What is keyword research?
Now let’s start with this important question because I get this question now and then even today. Why is keyword research important while keywords are fundamental to the search process.
Even today even though Google has removed the keywords in their Google Analytics, it is still a fundamental part of the search process.
Now keep in mind keywords are not as important as searcher intent. That is what the users hoping to find but keywords are what the searcher uses to find his or her solution.
Now as the search engines crawl and index the contents of pages around the web they keep track of those pages in keyword-based indexes rather than storing billions of web pages all in one database.
Millions of smaller databases, each centered on a particular keyword term or phrase, then allow search engines to retrieve the data they need in a mere fraction of a second.
Have you ever wondered why it takes Google just a small fraction of a second to return all? Well, this is because it’s keyword-based indexes (Learn how Google manages its database).
The other words like Nike shoes and shoes Nike spelling punctuation and capitalization provide additional cues that the search engines use to help retrieve the right pages and rank them.
Now search engines also measure how keywords are used on pages to help determine the relevance of a particular document or a query.
Keep in mind the Google algorithm is just getting that much better it’s not just keyword-based indexes, it is: (These are three very important points about writing SEO based articles/content)
- What is around the keyword?
- What is in that same paragraph?
- What other keywords and spellings are on the same page now?
Naturally one of the best ways to optimize a page ranking is to ensure that the keywords you want to rank for are prominently used in titles text and metadata without obviously keyword stuffing.
The challenge is in knowing which keywords we should be targeting for our product marketing industry because the reality is search intent keywords and phrases are only getting that much more complicated.
And this is mostly due to semantic searching or searching with your voice on your phone. This is why it’s important to understand the longtail keywords demand.
Now most of us want to rank in the area here entitled ‘The Fat Head’ (see picture) that is we want to rank number one for the most popular keyword in our industry.
It’s not only sometimes very difficult but also not exactly always desirable. Let me explain the details.
It’s great to rank for keywords that have 5000 searches a day or even 500 searches a day. But in reality, popular search terms make up less than 30 percent of the searches performed on the web.
The remaining 70 percent lies in what’s called the longtail of search. The ‘Long Tail’ contains hundreds of millions of unique searches that might be conducted a few times in any given day.
But when taken together comprise the majority of the world’s search volume now according to HubSpot marketing stats 20 percent of search on Google’s mobile app and Android devices are voice searches that can make up a lot of this longtail.
And according to the same HubSpot stats twenty-one percent, of mobile voice search users do so because they say they don’t like typing on their mobile.
So, you can imagine with the misspellings and voice searches and just the way people talk semantically some long crazy keywords are entered into search engines nowadays.
Which takes us to this chart (see picture). Another lesson search marketers have learned is that longtail keywords often convert better because they generally catch people later in the buying conversion cycle or sales funnel.
For instance, a person searching for a generic term like shoes is probably browsing and not ready to buy (This type of search falls is also known as Informational search intent).
They want to see what kind of shoes are out there. On the other hand, if someone is searching for the best price on Air Jordans size 12.
Well, they practically have their wallet outright (This type of search intent is known as Transactional search intent).
It’s a longer phrase now understanding this search demand curve is critical. As you can see from the chart longtail is low cost but there is a much higher probability of conversion.
But the challenge is that there are more keywords which got to show it’s more important than ever to figure out what your users are searching for.
So you can dominate the bulk of online searches.
To underscore this point here’s a list of statistics (see picture) as to why it is important to understand the longtail keywords of your target audience.
One hundred billion, that’s less than the total number of searches Google gets in one month, and that was back in 2015.
How about 50 percent of search queries are four words are longer. These are the longtail keyword searches.
Did you know that 15 percent of all searches performed on Google every day is brand new, that means Google has never seen that search term before.
Therefore, understanding your user’s desires and questions will help you identify their search intent and then provide the solution before they even start searching.
Reportedly, 61 percent of the search marketers say that improving the SEO and increasing their organic visibility is their top-of-the-list inbound search marketing priority and that number is only increasing meaning the competition for organic search results is only heating up. Which means you have to know your user’s search intent even better.
FACT: Researchers do 12 searches on average before engaging on a specific Brand’s site.
That’s from Google’s research, that is, people are looking for solutions but they often don’t even know what to type in, so they search, and they research and they research again.
This is why understanding keyword research or more importantly searcher intent is invaluable.
Without this keyword research, you are often limited to product-related search terms only.
What if your target audience does not know about your product or how to even clarify it, while they are simply typing in their problems or their pinpoints or their wants and needs.
As we have talked in detail about these things in The SEO Fundamentals Guide, as we take a look at the topic of keywords it’s important to understand that there are three types of search queries people generally make.
