Keyword research is a process of discovering and determining the most important keywords for the purposes of a particular website.
In other words, finding not only the keywords you want to rank, but also those you should rank (what people who want what you have to offer really look for).
Done correctly, keyword research also produces the topics for which you should create content on your site.
Competitive analysis is an area closely related to keyword research.
During your research, you can find out what your competitors are ranking and you are not, which can lead to important insights not only for your SEO strategy but also for your business.
This guide will help you get started with everything you need to know to do keyword research that will build a solid foundation for your SEO.
The keyword research process
A good keyword search follows an orderly process, a set of steps that help to fulfill all the objectives mentioned above.
However, this is not a single process.
You will need to continually review these steps because your market situation will change over time.
Some of the changes that may require a new keyword search include:
- Changing the needs or desires of your target consumers.
- New queries that have not appeared before or new terms that researchers are using to search for what you offer.
- New competitors entering the market.
- Changes to search engine algorithms or search features.
And many more.
Step 1: Review your current keywords
This is where you should start, if you already have a set of keywords that you are trying to rank.
If you’re starting from scratch, skip to Step 2
If you are taking control of an existing website or have been working on a website for some time, you probably have a list of keywords in mind that you are trying to rank for.
The first thing you should do is to list these keywords and perform an analysis to see how they are performing.
To analyze larger applications, you will probably want a paid tool.
But for a more basic website, there are many free ranking tracking tools available.
If your list of keywords is relatively small, of course you can search for them on Google to see where they are currently in the ranking (although this does not provide any ranking history).
Look at the ranking history and search volume for these keywords in the tool of your choice.
Then, use Google Search Console to determine which keywords your site is already ranked for (if any).
Your goal here is to establish a baseline for your keyword performance.
You can use this to increase your keyword universe in the other steps below.
Use the metrics you’ve gathered for your existing keywords. to separate good performing keywords from bad but worthwhile keywords.
Poor performance, but worth it, are keywords that have sufficient search volume and impressions, but have lower rankings and / or lower clickthrough rates.
Put the bad but valuable keywords aside to add to the list that you will develop in the steps below.
Along with the new keywords, you’ll find in your keyword research, they become the guide for all of your subsequent SEO work (at least when it comes to things like content optimization and link building).
Your goal here is to establish a keyword performance baseline that you can use to increase your keyword universe in the other steps below.
Step 2: Formulate your goals
You may think you are ready to start a real keyword search now.
However, without some carefully crafted goals, it will be a futile effort.
By goals, here, I mean the specific business and brand needs for which you want to generate organic traffic.
Why does it matter?
Because these goals will give you a sense of direction in your research.
Often, keyword research will result in keywords that can be ranked, but if they are not keywords that will attract visitors who can become the solution to the stated needs in your goals, it will not be worth the effort you have made. trying to classify the stated needs in your goals will not be worth the effort you made to try to classify them.
In my opinion, this is the most overlooked step in typical keyword research efforts.
Having goals will help improve your chances of success in SEO.
In addition, you’ll save more time and effort than necessary – and avoid targeting irrelevant terms (so-called custom keywords) or keywords with little or no return on investment (ROI).
Here are some questions to ask when formulating your goals for keyword research:
- Who is our target audience? Who buys what we sell and why?
- What do we sell and what is our exclusive value proposition in our market?
- What are the main needs and / or desires of the people who become our customers?
- What are your related secondary needs?
- What are the things that our target consumers need to know to feel confident in choosing who to buy?
Knowing the answers to these questions can help you focus on the keywords that really matter to your business.
Step 3: Create your keyword “wish list”
This step is a real internal search.
That is, it starts in your own head (or in the collective heads of your team, if any).
Using the answers to the questions in Step 2, combined with your business or industry experience, list as keywords that you think best describe what your potential customers are looking for when they are at various stages of their buying journey.
- What do they look for when they are just trying to find out about the type of things you sell?
- What would they look for when trying to make an informed decision about who to buy from?
- What do they look for when they want to buy specific things that you sell?
The purpose of these brainstorming lists is similar to that of Step 2:
To provide some guidance in your research to determine what is important to your business.
Don’t assume that the keywords you found in this exercise are really valuable.
Step 4: Assess the competitive landscape
One of the best sources for finding keywords that you should be ranking for, but not yet your competitors.
If they have been in the game for longer than you, they probably discovered and capitalized on many more opportunities, whether they found them through careful research or just ran into them.
Many SEO tools will show you the top ranked keywords for a given domain, but you may need to invest in one of the paid tools to dive into all the levels I discuss below.
Let’s look at a few different ways to approach competitive keyword research.
We’ll start with the simplest free method of competitive keyword discovery: Google itself.
This method can reveal many opportunities, but since it depends on a certain amount of assumptions on your part, it will not give a complete picture.
However, it can be a good way to start if you don’t have good tools at hand.
Google is very useful in identifying who your main online competitors are.
Keep in mind that they may not always be the same as “real world” competition (if you and others are selling your products in physical stores, for example).
Start by researching the products or services you sell and see who consistently appears among the top results.
For example, let’s say one of your products is garage door openers:
Ignoring paid advertisements, it is clear that Home Depot and Lowes are its main competitors for organic research for this product.
If you sell multiple products or services and these two appear repeatedly in searches, add them to a list of top competitors.
Also, be sure to search for any alternative names that searchers may use for your products or services.
Next, build a Google site: search for each product and its alternative names for each competing domain.
To do this, type the search term into Google and then website: domainname.com (using the competitor’s domain).
This research shows us the alternative keywords that the competitor ranks on Google for that product.
In the example above, we see that Google can show products for Home Depot garage door openers to people looking for belt drive garage door openers, chain drive garage door openers and 4 garage door openers . Add it all to your keyword list.