While Google’s algorithm updates keep us on our toes, one thing remains fairly consistent for inbound marketers looking to optimize their websites for search: keyword research.
If you’re not sure how to choose SEO keywords, this step-by-step guide can help you get started. We’ll go over every aspect of keyword research, from identifying keywords to analyzing them and choosing the best ones for your business.
What are Keywords?
Keywords are the words or phrases that people use when they’re searching for something online. They’re the building blocks of a website, helping search engines understand what my content is all about. For example, if I am writing a blog post about how to bake a cake, my keywords might include baking, cake, recipe, and how to.
- Keyword research is essential for SEO, using specific words or phrases to help search engines match queries with relevant content.
- Keywords must be strategically incorporated into various website elements like content, meta tags, and URLs to enhance visibility and drive targeted traffic.
- Understanding keyword intent—informational, navigational, commercial, transactional—is crucial for aligning content with user searches.
- AI-powered keyword research tools offer time-saving, data-driven insights, enabling more effective content strategies and optimization.
- Regularly re-evaluating keywords is necessary to adapt to changing search trends and maintain or enhance search engine ranking positions.
Keyword clusters are groups of related keywords that are used together on a webpage. They help search engines understand the context of my content and can improve my SEO. For example, if I am writing about how to bake a cake, my keyword cluster might include baking, cake, recipe, how-to, ingredients, and tips.
The Importance of Keywords in SEO
Keywords are super important for SEO because they help search engines understand what my content is about. When someone types a search query into Google, the search engine uses keywords to match the query with the most relevant content. So, if I want my website to show up in search results, I need to use the right keywords. Why keywords are crucial in SEO includes:
- Enhancing Website Visibility
- Driving Targeted Traffic
- Establishing Relevance And Authority
- Improving User Experience
- Staying Ahead Of The Competition
- Adapting To Emerging Trends
#1. Enhancing Website Visibility
Keywords act as the guiding light, leading the target audience to your website. By strategically incorporating relevant keywords into my website content, meta tags, and URLs, I increase the chances of search engines recognizing my website as a valuable resource.
#2. Driving Targeted Traffic
Keywords enable me to attract the right audience to my website. By conducting thorough keyword research, I have been able to identify the search terms and phrases that resonate with my target audience. Integrating these keywords into my content has allowed me to connect with individuals actively seeking information or solutions related to my niche.
By aligning my content with specific keywords, I demonstrate expertise and establish myself as an authoritative figure in my field. Search engines recognize this alignment and reward websites with higher rankings.
#4. Improving User Experience
Keywords are not only for search engines; they also enhance the user experience. By incorporating relevant keywords naturally into my content, I provide valuable information to my visitors and guide them through my website seamlessly. As a result, users spend more time exploring my site, reducing bounce rates and increasing the likelihood of conversions.
#5. Staying Ahead of the Competition
In today’s competitive digital landscape, keywords can be the differentiating factor between success and obscurity. Conducting extensive keyword research allows me to identify gaps in the market and uncover niche-specific keywords that my competitors might be overlooking.
#6. Adapting to Emerging Trends
Keywords are not static; they evolve alongside user behavior and emerging trends. By staying attuned to industry developments and monitoring keyword trends, I have been able to adapt my website’s content to match the changing demands of my target audience. This flexibility has allowed me to remain relevant, continuously attract traffic, and maintain a competitive advantage in the ever-evolving digital landscape.
Read Also: COMPETITOR KEYWORD RESEARCH: Meaning, Best Tools & Guide
How Many Different Types of Keywords are there?
Keyword types can be defined in a variety of ways.
The search demand curve distinguishes three basic keyword types: head, long-tail, and middle keywords.
The long-tail is the many different ways people search a combination of words and phrases around a defined niche (typically has lower search volume and lower competition, but when grouped, could be a more appealing prospect than the head); the head is the simple and popular industry term (typically has higher search volume and more competition); and the middle is somewhere in between.
