Guide to SEO keyword research from A - Z

Guide to SEO keyword research from A – Z

SEO keyword research is the first step in the SEO copywriting process and an essential part of your SEO strategy. Before you create your website content, you must figure out what search terms your audience uses. Search terms are the keywords of you. Based on these keywords, you can start writing useful and high-quality content. Here, we’ll walk you through the many steps involved in keyword research.

Guide to SEO keyword research from A - Z

Guide to SEO keyword research from A – Z

What is SEO keyword research?

SEO keyword research is part of SEO (search engine optimization). It’s the job someone does to come up with an extensive list of keywords for which they want a site to rank. To get such a list, website owners need to get to know their desired audience and search engines thoroughly. What search terms do people type into Google when searching for their product, service, business, or type of organization? And what do they expect to find? With this list, website owners can create content that attracts more, high-quality traffic to their site. Keyword research never ends: repeating it often is essential to stay up to date!

Why is SEO keyword research important?

Proper SEO keyword research is important as it will clarify what search terms your audience uses. We frequently come across business owners using one set of words when describing their products, while their target audience uses a completely different set of words. As a result, potential customers cannot find those websites due to inappropriate wording.

For example, sometimes the marketing department decides to give the product an uncommon name. This can be a smart marketing decision: People can remember your product more easily. If you rent out a vacation home instead of a vacation home, you might stand out. But beware: Very few people search for [holiday homes]. If you optimize your text for this term, you can rank well on this particular term. However, you won’t generate much traffic with this term and you will miss out on a large portion of your potential audience because they use other words.

You will probably understand that it makes no sense to optimize for words that people don’t use. Thorough keyword research ensures that you use the same words as your target audience, and this makes your entire website optimization effort much more worthwhile. Plus, by looking at search intent, you know exactly what your audience is looking for. Those queries will get answers in the form of quality content.

SEO Keyword Research Basics

Before  moving on to keyword research, we will immediately explain some of its basics:

A  focus keyword or keyphrase is the word or phrase you want to have a certain page on your site found at Google. You define your set of focus keyword phrases by performing keyword research.

Long-tail keywords are more specific and less commonly searched for than head keywords. They focus on a niche market. The longer and more specific the search terms, the easier it will be to rank for them because there will be less competition. While fewer people are searching for these terms, they may be more motivated to buy, sign up, sign up, or do whatever you want them to do.

Your keyword strategy is about the decisions you make based on your keyword research. For example, what content would you create first? Will you focus on the head or the tail? How and where will you publish it? Will you create a paragraph, a post or a product page, a video tutorial, or an infographic?

Digging into search intent is key here: you have to discover what searchers really want or need. You are not only looking at keywords, but also basic goals of what the searcher wants to know, do, or buy. Your content should provide a solution to the searcher’s “problem”. This is also known as content design.

How is SEO keyword research done?

We believe there are 8 important steps while doing SEO Keyword Research. Here, we’ll walk you through the process step-by-step and give you practical tips for starting your own keyword research:

1. Define your mission

Before starting anything,  think about your mission. Reflect on questions like What are the main goals of your business or organization? What makes it special? Who exactly are you trying to reach? And, what do you promise on your website? Take your time and literally write down your mission. When you can answer these questions in detail, you’ll take the first and most important step in your keyword strategy.

The market you’re in will determine if your mission is genius enough to rank high. Some markets are highly competitive, with large companies dominating the search results. These companies have huge budgets for marketing in general and SEO in particular. Competition in these markets is tough, so ranking in these markets will also be difficult.

Perhaps you sell cruises to Hawaii. You offer great amenities for children, making excursions especially suitable for young or single parents. Offering the best trips to Hawaii for young parents could very well be what makes your service unique. So look for what makes your product stand out from the competition. This should be your mission, your niche  – and this is what you must offer your audience.

If you are entering a competitive market, your best bet is to start small. After you ‘own’ a small piece of that niche and become a bigger name in the Hawaii cruise business, you can try to upgrade and sell your cruises for a larger (more general) amount. Your tasks will then also become more general.

2. Make a list of keywords

The second step is to create a list of your keywords, preferably in a spreadsheet, such as Google Sheets or Excel. With your mission, try to reach your desired audience. What will these people be looking for? What kind of search terms might they use when looking for your great service or product? What “problem” does your product solve? Write down as many answers as possible. If your mission is clear, you’ll have a pretty clear picture of your niche and unique selling points (things that set your business apart from others). These are the search terms you want to be found for.

