Researching and preparation may not be everyone’s favorite part of content creation, but it is an important one. It doesn’t matter if you’re Shakespeare or Stephen King, when writing SEO content it’s all about the keywords and making your written words searchable by Google’s standards. This all starts with keyword research and scoping out the best opportunities for your topic.
How Keyword Research Affects Your SEO
In order to understand the full process of keyword research, it’s important to understand where keywords fit into the grand scheme of SEO content.
It all comes down to focusing your content around a keyword or phrase that people are searching for. This will increase the chances of your content showing up in a search engine results page (SERP) which then increases the chances of getting clicks.
Keyword research comes into play by helping you find words and phrases people are searching for that are related to your business, industry, or chosen topic. The keywords you choose to go after will go a long way in determining what kind of traffic you get. That’s why it’s so important to research and choose keywords that bring in an audience that’s interested in your information and your business.
The research will help you cover all the roads that lead to your topic. For example, if you run a business that sells chairs you could obviously write the low-hanging fruit such as “What is a Chair” or “Why People Use Chairs” but if you do research you’d find that a lot of people are searching the phrase “Occasional Chairs.” So, instead you could write a blog called “When to Use an Occasional Chair.”
Researching keywords helps you find opportunities off of the beaten path so you can reach even more people and help you hone in on specific keywords that will pull in people searching for anything related to your main topic.
If you want to go even deeper, you can continue to research once you’ve found your golden keyword to boost your content even further with additional secondary keywords to help widen the reach of a single blog. For example, if you write “Best Chair Materials” your main keyword might be “chair materials” but your secondary keywords could be wooden chairs, plastic chairs, or leather chairs. The main blog may not be about any specific type of chair, but if someone was doing a search on wooden chairs, your blog could still show up in the SERP.
Tips for Mastering Keyword Research
So, now that you know why you need to do keyword research, let’s find out how.
1. Know Your Audience Segments
It’s important to understand who you want to attract when deciding which keywords you’re going to use. Ask yourself What, Why, and How.
What is your audience searching for? You’ll need to find out what your audience is out there searching for. This will help you discover topics to cover and give you a broad look at the direction people are looking when searching for answers around your industry.
Why are they searching for it? When people search, they’re generally looking for answers to a problem they have. That problem could be a question they have that can be solved by your information or an issue they have that can be solved by your product or service. The why is the problem you need to solve for them.
How are they searching for it? This is where you’ll find your keywords. You need to use research tools (which we’ll discuss later) to find the words and phrases your ideal audience is using to get their answers. These will be your target keywords. It won’t always be super black and white, either. If one of your main services is chair repair, you might find a lot of people aren’t directly searching for “chair repairs” but could be searching something more specific like “Repairing chair legs” or “how to fix a chair.”
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be able to draw up a quick list of your target keywords.
2. Know Your Competition
One rule of SEO is that you don’t ever need to be perfect, you just need to be doing better than your competition. That means doing your homework on your competition can pay off big time, especially if you’re looking for a place to start with SEO and keyword research.
An easy starting point with keyword research is to go to your direct competition’s blog, see what they’re doing well (which pages are ranking highly), and write your own version of that content. Obviously, don’t plagiarize and copy it down word for word—everyone hates that including Google—but don’t be afraid to write the same topics and blogs in your business’s voice.
Tools like Moz and Ubersuggest can help you find the pages that are beating you out for specific keywords. Running a gap analysis using Moz can help you find out what your competition is ranking for compared to what you are so you can note the difference and where to focus your efforts.
3. Go Straight To The Source
Google may be the imposing gatekeeper looming over the internet world, but they do provide some handy tools to help you along. So, it would make a lot of sense to use these tools when searching for keywords that will be used in Google anyways.
Here are some of the top tools from Google that you should be using:
Google Analytics: There’s no better way to see what’s working and what’s not than checking in on your site’s analytical data using Google Analytics.
Google Search Console: One of the best ways you can use Google Search Console is to find out the top keywords people are using to find your site.
Google Ads: May not be purely focused on SEO but it does have a helpful keyword planner tool that can be powerful.
Google Trends: This tool can tell you the volume of searches for your keyword, where it’s being searched, related topics and queries, and you can even compare different searches.
The last bit of help Google can offer lies right in the search engine. When looking for keywords, don’t be afraid to just simple search them and see what pops up in the autofill component or the “other things people searched for…” section to see related searches. The related searches, in particular, can tell you a lot about the intent of your audience.
4. Use the Free Tools at Your Disposal
Other than Google, there are plenty of free tools available to assist you:
Ubersuggest: A tool very similar to Moz but entirely free. Ubersuggest let’s you search related keywords, compare them, and has a great tool to help you see the current ranking pages.
Answer The Public: This tool gives out a number of free searches per day but you can get a lot of info in those limited attempts. With Answer The Public, you start with a simple topic or keyword and it gives you a wide web of related searches in the form of questions that helps you learn the what, why, and how of your audience.
Keywords Everywhere: This is a Chrome extension that will display on SERPs and show you a ton of related keyword searches, all for free.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are seemingly endless amounts of tools designed to help you find your perfect keyword or phrase.
5. Use Powerful Paid Tools
If you’ve got money to spend, there are even more powerful tools available but it might cost you a pretty penny. Many perform the same basic functions of the tools above but with added features. Here are just a few of them but, like with free tools, there are a ton out there.
Moz: This all-encompassing tool has a ton of features from keyword research to comparisons to link analysis. It’s always being updated with new features that continue to push keyword research into new places.
Ahrefs: This site also provides basic SEO tools for keyword research but specializes in comparing you to your competitors and finding the places where you can catch up or pull further ahead.
SEMrush: Another very powerful tool for helping to build organic growth on your site. SEMrush comes with all the usual features that you’d expect.
SparkToro: The brand-new brainchild of Rand Fishkin, SparkToro’s speciality is getting inside the mind of your audience. This tool provides lots of features that help you cover all the angles and reach everyone you need to.
6. Learn From Your Customers
Every opportunity you have to learn from your current customers and audience should be taken. Whether it be a direct question via a survey to find out exactly what their challenges were before they became a customer or by looking into the data on your CRM to follow the journey a customer took.
You can learn a lot from past successes.
7. Keep Your Keywords Organized and Don’t Repeat Content
Though the main goal of keyword research is to hit every possible angle of a topic, if your content steps on its own toes too often it can be detrimental to your rankings. There’s a difference between writing a unique angle on a topic and just re-wording the same blogs over and over. Don’t clutter your website with repeated content.
In order to avoid a situation like this, make use of tools like HubSpot’s topic cluster tool to keep track of each piece of content and the topics they’re attached to. Staying organized like this will also help you identify the gaps in your strategy.
A topic cluster for “Video Marketing” as seen in HubSpot
The SEO content game is tough and Google can be a picky customer, but with the right strategy, the right tools, and the right amount of research, you’ll see your content rocketing up the rankings in no time.