First off is the ‘do’ or transactional queries. I want to do something such as buy a plane ticket or listen to a song. This is where most people thrive because it is product-centric.
Secondly though is ‘know’ and this is informational queries. I need information such as the name of an artist or the best restaurant in my city or what time a sporting game begins. This is about getting deeper into the mind of the user:
- How will they search?
- What will they enter?
- What are they going after?
Number three is ‘go’ and these are navigational queries. I want to go to a particular place on the Internet such as Facebook or the home page of the NFL. But what happens if they don’t remember your brand name or even your product category.
So you have to spread your net wide when it comes to keyword research, to take into account, all the variety of ways a consumer could find you.
Whether it’s doing or knowing are going – transactional queries, informational queries, or navigational queries.
Now we will tackle the four steps of keyword research, in this seemingly endless topic of keyword research.
4 Steps of Keyword Research
Now we come to the fun part of keywords, as now we are going to focus entirely on keyword research.
Therefore, you and your team (if you are a team player) can get on the same page in targeting the same phrases.
Step 1: Create a Huge List
The first one is to make a huge list, with billions of searches happening every day, and identifying which keywords are the most important for your product market and industry.
Now obviously it is going to be messy as you get started, but what you want to do first off is just brainstorm.
Create a list of keywords surrounding the topic you would like to target. Remember to think like the user, therefore, use semantically connected keywords in terms that are in the format of questions.
Again think messy, just throw whatever you can, upon the board or in a spreadsheet.
Current search traffic analysis
Secondly, you have to get a list of those keywords for which you are already ranking in SERPs (if your website is not new).
You just simply have to go through those tools and download the largest list possible.
Thirdly get a list of keywords your competitors currently rank for. You can use SEMRush, SpyFu, Ahrefs, or a tool like that and see which keywords are your competitors ranking for because chances are there are gaps in your ranking that your competitors are doing well.
Fourthly you’ve probably experienced how Google helps searches by filling out popular queries such as on Google’s home page. We’ll explore what Google is auto-suggesting for search queries right.
Start typing in a certain keyword and see if some phrases pop up that you haven’t thought about before that you can get even more granular in detail by using a tool like Ubersuggest that’s just going to show you dozens if not hundreds of similar suggestions based off of words that you’ve had started to fill out.
Google Adwords keyword planner
Fifthly what you want to do is now take the current list and entered into AdWords Keyword planner.
Google AdWords Keyword Planner is an excellent resource of keyword and keyword grouping ideas as well.
The goal here again is that you come up just with this massive list of keywords that you enter into Google AdWords and then export from AdWords into a tool that you can start to filter through.
You can use Excel or you can get it done in google spreadsheets but find a tool that you can then paste all of these keyword ideas into. So you can get to the next stage in that starting to group and organize these keywords.
The purpose of this step is just to have a massive keyword list that you can start refining.
Now that you have this massive list of keywords. Step 2 in keyword research is gathering metrics.
Step 2: Gathering Metrics
Monthly Search Volume
Now first off you want monthly search volume. You can fetch that through the Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool it will export it for you and you will be able to see that in your spreadsheet or you can use any tool for example SEMRush (7 days free trial), Moz Keyword Explorer both fantastic tools.
The Moz keyword explorer gives you so many good metrics around how to organize or prioritize your keywords.
Keyword Difficulty / Competition
Secondly, you’ll have to look for difficulty. So that you know about how difficult it is going to be to rank the selected keywords. This isn’t as same as the competition-score that you can get from AdWords. Competition in Google AdWords is just the competition of paid ads results.
It’s not the same exact thing as it is like how hard it is going to be to rank a keyword in the Google organic search results.
However, if you don’t have a tool that gives you the difficulty score like Moz, then competition score will just do fine for you.
CTR (Click Through Rate)
Thirdly you’re going to want to know the click-through rate “CTR” opportunity if you see a lot of advertisements above the fold.
If there is any knowledge graph or there’s the answer box on the top of the search that’s going to take the clicks away from those organic search results. You’ve probably seen this where it’s no longer 10 blue organic links anymore it’s down to 7th or it is down to even 5th result in SERPs.
You have to understand that before targeting a specific keyword. Again this is all part of this keyword research stage of gathering metrics and attaching the metric to each one of the keywords.
Step 3: Keywords Grouping
This step is the fun but slightly tedious part and that is grouping keywords by intent. I prefer to start with a do, know, and go queries and then dive deeper.
For instance, some searches may be targeting the applications of your product while others just the benefits while others still just the features of your product.
Let’s say if you have a list of 500 keywords you may come up with 30 to 40 different keyword groups and again there’s going to be so many almost identical keywords.
