How to do Keyword Research

Laura English

Laura English

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So, we’ve introduced you to SEO and creating your own content marketing strategy. Buuut, one huge component of those is the keyword research. We’ve touched on keyword research with a few tips before, but this one’s the real deal… Here’s our guide on how to do keyword research.

What is keyword research?

Keyword research is searching for and finding information on keywords relevant to your website or content. The idea behind keyword research is working out what people are searching for, what they’re looking for when they search it, and what you’d need to do to show up on Google for the keyword. Keyword research isn’t just for search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. It extends to searches on Youtube and Amazon as well, search engines of a different kind.

What is intent in keyword research?

Intent refers to the intent behind searching the keyword. The user searching for these keywords has an “intent” behind their search. So, take the keyword “vet check up” for instance. Someone searching for “vet check up” on its own, is probably looking for a vet check up service. So, if they search it and an article appears in the search results with the headline, “why it’s important to get a yearly vet check up for your cat”, they’ll probably just skip that headline and go for the link that says “Schedule your vet checkup today”.

Intent plays a huge role in keyword research. Ranking for an irrelevant keyword isn’t ideal, because your click through rate affects your rankings, meaning you’ll eventually fall on the results page.

How to do keyword research:

Whether it’s to write your fresh website copy, or to create a content marketing strategy, your keyword research is such a crucial step.

1. Make a list of your website pages or potential blog topics

If you’re creating your keyword list to rewrite and refresh your website copy, it’s good to start with a table of your pages. Make four columns: Page, Primary Keyword, Secondary Keyword, and Notes. If you’re doing it for your content marketing strategy, you can do the same, or just create your content spreadsheet. Either will work. If you’re doing it for your content strategy, list all the broader topics you might cover. Our broader topics would be: SEO, content, design… to name a few. From there, you’ll create some slightly more specific topics. Ours might be eCommerce SEO, SEO for small business, content marketing, SEO basics, you get the idea.

2. Find the relevant keywords for each page or topic

Start with a Brainstorm

Even if you don’t know the EXACT words they’re searching for, you should be able to kind of brainstorm the main things that people who’d find your website or content useful are searching for. Brainstorm all the different words, questions, and terms you think they might be searching for. As a brainstorm for this blog content specifically, we might brainstorm:

  • Keyword research
  • How to find keywords
  • How to do keyword research
  • How does keyword research work
  • Keyword research software
  • Google keyword search
  • Keyword finder
  • Google search terms
  • Keyword generator

Look at Google

Google is obviously pretty committed to providing the most amazing experience to their users. But Google works in your favour too. The same things that provide searchers on Google with a better experience, work to help you too.

google serp people also ask snippet

Google a term you think searchers might be looking at. Then, scroll down to ‘People Also Ask’. It shows you all these related search queries, as well as the pieces of content or web pages that have optimised perfectly for the query. You can use the relevant search terms, and the result or link in its snippet to benchmark your content against, once we get to the competitive analysis.

google SERP Searches related to keyword research section

This shows you the most relevant search terms that include that term you’ve already searched for. You can even take it one step further and search those terms, and find their related searches.

3. Look at ‘keyword ideas’ and ‘having same terms’

Okay, so this might be a little bit different depending on which program you’re using. But, if you’re using Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer these will be called ‘Keyword Ideas’ and ‘Having Same Terms’. ‘Keyword Ideas’ sometimes has rare lil gems in there, but ‘Having Same Terms’ is always the really useful one. If you’re not quiiite at the stage of paying for an SEO tool, Google Ads’ Keyword Planner is where it’s at.

When you’re presented with these two options, ‘Discover new keywords’ is the equivalent of both ‘Keyword Ideas’ and ‘Having Same Terms’. Obviously, it has its own unique features that are handy too.

google keyword planner

Anyway, enter a bunch of different terms (that fit in the one topic or page) and you’ll be presented with plenty of search terms and queries you probably hadn’t thought of. When you’re doing keyword research, it’s important to acknowledge that you know your industry inside out. So, what you’d Google to find information on your industry is probably going to be quite different to what your target audience is searching. If you were looking to get a new website and your designer asked you to find some nice websites you like the look of, you might search “nice websites”, “pretty websites”, “good website examples”. Whereas if we were looking for the same, we’d search “web design references”, “ecommerce web design reference”, “minimalistic, modern web design reference”.

Keep this in mind at every stage of your keyword research. Try and put yourself in the searcher’s shoes.

4. Find a combination of keywords and long tail keywords

A keyword is a search term that’s roughly one to three words long. A long tail keyword is a search term longer than three words. Keywords are really good to have and optimise for. Buuut, they’re always going to target more general searches. A long tail keyword will have a significantly lower search volume, but the intent of the user will be much more clear. You’ll also find the content you might optimise for a long tail keyword is quite specific.

