You spent enough time and effort creating your business website that it would be a shame if it’s hard to find online. Luckily, with proper optimization for search engines, you can make sure that your site is equipped for the first page of particular Google search results. This process starts with keyword research.
Unless you’re an SEO expert, the idea of performing keyword research may sound more arduous than enjoyable. Though it can be a daunting task for newcomers, keyword research is an important first step in any SEO strategy that shouldn't be overlooked. Once you know how to properly do it, it's actually not so hard, and can even be considered fun.
Below, we’re going to show you how to do keyword research, step-by-step, and provide some helpful tips along the way.
What is keyword research?
Many may already have a general idea of what keyword research is, but if you don’t, this section is for you. Keyword research is the process of finding the best keywords for your website to try to rank for in particular search engine results pages. This process (detailed below) consists of pooling keywords together, and researching them one-by-one for search volume, user intent, competition, and more.
By analyzing keywords and seeing how people actually search for the terms you’re targeting, you’ll be able to optimize your website’s pages with these short phrases you’re trying to rank for.
Why is keyword research important?
Keyword research is important for many reasons of which can be broken down into both practical and strategic theories.
The more practical reasoning is that proper research can result in finding keywords that will help your website’s pages rank better on search engines, which can lead to increased traffic, more potential customers, and more money for your business. For most people, this is a good enough reason in itself.
The less obvious, more strategic reason this type of research is so important is how it can steer other parts of your SEO plan. The right keywords will affect your overall content strategy, as the terms will help define the content you create around them. Whether it’s blog posts or promotional materials, doing your research will point you in the right direction for your multi-faceted SEO strategy.
Make a list, check it thrice
The first step should technically be one of the easiest for you, and that’s to make a list of potential keywords that are relevant to your business or industry. You’ll want to get a good mix of general and specific terms that people at any point in their search will be looking for. This is relevant in many cases such as whether they’re searching information about your industry in general, comparing competitors, or looking to purchase services. This way, you’ll be able to target them no matter where they are in their journey.
Along the way, you’ll undoubtedly run into a term called long-tail keywords, which are (usually) less competitive keyphrases that consist of three or more words. Having a variety of shorter one to two word terms and longer phrases will be extremely helpful when doing analysis later on. Want to learn more about this concept? We have a great article about long-tail keywords that will provide you with all of the details you could ask for.
It’s crucial to attempt to gather as many keyword possibilities as you can, as you may find out that your smaller pool of terms are highly competitive and harder to rank for, which will require you to go back to this step again later on.
Google your industry for keyword ideas
After you’ve exhausted your brain for potential terms, let Google serve as an inspiration to make sure you didn’t miss any valuable keywords you could’ve used. In addition to finding terms you may not have thought of or missed, it's also a great opportunity to find out how people are searching for competitors in your industry. While many of us use Google to search for something and click on one of the provided links, there’s more to it when you’re using it for keyword research.
Here are a few ways to use Google for keyword research:
Auto-complete search: When you begin to type into the search box on Google, it will attempt to predict what you’re trying to find with the auto-complete search. To get a sense of how people are searching for topics like yours, it’s a good idea to type in terms related to your industry and see what populates in the results.
People also ask: Google searches can also provide a “People also ask” section that displays questions that people search for that are similar to the original term. This can help get you into the mindset of the people actually looking for your business or industry.
Related searches: Google will also provide a “related searches” section, which will show you exactly that. Take a look at the wording to see if there’s a better way to phrase your term.
Go social with searches
In addition to Google, there are other places you can use to find information about your keyword choices. These are great ways to discover how people are phrasing their questions about your industry, which can allow you to adapt your terms to the language that’s most often used, and thereby optimizing your keyword choices.
Quora is one of the next-best options online to get answers to questions you may have. The Q&A website is very popular, so all one needs to do is simply search for a term to see all of the questions about it. The benefit here is two-fold: Not only will you be able to get a better sense of the language your audience is using when asking questions about your industry, but it’s also an opportunity for you to have a dedicated page or blog post on your website that has answers to these questions.
Want to get an ultra-candid look at how people are talking about your industry? Head over to social media networks for some unfiltered commentary.
A simple hashtag search on Twitter may yield some interesting conversations people are having about your industry, further allowing you to sculpt content ideas around your keywords.
‘Go local’ to trim the competition
Businesses with a brick and mortar shop can find it very helpful to use local SEO. What does that mean? Let’s define it by using an example:
Say you own a flower shop in Kansas City, Missouri. “Flower shop” itself is a very competitive keyword, but also practically required to be used since it’s the most descriptive phrase for your business. However, if you want to bring in more foot traffic to your store, then adding your location as a part of your keyphrase will cut down your competition significantly. In other words, your business is more likely to pop up on Google when someone searches for “ flower shop Kansas City, Missouri” than “ flower shop.”
Since this practice localizes keywords for specific locations, it’s less effective for businesses with online-only stores that can’t be physically visited.
Look at your keyword research tool options
Now that you have a digital bag full of potential keywords and you know how people are talking about your industry, it’s time to do some more research, but not for keywords this time. Instead, take time to read up on some of the many keyword research tools that are available to you.
Long story short: There are a ton of very good keyword research tools available, but not all of them are free.
Before you go out and pay a decent chunk of money to use a paid keyword research tool, you should take a look at some of the free options. Many of these tools are easy to use and are for more basic keyword research, though some free tools do offer more advanced features as well. These tools will likely be less intimidating to someone who is just getting started with keyword research.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth analysis of your keywords, a paid research tool is definitely something to consider. These tools tend to have everything the free options have, but with more insight and additional data that you can use.
