There are tons of ways to do SEO keyword research. Today, there are over 100 keyword research tools, with many different methods to research keywords. Some people spend more time than others, and more than a few have found a system that works for them.
This article aims to help you understand why keyword research is essential and to ideally help you find the best way to do SEO keyword research that works for you.
When you hear people say that they want to rank a web page, what they are saying is that they want to rank for a specific keyword or longtail tail. You just “rank” a page on a search engine.
When a consumer searches on Google or any other search engine, they are using a keyword or a phrase, today semantic search dominates. Google will take their query and retrieve information based on that keyword.
Keyword research when done correctly will find your content and site sitting towards the very top of the search engine results pages (SERPs).
That’s why content marketing and keyword research go hand in hand; good content marketing doesn’t start with the copywriter writing an article that’s ideally relevant to a specific niche.
It starts with establishing a content market strategy followed by SEO keyword research that addresses 3 fundamental questions:
Keyword research begins with market research, as all good marketing initiatives do.
We’re going to assume that you have already done the market research necessary for keyword research and understand your target market, overall.
That’s because it’s the same thing as the market research you included in your content marketing strategy and plan.
The mistake that ones see from people who are either misinformed or novices is they will start their keyword research using the Google Keyword Planner or a software SEO tool such as, SEMRush. This misguided effort puts the cart in front of the horse.
Before you can use Google’s keyword planner or any other keyword tool, you first need to understand your target market and the people it represents. You need to know when they are searching for information, related to your product or services the keywords they are using for their searches.
You need to start with:
Why is it important to segment your market and target audience?
Different people within your target market may search using with different keywords, including longtail keywords.
For example, if you have a green tea e-commerce site, a portion of your audience is more likely to search for “organic green tea” than “cheap green tea.”
Now that you’ve segmented your market based on interests, the next step is to segment your market based on their intent to purchase.
Some people are “tire-kickers.”
They’re not ready to buy anything yet; they’re searching and browsing the web doing research and looking at options.
Another subgroup has done their research and is ready to buy.
Your goal and objective are to build brand-name awareness and buzz while defining your brand among the tire-kickers and move fast for a quick close with the people who are searching with an intent to buy.
The point here is that you’ll use different keywords to foster and close people in either category.
People who are doing early research and browsing the web tend to use keywords with include the following:
People who are in the late stage of the sales funnel, with an intent to purchase tend to use keywords, such as:
So, if you’re running an e-commerce store selling “Green Tea” when someone searches Googles for “Best Green Tea” or “Compare Organic Green Tea” they are probably a tire-kicker. When someone searches Googles for “Coupon Organic Green Tea” or “Buy Green Tea” they are highly likely ready to make a purchase.
Start with a simple spreadsheet, creating columns and rows to specify the demographics and interests of each market segment that you just identified.
For example, one of the segments might be identified as follows:
Now repeat this for all of your market segments.
Now that you have your market segments broken down and itemized, its time to make a list of keywords that each segment would use based on purchase intent for internet searches.
For example, someone in the segment for green tea described prior might search for “best green tea” if she was researching and browsing the web and not interested in buying anything right away.
If she wanted to make a purchase, he might search for something like “coupon green tea or coupon organic green tea.”
You’ll l find there’s a degree of overlap in search terms between many of your target audience segments. Fortunately, this means you can reach many segments with one keyword or longtail keyword phrase.
Now that you have the list of search terms, you’ve taken the first step forward with targeting your audience with quality content marketing.
Let’s dial your list of keywords, now that you have completed the brainstorming. In this step, you’ll add to the list, modify a few search terms, and kill off some keywords from your list.
I prefer to let Google guide me in enhancing my keyword list. With a Google search page open, in the search box, type in your search terms one at a time.
For each search term, scroll to the bottom of Page 1 of the SERPs and look at what alternate suggestions Google gives you.
At the bottom of the page, in a box labeled “Searches related to” followed by your keyword.
For example, if you search for “coupon green tea,” you’ll see the following suggestions at the bottom of the first page:
A magic moment, the search term “lipton green tea coupons” looks like a great option to pull people who are at the upper end of the sales funnel, searching for a mid-priced product. Make a note of this longtail keyword.
Now, go to Wikipedia to expand the keyword list further.
If you search for “green tea” in Wikipedia, you’ll come across an article that includes the following sentences:
This is something your competitors may not have been thinking of, how green tea reduces cholesterol and high blood pressure. This may lead to you to write an article about the health benefits of green tea and how it adds to the quality of life.
At this stage, we are still writing down everything we can think of that may be relevant to our target audience; this is genuinely a brainstorming session.
We’ll clean up our keyword list a bit later.
