Keywords research are the foundation of SEO. Get the right keywords in place from the beginning of your SEO efforts, and the rest that follows becomes that much easier.
Think about the number of times in an average day that you picked up your phone or opened your web browser and run a Google search.
It could be for researching a work project, browsing for some cool new tech device, checking football results, looking for that one “how to” video, settling an argument over whether it’s possible to sneeze with your eyes open.
Almost everything we do online begins with a simple Google search. Moreover, that involves thinking of the best phrase that represents the question we’re trying to answer, the problem we’re trying to crack, or the itch we’re trying to scratch.
This is why keyword research is so important to rank your business website on Google. It is something that your business can’t afford to skip.
This guide that’s going to show any beginner the exact steps to take to find words and phrases that your target market uses to search the web.
Moreover, when you tailor your on-page SEO around the right keywords, you’ll watch your site traffic skyrocket to the top of Google search results— landing you more leads and profits.
However, there’s an important detail. Before you begin fiddling with any keyword research tools or title tags, you need to pick out key Niche Topics of your industry.
Once you find these Niche Topics, you can tap into untapped buyer keywords that your competitors don’t know of.
Part 1. Niche Topics: How to start your keyword research the smart way
Most people begin the process with a keyword research tool, like the Google Keyword Planner (GKP). This is the wrong approach because as impressive as the GKP is, it’s horrible at coming up with new keyword ideas.
Niche topics are topics that your target customer is interested to read about. That means a niche topic is not a specific keyword but a broad topic.
Niche topics are great for SEO because they are usually low competition keywords, and yet they are closely related to your primary business niche.
For example, if you are in the business of selling golf clubs, your prospective customer may also be looking for topics like:
- How to improve slice
- PGA highlights
- Nutrition for golfers
- Tips to make bogey
A niche topic may only yield 2 to 4 keywords on its own, but when you group several niche topics together, you will end up with a lot of low-competition keywords to help improve your search result ranks.
Here are a few ways you can do to help identify niche topics for your business
Your buyer persona
A buyer persona is an easy method to pick out niche topics that your potential customers are interested in. Your keyword research should include looking into details of your buyers, including their:
- Approximate income
- Hobbies and interests
- Things that they struggle with
- What they want to accomplish (personally and professionally)
Places like Reddit, Quora and interest group forums are where folks that are similar to your potential customers hang out. These places are like your own focus groups available to you at any time.
These interest groups often contain niche topics, pain points or hidden opportunities that you can use for your keyword research.
Wikipediais an often-overlooked goldmine for niche keyword research. It’s the only place where you can find overviews on a diverse range of topics that are curated by thousands of industry experts, organized neatly into little categories?
Go to Wikipedia, look at your niche, for example, golf. Then take a look at the contents section, there you will find the niche topics related to your business.
To dive even more in-depth, click on any links to main articles which have their own contents section. For example, if you go to a golf page on Wikipedia, clicking on Professional Golf brings you to the Professional Golfer page. You can use the content section on Professional Golfer to build up your list of keyword research.
Understanding Longtail Keywords
In SEO, keywords fall into three types of categories:
These are typically single-word keywords that have a ton of searches per month (easily 3,000 to 10,000 per month). These are very general search terms, highly competitive and they usually don’t convert well.
For example, ‘insurance’ is a short keyword, but the searcher could be looking for car insurance instead of home insurance or health insurance.
Medium keywords are 2 to 3-word phrases that get a sizable search volume (anywhere from 2,000) and are more specific than short keywords, like ‘cheapest car insurance.’
Competition for medium keywords are usually lower compared to short keywords, but some medium keywords can still be just as competitive.
- Long Tail
Long Tail keywords contain at least 4 or more words. Such as ‘cheapest car insurance in LA.’ Even though long tail keywords don’t usually get a high search volume every month, but these are low competition and are highly specific.
As you can see, medium and long tail keywords are a good mix of competition and search volume when you put them together.