“Keyword research” is a keyword…. In Australia, “keyword research” receives 1,100 monthly searches approximately. That’s a lot of searches! But what are they looking for? Keyword research tools? What keyword research is? How to do keyword research? “How to do keyword research” is a long tail keyword. In Australia, “how to do keyword research” receives 50 monthly searches. Buuut, it’s so much more clear exactly what those 50 users are searching for, there’s no confusion whatsoever, they’re looking to learn how to do keyword research

Both kinds of search queries have their place in your keyword list. Normal keywords typically relate to services or general informational queries. Long tail keywords typically relate to a desire for specific information. So which should you be targeting? Both. Absolutely both. While long tail keywords are definitely going to help out with your content more, normal keywords will help inform web copy better. In both content and web copy, you should be targeting a combination of keywords and long tail keywords

5. Look at the search data

Like we said before, it’s not always about the search quantities of your terms. Sometimes a keyword with 20 monthly searches will get you more click throughs, traffic, and real business than a keyword with 3,000 monthly searches. But it’s still good to know what’s being searched. So, take all the keywords and long tail keywords you’ve found in your research and chuck them into your keyword explorer on Ahrefs or your ‘Get search volumes and forecasts’ bit on Keyword Planner. From there, you can find the search volumes for the keywords you’re planning for. You might find that absolutely no one searches that keyword you thought would be it, or you might be surprised by how many more there are. Either way, from here, you’ll need to find a balance of keywords with a lot of competition and those without. It means you can go for the low hanging fruit without abandoning the really nice fruit up top 😉

6. Analyse your competitors

Don’t just analyse the business down the road from you. Analyse your real competitors. Your competitors are the people who are ranking in your city for the terms that you would like to rank for. If your business is on a national or an international level, then yep! Whoever’s ranking nationally/internationally for the same terms as you. SEO programs will show you this… In Ahrefs, when you search a keyword it’ll tell you who’s in the top 5 positions for the search term. You can then go and take a look at them, there are a few different things to look for. You basically want to benchmark yourself against those websites in the top positions, so you can recreate the magic, just better. What’s their word count, which keywords did they optimise for, how many backlinks do they have? How many other websites are they linking to? It all contributes and you should have an idea of what it takes to rank for those keywords before you even start mapping your content.

Word Count

Okay, so you’ve probably heard that a web page needs at least 300 words to rank. That’s not ~totally~ true. Google does recommend having at least 300 words of content on a page. But, in circumstances where no one is getting close to 300 words of relevant content for the keyword, then yeah, a shitty 100 word page may rank. It does happen.

Regardless of that though, just follow the 300 words minimum rule, please. Anyway, the word count isn’t the only thing that matters, but, as a rule of thumb, Google thinks the more content the better. So you’ll almost always have a better chance of ranking if you have the most content. So long as it’s relevant.

This doesn’t mean you should go out, find the top website for the keyword you’re targeting and outdo them by 1000 words. It means you should take a look at the top 3 or top 5 results and look at their word counts. If they’re all roughly around 600 words, then yeah, it isn’t silly to go write 800 to be safe.

Remember though, that there’s no point in wasting content. If the content doesn’t add anything and doesn’t help the user in any way, why write it? Especially because as we know, users will often leave web pages with massive walls of text.

Keywords

Are they targeting all the same keywords as you? Are there new ones you didn’t think of?

Keyword Density

How many times do they use the keywords in the copy? What’s the keyword density?

To find the keyword density, take the keyword count and divide it by the word count.

Keyword count / word count  = keyword density

6 keywords / 300 words = 0.02 — 2%

FYI: your keyword density should be somewhere between 1.5% and 2.5%, 2% is the sweet spot. Keyword stuffing is never ever good.

Links

You should have a good idea of how many referring domains your competitors have and what their backlinks look like generally. It’ll be really handy in your competitive analysis too though. In Google’s world, and in everyone else’s really, links are a reference to something. So when you include a snippet of info from another website, the way you’ll attribute it is through a link to the source. If you’re suggesting a different resource to your audience, you’ll link to it. If you’re offering a spot to get tickets, a place to download a file, or in any way adding something additional that isn’t your own content, you’ll link to it. Similarly, if your content is valuable and acts as a resource, you’ll probably receive links to it.

So, links provide authority, moreso when they’re linking to you. But when you link to someone else, that’s showing a responsible article, a well-thought article with lots of resources and references. So that offers authority too.

The point of this information? Look at the links in your competitors’ content! How many external resources have they included? How many internal links? How many backlinks has their content received? All of these are relevant factors to their rankings so suss it out!

7. Use both high search volumes and low search volumes

We touched on this just before, but here’s a better explanation for you. When it comes to keywords with high search volumes, there’ll obviously be a higher volume of searches, meaning you’ll be in the running to reach a higher volume of people. However, because there’s a greater number of searches, there’s greater competition.

With low search volume keywords, you won’t be reaching such a high volume of searchers, but there’ll be less competition. While you’re reaching fewer searchers, there’s also a better chance that they’ll be “qualified searchers”. “Qualified searchers” are looking for something more specific, with a better idea of what they’d like to find.

So which do you include in your keyword list and optimise for? Both. You want to target a healthy mixture of the two. WordStream has put together a piece on this. A really good point they made is that which one you target more heavily depends on your website’s authority.

“If you’re a brand-new website, you may want to begin by targeting low-volume, low-competition keywords as a starting point to establish some domain authority,” Dan Shewan from WordStream says.

“Alternatively, if you’re a well-established site with strong organic rankings, you may want to delve into slightly more competitive territory to maintain your edge.”

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