In SEO terms, a keyword is a word or phrase people type into a search engine when searching for information. Keywords are essential because they narrow the focus of your content so you can best meet your searchers’ needs.
If you’re not optimizing your keywords, you risk losing visitors because your text doesn’t match what your target audience is searching for. In this sense, your keywords must reflect your audience. Using the wrong keywords means attracting the wrong audience, or worse, none at all.
For these reasons, keyword research is a necessity. Conducting effective keyword research enables you to discover the specific words and phrases people are actually using when searching for the products and services you offer. Using those keywords in your content drives traffic to your website. Keyword research is a cornerstone of any SEO strategy.
Keyword Research Defined
Keyword research is the process of discovering the words and phrases people are typing into Google or other search engines to find the information they’re looking for. The goal is to find popular and relevant keywords related to your site so you can reach the highest potential for traffic. Having the right keywords optimizes your website’s pages and ensures you rank higher than your competitors on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
While extensive and detailed keyword research happens when you develop your SEO strategy, the process should be ongoing. The beginning analysis phase involves brainstorming ideas, selecting phrases to use during website launch, grouping those phrases, and creating your pages based on those keyword groupings.
After that, you can perform analytics to check the effectiveness of your keywords. You can modify your promotions and add pages with other relevant queries as needed. Doing so ensures that your SERPs are higher than your competitors and that potential customers see your site when they search for your products or services.
Why Keyword Research Is So Critical
SEO involves complex strategies with so many interconnected techniques that it’s easy to forget that keyword research is at the center, which bolsters any SEO strategy’s other components. Next are the reasons why every business owner and SEO marketing professional needs to prioritize keyword research when creating a site, site content, or managing a new SEO campaign.
Keywords Are the Foundation of Great Content
Simply put, people search for the things they are interested in. We search for everything today, whether to find a doctor or purchase a new car. Our searches indicate what our opinions are, along with our preferences, interests, and desires. User searches and the words and phrases they type in the search bar create keyword data. With it, you can create targeted content that matches your target audience’s search queries. You may have what they are looking for, but users won’t find your pages in their search results without the keywords to flag them down.
Keyword research provides near-instant feedback on the viability of a proposed content idea. Your goal is to create content that targets the keywords people already use to find information online. While you may believe specific keywords are valuable as they relate to your company, they yield results only if your target audience is already searching for them.
Keyword research enables you to have a user-focused content strategy that engages your audience. Their searches will lead them to you. From there, you can become a trusted source of information, products, or services for their interests. Your customers will be confident they are making an informed purchase with your brand. Over time, the relationship and trust you build with your audience leads to more engagement and organic traffic.
Understand Search Intent
One of Google’s prime goals is to organize information to be accessible and valuable for everyone. Google accomplishes this by delivering the most relevant results for every search query. The challenge for the SEO marketer is creating the most relevant content that aligns with your target audience’s search intent. If your content is the most pertinent for their search query, you rank in the top spot in the SERPs. Of course, that also means you deliver your message directly to your target audience, which is the key to success.
Thorough keyword research is the key to understanding the search intent behind any given search query. Understanding the search intent means you’ll be able to create content that aligns with why people are using your target keyword(s).
The simplest way to research your chosen keywords is to type them into Google search and review the results that Google deems most relevant to that search query and keywords. If the results show similar content, you are on the right track. If you see your own content in those results, even better! If you find irrelevant search results, you have likely misinterpreted the user intent for those keywords, and further analysis is needed to refine your keywords.
Understand Customer Needs
As you learn what your customers and potential customers are searching for, you also understand their needs and other preferences. Search history yields more than just keyword data. You also gather qualitative data about their interests. This is invaluable for building your customer base and, more importantly, establishing loyalty.
With this knowledge, you can meet those needs and preferences. You can deliver tailored content, adding value to their user experience. Your content could be articles that educate them on a topic they wish to understand better. Or, you can showcase one of your products that helps them fulfill a need or solve a problem. Keyword research arms you with the knowledge you need to answer their questions and fill in whatever gaps they may have in knowledge, products, or services.
Navigate the Competitive Landscape
In addition to understanding your customers, keyword research allows you to understand the competitive landscape. You’ll get a better picture of who your competition is and how you can rank better and higher than your competitors. As you generate content ideas, you must take the time to see which other domains are already competing for your selected keywords. With that information, you’ll know how difficult it may be to rank with those keywords. You can then refine your content as needed.
You can use keyword tools to find low-competition and high-competition keywords. In some cases, you may stumble upon something called a low-competition content opportunity. That is a keyword that has low competition across competing domains. Yet, it’s one that enables you to attract more organic traffic to your website through search engines.
