No matter what algorithm changes Google throws at us, one thing will always remain true: you need to do keyword research before you try to rank.
We’re going to break down everything you need to know about keyword research so that you can get started writing and ranking!
Let’s start with the basics…
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of identifying and analyzing search terms that people enter into Google. These are actual search terms and phrases that people are using, and you can use those to help build your content strategy as well as your overall marketing and SEO strategy.
Why Is Keyword Research Important?
If you follow SEO and digital marketing trends at all, you’ve likely heard that keywords themselves are not as important as the ability to rank for the actual searches people conduct every day. Today, it’s all about user intent.
Google has gotten much smarter and more intuitive over the years. It’s the intent behind the keyword and whether or not your content solves the problem. That being said, keyword research is still as relevant as ever.
Keyword research will tell you what topics people care about and how popular those topics are. By researching keywords that get a lot of search volume each month, you can identify and sort your content into topics to create content on. After that, you can use those topics to determine which keywords to target.
People take to Google to answer questions and solve problems. By researching keywords, their search volume, and general intent, you can answer the most pressing questions that your audience is asking.
It’s all about providing value. Let’s jump into one of the easiest keyword research strategies there are for identifying topics and phrases that are relevant to your business and will help boost your rankings and grow your traffic.
How to Implement Keyword Research Strategies To Optimize Your SEO Strategy
Step # 1: Create a list of relevant topics based on your business.
First things first, take some time to think about the topics that you want to rank for in terms of generic subjects. You should be able to come up with anywhere from 5-10 different topics relating to your business and what you offer.
It’s helpful to put yourself in the shoes of your ideal customer—what types of topics does your target audience search for and want more information on?
For example, if you’re an electrician, you might come up with several general topic categories like:
•Residential electrician (5k)
•Commercial electrician (6.5k)
•Circuit breakers (90k)
•Interior lighting (10k)
•Exterior lighting (22k)
•Electrical Rewiring (590)
•Exhaust systems (2k)
The numbers in the parenthesis to the right indicate the monthly search volume. You can use this data to gauge how important these topics are to your target audience and how many potential different sub-topics you need to create to be successful with that keyword. The higher the search volume, the more competitive and difficult the keyword will be to rank for.
Step # 2: Identify keywords for your topic buckets.
Now that you’ve identified a few broad topic buckets that you’d like to focus on, your next step is to determine which keywords fall into those topics. These are the specific keywords and key phrases that your target customer is searching for.
For example, if we take a look at the topic of “residential electrician”—you would brainstorm some keyword phrases that you think people would type into Google related to that topic. Some key phrases for this topic may include:
•Why you need a residential electrician
•Residential electrician for new construction
•24-hour residential electrician
•What does a residential electrician do?
The objective of this step isn’t to come up with your final list of key phrases, but rather to write down some phrases and subjects off the top of your head that you think potential customers may be searching for.
*Pro-Tip: Download the free browser add-on, “Keywords Everywhere.” This tool shows you search volume, CPC, related search terms, and more.
Step # 3: Research Related Search Terms.
You may have already started this in the previous step. If not, it’s a great way to add more meat to your list of possible topics and a great place to use a tool like Keywords Everywhere.
Google also has the handy feature at the bottom of the search engine results page (SERP) that will give you related search terms.
The image above shows the related search terms for “residential electrician.” You’ll notice the search volume to the right thanks to the Keywords Everywhere browser add-on.
To find even more key phrases, type some of these related search terms into Google and then check those related search terms.
Step # 4: Make sure you have both long and short-tail keywords.
If you’re not sure what long and short-tail keywords are, let’s run through it quick:
Short-tail keywords are generally one to three words in length and pretty generic. Long-tail keywords are longer key phrases that typically contain more than three words.
Short-tail keywords are usually more difficult to rank for than long-tail ones.
It’s important that you have a mix of both in your content strategy so that it’s balanced with short-term wins and long-term goals. You can actively work towards ranking for the short-tail keywords with lots of search volume while you simultaneously see success in ranking for longer tail keywords.
For example, let’s take the short-tail keyword “electricians,” which has 34,000 searches per month and compare it with the long-tail key phrase “how to find an electrician” which has 210 searches per month. Which one do you think will be easier to rank for?
“How to find an electrician” will likely be much easier to rank for because it’s less competitive. But don’t get discouraged. While it’s true that the short-tail keywords get more traffic, the traffic you’ll get from a more specific key phrase is usually the more desirable traffic.
Why? Because when someone is looking for something so specific you have the opportunity to answer their exact question as opposed to someone who is just searching for something very general.
Someone who is searching for “electricians” could be looking for a wide range of different information. They may be looking for an electrician's salary, what electricians do, how to find electricians, etc. When someone searches for “how to find an electrician” you know exactly what information they’re looking to find.
Step # 5: Research the competition.
Start digging around to see what your competitors are up to. What keywords do they rank for?
Just because your competition is ranking for a certain keyword doesn’t necessarily mean you need to target that same one, however, it’s super helpful to take into consideration when you’re creating your list of keywords.
There’s likely going to be quite a few keywords on your list that your competition is ranking for, but there may also be some that they don’t know about or don’t seem to care about. Finding these gems allows you to assert yourself as an authority in the niche by taking a slightly different approach and capturing traffic from lesser-known keywords.
How do you see what your competitors are ranking for? You can always do it the manual way and open up an incognito window and browse the SERP, or they are plenty of SEO tools that will make the process easier. SEMrush and AHREFS are both great options for analyzing your competitors.
Step # 6: Get to work creating content that’s designed to help you rank for the keywords you identified!
Whether you’re creating website content, blog posts, or a sales page--it’s important that you use the keywords that you identified as relevant to your customers when you create the copy.
Want More Keyword Research Tips and Strategies?
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