If you’re looking for a good free keyword research tool, take a look at Ubersuggest. And if you don’t mind paying money for a great tool, Ahrefs Keyword Explorer is a fantastic option. For other tools to look into, we have a great list of the best keyword research tools around.
Do an in-depth search with the tool of your choice:
Once you’ve found the tool or tools that are right for you to do your in-depth analysis of your keywords, it’s time to research every one for your list.
Most keyword research tools are incredibly intuitive, but the information they provide may not be so easy to understand. Below, we’re going to list a handful of terms and things you can do and that you should be on the lookout for when performing analysis of your keywords in order to see if they’re right for you.
Search volume is fairly simple and it tends to be the first metric you’ll find on many keyword tools. It’s simply the number of queries (what’s typed in the search bar) a particular term is expected to get on search engine result pages within a specific period of time, usually one month. A higher search volume indicates the potential success you may have with it on a very surface level, without counting competition or difficulty.
While you’ve already put a lot of time and effort into finding potential keywords, research tools are also a great way to generate them as well. After using a keyword tool for a specific term, it will most likely also provide similar keywords for you to look into, some of which are sorted by search volume. Best of all, there’s a decent chance that terms that you hadn’t even thought of will populate in this area, and some of which could be better than the ones you originally wanted to focus on.
Depending on the tool you use, you may find a different metric name here. The keyword or SEO difficulty provides a snapshot of how easy or hard the keyword you searched for is. If the term you searched for proves to be highly competitive or difficult, it may be best to move on to another keyword or a long-tail variant. The more difficult the keyword is, the harder it will be for you to have a chance to rank for it.
Many of the tools you’ll likely use rank a keyword’s difficulty with a number or a color. The higher the number, the more difficult. Some tools also color-code keyword difficulty, making easier keywords green and more difficult keywords red.
There’s a good chance you’ll spend a lot of time analyzing keyword difficulty, as it can help you find keywords you can more easily compete for. For example, let’s say you were expecting to use the keyword “gardener,” only to find out that it’s a highly difficult term to rank for. This is where you’d try to discover similar ways to describe the service you provide, like “gardening services” or even “landscaping services” to see if you can find a less difficult keyword to work with.
What better way to get an edge over the competition than knowing exactly what they’re successful at — in terms of SEO, of course. Many tools will allow you to see what keyword your competitors are ranking for, which can allow you to optimize your SEO strategy to your advantage.
Paid difficulty and CPC
Like keyword difficulty, paid difficulty is an estimate of the potential success you may have when using a particular keyword with paid search ads. The CPC (cost-per-click) is an average of what you can expect to pay anytime someone clicks on an ad using the specific keyword. The higher the difficulty and/or competition, the higher the price you can expect to pay.
Fine-tune your keyword list
Now that you’ve used a keyword research tool to see how the list you created fares, it’s time to narrow them down into a more concise set. Through your own research, you should be able to determine the search volume and competition behind any given term, allowing you to pick the best ones to use going forward.
When narrowing down your list of keywords, it’s important to retain a balanced set, both general and specific, as well as long and short-tail terms. Ideally, you’ll want to find a keyword or keyphrase that both has a decent search volume and isn’t overly competitive. Looking for these factors will allow you to make an informed decision on the keywords you’ll try to rank for.
Make keyword families
If you’re beginning to see that some of the keywords you’ve selected are very similar to each other, or if they share the same user intent, it’s best to group them together as a family. You can use this family of keywords together on specific pages of your website and use another set of family keywords on another page.
Example: If you have a series of keywords that are a variation of the same term, such as abbreviations and singular or plural forms, like skateboard, skateboards, skating, or skateboarding, these would be best placed in a keyword family of their own.
Put your keywords to use
Now that you’ve taken the time to see what the best keywords you should try to rank for are, it’s time to put them into practice. How exactly should you do this though? While it may be easy to assume that you should put your keywords on your website as much as you can, that’s a big SEO no-no. Check out some of the tips below about how to make the best of your newly acquired keywords.
How many keywords?
There’s no solid answer to this question, but the general consensus is that if you have too many keywords, you can dilute your SEO efforts. That said, there are several websites out there that could be targeting multiple handfuls of keywords, where another may try to rank for only three to five. It could be good practice to start with a couple and try to rank for additional ones later on.
Where to place keywords?
Keywords can be used just about everywhere on your website, so make use of these locations!
Content: One of the easiest and most obvious places to have your keywords is the content on your website. This can be in the paragraph text, your headings, and other relevant text where your keywords would be appropriate. However, it’s important that your content is written and read naturally and that it’s not just added to throw in your keywords for the sake of it.
Page titles and descriptions: Each page of your website should have a name and description. Search engines will be looking at them, so this is a great place to add your keywords if they’re relevant to the page you’re talking about. A perfectly crafted SEO title can go a long way.
Domain: A domain is a fantastic opportunity to add one of your main keywords. If you decide to go this route, be sure that the keyword you choose to add to your domain is descriptive of your business. It’s also important to point out that domains aren’t as easy to change as the content on your website, so make sure you’re confident in your choice when opting for this choice.
For example, placing your business industry within your own domain makes what you do easy to understand for both search engines and potential customers. Donslandscaping.com is much more straightforward and descriptive than donscleangreen.com
Image Alt Text: Search engines can easily scan the text of a website for relevant keywords, but it’s not as easy to do with images. That’s where alternative text, or Alt Text, comes in. This is text you can add to describe images so they too can rank on search engines, making them a prime space for your keywords when suitable.
By Blake Stimac
Wix Blog Writer