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How to Do Keyword Research? The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

Sydney Vallée

March 02, 2022

If you have looked at SEO in any way, shape, or form, it’s rather likely you’ve encountered the topic of keyword research. After all, the success or failure of your SEO strategy may be entirely reliant on said research. Therefore, the purpose of our article is to explain what keyword research is and why it’s important.

We’ll discuss topics such as finding keyword ideas, analyzing them, choosing the correct ones, and explaining why there isn’t a single SEO strategy that does not include keyword research. 

What is keyword research?

To understand why keyword research is so important, let’s take a look at the example provided by Amit Sangal, Google’s principal scientist. He’s stated that 50% of all Google searches a day(around 100 million) are unique. This means half of all searches are either looking for something completely unique or are trying to search for the same thing but in a totally different way. In simpler terms, every single day, there are countless new ways to reach your customers.

Now, let’s explore the topic in-depth. Keyword research can be defined in a couple of different ways though its primary purposes are finding and analyzing the exact search terms people use, how often said terms are being searched for, and their intent. Further steps involve analysis, comparisons, and prioritization, which altogether makes keyword research essentially the only way to figure out what people are typing in various search engines.

If this is your first time looking at SEO or keyword research, do know that failure to understand these core principles can harm your marketing channels. Conducting inadequate keyword research goes beyond the loss of potential competitive advantage and, as such, should be approached with a knowledgeable foundation. A good understanding of the topic is always a strong assurance that the keyword research contributes positively to your projects.

How to find new keyword ideas?

Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of keyword research, which starts with thinking about how your potential customers may be searching for you. Though, before we start digging into the ideas, a couple of crucial points have to be outlined:

-You need to have a deep understanding of the industry in which you’ll apply these keyword ideas.

-You need to know how keyword research tools work and which ones are suitable for you.

To allow you the opportunity to gain the best possible introductory understanding of keyword research, we’ll go through a multitude of both varying and similar ideas. By the end of this, you’ll have dug deeper into the two crucial points outlined above and what keywords can be the winning ones for you, and with that, here are three common ways of finding new ideas:

  1. Brainstorming a list of topics and “seed” keywords
  2. Analyzing your competitor’s keywords
  3. Applying appropriate keyword research tools

1. Brainstorming a list of topics and “seed” keywords

Here’s the part where you create topics that your customers might be interested in. Later on, based on data that you’ve found in this section, you can start looking for “seed” keywords as well.

A great way to approach brainstorming of relevant topics is to imagine a scenario where you are the potential customer. Ask yourself these questions, what would someone search for to find what I am selling and what topics would these searches cover? 

Let’s say you are the marketing person for a bicycle business. A topic that might come to mind could be “bicycle reviews” or “bicycle rides.” However, while both of these topics are viable and could function as a good starting point for your research, they are not “seed” keywords.

“Seed” keywords are the basis of the keyword research process. Usually being one or two words, they are very competitive and designed to sprout into other longer and more specific keywords. The purpose is to create words that are, nevertheless, relevant to your specific case but significantly less competitive. Even keyword tools use “seeds” as this allows for the speedy creation of these longer, oftentimes referred to as long tail, keywords.

Yet, the usefulness of “seed” keywords goes beyond that. Their creation is relatively easy, especially if you have existing products you plan to promote online.

To show this, let’s go back to our bicycle selling business. Examples of “seed” keywords for our firm could be something like this:

-Sports bikes

-Mountain Bikes

-Bike tires

And so on.

Neither of these “seeds” are in any way complex or challenging to discover, but they are nevertheless of essential importance. In short, simply thinking about what someone would type into Google when searching for your product is, often, an effective way to start generating the first ideas for your “seeds.”

2. Generate more ideas based on “seed” keywords

You should have created at least a couple of “seed” keywords before this step. Now, let's see if we can generate even more ideas based on these “seeds. "Start by simply putting your “seed” keywords into a Google search and see what comes up. The top-ranking results are the ones that gain the most traffic; therefore, they are likely to be primary competition (but not always, see below for more info).

If the top results don’t show sites similar to yours, searching for relevant “autosuggest” might help.

