Remember, finding terms to incorporate into content is the process. But the goal of this process is to understand your audience, anticipate their needs, and deliver valuable content that resonates. Stay curious, be adaptive, and you will position your digital strategy for success.