Before you can start your content marketing process, you have to first make sure it is optimized around terms and phrases that people search for. Your ultimate goal should be to optimize content generation around keywords that hit the ‘sweet spot’ between keyword competition and search volume.
In other words, you don’t want the keyword to be too difficult to rank for and have enough search volume that it generates healthy traffic should you start ranking for it.
Without adequate keyword research, you might as well be shooting in the dark – it rarely, if ever works. If done right, keyword research will affect every other SEO task that you perform including on-page SEO, promotion, outreach, content topics, link building, and more.
This is why it is best to conduct keyword research at the beginning of your SEO campaign.
The keywords you select will be the guiding points for your SEO campaigns: they tell you which blogs to write and which blogs to not write.
Furthermore, keyword research also helps you figure out your audience’s pain points, desires, thoughts, and fears – this information can go a long way in giving you insight into what your prospects are actually searching for. The best part about keyword research is that it is (mostly) free and gives you great ROI on almost zero investment.
How to Do Keyword Research for SEO
When you write content based on keyword research, you’ll find it easier to accomplish your goals.
Attract Qualified Traffic
The keywords you rank for determine the type of traffic that your site attracts. As a general rule, visitors who are not part of your target audience won’t translate into paying clients. These prospects are known as low-quality traffic.
This is because the traffic doesn’t have any impact on your most immediate goals, such as revenue and sales.
By contrast, high quality traffic is composed of visitors who are your target audience, and as such, they have a much higher chance of converting.
The keywords you choose have a major impact on the type of traffic your website attracts
The main reason why we’re spending so much time learning about keyword tools is to gauge the audience’s search habits. You can then tailor your blogs and content around the search terms and phrases they use.
Keyword research means that you’re not just using your keywords that generate the most buzz, but rank in such a way that you attract users who are most likely to purchase your product or research (or translate into a lead).
Reach Users at Every Stage of the Buying Process
If you want to maximize your conversion rate, your immediate goal is to reach prospects at every stage of the process. This means you’re doing more than just focusing on transaction based keywords such as ‘buy’ or ‘sign up’.
While it is true that these keywords attract qualified traffic, most of these users don’t convert until much later in the buying process.
Keyword research helps you discover phrases that will target every stage of the buying process, from discovering your product, to researching it, to comparing it, and finally buying it!
Most consumers go through three basic stages:
- Top of the funnel: awareness stage (targeted with blog posts and newsletters)
- Middle of the funnel: evaluation stage (targeted with customer testimonials, case studies, free samples)
- Bottom of the funnel: purchase stage (free consultation, live demos, pricing page)
Customers will first look for information content that helps them learn more about the products that alleviate their pain points and needs.
Secondly, they will evaluate the companies that provide these products and services before deciding the best solution.
Thirdly, they’ll pick one of the companies to make a purchase (or reach out for more information).
This means that if your content strategy isn’t focusing on all three stages of the customer buying process, you’re losing out on leads.
Address Your Audience’s Questions
The majority of the keywords that you encounter will be information based.
These keywords help you understand your target audience and industry trends, and the events that eventually lead up to the buying decision process.
The most immediate benefit of using information-based keywords is that they help you create content to address the top and middle of the sales funnel.
For example, let’s say you want to attract more customers to your computer repair shop.
The obvious keyword choices for your blog would be something along the lines of “computer repair shop in [your local area]’.
But to address the audience at the top and middle of the funnel, you’ll have to identify more informational keywords.
In our case they could be the phrase, “how often do I need to clean a mechanical keyboard’.
The intent of the users searching for this term is clear: they are thinking about cleaning their mechanical keyboard, but don’t know how to go about doing so.
To address this question, you can write a blog post that covers in great detail all the fine nuances of cleaning mechanical keyboards, and then publish it on your website.
Then, when the user searches for this keyword, they will land on your website and find a clear answer to their question.
This is a mutually beneficial result for both your audience and your business.
Searchers get useful information for free and your business gets a potential client. Then, if the client decides while reading your article that they’re ready to buy a new keyword, they’ll contact you for more information.
And even if they’re not ready to take action right away, you’ve now established your business as an authoritative source for information.
The Importance of Using the Best Keywords
Depending on whether you’re new or experienced, you may have to spend a significant amount of time and effort to discover the best possible keywords.
It can be tempting to select popular keywords and dedicate your entire content marketing campaign around them. But the problem with popular keywords is the sheer difficulty in ranking for them if your website has low domain authority.
As a general rule of thumb, if your website is genuinely new and/or doesn’t have enough domain authority, your goal should be to find long-tail keywords.
As mentioned earlier in the blog, the keywords should be easy to acquire and have a sufficiently high search volume.
