While algorithm changes are almost constantly happening, the basics of keyword research have stayed roughly the same.

This article will teach you what keyword research is, why it’s important, how to do it, and ultimately how to tailor the best keywords for your page.

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of finding and analyzing search terms that people enter into search engines intending to use that data for a specific purpose. This could often be for search engine optimization (SEO) or general digital marketing.

Why is keyword research important?

We can think of keyword research as insight into what your target audience is actually searching on search engines like Google. The insight from these actual search terms can help form your SEO marketing strategy.

People use keywords to search for something online. So content matching those keywords are likely to be recommended by search engines in the search results. You can target these keywords strategically based on your website analytics and search data from Google Search Console.

google search console queries

You can find out what content your future customers will likely be searching for and make sure you are discoverable.

As you build the data from your research, you will start to see current marketing trends, as you will see the popularity of keywords coming and going over time. If you want to see the data as a graph, you can plug your terms into a SAAS (Software As A Service) product like SEMRush. Using tools like this you can uncover and better understand helpful information with the assistance of their databases and easy to use user interface.

Related: How to use Google Search Console

keyword research SEMRush

The goal is to rank higher in search engine results, and to do that; you need to fit the bill that Google is looking for. The closer your page matches the Google search, the more traffic you will likely get.

keyword questions research

Not only can you figure out what your customers are searching for, but also related questions. If you are selling t-shirts, and you do research on “t-shirts” as your keyword, that’s fine. Still, you may find searches like “how big are the t-shirts” or “what are the care instructions for t-shirts,” which would give you a picture of your customer’s intent for searching. The intent is something Google tries hard to figure out, and it’s through keywords that we can get on the same page as Google.

This keyword research process is similar for Local SEO as well.

Keywords vs. Topics

It’s the intent behind the keyword; multiple factors go into judging the content for intent. Keyword research tells us what topics people care about. With this, you can figure out how popular those topics are. Topics lead to keyword selection and, therefore, your strategy.

Related: Long Tail vs Short Tail keywords

The 3 Foundations of Keyword Research

Relevance

Google will rank the content on “relevance”. Your content must be the best resource out there for the search. We use Google because it tries to give you the most relevant match. Relevancy is figured out by many factors like the user’s location or mobile or desktop device.

Authority

Google will care more about “authoritative” pages. So how do we become an Authority on a topic in the eyes of Google? For example, an authority on business might be Forbes. Social signals and backlinks contribute to your authority; if lots of people are linking to you, you might be a good authority on the subject. (When we mention authority here, we’re not referring to domain authority.)

Volume

Google will look at how many searches you get, how many click-throughs occur, and other data that will factor into the equation. This is usually measured by MSV (monthly search volume), which means the number of times the keyword is searched per month. You can find search volume by location or by the audience as well.

How to Research Keywords for Your SEO Strategy

Make a list of relevant topics based on your target

You’ll come up with 5 topic ‘buckets’ you think are essential to your target; in this example, the target is your business. What is a topic bucket? Also known as Content Buckets, these topics should all connect to an overall brand message. We’ll then use those topic buckets to help develop specific keywords.

For example, if you’re a blogger, these are probably the topics you blog about most frequently. If you are in sales, the topic buckets will be the topics that come up in sales pitches. With keywords organized into groups, we can associate the volume behind the keywords in the buckets and see which buckets have the most searched keywords associated with them. We want to measure the strength of individual words and also the strength of the whole bucket.

Fill in topic buckets with keywords

We’ve figured out our topic buckets and filled in some keywords; now what? The next step isn’t to come up with your final list of keyword phrases. To do that, you’ll need analytics software. Search through your website’s traffic sources and ‘organic search traffic bucket to identify the keywords people use to arrive at your site.

If you’re having trouble coming up with the correct search terms, you can always try asking people in sales what types of terms their prospects and customers use. If you can figure out your customers’ questions, you can provide better answers.

Analyzing Keyword Research Accordingly

You may see that Google is paying a lot of attention to the searcher’s intent. This means that feeding Google answers to users search intent is a significant factor in ranking. The most important thing to remember is that Google will attempt to provide users with the best possible results for their search.

To verify a keyword’s intent, it can be helpful to plug the keyword into a Google search for yourself and see what the results are. Types of intent are categorized into 4 groups: Informational, Navigational, Transactional, and Commercial. If you are trying to use the keyword ‘microphones,’ then Google will try and figure out if you want to learn about microphones, find the microphone, or buy a microphone.

Related Search Terms

related keywords research

This is a function that is possibly built into SEO analytics tools but is also possible to do on your own. Try searching for something on Google and scroll until you come across the ‘related search terms. You’ll notice some suggestions for alternate searches related to your original input. These keywords can spark ideas for other keywords; try clicking on them and seeing what new variations come from them.

Keyword research tools make it easier

You’ve got some great places to start; let’s keep everything in one place and connect these data points. Programs or Apps can help, and here are some popular options to get you started. They each have strengths and weaknesses, depending on the type of SEO keyword research you need to do. You’ll also get advanced metrics like Keyword Difficulty, which lets us know how difficult it is to rank for a particular keyword.

The shortlist of tools includes:

Explore our full list of keyword research and SEO tools here

Closing Thoughts On Keyword Research

Using a tool for keywords with a paid subscription can give you a significant advantage. However, you can do smaller bits of keyword research on your own or using free options. Putting keywords into databases helps you categorize things, find the priorities, and compare the pros and cons of your keywords.

You can analyze your keywords and also your competition’s keywords, and so do both. You can often model your competition’s success by finding their keywords and mimicking their strategies for yourself.

Lastly, remember that not all keywords are equal, so be careful to measure your keywords with a balance of the right metrics. The balance of volume, rank, and keyword difficulty will be different for each situation. If you want to learn more about keyword research and SEO visit the rest of our blog.

Originally published . Last updated .

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