Keyword research provides you with targeted search data that can assist you in answering questions such as:
- What exactly are people looking for?
- What is the number of people looking for it?
- What format do they require that information in?
In this chapter, you’ll learn tools and strategies for uncovering that information, as well as tactics for avoiding keyword research pitfalls and creating strong content. When you discover how your target audience searches for your content, you open up a whole new world of strategic SEO!
Before beginning your keyword research, ask yourself some questions.
This is where many people cut corners. Too many people skip this critical planning step because keyword research takes time, and why waste time when you already know what keywords you want to rank for?
The answer is that what you want to rank for and what your audience actually wants are frequently diametrically opposed. Focusing on your audience and then using keyword data to refine those insights will result in far more successful campaigns than focusing on random keywords.
What terms are people looking up?
You may have a way of explaining what you do, but how does your target audience find the product, service, or information you offer? Answering this question is the first and most important step in the keyword research process.
You’ve probably got a few keywords in mind that you’d like to rank for. These will be things like your products, services, or other topics your website addresses, and they are excellent seed keywords for your research, so begin there! Enter those keywords into a keyword research tool to learn about average monthly search volume and related keywords. We’ll go over search volume in greater detail in the following section, but it can help you determine which variations of your keywords are most popular among searchers during the discovery phase.
When you enter your seed keywords into a keyword research tool, you will start to discover other keywords, common questions, and topics for your content that you would have missed otherwise.
When you’re researching keywords for your content, you’ll probably notice that the search volume for those keywords varies a lot. While you should definitely target terms that your audience is searching for, it may be more advantageous in some cases to target terms with lower search volume because they are far less competitive.
Because both high- and low-competition keywords can be beneficial to your website, learning more about search volume can help you prioritize keywords and select the ones that will provide your website with the greatest strategic advantage.
How frequently do those terms appear in searches?
Identifying search volume
The more work that is typically required to achieve higher rankings for a given keyword or keyword phrase, the higher the search volume for that keyword or keyword phrase. This is frequently referred to as keyword difficulty and may include SERP features; for example, if many SERP features are present.
If a keyword’s result page is clogged, the difficulty will rise. Big brands frequently dominate the top ten results for high-volume keywords, so if you’re just starting out on the web and pursuing the same keywords, the uphill battle for ranking can take years.
The higher the search volume, the more competition, and effort required to achieve organic ranking success. If you set it too low, you risk not attracting any searchers to your site. In many cases, targeting highly specific, low competition search terms may be more advantageous. Long-tail keywords are what we call them in SEO.
Recognizing the Long Tail
It would be fantastic to rank first for the keyword “shoes,” but would it?
It’s great to work with keywords that receive 50,000 or even 5,000 searches per month, but in reality, these popular search terms account for only a small portion of all web searches. In fact, keywords with extremely high search volumes may indicate ambiguous intent, which, if you target these terms, may put you at risk of attracting visitors whose goals do not match the content on your page.
Don’t dismiss these less popular keywords. Because searchers are more specific and intentional in their searches, long-tail keywords with lower search volume often convert better. A person searching for “shoes,” for example, is most likely just browsing. Someone searching for “best price red women’s size 7 running shoe” on the other hand, practically has their wallet out!
Using search volume strategically
Now that you’ve identified relevant search terms for your site and their corresponding search volumes, you can get even more strategic by researching your competitors and determining how searches may differ by season or location.
You’ll most likely collect a large number of keywords. How do you know which to start with? Prioritizing high-volume keywords that your competitors aren’t ranking for could be a good idea. On the other hand, you could look at your list and see which keywords your competitors are already ranking for and prioritize those. The former is ideal for capitalizing on your competitors’ missed opportunities, whereas the latter is an aggressive strategy that positions you to compete for keywords that your competitors are already performing well for.
Knowing about seasonal trends can help you develop a content strategy.
You can more strategically target a specific location by narrowing your keyword research in Google Keyword Planner to specific towns, counties, or states, or by evaluating “interest by subregion” in Google Trends. Geo-targeted research can assist you in making your content more relevant to your target audience.
Which format best matches the intent of the searcher?
Understanding how searchers want to consume information for a specific keyword. The format in which Google displays search results is determined by intent, and each query has a unique one. In their Quality Rater Guidelines, Google categorizes these intents as “know” (find information), “do” (achieve a goal), “website” (find a specific website), or “visit-in-person” (visit a local business).
While there are thousands of different search types, let’s take a closer look at five major intent categories:
1. Informational queries: The searcher is looking for specific information, such as the name of a band.
2. Navigational queries: The searcher wishes to navigate to a specific location on the Internet.
3. Transactional queries: The searcher wishes to make a purchase.
4. Commercial investigation: The searcher wants to compare products and determine which one is best for their specific needs.
5. Local queries: The searcher is looking for something nearby, such as a coffee shop, doctor, or music venue.
Surveying the SERP landscape for the keyword you want to target is an important step in the keyword research process to get a better sense of searcher intent. Look to the SERPs to find out what type of content your target audience prefers!
Google has carefully examined the behavior of trillions of searches in order to provide the most relevant content for each individual keyword search.
If the query is ambiguous, Google may include the “refine by” feature to help searchers further specify what they’re looking for. As a result, the search engine can provide results that will better assist the searcher in completing their task.
Google has a wide range of result types it can serve up depending on the query, so if you’re going to target a keyword, look at the SERP to see what kind of content you’ll need to create.