3. Research your keywords

After you’ve created this first list, it’s time to dig a little deeper into your keywords. Luckily, there are a number of tools that make your keyword research a little easier.

  • We have an article about the best keyword research tools for SEO, you can refer to it  HERE.

The first is Google itself. Google the keywords you’ve come up with and check out the searches Google suggests while you’re typing. Those are the questions people actually ask Google! You can also see “relevant searches” on the Google results page.

4. Don’t forget the long tail

When people get started with keyword research, they tend to focus on very popular “head” phrases. Unfortunately, those top keywords are mostly used by big businesses. On the other hand, long-tail keywords receive less search traffic, but also have less competition. Therefore, it will be easier for you to rank on those keywords. Furthermore, long-tail keywords have even higher conversion value, as they focus more on a specific product or topic: a niche!

A long-tail keyword is usually longer and more focused than the main term. If your main term is [women’s clothing], then a long-tail keyword might be [buy beautiful women’s clothing in Hanoi…]. Using the tools mentioned in step 3 will also help you find more long-tail variations of your keywords.

Don’t forget to add long-tail keywords to your spreadsheet. Put key phrases in the first column and add (multiple) columns for long tail keywords. This will also help you create a proper site structure later on. The longer your search term, the deeper its landing page goes into your site structure.

5. Competitive analysis

Whether or not you should pursue long-tail keywords largely depends on your competition. If the competition in your niche is high, you will have a hard time ranking on competitive terms. If you have less competition, you will be able to rank for more of your key terms. So you will need to do some benchmarking for SEO.

Google the keywords that come from your keyword research. Start with your most ‘head’ term. Check the search engine results page (SERP). These are the sites you will have to compete with when you optimize your content for such a keyword. Take a closer look: Do you see professional websites? The company’s website? Are you ‘equal’ to these companies? Is your website suitable for these? Is your company similar in size and does it have much of an impact on your niche?

It’s harder to rank when you’re competing with sites with strong brands. If brands are known from TV or radio ads, your chances of ranking high will become even smaller. But it won’t hurt to see their content. Is the content well-written and well-optimized? If your competitors have poor content, you might have a chance to outrank them!

Also, check out the ads in Google. Is there any? If you have a Google Ads account, you can check your pay-per-click. Search terms with high pay-per-click are also often harder to rank for in the organic results.

Make sure to make notes in your spreadsheet about your findings for the keywords you investigated!

6. Take a closer look at search intent

Today’s SEO strategies, for the most part, should revolve around answering questions people have or providing the best solution to their “problem”. Whenever someone types a search query into a search engine, they are looking for something. Every type of question needs a specific answer.

Try to find out the intent of your audience when they type a certain keyword phrase into Google. They have informational purposes (trying to find information on a particular topic), navigational purposes (wanting to visit a particular website), commercial purposes (wanting to research something first). when buying) or transactional purpose (want to buy something now)?

You can learn more about the search intent of certain queries by looking closely at the type of pages that have already ranked for that query. Do you primarily view product pages? Or lots of informative blog posts? Did you watch the video? Or is it a mix? These are all hints about what Google assumes as the search intent of a given query. This post explains how to use search results to create great content with the right intent.

Find out what kind of intent applies to your keyword phrases and again, add the findings to your spreadsheet!

7. Define Keyword Strategy

Based on the data you have collected right now, you can define a keyword strategy. If you followed the steps above, you should have a spreadsheet with a substantial number of keyword phrases and information about the competition and audience intent for those keyword phrases.

Now think about this question: How does my site hold up compared to sites in the SERPs? Do you have the same marketing budget and size: go ahead and focus on those basics. If not: try longer tail keywords first. Focusing on a bunch of well-matched long-tail keywords can drive a lot of traffic. Once you’ve managed to rank for those long-tail keywords, it becomes easier to target more title phrases.

Once you’ve decided where to jump in, think about the content-type: What is the search intent for my keyword phrases? What is my audience looking for? Also, what content can I create that isn’t there and how can I stand out for quality or provide a solution? This will help you decide what type of content you will create.

8. Start creating landing pages

In theory, this step is beyond the scope of keyword research by itself. However, creating great landing pages is essential if you want to get traffic to your website. So you’ll need to build landing pages for your search terms, but you don’t have to create all of these at once – it can be a long-term endeavor. Your keyword strategy will help you prioritize.

