Consumers are increasingly turning to search engines like Google for everything from product research to the latest updates and more.
That means that your target audience is searching for products or services your business offers. Ranking for those queries positions your brand in front of more potential customers, driving more targeted traffic and sales to your bottom line.
But first you need to identify the queries that your market is searching for.
And that starts with keyword research. Here we’ll cover the following aspects about keyword research in this guide and how you can utilise it to drive better results with your market:
- What is Keyword Research?
- How to Research Keywords
- Google Keyword Planner
- How to Uncover Hidden Gems
- Long Tail Keywords
- Refining Your Keyword List
- Assessing Keyword Competition
Let’s get started.
What is Keyword Research?
It all starts here: The search box.
If you want to reach potential customers, you need to identify the keywords they use.
It’s not an exaggeration to say then that keyword research can make or break your site. It’s not always about getting traffic to your site. What matters is the quality. If visitors are barely staying around or they aren’t making any purchases, it means they’re not finding your site relevant.
Keyword research then ensures you attract the right kind of visitors to your site.
Target the right keywords and you significantly increase your chances of driving a conversion. But target the wrong ones and you’ll have users that bounce out just as quickly as they land.
Targeting the right keywords then gives your business a major competitive advantage as a whole. It lays the foundation for a strong marketing strategy. Without knowing what keywords to target, your efforts to optimise your website and create engaging content are severely limited.
So even before you start optimising and creating content, keyword research absolutely needs to be the first starting point.
How to Research Keywords
Finding the right keywords is one of the biggest marketing challenges. Here’s the process we follow to identify valuable for our clients:
Start With a List of Seed Keywords
Often we see businesses simply throw in keywords into a keyword tool but that’s not the right approach. First, make a list of initial seed keywords that are relevant to the products or services your business sells. If you’re having a hard time, think about the main categories from your website.
Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. What are some of the keywords that you would search for to find a solution that addresses your problem?
For example, if your business does glass pool fencing some keywords you might come up with include:
- Glass pool fencing
- Balustrade pool fencing
- Frameless glass fencing
The idea is to come up with a short list of keywords. Then from there we’ll be able to grow those initial keywords into a much larger list. Not all keywords will be winners and that’s okay. Later we’ll look at how to determine whether certain keywords are worth targeting or not.
Synonyms are another important part of the keyword research process. Targeting these keywords have two added benefits—They make your content look more natural and can account for more traffic to your site.
Synonyms are simply words that mean similar things. Google’s ranking algorithm is sophisticated enough to understand that someone searching for “tax expert” or “tax consultant” are looking for similar solutions. It’s a good idea to also target synonyms as it gives you additional opportunities to rank and drive more traffic to your site.
Someone searching for “exercise” is also looking for things like “workout” and “strength training”. Here’s an example from Google’s Keyword Planner tool:
Use a tool like thesaurus.com to identify synonyms that you can add to your keyword list. Here’s an example when searching for “exercise”:
Not all keywords will work. Some will be perfect fits though that you can target and create additional content around.
Include City Names
Data from Google has found that 4 out of 5 consumers now turn to search engines for local information. If your customers are primarily local, you’ll also want to include cities into your keyword research. That way you can better optimise your landing pages and reach more local prospects.
On-page signals are one of the most important ranking factors for local queries according to data from Moz:
By researching city names, you’ll be able to identify lucrative keywords to better optimise the on-page factors of your site.
Expand Your List With Keyword Planner
Start by heading over to Google’s Keyword Planner tool. The tool is built for advertisers on AdWords looking for keywords to bid on but it’s still valuable for SEO purposes and planning content around. Keyword Planner can be found in AdWords.
