July 12th 2022

What is Keyword Research

Keyword research is the process of identifying which words or phrases your target audience is using to search for your goods, services, or content in Google. It allows you to determine which are the best phrases or terms to use across your website to reach your target audience and identify which terms your competitors are using. This enables you to identify which keywords to target and evaluate if your content is satisfying the searcher’s intent.

Why Do You Need Keyword Research

1. To identify which key terms your target audience uses

It allows you to identify what key terms your landing pages should be targeting based on search volumes and difficulty for each key term.

Sometimes clients come to us with a very brand-centric view of their site visitors (we see this very often with high-end brands). They have a vision – different personas of who their clients will be and focus their online strategy with this person in mind.

This isn’t necessarily the wrong approach, as every company should have a unique selling point. However, these personas will differ with online users and the search terms they use to discover your website.

When visitors have entered the site from a search query, they most likely will enter on a product, services, or content page. Keyword research provides you with the data to identify the best key terms to target to reach this audience.

John Muller explains; “Ranking isn’t always the goal, your site can rank well but if nobody searches for it, that’s not really useful. From that, great content alone, even if it’s world-class, does not mean you’ll get great traffic…”

2. To ensure your content is optimised for the correct key terms

The industry has come a long way from keyword stuffing/frequency counts. Google is more advanced in understanding natural language and penalising bad, spammy content. Most pages that rank for a keyword/phrase often have that keyword included in the content. It is very difficult to write about a topic without mentioning the keyword at all. Google reviews all content on the web and determines ranking positions by the most relevant page to the search query. We have been conditioned to click on the first results, and so Google wants this to be the most relevant to the search. If there is a competitor page which appears more relevant, useful, and informational you can be at risk of dropping ranking positions for this query. As a result, it is important to regularly refresh and update your content; and to monitor competitor pages.

3. Discover new opportunities

  • Are there other similar or related products you could be targeting?
  • Should your filtered pages be optimised and indexable?
  • Are your consumers researching your product?
  • Do they need additional information to buy?

Keywords research will help you answer these questions.

4. Identify your online competition

Clients often come to us with a long list of who their direct competitors are. They; however, have very little understanding of their search competition. They wrongly assume the competition will only be from the business of a similar size and revenue. Keyword research helps you identify your search competition and what sites are ranking highly for the key terms you are also competing for. It allows you to understand how difficult it is going to be to target generic keywords, through keyword difficulty, and what your competitors have included on their page to permit them to rank high in the search.  

Sometimes you might need to go after a less competitive keywords to have any chance at gaining visibility in a highly competitive market. Keyword research helps you understand the search landscape and make these important decisions.

 

How to Conduct Keyword Research

1. Compile a list of phrases and search terms

The first step to conducting keyword research is to compile a list of phrases and search terms you want to appear for in Google, and what you think your target audience would search. It is best to create this list using Excel so you can gather all the data needed, see clearly what key terms you have found and easily filter and sort the sheet. There are several ways to identify the best keywords to target and begin creating a list of the best terms to target. You can do this by:

  • Your products/services

Create a list of the products or services you provide, and a variety of terms related to them. It is important your website ranks and mentions what you are trying to sell. Review the existing product/service descriptions on your website to identify possible search terms.

  • Current Rankings

Google crawls your website and identifies which search terms it believes your website would be a relevant and useful resource to rank for the search query. Even if you haven’t optimised your site or conducted any keyword research in the past, you could still have picked up a couple of rankings. Review these keywords and include the relevant ones to your list. It is important not to de-optimise these keywords and instead further optimise the relevant landing page to improve its ranking position.

You can use a variety of paid tools to identify your current rankings, as well as Google Search Console (GSC) which is free! You can use GSC to identify your current rankings and your positions. You can also discover keywords that Google see your site as relevant for that you might have missed.

  • Competitor Keyword Research

Find out which keywords your search competitors (especially the big players) are ranking for. It is likely, they have done some keyword research and are targeting key terms. No need trying to reinvent the wheel here when you can save some time. Clean up the list by removing products or services that your business doesn’t offer.

Competitor keywords are especially useful for a site that is just starting without any keyword history. Understanding what your competitors are trying to rank for can help you to identify further opportunities.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

If you have an existing site your current customers are an invaluable resource for keyword research. Find out how they discovered your site, what terms they used if they came from a search engine. Also, questions frequently asked to your customer service team is a great resource for creating additional content on your site.

We are often approached by businesses with this challenge; they want to:

  1. Reduce the number of calls to customer service.
  2. Increase the number of customers completing tasks online.
  3. Journey to task completion online to be simple and quick. 

Finding out the pitfall costumers experience directly from them is the first and often most useful place to start. 

  • Answer The Public

Answer the public is great for content keyword research, featured snippets, FAQ pages and article ideas.  It allows you to enter a search query and it generates commonly asked questions from search engines. This enables you to identify possible questions and topics to answer on your website.

Answer the Public shoes example

2. Expand your list using a bulk keyword tool 

Once you have created a list of possible key terms you believe are most relevant to your business, you now need to identify whether there is search volume and the difficulty in ranking for these terms.