Medium keywords give you the search volume needed to bring in traffic, while long tail keywords provide the highly targeted type of visitors for your website. Also, long tail keywords are much easier to rank on Google.
Hence, you should be putting most of your SEO efforts into these two type of keywords.
Part 2. Using Google Keyword Planner
If you don’t have useful data, keyword research is pretty much a stab in the dark.
Fortunately, Google has provided an excellent and free tool. It can tell us almost everything we need to make informed decisions about which keywords are best for your business and niche. It is called the Google Keyword Planner (or GKP).
You won’t need to use most of the features in GKP since the planner is primarily built for Adwords advertisers.
To access the GKP, first sign up for a free Google Adwords account.
After you have logged in to your Adwords account, go to Keyword Planner, click on the wrench icon at the top, select Keyword Planner, and you will see the two tools that you’ll need to churn out a long list of potential keywords.
Searching for new keywords
When you use the tool to look for new keywords, you’ll realize that you need a strategy to get the information that you want. There are three ways to go about searching:
Type in single words that best describe your business and industry. Google will search its internal index of keywords based on the industry. You may sometimes find keywords that may have slipped through the cracks.
Use up to 3-word phrases, each in a slightly different niche. For example, if you sell cookbooks with vegan recipes, you’d want to enter terms like “gluten-free dinners” and “low carb breakfasts” here.
- Related URL to your business
Putting in your own website can sometimes reveal a couple of good keywords for you to target.
Getting metrics and forecasts for your keywords
There is a feature on GKP that lets you check the search volume of a list of keywords that you already have. Just paste the list into the text box, and you can see how many clicks, impressions and the CTR (click through rate) that you are getting.
Tweaking Keywords Results page and Filters
There are two targeting options on the results page that you’ll want to tweak:
Locations – You can select the country that you wish to market to.
Language – This lets you set the language of the market you wish to target. Usually, you’ll be targeting English speakers, unless your business is in a specific region, such as Germany or France.
Filters let you filter out highly competitive keywords (which are not your objective) or extremely low search volume keywords. Click on ‘Avg. monthly searches’ and set the number to around 2000.Choosing your keywords
Choosing the right keywords can be tricky. It is more of an art than a science, as there are several factors at play.
First, come up with a keyword that’s somewhat broad…but also describes your product, service or content idea somewhat specifically.
For example, let’s say that you run an online grocery mart that sells organic food.
If you wanted to write a blog post about the health benefits of organic coffee, you wouldn’t want to use the keyword “coffee” (too broad) or “health benefits of organic coffee” (too narrow). A keyword like “organic coffee” would work well.
Part 3. Ninja Techniques to find Long Tail Keywords
The problem with using GKP is this – it gives everybody the same keywords!
This makes almost every keyword highly competitive because everybody is ranking for the same keywords. That’s why you need to use some lesser-known strategies to discover hidden long tail keywords.
Method 1: Searches Related To…
Whenever you run a google search, and when you scroll to the bottom of the page, there is a section called ‘Searches related to.’
There you will find a list of 8 different search terms related to your search. This small section is the goldmine for long tail keywords.
Note down as many of these long tail keywords as you can, as these phrases will not show up on the GKP. Rinse and repeat until you have a laundry list of long tail keywords you can use for your website content.
Method 2: Forums
Forums are also a treasure trove of keywords to niches related to your industry.
If someone asks a question on a forum, you can be sure that other people are asking that same question on Google.
Also, look at the subforums or categories on the main forum board. These categories are also unique keywords to use in GKP.
Method 3: Google Trends
This tool from Google lets you discover high-volume keywords in your niche. What makes this great is that the keywords show up before GKP.
You can also track the popularity of a keyword over time to see if there is interest. This is especially helpful if you are going to put in a large sum of investment in your SEO.
Use the ‘Related Queries’ section to find keywords that are potentially lucrative that doesn’t show up on GKP.
