SEO has evolved significantly in recent years. So much so that the fundamentals of keyword research have changed from a simplistic 3-step process to a more in-depth research process. Things like keyword search volume and competitor ranking data have always been valuable parts of keyword research, but, as times have changed, so have the essentials of the keyword research process. If you are still relying only on these two data points, you will find your site performing poorly in the search engine results pages (SERPs), as you’re leaving a lot of valuable, untapped information on the table. So, how can you be sure you’re leveraging all the information available to you? Where do these resources live? How can you be sure you aren’t doing your keyword research all wrong? First, you’ll need to start with the basics!
What is Keyword Research?
Let’s breakdown keyword research starting at the lowest level – the keyword. When people search for a service or product online, the words they type into the search bar are called “keywords”.
“Keyword research” in SEO, is the process of identifying the keywords consumers use to seek out businesses like yours, as well as the products or services you sell. Through keyword research, you can determine the most relevant and visible keywords you’d like your business to target and rank for.
Create Your Keyword Seed List
To begin your keyword research, first start by creating a “seed list” of keywords. These are keywords that, based on your knowledge, you believe people are searching to find businesses or services like yours. Even in this first stage of keyword research, tools can be used to simplify the process and develop a quality seed list.
Keyword Research Tools
Keyword research tools provide visibility into key metrics that aid in the creation of your seed list and turn it into a robust list of targeted terms. Tapping keyword tools also ensures that SEO keyword strategies are built on hard data, not just assumptions or hunches. Some key metrics and dimensions these tools bring to light include: related search terms, average monthly search volume, search volume by month, keyword difficulty, competition and more.
Evaluating a wide range of data and metric types is important for creating a diverse keyword list that encompasses terms in every stage of the purchasing funnel. While some research tools have similar capabilities to one another, many have features specific to their platform which can only be accessed if you use those specific tools. Choosing which tool to use is a personal preference but understanding how each can help in your keyword research process will inform your decision. Below is a list of keyword research resources with a summary of the data you can find within each platform.
Paid Keyword Tools for Keyword Discovery
- This tool works as a browser extension, and you must purchase credits to receive keyword data. Once you have purchased credits, search for a keyword in the search bar and the extension will populate data on keyword search volume, keyword difficulty and related terms.
- This tool is available as a 7-day free trial and is robust in its keyword data offerings. Simply copy and paste your keyword list into the keyword explorer tool or upload a CSV file. You’ll get thousands of relevant ideas to grow your keyword repository. Additional data includes search volume, keyword difficulty score and advanced metrics like clicks, return rate, “people also rank for” terms, and the keyword’s parent topic.
- SEMRush also offers a free trial and has an extensive range of data for keyword research. Keyword rankings and keyword difficulty are staples in this platform; however, you can go further by utilizing the Keyword Gap Analysis to see terms your competitors rank for that you don’t (if you have an existing site).
- You will need an active Google Ads account to utilize this platform. Keyword Planner will show you average monthly search volume, historical search metrics, keyword difficulty and related variations of the keywords in your seed list.
- An enterprise SEO tool that create a reverse index of search rankings and provides insights on competitor keyword rankings, your current rankings (if you have a live site), keyword search volume and much more.
Free Keyword Tools for Keyword Discovery
- This is a free tool created by former Google employee Neil Patel. UberSuggest gives you all the basic keyword research data points, such as additional suggestions based on your seed list, search volume and difficulty.
Advanced Tools for Existing Websites
If you already have an existing website, there may be additional information that can help you in your keyword research. Advanced tools can help you identify which keywords are already driving traffic to your site and getting clicks, which keywords have high impressions and low click through rates in the SERP, which keywords are driving conversion, or even which terms the top 5 ranking pages are using that could be added to your strategy. Some of the tools that call out this information include:
- Google’s Search Console
- Google Analytics
- Google Ads Manager
- TFIDF (Term Frequency Inverse Document Frequency) Analysis Tool
Identifying Keyword Intent
After thorough research using numerous tools, you have your robust keyword list; now it is time to identify the keyword intent!
When you perform keyword research, you attain an understanding of how users discover your business, product, or service. As you create your keyword list from your research, the goal is to understand the intent and expectation behind each one of the keywords. There are a few resources that help us better understand this information, without having to rely on an educated guess.
The Importance of Search Intent & User Expectations
Uncovering the intent and expected SERP environment associated with a user’s search should be a basic building block of your keyword research. This practice ensures that you are targeting keywords that are related to your content. When it comes to understanding intent, first determine if the searchers intent falls into one of these three categories: “Know”, “Go”, or “Do or Buy”. Below is a list of tools to help kick off this stage in the research journey.
Tools to Help Identify Keyword Intent
A Search Engine (e.g., Google)
- A quick search of your own will give you a look at the SERP environment for a given keyword. If you want your blog (top of funnel page) to rank for “car batteries” but notice that all the pages ranking are for product listings (bottom of funnel pages), you will want to re-evaluate the keyword you’re targeting.
- Ahrefs (which, as mentioned, offers a free 7-day trial) shows you the top pages that are ranking for a given keyword and the types of SERP features. For example, SERP features can include sitelinks, quick answers, local listings, etc. The intent associated with a local listing will be much different than the intent associated with a quick answer.
Wrapping Up Your Keyword Research
As you can see, keyword research goes much deeper than simply accounting for keyword search volume and competitor rankings. There are many data points that can help you narrow down the best terms to target. Once you’ve finished your research and created your bulk repository of target keywords, vet the list for intent and make sure you included terms tied to every stage of the purchasing journey. Utilize the tools at your disposal and leave nothing on the table. This research process will set you up for success and give you a leg up on the competition!
Need some help identifying the best SEO keywords to target for your business? Get in touch – we’d be happy to help!