Now that you’ve used Google Search and Wikipedia to add to your keyword list, it’s time to add to it even more.
In comes the SEO tools.
There are three types of tools – free Google tools, other free tools, and premium (paid) tools.
The first free Google tool that you may want to use is Google Search Console and Google Trends; I’m not a big fan of the Google Keyword tool for keyword research anymore.
Google’s AI is presently, remarkably stupid, and broad matches to utterly unrelated search terms. For example, it matches “Pella” the door and window company, to “Paella,” a Spanish rice dish.
Today, you need to take note of all the tools you use that pull search volume estimates from Google; if they are drawing their volume estimates directly from Google. I’d be leary to trust any tools that use Keyword Planner’s data.
A key to ranking for keywords is to not shot for the moon. What I mean by this is keywords that have a lot of traffic also have a LOT of competition. You will be better off trying to rank for low hanging fish aka keywords.
For example, you stumble across what you think is a great search term that receives 40 searches every month. You need to evaluate if it’s in your best interests to rank for that longtail keyword when you could spend your time and energy ranking for keywords that receive thousands of hits every month.
Go back to the top of the page, and you’ll see that you have filter options. You can select searches by region, date, and category. By toggling between these options may give you different keywords you may be able to use.
Now, let’s look at a few other free keyword tools.
The first is Soovle. Type in your search term, and you’ll see a variety of related terms splattered all over the screen.
All of these tools are free; none will give you any information about search volume, CPC, and competition will be blurred out unless you paid for the premium version of the tool of Keywordtool.io.
If you have been following along, you should have an extensive list of keywords related to your niche and even more substantial if your product is a generic term.
The goal of this exercise is that you gathered an expansive a list as humanly possible during your initial keyword research.
Now, let’s move over to premium tools to tweak that list some more. Including eliminating some of the keywords on your list.
Here is where we focus in on the keywords that should drive traffic.
I know, paying for a keyword tool is not where you want to spend your hard earned cash, however, rest assured, it will pay for itself over and over again if you use them correctly.
One of the best tools that I like for keyword research is SEMRush. They offer a free limited trial, so don’t think you have to start out with a paid tool immediately
Type “green tea” on the home page search bar and click the “Search” button. Take a look at the report that follows.
You’ll get an overview of the organic and paid search results, the number of searches, along with a bar graph that shows the general trend of the search term.
Click on “Keyword Difficulty” on the left-hand sidebar. Here the keyword is assigned a difficulty level as a percentage. For green tea, the difficulty is 86.70%.
So that means that the odds of ranking for “green tea” are nearly impossible, the competition is steep.
Scratch “green tea” off your proposed keyword list.
By utilizing SEMRush to analyze the keywords on your list, you will eliminate the keywords that are too hard to rank for.
After you have checked all of your proposed keywords and narrowed down the list, give the Keyword Magic feature on the left sidebar a try. This will return keywords related to a particular search term “green tea” allowing you to immediately check their difficulty level for ranking
SEMRush Keyword Magic Keyword Research
Other tools that you can use for ideas of keywords or to eliminate ones that are too difficult to rank for are:
Long Tail Pro – Requires you to install software on your laptop. Long Tail Pro does not run in the cloud environment as SEMRush does. It still gives you good keyword ideas with competitive analysis.
Scrapebox – Black-hat SEO likes Scrapebox. Even then, its still a useful tool for finding other keywords, what its lacking is the ability to determine keyword difficulty.
SECockpit – Using the Pro (paid) version, you get keyword suggestions and analysis along with a rank tracker.
Now that you have a manageable and workable list of keywords that you believe will give the basis for quality content marketing opportunities.
Let’s dig in a little more about the type of keywords.
SEO practitioners break keywords down into three main categories: heads, bodies, and longtails.
For example, look at the image below:
The head would be “dog.”
The bodies would be “chihuahua dogs.”
The longtail would be “chihuahua dog in a planter.”
Longtail keywords are the easiest to rank for since there is usually less competition for them.
The downside of longtail keywords is the amount of search traffic volume is lower. You won’t drive as much web traffic, even if you rank in the top spot on Google or other search engines.
Bodies are harder to rank for; they have more search volume. They generate a lot of the longtail traffic since bodies are usually part of a longtail keyword.
If you are starting with content marketing, it’s better to start with longtail keywords.
This gives you the time to learn and see what is involved in ranking for keywords and moving up to working on ranking for bodies.
Even though you’ve eliminated some of the tougher keywords, you’re still going to need to do a little more competitive analysis before you can start creating content.
Below are a couple of free add-ons (or extensions) that I would highly recommend that you add to your browser.
Now watch what happens when you search for “Coupon Organic Green Tea” on Google.
You know see the Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) for every result.
