Keyword Research for Beginners
Keyword research is pivotal if you want to maximise your return on investment from your company website. Making informed decisions about your keyword placement within your metadata and content, rather than guessing what your customers search for, can have a huge impact on your search presence as well as your conversion rate and sales.
You can have the best website design, but without carrying out keyword research, you’re effectively not targeting a big pool of your potential customers. Some business owners might guess which phrases they should target, whilst some may let their content decide. However, using data readily available to help formulate your SEO strategy will make reaching more customers much easier.
Before we dig into the process of carrying out this SEO technique, let’s take a moment to understand what keyword research is and involves.
What is keyword research and why is it important?
Keyword research is the process of working out what you want to be found for in Google. When people search for your business, you ideally want to be found in the search engines – but the same should also apply when people search for phrases relating to your products or services.
Rather than just hoping for the best and assuming you’ll gain some form of organic traction, looking at data for what people search for, how often per month and how difficult it is to rank for those phrases, you can start to formulate an SEO strategy to give you the best chance of succeeding when it comes to online marketing.
It’s an important task that should be undertaken by any business that has a website. Business owners may talk about the products in a certain way, whilst their target audience may search for them using different terminology.
Not having this type of data to hand means that people searching for your products or services, may simply not see what you’re advertising.
Before you start carrying out keyword research, it’s worth understanding the different types of keywords and keyword/search intent. Types can be broken down into the following categories:
These are the main keywords you want to rank for and should have the highest search volumes. They’ll also have a higher KD score (More about Keyword difficulty below) and therefore, more competition. An example of a primary keyword would be ‘Keyword Research’.
These are phrases which support or are related to your primary keywords. They’re more targeted than your primary keywords and add context to your content. For example, if ‘Keyword research’ was one of our primary keywords, then a secondary keyword phrase might be ‘Google keyword research’ or ‘SEO keyword research’.
Primary keywords are normally more generic whilst secondary keywords are more targeted. Using the correct tools, you’re able to enter a primary phrase and find a list of related phrases with various data attached (more info on this further on).
Long-tail keywords will have search volumes far below your primary or secondary keywords, but they’ll also have a KD score that’s far lower as well. The benefit is, that they’re much easier to rank for due to the lower levels of competition.
From a search intent point of view, the page is likely to fit what the searcher was looking for, meaning these long-tail phrases should also create a higher conversion rate. An example of a long-tail keyword would be ‘How to carry out keyword research’.
To understand semantic keywords and their role in search engine optimisation, you need to first understand that Google regularly updates and rolls out search algorithm updates. These are updates that change the way Google’s search engine displays search results.
Google’s goal is to provide its users with relevant results and answer their query, whilst filtering out the spam results in the process. If you go back in time 10 years, businesses applying SEO to their websites used to stuff keywords into their metadata and content as an attempt to influence ranking positions.
Tons of updates happen every year, with normally 3-4 core updates (the major ones) per year. These complex algorithm updates are forever evolving, enabling Google to provide its users with a better search experience.
In 2013, Google rolled out its Hummingbird update. This was one of their major algorithm updates, and its main focus was to better understand web pages and return the most relevant search results. By understanding context, it was able to start serving content that the user was looking for rather than just webpages that contained a high amount of metadata such as keyword placement.
Hummingbird was one of the most ambitious updates ever rolled out and has truly changed the way we now use the number one search engine. If you had asked it something vague 10 years ago, your answer would have been as well. Do the same now, and it will understand the context and most likely return the result you were looking for.
So how do semantic keywords apply to SEO? By using strategically placed keywords, you’re helping search engines understand the context of your content. There are other ways to do this, of course, i.e. Schema markup – but the main point here is that you’re helping Google make connections. The more you do so, the more likely you’re going to perform better in your organic rankings.
A semantic keyword for ‘Keyword research’ could be ‘online marketing’ or ‘SEO’ for example. As with all the above keyword types, there are free and premium tools which will help you when building your pool of phrases to target within your metadata as well as your context. Our recommendation is listed further down.
Carrying out competitor analysis can give you a head start with your keyword research strategy as well as allowing you to find untapped phrases. If it’s working for your competitor, there’s a good chance it will work for you as well. We always ask clients who their main competitors are for this very reason, as we want to see what works for them and if there are phrases that haven’t yet been considered.
