Your Guide to Keyword Research7 min read
Many marketers might call keyword research the foundation of search engine optimization (SEO). It’s definitely a consistent element for marketers who need to optimize websites and drive traffic. Simply put, if no one searches for your content, how will they find you?
That’s why mastering keyword research is crucial to your success in content marketing and SEO efforts.
In this blog, we’ll cover the major bases:
- The definition of keyword research
- Why it’s so important
- Tips to find the best keywords and phrases
- How best to incorporate those keywords and phrases into your content
What Is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process by which marketers research popular terms that people enter into Google or other search engines. People might use these terms to search for products, services or answers to questions.
Marketers then take these terms and strategically incorporate them into their content to boost their ranking on search engine result pages (SERPs). That’s the plan, anyway — incorporating terms and actually boosting SERP rank can be tricky.
Why Is Keyword Research So Important?
When you find the right set of targeted keywords (or keyphrases) and incorporate them into your content, that content has better chances of ranking for those keywords. And when your content ranks for the right keywords, it means more potential customers find your site organically (that is, not via paid ads).
Keyword research can also provide unique business and industry insights. Furthermore, it informs other core SEO strategies:
- Page optimization
- Content planning
- Content auditing and gap analysis
- SEO and content prioritization
- Trend discovery
- Product or service naming
- Video optimization and creation
In short, creating content for the right keywords really helps drive long-term, organic traffic that represents the ideal customer for your site. In turn, some of these customers will likely find that your website best suits their needs.
And voilà! You have brand-new customers.
Tips for Effective Keyword Research
So, how do you effectively research keywords so that you see that direct boost in your organic traffic? Here are some tips.
Build Keyword Lists
Create keyword lists of possible terms and phrases you might want to rank for. To do this, consider your ideal customers’ wants and needs, as well as any questions they might have that could direct them to your site. You should base your keywords on four main factors:
- Relevance and intent
- Competition level
- Gaps in your current content
- Search volume
Additionally, you could try to rank for two different keyword types: long-tail keywords and short-tail keywords.
In essence, long-tail keywords are lengthier, more specific keyphrases. Customers are more likely to use these in search engines when they’re closer down the sales journey toward conversion. Because they’re so specific, long-tail keywords often have a lower search volume.
For example, it’s realistic to assume that someone using the long-tail keyword phrase “2007 Honda car detailing Seattle WA” is ready to pay someone for auto services. Meanwhile, someone searching the more general “car detailing” may simply be curious about what car detailing involves.
Although you’ll draw less traffic with long-tail keywords, the traffic you do attract will be from people who are more committed and curious about your products and services.
[Related: Website Accessibility and SEO]
Short-tail keywords, aka “head terms,” cover the more general search terms people use when browsing the web. These keywords are usually only one to three words long and cover a broad, general topic. Using our earlier example, “car detailing” would be a short-tail keyword.
These keywords have a higher search volume than most long-tail keywords, so they can attract more web visitors. However, this high volume also means these terms are much more competitive.
As a result, it’s usually difficult for your content to rank for them — especially if your site has a low domain authority.
Use Keyword Research Tools
Guessing which keywords might boost your traffic or move customers along the sales funnel would take (and even waste) a lot of time and effort. Luckily, you have access to several online keyword research tools that produce and analyze the probable success of any keyword or phrase.
For example, the SEMRush Keyword Magic Tool has an extended database of more than 20 billion keywords. It can give you valuable insights on how worthwhile your keywords are. It can even suggest which keywords to use (and which ones your competitors rank for).
The SEMRush Keyword Magic Tool offers many incredibly helpful frameworks:
- Estimated monthly search volume
- Related terms and phrases
- Average difficulty
- Questions-only filter to find keywords that ask questions
- Trend graph of seasonality
- Estimated cost per click
- Built-in filtering and sorting
- Ability to organize your search lists for different projects or websites
Note: When you use this tool or other organic traffic and keyword insight tools, look for keyword difficulty below 60% paired with a high search volume.
Study Your Competitors
Looking into what keywords or phrases your top competitors use can give you a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Check out those in your industry that rank higher than you on SERPs, and see what their content looks like.
Remember — don’t get discouraged. For example, you might not (OK, you almost certainly won’t) replace Apple.com when ranking for something like “Macbook repair,” but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include that keyword if your business repairs Macbooks. It just means you should also include long-tail keyphrases, like “Seattle local Macbook repair” or “quick overnight Macbook repair.”
The keyword research tools we mentioned can give you much more info on how to sharpen and target your keywords.
[Related: Why Blogging is Essential to Your Business]
Tips for Smart Keyword Use
Once you’ve compiled your keywords during your keyword research efforts, it’s essential to know how to incorporate them wisely into your content.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
With the right keywords, all you need to do is include them in your content as many times as possible and watch the traffic roll in, right?
Using the same keywords or phrases over and over again in your content is called “keyword stuffing,” and it can actually do more harm than good.
Poorly constructed content with irrelevant terms and phrases doesn’t just deter users from sticking around on your site. Search engines aren’t fans of keyword stuffing, either. You can actually lose your rank and disappear on SERPs if Google penalizes your site for keyword stuffing.
Instead, focus on how to include relevant keywords in your content in a way that reads well and helps potential customers.
Focus on Topics
Don’t get hung up on one keyword being the focus of your entire web page! Instead, emphasize one topic and reinforce it with related keywords. Thinking about it this way can ensure you provide quality content with intent that serves your ideal customer.
Keywords and phrases won’t simply read better while supporting your topic — you’ll also optimize for customer needs. And that combination will drive your organic traffic even further.
Acknowledge All Types of Content
To wrap up, it’s important to remember that when we refer to content, we’re not talking about written words alone. In terms of content marketing, things like graphics, photos, videos and even podcasts count as content for your company’s online presence.
Knowing which keywords to use can help you create several content types for targeted concepts and different audience personas.
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