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With every new Google algorithm update, search engines have been minimizing the importance of keywords for search rankings.
In fact, you will not necessarily find keywords in the title tags of the top five search engine results. Marketers no longer emphasize using exact keyword phrases in the content of their web pages.
Considering all of this, should you abandon the process of keyword research and focus on other factors to improve your website’s search rankings?
Surprisingly, the answer is no.
Keyword research for SEO might no longer seem to be essential, but it still remains one of the SEO activities that can offer huge returns with less effort. Keyword research is indeed pivotal for your website’s search marketing success.
Keyword research, the skillful identification of relevant search terms, is still important. But the way it works has evolved.
Let’s take a closer look at the process for keyword research for SEO. You can tweak this keyword research process to meet your search marketing goals.
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of identifying and analyzing words and phrases that people search for when they are looking for information or a product/service.
It is not just about finding relevant search terms or phrases. It is also about exploring the different methods people use to research an idea or topic.
Keyword research for SEO gives marketers a quantitative analysis of how popular certain keywords are. It also helps you determine how tough the competition will be to rank for these terms in organic search results.
It gives a direction to your search engine optimization efforts while giving you tremendous insights into what potential customers are searching for.
Why is Keyword Research Important?
It is an undeniable fact that SEO has evolved over the last decade. And the importance of keywords for website ranking has declined a bit.
Today, using keyword phrases that exactly match a user’s search is no longer required for SEO. What matters is the user intent behind the search and whether your content can provide a solution.
However, that doesn’t take away the importance of keyword research for SEO. Here’s why:
Keyword research gives you valuable insights about the topics people in your niche care about.
You can identify the topics that are popular among your target audience and then create content about them. Once you have a list of topics, you can create and optimize content with relevant keywords that have high search volumes.
Using keyword research to create targeted content for SEO can help you drive relevant traffic to your website. Relevant audiences are more likely to convert into loyal customers.
Once you understand the most relevant keywords for your business, their popularity, and user intent, you can create content that answers the questions of your audience.
How Often Should You Do Keyword Research?
Keyword research is not a one-time task. Keywords are the primary building blocks of your website content. And they require periodic evaluation and maintenance.
The way search engines work changes constantly. New keywords emerge as the needs and preferences of your audience evolve. That’s why you should regularly conduct keyword research for SEO.
This includes times when you are starting a new website, revamping an old website, launching a new product, or simply writing a new blog post.
You need to regularly assess the terms people use to search if you want to continue creating content that your audience will love and share. You should not only look for top search phrases but also identify new search patterns.
How to Successfully Conduct Keyword Research for SEO
Now, let’s take a look at the steps you need to follow to conduct keyword research for SEO.
1. Make a List of Relevant Topics to Target
To begin the keyword research process, think about what a customer would like to learn about your business or niche. Narrow down your list to 5-10 generic topics that you want to rank well for.
Once you have 5-10 topics that are important for your business, it becomes very easy to come up with specific keywords relevant to those topics.
In fact, if your business maintains an active blog, you are probably already creating content on these topics.
You might even speak about these topics every time you explain your product to a potential customer.
For example, let’s say you have an agency that helps companies plan their digital marketing strategies, your topic bucket may look like:
- Digital marketing company
- Digital marketing strategies
- Digital marketing services
- Digital marketing
- Social media marketing
- Inbound marketing
- Email marketing
- Paid marketing
Once you have a list of potential topics, you should check out their search volumes to figure out which topics to invest in.
2. Find Seed Keywords for These Topics
Now that you have identified the most relevant topics, it is time to find seed keywords that fall into those topics.
Seed keywords are, basically, the baseline keywords and phrases that are most relevant to your business. Your list of seed keywords will provide the foundation for your entire keyword research.
Once you have a list of topics you want to target, it is extremely easy to come up with relevant seed keywords. You just need to brainstorm how you would search for those topics and for your products/services online.
For instance, if you’re looking for “digital marketing services,” here’s a list of potential search terms you could use:
- Digital marketing services company
- Best digital marketing services
- Digital marketing services in California
- Cheap digital marketing services
- Digital marketing services provider
In this step, you are not making your final list of keywords. Instead, you are making a list of potential phrases that your target customers may use to find your business and your products or services.
You need to narrow down this list to find something concrete. You can then use data-driven tools to find out the search volumes and competition for each keyword. This will help you analyze which keywords you should target first to rank well in the SERPs.
