Well-done keyword research is what separates have and the have-nots in the digital world. Why is that? Good keyword research reveals what opportunities are available to you and which of those you should pursue. But bad keyword research sends you down the wrong path, wasting time and money.
- Why is Keyword Research Important
- What is Keyword Research
- How to Identify a Good Keyword Opportunity for SEO
- Keyword Research Tips to Up Your Game
Why is Keyword Research Important
Whether you’re doing keyword research for content marketing or organic search, implementing SEO keyword strategy in your process is essential. How you perform and execute keyword research defines how your website will rank on search engines, how much traffic your site gets, and, ultimately, how your audience engages with your brand.
Doing it right has many more positive effects than we have time to explore here, but let’s dive into five of the most noteworthy reasons that keyword research is essential.
Discover Trends and Questions Relevant to Your Brand
Keyword research is not a one-time thing. It’s something you need to do every time you create new content and periodically refresh your existing content (whether that’s blogs, landing pages, or anything else that you’re optimizing for SEO).
This process keeps you updated on trends in your industry and new questions your audience is asking. During one round of keyword research, you may find that a keyword has a very high volume, and all of your closest competitors are ranking for it, so you should too.
Within a few months, cultural or industry trends can shift, and your audience may have new questions and search for different terms. If you don’t keep up on relevant trends and questions, you may lose your audience to competitors who are answering their new questions.
The effort is worth it and will benefit you in many ways, including:
- Keeping tabs on your competition
- Ensuring your site is always well-optimized
- Driving more traffic
Learn What Information Your Audience is Seeking
Search trends are constantly changing, which means your audience’s searches are changing, and there are new ways to capture their attention. Performing keyword research means you are more likely to note those changes and continue captivating your audience in new and exciting ways. With fresh content you will also attract new users, expanding your audience and your brand’s reach.
If you provide your audience with old or irrelevant information, not only will you fail to capture their attention, but you are likely to lose trust and authority with parts of your audience, thus losing existing users.
To recap, learning what information your audience wants should matter to you because:
- You’ll engage with your audience in new ways
- You’ll stay relevant and trustworthy
- You’ll grow your audience and drive more traffic
Bolster Your Topic Library
Keyword research is the gift that keeps on giving. While hunting for a keyword for a particular landing page or blog post, you’re bound to come across several other great opportunities and ideas.
For example, while doing keyword research for a wedding-related blog post on ‘how to DJ your own wedding,’ you may also come upon keywords like ‘best grand entrance songs’ or ‘how to write a thank you speech.’ Recording these in a document helps ensure you’ve always got a few good ideas in your back pocket.
What is Keyword Research?
Before we establish what keyword research is, first, we need to define a keyword. A keyword is a term that refers to a word or phrase a person types into a search engine (like Google) to learn more about, explore the answer to, or find a solution for.
Keyword research is the process of finding the right keywords with SEO value for your business to target so that you can optimize your website and improve your rankings on Google.
This practice is crucial and tricky because keywords narrow the focus of your website content to match the user’s intent. If you use the wrong keywords, you’ll never get the right visitors because your content doesn’t match what they are looking for. Don’t sweat! We’re going to break down the types of keywords and how to determine when each should be used.
4 Types of SEO Keywords
In the age of technology and smartphones, if someone has a question or wants to shop for something, they can simply pull their phone out of their pocket and type their query into Google. When it comes to SEO, these queries are broken down into four main categories:
- Informational: this type of keyword indicates searchers are looking for an answer to a specific question or general information.
For example, if a person searches, ‘why is keyword research important,’ they likely want a blog post or resource to answer their question and offer information rather than a service or a brand name.
- Commercial: this type of keyword indicates that a searcher intends to investigate brands or services.
For example, if a person searches ‘Andersen window installation,’ they aren’t looking for a blog post about Andersen windows. They are looking for a vendor in their area who installs Andersen windows, so they should be served a relevant landing page.
- Navigational: this type of keyword indicates that a searcher intends to find an exact site or page.
For example, if a person types ‘Augurian’ into Google, they hope to end up on Augurian’s website without typing the URL into the search bar.