There are both branded and non-branded keywords. It’s useful to grasp when talking to a client about their current rankings and offering a strategy for increasing their visibility.
Location-based keywords, also known as geo-modified keywords, are search phrases that generally include a city or neighborhood name or zip code (for example, ‘best coffee spot in Seattle.’). They are essential for brick-and-mortar and service area firms.
There are also intent-based keywords. There are four frequently known intents: informative, navigational, commercial, and transactional. Keywords can be broadly classified into four intents, and using this in your approach allows you to customize content to your audience’s urgent needs.
How to Research Keywords for Your SEO Strategy
I’m going to walk you through a keyword research method that will help you create a list of terms to target. That way, you’ll be able to develop and implement a solid keyword strategy that will help you rank for the search terms that are most important to you.
Step #1: Make a list of significant, relevant issues based on what you know about your company
To begin this process, consider the topics you wish to rank for in terms of generic categories. You’ll create roughly 5-10 topic buckets that you believe are relevant to your business, and then use those topic buckets to help you generate some specific keywords later in the process.
If you’re a regular blogger, these are usually the topics you post about the most. Perhaps they are the most commonly discussed issues in sales interactions. Put yourself in the shoes of your buyer personas: what topics would your target audience search for, and how would you like your business to be found? If you were a sales company offering marketing software, you could have generic topic buckets like:
- “Inbound Marketing” (21K)
- “Blogging” (19k)
- “Email Marketing” (30K)
- “Lead Generation” (17K)
- “SEO” (214K)
- “social media marketing” (71K)
- “Marketing Analytics” (6.2k)
- “Marketing Automation” (8.5K)
Notice the numbers in parenthesis to the right of each keyword. This is their monthly search volume. This data allows you to determine how significant these topics are to your target audience and how many distinct sub-topics you may need to develop content for in order to be successful with that keyword. To understand more about these sub-topics, we go to step 2.
Step #2: Fill in the topic buckets with keywords
Now that you’ve determined which topic buckets to focus on, it’s time to discover some keywords that fit into those buckets. These are the keyword phrases you believe are vital to rank for in the SERPs (search engine results pages) since your target consumer is likely searching for those terms.
For example, if I picked the final topic bucket for an inbound marketing software company — “marketing automation” — I’d brainstorm some keyword phrases that I believe people would search for linked to that topic. These might include:
- Marketing Automation Tools
- How to Use Marketing Automation Software.
- What is marketing automation?
- How Can I Tell If I Need Marketing Automation Software?
- Lead nurturing.
- Email marketing automation: best tools.
This stage is not intended to generate your final list of keyword phrases. You just want to come up with a list of phrases you believe potential consumers could use to search for content relating to that certain topic bucket. We’ll narrow down the lists later in the process so you don’t have anything too cumbersome.
Although Google is encrypting more and more keywords on a daily basis, another effective technique to generate keyword ideas is to determine which keywords your website is already being searched for. To do so, you’ll need website analytics tools such as Google Analytics or Ahrefs. Drill down into your website’s traffic sources and sift through your organic search traffic bucket to find the keywords that bring visitors to your site.
Repeat this technique with as many topic bins as you have. And, if you’re having trouble coming up with relevant search terms, you can always go to your customer-facing colleagues — those in sales or service — and ask them what types of terms their prospects and customers use, as well as common questions they have. These are generally excellent beginning locations for keyword research.
Step #3: Understand how intent influences keyword research and analyze accordingly
As I mentioned in the last section, user intent is now one of the most important aspects of your ability to rank highly on search engines such as Google. Today, it is more crucial that your web page answers the problem that a searcher is looking to solve rather than merely including the keyword the searcher used. So how does this affect your keyword research?
It’s easy to take keywords at face value, but they can have a variety of meanings beneath the surface. Because the intent behind a search is so critical to your ranking potential, you must be extremely cautious about how you interpret the keywords you target.