Click the “Tools” link at the top and click on “Keyword Planner”:
Then you’ll see the following:
Right now we’re looking to expand our initial list. Start by clicking the first option “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category”. Then you’ll see the following:
Under “Your product or service”, enter in some keywords. Note that under targeting you can narrow down the results even further. For example, if you only want to see traffic volume for certain countries you can make that selection. You can also filter the keyword list to target keywords with a certain search volume. For now go ahead and ignore those. We’re simply trying to expand our initial list that we started off with earlier.
These are some of the results for “glass pool fencing”:
These are great keywords that you can add to your keyword research list.
How to Uncover Hidden Gems
Keyword Planner is an excellent tool to reveal additional keywords.
The problem though is that it’s also the first tool that everyone else turns to.
So what ends up happening is that those are the keywords that thousands and thousands of other sites are also targeting, thus greatly increasing their competitiveness. Another problem is that Keyword Planner only shows closely related keywords.
The search query “glass pool fencing” revealed some of the following keywords:
- Glass fence
- Glass balustrade
- Frameless glass pool fencing
The keyword list is great but it completely ignores actual phrases that potential customers might actually be searching for. Those interested in glass pool fencing might also be searching for:
- Swimming pool safety
- Pool safety tips for summer
- How safe is my swimming pool
- Pool safety alarms
Yet none of these terms are actually shown in Keyword Planner.
This is why by relying solely on Keyword Planner you could be overlooking other less competitive and lucrative keywords for your business.
So what we want to do then is to uncover other queries that may have been overlooked but which could also lead to a lot of traffic for your site if you rank for them.
To make your keyword research more effective you need to go more into topic keywords like the ones we identified above. These types of keywords may not have as much traffic. But because they’re often overlooked, they’re easier to rank for and could end up driving more targeted traffic to your pages.
Here’s how to uncover hidden gems to target:
Question and Answer Sites
Google is often the first destination that users turn to. But others like Quora and Yahoo Answers are incredibly valuable as they can be used to research questions that people are asking. Here’s an example from Quora:
Yahoo Answers is another popular site for keyword research. You can then create content around these questions to get them ranking.
There are forums for practically any niche you can think of. They’re also a goldmine of information as they provide topics that people are currently talking about. The easiest way to find relevant forums is to simply search for your target keyword and append “forum” to your search.
If you have a business selling digital cameras or photography related software, your target audience would be photographers. Forums are typically divided into different sections and subsections. Here are some of the active threads in the beginner’s section in a photography forum:
Dig around deeper to find other topics and keywords that your target audience is discussing. Only add those that make sense to the products or services you sell.
Amazon is the world’s largest retailer of goods. But it’s also a great place to uncover even more keywords to target. Start by typing in keywords that are relevant to your business. Here are results that appear in the left side when searching for “strength training”:
You can take things a step further by checking out some of the books on that topic. Then you can look at the table of content by using the “Look Inside” feature. Here’s an example for a book on strength training:
These are additional keywords that you can add to your keyword list and create compelling content around.
Reddit is one of the most popular sites with “subreddits” that are dedicated to practically any topic you can think of. So there’s a good chance there’s an active community around your niche.
Simply head over to Reddit.com and look for the search function at the top right of the page. Then search for a broad topic to find a relevant subreddit—Categories on the site that focus on specific topics. So if you sell dog products, a relevant subreddit might be “r/dogs”. Look through some of the active threads (or filter to display the top discussions of all time) and keep an eye for any that have a lot of comments.
Here’s a recent thread that might be relevant:
Adding “homemade dog food” might be a topic you can add to your list. These are actual topics that people are discussing so you know there’s some interest in them. We’ll be covering additional strategies to uncover even more phrases in the next section.
Long Tail Keywords
It’s important that your keyword strategy include a mix of head and long tail keywords. Head terms are phrases that are generally shorter (one to three keywords) and much broader. Here are some examples:
- Web design
- Digital cameras
- Fitness tracker
Head terms tend to get searched more frequently which means more traffic volume. But a major downside is that these terms are much more competitive. So ranking for them requires far more resources and an authoritative site.
