A Beginner’s Guide to Doing SEO Keyword Research
Keywords remain to be an essential building block in your SEO campaign and mad keyword research skills allow a digital marketer to fortify the campaign’s foundation. The question is, are you adept enough to be entrusted with such a formidable task?
WHAT IS KEYWORD RESEARCH?
Keyword research is the process of finding and analysing search words that people use in search engines with the goal of formulating a content and architectural strategy, which leads to higher ranking and increased visibility of a website or its pages in the search results.
It bears noting that keyword research involves more than matching words and phrases. It’s about knowing the psychology of your potential customers and how they use language to search for answers to their needs. Ultimately, it’s about knowing where they are in the buyer’s journey (think AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action) when they use certain keywords to express their intent.
- AWARENESS - the searcher wants to learn something, whether a solution to a problem or a way to take advantage of an opportunity (pain OR gain).
- INTEREST - the searcher is looking for something particular
- DESIRE - the searcher is now considering a solution and comparing options
- ACTION - the searcher wants to take action now (buy, download, add to cart, etc.)
WHY IS KEYWORD RESEARCH IMPORTANT?
Keyword research gives marketers powerful insights to how customers use search to find answers about a product or a service. When your website contains content optimised with the right keywords, it gives the search engine an idea about your business and what you offer. When your website ranks for a keyword that matches your content, you can get a lot of organic traffic that is free and lasts for a relatively long time (as opposed to bidding for keywords in a paid ad campaign).
The data you can glean from keyword research includes:
- What people are searching for
- The search terms they use
- The format and permutation of those words
- The volume of people searching for it
Though keyword research takes a lot of time and skill to put together, the benefits can come a hundredfold. The higher your website ranks in the SERPs, the more free clicks your website gets. In the search engine ranking wars, only the top results get 75% of all the clicks. It doesn’t matter even if you appear on page 1 of the search results: if you’re not at the top, your website is practically invisible.
HOW TO CONDUCT KEYWORD RESEARCH?
In this guide, we will map the basic process in doing keyword research. If done right, you will have a powerful keyword strategy which will be the basis for your search engine optimisation project or content marketing campaign.
STEP 1: Break down important, relevant topics about your business
Start with what you know. As a marketer or a business owner, think about what your business is about, what services you offer, what problem you solve as a product or service, and your unique selling proposition. Here’s where you put on the hat of your potential customer. What topics do your potential customers care about your business?
If you own a skin care clinic, you can have topics like:
- Beauty products
- Skin care
- Toiletries (soaps, lotion, serums, cream)
- Facial treatments
If the above topics are too broad, you can further pare them down into sub-topics.
STEP 2: Aggregate keywords about those topics
The topics you identified in the first step will be inputs to step 2. In Step 2, you can begin collecting keywords related to your set of keywords. Determine the keywords you think your customers use to search for that particular topic. Going back to the skin care clinic example, if you focus on the topic ‘skin care’, you may come across keywords or phrases like the following:
- Best skin care routine for women
- What’s the best skin care routine?
- Skin care products
- Affordable skin care tips
- Nearest skin care clinic
This is the messiest stage of your keyword research process. The goal is to brainstorm and list as many keywords as you can for that topic or sub-topic. Luckily, you can use automation tools to help you harvest relevant search terms like Google Analytics, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner, among many others.
STEP 3: Analyse the keywords
Now that you have a long list of potential keywords, how will you choose the right keyword and keyword variations, upon which you will base your SEO and content strategy on?
When you analyse your keywords, you have to match the phrase to the intent of the user. For example, when a searcher types the phrase “how to treat your skin”, you have to find out what he means by _treat. “_Treat” can mean taking care of your skin OR curing a skin disease or applying remedy to a cut or a topical injury. Make sure that you are choosing a keyword that best serves a user’s intent, so that your efforts won’t go to waste.
A pro-tip would be to test the ambiguous search term and see what type of content shows up on the search results. This experiment gives you a better idea of the kind of content you should produce for that search term.
STEP 4: Research for keyword variations and other related terms
Once you’re done with analysis, it’s time to get creative! We know that excessively repeating exact match keywords in your content constitutes keyword stuffing, a black hat SEO technique!
In this step, you have to research possible variations/permutations of that keyword so that when you write your content, it will still read as natural as possible. How else would your customer write a keyword for that same user intent you’re content is addressing? The answer could be part of your keyword list.
If your creativity is in short supply, you can use the term and then scroll down to the bottom of the search results page. You will see some search suggestions related to the original keyword you entered. You can use those terms to think of more keywords you can incorporate into your content.
SOME IMPORTANT REMINDERS
When you conduct keyword research, focus on these three primary elements:
- VOLUME - When scouring for keywords, look for the volume of people searching for it. You don’t want to rank for a keyword that only 5 people search in a given month. It’s like building a Michelin-star restaurant in the Himalayas: if nobody searches for it, it is as good as non-existent. A good metric to consider is the Monthly Search Volume (MSV), which is the number of times that search word is used per month across audiences.
- AUTHORITY - A healthy backlink profile can signal to Google or other search engines that your website carries authority. You can establish authority if your website contains and publishes exceptional content consistently. It also helps if your website has a strong social media presence with regular engagement from its customers or followers. If you find it hard to compete with other businesses, try owning a niche where there’s fewer competition yet yields greater interaction from its followers.
- RELEVANCE - Relevance is arguably the most critical element of keyword research. The entire concept of search is built upon the relevance of your content to the (1) keywords used by your business to rank and (2) keywords used by your prospects to get answers to their questions. Simply put: your content should be the best resource out there for that query.
Keyword research is just one of a hundred steps toward unlocking the benefits of organic SEO. Some keywords can give you quick wins, while others submit you to a long, waiting game before you can see positive results. Just be patient, do it consistently, and enjoy the process!