Here’s an overly simplified version of what we’re trying to explain:
Suppose you’re a real estate agent and are trying to rank for an extremely competitive keyword, ‘home’. The idea is to get more clients to purchase your real estate services.
We plugged in ‘home’ into SEMrush and found the following data:
This keyword has a total search volume of around 4.2 million. Websites that rank in the top ten search results for this keyword are probably getting visitors by the millions, most of whom aren’t even converting (since this is a very generic keyword).
If you’re just starting and don’t have enough domain authority, you will not rank for this keyword. It’s just not possible, at least not without years of effort, tens of thousands of backlinks, and an unrealistically high domain authority (over 80+).
But what you can do is rank for keyword variations of the keyword ‘home’.
SEMrush returns millions of variables for ‘home’ that you can use in your content marketing efforts. Here’s an example:
The three sections in the above screenshot: “keyword variations”, “questions’, and “related keywords”, are all examples of keywords that make use of ‘home’. You can click on “View all keywords” to get a more comprehensive list.
However, if you notice, the keyword volume for each of these variations drops down by a significant margin: from the order of a million to the order of tens of thousands.
And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Your ultimate goal is to attract users with intent to buy (if you’re a seller).
Pro tip: At any one point in time, users with intent to buy will only number in the tens of thousands, and not in the millions.
If you’re selling products and services, you want to target keywords that have low difficulty in acquiring and sufficiently high search volume.
If your website starts attracting too much traffic, you’ll have to increase your hosting plan – probably not a good idea if the traffic isn’t converting.
So what’s the next best option after the keyword ‘home’?
Enter long-tail keywords.
What Makes Long-Tail Keywords so Useful?
Long tail keywords are more specific than a single keyword, for the most part, and usually consist of more words. They get significantly less search traffic but will have a much higher conversion value. You will also notice that some of these keywords have a high CPC value (or cost per click).
Search engines charge a fortune for advertisements that utilize long-tail keywords with intent to buy.
The best part about long-tail keywords it that there is very little competition for them.
Let’s go back to our very specific example of the keyword ‘home’.
The head keyword ‘home’ could mean a million things:
- Are you looking to buy or rent a new home?
- Are you searching for a retail shop closeto your home?
- Are you searching for a service or restaurant close to your home?
- Are you looking for renovation services for your home?
- Are you searching for work from home jobs?
Long tail keywords allow you to target customers looking for a very specific solution to their problem.
If you’re a real estate agent, your content marketing efforts should utilize the following strategy:
- Home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- Condo in Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Fort Lauderdale homes
LSIgraph is yet another tool that you can use to target long tail keywords, you will get 3 free searches per day.
Pro tip: Use a proxy server if you want more uses!
Notice that the keywords here have extremely low search volume.
And that’s what we’re looking for here.
Any keyword with a search volume above 50 is good to go. These are users who have the intent to buy. As a real estate agent, that’s 50 is all you need.
Some good long-tail keywords that we identified from the above screenshot are as follows:
- Fort Lauderdale homes for sale by owner
- Homes for sale in Fort Lauderdale under 100,000
- Fort Lauderdale homes for sale waterfront
- homes in fort Lauderdale for rent
- townhomes for sale fort Lauderdale
Pro tip: You’ll also notice that some of these keywords don’t make a lot of grammatical sense. But when you decide to use these keywords, make sure they make grammatical sense. For example, if you’re using ‘townhomes for sale Fort Lauderdale’, make sure you use the correct variation of it, which is, ‘townhomes for sale in Fort Lauderdale’.
When Google ranks your web page, it also ranks you for subtle variations of the target keyword. For example, if you start ranking for ‘Home in Fort Lauderdale”, there’s a pretty high chance that you’ll also rank for “Home Fort Lauderdale” (without the ‘in’).
Do not plug in keywords that don’t make grammatical sense, we cannot stress this enough.
Reason? Suppose you start ranking for a grammatically incorrect long-tail keyword. You attract clients who start reading through your pitch and then spot multiple grammatical errors along the way – chances are, they’ll bolt back to the search results page! Google will notice the high bounce rate and penalize your ranking as a result.
So make sure to prioritize quality above all else.
Using Related Search Terms from Google for Ideas
Don’t want to use expensive tools or trial versions that give you only 7 tries per day (we’re looking at you SEMrush), you can use Google search results to find new ideas.
In our example, we’ll hunt for search terms related to ‘mechanical keyboard’. Once again, a mechanical keyboard is a very broad term that could mean a hundred little small things. Our goal is to be as specific as possible to gain a high quality of search traffic – but without using pricey tools.
Here’s what you can do.
Go to www.google.com.
