Keyword research is one of the main pillars of SEO. By finding out what keywords to target, you will help your business (or blog) to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) and be found organically through search.
In this beginner’s guide to keyword research for SEO, you’ll learn what keyword research is and how to discover the strategic keywords that you should be ranking for to drive more organic traffic to your website. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Brew yourself a fresh cup of tea and let’s get started then.
What is keyword research?
First off, let’s make sure everyone is on the same page when talking about keyword research. Keyword research is the process of finding the words or phrases that users type into search engines like Google.
By finding out what people are actually typing into Google, you can work out the search terms that your current and potential customers, readers, or subscribers use when they’re on the hunt for answers to their queries. Once you know what keywords they use, you can use this to inform how you write the content on your site. So when search engines crawl your site, they’ll know that you are relevant to your target audience’s queries (and rank you higher in SERPs).
Related: What Is SEO And How Does It Works?
Any old keywords won’t do
There are millions upon millions of keywords out there, with new ones being created every single day. In fact, around 15% of all searches have never been seen before. So how on earth do you work out which keywords out of the trillions in use are the right ones for you to target?
The crucial thing to understand about keywords is that there is always a certain type of search intent behind them. When you go onto Google (or Bing or Duck Duck Go etc), you are looking for something.
This intent behind your search is what determines the type of results that are shown on the SERPs. There are various reasons why you might have opened up Google, but searched intent can broadly be categorised into three types:
Informational searcher intent
Informational searches are when a user is looking for information (common sense, I know). They are trying to find the answer to a question that they have. What type of dress style suits me? What is the weather going to be like this weekend? Is quinoa a source of protein? This is probably one of the main reasons you go onto Google yourself – to find out the answer to a specific question.
Navigational searcher intent
Navigational searches are when users are trying to navigate to a certain website. These types of searches aren’t useful for bringing new users to your site. If they’re searching for your website, they already know who you are.
Transactional searcher intent
At its most basic, transactional searches are searches where users are buying stuff. They have made a decision as to what type of service or product they want, and are looking to find and buy the right one for them. However, this doesn’t always have to include a transfer of money – it could be signing users up to your event or email newsletter. It’s something that ultimately means they have converted from a user to a customer, client or subscriber.
Searcher intent and keyword research
From an SEO perspective, informational and transactional search intent is where the gold dust lies for effective keyword targeting. As a general rule, the transactional pages on your website should target transactional keywords (as these have transactional search intent) and the informational pages on your site should target the informational keywords.
Why? Search engines will only show websites which they deem the most relevant and useful for the specific keyword a user has typed into it. If your web page doesn’t answer the search intent behind that keyword, users will quickly leave your site and go onto another, causing you to have a high bounce rate of unsatisfied visitors.
Search engines will be quick to pick up that you are not satisfying the user’s search intent, and as a consequence you’ll fall down the rankings pretty quickly, if not disappear from SERPs completely. And if you’re not ranking on SERPs, you’re not going to be found organically by new users. So when you begin your keyword research, it’s vital to keep search intent in mind when choosing between the different search terms you could target.
Obviously for websites such as blogs where the nature of the site is more informational anyway, finding transactional keywords to target can be trickier. But if you provide any type of service on your blog (copywriting, professional book reviews, ebooks or ecourses etc) you can create pages that can target users looking specifically for these services.
How do you do SEO keyword research?
To start your keyword research, you’ll need to identify 5-10 topics or categories that are the most important for your business. For example, for The Tales Of Yaya, this would be the main categories of my blog – Travel, Books, Food, Lifestyle, and Blogging. For an organic cake company, their main topics may be ‘organic desserts’, ‘organic catering’, ‘organic cakes’ and ‘organic cookery classes’.
These topics should be the most important areas of your business, and will often be the services that you provide or the categories of your products. A good way to work out what these are is to take a look at what your customers or clients come to you for, what kinds of customers you want to attract, and what you want to be known for. The chances are, the intent of your customers who find you through social media or word of mouth will have similar interests and search intent to users who could find your business online.
Once you know what key areas you want to prioritise, it’s time to find the types of search terms related to each of these areas. The important thing here is to find transactional search terms related to these topics, not informational ones (these will be used later on).
It’s a good idea to brainstorm the different phrases customers or search users may use to find the service or product related to each area. Chat with your colleagues in your sales and service teams to find out what prospective customers come to them for and common questions they have, as this will help you to work out the language that the prospective customers might use when searching online for a service or product like yours.
Look at the numbers
After you’ve created a list of search terms, phrases and questions, it’s time to look at the data. There are various different keyword research tools out there, some of which are free, some aren’t. The vast majority of them will have similar features – they will show you the monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, and competitiveness of each keyword.
Using whatever keyword research tool you’ve chosen to go with, it’s time to see which search terms are the best for you to target. Search volumes for seemingly similar keywords will vary quite a lot. For example, ‘best Indian restaurant London’ has 12,100 searches a month, while ‘best Indian restaurant central London’ only has 480 monthly searches. That’s quite a big variance with ‘central’ being the only difference in wording between these searches.
Using your keyword research tool, from your initial list of topics start creating a larger list of keywords related to each one, with their search volumes, keyword difficulty and competition rating. There can be multiple ways of phrasing each of your services, so cast the net wide so you don’t miss any keywords out. Once you’ve created a substantial list, it’s time for you to start whittling down the keyword options to the most effective keywords to rank for.
By this point, you should have a substantial list of search terms that you could choose to target. You obviously can’t target all of them, so how do you decide which target keywords to go for? Here’s How To Choose The Right Keywords To Target.
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