You will need to use a bulk keyword suggestion and volume tool to identify search volume for each term identified. Unfortunately, most of them are paid tools; however, it is an invaluable resource to improve your website’s visibility in search engines and reach your target audience online

I use Google Keyword Planner tool within Google AdWords. Which technically is free (I say technically because you need an active Google AdWords account to get average monthly search data.  Without an active AdWords account, you only get shown a range). This is this useful for assessing how competitive a keyword is.

Example of Google's keyword Planner Tools Interface
Google Keyword Planner interface

This tool allows you to enter your pre-created list of keywords under ‘Get search volume and forecasts’ where it will show you the keyword volumes and difficulty for each of the key terms. Copy and paste your keywords (limit of 800) or upload a CSV file. This will allow you to identify any keywords with low search volumes which may not be worth targeting, and any high difficulty keywords which you will need to review to see if it is worth trying to target for.

 

Google Keyword Planner forecast example

Get search volume and forecasts interface

This is also a great tool because, under the Discover New Keywords section, it can recommend and suggest new keywords with volumes relating to a topic or website. If you do not already have an extensive list, this is a great place to gather relevant keywords for your list.

Google's Keyword Planner Tool -Discover new keywords
Google keyword planner – discover new keywords

Enter your main key term into the tool and it will suggest list of related keywords with search volumes and ranking difficulty. You can also enter your website URL, or that of a competitor, without a key term and the tool will suggest keywords based on the website. From this you can create or expand on your list of keywords.

3. Using Excel to clean up your data

The next step is cleaning up the keywords you have compiled in Excel. Firstly, ensure there are no duplicates in the sheet, and then remove any keywords which you do not feel are relevant to your business. Some people target misspellings but with auto-suggest, Google gives you results for the correct spelling anyway, so we would recommend taking misspellings out as you would not have misspellings in the copy of your website.

It is then best to review the high difficulty keywords to ensure you feel these are worth trying to rank for as it will be more difficult and may not always be worth targeting if there are similar keywords of a lower difficulty.

4. Categorise your keywords

Put your keywords into buckets and groups. It is impossible to target every keyword variation. Google is better at understanding natural language, so you don’t need to create content or optimise for every synonym of a keyword.  Categories also help you understand trends, patterns, and priorities.

The categories you assign to your keywords depends on what you want to do with the outcome of your research. With the number of keywords in your initial list it can be and a bit overwhelming and time consuming to go through. However, you do not have to action all the recommendations from the research at once. This should be written into your strategy and planned out over a couple of months.

This research can also be referenced as a benchmark when evaluating search visibility growth especially when presenting a performance report. Sometimes we forget to refer to the campaign start documents, and rather focus on month-on-month growth, which might not seem as substantial. However, looking at the initial document gives you a better view of how momentous your efforts have been.

When performing keyword research for a large site (namely ecommerce sites) I like to break up the categories into different excel tabs. This makes sorting through the keywords and writing recommendations easier.

5. Map keywords to landing pages

It is best to identify the best keywords to target for each of your product/services and their respective landing pages. It is important not to have more than one page targeting the same keyword otherwise they will be competing in search results. The keyword research can also help to identify new possible article topics and ideas or even a need for a new product or service.

If the website you are performing the keyword research for already has some visibility in search results, map these landing pages to the keywords in your sheet.  Download your ranking from any of the tracking tools you have available to you to easily identify the keywords you are already ranking for.

6. Identify underperforming landing pages and keyword categories

This is when the fun begins, sorting through your data. This largely depends on what categories you have assigned your keywords. From the sheet you can see which areas/categories your website is not ranking well or not at all for. These are areas you may want to focus on improving by either optimising the existing target landing page or creating new pages and content.

If you are conducting this research for your website this is the time to create an implementation plan and begin your work. However, if this is for a client, you need to present these recommendations to the C-suite or someone who has little understanding of SEO, I strongly recommend not sending the excel document with all the keywords and categories.

We do not send the keywords research documents to clients even though it has a lot of useful information except for when they ask for it. It is often too difficult for the client to go through it and understand what actions they should take. Recommendations are presented in PowerPoint or Word highlighting the trends, issues, recommendations, and next steps.

7. Monitoring ranking improvements

Select a few keywords from each category or keyword cluster to monitor. I usually track at least 100 keywords (depending on the size of your site). It is important to select these keywords on relevancy and achievability rather than those with the highest search volumes.

Finally, whilst it is good practice to monitor keywords you care about. You should do so cautiously. There are so many factors that affect your rankings; including competitors, local search results, language, privacy settings. Focus on trends and not position fluctuations. Always overlay your ranking data with your site traffic and revenue trends before you panic.

Now that you know which keywords to target and have uncovered content opportunities, use our free Google Analytics Audit Template to audit your Google Analytics account to effectively monitor your progress.

If you’d like some assistance putting together a SEO strategy alongside your keyword research, we’d be happy to discuss your project needs with you just contact us


This article was authored by former Erudite team Member Miracle Inameti-Archibong