Understanding SEO Keyword Research

According to Rachel Leist, SEO Keyword Research involves identifying “keywords” or the words and phrases that potential customers use when searching for products or services similar to what your business offers. By selecting the right keywords, you can improve the SEO of your website’s content to align with the search intent or the reasons your audience is searching.

In my opinion, this is key to having strong On-Page SEO because by doing this you can improve your Title tags, Meta descriptions, Alt Text, and page content to increase the likelihood of your website appearing in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Ultimately driving relevant traffic to your site.

You may also hear this process referred to as Keyword Analysis. Personally, I like to distinguish between the two because “research”, in my opinion, is just finding the keywords, and “analysis” is in choosing what keywords are the easiest and the most relevant to target. 

Why Does Keyword Research Matter?

Keywords should matter to you because you are going to be responsible for not only finding them, but also for deciding which ones are the best to target.

Not to mention, targeting the wrong keywords can have equally a negative effect on a website’s SEO performance, because there will be no chance that it’s webpages will appear for relevant queries.

So to ensure that you choose the right keywords, I believe it is important to understand how to do Keyword Research and Analysis.

1. Identify Seed Keywords:

When first getting started with keyword research, I believe that it is important to first identify “Seed keywords” or starter phrases to help you direct your efforts better. Doing this first will help you stay on topic and avoid targeting phrases that are not relevant. So here are some questions that I typically start out with, Think to yourself:

  • What are your main products and services?
  • What words or phrases do you think your customers use to find them?
  • What questions or problems do you think they would look up on search engines?
  • Are there any variations, acronyms, slang, or regional variations related to your main products and services?

The point of asking yourself these questions is to get a sense of how your audience thinks, talks, and what they would be searching for. This will help you better understand their intent and the words they would use to find your products or services.

Once you have these starter keywords and phrases, here are a set of steps you can take to validate your research and to find additional keywords that are relevant to your business:

2. Leverage Keyword Research Tools:

To expand your list of potential keywords, take advantage of keyword research tools such as Google Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Moz Keyword Explorer. These tools provide valuable insights into search volume, competition level, and related keywords. Enter your keywords into these tools, and they will generate additional keyword suggestions.

Free Keyword Research Tool

Keyword tools are a great way to find additional keywords you may not have thought of. If you don’t have one there is nothing wrong with using the Google’s Auto Suggest feature to start with.

The auto suggest feature is a tool that shows users recommended keywords that may be related to what they are looking for. For the keyword bread recipe, some recommended keywords may be:

  • Bread recipe for beginners
  • Bread recipe active dry yeast
  • Bread recipe for bread machine
  • Easy Bread recipe

With these keywords you can then decide which ones to target. The main thing to remember when starting out keyword research is always start out with a seed keyword. Which is a starter word or phrase you use to find additional keyword ideas.

So in the instance of the last example, our seed keyword was “bread recipe, but let’s say your seed keyword is “pizza”. Here’s the list of keyword ideas that may appear in the search engine auto suggest:

  • Pizza takeout
  • Fast Food pizza
  • Late night pizzeria
  • Fast pizza delivery
  • Pizza to-go

As I stated previously, you could come up with these ideas by simply using the auto suggest;

3. Analyze Keyword Metrics:

Once you have a comprehensive list of keywords, analyze their metrics to narrow down your options. Focus on three key factors: search volume, keyword difficulty, and search intent. 

Search Volume

Search Volume is how many searches per month a particular keyword gets. The number of searches is estimated and can be subject to seasonal, regional, and thematic fluctuations (Search Metrics, 2022).

Generally speaking, you want to target keywords that have thousands of searches per month because this validates that someone is actually using these keywords to find things but keep in mind it is just a metric.

There are some instances, where you can also use keywords that may have zero or a very low number of searches per month because again, this is just an estimate. 

As long as the keyword is relevant to your audience or the business you are working with; you should consider using it.

Keyword Difficulty

Competition Score, keyword difficulty or SEO difficulty, is how easy or hard it may be to rank a webpage for a particular keyword. 

This metric varies from keyword research tool to tool, but in general, this metric is calculated based on the number of “backlinks”, or links from referring websites, you would need to be able to rank for this keyword (Soulo, 2022).

So essentially, a keyword with a higher difficulty score could take more backlinks for you to rank for it.Similar to search volume, you want to target keywords with relatively low competition. 

However, there are some instances where targeting a high-competition keyword may be what’s best. Again, always choose the keyword that is most relevant to you.

Search Intent

Search Intent, also known as “user intent”, is a metric that doesn’t necessarily have a score attached to it. 

