*This article was last updated on 25/09/2023
Keyword research is a critical cornerstone of your digital marketing efforts. It’s the compass that guides your content strategy, steering you toward what your potential customers are searching for online. But why is keyword research so crucial?
Simply put, it aids in understanding the language of your audience and aligns your content with their needs. It serves as the bridge that connects the gap between your website and search engine users.
Whether you’re a seasoned digital marketer, a business owner looking to boost your online presence, or a beginner in SEO, these insights into keyword research will give you the edge you need. So, let’s buckle up and dive into the world of effective keyword research.
1. Understand Your Audience
Understanding your audience is the first and most crucial step in effective keyword research. It’s the foundation upon which all your SEO efforts are built. Why? Because your audience is the group of individuals searching for, finding, and engaging with your content.
Their interests and problems should guide your keyword research. They’re the ones typing queries into search engines, so understanding their behavior, their needs, and the terms they use will allow you to optimize your content accordingly.
How to Pick Up Your Audience’s Language and Search Behavior
The language your audience uses is crucial to effective keyword research. Everyone has their way of phrasing things, especially when looking for answers online. Some may use technical jargon, while others prefer layman’s terms.
Some might use long, question-based queries, while others stick to short, direct keywords. Understanding these nuances can help you create a diverse list of keywords that cover all possible search terms your audience might use.
Additionally, understanding your audience’s search behavior is equally vital. Ask yourself;
- Are they mainly using mobile devices or desktops?
- Do they prefer visual content or text-based information?
- Do they engage more with long-form content or bite-sized pieces?
All these factors can influence the types of keywords you should target.
How to Understand Your Audience Better
By truly understanding your audience, you’re setting the groundwork for successful keyword research and, by extension, a winning SEO strategy. Remember, SEO isn’t just about search engines; it’s about connecting with people.
And understanding those people is the first step to making that connection. Here are some ways you can better learn from your audience;
Surveys and Feedback: Regularly ask for feedback or conduct surveys to learn more about your audience. This can help you understand their needs and the language they use.
Audience Analytics: Use tools like Google Analytics to gain insights into your audience’s demographics, interests, and behavior.
Social Listening: Monitor social media platforms and online forums to see what topics your audience discusses and their language.
2. Use Keyword Research Tools
The internet is packed with many keyword research tools, and choosing the right one can make or break your SEO strategy. Selecting a tool that suits your business’s specific needs and budget. Here are a few of my favorites:
First, we have Semrush, arguably the gold standard in keyword research tools. Instead of just providing a list of keyword ideas, Semrush offers something unique: it reveals the keywords your competition is already ranking for, giving you valuable insights into their strategy.
This can help you identify outside-the-box keywords you might not discover with other tools. Despite being a bit pricey, if you’re serious about SEO, Semrush is worth the investment
Google Search Console
While not a traditional keyword research tool, Google Search Console is a must-have for any SEO practitioner. Its Performance Report feature can help you find “Opportunity Keywords” — terms you rank between #8-#20 in Google.
With a little extra on-page SEO, these Opportunity Keywords can boost your rankings. Best of all, Google Search Console is free to use.
Ahrefs Keywords Explorer
Ahrefs is primarily known for backlink analysis, but its Keywords Explorer tool is nothing short of impressive. It provides in-depth information on each keyword, including a breakdown of the first-page competition and how many searchers click on a result.
One helpful feature is its Keyword Difficulty score, which tells you exactly how many backlinks you’ll need to rank on Google’s first page. Take it with a pinch of salt, though.
3. Don’t Neglect Long-Tail Keywords
One of the most effective strategies for keyword research is focusing on long-tail keywords. These are usually phrases of three or more words specific to what you’re selling or providing information.
They’re called “long-tail” because if you plot the frequency of keywords on a graph, they appear towards the ‘long tail’ end. Despite their lower search volumes, they’re often instrumental in a successful SEO strategy.
Long-tail keywords tend to be less competitive than broader, shorter terms. For instance, a keyword like “shoes” will have vast competition. However, a long-tail keyword like “women’s black running shoes size 8” will have considerably fewer competing websites.
Higher Conversion Rates
Long-tail keywords are often used by searchers further along in the buying cycle. They know precisely what they’re looking for, so they’re more likely to convert if your website offers it.
For example, a person searching for “women’s black running shoes size 8” is likely ready to purchase, unlike someone searching for “shoes.”
Understanding User Intent
Long-tail keywords can also give you a better understanding of user intent. This information is invaluable in crafting content that meets your audience’s needs.
For example, the keyword “how to train for a marathon” suggests the searcher is looking for in-depth guides or advice, whereas “best marathon running shoes” indicates they want to purchase a product.
How to Find Long-Tail Keywords
Finding long-tail keywords requires a bit of creativity and an understanding of your audience. Tools like Google’s “People also ask” and “Searches related to” sections can provide insights into the long-tail keywords your audience uses.
Keyword research tools, like those mentioned earlier, can also help you generate long-tail keyword ideas.
Don’t underestimate the power of long-tail keywords. They may not drive as much traffic as their shorter counterparts, but the traffic they bring is likely more valuable. You can attract the right audience and boost conversions by targeting long-tail keywords in your content.