Assume you’re researching the keyword “how to start a blog” for an article you want to write. “Blog” can refer to either a blog post or the blog website itself, and the purpose of a searcher behind that keyword will influence the content of your piece. Does the searcher wish to learn how to create an individual blog post? Or do they want to know how to set up a website domain specifically for blogging? If your content strategy is only aimed at those who are interested in the latter, you must ensure that the keyword’s intent is clear before proceeding.
To validate a user’s purpose for a keyword, simply enter it into a search engine and watch what types of results appear. Make sure the content Google recommends is closely connected to what you intend to develop for the keyword.
Step #4: Look up relevant search terms
This is a creative step that you may have considered while conducting keyword research. If not, it’s an excellent approach to completing those lists.
If you’re having trouble coming up with new keywords for a given topic, look at the related search terms that display when you enter a keyword into Google. When you enter your keyword and scroll to the bottom of Google’s results, you will see some search suggestions based on your initial input. These keywords may stimulate thoughts for further keywords to consider.
Step #5: Make effective use of keyword research tools
Keyword research and SEO tools can assist you in developing further keyword ideas based on exact match and phrase match keywords, depending on the concepts you’ve generated thus far.
Create your SEO strategy using this free template
How to Find and Select Keywords for Your Website
Once you’ve decided on the keywords you want to rank for, you can narrow down your list to the ones that will work best for your strategy. Here’s how.
Step #1: Use Google Keyword Planner to reduce your keyword list
Google’s Keyword Planner can provide search volume and traffic predictions for keywords you’re considering. Then, using the information you’ve learned from Keyword Planner, use Google Trends to fill in some gaps.
Use the Keyword Planner to highlight any phrases on your list that have way too little (or way too much) search volume and do not contribute to maintaining a balanced mix, as discussed above. But, before you delete anything, check Google Trends for their trend history and estimates. You can assess if, say, some low-volume phrases are worth investing in now – and reaping the advantages later.
Perhaps you’re just staring at a long list of terms and need to narrow it down somehow… Google Trends can assist you determine which topics are moving upward and thus deserve more of your attention.
Step #2: Prioritize low-hanging fruit.
Prioritizing low-hanging fruit means focusing on keywords for which you have a good chance of ranking based on the authority of your website.
Large firms often target high search volume keywords, and because these brands are already well-established, Google typically rewards them with authority over a wide range of topics.
You can also explore keywords with less competition. Keywords that don’t already have numerous articles competing for the top rank can give you the spot by default — assuming no one else is attempting to claim it.
Step #3: Check the monthly search volume (MSV) of the keywords you’ve chosen
You want to produce content based on what people want to discover, and checking MSV can help you achieve that.
Monthly search volume refers to the number of times a search query or keyword is typed into search engines each month. Tools such as searchvolume.io and Google Trends can help you uncover the most sought keywords across relevant keyword clusters for free.
Step #4: Consider SERP factors when choosing keywords
There are several SERP feature snippets that Google will highlight if utilized correctly. One simple method to learn more about them is to search for the keywords you want and see what comes up. However, to provide a brief understanding of the many forms of SERP-featured snippets, we’ll outline them here.
Image packs are search results presented as a horizontal row of photographs in an organic position. If there is an image pack, compose an image-heavy post to be included in it.
Featured snippets, also known as paragraph snippets, are brief snippets of text that appear at the top of Google search results to provide rapid responses to typical search inquiries. Understanding the searcher’s objective and offering precise, concise responses can help you earn the placement.
List snippets, also known as listicles, are snippets created for blogs that outline steps to do a task from beginning to end and are frequently used in “how-to” searches. Making postings with direct, clear instructions and structure can help you win this placement.
Google displays video snippets at the top of search queries instead of text-based featured snippets. If you tag your movie with the specific keywords that people are searching for, you may be able to obtain this spot.
Step #5: Look for a combination of head phrases and long-tail keywords in each bucket
Head terms are keyword phrases that are normally shorter and more generic, ranging in length from one to three words, depending on who you talk to. Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are longer keyword phrases that typically include three or more words.