A great way to find keywords is to go the opposite way. Instead of researching keywords that can help you drive traffic to your website, you should study your traffic sources. This will help you find a list of keywords that your website is already ranking for.
3. Related Search Terms Can Be Tentative Keywords Too
This is something you come across every day but probably haven’t paid much attention to.
You might have seen “searches related to keyword” at the bottom of a Google search results page.
Every time you enter a search term on Google, the search engine lists other search phrases related to your search term. These related search phrases can give you ideas for other keywords.
Image via Google
If you are struggling to find more unique keywords, this is a great way to fill up your list.
Need more keyword ideas? Just repeat this exercise for related search terms till you get a comprehensive list of potential keywords.
4. Your Final List Should Be a Mix of Long-Tail and Generic Head Terms
Head terms are the phrases that are shorter and more generic in nature. They are typically one or two words in length and usually have higher search volumes. The competition on these terms is often very high.
On the other hand, long-tail keywords contain a minimum of three words or more. A long-tail keyword is likely to be more relevant to your trade and have lower competition.
When conducting keyword research for SEO, it is crucial to have both long-tail keywords as well as short head terms. Long-tail keywords are likely to drive relevant traffic to your website and they often have high conversion rates. Short head terms, on the other hand, can drive more traffic volume.
For instance, ranking your business for “digital marketing” will be harder than ranking it for “digital marketing services in California.”
However, ranking for “digital marketing services in California” will help you drive more specific and valuable traffic.
People who search for digital marketing can be looking for anything generic, ranging from digital marketing courses to digital marketing tools. However, a person looking for digital marketing services in California is really looking for a company like yours.
While traffic from the first term might be totally unrelated to your business, there are likely more people searching for it than the second one. So it still improves your visibility in more search results.
You should ensure that your keyword research for SEO gives you a balanced mix of head terms and long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords can help you get some quick wins but head terms can help your website appear more often in Google’s search results.
5. Look for Keywords Your Competitors are Targeting
It is always a good exercise to check out what your competitors are doing. Competitive analysis can help you analyze their strengths and weaknesses. This will put you in a better situation to outrank your competitors in Google’s search results.
For this, you should first make a list of your top five competitors and research the keywords they are targeting. You can go incognito and manually enter the top keywords in your domain. This will help you find out where your competitors are ranking for those keywords.
Another way to find keywords that your competitors are ranking for is to use SEO tools. You can use tools such as SEMrush and SpyFu to identify the keywords your competitors are targeting or ranking for.
The below image shows a list of the most valuable keywords for NeilPatel.com along with their ranking difficulties and search volumes.
Image via SpyFu
It might be easier for you to rank for keywords that your competitors aren’t ranking too high for.
In fact, you can also evaluate the type of content they are using to rank on particular keywords. Creating similar type of content in a better way with more value addition can help you rank higher in the SERPs.
And if there are few keywords that your competitor is not yet targeting but have potential, you can use them as an opportunity to increase your market share.
While short head keywords might be difficult to rank for due to high competition, you can rank for uncommon keywords with less effort. The best keyword research tip for SEO is to keep a mix of both types of keywords in your target list.
Just because your competitors are not targeting a keyword doesn’t mean that you should not do so.
6. Refine Your List of Keywords
Now that you have a mix of relevant keywords for SEO, it’s time to narrow down your list with the help of some quantitative data.
You should filter your list of keywords based on their search volume, competition, and keyword difficulty score.
For this, there are tons of keyword research tools available online such as the Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush. These tools can help you get authentic, real-time data for the search volumes and traffic estimates of your potential keywords.
You should use this data to eliminate keywords with low search volume or extremely high competition. However, if there are keywords that show steady growth in popularity in Google Trends, try to use them, even if their current search volume is low.
The keywords that are trending upward in Google Trends can help you in the long run and are surely worth your focus.
And That’s a Wrap!
You have now learned how to successfully conduct keyword research for SEO. You can use this method to create a list of keywords that can help your business grow and achieve both your short-term and long-term gains.
Remember, these might be the best keywords today but with changing search trends, you need to re-evaluate them every month. Regular keyword research and evaluation is important to ensure that you remain ahead of your competition.
Also, as your website increases in age and you establish some authority in the SERPs, you can organically increase the number of keywords you are targeting.
I’m sure this guide on how to conduct keyword research for SEO will help you curate a great list of keywords.