From marketing campaigns to blog posts, understanding what your audience and potential customers are looking for is crucial if you want to build a successful business. Luckily, keyword research can point you in the right direction and show you exactly what your audience wants.
And it’s not just helpful for writing a blog post or running a website—if you’ve written a book or sell any products online, you’ll likely need to do some Amazon keyword research to help shoppers find your product more easily.
Anyone (or any business) with an online presence who seeks to grow their platform should have at least a basic understanding of keyword research and SEO, and we’ve got you covered with the most important elements in this post.
What Is Keyword Research?
In SEO (Search Engine Optimization), keyword research refers to the process of finding and analyzing the actual terms that people enter into search engines in order to find the information they want.
For example, if your dog needs a haircut, you might enter the term “pet groomers near me” into Google. Those are the keywords that you’ve chosen to find what you need.
But you don’t need to be a mind reader to figure out which keywords people are using. There are so many tools and different strategies available to help you with your keyword research so you can make sure your content is providing exactly what your audience is looking for.
Why Is Keyword Research Important for SEO?
While using the exact terms entered by users into search engines was once the most important aspect of keyword research, SEO has since evolved to give more weight to user intent.
Keyword research can help you understand the problem that a user intended to solve when they started their search. This means that your content must effectively address that problem—and not just contain the exact keywords—in order to rank well.
A single word can carry a number of different meanings. For example, let’s say you’re researching the keyword phrase “types of conflict.” Do most people who search that phrase want to learn about the types of conflict in literature? Or are they trying to understand the types of conflict in world politics?
Both of these possible intents are equally valid, but even if your post is perfectly optimized for this phrase, it won’t do you much good unless you’ve understood which types of conflicts your audience is searching for.
Determining a user’s intent can sometimes be as simple as entering the keyword into a search engine yourself. The top-ranking results should reflect the user’s intention: those posts are ranking so well because they’ve adequately addressed the user’s need.
It’s also important to note that the intent behind a keyword can range from very broad to very specific. While broader keywords (such as “tennis shoes”) tend to have higher search volumes, sometimes more specific terms (such as “buy tennis shoes”) are more likely to convert, since if someone is entering that term, they have already decided to buy the product.
How Do You Start Keyword Research?
The following are key steps that will help you get started with keyword research. However, keep in mind that your ideal process may vary slightly based on the type of website you run, as well as your goals, budget, and competitive landscape.
Know Your Audience
Knowing what your audience wants is the first step to successful keyword research. You may be tempted to start your research with keywords you want your site to rank for—but there’s a chance that this will be different from what your audience actually wants.
Start by asking yourself what your target audience or customer is looking for:
- Why are they looking for those things?
- What words do they use in their searches?
- What questions do they ask?
- Where are your prospective readers or customers located?
- Are they always looking for this, or only during certain seasons/times of year?
Knowing your audience is really what keyword research is all about, so before you go any further, make sure you thoroughly understand at least the basics about your typical reader. This information will help guide you toward sets of keywords you’d like to research in depth.
You can use Google Search Console to get an idea of the keywords you’re already ranking for. This will show you the posts or areas of your site that you can improve or expand upon, which might give you some new content ideas already!
Check Out the Competition
You should already be generally aware of who your top competitors are (both in business and in web traffic). If you’re not, you’ll need to hit up Google Analytics and gather that data before continuing.
Once you’ve identified your top competitors, you can use a tool like Ahrefs to analyze their top-ranking posts and keywords.
This can be a great way of finding some general keyword ideas that you’d also like to rank for. Check out their posts, and try to find what’s working for them. Then, think of how you can make your posts even better and more valuable than your competitors’.
Find a Keyword Research Tool
For the best results, you’ll want to have a reliable keyword research tool in your toolbox. You should ideally find a tool that provides the keyword’s monthly search volume, click through rates, related keywords, and keyword difficulty to help you find the best term.
These tools vary between free and paid features. You can also use many of these tools to generate keyword ideas. For example, with the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, all you have to do is enter a general term (such as “keyword research”) and you’ll get a list of content ideas to explore.
Some of the best options include:
- Ahrefs: This paid tool provides backlink data, keyword suggestions, key metrics from your competitors, and many other valuable insights that can help you to analyze and optimize your site.
- Google Keyword Planner: This free Google Ads tool provides keyword suggestions for your site or products, and it can also show you how your keywords fit into different categories related to your brand.
- Ubersuggest: Ubersuggest is an SEO tool that can generate keyword ideas as well as provide insight on top-ranking sites and backlink data.
- Keywords Everywhere: This browser plugin is extremely easy to use. Though no longer free, it can save you a lot of time by displaying the search volume for keywords directly in your search bar as you type.
- SEMrush: SEMrush also allows you to check out the competition, search keywords, and even use an SEO content template. There is also a free version with limited per-day searches.
- Keyword Surfer: Keyword Surfer is a lot like Keywords Everywhere, but it’s free! It also provides related keywords with their respective search volumes.
Here are some simple definitions for the most common terms you might see when using your keyword research tools:
Search volume: the estimated number of times the term is searched, usually per month.
Click-through rates (CTR): the percentage of users who click on a link and view a page, email, or advertisement.
Keyword difficulty: a metric for understanding how hard it would be for you to rank for that particular keyword. This applies to organic search results (unpaid results that most closely match a searcher’s query).
It’s important to note that the data presented by these tools are estimates, and rarely 100% accurate—but they can still give you a good idea of which keywords are worth pursuing for your content or ads.
Try the “Niche Down” Approach
With the “niche down” approach, you start with a general topic relevant to your site—let’s say “blogging”—and enter that into your keyword research tool.
If you’re using a tool like Ahrefs or Ubersuggest, you can find a list of more specific keyword ideas based on the term you entered.
Below, you can see the ideas and terms that came up when I entered “blogging” into Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer (note that there are nearly 45,000 suggestions total):
Use Google’s “People Also Ask” Questions
Often when you search something on Google, you’ll see a section called “People Also Ask” mixed in with the first page of results.
These are real questions that people actually search in order to find information related to your keyword. For example, the image below shows the related questions that pop up when I search “how to start a blog.”
These questions actually provide a lot of valuable insight: they show you exactly what people want to know about a given topic, so you should be sure to address those questions in your site’s content.
Repeat the Process in 3 Months
Once you’ve written your blog post or ad using the keywords that are best for your goals, it’s a good idea to revisit the post in about 3 months to reassess.
Why should you do this? For starters, the data changes all the time, and so does user intent. The keywords that users search to ultimately arrive at your site or blog post may not be the same 3 months from now, so you’ll want to make sure that you’re optimizing your content for the terms people are using today.
To find SEO keywords that your website is already ranking for, head over to Google Search Console. Once you’ve set up all your site info, you’ll be able to get an overall snapshot of your website’s performance. From your main dashboard, you can click on “Search Results” (on the left-hand panel).
Then, you’ll be taken to a page where you can view the most-used queries, or search terms, that people enter before ultimately getting to your site.
You can choose to view data for the last 3 months, 12 months, 7 days, 28 days, or a custom range of your choice. Then, you can export the data to an Excel file to see clicks for each query in that given time period, along with their impressions, CTR, and position (where you rank for that term).
Keyword Research for SEO
By learning how to do keyword research for SEO, you can optimize your blog, website, or shop in order to get more traffic and reach more people.
Take the time to understand your audience and invest in the right tools so you can provide your readers with exactly what they want and become a trusted authority in your field.
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