It’s critical to ensure that you have a combination of head phrases and long-tail terms because this will result in a keyword strategy that is well-balanced between long-term aims and short-term gains. This is because head terms are typically searched more frequently, making them more competitive and difficult to rank for than long-tail terms. Consider this: Without considering search volume or difficulty, which of the following terms do you believe would be most difficult to rank for?
If you answered #2, you are completely correct. But do not be discouraged. While head terms typically have the highest search volume (and hence the greatest potential to deliver you traffic), the traffic you’ll receive from the term “how to write a great blog post” is usually preferable.
Because someone seeking for something that particular is likely to be a much more qualified searcher for your product or service (assuming you’re in the blogging sector) than someone looking for something really general. And because long-tail keywords are more particular, it is usually easier to determine what people who search for them are looking for. Someone searching for the phrase “blogging,” on the other hand, may be doing so for a variety of reasons unrelated to your business.
So, examine your keyword lists to ensure that you have a good balance of head phrases and long tail keywords. You undoubtedly want some early wins from long-tail keywords, but you should also strive to work on more difficult head phrases over time.
Step #6: Check how rivals rank for these keywords
Just because your competition is doing something does not imply you have to. The same goes for keywords. Just because a keyword is significant to your rival does not imply it is relevant to you. Understanding what keywords your competitors are attempting to rank for, on the other hand, can help you re-evaluate your keyword list.
If your competition is ranking for particular keywords on your list, it makes sense to work on improving your own rating for those as well. However, do not overlook the ones that your competitors do not appear to care about. This could be an excellent opportunity for you to gain market share on critical parameters as well.
Understanding the balance between phrases that may be more challenging due to competition versus terms that are more realistic will assist you in maintaining the same balance that the combination of long-tail and head terms permits. Remember, the idea is to end up with a list of keywords that will deliver some early victories while also allowing you to work toward larger, more difficult SEO goals.
How can you determine which keywords your competitors are ranking for, you ask? Aside from manually looking for keywords in an incognito browser and seeing where your competitors rank, Arel=”noopener” target=”_blank” hrefs lets you run a number of free reports that show you the top keywords for the domain you input. This is a quick method to get a feel of what terms your competitors rank for.
There are lots of keyword research tools out there that can help me find the right keywords for my content. Some of the most popular ones include
- Google Keyword Planner: As one of the most widely used keyword research tools, Google Keyword Planner provides valuable data on search volume, competition, and keyword suggestions.
- Ahrefs Keywords Explorer: Ahrefs is a comprehensive SEO tool, and its Keywords Explorer feature offers in-depth information on each keyword.
- SEMrush: SEMrush is another powerful tool that offers a wide range of SEO features, including keyword research.
- Moz Keyword Explorer: Moz Keyword Explorer provides valuable insights into keyword difficulty, search volume, and organic click-through rates.
- WordStream Free Keyword Tool: WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool is a user-friendly tool that allows me to quickly find relevant keywords for my business.
- Ubersuggest: Ubersuggest is a free keyword research tool that offers a wealth of keyword suggestions and data.
- KeywordTool.io: KeywordTool.io is a versatile keyword research tool that generates keyword suggestions from various sources, including Google, YouTube, Bing, and Amazon.
- Answer the Public: Answer the Public is a unique keyword research tool that provides insights into the questions and queries people have related to a specific keyword.
These keyword research tools have been instrumental in my SEO journey, allowing me to uncover valuable keywords, analyze competition, and make data-driven decisions.
How To Use Keywords On Your Page
Keyword placement is where SEOs and content creators intersect. This is an important aspect of on-page SEO and one of the three main categories of SEO as a practice, the other two being off-page and technical. To get started, observe some fundamental keyword usage principles. To reassure bots and humans that you have what they’re looking for, use unique keywords on each page of your site in locations where people often look.