Method 4: Google Correlate
If you’ve never heard of Google Correlate, then you’re not alone. Correlate is a relatively unknown tool that measures one keyword’s relation to another.
Just go to Correlate webpage and type in your niche keyword
The closer the number is to 1, the more often the keyword is searched together with the seed keyword you have keyed in.
While you’ll usually end up with gibberish terms, you can sometimes locate obscure keyword opportunities. Try it out and see if it works for you.
Method 5: Quora
Like forums, Quora is a place where people go to ask questions. Look for questions related to your niche that have a high number of followers.
Some of these questions are actually high-volume keywords, while others can help you come up with new keyword ideas.
Sometimes answers that have a high number of upvotes are your competitors. You can look into their profiles and see what sort of questions they have been answering that is related to your niche.
With that being said, Quora is one of the best tools to help you discover new keywords and topic ideas for web content that you usually won’t consider.
Method 6: Keywordtool.io
Keywordtool.io is a free GKP alternative that is designed to generate long tail keyword ideas. Unlike GKP, you don’t need to create an account, unless you wish to use the paid features.
Just go to the website, enter the keyword, and you’ll get up to 750 long tail keywords at your disposal. You can also search under Youtube, Bing, Amazon, and eBay.
Method 7: UberSuggest
Uber Suggest is another tool that also grabs information quickly from Google. Like KeywordTool, it churns out a long list of keywords for you.
If you find the functions of the free Keywordtool lacking, you should give Uber Suggest a try.
Part 4. Understanding Commercial Intent of Keywords
Having keywords that have high search volume is helpful. However, what’s even more critical is having keywords that have the relevant commercial intent.
You can have hundreds of thousands of visitors coming to your website in a month. However, if your site doesn’t serve the purpose of the visitors, the traffic won’t convert well into profits.
The key is to find keywords that customers and buyers use to search. Once you know these keywords, turning leads into sales will be smooth sailing.
In commercial intent, all the different variations of keywords fall into these four categories:
- Buy Now
Buyers use these words just minutes before they make a purchase. People who search with Buy Now keywords may literally be typing their search in one hand, their credit cards in another.
Examples of Buy Now keywords include: ‘Buy,’ ‘Shipping,’ ‘Deal,’ ‘Discount,’ ‘Coupon.’
Add these words to your keywords, and you should get highly converting long tail keywords
When buyers are at their research phase, they tend to search for information to help them decide if they should pull the trigger on the purchase. These words aren’t as hot as Buy Now keywords but still convert well.
Examples include ‘Review, Best, Top, (Brand names), (product type), budget, comparison, cheap
Don’t be afraid of terms like “cheap” and “affordable.” Believe it or not, keywords with the words “cheap” in them convert well.
For example, someone searching for “cheap laptops” has already decided that they want a laptop…they’re just looking for a product in their price range.
Almost every long tail keywords that you find online fall into this category. These type of keyword won’t convert nearly as well as Product or Buy Now keywords, but they help to build trust and goodwill to visitors.
When visitors trust you, they are more likely to opt-in to your email list. That is where you can push your sales via email.
Examples of informational keywords are ‘How to,’ ‘Best ways to,’ ‘when to.’
- Tire kicker
Tire kicker keywords are the lowest tier keywords. They have a low probability of converting visitors into buyers. Examples are ‘free,’ ‘download,’ ‘torrent.’
A keyword like ‘watch Netflix free’ can be a form of tire kicker keyword. People are unlikely to buy anything if they are searching for a term like that.
However, if you can change it into ‘How to watch Netflix,’ ‘Where to watch Netflix,’ you will yield better conversion results.
Getting information on commercial intent
There are two techniques you can use to understand the value of the traffic that derives from a keyword. You can easily use them on your Google Keyword Planner.Technique 1: Adwords Suggested Bid
Adwords Suggested Bid used to be known as “Average CPC” (CPC=Cost Per Click).