Here are examples of long tail keywords:
- How to implement a responsive web design
- Best digital cameras under $500
- Fitness trackers for weight loss
Long tail keywords consist of three or more keywords. These queries don’t get searched as much as their head term counterparts but they’re incredibly valuable for two reasons—They convert better and they’re easier to rank for.
Long tail keywords tend to be more specific. It’s not clear what someone searching for “fitness trackers” is looking for. But someone searching for “Garmin fitness trackers for weight loss” knows what they’re looking for so they’re further along the buying cycle. Targeting these kinds of keywords result in far more conversions.
Second, long tail keywords tend to be less competitive. That means that your chances of ranking for them are much easier than simply targeting head terms.
Long tail keywords individually may not get much traffic. But together they actually make up the majority of all searches online:
Targeting long tail keywords allows you to drive traffic much faster and build your site’s authority in the process. Here are ways to further expand your keyword list to include long tail keywords:
Google is an excellent source to identify great keywords you can target. Start by doing a broad search of your main keywords. The bottom of the search results displays related searches:
Clicking on any of those will search for those keywords and you can then scroll to the bottom of the page to get even more related searches:
These are excellent topics that you can target.
As soon as you start typing in a search query, Google automatically displays a list of results that you might be interested in. By simply appending a letter, you get even more results:
Append different letters of the alphabet to get more results.
People Also Search For…
When performing any kind of question-related query, Google often displays a search box that shows other questions that people are asking. Here’s an example:
With these strategies you’ll be able to uncover an unlimited number of long tail keywords to target.
Refining Your Keyword List
Uncovering new keywords is always an exciting endeavor. Each represents more opportunities to reach your target audience and drive more sales to your business.
But while following the keyword research methods, you may find yourself with thousands of keyword ideas.
Targeting all is certainly possible but it’ll require an immense amount of resources. If you are still just getting started with SEO and digital marketing in general, you’ll need to focus your efforts on short-term and long-term wins.
Start by refining your keyword list so you’ll know which ones are worth targeting and which ones aren’t. We’ll be looking at some important keyword metrics to help you out:
Creating new content is rather a time and resource intensive. Before you go through all that effort, you want to be sure that the keyword at least generates a decent amount of traffic. Otherwise you risk ranking for a keyword that barely gets any traffic.
First, you’ll need to look at search volume for potential keywords which you can use Google’s Keyword Planner tool for. The problem is that the numbers can vary widely. Here’s an example for “home builders Perth”:
That’s a huge difference and only makes it difficult to assess.
Fortunately, there’s a way to get more accurate search volume. Simply click the arrow under the Add to Plan column and you’ll see a new window pane on the right side. Then click the Review Plan button. On the next page, enter in a high bid amount. What this does is provide a more accurate estimate of how many impressions you can expect if your ads are ranked in the top position. Under match types, select Exact match for traffic estimates on that specific keyword.
Here’s an example of what the graph looks like now:
If you bid on the keywords “home builder Perth”, you can expect between 4,300 to 5,200 impressions a month. An impression is counted when your ads are shown. Check the traffic volume for each keyword of your list. Ideally you want to target keywords that get at least a few thousand searches a month although you can be more flexible with that.
Not all keywords are alike as some are more valuable than others.
A common mistake is targeting keywords based solely on their search volume. But you also need to evaluate the intention behind them. In other words, is the searcher simply looking for information or are they looking to make a purchase?
That distinction is critical and can make all the difference in your marketing strategy. Here are the main types of keywords:
- Informational keywords: These queries account for a large majority of all searches and include words like “how to…”, “ways to”…, “where is”…. etc. For these types of queries, the searcher is looking for information. They’re looking for an answer to something. As such they don’t tend to convert well but they do have a lot of traffic potential.
- Navigational: When users type in a brand or product name, they are performing a navigational search. They simply want to find the correct URL to get to the site. Targeting these could be helpful as you could also rank for your competitors’ brand names and potentially drive traffic away from them.