Some will be plural versions of the singulars so you might want to get rid of those. Just try to narrow them down to several dozen different keyword groups.
Now Google keyword planner already helped sort and group keywords based on common topics but you want to be a little bit more granular than what google keyword planner does in AdWords.
Remember Google is a machine, you are a human who is an expert hopefully in your product category. So learn from Google but remember you will have the final say.
Also, remember the goal is not to create a page for each keyword. The goal here is to create a page concerning a specific topic or in this case a group of keywords around a specific topic.
Therefore, group the keywords into small enough groups that you know you can create a page on your website/blog, to satisfy that search.
Step 4: Prioritization
In this step of keyword research, you will now have to prioritize the keywords in keyword groups. There are lots of different factors to look for but let’s just keep it to these three that you see here for now. (see above picture)
Filter keywords based on Importance to your website/business
Since you are close to the product and have a good understanding of your target audience in the market.
In general, make sure you prioritize by the importance to you and your own company/business/website, remember you are the expert!
No machine or formula will be able to filter through this keyword list as well as you prioritize.
Number two is based on the difficulty of ranking for a keyword grouping.
For instance, you may want to rank for best running shoes but as you can imagine this would be very difficult to rank for such a competitive keyword. You will want to set your sights on something achievable so you can gain momentum through a series of small wins.
Traffic / Monthly volume
Thirdly take a look at the traffic. Remember this is why you’re doing this research in the first place.
If a keyword only gets 10 clicks per month while unless you’re selling commercial jumbo jets then that is probably not a keyword you want to go after initially. The idea is that you want to find a combination of:
- The opportunity of Click-Through Rate (CTR)
- Traffic volume
To choose the right keywords to rank for now as a final word of advice when you are researching and prioritizing keywords.
Ask yourself these five commonsense questions about keyword research:
Question #1: Is the keyword relevant to your Website’s content?
That means to look beyond the large numbers and metrics and traffic volume and be realistic concerning what you offer specifically. And if this keyword or keyword group is something you can satisfy users with.
Question #2: Will researchers find what they are looking for, on your site when they search using these keywords?
Question #3: Do you already have the content developed or are you able to develop the content?
Question #4: Will they be happy with what they find? Or is it just bland content that was produced to try to get a ranking?
Remember your goal is to delight not spam and trust me, Google is getting much smarter at determining the difference.
But keep this in mind when researching keywords, that the traffic you earn should result in financial rewards or other organizational goals.
Question #5: Is this keyword going to move you forward or is it just marketing noise?
Now if the answer to all these five questions “about keyword research” is a clear YES then obviously proceed with that keyword in keyword grouping.
Once you have prioritized your huge list of keywords, you’re able to know what you can effectively target and in what order.
NOTE: It’s important to remember that Keyword Research is about getting the right kind of customers to visit the right kind of page.
Remember traffic, in general, is not an indication of success because that is a metric that can be spammed and manipulated.
In fact, you can even force your current customers to log in through a link on your home page to manipulate traffic signals and metrics.
Therefore, internally it looks like you’re doing so great. But in reality, you know you’ve just manipulated traffic.
That’s why you want to look past traffic into other key performance metrics like engagement.
The process for many users though starts with the keyword.
Think about if you are going on vacation in Paris what is your goto for knowledgeable research? Maybe friends and family but ultimately for most people, you will eventually go to the search engines
That is when you start to type in all sorts of phrases, refining and perfecting your search phrases to get the information you desired.
That is why keyword research is one of the most valuable, high-return, and important activities in this search marketing. Ranking for the correct keywords can break or make your website.
Again the right people to the right page, by doing correct keyword research for your business’s keyword demand. You can not just understand which phrases and terms to target with keyword research, but also you learn about what are your customer’s needs, as a whole.
Remember it is not always about how many visitors you are getting to your website, but it is also about bringing in the right targeted visitors.
The benefits of this kind of intelligence that you generate from your keyword research cannot be overstated. With the keyword research, one can easily predict things such as shifts in demand.
You can respond to the changes in the market conditions and can produce the services, products, and content that the web searcher is seeking and searching.
This is the reason, I love digital marketing. In the history of digital marketing, I haven’t seen that kind of low restriction to understand the willingness of customers in virtually all industries.
Keyword research goals
So when you engage in your keyword research again the goal of this stage is to understand your users:
- What are they searching for?
- What are their goals?
- What is their intent?
- What are their needs and pain points?
Your goal here is to understand your users and group their needs and their wants and their pain points into large topics at least topics that relate to your product that eventually we will make content for.
Finally, if you have questions, doubts, suggestions please feel free to reach out through the comment section beneath this guide. I will be very much obliged and reply, as soon as I get time.