Do Your Keyword Research Right [2018 Guide]
Keyword research is one of the SEO activities with the highest return. I think nobody will argue its significance for marketing success.
There is plenty of information covering professional keyword research on the Internet. Though, every new guide includes a bit different list of instructions. This happens because there is no one-size-fits-all solution here.
Keyword research strategy depends on many factors:
- The authority of your website, number of its pages, quality of its content, etc.;
- The goals and objectives you would like to reach: branding, exposure, traffic, leads, sales;
- Your budget, resources, and deadlines;
- Your industry and competition.
What I’m going to do in this article, is give you an outline of keyword research campaign. You will be able to easily adapt it to your own goals and web resources.
Will the tactics and methods listed below improve your traffic from Google? Yes, they will.
Ok, let’s begin.
Start with seed keywords, it’s a good practice
This is a foundation of your keyword research campaign. Seed keywords define your niche and help you identify your competitors.
Do you already have a product/service/business you need to promote online? If you have it, putting down the seed keywords comes down to simple describing of your product/service/business with your own words or guessing how the users might search for it.
Here is an example:
Supposing you are going to sell wedding dresses online. What are the first Google searches/keywords coming to your mind?
- Wedding dresses;
- Wedding accessories;
- Bride’s dresses.
This wasn’t complicated, was it?
In case you are not going to sell your own products, but opt for affiliate marketing, this is another ball game. Do you have issues with choosing a niche or items you would like to promote?
To tell you the truth, it’s rather challenging to pick a niche and the process details should be described in a separate guide. However, there are two generic approaches to this:
Putting the monetization first
I would advise you to start from the exploration of the available monetization methods. First of all, choose a product/offer you like. Secondly, put on your thinking cap. What search queries might people be using to find it on Google?
Speaking about the most popular affiliate programs… Amazon is a perfect example of the one. Their affiliate program is mega popular. What you need to do is just browse their website until you find a product or products category you’re eager to promote.
You can end up with reviewing products and services you are using yourself and decide whether you can become an affiliate.
Niche narrow down approach
The technique supposes starting with a very broad keyword and then niching it down until you notice an opportunity that will spark your interest.
Let’s pick out some super broad niche. For example, I’m going to pick “kids” as my super broad niche. Ahrefs’ Keyword Generator tool returns nearly 4,5 million keyword ideas for that seed keyword:
How do I “niche down” this tremendous result? I’ll focus on longer and more specific keywords having the word “kids” in them. I will use the “Words” filter and narrow down that endless list of keyword ideas to those consisting of 4 words only.
Here are some nice ideas I’ve found:
- “Free games for kids” — Children get to know this world through games. If parents can get them for free, they will visit the resource on regular terms.
- “Cool math for kids” — Education and parenting go hand in hand. Math is a complicated but essential science. Very often kids don’t want to learn it, so fun exercises will be of great help.
- “Relaxing music for kids” — Music affects not only our mood but mental abilities. All parents face the issues with calming down their kids when it’s time to go to bed, for example. Relaxing music combined with a warm bath, and a fairy tale is a good way to lull your fidget.
- “Healthy snacks for kids” — Health is above wealth, so all responsible parents take care about their kids’ nutrition. Snacks should also be healthy, which means that no parent will pass over the relevant resource and take a look at the recipes and recommendations.
I know that these ideas are not perfect, but I spent only a few minutes to find them. Are you ready to invest a bit more time into this? I’m sure you’ll find something really cool.
2. How to generate keyword ideas
Now you have your seed keywords. But it’s only the beginning. The next step you should take is generating a massive list of relevant keyword ideas, considering what people in your niche are searching for in Google. I am going to tell you about a couple of ways to do it.
Get to know what keywords you already rank for
Do you have a website that has been around for some time? This means you should already be ranking in Google for a few hundred keywords. Getting to know what they are is a great way to start your keyword research.
“Search Analytics” report in Google Search Console is a good source for such information:
What does Search Console show you? You can see an average position for each of the keywords you rank for as well as the number of impressions and clicks. Please note that they don’t show the monthly search volume and you’re limited to 1000 keywords.
Need more data? Use your favorite marketing tool.
You also need to know the keywords your competitors are ranking for
Why would you want to research the keywords your competitors are ranking for? Because there are great chances that they have already done all the time-consuming job for you and all you need to do is pick out the best of the best ones.
Not sure who are your competitors? It’s simple. Put your seed keywords into Google, they will rank on the front page.
Did you find anything interesting? OK, now check out this website in your marketing tool and browse the keywords it ranks for.
Often one competitor can keep your entire SEO team busy with analyzing keyword ideas for months. Still not satisfied with the results? Study competing domains to find more sites like your competitor.
Repeat this process with finding unlimited keyword ideas over and over again. I recommend you to tap into related industries as well. The great thing about the tactic is that you might discover a lot of cool keywords that don’t necessarily relate to your offer but can still bring targeted visitors to your website.
Keyword research tools significantly simplify your life
If you don’t have any specific preferences, Good competitor research will be enough to supply you with a heap of relevant keyword ideas.
In case you are one of the niche leaders, the strategy is not the best bet for you. You need to be looking for some unique keywords none of your competitors are targeting at the moment.
The best way to do this is to use an awesome keyword research tool. There are many of them on the market.
It doesn’t really matter which keyword research tool you choose. I won’t provide you with an accurate workflow scheme for finding the best keyword ideas. You need to input seed keywords and switch between reports and filters. Eventually, you will come across something really usable.