In the end, when it comes to competing sites, you have to use your own judgment to determine what is worth contesting with. If the largest ecommerce firms are in the top rankings, it could be wise not to see them as competition. A good rule of thumb is to look for websites that resemble or may resemble yours in size.

3. Use keyword research tools

The competition-based research can provide you with a solid start of “seed” keywords. Yet that shouldn’t be the be-all and end-all to your keyword ideas search. This is especially the case when you consider that your competitors don’t target every single keyword. Here is where the true value of keyword research tools comes in.

Google Autocomplete API is a prime example of why tools are regarded as another essential part of keyword research. Briefly, Google autocomplete search query predictions are at the forefront of SEO data since knowing the standings of these queries can create strategies that could rank websites higher. 

Therefore, a tool like the Google Autocomplete API, which can scrape Google suggestions with 100% accuracy, is invaluable.

Other tools are also available if a less query-focused scraping solution is required. Google Search API, for example, is a more web search and image results-oriented tool, yet, nevertheless, equally as useful. You can even scrape “People Also Ask” and “Related Searches” data categories for specified information.

How to find and choose the right keywords?

At this point, you have done your research, found your topics, created a pool of relevant keywords from those topics, and now must choose which keywords are the best.

Before making a choice, it’s imperative that we discuss the three broad categories that keywords are often divided into since analysis of their purposes can help us gain an informed answer.

1. Head terms

Head terms are single-worded keywords that, as a result, have very high search volume and intense competition. The word “food,” for example, would be considered a head term because of how vague and encompassing it is. Someone might be searching for “healthy food” while others for “dog food,” but both would include the same word.

2. Body keywords

Body keywords are phrases that are made up of 2-3 words. While they do get less traffic, they also receive less competition since they are more specific. “Dog food” would be a prime example of a body keyword.

3. Long tail keywords 

Often made of 4 or more words, long tail keywords are the most specific out of all the categories. As such, they receive the least amount of traffic while also having the smallest amount of competition. 

Interestingly, while long tail keywords individually don’t get a lot of search volume, combining them makes up most searches online. An example of a long tail keyword would be “dog food for Yorkshire terrier.”

Choosing which type of keyword is adequate for your personal strategy can be a significant step. Imagine a company that deals in very niche goods, a long tail keyword may be significantly more appropriate for it since its customers are likely to be specifically looking for their products, instead of stumbling in on them randomly, through a more general approach .I.e., a body term.

How to analyze keywords?

While there are many ways to analyze keywords, in this article, we’ll go through the core concepts that should help you expand your search and allow you to prioritize on your own.

The three concepts we will look at are:

-Intent of the search

-Traffic volume

-Difficulty 

Intent of the search

Search intent can be paraphrased as “what would a user be looking for with this keyword(s).” Are they trying to find information on a subject? What about the price of a product? All in all, there are numerous reasons as to why someone would use a specific keyword, but in most cases, search intent can be categorized into four parts:

1. Informational

It looks at questions like “how many calories are in a cup of coffee” or “what is the highest mountain peak.” Essentially, when a person is looking for information to learn about a topic, then the intent, as the name suggests, is informational.

2. Navigational

The focus is on requests such as “Gmail login”, “YouTube.” Navigational is a type of long tail keyword that has the intent to navigate to web pages instead of searching for information. If we were to relate navigational intent to purchase decisions, it’d be placed in the consideration category.

3. Commercial

An example would be “Gym in Portsmouth”, “Posters of the Avengers.” Its intent focuses on driving targeted traffic, resulting in increased sales and revenue. This is the last part of the searching process and is usually centered around specific products/services. The users in this section are ready and willing to spend money on your offers, so commercial intent’s importance can’t be understated.

4. Transactional

Requests such as “Buying snacks online”, “Flights from London to Barcelona” are great examples. Arguably one of the most important steps out of the 4. At this stage of searching, the potential buyer has likely both done the research and made up their mind that they should take action or buy a product/service. Transactional keywords are often very specific since the buyer knows what they want.

Traffic volume

The intent of the search and choosing a relevant category out of those four mentioned above is a significant first step to maximize your traffic volume. Let’s say your keyword is navigational; you may want to consider changing your word(s). The reason is the idea that very few people click anything beyond the first result when the search query is navigational. 

