Your website is one of the most important assets you have.
It’s where you talk to customers and where they find out about your brand, products, and values. It makes sense that you spend a lot of time making your website a place where people want to spend time and look around. But after that’s done, you’ve probably thought about how to bring more people to the website, or how you could make it higher on Search Engine Results Page or SERP.
So, you’ve done your research. You’ve selected the keywords and put them through the usual checklist: are they relevant? Do they have a high search volume? Do they have a low keyword difficulty?
You ticked all the boxes. But… the tidal wave of traffic you’ve predicted isn’t coming yet. What now?
In this article, I will give some of the essentials to look out for when conducting SEO keyword research and how you can leverage your keyword research into a successful strategy. Also, I am sharing my first-hand experiences of keyword research and 5 things I wish I knew when conducting research for the first time.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is an integral part of not just an SEO strategy, but any digital marketing strategy. Good marketing strategists understand their audience’s needs and find ways to communicate effectively with the right customers at the right time.
Keyword research is a great way to start a strategy, as it can give you an understanding of what your customers search for when they try to find your brand. From there, you can gain valuable insights into how your brand is perceived and what your audience looks for when trying to find your brand and/or products.
Understanding what keywords your visitors input means you can then optimise your website and website content to make it easier for them to find you rather than your competitors. Conducting effective keyword research allows you to:
- Have a better understanding of your target audience and what they expect from your brand.
- Understand what keywords are easier to rank higher within search engines.
- Get more relevant organic traffic to your website from search engines.
Why is Keyword Research so Important?
This practice provides insight into what search terms your target users have searched on Google. The insight gained from such searches can inform your content marketing plan and strategy. People can search the internet for answers using a search engine or a website. Having a content strategy in place will improve traffic. You must also target this type.
Use a seed keyword to get started
Every piece of keyword research needs to start somewhere. Usually, it starts from identifying a handful of seed keywords which are keywords, terms, or questions customers would search to find your brand. Seed keywords are any general, non-specific keywords within a specific niche used as a logical step to find more keywords.
For example, if we do keyword research on dog food companies, we could use the word “dog food.” This is something you can do on your own (as someone who has been using Google LOADS you are more than qualified) and doesn’t need to take a long time – this is just to get you started.
Short-tail keywords vs Long-tail keywords
Short-tail keywords are usually one or two words that refer to a much broader subject, whereas long-tail keywords are more specific phrases and reflect a search where people are trying to find a more detailed product or answer to their query.
For example, “marketing agency” would be a short-tail keyword as it’s broad. Instead, the search “digital marketing agency Glasgow” is long-tail as it’s much more specific.
Long-tail keywords are important. They will most likely have lower search volume compared to short-tail keywords, but their specificity means they are easier to rank higher on SERP and more likely to result in a purchase as the searcher knows what they are looking to purchase.
After you’ve collected some keyword data, you can develop a keyword list which can help you track which keywords you trying to rank for.
Understanding Keyword Research Terms
The faster and more relevant your keyword is in search engines, the greater traffic your site will attract. Traffic potential refers to the total amount of traffic your page COULD receive if ranked 1st on the SERP. A high traffic potential for a keyword that is extremely relevant to your offering is the one worth optimising your content for, as in time you could eventually rank number one. Still, be aware that traffic potential only reflects the first page, which could be hogging all the traffic, so even if you ranked second or third, you might not receive the same levels of traffic.
Marketing experts typically assess the ranking difficulty manually. Those searches can be analysed using Google. They account for a variety of factors to determine whether a ranking is very difficult. One would say domain rating is important, while another might say relevance has a more important role to play. These views also depend on what type of search they’re analysing, as Google prefers different sorts.
You can determine how often a keyword has been searched monthly using search volumes. There are four important details about search volume metrics: Most keyword tools will include search volume filters for keyword ideas with particular popularity.
While keywords with the highest search volumes are understood as those with the most people searching them, this doesn’t always mean they are the best to go for if you are looking to build organic traffic. This is because people may search for something but not click through a page; for example, when a search query is a specific question, Google increasingly provides the answer as a featured snippet at the top of the SERP.
Keyword Research Tools for you to Try
It takes time to discover quality keywords. Using reliable keyword research tools can significantly streamline your process and make it easier to find quality keywords.
Ahrefs is very well-known among digital marketers; it offers a wealth of features for keyword research and competitive analysis. Ahrefs’ keyword explorer tool allows you to identify relevant keywords related to your niche. This tool can tell you what their algorithm determines as keyword difficulty, the traffic potential and the search volume of each keyword, allowing you to prioritise the most valuable keywords for your content. Ahrefs does require membership plans to access all of its features, but it actually offers a free, useful Keyword Generator Tool.
Google Keyword Planner, Google Search Console, and Google Trends
As essential components of Google’s suite of tools, Keyword Planner and Google Trends offer valuable insights for keyword research.