The essential areas where you should place your keywords on your page are:
#1. Your URL
A URL is your page’s online address, which appears in search results, can be used to generate links, and is displayed in the address bar. URLs should be easy to read and incorporate your desired keywords. To avoid having to make changes later on, start with a straightforward and obvious URL structure.
Title tags appear in both search results and browser tabs. They should be designed for humans but optimized for robots, which is a difficult balance to strike! Because this is prime real estate, your talents in brevity and encouraging clicks will be put to the test. This brings up an important point: the hazards of clickbait. You may assume you’re tempting more clicks by using tantalizingly vague titles for your content, but by concealing what the page is actually about, you’re covering the genuine goal of the page and losing part of the impact of keywords.
#3. Meta Description
Meta descriptions are visible in search results and are known to affect user behavior, and Google can update them. Create a unique meta description for each page, and don’t forget to include your target keywords.
#4. Page Title (H1)
H1 tags appear on your page content and can help format it so that it is digestible by humans while also demonstrating topic relevance to robots.
#5. Subheadings (H2)
Headings are an essential component of CMS, content creation, and administration. It’s critical to style your page so that people can easily traverse your content and search engines can grasp what it’s about.
#6. The Body of the Content
The body of your material should organically contain the keywords you’re targeting. Simply putting keywords on your page is ineffective. Your goal should be to develop captivating content that offers actual value to the user. Writing relevant material that is high-quality, accurate, distinctive, and entertaining for human visitors while sending strong signals to our robot friends at Google is frequently the most time-consuming and gratifying aspect of optimizing your content for target keywords.
#7. Image Alt Attributes
Although site owners occasionally ignore it, alt text adds value to users who are unable to view photos and can also aid robots in understanding your images.
Keyword Density and Stuffing
Keyword density is the percentage of times a keyword appears on a webpage compared to the total number of words on the page. This is when I overuse a keyword to manipulate search engine rankings. Both of these things can hurt my SEO, so it’s important to use keywords naturally and in a way that makes sense for my content.
These are the dangers associated with keyword density and stuffing.
- Penalties from Search Engines
- Poor User Experience
- Loss of Credibility and Trust
- Negative Impact on SEO
- Ineffective Conversion Rates
#1. Penalties from Search Engines
Search engines like Google have strict guidelines against keyword stuffing. If a website is found to be engaging in keyword stuffing, it can face penalties, including a drop in search engine rankings or even removal from search results. Search engines prioritize user experience and quality content, so keyword stuffing is seen as a manipulative tactic that undermines the integrity of search results.
#2. Poor User Experience
Keyword stuffing often leads to a poor user experience. When keywords are excessively used, the content becomes difficult to read and loses its natural flow. This can frustrate and confuse users, leading to a higher bounce rate and lower engagement. Users are more likely to leave a website that appears spammy or lacks valuable information.
#3. Loss of Credibility and Trust
Keyword stuffing can harm a website’s credibility and trustworthiness. When users encounter content that is stuffed with keywords, it diminishes the perceived quality and authenticity of the website. Users may view the website as unprofessional or unreliable, damaging the brand’s reputation.
#4. Negative Impact on SEO
While keywords are important for SEO, overusing them through keyword stuffing can have a negative impact. Search engines may interpret keyword stuffing as an attempt to manipulate rankings, resulting in lower visibility and decreased organic traffic. It is important to focus on creating high-quality, valuable content that naturally incorporates keywords rather than artificially forcing them in.
#5. Ineffective Conversion Rates
Keyword stuffing does not necessarily lead to higher conversion rates. While it may attract some initial traffic, the poor user experience and lack of valuable content can deter users from taking desired actions, such as making a purchase or filling out a form. Conversion rates are more likely to improve when content is informative, engaging, and relevant to the user’s needs.
To avoid the dangers of keyword density and stuffing, it is important to focus on creating high-quality content that provides value to users.
Keyword intent is the underlying motivation or purpose behind a user’s search query. Understanding keyword intent is crucial for optimizing website content and providing relevant information to your target audience. There are four main types of keyword intent: informational, navigational, commercial, and transactional.
- Informational Intent
- Navigational Intent
- Commercial Intent
- Transactional Intent
#1. Informational Intent
When users have informational intent, they are seeking answers, explanations, or information about a specific topic. These users are typically in the early stages of their search journey and are looking to educate themselves. For example, when I research keywords with informational intent, I aim to provide comprehensive and informative content that addresses the user’s query directly.
Users with navigational intent are looking for a specific website or online destination. They have a clear idea of what they want and are using search engines to find the most direct path to their destination. When optimizing for keywords with navigational intent, I focus on ensuring that my website appears prominently in search results and that the content is easily navigable.
#3. Commercial Intent
Users who are in the consideration or purchase stages of the buyer’s journey enter a search query with commercial keyword intent. These users have a specific intent to find products or services and are more likely to convert into customers.
#4. Transactional Intent
Users with transactional intent are ready to make a purchase or engage in a specific action. These users are often looking for product information, pricing, or reviews before making a decision.
Understanding keyword intent allows me to tailor my content to meet the needs of my target audience at different stages of their search journey. By recognizing and aligning my content with the intent behind specific keywords, I can provide valuable information, establish credibility, and increase the chances of conversions.
What are the Benefits of AI-Powered Keyword Research?
AI-powered keyword research offers several benefits for digital marketers and content creators. It saves time by quickly analyzing large amounts of data and generating keyword suggestions. AI tools provide data-driven insights, helping marketers make informed decisions about their content strategy. They offer highly relevant keyword suggestions based on the specific niche, target audience, and competitors. AI-powered tools can assist in generating content ideas and optimizing existing content.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is replacing manual keyword research with more efficient, data-driven tactics. AI-powered technologies such as Clearscope and MarketMuse can analyze top-performing material on the web to recommend keywords and themes that are likely to perform well. These technologies also provide insights regarding content depth and quality, allowing marketers to generate material that is both SEO-friendly and truly beneficial to readers.
Using AI tools for keyword research has significantly improved my results. I maintain a tech blog, and utilizing AI technology to evaluate rival content and search trends helped us find missed themes with significant traffic potential. In just four months of developing content on these themes, we saw a 120% boost in organic traffic. The AI tool’s capacity to predict topic relevance and search trends helped us prioritize our content creation efforts, highlighting AI’s significant significance in strategic keyword research.
To stay ahead in SEO, it’s important to adapt to the ever-changing AI landscape. AI can identify trends and insights that humans cannot, giving it a competitive advantage in keyword strategy.
How Can Businesses Harness AI-Powered Insights for Keyword Optimization?
Businesses can harness AI-powered insights for keyword optimization by using AI tools to generate relevant keywords based on search trends, user behavior, and competitor strategies. These tools can also help businesses understand user intent, optimize content by suggesting keyword improvements, and analyze competitor websites. AI-powered tools can assist in personalizing content and optimizing for voice search. Additionally, these tools save time and resources by automating laborious tasks.
Are There Risks Associated With Relying Solely on AI for Keyword Strategies?
Relying solely on AI for keyword strategies carries risks such as lack of human judgment, incomplete or inaccurate data, overreliance on automation, lack of contextual understanding, unforeseen algorithm changes, and ethical considerations. To mitigate these risks, businesses should combine AI-powered insights with human expertise, using AI tools as aids to enhance keyword research and optimization rather than relying solely on their recommendations.
For example, while AI suggested targeting “emerging tech trends,” human creativity was essential in writing interesting tales surrounding each trend, resulting in content that resonated with our audience.
You now have a list of keywords that will help you focus on the correct themes for your business and generate short-term and long-term profits.
Make sure to re-evaluate these keywords every few months; once a quarter is a reasonable benchmark, but some firms prefer to do so more frequently. As your authority in the SERPs grows, you’ll be able to add more and more keywords to your list to target as you concentrate on maintaining your current presence and expanding into new areas.