The Suggested Bid is one of the few ways that you can see real-world data about commercial intent. If you see an Adwords advertiser is paying $20 per click for a particular keyword, that is a clear sign the traffic is really valuable.
Moreover, if you rank for that keyword in an organic search, you’ll have no issues converting that traffic into email signups, affiliate commissions and paying customers.Technique 2: Adwords Competition
Adwords Competition is an excellent complement to the Suggested Bid. Competition is merely how many advertisers bid on that particular keyword in Adwords.
As you might expect, the more people that bid on a keyword, the more lucrative that keyword is. There is only Low, Medium and High to indicate the level of competition. Therefore it’s not the most accurate measurement.
Another way to check for the competition is to run a search for the keyword, then see how many ads are at the top of the search results page. If there are many ads above the fold and on the sidebar, that means this keyword is a highly sought-after one.
Part 5: Analyzing Keyword Competition
Once you found a popular keyword with strong commercial intent, the next step is to check out the competition on Google.
If the first result is a page that belongs to the website of a high authority big-name brand, then it’s best to consider another keyword as it is very challenging to topple such a webpage from the top position.
Once you take the time to evaluate keyword competition, you can usually find keywords that get excellent search volume AND have little to no competition.
That means that you need less content, links, and promotion to claim your spot on page one.
Using a free Chrome extension called MozBar, you can evaluate keyword competition quickly and easily. It shows up on Google search results so you can quickly see the authority level at a glance.
Page Authority (PA) –A page with a low PA score means they can be easily knocked off their top results perch. If you see a lot of pages with low PA score, that means you should go ahead with the keyword.
Domain Authority (DA)– When Google ranks pages, it tends to favour pages that belong to high authority sites such as Forbes, Wikipedia, and BBC.
What that means for you is you should keep the DA score in mind before you decide whether to go forward with a keyword. If a result has both high PA and DA, that means it’s an extremely competitive keyword.
On the other hand, when you see the top 10 results score low in DA and PA, it indicates that you can easily rank for these keywords.
Overall, PA is a more critical factor than DA. However, you shouldn’t ignore DA completely.
Referring domains -At its very core, Google is a vote collection engine. The more “votes” a page gets (in the form of backlinks), the higher it tends to rank.
That means that the number of referring domains is worth taking a look at.
Because there are several link analysis tools out there, there’s no shortage of conflicting data about how many links a page has pointed to it.
There are two options available. You can use the MozBar or Ahrefs. Both options are not free, and Ahrefs tend to provide a more accurate insight into referring domains.
So if you are going to spend money on either one, Ahrefs is the better option.
Link Profile– For those that have been in the SEO game for a while, they will know that link metrics can be VERY misleading.
Sites with spam link profiles may boast high DA and PA – but sincee they’re using spam links, they’re not going to stick on the first page over the long-term.
If there’s a keyword that looks especially competitive, but you have a gut feeling there’s a lot of black hat SEO behind the results, spot check the top 10’s link profile.
You may also want to see if any of the top 10 have links that are hard to get for the average marketer (for example, media mentions in The New York Times).
Either way, if you’re going to put much effort into ranking for a keyword, it makes sense to understand how each site made it to the top. And the best way to do that is to check out their link profile.
Simply use Ahrefs to check the links. Links coming from these places tend to indicate a black hat SEO tactics:
- Low-quality web directories
- Article directories
- Blog networks
- Spam-like blog comments
Low hanging fruits
When you see one or more low hanging fruits in the top 10, it means it’s time to do a happy dance.
Because you just found a low-competition keyword!
Here are results that tend to indicate a very, very low competition keyword:
- Pages with <10 PA and DA
- Ezine Articles
- Yahoo! Answers
- Squidoo Lenses
- Blogspot (or any other free blogging platform)
- Spammy press release sites
Quality of the content
It’s easy to forget that the quality of your content plays a vital role in your ability to crack the top 10 results. After all, content is king when it comes to SEO.