Imagine you are looking for a company called ABC. The first results in your search query will always be ABC before anything else. Therefore, ranking on navigational keywords is extremely difficult because most of the time, like in this case, the SERPs (search engine results page) are full of the company that people are trying to navigate to.

However, there are other factors that need to be considered. Primarily, the estimation of your traffic based on a single search query is going to be wildly inaccurate. Imagine that your keyword is “best laptop for marketing.”

After doing some research, you find that it gets, say, 800 search volume results. You may then assume the number 800 is the cap of your traffic. Yet this could be simply not true. A page that ranks for “best laptop for marketing” may very well rank for a keyword such as “best laptop for marketing professional” as well, which altogether can produce significantly bigger traffic than initially expected. Below is an example of what this looks like:

Keyword volume
Web page traffic

Therefore, looking at multiple top-ranking pages would be the more effective solution in determining traffic. A tool that may make this step a lot easier is Keyword Planner. Considering it’s a Google product, the benefits it can provide regarding your search engine optimization (SEO) keyword analysis are immense and can range from simply discovering new keywords to creating an entire advertising plan.

Keyword difficulty

When SEO professionals gauge the ranking difficulty of a keyword, they usually look at factors such as:

-Branding

-Search intent

-Domain Rating

-Number and quality of backlinks

And so on.

Yet the importance of each of these is entirely reliant on you. The one thing that most SEO professionals agree on is that backlinks are essential, though matching the appropriate intent is a must as well.

3 steps to analyze how competitive your keywords are

We’ve already discussed how competition and competitors affect the topic of how to do keyword research. Nonetheless, we have yet to look at the specifics. We have provided six points that need to be considered:

1. Defining your keywords

In short, choose the starting point for your keyword research, meaning the words themselves. Google Trends is an excellent tool for this step.

2. Content opportunities

Ask yourself, what could be the reasons why someone is ranking above me? Is it due to the quality of my content? Check if the competitor sites are easier to read, navigate, and more pleasant to use. 

3. Perform a backlink analysis

The sole reason you are being outranked could be that you either have fewer backlinks than the competition or that your backlinks are simply weaker, therefore checking them is one of the biggest parts of estimating the competition for certain keywords.

To sum it up, while going through these steps in great depth is a sure way to go above and beyond your competitors, it is, in no way, easy and proper research should be applied to each factor to ensure keyword competition analysis is done correctly.

Keyword Research tips and tricks

Here, we will look at a handful of popular tips and tricks that are often taken into consideration by most SEO teams.

Don’t cannibalize your keywords

Using the same keywords more than once leads to them all competing for the same query, resulting in your own pages competing with themselves. Avoid this at all costs as it’s detrimental to the topic of doing keyword research and can negate most of the advantages we’ve learned in this article.

Check the SERP as it could be different than your assumptions.

“Food” and “Foods” are usually similar enough that there are effectively no differences between them. Nevertheless, you should always check the SERP as it could be different from your assumptions. A minor factor that you may not have noticed could play a big part in your rankings.

Evaluate your efforts

You have done the keyword search, you’ve applied an appropriate keyword research tool, and have found the target keywords. Now imagine you wrote an article and followed all these crucial steps. Well, the next part would be to simply wait and see. Where does your article pop up? Does it rank better than what you’ve expected? If the answer is no, continue to compare and make appropriate changes.

To be honest, we could talk about tips and tricks of keyword research for days, and listing all of them to a point where they wouldn’t dominate the whole article is nigh impossible. So, as we usually recommend, look at the tips provided as starting points or guidelines. Yet, for your own keyword research, we recommend digging deeper into what specific tips are most applicable to you.

Conclusion

Keyword research is certainly a complex topic. While everything mentioned above should help you understand the basics of keyword research and how to plan your content strategy, there are a couple of final points worth noting. Keep a close eye on your keywords and re-evaluate them every month or so.

Develop SERPs results and expand on more keywords. In this way, you’ll both tackle new keyword areas and enable yourself to get the most of your SEO strategies.

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