- Commercial: These are perhaps the most valuable keywords as they express an interest to make a purchase. They include keywords like “buy”, “sale”, “discount”, etc. Someone searching for product reviews is also further along the buying cycle and more likely to purchase. While these keywords don’t usually get as much traffic, they convert much better.
You can use Google’s Keyword Planner to assess the commercial value of a keyword. The tool displays suggested bids (estimated advertising cost) for each keyword. Here are some of the suggested bids related to creating a blog:
In contrast, here are the suggested bids for “WordPress hosting”:
Someone searching for hosting services is looking to purchase something so those bids are significantly higher as a result. If the keyword you are potentially targeting has a high suggested bid and ads in the search results, it’s a good indication that its commercial intent is high.
Ideally, you should be targeting a healthy mix of each type of keyword.
You’ve identified a list of keywords you can target.
The next step then is to assess the competition on the front page.
Ranking on Google isn’t as easy as it once was. You can’t simply throw up a page and expect to rank the following day. So you need to assess the competition first to determine whether you even have a shot at ranking. Otherwise you’ll be expending a lot of resources and still not even crack the first page.
If the search results for target queries are filled with authoritative results, you’ll have a much harder to outrank them especially if your site is still relatively new.
But if you take time to assess the competition first, you can find keywords with decent search volume and a low level of competition. That means less content and links to claim the top spot.
There are a few key metrics to check first: Page authority, link profile, and content quality.
Start by downloading MozBar—A browser tool that provides instant metrics of the search results. Here’s what you’ll see once you download and install the tool:
At a glance you can quickly assess the competition on the first page. Perhaps the most important metric is the Page Authority (PA) or degree of trust that a search result has with Google on a scale from 1 to 100.
If the search results are filled with high PA results, it’s going to take a lot more effort to rank. But if you see low PA results, then you’ll be able to easily overtake those pages through a combination of on-page SEO and link building.
Here’s an example when searching for “improve credit score”:
Right away we see that the top results have a high PA. Ranking for this particular keyword is going to take a lot of effort. Ideally you only want to focus on keywords with low to medium PA results.
The next metric to look at is links.
Backlinks still continue to carry a great deal of weight. Generally, the more links a page has the higher it ranks in the search results. When assessing keyword competition, it’s worth looking at the number of links the top results have.
Here’s an example for “how to create a blog”:
We see that two of the top three results have well over a thousand links. Of course, what matters is the quality and relevance of those links. By clicking on “Link Analysis” we can dig deeper and take a closer look at those links. Here’s an example for the first result:
From Open Site Explorer we can also see other metrics like Spam Score which indicates whether links are from spammy sources. This is particularly useful because if you see sites that have backlink profiles with a high Spam Score, you could likely take over that result with higher quality links.
Another metric to look at is Domain Authority, a metric that determines the strength of a site’s rankings in the search results. For example, sites like Wikipedia have a high DA so tend to rank well for a range of broad keywords. In contrast, newly registered sites will have a low DA simply because they have yet to establish any trust with Google.
Here’s an example when searching for “organic coffee beans”:
Here we see that Wikipedia has a DA of 100 so outranking it will be tough. The third result has a decent score of PA and DA which indicates that outranking them shouldn’t be too difficult. Ideally you want to target keywords that have low DA scores on the first page.
Finally, you need to look at the actual content quality for the pages in the search results.
Simply search for potential keywords then click through to the top few results. Do the pages cover the topic in-depth? Are any of them lacking in details? If you want to outrank those results, your content needs to be better than what is already ranking.
If you see results that are poorly optimised from an on-page SEO standpoint or the content doesn’t exactly stand out, then that’s good news as it means that you can beat those results with better optimised content.
Keyword research is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of SEO. Follow the strategies here to uncover lucrative keywords or get in touch with our team to get started with our comprehensive keyword research services.