Plug in “mechanical keyboard”. Depending on what time of day it is and your local area, you’ll get varying results. Here’s what we got:
Scroll further down and you’ll see the “People also ask” subsection:
- “what is a mechanical keyboard”
- “what is the difference between a mechanical keyboard?”
- “what’s so good about a mechanical keyboard?”
- “are mechanical keyboards the best?”
Each of these four terms is an example of long-tail keywords. They have low search volume but attract prospects with intent to buy or research (or both).
These questions are SEO gold! If your online store sells mechanical keyboards, make sure your content strategy incorporates the above questions through various blogs.
You can try to answer them through various means, such as FAQ pages, long-form content (over 1500 words), or make videos that directly answer the question.
Type any one of these questions in Google and you’ll find the following results page:
The Featured Snippets section of the search results page (also known as Rank Zero) is a coveted position. It’s insanely easy to rank for. All you have to do is provide to-the-point no-nonsense answers to questions that people commonly ask and if you do things right, Google will feature your answer in the Featured Snippets section.
The one downside to Zero Ranking is that most searchers won’t click through to your link. This is because they already have the answer to their question and no longer have the incentive to follow through. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If they didn’t visit your page, chances are, they won’t visit your competitor’s page either. But they now think you’re a figure of authority and will probably refer back to you for future research (which will almost always translate into higher conversions).
There is no harm in ranking for the zero position. If you don’t start ranking for it, someone else will!
Now, back to the results page for ‘mechanical keyboard’. Scroll to the bottom of the search results page and you’ll find “searches related to mechanical keyboard”
These are examples of long-tail keywords that have an appreciably high search volume on Google. They are easy to rank for and attract high-quality leads.
Note: Do keep in mind that this section of the results page is highly sensitive based on physical location and the current season.
Types of Intent
Content marketers have tried to further categorize search intent to figure out what consumers are searching for at any point in time. Google describes intent as either ‘know’ (doing research), ‘do’ (complete an objective), ‘website’ (find a very specific website), or ‘visit in person’ (find a local business).
Let’s take a closer look at the different types of search intent with examples:
In this case, the user wants information, such as the name of a product.
The user wants to find a particular website such as Twitter or the official website of KFC.
The searcher wants to accomplish a task, such as watching a YouTube video, listen to music, or book a hotel room.
The searcher is fishing for information related to a product or service. They are probably trying to compare the best one that meets their specific needs.
Local Search Queries
The user wants to find information that is specific to their local regions, such as nearby real estate agent, restaurant, or retail shop.
It is worth your while to figure out the type of audience you want to target. Your ultimate goal should be to gauge the type of searcher intent. If you don’t know what your type of audience is, look to the search results page.
Google closely evaluates the behavior of billions of searches in its efforts to provide the most accurate results possible. The SERP landscape could provide all the answers you need without spending a single dime on expensive tools. That being said, we do recommend using the paid version of SEMrush, it is the only tool you need for keyword research.
Check out our in-depth review of SEMrush here.
Use the Google AdWords Tool
Google’s AdWords tool is free and provides you with a treasure trove of data that could help you unravel all the secrets related to keyword research.
Click here to open the Google Adwords Keyword Planner.
All you need is a Google account and you can create a free AdWords account.
Once there, click on the Tools & Settings spanner:
Click on Keyword Planner
We searched for ‘mechanical keyboard’ and got the following results:
Here’s what all of the columns represent:
Competition: This column gives you an idea of the number of advertisers who are bidding for a particular keyword. If the keyword has the term ‘high’ next to it, this means that advertisers are bidding a high amount on it.
CPC: This is the amount advertisers have to spend for each click.
Global Monthly Search: The average user queries for a particular keyword.
To become even more specific, click on “Modify Search” and click on the “Plan your budget and get forecasts” option.
You can select from “Broad”, “Exact”, and “Phrase” depending on your strategy.
Broad – The total search volume for the keyword, including all its grammatical forms, synonyms, and related words. We don’t recommend using broad keywords when placing advertisements because search intents can be a hit or miss.
Exact – The search volume for the keyword. If you place an ad for an exact match keyword, your ad will only get triggered if someone uses that specific keyword.
Phrase – The total search volume for all the terms that include the whole phrase. In other words, your ad would show for anyone who typed your keyword, with or without additional words.
Prerequisites for Doing Keyword Research
You will need access to a few items before you can start the keyword research process. Most marketers already know all there is know about their industry, and you probably have the lingo covered already. Your keyword research strategy has to refer to the following terms:
- Your company
- Your business
- The pain points that your services will address
- Your target industry
Make sure you’ve got all this information covered.
So there you have it, all the essential information you need to know about keyword research. If you feel we missed something or want to offer your strategies, do let us know in the comments below!