- Branded keywords: These are always navigational because exact brand names are in the keyword, which makes their intent bottom-of-the-funnel. They matter a whole lot because they help users find your business directly. Examples include:
- Olive Garden
- Apple desktops
- Crest toothpaste
- Non-branded keywords: These are general keywords that don’t contain any brand specifics. Their intent is top- and middle-of-the-funnel. They can fall under any keyword type category, but are still absolutely vital to target because they help you gain visibility online through organic search efforts. Non-branded search terms are how new users will discover your business. Examples include:
- Drug store near me
- Italian restaurants
- Most popular desktop computers
- What type of toothpaste prevents cavities best
- Transactional: this type of keyword indicates that a searcher intends to complete an action or purchase.
For example, if a person searches ‘coffee shops near me’, they are looking for a coffee shop near them to go and purchase something to drink, not a blog post about how to open a coffee shop or how to brew the perfect cup of coffee.
Long-Tail vs Short-Tail Keywords
Keyword types aren’t the only thing you need to be aware of before you begin your keyword research. There is one more concept we need to cover, and that is the difference between short-tail and long-tail keywords.
Short-tail keywords are short, broad phrases that a person searches, like:
- Inflation trends
- Cold medicine
- Knitting supplies
These keywords tend to be very popular search terms that are difficult to rank for but drive large amounts of traffic. They are often the first thing that comes to mind when a person is going to search for something, like when the heck will inflation cool off (inflation trends).
Long-tail keywords contain more words and read like phrases, such as:
- Current inflation trends vs. 1970s inflation trends
- Fast-acting cold medicine for congestion
- Soft knitting yarn for a bulky sweater
Long-tail keywords are often less popular but are easier to rank for. They also drive less traffic, but the traffic they do drive is far more likely to be genuinely interested in your business. This type of keyword is what a person searches after they’ve taken a moment to consider what exactly it is that they want.
How to Choose the Right Keywords for SEO
An infinite number of keyword opportunities will come up during your keyword research process, and not all of them are equal. How do you suss out the good SEO keyword opportunities from the bad? There are three main considerations that should guide your decision:
The most crucial consideration for identifying a good keyword opportunity is relevance. If a keyword is not directly relevant to the content you’re going to cover, scrap it. If you target irrelevant keywords that come up in your research just because they have low difficulty and high volume, your content will end up out of focus and less useful for your audience.
Keyword difficulty – also known as SEO difficulty or keyword competition– is a score from 0 to 100 assigned to each keyword. This score reveals how difficult it will be to rank for a keyword and how intense the competition is.
- 0-20: Easy – Ranking well doesn’t necessarily require any linking domains.
- 21-40: Medium – Ranking well will likely require a handful of linking domains and well-optimized content.
- 41-60: Hard – Ranking well will require many linking domains with high authority and very well-optimized content.
- 61-100: Super Hard – Ranking well will require around 100 linking domains with high authority, very well-optimized content, and exceptional graphics.
Difficulty is an essential element of successful keyword research because it is a quick way to identify whether or not a certain keyword is attainable. A keyword can have high volume and be very relevant for your website, but if it has a difficulty of 99, you’ll want to find a different keyword.
Volume is a vital factor in sorting the good keyword opportunities from the bad in your keyword research, but it’s not quite as straightforward as difficulty and relevance. How so? Well, high-volume keywords are not the only keywords that matter. Low-volume keywords can also be great opportunities (consider the concept of keyword golden ratio).
For example, some long-tail keywords targeted for a specific audience in the middle-to-later stages of the customer journey may have low volume. Still, if you can rank well for them, they will attract a small amount of traffic that is incredibly likely to convert.
Conversely, if you choose a short-tail keyword targeted for a broad, high-funnel audience, you will drive a lot of traffic that is unlikely to convert. Desirable keyword volume really depends on the intended outcome of a given piece of content.
Understand Search Intent
Search intent can be a tricky concept to parse out, but it’s one of the elements that makes keyword research so critical. Think back to the four types of keywords that we discussed (informational, navigational, commercial, transactional). Now, consider your customers’ journey to purchase and how that overlaps with those types.
- Informational keywords match up with higher funnel search intent. Folks early in their customer journey, or high up in the marketing funnel, are usually just looking for information to determine what their problem is and what their options are for solving that problem.
- Commercial keywords are generally suitable for landing pages. These folks are right in the middle of their customer journey, exploring brands and services that offer their desired solution to solve their problem.
- Transactional keywords can be mapped to the oh-so-important purchase stage of the customer journey. Folks searching these types of terms are ready to convert. They don’t want to read a blog post about why a person may need new gutters, and they are done exploring brands and services. They are ready to have those gutters installed.
- Navigational keywords are precise. A person searching these keywords might even be so specific that they find the exact page on a website they are looking for. These folks may have already made their purchase and are now loyal customers returning for more.