- Google Search Console: This is essential if you already have an existing website. Google search console provides the most accurate data of current traffic to your website, including keywords (queries) that are providing both clicks and impressions. This can be a great starting point for any search engine optimisation plan, as you’ll gain an understanding of your current strengths and weaknesses.
- Google Keyword Planner: This free tool allows you to discover new keywords, estimate their search volume, and analyse keyword trends. It’s particularly useful for planning paid advertising campaigns and identifying keyword opportunities for organic search.
- Google Trends: Uncover trending topics and seasonal keyword fluctuations with Google Trends. This tool helps you understand user interests over time, enabling you to tailor your content to match current demand.
5 Tips for Better Keyword Research
Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s dive into your keyword strategy and how you can get that tidal wave of traffic to start coming to your website.
1. Have a Specific Audience in Mind
On some projects, you might need to focus on finding long-tail keywords for two different types of audiences with two completely different sets of needs.
Now this isn’t a bad thing; all businesses will have more than one type of customer with multiple needs. Eventually, you will develop keyword strategies for multiple content themes. However, when starting out, this can result in not going deep enough on a particular topic to rank for it.
Google has said that it ranks webpage performance based on the overall quality of the content, meaning that it’s unique and relevant to visitors. This type of content is the kind that encourages repeat visits, backlinks and shares on social media. Since you will be diving your time across your content into two broad topics rather than being specific on one topic, you can have a much harder time ranking for keywords and finding traffic.
Focusing on one audience, at least to begin with, helps position your website as a niche authority and can lead to a higher organic ranking on related search terms and increased trust and brand loyalty from visitors. Once your audience is set up, you can branch out into new keyword themes.
2. Keyword Difficulty Shouldn’t Get in the Way of Good Content
When starting out researching for keywords, it’s easy to become laser-focused on long tail keywords with low difficulty.
This, again, isn’t bad and is standard when conducting keyword research. However, overemphasis on low keyword difficulty may lead content creators to compromise on the quality of their articles, resulting in shallow, irrelevant, and unhelpful content.
This can have adverse effects on user experience and ultimately deter potential visitors from returning to the site. By prioritising good content over keyword difficulty, websites can genuinely cater to their audience’s needs and interests.
User satisfaction is a critical factor that search engines consider when ranking websites. Crafting content around relevant topics, regardless of keyword difficulty, and using natural, plain language helps search engines better understand the context of your website. Ultimately, this will help the website rank higher than a range of loosely connected keywords.
3. Make Sure your Content Matches the Search Intent
Search intent refers to the underlying motivation or purpose behind a user’s search query. It can be broadly categorised into four main types:
- Informational: Visitors under this search intent seek answers to specific questions or information on a particular topic.
- Navigational: Users are looking for a specific website or web page. They have a particular destination in mind and use search engines as navigational tools, such as “ChatGPT” or “YouTube.”
- Transactional: Users intend to make a purchase or engage in some commercial activity such as “blue running trainers near me,” the “near me” implies an urgency to their purchase.
- Commercial Investigation: Users are researching and comparing products or services before deciding. Usually have “best” or “top” within the title, implying a comparison is being made between products.
When content aligns with search intent, users quickly find what they are looking for, resulting in a positive user experience. This leads to longer dwell times, reduced bounce rates, and increased chances of user engagement.
Tailoring content to search intent attracts users who are genuinely interested in the information or products offered. This results in higher-quality traffic with a higher potential for conversion.
4. Traffic vs Volume: Which One and When to Focus?
Keyword traffic refers to the actual number of visitors a website receives from a specific keyword. These are the visitors who click through to your site after finding it in the search results. Keyword traffic is a valuable metric to gauge the immediate impact of a keyword on your website’s traffic and overall performance. It helps identify which keywords are driving real visitors and potential customers to your site.
On the other hand, keyword volume refers to the average number of times a particular keyword is searched per month. This metric helps you understand the popularity and demand for a specific keyword. High keyword volume suggests that many people are searching for that term, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to high traffic to your site.
So, when should you focus on each one? Usually, a combination of both will bring in the best traffic, and the ratio of where to focus depends on what stage of your SEO strategy you are in. My website was new, and aiming to build traffic was smart, but I should have still looked for keywords with both high traffic and moderate search volumes. Later in my strategy, when my website has higher authority, my keyword strategy will focus more on volume as this can bring or reach more potential visitors.
5. There Can be More Goals Than Just Traffic
If you’re strategy goal is bring more organic traffic to your website then, YES, traffic will usually be the most important thing. But as we’ve explored, keywords can do much more than bring traffic to your website; they bring valuable insights into your potential visitors and what they look for when searching for your brand.
The information from keyword research tools can help you achieve goals for understanding your audience, increasing brand visibility, identifying new markets to expand in, and many more.
Now it’s your turn to do keyword research!
These tools and advice around keyword research can help you kickstart your keyword research. At the end of the day, not only will keyword research improve your SEO performance, but it will also assist with many parts of your digital marketing strategy.