Even though keyword research doesn’t change much as time goes on, we’ve never seen a shortage of algorithm updates courtesy of our friends at Google. And while, as SEO specialists, we have to stay adept and flexible to the differences in the algorithms, one thing has stayed pretty much the same.
Obviously, keyword research is never going to go away because keywords are the name of the game when it comes to search engine marketing.
If you understand how to find the right keywords for your audience then you’ll be able to write high-quality content that will help you rank higher in Google.
On the other hand, if you don’t do keyword research (or don’t know how to do it the right way) then you’re always going to have a lack of content ideas and ways to grab the low-hanging keywords that are easy to rank for.
So, what is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of identifying specific search terms that people search for when they are looking for something through sites like Google and other search platforms.
Geez, that’s a lot of “search”, isn’t it.
But listen, the reason you do keyword research is to find specific search terms that you can write content around, build links around, and (hopefully) rank for.
Keyword research done the right way will shed light on how difficult it is to rank for the specific search query and it will give you an idea of traffic amount if people are actually clicking on the content after they search, and more more.
We use a range of tools in conjunction with each other to do the keyword research for Xenji and our clients.
Why is Keyword Research Important?
Without keyword research, you’d miss out on huge amounts of insight into search queries that your market is searching for.
These are the exact keyword searches that people looking for your products and services are looking for.
In turn, you learn much more about your audience and, when done right, keyword research gives you deep insight into a complete content and marketing strategy.
Aside from the actual keywords, when you conduct keyword research you get to see all the content that’s already ranking for the terms you want to come up in Google for.
The benefit of that is that you’ll be able to see what’s working right now.
Ask yourself, “why is this article ranking #1 in Google”? What is the reason that this satisfies search intent over anything else?
It will give you the necessary answers for you and your team to write better.
Are Keywords Really That Important in 2020?
As SEO aged and technology became more and more advanced, keywords started to matter a little bit less.
Let me stress, they are still extremely important. But now, Google’s algorithm is smart enough to realize that it’s not necessarily the keywords that are the MOST important factor regarding a search query, but the actual intent behind the search.
Think about it this way. Have you ever searched for something that you really didn’t know exactly how to word your search?
It’s Google’s job to take the huge amounts of behavior and data from similar queries in the recent past and understand what the real intent behind the search is.
Because we know that Google wants to give their user the best and most relevant information the first time around, their algorithm, in essence, anticipates what that search query could actually mean without you searching for those specific keywords.
In simple terms, Google helps fulfill the searcher’s intent by predicting the specific outcome the user wants when they search for a specific term.
And as we continue to move forward the algorithm is going to continue to get smarter and smarter until it can pretty much think for you completely.
That said, keyword research is mighty important in today’s world. Because there’s less emphasis on how many times a specific keyword comes up in your posts, you can build your content more around the whole search intent and outcome the user is looking for.
In our opinion, we think that’s better because there is less of a chance for websites to rank unless they are truly fulfilling the user’s search intent and providing valuable information.
How to Research Keywords for Your SEO Strategy
While keyword research has the same end goal, everybody has a different approach to finding the terms that will work best for their website to rank.
What I will do in this article is to explain the way we approach keyword research and give you actionable strategies so that you can start right away.
Step 1 – Researching Keywords: Set up a list in Google Sheets of important and relevant topics that you think your market is searching for
Before we dive deep into tools like Ahrefs, I think the best thing that you can do is to list out anything you think your market could be searching for.
This would be what I call “short tail” keywords or “broad” search terms.
Think big picture keywords.
For instance, since we’re an SEO company I’d write things like:
- Content Creation
- Internet Marketing
- Website Conversion
You get the picture, right?
Then you can delve deeper by going into subtopics of each of the above primary topics.
Once again, for these it could be:
- Link building
- Keyword research
- Technical SEO
- On-Page Optimization
Do you see how there’s a bunch of different topics that you start to notice?