That means if you want to rank for a competitive keyword, you will need to produce content that can match the quality of those that are in the top 10 results.
High-quality content is usually well researched by an expert and quotes relevant sources. The good news is your content doesn’t need to be amazing to beat the first result, but it must be high quality.
Sometimes a piece of high-quality content provides useful information, but it is published on a website with an outdated design. This means if you can match the level of quality and produce a modern layout, you can easily beat the old webpage.
Part 6: Choosing a premium keyword research tool and converting keywords into SEO content
Premium SEO tools
If you are serious in your SEO, then it is highly recommended that you invest in a keyword research tool that has more features than Google’s offering.
Unlike the GKP, a premium research tool can speed up the entire research process and give you more effective results. There is a multitude of offerings for keyword research tools. These are the few that are worth your time and money.
- AHrefs Keywords Explorer
- Moz Keyword Explorer
Producing SEO content
Now you have a finalized list of highly converting keywords for your site, what is the best way to use it?
It’s simple – you turn these keywords into content that is designed to rank highly on Google. You can either write these articles yourself or find someone to write them for you if you’re not a good writer.
Here are a few more tips to help you rank with your content more quickly.
Optimise your title tags
Title tags are one of the most important on-page SEO factors to rank on top. Include high search volume short keywords into your title tag. This way you will rank for both short and long tail keywords.
Publishing long articles
Content that is over 1500 words will rank on Google more efficiently, because:
- Longer content helps give Google more information about the topic of that page (spider food). This makes them more confident that your page is a relevant result for that keyword.
- A piece of long content is usually more in-depth than a 300-word blog post on the same topic. That means long articles are going to answer the searcher’s query better than short pieces of content.
- Long content tends to attract more links and social shares than shallow content.
While it is advantageous to publish long content, it takes a lot more time and effort to write them. Your competitors are probably too lazy to write long articles either, which means you can outrank them once you have highly informative content.
The higher up your keyword appears on your content; the more likely Google will consider your page relevant. So place your keyword in the first 100 words of your article.
Optimise the user experience
A positive user experience can directly impact your SEO results significantly.
Google measures things like “short clicks vs. long clicks” (in other words, how much time someone spends on a page in Google’s search results before hitting the “back” button).
As you might imagine, the longer people stay on your page, the better.
Meanwhile, if users bounce back to the search results page immediately, it signals to Google that the page is highly irrelevant.
Here’s how you can make users stay on your page longer:
- Keep the first few sentences short
Short sentences encourage readers to read the article further. It creates a downward slide and also helps to increase readability, as readers do not have to dart their eyes back and forth.
Make use of multimedia
Media like images, charts, diagrams, and videos helps to grab the user’s attention.
Google guidelines also say that pages with supplementary content such as charts and downloads are considered higher quality pages than text-only pages.
Break down long content with subheadings
You should use as many subheaders as you can to break up long content into smaller chunks.
Nothing hurts user experience metrics worse than a mile-long, subheader-free page.
Also, sprinkle in related words and phrases into your subheaders as H2 and H3 tags. This will give you a small-yet-significant on-page SEO boost.
A good rule of thumb is to include at least one subheader for every 200-words of content.
If you can master the art of finding excellent keywords for your business — you’ll not only benefit from more search engine traffic – but you’ll also know your customers better than your competition.
Like SEO, keyword research is a game that never stops. Keep on doing it, again and again, to look for highly profitable keywords.
The path to SEO excellence is not always a smooth-sailing one. Also, the results won’t be experienced immediately. However, if you follow this guide, you will see success in the months to come.
About Murray Dare
A digital marketing consultant and entrepreneur,
Murray runs his marketing agency Murraydare.co.uk and several online startups.
Murray has helped startups and businesses achieve online success through a considered approach to marketing.