Within a single day, millions of people use search engines such as Google to look for products and services. To get whatever they want, they enter what the search engines refer to as “keywords” into the search box. With regards to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a keyword is a phrase or a word that describes the contents of a website or a web page. As a business owner, therefore, you must understand the terminologies your potential clients are using to find your services or products online. This is because keywords summarize your content so as to help the search engines understand your site and match it to a particular user’s search query.
So, What Is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is a requisite element of SEO that involves learning what your potential clients are typing into the various search engines when looking for services and products like yours. It is simply the first step to growing the traffic that flows to your website as well as improving your online visibility. In fact, the primary goal of keyword research is to rank your site in the top positions on the front page of a search engine.
Approximately, the first place is believed to get about 36 percent of the total clicks made on the Google’s result page, with the 2nd place around 12 percent and the 3rd, 9 percent. The only way to get to these positions, therefore, is by doing a little tactical keyword research using the right tools.
The Basics Of Keyword Research
Before you even begin the keyword research process, you need to understand a few terms.
Search volume (average monthly searches)
The search volume of a keyword represents the total number of searches conducted per month on average for a specified search term. It is the average number of monthly searches for a particular keyword. When doing keyword research, it is paramount that you target keywords that have the highest search volumes in a bid to increase the chances of your site generating more traffic and sales. Ideally, you should look for ones with over 1,000 searches per month. But if you are just starting out, you might consider targeting keywords with a low search volume because it could be difficult to compete against successful brands that have already ranked highly.
Long tail keywords
These are three to four or more keyword phrases that are unique to the niche of your site. They make up to over 70 percent of all the online searches because they target those users who tend to be looking for exactly what they want to purchase.
Phrase match keywords
Unlike the exact keywords, these are a bit more flexible. They consist of additional phrases or synonyms of the main keyword.
This is a parameter that determines how difficult it would be for your site to appear in the leading ranks of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). It involves judging the pages that are already ranked for a particular keyword.
How To Do Keyword Research
The first step involves putting together the initial list of keywords that you think your target audience uses when trying to find your business. Imagine yourself as a buyer and try to determine the terms that you would use and those that you would want your site to be found for. Include as many long and short tail keywords so that you have a substantial collection of relevant phrases and terms. You will narrow down the list later and keep those that are profitable and pertinent.
Use of tools to locate keywords
The second phase of the keyword research process involves a more informed and technical search using research tools (which are either free or paid). You will have to find the keywords that potential customers use and organizing them by their demand or popularity. The primary aim here is to learn how they identify subjects, what they call things, and most importantly, how precise their search is. All these parameters will help you determine the right keywords for your site. Here are the top keyword research tools that you can leverage:
Google keyword planner – (Free)
This keyword research tool is free and one of the most used. It is provided by Google and is directly integrated with the Google AdWords. To use Google keyword tool, you will need to have an AdWords account, which is easy to create and free of charge.
The key features of Google keyword planner:
- You can conduct your search using keywords, web page or product category
- It provides your average monthly searches together with a trend graph that indicates the volume of recent searches
- Your target can be based on language, country and you can remove negative words to make your results as exact as possible
- It provides AdWords data showing how competitive and costly the particular keywords would be to advertise using them
How to use it
Keywords: you need to enter one or several keywords that you wish to see the search volumes for. In return, the Google keyword planner will give you the available keywords and those that are closely related to them.
Product category: you can get keyword suggestions by simply feeding the tool with the category of your niche
Web page: if you are not sure which keywords you should be looking for, you can input the URL of your landing page so that the keyword planner can produce a list of keyword ideas for you
This keyword research tool is recommendable for the early stages of your website’s SEO. Note that Google keyword planner gives keyword research results on Google alone.
Long Tail Pro – (Paid)
Long Tail Pro goes for $97 for a once off purchase and $97+ $17 every month for lifetime access to all the features. As the name of this keyword research tool suggests, it is meant to return long tail keywords. To research your keywords, you need to create a campaign that consists one or several sets of keywords first. The tool also offers you with additional configuration options such as the volume of searches within the same page title. It also gives you a chance to specify filters and displays keywords with specific search volumes. Once you conduct the search, it presents you with a list of keyword combinations.
