Keyword research is the foundation of SEO. Understanding how to conduct proper research before writing will greatly increase your chances of ranking and producing SEO-friendly content.
Chances are, if you are reading this, you have a good understanding of the basic best practices of SEO and want to strengthen your keyword research muscle.
Most keyword research guides provide great insight into how their products can help you through this process; however, this article is a simple guide to the basics of keyword research, finding keywords, and conducting the research.
Related: Black Hat SEO Technique to Stop Using Now
SEO is one of the most frustrating concepts to grasp. While there are many techniques used to rise to the top of Google’s coveted first page, there are several Black Hat techniques to avoid at all costs.
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is the data-driven process of finding the keywords you can rank for on Google, and optimizing your content for SEO. During this process, you must have a clear understanding of your audience’s desires, challenges, or problems they are seeking to solve.
Keyword research helps you answer these questions:
- What are people searching for? Are they asking “how to”, “kinds of”, “types of” in front of a keyword phrase?
- How many people are searching for it? Review search volume and competition for keywords.
- In what format do they want the information? Are they asking for checklists? Videos?
Where to Start: Finding Keyword Ideas
Keyword research can prove to be really interesting, and you might change direction a number of times before you settle on a topic, but that’s ok!
Before you begin kw research, you want to make sure you have a good grasp on your audience and the end goal for this piece of content.
The key to keyword research is understanding who your audience is and the terms they use to search for a topic. These terms include semantics they might use instead of your selected keyword, like substitute terms, product terms, brand terms, and even competitor terms. Keep these terms in mind as you go through the research process.
Simple Steps for Keyword & SEO Research
1. Make a list of “seed” keywords. (alignment with brand, audience, content strategy)
Before you begin drilling into the data of the keyword selected, it’s important to develop a solid keyword seed list you can use as a guide for your research.
Jot down the topic you want to write about. Then, ask yourself what terms your audience would use to search about that topic. Consider how these questions and terms align with your brand and overall content strategy.
Tip: Pay close attention to search intent. If you are researching a keyword phrase for the intent of a blog article, but the top ranking results are primarily ecommerce category pages, you might consider a different keyword. In this instance, Google is showing us that users are primarily interested in a product when searching that particular keyword.
Look at other blog content, comments, and support forums for ideas on the words, phrases, and questions posed by users there.
2. Do competitive research.
After you’ve made your list of “seed” ideas, start by reviewing the content that already exists about that topic. Search your keyword and take inventory of the quality of content on page 1.
Ask yourself how you could improve the content, what questions your audience might have after reading, and how you can add your unique expertise to the content.
You can also find new ideas by reviewing the content you already rank for with Google Search Console.
Here’s how: Performance > Search Results > Queries/Pages
- Queries will show you what users type in to reach your site.
- Sort those by position (make sure it’s selected at the top!) to see which queries you rank highest for.
- If you click into each query, then click the “pages” column, you will see which page that query goes to.
See if you can glean any additional ideas from those queries. Perhaps there are questions that you could expand upon in another post – BAM! That’s a fresh, new idea.
3. Use Free or Low-Cost Keyword Research Tools
Reviewing search volume and competition ranges are crucial once you have a solid base of content. If you are just beginning to produce content, I recommend focusing on long-tail keywords and creating high-quality content on a consistent basis.
In addition to having great content, utilizing free or low-cost tools will make the job much easier. When you decide on your keyword, begin using the tool of your choice to analyze search volume, competition, CPC, and trend data.
Here are the tools I use for Keyword Research:
- Keywords Everywhere – You can purchase 100,000 credits for $10 that never expire. I purchased this plan about 3 months ago and have only used about half. I’m a daily keyword researcher, too!
- Google Search Console – Use GSC to see what queries are bring traffic to your site and your ranking position in the search results.
- Google Analytics – Use Google Analytics to review how much traffic pages receive, who your audience is and the referral channel.
- Google Snippets – This is by far the handiest, FREE tool provided by Google. These are the “People Also Ask” questions within the results. Include information throughout your content to answer these questions. These are frequent queries related to your keyword, searched by Google users.
4. Find Additional Keywords
After you have researched your keyword, you’ve more than likely found a few more that are related to your long-tail keyword. Utilizing additional keywords to complement your main phrase will increase the chances of your content ranking.
For example, if “How to Bake a Chocolate Cake” is your main keyword phrase, it will also likely be the title of your blog post.
Then, after more research, you might come across additional keywords like these:
- chocolate cake recipe eggless
- types of chocolate cake
- classic chocolate cake recipe
- chocolate cake frosting
Weaving these keywords throughout your blog post on How to Bake a Chocolate Cake will increase the likelihood of ranking highly for the various keywords and provide your audience with additional, important information.
Google is great about understanding semantics, so those keywords do not have to be read in that particular order.
For example: You could provide information within the blog post about how to make an eggless chocolate cake recipe. Or, you could talk about the different frosting options for chocolate cake.
High-quality content that is readable by a human, and woven in naturally and semantically will enhance your standings with Google and your readers.
5. Start Writing.
Now that you have walked through the steps of the keyword research process, it’s time to begin writing your content.
Make sure your content is at least 800 words long. More importantly, make sure your content is thorough, well-researched, and is helpful to your readers.
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