For your most important keyword phrases, you will create foundational content articles; articles that provide the best possible content on that keyword – authoritative and comprehensive. All your long, supporting articles will link to this foundational content.

Tips for SEO keyword research

This all sounds pretty simple, but we know it’s a lot of work and easier said than done. As you practice, you may encounter some common problems or questions. Here we give some tips to make it work!

Prioritize your keyword list

How many keywords should you have? Well, we can’t tell you exactly how many keywords you should have, but we can tell you that you need a lot of keywords – as many as you can think of. However, 1000+ keywords is probably too much! Even if you are a small business, you will probably end up with a few hundred keywords.

But there’s no need to create pages for all of this right away. You can add content little by little. Think about what keywords you want to rank for now – longer keywords perhaps? – and which one is not immediately important. Understand your priorities and plan your content creation.

The focus keyword phrase and its synonyms are just one page

Previously, each keyword you wanted to find had its own landing page. However, nowadays search engines are so smart that they mainly use search intent to give searchers the best answers to their questions. The page that answers those questions best will rank at the top. Search engines also understand the subtle differences between keywords, so you don’t need to create a landing page for all the subtle variations of a keyword, such as synonyms.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use synonyms! In fact, synonyms can really improve the readability of your copy, so make sure to use them.

Add related keyword phrases to help Google understand your text

Related keyword phrases are words and concepts that deepen and broaden your understanding of your focus keyword phrase. They even help Google better understand what you’re talking about. By using relevant keyword phrases in your text, you can paint a complete picture of your focus keyword phrase in the article you’re writing.

So, how to find related keyword phrases that will help you rank for your focus keyword phrase? You can think of a few related keyword phrases, but we think proper keyword data is the safest way. SEMrush is one of the leading SEO and marketing software companies in the world, which will help you find the right related keyword phrases for your content.

Check results for singular and plural keywords

Should you aim for singular or plural keywords? Well, this depends on the query. Since Google is learning more about the search intent of your query, it can better guess what you’re looking for. For example, if you search for books, you will get a different result than when you search for books. Apparently, Google thinks that in the first case you are looking for a definition, in the second case it thinks you are intending to buy a book. So make sure you know what you have to offer on your page and that it matches the query and the results that Google gives for that query.

Use the keyword phrase only once

Take note, you shouldn’t use your exact focus keyword more than once. If you do, your ranking may drop. Google has trouble distinguishing between very similar content. As a result, it may rank very similar posts or pages lower.

Try, rate, and try again

Once you’ve done a thorough analysis of your chances of ranking on a particular term, the next step is to write a great article and optimize it accordingly. And hit publish,  share it on social media and in your newsletter. Guarantee that you will attract some nice backlinks. And wait a little while. Check your ranking. Did your post pop up? Does it hit the first page of Google’s SERPs? Or is it hidden on page 2 or 3? Make sure to rate your article in the SERPs. Google the terms that you have optimized for your articles. Check if your efforts are paying off!

If you can’t rank on the first page, try to write another article, focusing on (even) longer tail keywords. Make it a little more specific, more appropriate. And let’s see how it goes. Re-evaluate. Continue this process until you reach the first page of the SERPs!

Quick SEO keyword research

In an ideal world, you would do your SEO keyword research, create a nice-looking Excel sheet, and create landing pages for each keyword. Your website structure will be perfect and you will blog and write every day making your website rank higher and higher in Google. But, we are living in the real world.

Of course, your keyword research won’t always be extensive. And some posts or articles are not written as part of a great strategy, but just because the topic is in the news or something inspires you to write it. That’s just how these things work. But this is not a problem.

If you’re writing something that doesn’t quite align with your strategy, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to rank it. You can still use it to rank for something related to the terms on your keyword strategy list. Use the tools mentioned in step 3 and  Google Trends to quickly check which keywords you want to rank for. At the very least, take a moment to think about how to make your article or blog fit with your strategy. After all, if you’re writing valuable content, you might as well rank it!

Ready? Start writing!

SEO keyword research should be the starting point of any sustainable SEO strategy. The result will be a long list of keywords that you want to be found for. But the hardest part is still ahead: writing all that content. You should write articles and blog posts about every keyword you want to be found for. That is a challenge.

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