If you come across several keywords that intrigue you, you can enter them in the ‘competition’ tab to find out how ranking them is competitive/ difficult. To do this, you will require a premium subscription. Most importantly, you can track the ranking of particular keywords by entering a term or a URL on your domain. In a nutshell, Long Tail Pro allows you to conduct research, analyze your competition and track the rankings within a single tool.
SemRush – (Paid)
SemRush is another keyword research tool that comes with 14 days of trial, $79.95 for one month access, $69.95 monthly recurring payment or $149.95 for additional keyword tracking and extended features.
- Common keywords with competitors
- Keywords that your competitors and you are ranking for
- Search/ trend/ organic results (search results for a particular keyword, similar phrases, term match and the trends relating to your keyword search query)
How to use it
As a newbie, you can start with the SemRush free trial and possibly upgrade to a PRO account once you get accustomed to the advanced features. This keyword researcher claims to have over hundred and twenty million keywords in their database and over one million users.
To find out the terms you are interested in, enter your phrases in the keyword research section and find the details of the traffic they get. It will give you search results for the keywords, similar phrases, trends related to them and even keyword difficulty.
To research keywords with regards to your competitors, you need to enter their URL or yours. The research tool will provide you with a list of all similar sites as well as the ranking of similar keywords. This way, you can explore all the websites with similar content and source keywords for your site.
Interestingly, you can also research the top keywords that the competitors of your competitor are ranking for. With these at hand, you can find useful keywords, base your content around them and rank ahead of all your contenders.
In addition, SemRush has a keyword difficulty tool that you should consider using when conducting your research. You need to enter your keywords per line (up to 100 words). The tool will automatically display a percentage to inform you how difficult it would be to seize your opponents.
Keyword Tool.io – (Free)
This is a great keyword research tool for beginners. It is free, (with charges if you want to get volume and other deeper information) has a user-friendly layout and can generate over 750 keywords based on Yahoo, Bing, Apple App Store, and Google. It uses the Google’s auto-complete letter adding features to produce a broad array of keywords. What it simply does is to extract Google keyword suggestions and present them to you in an easy to understand interface.
Keyword Tool does research on many combinations so as to provide you with a solid list of long-tail keywords. To use this tool, you need to choose a particular Google domain out of the 192 as well as one language out of the 83 to get keyword suggestions. The free or the paid Keyword Tool can quickly find and analyze relevant long-tail keywords for your SEO.
UberSuggest – (Free)
UberSuggest is a free and relatively basic keyword research tool. It uses the principle of the auto-complete tool just like Google, where it tries to figure out what you are looking for by displaying the top 10 results. Apart from the first results, it provides you with hundreds of other alternatives to the keyword you typed in. Once the keywords are generated, you can do further research by clicking on the downward arrow to be found beside each word or phrase.
- Gives the top 10 results for every word
- Ability to provide filtered results based on type (images, shopping, web among others)
- Offers filtered results by language. You can specify the language you want to see your results in
To use UberSuggest, all you need to do is to enter keywords and set up filters if you require any. After the results are displayed, you can copy paste them into a spreadsheet and carry out further analysis. Although it’s a helpful tool, it doesn’t provide data on search volume or keyword competitiveness. You may, therefore, have to use it together with another keyword tool for optimal results.
Keyword Research Alternatives
At times, the many keyword research tools may not give you appealing results. You can always ponder using the following additional tactics.
Read on-page content
You can consider using read on-page content to come up with new keyword ideas. This is usually viable if your web pages are live. If you are working in a new and complicated industry as a newbie, this technique can turn out to be effective. Read on-page content offers a quick way of finding industry specific keywords, common term’s synonyms, as well as less known variations.
Live searches in Google
This technique requires you to act as a potential client and begin searching keywords in the field that you want to target. You need to look at your competitor’s meta titles found on the first or second results pages so that you see the kind of keywords they are ranking for. You will then have to check out the suggested search area for additional and Google approved keyword ideas at the bottom side of the search engine results page.
Due to language differences and literacy levels, not everyone can use the correct spelling when doing an online search. You can, therefore, try to rank for keyword misspellings with high volume for a better chance of ranking high. Start by looking for minor spelling variations, American vs. European spellings and common misspellings. Some examples of spelling variations include color and colour, ageing and aging, attorney and atorney etc.
SEO is an industry that continues to evolve with new methods and techniques emerging. Your keyword research activities should therefore never end. You will have to keep on evaluating your keywords after every few months so that you adapt new trends to help you maintain your top position.