Understanding keyword research process is important. Before we get deep into how to find quality keywords and how they affect your SEO efforts, you need to determine what the purpose is of the page you are trying to optimize for.
What is it that you want the content to do?
There are two ways you can optimize your content.
You have probably noticed how most of the sites today optimize for traffic, which could be a big mistake, depending on the niche and the marketing strategy. It’s not always bad to rank for traffic, but understanding what traffic gives you the most Return Of Investment (ROI) is important. For example, business owners operating ecommerce sites should focus on optimization towards conversion rather than merely bringing in traffic.
Why is this important? Well let’s say you’re trying to optimize for a certain keyword just for the sake of getting bigger crowds visiting your site, but if that keyword has nothing to do with your business, people who got there are not thinking about buying your product but rather just browsing the web for 10 spare minutes he or she has while waiting for a bus.
They might love what you say, but that doesn’t mean they will buy what you sell.
That’s why compiling a list of keywords that’s relevant to your niche is a good starting point.
Once you have in mind, and couple it with various data to see which keywords are less competitive yet has high search volume, you are one step ahead of your competitors.
Where to start your keyword research?
Before you find the perfect set of keywords you plan to use on your site, it’s always a good practice to have goals and how you plan to achieve them.
100k Visits – 20 keywords – 10% conversion rate
This is everyone’s dream but that’s not the kind of goal I am talking about.
The goal I am talking about is, you need to know what is the purpose of the page you are trying to optimize. Is it to increase awareness of your business (traffic oriented), or is it to make people trust you and your business so they will opt in to your email list (conversion oriented).
This process could save you a substantial time, because not every content on your site are suitable for attracting traffic so there might not be a need to carry out full fledged SEO on them.
If you have not watched the video at the beginning of the post, this is a good point to check it out.
What are some basic metrics to keep an eye on?
Average monthly searches – The basic metric you should keep an eye on, because no matter how you perceive keyword research, one rule will always apply. You can’t work with keywords that are not searched for. Depending from the number of keywords you would like to focus on and your niche, anything above 500 should do ok, sometimes even less, but all of this is strongly connected with the competition level and all other aspects of keyword researching.
Competition level – How hard is it to compete for a certain keyword strongly depends from the level of competition you may face and the marketing methods they’re using to promote their pages. The perfect scenario would involve a set of keywords with high average monthly searches and low competition levels, but this sounds more like an utopia in today’s dynamic SEO environment.
Keyword difficulty – One of the trickiest metrics you’ll come across during your internet marketing career, but it’s certainly worth your time. SEMrush has an easy to use and very precise keyword difficulty meter, but it’s also possible to approximately calculate it on your own if you don’t have a budget big enough to use paid services.
Trends – Sometimes even the perfect looking keyword may turn out to be fading and not worth your time. There are also keywords popular at certain points of the year like “thanksgiving dinner ideas”, “nba free agents” and other examples closely associated with events happening periodically.
You will need few tools to get all these data. Not to worry. there is a free way if you don’t mind doing a bit more work and and a easier way if you don’t mind spending a bit of money.
Is using the Google keyword tool good enough?
This is probably one of the most asked questions when it comes to keyword research. The quick answer is no but it is a must have tool for anyone who are serious about ranking their site high on search engines. All SEO professionals use Google’s keyword research tool (a.k.a Keyword Planner) found in Google Adwords one way or the other for keyword research.
It’s free to create an account and if you already use other Google products (Gmail, Calendar, Analytics etc), you can just use the same account.
Step 1 – Enter a keyword or a list of keywords
We’ll start with a single keyword just to keep things simple. Let’s say you’re running a food blog and you want to rank well for “vegan” related keywords. The first keyword that pops up on your mind is “vegan recipes”. You can adjust the region, language and couple of other metrics here, but you can also edit this later on.
Step 2 – Get the metrics
Click on the “keyword ideas” tab opposite to the “Ad group ideas” because you’ll want to create your own list of keywords. You see how the initial keyword we chose has a huge monthly search average, which means it is a very popular keyword phrase.
As far as for organic keyword research goes, this is the only useful metrics we can get. The competition shown here only applies to paid search and not organic search. So we will need to use other methods to find out how competitive this specific keyword is.
What about keyword difficulty?
Apart from pointing out again that DO NOT use the “competition” value that the keyword planner gives, when it comes to determine keyword difficulty for organic search, it’s part intuition and part science.
Some industries are more competitive than the other so depending on what your objective is, choosing the right topic to create content on is the key. This is true even for businesses that are in a competitive business environment.
For example, for businesses in travel industry, instead of going head to head with other big guys to talk about “cheap flights” or “last minute booking”, look for long tail keywords that are related to “local food” might help you attract foodie travellers to use your service.
As for science, there are many methods out there that can give you a lot of data points, but since you are probably more interested in running your business than doing SEO all day (why not hire us to help you with SEO?), let me show you these two easy methods.
1) Use Google Search Operator – intitle:
The “intitle” Search Operator gives us a number of sites that contain the given keyword in its page title.
The thinking behind this method is that, since title is one of the most important onpage ranking factors, so if a web page contains that specific keyword, most certainly that page is your competition.
Watch this video to see how to use an Excel spread sheet to gather the search volume to find out how competitive a given keyword is.
2) Use keyword difficulty tool from SEMrush (or any other services)
These services have their own formula to calculate how competitive a keyword is. You can use multiple services to confirm the difficulty or just pick one that you feel comfortable with. None of them are bulletproof 100% accurate (just like any other methods out there) so don’t get discouraged when you see a high competition for the keywords that you are interested.
It is recommended to get a baseline first. For example, use keywords that your site is ranking high to see what the difficulty metrics means.
Conclusion: There are so many different ways to do keyword research but the most important aspect is to understand what your objective is. Targeting a high search volume with low competition keyword does not necessarily leads to more conversion (sales, sign ups, leads) that you are hoping to achieve.