And when you use tools like Ahrefs you can see detailed data such as monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, SERP results, questions related to that search term, other keyword ideas, and much more.
Building this list first starts to get the juices flowing when it comes to thinking about things that you could potentially rank in Google for.
Step 2 – Researching Keywords: Understand How Search Intent Affects Keyword Research
I touched on this briefly above, but we now know that the search intent or the outcome the user is looking for whether they know it or not is one of the most important aspects to ranking on Google.
Knowing this, we need to remember that it’s a game of anticipating what somebody means to search for given what they actually search for.
There’s a problem that the user is looking to solve. Google is looking to serve up that user with the most relevant page relating to the intent they have.
In today’s world, keywords by themselves are no longer a complete strategy when it comes to doing the best keyword research possible.
Step 3 – Researching Keywords: Look Into the Related Search Terms
If you’re just starting out and you don’t have the luxury of using a tool like Ahrefs to find keyword ideas, then a great way to find more ideas that can work as important keywords to go after is looking to the related search terms.
These are the eight search terms that are near the bottom of Google above the pagination area.
The reason that the related search terms are so valuable to keyword research is that they are there for a reason.
If these search terms weren’t being searched then they wouldn’t be there.
That itself should help you make sense that using these terms as keyword ideas is a good idea.
Step 4 – Researching Keywords: Use SEO and keyword research tools to help you find the best search queries
Like I mentioned before, tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush are amazing platforms that you can use to not only do keyword research, but they give you the insight truly understand your market from a higher perspective.
Another great tool that I recommend fully is Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest.
If you’re looking for a free (to a certain extent) solution that has very cost-effective paid features then Ubersuggest is definitely it.
These tools help move your keyword research along faster because you’ll have a lot more data to analyze which means you can make decisions at a quicker rate.
How to Find the Right Keywords for Your Website
Now that we have an idea of how to find the best keywords for your website we have to optimize them based on which ones we think will work best for us.
And by work best, I mean which ones will rank our website the highest.
There’s a simple process that you can use to help you with your keyword choosing strategy:
Step 1 – Finding The Right Keywords: Understand the identifiers for choosing the best keywords
It’s no secret that Google ranks content based on relevance. This goes back to giving making sure that the searcher’s intent is fulfilled.
Google is looking to serve up the most relevant content for each and every search term.
Each domain has a specific “authority” within Google. It’s a polite way of saying if a website is popular and trusted or not.
Bigger websites have higher authority than small websites. This too is trying to fulfill the user’s search intent because all else being equal the SERP ranking will go to the higher authority domain.
Try to find keywords that don’t have huge big-name domains ranking because if your website authority is not similar to the ones ranking then you’ll find a very difficult time gaining any momentum.
Volume is just as important as the previous two identifiers. If you are ranking for keywords that have no search volume, then what’s the point? One thing I will say is that if you catch trends early then you could have a great advantage to start building your content and backlinks to rank for specific keywords and terms that you know are going to get more popular in the near future.
Otherwise, stick to keywords that have a good volume that can actually get traffic to your page once you rank for them.
Step 2 – Finding The Right Keywords: Use Long-Tail Keyword Phrases
A long-tail keyword phrase is something like ranking for: “how to cook bacon on the roof”.
Obviously, nobody will search that, but that’s what a long-tail keyword phrase is.
The difference is that there are less competition and more of a chance that you can optimize your content to rank for the long tail search term.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to rank for “bacon”, you’re going to have a lot harder of a time.
Step 3 – Finding The Right Keywords: Keep an Eye on Your Competitors
You want to take note and see what your closest competitors are ranking for and how they’re doing it.
That will shed some light when it comes to what you could potentially do to grab that same traffic share.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to do anything your competitors are doing, but it’s a great way to get some quick gains and take their market share.
Regardless of search intent, keyword research will always be an integral part of a successful SEO strategy.
If you want to rank your website on Google then you need to know how to do keyword research the right way.
We hope that this article has shed some light as to why keyword research is important and how it’s done at a very high level.