Where do most of the tools pull their keyword suggestions from? Here are some of the sources:
- Drawing out keyword ideas directly from Google Keyword Planner;
- Using Google auto-suggest;
- Exploiting “similar searches” in Google.
There is nothing wrong with these methods, but they rarely give you more than a few hundred suggestions. For example, UberSuggest shows 836 keyword ideas for “keyword research”.
What about the advanced keyword research tools like Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush? They operate their own databases and will give you many more keyword ideas.
For example, Ahrefs Keywords Explorer shows 15,000 keyword ideas for “keyword research.”
Know your niche
Keyword research strategies mentioned above are really effective, they provide an almost unlimited number of keyword ideas. But the flip side of the tactic is that it puts certain limitations on you.
Sometimes you need to study your niche well to discover brilliant keywords no one is targeting there yet.
Here’s how you should think:
- Get to know more about your potential customers. Who are they and what are their worries?
- Get to know your existing customers better, pay attention to the language they use.
- Participate in all your niche communities and social networks.
Let’s imagine that you are selling evening dresses. Here are some of the possible keywords you might try targeting:
- how to impress your colleagues on a party;
- what to put on to a restaurant;
- how to conquer the guy’s heart at the first date;
- what to wear if you want to look 1 million bucks;
- best celebs evening dresses.
People who search for such kind of things are not necessarily intending to buy your stuff, but you will be able to sell it to them fairly easy.
4. How to put your keywords list into order
When you have a long list of promising keyword, it’s time to bring a kind of order into it. You can do this by grouping your list.
Identify “parent topic”
With today’s SEO techniques and Google’s algorithms, one single page can rank for hundreds not to say thousands of relevant keywords. But how to know when there’s too much of a good thing? The next question is how to know which keywords fit the topic and which don’t?
Here is how we, at Ahrefs approach the issue. We look at the keywords that the highest-ranking pages for our target keyword already rank for.
Let’s illustrate this with an example. What is the main keyword of this article? You are right, it’s “keyword research.” Now I want to know what other relevant keywords it can also rank for along with it.
I take the page ranking #1 for “keyword research”, put it into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and go into the keywords it ranks for:
I see two decent keywords:
- keyword search — 10,000
- keyword analysis — 1,900
What does it mean? I don’t have to create separate pages to target each of these keywords. I can try to rank for them with this single post instead.
Would you like to know how to optimize a web page so that it ranked for these additional keywords? The sweetest thing is that you don’t need to do this.
The #1 ranking page doesn’t mention these keywords and still ranks for them. They don’t bother, so you shouldn’t either.
This is the first step in structuring your random keywords list. Do you clearly understand what to do? Find the keywords that are semantically and contextually related and group them under a “parent topic”. This way you will be able to target for all of them with a single page.
Figure out the intent
When your semantically related keywords are grouped by “parent topic” and mapped to different pages of your website, it’s time to group these “pages” by “searchers’ intent.”
There is always a specific expectation behind every search query people put into Google. Here your primary goal is to understand that expectation in order to build a page that would perfectly match it.
It’s not that easy sometimes. Let’s take a keyword, “moon” as an example. What do you think is the searchers’ intent behind it? Here is my guess:
- See some pictures of the moon.
- Learn more about this astronomical body.
I think that the best way to decipher intent behind the search query is to google it and see what comes up first. Day-by-day Google is getting better in identifying the intent behind each search query, so the search results will tell you a lot.
As you see, the SERP above illustrates both of these intents.
Ok, once you figure out the intent behind your keywords, it’s a good idea to pin it to the stage of the sales cycle that it represents:
- Problem aware;
- Solution aware;
- Product aware;
- Fully aware.
Please note that the points above are just one of the multiple ways different marketers use to map out the so-called “Buyers’ Journey.”
It’s up to you whether to map your keywords to any of the existing models or invent your own one. For example, you may map keywords/topics to user personas.
The best advice here is to take into account the factors that make the most sense for you.
Calculate business value
This kind of grouping is closely related to grouping by intent. The difference is that now you need to figure out which intent is going to bring the best ROI for your business.
Are you looking for traffic and brand awareness? Then focus on keywords that are likely to bring lots of visitors but won’t necessarily convert into leads or sales.
If your marketing budget is unlimited, you can carry out any experiments you wish. But most entrepreneurs can’t afford the luxury, so they think well deciding which keywords will drive their business and which ones will only drive their vanity metrics.
Most often marketers will choose to focus on keywords with commercial intent, as they drive sales and grow your business.
Prioritisation is not the “final step” in your keyword research process, but sooner a natural action you take moving through steps above.
While you’re generating keyword ideas, analyzing their metrics, and grouping them, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the estimated traffic potential of this keyword (group)?
- How tough is the competition? What would it take to rank for it?
- How many resources should be invested in building a competitive page and promoting it extensively?
- What’s the ROI of that traffic? Does it only bring brand awareness or actually convert into leads and sales?
You can add special columns in your keyword research spreadsheet and score each keyword idea. Based on these scores, it should be fairly easy to pick the “low hanging fruit” with the best ROI.
Please bear in mind: don’t look for the “easiest to rank for” keywords, look for the ones with the best ROI.
Over to you
This was a brief guide to keyword research. Its main goal was to outline a universal process that could be applied to any website or industry.
There’s much more on keyword research than this and I would be happy to read your favorite tips and tricks that were not covered in this guide.
Please don’t forget to share the article on social networks if you find it worthy 😉
About the author
Helga Moreno is a passionate content creator and marketer at Ahrefs bold enough to believe that if there’s a book that she wants to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then she must write it herself.