So you’re wondering what Page Authority (PA) and Domain Authority (DA) are?
PA is the authority of the page, and DA is the authority of the domain.
The lower the PA and DA, the easier it will be for you to rank on top of the page for your keyword.
In plain English, if you see a page ranked at #6 with a low PA and DA, you can probably rank your page at #6 and push that one down to #7 on the search results.
The PA and DA boxes also show you the number of backlinks pointing to the page and domain.
Why is that important? Because Google looks at over 200 factors when determining rankings and considers backlinks to be a sign of authority.
The more backlinks that are linking to a page and domain (and the anchor text used), the harder it will be for you to outrank that page.
In the case of the Qwaya Facebook Ad Manager site (#1 in the SERPs), you see that there are over 2,400 links pointing to the page and the site has a DA of 52 and PA of 60.
This search was for “Facebook Ad Manager” you can see that Qwaya has over 2,400 backlinks whereas Startup Nation only has eight links pointing to the page.
Qwaya is going to offer some stiff competition that you will not beat initially.
What tools do for you is make it easier to quickly scan for websites and pages on Page 1 of search results that have a low PA and DA and a limited number of backlinks.
The other thing to check with the tools is the backlink profile.
Remember reading that the more backlinks that a page and domain have, the harder it will be for you to rank your page above it?
In reality is there are pages ranking with a ton of low-quality backlinks.
This is a result of SEO practitioners using black-hat tools to build backlink spam. Eventually, Google catches up with them, and they will get their content downgraded or the website banned.
The good news is that if a site ranks well with a lot of spammy backlinks, you can beat it in the SERPs with quality backlinks.
This makes the job to get quality backlinks to your content from sites with a high DA. You probably can still outrank a website that ranks well with backlink spam.
How do you know if a page is ranked using backlink spam?
Moz gives you a Spam Score that will provide you with an idea about the quality of the sites that the backlinks are coming from.
Now you need to check your competitors on-site SEO. Let’s see how well Yogi Products does with optimizing for “organic green tea.”
Notice, the title of the page doesn’t include the search term. Instead, it reads: “Green Teas.”
That’s good news. When a website isn’t using the search term in the title of the page, it’s a sign of poor on-site SEO. You may be able to rank ahead of it in search results (SERPs).
Click on the link to open the page. Now, look at that the SEOQuake and Moz toolbars are at the top of the screen.
Next, click the magnifying glass on the Moz toolbar. This will give you an overview of how well the page is optimized for the search term that is on your keyword list.
See that the phrase “organic green tea” doesn’t appear in the meta description, the URL, or page title. Again, all good news for if you’re trying to rank for the keyword.
Next, you need to review the quality of the content on the page.
Since the search term, “organic green tea” directing you to e-commerce sites, let’s take a deeper dive at a search term that would be used by people a little higher up in the sales funnel, closer to the purchase stage.
Google and search for “buy organic green tea.”
The first organic result comes from a domain called “Rishi-Tea.com.”
We see that it’s got a PA of only 15 and a DA 19 better yet its keyword is “Rishi tea.” It’s ripe for the picking.
But what about the content itself?
The meta description reads: “We sell Certified Organic Green Teas imported from China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia. Our healthful green teas are noted for their fresh flavor. We recommend steeping our organic green teas in water that has been heated until bubbles have begun to form on the bottom of the pan (180 degrees F), for 2-3 minutes.”
The first sentence on the main product page of the green tea reads as follows: “Rapidly becoming a popular class of teas throughout the world, green teas are noted for their fresh flavor and green character, along with their scientifically proven health benefits.”
The rest of the page isn’t much better; it does improve when you get to the individual product pages.
What happened? The meta description, the H1 tag were written by someone who understands the very basics of SEO.
Possibly. More than likely it was written by an SEO tech, at best. The result is low-quality crap you’re reading.
Therefore, what’s bad news for the consumers searching and reading that product page is good news for you!
On top of that, the website has no blog; it has a “learn” page that has recipes, brewing guides, and origin. Zero content marketing that would help with SERPs and engage the consumer.
The content quality is so low that you can probably rank for “buy organic green tea.”
Now that you’ve gone through the laborious process of researching for the right keywords for your niche or product/service, and determined which ones you should use in your content marketing efforts.
Now, its time to get started.
Include your keywords in your content letting Google know to rank your page for that search term.
Every good website that ranks starts with SEO keyword research. Today, there is a plural of tools to aid you in finding the best keywords for your niche and product or service. A few are free, and some cost money but are well worth the investment.
We covered a lot of ground showing you how to do manual keyword research. To speed up this process, try either Moz or SEMrush.
If you want assistance with your keyword research, please contact us, we are happy to help.