Boost Website Performance
According to Forbes, over 93% of global traffic comes from Google. We can’t stress the power of search enough. Simply put, to increase website traffic, you need to ensure you’re using the right keywords to lead people to you.
The amount of traffic you receive directly correlates to your keywords’ effectiveness. Therefore, keyword research is critical to identifying the most popular keywords for your niche to attract potential customers searching for your products or services.
By using relevant keywords, you’ll see more traffic. The more traffic you have, the more leads you can convert to customers. Plus, the most pertinent keywords increase the quality of engagement. You’ll generate interest, which in turn boosts visitor interaction with your website. You’ll see better bounce rates, longer session times, and increases in any other website metrics you may monitor.
Define Your Value Proposition
What is the value proposition? It is the factor that determines why a customer should choose your company over your competition. In a way, it’s at the center of your business and your SEO plan.
Keyword research helps sharpen your value proposition as it improves your SEO. As your research pinpoints what your customers want based on their search, you can create content that meets their needs. Further, you can create offerings that fine-tune your products and services to better serve your customer base.
Refine Cross-Channel Copy
Keyword research focuses on SEO channels, specifically website content. However, it also helps refine content across all your company’s platforms. Keyword research leads to an overall understanding of the terminology your customers use. You can and should carry this through all your communications to create cohesiveness and synchronicity.
Keyword research explores what users are interested in and what questions they have. Knowing this, you can provide those answers and include those topics in all your content, including email, social media, and video. This way, you’ll maximize customer engagement across all platforms and channels.
Keyword Research Guidelines
Here are some general guidelines for conducting keyword research.
Make a list of relevant topics. Begin by listing what you think are important, relevant topics based on what you know about your company. Place those topics into groupings or buckets. You may end up with a dozen or so of these buckets. You can use them to create keywords later on.
If you’re a blogger, you’re good at coming up with topics and blogging about some of them frequently. If not, consider the topics that often come up in conversations with customers or business associates. Think about your target audience and what they are looking for. Just keep brainstorming until you come up with enough to group into buckets.
Add keywords. Once you’ve come up with your topic buckets, move on to identifying keywords that fall into them. These are phrases you feel will rank in the SERPs because your target audience is likely searching for those specific terms. At this point, you don’t need to decide on your final keywords. Right now, you want to brainstorm to find as many relevant keywords as possible. You can narrow the list later on.
An alternate way to develop keywords is to see which keywords are already leading visitors to your website. You’ll need analytic software like Google Analytics for this task. Once you delve into your traffic sources, you can look through your organic search traffic to see the keywords users are trying to reach your website.
Analyze user intent. As we have discussed, user intent is essential your ability to rank well on Google. You have identified possible keywords, but you’ll need to see the intent behind them from the user’s perspective. For example, let’s say the keyword is “How to plant a garden.” When you search for that term, most of your results relate to planting vegetable gardens. If your company specializes in flower gardens, this may not be the keyword you want to focus on.
Research Related Terms. Based on your analysis thus far, you are likely at a point where you’ve found search terms related to your chosen keywords. If you’d like to add possible keywords, try using the related search terms that appear at the bottom of Google search results. These keywords may inspire additional keywords for consideration.
Use keyword research tools. SEO tools like Ahrefs or Google Keyword Planner can help you discover additional keywords through phrase match keywords or exact match keywords related to ones you’ve generated. They may give you targeted suggestions you would not have thought of yourself.
The Searched & Found Difference
While the concept of keyword research is easy to comprehend, the analytics involved can be complex. Without this extensive keyword research, you don’t know what keywords your site should be ranking for. The more keywords you have to rank, the more organic traffic you will bring in.
At Searched & Found, we conduct extensive keyword research whenever we begin with a new client. A lot of clients will usually give us the keyword research they have completed on their own if they have done any at all. They will typically have 5-10 keywords at most, which is insufficient for a complete analysis or SEO campaign. Sometimes we even have clients that only have 1-2 keywords they want to rank for. This is not how you want to approach SEO or keyword research.
Our process takes approximately three to four weeks to find as many relevant keywords as possible. Further, we rely on more than just software to generate keyword reports. We research manually by brainstorming, analyzing your existing keywords, and testing related keywords. We also do a competitor analysis to see what our client’s top three competitors are ranking for, yielding even more keyword ideas.
We aim to find a mix of low-, medium-, and high-volume keywords. Next, we break down the keywords by monthly search volume and keyword difficulty. The higher the search volume a keyword has, the more difficult it is to rank for.
Depending on the industry, we sometimes identify hundreds of keywords. Once we have defined all the keywords, we can proceed with optimizing metadata, writing web copy, blog content, and building backlinks using optimized anchor text. Keyword research is also a major way in how we monitor SEO campaigns. We track the keyword ranking improvements each month.
Contact us today to learn more about our SEO keyword research and other services.