It is absolutely imperative that you understand search intent as it relates to the customer journey and that you get it right. Otherwise, your page won’t rank well, and even if it somehow manages to rank well, your traffic is not likely to stay because you didn’t understand the intent of the keyword you targeted for a page.
Hot tip: If you’re ever in doubt of a keyword’s intent, Google it. If you can’t figure it out, the search engine results page will tell you whether folks are looking for information or brands and services.
Keyword Research Tips to Up Your Game
Now that we understand what keyword research is, why it matters, and how to identify promising opportunities, let’s explore some simple keyword research tips.
There is plenty of room within keyword strategy for you to put your own spin on your process and make it your own. However, there are a few keyword research tricks that all SEOs and content marketers should have in their arsenal.
Analyze the SERP
No matter who you are or what industry you are in, analyzing the SERP will be a defining factor in the success of your keyword research methodology. What’s more, this is a simple task to complete. Before you start, you’ll need one key piece of information; your own site’s domain authority.
After you’ve accounted for the relevance, difficulty, and volume of a keyword you’ve been researching, Google it and take stock of not just the content on the first page of the SERP but who is producing that content. Use your tech stack to determine each website’s domain authority.
Hot Tip: if you have access to Moz, you can install the MozBar, and it will automatically populate this information beneath each result on the SERP. There are also a host of other great content marketing tools to bolster your efforts.
If your domain authority is in the general neighborhood of (or higher than) those on the first page of the SERP, you’re golden. Take that keyword and run with it. If your domain authority is drastically lower than the rest of the results, consider a different angle with a different keyword.
Prioritize Low-Hanging Fruit
This tip is very straightforward. It may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget. Prioritize the easiest opportunities. Starting with accessible wins helps you build your confidence, get your brand in front of more people, and build your brand’s authority.
Especially if you are new to keyword research for your SEO efforts, it can be easy to want to tackle tough keywords for the consequential pages right away. Those feel most impactful and urgent. In reality, you can still tackle those pages, but you’ll need to get creative.
You may need to approach your page from a different angle and find a keyword with lower volume and difficulty that is still just as relevant. In other words, pick that low-hanging fruit before you risk picking from the top.
Consider Your Customer’s Journey
The customer journey is underrated and ignored by the vast majority of businesses implementing SEO, content marketing, or any other type of advertising efforts. The customer journey consists of six stages:
- Problem Aware
- Solution Aware
- Solution Compare
By mapping out content that matches the intent of your audience and subject matter they’ll find helpful in each stage of the customer journey, you ensure that no matter what part of the buyer’s journey they’re in, they will continually see your brand. It’s a great way to build brand recognition, authority, and trustworthiness with your potential customers.
The number one mistake we see businesses make with content marketing is that they only want to produce solution aware and solution compare content. They forget how significant the entire customer journey is.
You’d be surprised by the role higher funnel content plays in a buyer’s path to purchase. Don’t be that business. Map out the customer journey for your business and utilize it to its fullest potential.
Keep Track of Your Competitors
Analyzing the competition on the SERP is important, but those folks aren’t necessarily your only competitors. Gather a list of who you think your closest competition is and keep an eye on what they’re doing in regards to digital marketing and SEO.
Is their blog crushing it? How are their service pages ranking? What keywords are they showing up for?
Use these insights to sneak up on your competitors and take some of that precious digital landscape for yourself. If you’re in the solar industry and your closest competitor is getting a ton of traffic from their ‘Pros and Cons of Solar Panels’ blog, you can take some of that traffic. How? Publish one that is written better, has better graphics, and is better optimized.
Discover What Exceptional Keyword Research Can Do for Your Business
Are keywords important for SEO? Undoubtedly. But what’s even more important for SEO is putting in the time and effort to do the keyword research that ensures you’ve chosen the right keywords for your unique SEO efforts. After all, effective keyword research will make or break your SEO strategy.
At Augurian, keyword research and data analysis are the bedrock of everything we do. If the data doesn’t support a strategic decision, we go back to the drawing board and find a better way to accomplish that goal. Not all businesses have the time and resources to do this work, and that’s where we come in.
If you need more keyword research tips and advice, visit our blog. However, if you’re looking for a more hands-on partnership, chat with our content marketing and SEO experts today to learn how we can turn your digital marketing efforts from shots in the dark to winning strategies that shine.
Explore three more SEO strategy guides to help you with keyword research: