Getting Started with Keyword Research for SEO
Keywords are one of the most important factors in your SEO success. Google wants to deliver the highest quality results to the users, and though keyword stuffing will hurt your site pretty bad, targeting and optimizing for the right intent and the related keywords is the very basic of a good SEO strategy. Keyword research should typically be done when:
- You’re setting up a new website/writing a new piece of content online
- Revamping your existing site/blog for more traffic/revenue
Google uses 200+ signals to decide the rank of a page and, to get the best possible rank on Google, there are a lot of things you need to do right. However, without knowing what customer is searching for, the other efforts might go in vain. So, for any keyword research exercise, we start with identifying the searcher’s intent.
Know your Searcher’s intent
Searcher’s intent is the basic motivation behind a person getting on a search engine. Knowing your searchers’ intent will not just help you unlock the right keyword opportunities for your website, but will also provide you with deep insights that you can use to shape your content strategy to make it more helpful and engaging for the customers throughout their journey. Doing this step right can be the differentiator between a mediocre and a winning inbound strategy.
Broadly, the searcher’s intent can be divided into the following categories:
- Informational – Discovery phase where the user is likely to use terms such as “how”, “what”, “where”, “why”, etc.
- Navigational – When the searcher knows exactly what they are looking for and uses the search bar as a way of navigating (entering the name in the address bar for easier navigation). Here the user would ideally enter the name of the brand directly.
- Transactional – The person is in the buying stage and uses terms like “buy”, “coupon”, “price” and so on.
- Commercial – User is in the final deciding stages and may use terms such as “best”, “review”, or “compare”.
You need to create content that can help your customer at every step in their journey. Thus, it becomes important to understand the different stages a customer goes through in the decision making process. At any given point, each customer usually falls in one of the four stages mentioned below.
- Need recognition/Information search
- Evaluation of alternatives
Later you can group your customers in the above categories and identify specific practices that can get you the most out of the decisions made in that particular zone.
Pro Tip: to find out the range of search queries/searchers’ intent around your product, use the question powerhouse “Quora” to know what users are searching for.
Once you get the searcher’s intent sorted, use the following steps to find the keywords that will help you fulfill their intent as well as your business goal.
List down the topics around your business that can help the searcher fulfill their intent. Try to find out different variations of those topics. This will majorly help you with finding new opportunities and areas to connect with the user. For example, if you sell office chairs, you might even want to list down topics such as “back ache reasons”, “posture correction”, “neck ache”, etc. as writing content on these lines can help you highlight the benefits your chairs might deliver in these areas. Providing information around what you sell through your website always helps in building trust amongst the users, and leads to a loyal customer base.
Start off the basic keyword discovery by following the below steps:
Perform a Google search
When you perform a Google search, you can get an idea of what are the related keywords that users are looking for. This will help you define your Content Buckets (can link to a blog about creating content).
Here is a sample Google search for office chairs.
When you scroll down on the SERP, you will also see a list of related searches that the customers have performed. The above search reflects that an office chair seller can benefit from adding things like brands, location, buying options, etc. in the content.
Get insights from Quora
Quora will help you identify many related phrases that you may not have thought of. An “office chair” search on Quora helped uncover terms such as “computer chair”, “ergonomic chair”, etc.
You need to include the information in a way that it benefits your business the most. For example you specialise in selling computer chairs, you could simply search for the term on Quora and get a bunch of ideas. On the other hand, if a gaming chair is not in your store at all, even if it is suggested by an online tool, it doesn’t serve any purpose including the same in your strategy.
Use the power of ecommerce websites
Searches on ecommerce websites and the reviews by users are another great place for keyword discovery related to your product. A search made on Amazon (refer below screenshot) will give you the idea of related products in your niche with which you can optimise your product descriptions, headlines and image tags on your website. To read about the best optimisation practices, check out the blog on On page optimisation here.
Read what the people have to say
Similarly, go a step further and read about what people are saying about the types of products that you offer. Check out customer reviews.
Knowing about people’s opinions will help you to define your content in a way that your product comes out as one that solves problems. You don’t have to discontinue selling a product if you find out that people don’t love it. Rather what you can do is create content highlighting the positive points of the product that will let people know why they should buy your product.
Leverage discussion forums
Find Forums and online sites related to the niche content where your audience is at, and look for the most relevant keywords there. Consider the question posted by a user in a forum discussion about office chairs. This will help you learn about the problems people face, the price range they’re looking at, and what they’re basically thinking when trying to buy an office chair. You could drive keywords like “chairs under 100”, “rolling chairs” etc. from this snippet that can benefit your online sales. Once you go deeper into the thread you can find out more topics and problem areas that you can use to define your keywords.
Tip: You can also use this input in deriving the perfect content for your product that includes FAQs, comparison panels and more.Create blog posts highlighting particular areas that people are interested in about your product. Quality blog posts with strategic keywords will help you rank better in search results.
Always make an effort to stand out in the market with your product and the hacks mentioned above will help you do that. Once you get a sense of what the audience is looking for, list it down in an excel sheet as your first level of research. You can now move on to using the keywords tools for a more detailed idea on the topics and keywords that you’ve just found out.
Keyword Research Tools
Keywords tools will help you know your keyword better. They can tell you about how competitive the keyword is, and how many searches are made with that keyword monthly/daily and can also help you add more relevant keywords by suggesting similar ideas. Moreover, they can also give you the top SERP results for your keyword.
All the tools are different with unique pros and cons. Following are, however, some important metrics to consider while shortlisting keywords:
- Search Volume – Mostly shown as the average number of monthly searches for a particular term, this metric should help you determine the demand for a particular keyword.
- Business/commercial fit – While there can be a lot of lucrative keywords in the list you’ve made that will have high search volume, it is up to you to decide if that keyword
- Is relevant to your business,
- Can add value to the customers’ discovery/buying decision when you include it in your content/titles
- Can help your rankings compared to your niche product
- Keyword difficulty – Shows how hard/easy it is to rank for a particular keyword. The higher the number, the more difficult it will be to rank for it. So, find low competition keywords that are easy to rank for, and circles back to your niche. Try to rank for them. Even if those keywords might have lesser traffic, they will be easier to rank and will make more commercial sense for you in the long run.
So, now you know what to look for when analysing a keyword in a tool, let us see some free tools that you can leverage:
- Google Webmaster Tools
- Google Trends
- Google Display Planner
- Google Instant
- Google Related Searches
- Bing Keyword Tool
- Bing Intelligence Tool
- Amazon Suggests
You must be aware that not all free tools can give you in-depth information. Thus, if you think investing in a paid tool can help you know your keywords better, here are some great ones with the best coverage:
- MOZ Keyword Explorer
- Long Tail Pro
The steps given above will help you get started with keyword research. However, to form a winning strategy, it’s important to keep track of what the competitors are doing to rank/get the users to convert on their site.
Once you have the keywords that work for you shortlisted, the next step would be to match them to each stage of the customer journey discussed in the beginning and start creating helpful content accordingly.
Keyword research isn’t a one-time effort. Always keep looking out for seasonal trends and new changes in the industry for optimizing your keyword strategy for the best returns on your efforts.