4. Consider User Search Intent
Understanding search intent is crucial to effective keyword research. Search intent, or user intent, refers to why someone conducts a specific search.
- Are they looking to buy something?
- Do they want a particular piece of information?
- Are they seeking a specific website?
Understanding the answers to these questions can greatly enhance your keyword strategy. Here’s why:
Google Prioritizes Search Intent
Over the years, Google’s algorithm has evolved to understand better and prioritize search intent. If your content matches the user’s intent, it is more likely to rank well.
For example, if a user searches for information, Google will prioritize informational content. If they want to purchase, eCommerce sites will likely top the SERPs.
There are typically four types of search intent:
- Informational Intent: Users seek more information on a particular topic, like “how to bake a cake” or “history of the Eiffel Tower.”
- Navigational Intent: Users are trying to get to a specific website, such as when someone searches for “Facebook” or “Amazon.”
- Transactional Intent: Users want to buy something. This could be a query like “buy iPhone 12” or “best prices for plane tickets.”
- Commercial Investigation: Users are looking to purchase in the future and are comparing products or services, such as “best smartphones 2023” or “iPhone vs. Samsung.”
How to Align Your Keywords with Search Intent
To ensure your content aligns with search intent, you need to understand what users seek when using particular keywords.
One way to do this is by analyzing the SERPs for those keywords. Look at the top results. Are they blog posts? Product pages? This can give you insight into what Google believes is the intent behind the search.
For example, if you search for “how to bake a cake,” the top results are all recipes or step-by-step guides, suggesting that the intent is informational.
If your keyword is “best DSLR cameras,” and the top results are product comparison articles, then the intent is likely commercial investigation.
5. Look at What Your Competitors Are Doing
One of the essential steps in keyword research is to analyze your competition. If you skip this step, you may target keywords that are too competitive and difficult to rank for, wasting your time and resources.
Here’s how to do it right.
Understanding Your Competition
Before you start analyzing, it’s essential to understand who your competition is. These can be direct competitors (businesses offering the same products or services as you) or indirect competitors (websites ranking for the exact keywords but offering different products or services).
Identifying Their High-Ranking Keywords
Start by identifying the high-ranking keywords of your competitors. Use SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to check which keywords your competitors rank for. These tools provide detailed information about the search volume, keyword difficulty, cost-per-click, and more.
Assessing Keyword Difficulty
Keyword difficulty is a metric that indicates how hard it would be to rank for a particular keyword. It considers factors like the number of websites trying to rank for that keyword and the quality of their content. The higher the keyword difficulty, the more competitive the keyword is.
Determining Relevance and Profitability
Not all high-ranking keywords of your competitors will be relevant or profitable for you. For example, a keyword might have a high search volume but low commercial intent, meaning that people searching for that keyword are not likely to become customers. Use your judgment to determine which keywords are worth targeting.
Spotting Gaps and Opportunities
Competitor analysis can help you spot gaps and opportunities. Look for keywords your competitors need to target or rank high for. These can be long-tail keywords or keywords in a specific niche.
They might have a lower search volume, but they can be less competitive and more targeted, leading to higher conversion rates.
6. Track and Refine Your Keyword Strategy
Once you’ve researched and implemented your keyword strategy, your work remains incomplete. SEO is not a one-time effort but an ongoing process. You need to continuously track the performance of your keywords and refine your strategy based on the results.
Monitoring Keyword Performance
Start by setting up a system to track your keyword performance. Most SEO tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, or Google Search Console provide features to monitor your keyword rankings over time.
Look at metrics like search rankings, organic traffic, click-through rates, and conversions. This data will give you insights into how well your keyword strategy works.
Analyzing Performance Data
The next step is to analyze the performance data.
- Which keywords are driving the most traffic to your site?
- Which keywords are leading to the most conversions?
- Are there any keywords you’re ranking for that you didn’t target?
These insights can help you understand what’s working and not in your keyword strategy.
Refining Your Keyword Strategy
Based on your analysis, refine your keyword strategy. If a keyword drives a lot of traffic but does not lead to conversions, it might not be the right keyword for you. Consider replacing it with a more relevant keyword.
If you’re ranking for a keyword you didn’t target, consider creating content around that keyword to capitalize on the opportunity.
Keeping Up with SEO Trends
SEO is constantly evolving. What worked a year ago might not work today. Stay updated with the latest SEO trends and algorithm changes. This will help you adapt your keyword strategy to the changing landscape and stay ahead of your competitors.
The Final Word: Mastering Keyword Research for SEO Success
In the ever-dynamic world of SEO, mastering the art of keyword research is vital. The right keywords can be the difference between being discovered by your target audience or getting lost in the vastness of the internet.
Understanding the importance of relevance, search volume, and keyword difficulty, leveraging the power of keyword research tools, keeping an eye on your competitors, and considering the intent behind keywords are crucial elements in a successful keyword research strategy.
Don’t be afraid to test and experiment with your keyword strategy. Try targeting different types of keywords, like long-tail keywords or LSI keywords. Experiment with different content formats, like blog posts, videos, or infographics.
The more you test and experiment, the more you learn about what works best for your website.
Need help with your SEO efforts? Let’s talk!