When carrying out keyword research, you should be looking at all 5 types listed above. It may take some time, but as mentioned previously it will give you data that is going to prove valuable to your SEO strategy. At this stage, you should have a pool of phrases, broken down into several categories.
This will help formulate how your content and metadata are going to be structured. To use this data to its maximum potential, we now need to understand the intent of the users carrying out the searches.
Keyword / Search Intent
To get the most out of your keyword research, it’s also crucial that you understand the intent of the user who uses them. The aim is to provide potential customers exactly what they were looking for as doing so will increase conversion rates and reduce bounce rates.
It’s therefore also crucial that your webpage and related metadata fits the search intent of your customer audience as Google wants to serve users using its search engine with the most relevant pages for their query. There are 4 types of search intent. These can be broken down into the following categories:
As the name suggests, this is when users are searching for information. This could be information about a product, information about SEO, or information about store opening times, for example. Whatever the search query is for, the person carrying it out is looking for an answer to their query.
Navigational searches are when people are searching for a specific website. People searching for Silver Scope Media are normally looking for our website. This type of intent can be useful when targeting users who are looking for a competitor’s website if used correctly.
As an example, Charles Tyrwhitt and T.M. Lewin are competitors of each other. If you search Google for the latter, you’ll notice the former appears as a Google Ad, with all their shirts being priced at £19.95
However, if you search directly for Charles Tyrwhitt, you’ll notice that now their shirts have jumped up in price.
It’s a tactic that’s used not only by them but by many other retailers. They offer their products at a lower price when users are directly searching for a competitor.
The next type of search intent is transactional. These are searchers who are ready to purchase something online. They’re searching with transactional intent.
And finally, we have investigational intent. Like above, this is when searchers are looking for information regarding a product or service but are not quite ready to buy. It’s likely to lead to a transaction, though it may not be straight away.
It’s worth knowing the different types of search intents to ensure that your webpage fits the search intent. If a customer is looking for information, it’s not worth trying to get them to purchase a product through your landing page. Likewise, if they are searching for a product, we don’t want to show them a detailed informational page.
Correctly optimising the content of your page as well as the related metadata is just one way of reducing bounce rate and increasing your conversion rate. (A bounce is identified as when someone lands on your webpage and then instantly leaves, rather than browsing the site.) A high bounce rate is an indication that you’re not optimising your website.
How to identify which keywords to target
Normally, when carrying out SEO for clients, we start by asking them to brainstorm a bunch of phrases they want to target, as well as who their competitors are, as mentioned above. As business owners, they know their markets and have a pretty good idea of the kind of things their customers might type when looking for their products or services.
Once a list has been compiled of potential phrases, we use that data as a starting point for our research. We’re looking at various metrics to determine what keywords we’re going to start targeting, including:
We want to know how many people are searching for a phrase rather than guessing. Using keyword research tools, we can find similar phrases that may well have higher volumes than the ones initially suggested.
Keyword research tools normally feature a KD score per keyword/phrase. The KD index shows how difficult it would be to rank in the top positions for the searched phrase. That’s vital data to have to hand as if your website is new or doesn’t have high authority, ranking for high KD phrases is going to be, well, difficult.
Choosing a combination of low, medium and high competition keywords is a good way to go if you’re formulating a long term SEO strategy.
Trends change, and it’s vital to have this data at hand before targeting highly competitive phrases. It’s no good targeting high volume searches if they’re only high during certain parts of the year unless you specialise in seasonal products or services.
Likewise, you can also use this data to start targeting phrases that are on the rise whilst the competition is fairly low.
This can be useful for businesses looking to use CPC (Cost Per Click) advertising. Slight variations in phrases can have a big difference in the average CPC associated, and with Google Ads using page relevance in their QS (Quality Score) system, this data is also vital to ensure lowering the average CPC when running ad campaigns.
This data not only enables the lowering of the campaign cost but also increases the number of clicks received for the budget.
Which tools are best for carrying out keyword research?
There are various tools out there that offer similar functionality. The best on the market is SEMrush. It offers a host of functionalities and has the largest database.
This is the basics of keyword research. Use the information provided to further enhance your search positioning and improve your online visibility.