Whether you are content marketing or conversion optimization expert, keyword research is a crucial task that you need to be doing on a regular basis.
In this article, I will walk you through the process of keyword research, from start to finish, offering tools, templates, and tips on how to discover the best keywords, optimize your content and/or landing page, and get the most of organic search exposure:
What Is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the the process of discovering a list of words and phrases your target audience uses when discussing or exploring an idea or a topic that is relevant to your business and/or your website.
Many marketers assume keyword research is just about Google and understanding which words your potential customers or leads type into the search box. But keyword research can also be based on social media behavior (understanding how people discuss your topic on social media)
For the sake of focus, this guide is based on search behavior because it provides us with the most structured and easy-to-use data. For more SEO basic concepts and terminology, read here.
Why Is Keyword Research Important?
Keyword research is important for many reasons:
- Keyword research gives the marketer actionable data on how to build organic search visibility (i.e. increase the website rankings) and what topics to build content around.
- Keyword research helps us analyze and understand our competitors (what they are focusing on, which tactics seem to work best for them and how we can do better)
- Keyword research helps us improve our offering (by understanding what our potential customers are struggling with, what they like/dislike and how to serve them better)
How Do I Get Started with Keyword Research?
Keyword research always starts with a core term that is the main topic of your business or website. You know it already.
Now, take that word and run through a keyword research tool of your choice. Here are a few options.
The best free keyword research tools:
- Google Suggest tool
- Google Trends
- Wordtracker Scout
- Google Search Console (this one is useful for those websites that are already ranking for some queries)
The best paid (freemium) keyword research tools:
- SEMrush ($99/m)
- Serpstat ($19/m)
- Ahrefs ($99/m)
- Spyfu ($39/m)
- Moz PRO ($99/m)
The noted price is for the lowest-tier product. Each of the above tools offers many packages based on your needs.
Most of the tools above will provide you with Google search volume number: The higher it is, the more people search for that word/phrase on a monthly basis.
The paid tools also offer some form of organic competition metric, i.e. keyword difficulty. Read more about keyword difficulty here.
Your goal is to find keywords with at least some search volume (no use optimizing for keywords no one searches for) and low/moderate competition.
How Should I Organize My Keyword Research?
Coming up with an effective keyword research organization routine is the most important step here: It will define all your future content marketing and conversion optimization routine.
After running one or more of the above tools, you are likely to end up with hundreds (if not thousands) of keyword suggestions. So, what’s next?
The next step is to go ahead and run Serpstat’s clustering tool to make sense of that list. Serpstat uses a unique clustering algorithm identifying groups of keywords based on relevancy.
It uses Google SERPs to identify relevancy: the more identical results two SERPs have, the more related the search queries are. This way, it groups keyword phrases by how closely they are related instead of grouping them based on a common word.
Read more about keyword clustering here.
Once you identify groups of your chosen (i.e. focus) keywords (most of those groups can be included in one piece of content), go ahead and use Excel or Google Spreadsheets to plan your content strategy.
There put your focus keywords (and keyword groups), one by one, and use all kinds of labels to define your future actions:
- Type of content / page (e.g. old / new content, category page, product page, lead generation page, etc.)
- Seasonality (read more on this here)
- Search intent (read more on search intent here)
- Local keywords (read more on local keyword research here)
- Branded (read more on branded keywords here)
You can have as many of those spreadsheets as you need. I use Cyfe to keep all of them together within one dashboard to optimize different sections of my website and monitor my organic traffic:
How Can I Use Keyword Research to Increase My Traffic?
Now that we have done all the footwork, how do we actually use keyword research to optimize content and increase search traffic?
No, it’s not about keyword density. Google has moved away from exact-match keywords and we should too. For more information on how SEO has evolved, read here.
To create and optimize your content, use Text Optimizer.
This tool uses semantic analysis to extract related terms from Google SERPs, as well as break your chosen article idea into categories (subtopics).
Just grab the keyword from your spreadsheet and run the tool. Text Optimizer will analyze Google SERPs and return:
- Terms you need to include in your future article — pick around 20 of those to include into your content
- Topic categories (those work great for better understanding and structuring your content as well as, in most cases, breaking your content into subsections using H2/H3 subheadings)
- Popular questions (those are great for building content around them). In fact, this whole keyword research FAQ was built utilizing “Topic ideas”/”Editorial Suggestions” from Text Optimizer.
Once your content is created, run the tool again to see how well it’s optimized and written.
Text Optimizer drives your whole content optimization process encouraging you to include more related concepts, cover popular questions, and break your content into meaningful subsections. The easiest way to use the tool is using its Google Chrome plugin.
When it comes to optimizing for your focus word, you can handle the basics using plugins like Yoast SEO (or any of the alternatives). They will prompt you to include your focus keyword in the title, meta description, URL slug, etc.
How Much Does Keyword Research Cost?
For professionals, the minimum cost of keyword research is $79 per month ($19/m for Serpstat + $60/m for TextOptimizer)
Those are two tools a serious content marketer needs (Serpstat being the most affordable one out of its closest alternatives), at the bare minimum.
With that being said, keyword research can be free, but if you are working on content on a monthly basis, you do need at least those two tools.
On the other hand, if SEO is your profession, the more keyword research tools you have, the better, because they will all have slightly different results and will complement one another.
And what’s your keyword research process?