How to do keyword research for SEO

While the world of marketing seems to be changing at light speed at the moment, there is one thing that has stayed pretty consistent when it comes to optimising our websites for SEO. Keywords. And while the way in which we present keywords on our websites has evolved over the years, how we go about doing keyword research has stayed fairly consistent.

That being said, the one thing that has changed, is the rapid growth of competition. This is why it’s important to understand how to do effective keyword research that allows you to create focus and structure with your content for maximum SEO impact.

In this post, we’ll explain what keyword research is, why keyword research is so important, how to start your keyword research, how to choose the right keywords, and finally where to put those keywords.

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is the process of identifying what words, and combinations of words, your target audience is searching for. Not only is it important to identify what your target audience is searching for, but also to identify what keywords they are searching for that are relevant to your business. For example, your target audience might be searching in mass volume for one specific product or service, but if that product or service does not relate to what you are selling, then you are going to waste a lot of energy building these keywords into your SEO strategy.

Keyword research is ultimately the process of selecting keywords that are going to drive relevant traffic to your website, and specifically traffic that has a high intent in buying your product or service.

Why is keyword research important

Keyword research is important because it helps you to build an SEO and content strategy that makes you more visible to the right people by ranking you higher in search results. To reiterate just how important it is for you to rank well, the first result on a Google SERP has a 28.5% click-through rate compared to a CTR of just 2.5% by the time you reach the 10th result.

That’s a lot of traffic loss if you don’t manage to rank highly in search results and while it takes more than keywords alone, keywords should form the foundations of your strategy to climb the ranks.

How to start your keyword research

To start your keyword research you need to work backwards along the customer journey by thinking through the following steps:

  1. What is it that your clients are purchasing?
    Ultimately, you want to focus on the keywords that drive people to your site to purchase your products so this is the place you want to start. If you have a large range of products, think about what your customers tend to purchase first from you – what are you well known for already? Which products drive your biggest conversion? Focus on the customer’s first point of entry for sales when it comes to trying to choose which keywords to focus on first.
  2. What problem does your product solve for the client?
    Think about why your customer would buy your product, and what value your product brings to their lives. This will help you develop some long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific keyword phrases that people are more likely to use when they have a bigger intent to purchase and/or when they are using voice search. While long-tail keywords have a smaller volume of search queries, they are more likely to capture the interest of users with a higher intent to purchase, making them potentially more valuable.
  3. What keywords are your competitors using?
    Once you’ve identified which keywords and long-tail keywords you may want to include to serve popular buyer queries and reach your target audience, you then need to consider your competition for those keywords to help you identify any potential gaps in the market and how to differentiate yourself.

For all of the above three stages, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a huge amount of free tools that can help you find the stats you need such as volume and competition. Ubersuggests is a great tool that allows you to put in the URL of your website and automatically suggests some keywords that your competitors are currently targeting as well as provides information on monthly volume and content inspiration.

How to choose the right keywords

After taking the following steps, you’ll likely have a long list of keywords and this is where you’ll need to start prioritising. To prioritise the right keywords, think through the following:

  • Relevance – Which keywords are most relevant to your product/service.
  • Volume – Use a free tool like Ubersuggests to see how many people are searching for that keyword monthly and focus on the ones that are relevant and have high volume.
  • Competition – Consider the competition. For quicker initial impact, you may want to focus first on keywords with less competition.
  • ROI – Monitor what sort of ROI you get from certain keyword searches, take a look at your Google Analytics to see what is driving the most traffic, and most importantly, conversions.
  • Intent & long-tail – Which keywords are you able to develop into long-tail keywords which have the highest intent to purchase. For example, instead of focusing on ‘shoes’, you might want to focus on ‘running shoes’ as it is more specific to your product and you can develop it into a high intent query such as ‘where can I buy good running shoes for a marathon’. While ‘shoes’ may have a higher search volume than ‘running shoe’, ‘running shoes’ is able to develop into a long-tail keyword that drives traffic from people with a much higher intent to purchase.

How to use keywords

For those who didn’t get the memo in the early naughties, do not just copy and paste your selected keywords recklessly across your website. Google is sophisticated, like a high-class date, they want to be wined and dined with a great user experience and engaging and relevant conversation. So essentially think of your keyword strategy and websites like going on a date with Google.

  1. Structure & content pillars
    Make sure that your website is set up in a way that makes sense for your keywords and content. It should have a simple hierarchy starting with primary groups of products/services/information and these groups should filter down into ‘content pillars’ i.e. specific categories of content. Look to build applicable content around these categories throughout your site.
  2. H1s
    HTML heading tags or ‘H1s’ are a type of formatted heading that shows the order of importance to your content. The H1 tag is most important as it’s the one that search engines review and display. It’s important that your H1 tag indicates to both Google and a user what content can be expected to be found on that page.
  3. FAQs
    Including FAQs on your website are a great way to include long-tail keywords on your secondary and more specific categorised product/service pages. This is where you can focus on answering those user queries that show a high intent of purchasing your product. While it’s important here to consider what people are searching for, try also to include further, more high-value information that engages the user. The longer users stay on your website, the better you’ll be ranked as Google.
  4. Blogs, articles and guides
    Further to FAQs hosted on specific product pages, make sure that you have somewhere on your site to host more creative and long-form content where you can create valuable and engaging content that may not necessarily serve the purchase intent specific queries, but may hit people who have a high interest in your product/industry. Here you should balance keywords with topical information for maximum effect in driving traffic to your site.

For help with your keyword research and general SEO strategy, you can find thousands of talented freelance SEO experts on the PeoplePerHour platform.