Understanding the search intent of a keyword is more about analyzing what type of content the searcher prefers when searching for a particular keyword. Or the “main goal” a user has when typing in a query into a search engine (BacklinkO, n.d.).

The simplest way to figure this out is to type in a keyword into the search engine search bar and see what type of content or webpages comes up on the SERP. Here’s an example:

If you type in “pizza”  in Google you are more than likely going to see pizza restaurants as the top-ranking search results.

This means that search engines discovered that when people type in “pizza” they are most likely looking to visit a “pizza restaurant”.

But in comparison, if you type in “pizza sauce” the top-ranking pages are recipes for how to make pizza sauce

So, again, this means that search engines determined that when someone types in pizza sauce they are most likely looking for information on how to make it. Now, this is honestly one of the most important metrics when choosing keywords, and here’s why:

  • To have a website “rank” or show up on the first page of search results for its targeted keywords, you must match search intent.
  • Sometimes you may choose a keyword you think is great, but after checking the search intent, you may realize that you do not have the resources or ability to produce content to match the intent. 

For example, if you want to rank for the keyword “pizza” but you are a food blog, you’re better off trying to rank for “how to make pizza”.

The search intent of “pizza” is typically users looking for pizza restaurants whereas the search intent of “how to make pizza” is users looking for pizza recipes – a food blog will likely have that type of content.  Therefore, a food blog could easily rank for the keyword “how to make pizza

I wouldn’t take this metric lightly, because search engines are constantly reworking their algorithms to display the most relevant results.

As time goes on, it may become harder and harder to “rank” or show up high on the results pages unless you can accurately match intent. Keep that in mind as you pick keywords.

Pay Attention To Keyword Metrics

Strive for a balance between high search volume and moderate keyword difficulty to maximize your chances of ranking well. Additionally, it is wise to validate the search intent of your keywords by typing in each of them into the search engine search bar to see what type of content or web pages comes up on the SERP. This will help you determine the best type of content to create for your audience.

  • Check each of your keywords. search volume, keyword difficulty, and search intent.
  • Prioritize keywords that have the easiest intent to match.

By analyzing keywords before using them on your website, you can ensure that you are accurately optimizing your content for search engines and that you are reaching the right audience.

4. Consider Long-Tail and Question Keywords:

While general keywords are important, don’t overlook the power of long-tail and question keywords. These are more specific, longer phrases that typically have lower search volumes but higher conversion potential. 

Additionally, they can be questions that start with words like; what?, who?, why?, how,? do you? Can you? When? Where? Which?

Long-tail keywords help you target a more focused audience and can be less competitive to rank for. 

Also by writing blog posts and articles that address specific questions you can attend to your audience’s pain points and better educate them on your products and services being a solution to their ailments. 

This type of content is also more likely to be shared on social media and rank on search engines because it is relevant to a specific group of people with a specific need or problem.

  • Make a list of specific questions your customers ask.
  • Also, check to see what specific solutions your product or service can provide.
  • Map their questions to keywords and then validate them using the search engine search bar.

Essentially, incorporating a mix of both general, long-tail, and question keywords in your strategy is the key to success.

5. Competitor Analysis:

Research your competitors to gain insights into the keywords they are targeting. This analysis can reveal opportunities for new keywords or gaps in their strategies that you can capitalize on. 

  • Make a list of your top competitors’ websites.
  • Look to see what keywords they use.
  • Look at their paid ads on Google, and check to see what keywords they target.
  • Check their social media pages, and reviews to see what words their customers use to describe their products and services.

By taking the time to research your competitors, you will be able to identify gaps in your own strategy and opportunities for new keywords to target.

6. Refine and Prioritize Your Keywords:

After analyzing the data and considering your competitors, refine your keyword list and prioritize them based on relevance, search volume, and competition. Aim to strike a balance between high-volume, high-competition keywords, and low-volume, low-competition keywords. This approach will help you capture both short-term wins and long-term growth.

Additionally prioritize keywords that have the easiest intent or content to create because this will ensure that you can rank quickly for these terms, without expending a lot of resources.

Next Steps

Keyword research is a fundamental aspect of successful online marketing for any business owner.

With your finalized keyword list, you will soon be ready to start creating and optimizing content for your website. Incorporate your target keywords strategically in your website copy, meta tags, headings, and URLs. 

Ensure the content flows naturally and provides value to your audience. Remember, search engines prioritize user experience, so avoid keyword stuffing or sacrificing quality for the sake of optimization. Thanks for reading this article by Bounce Rank.

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