The beginner's guide to keyword research
Point your SEO strategy in the right direction with solid keyword research
Keyword research is the basis of your search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy. Get it wrong and your efforts are wasted on the wrong terms. But do a thorough job, and you’re in a good position to compete for the searches you need to be found for.
In the average Google search, the top 3 results get around 75% of all clicks (Backlinko.com). Getting your website in the top organic results takes constant work. You want to be sure these clicks are from the most relevant users – people in the market for your products and services.
Keyword research is how you make sure the content on your website is attracting the right people. SEO is a specialism and takes training to gain a detailed understanding. But it is possible to teach yourself the basics – keyword research being a great place to start.
Sean’s Easy Guide to Keyword Research
Sean is our SEO expert. He’s spent several years learning how to get websites found in the right searches and move them up the results pages. Search engines change their algorithms all the time and Sean studies this, adapting our methods to keep up.
One of the first things Sean will do for a business is locate the keywords they should be targeting and how their website is performing for each of them. To give you an idea of how this happens and to share some handy tips, Sean has written this easy guide to keyword research. It covers the basic steps to carrying out your own research and answers some common questions.
What are keywords?
A keyword is the name for the word(s) people search when looking for information from search engines like Google and Bing. It can be one of several words. For example, ‘books’ is a keyword someone would use when looking for books. A more detailed search would be ‘books on baking cakes’ and this might be referred to as a keyphrase.
The terms keyword/ term/ phrase are typically only used in marketing. Most people outside of marketing would say something like a ‘google search’ or ‘I googled it’.
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is the act of researching the words people use in search engines to find specific products, services, or information. It’s important in digital marketing because it helps businesses reach the right people at the right times. The more closely we create content that matches the words people use, the better chance we have of being at the top of the results for their search.
The #1 result in Google gets approximately 32% of all clicks (Backlinko)
Keyword research isn’t just a one-time task. You can’t do it once and forget about it. The words and way people search for different things changes all the time. Monitoring the statistics behind what keywords and terms people are using is how to stay informed and keep up with change.
For instance, more people are using voice searches now with digital assistants like Alexa and Google Home becoming popular. This has made some searches more conversational. Changes like this make it super important to have a team of people working on your search strategy to keep it relevant.
How to get started with your keyword research
The first step is to look at your marketing strategy and objectives and align your research with that.
For example, let’s say you run a coffee subscription service. You know your target audience and the questions you ask when researching what drives them. Questions like:
- What kind of coffee are people looking for right now?
- Do people want different kinds of coffee at different times? (Seasonal)
- How are people finding out about coffee subscriptions?
- What reasons do they have for looking for coffee subscriptions?
Start with the broadest term relating to your services and work from there. Say you sell coffee beans, start with “coffee” and run this word through a keyword tool (we use Keyword Surfer and Moz). Keyword tools calculate an estimate of how many times per month a term is searched for. At the time of writing this guide, our tool estimated “coffee” is searched for 368,000 times a month.
Next look at the websites that rank highly for this term. For frequently searched keywords, you’ll often see big brands dominating the search results. For instance, in our coffee example we see brands like Whittard, Costa Coffee, and Starbucks ranking at the top of the first page.
This tells us that ‘coffee’ is a super competitive term and will take a huge amount of building up, probably years (and a lot of money) to start competing with these brands. The alternative is to branch out and find something more achievable.
You’ll see that at the bottom of the search results page, Google suggests related searches. We can use these to find something more realistic to target.
A few clicks take us from Coffee to Coffee Beans to Best Coffee Beans to Best Coffee Beans for Espresso.
Running this term though our tool shows it’s searched for on average 170 times a month. The top results are from a few smaller brands. This sounds like something we can work with! We have our first keyword.
You could use this keyword a couple of different ways. You could create a piece of informative blog content on which coffee beans are best for espresso, or you could use it on a product page explaining why your coffee beans are best for espresso.
Find and answer questions
Another useful tactic for keyword research is finding questions people are asking, instead of single words or a specific product name. Questions show that the user wants an instant answer to something, and if you can create an easy answer, there’s a good chance you’ll be near the top of the list when someone searches for it.
If you find a question related to your product or services, then create some content to answer it! This could be a how to guide or an explainer video. Throw in some relevant links to pages on your website and you have every chance that someone will end up making an enquiry.
Longtail keywords (with lots of words) are your friends
It sounds great being able to rank for a word that’s searched for hundreds of thousands of times a month, but a wider net isn’t always accurate. With less specific keywords, you risk getting people to your site who have no interest in your products or services.
Long tail keywords attract searches more specific to your business – and it’s these visitors you’re more likely to convert. Something like ‘men’s blue size 10 adidas running shoes’ shows intent that the user wants this product and is ready to purchase. This term may not be searched as often as ‘men’s running shoes’, but it will be more valuable to your brand.
Use your competitors!
Once you think you’ve found some great keywords to try and target, use search engines to see who’s already ranking in the top positions. Read through their content and analyse it to work out why it’s ranking so highly. Maybe they explain the questions or topic in an easily digestible way? Perhaps they’ve used some shareable graphics on the page to help explain? By seeing what the top ranking pages are doing, you create something even better!
Find out the best format for search engines
You might notice that different searches sometimes produce results in different formats. For example, searching ‘best doughnuts near me’ returns a map with local shops and cafes selling doughnuts. Searching for Nintendo Switch vs Nintendo Switch Lite brings up a comparison table.
It’s important to consider how search engines format results. Using a format called Schema, you can give your content the best chance to appear in the relevant format for a particular search. Google and other search providers want people to use all the features of their product. If you play to this with your content, your pages stand a better chance of ranking, or even being the featured result for a particular keyword.
We hope you’ve found this guide to keyword research a useful read, and that it helps you create copy your website visitors will love! Keyword research is a great starting point and provides a clear picture of how your website is performing in comparison to the competition.
Is your website it currently falling short? Don’t be deterred!
SEO requires constant activity and a clear digital marketing strategy. Landing in the top results takes a healthy website, fresh content, search-friendly copy, and paid advertising. And this is just the start. It’s a task for more than one person. If you need some advice, why not talk to our experts?
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