How to Do Keyword Research for SEO - Coggle Diagram
How to Do Keyword Research for SEO
Keyword research basics
What is keyword research?
Keyword research is the process of understanding the language your target customers use when searching for your products, services, and content. It then involves analyzing, comparing, and prioritizing the best keyword opportunities for your website.
Why is keyword research important?
Keyword research is the only way to figure out what people are typing into search engines. You need to know this to avoid creating content about things that nobody is searching for. Many website owners make that mistake, and it’s likely a big part of the reason why 90.63% of pages get no traffic from Google, according to our study.
Keyword research also helps you to answer questions like:
How hard will it be to rank for this keyword?
How much traffic am I likely to get if I rank for this keyword?
What kind of content should I create to rank for this keyword?
Are people searching for this keyword likely to become my customers?
How to find keyword ideas
It’s a simple process, but two things need to be true to do it well:
You need to have good knowledge of your industry.
You need to understand how keyword research tools work and how to get the most out of them.
Brainstorm ‘seed’ keywords
Seed keywords are the foundation of the keyword research process. They define your niche and help you identify your competitors. Every keyword research tool asks for a seed keyword, which it then uses to generate a huge list of keyword ideas (more on that shortly).
If you already have a product or business that you want to promote online, coming up with seed keywords is easy. Just think about what people type into Google to find what you offer.
For example, if you sell coffee machines and equipment, then seed keywords might be:
coffee, espresso, cappuccino, french press
Note that seed keywords themselves won’t necessarily be worth targeting with pages on your website. As the name suggests, you’ll use them as ‘seeds’ for the next steps in this process. So don’t obsess too much over your seed keywords. It should only take a few minutes to find them. As soon as you have a handful of broad ideas related to your website’s topic, move on to the next step.
See what keywords your competitors rank for
Looking at which keywords already send traffic to your competitors is usually the best way to start keyword research. But first, you need to identify those competitors. That’s where your brainstormed list of keywords comes in handy. Just search Google for one of your seed keywords and see who ranks on the front page.
If none of the top-ranking websites for your seed keywords are like your site (or where you’re trying to take it), try searching for relevant ‘autosuggest’ queries instead.
For example, if you sell coffee equipment, you might find more actual competitors in the search results for “cappuccino maker” than “cappuccino.” That’s because it’s mostly ecommerce stores like yours ranking for the former, and blogs ranking for the latter.
Also a few interesting keywords can be discovered for our hypothetical coffee store, just by analyzing one competing website with Site Explorer:
how to use a french press, turkish coffee, moka pot, how to make coffee, neapolitan coffee maker
Use keyword research tools
Competitors can be a great source of keyword ideas. But there are still tons of keywords your competitors aren’t targeting, and you can find these using keyword research tools.
Keyword research tools all work the same way. You plug in a seed keyword, and they pull keyword ideas from their database based on that keyword.
Google Keyword Planner is perhaps the most well-known keyword tool. It’s free to use, and although it’s mainly for advertisers, you can also use it to find keywords for SEO.
If you’re serious about keyword research, you may as well skip the free tier and use a ‘professional’ tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer right off the bat.
Study your niche
Everything we’ve discussed so far is enough to generate an almost unlimited amount of keyword ideas. But at the same time, the process kind of keeps you “in the box.” It’s limited by your seed keywords and by the size and freshness of your chosen keyword tool’s database. Because of this, you’ll almost certainly miss some good ideas.
You can solve this by studying your niche in more detail. And a good starting point is to browse industry forums, groups, and Q&A sites. This will help you find more things that your prospective customers are struggling with that didn’t show up in keyword tools and that none of your competitors bothered to cover.
Beyond browsing forums, your customers can also be a fantastic source of keyword ideas. Remember, these are the people you’re already doing business with. You want to attract more people like them to your site.
Here are a few ways to extract insights from clients or customers:
Chat with them face to face
Look through past emails
Look through customer support requests
Try to recall common questions that came up in past conversations
Make sure to pay attention to the language they use when doing this. It will often differ from the language you might use. For example, if you sell coffee machines online, maybe your customers search for comparisons of specific machines.
How to analyze keywords
Search volume tells you the average number of times a keyword gets searched per month. For example, “moka pot” has a monthly search volume of 40,000 in the US alone.
There are three important things to note about this number:
It’s the number of searches, not the number of people who searched.
There are cases where someone might search for a keyword multiple times a month (e.g., “weather in singapore”). These searches contribute to the search volume, even though it’s the same person doing them.
It doesn’t tell you how much traffic you’ll get by ranking
Even if you manage to rank number one, your traffic from a keyword will rarely exceed 30% of this number. And that’s if you’re lucky.
It’s an annual average
If there are 120k searches for a keyword in December and none for the remaining eleven months of the year, it’s monthly search volume will be 10k (120k / 12 months).
You shouldn’t limit yourself to one country.
If you sell products worldwide, then the US might only be a small segment of your market. If people are searching for what you offer elsewhere, you need to know about it.
You should consider the “buying power” of countries with search volume
Perhaps you see a promising keyword with 100k monthly searches, but 90% of them come from a country with low GDP. In this case, the keyword might not be a great target as the “buying power” of searchers is probably quite low.
Many people might search Google for something, but that doesn’t mean they all click on search results and visit the top-ranking pages. That’s where the Clicks metric in Keywords Explorer comes in handy. It tells you the average number of monthly clicks on the search results for a keyword.
You should also be wary of keywords where paid ads “steal” lots of clicks. For example, 28% of clicks for “braun coffee maker” go to paid ads, so that keyword might be a better target for PPC.
Don’t judge keywords on their Search volume (or Clicks) alone. Look at the top-ranking results to estimate the total search traffic potential of the topic. In most cases, the search volume of a keyword will indeed correlate with the topic’s overall ‘traffic potential’. However, being attentive to this detail will help you prioritize your keywords and find keyword opportunities that your competitors have overlooked.
SEO professionals typically gauge the ranking difficulty of a keyword manually. That is, by looking at the top-ranking pages for their target keyword. They account for many different factors to judge how hard or easy it’ll be to rank:
Number (and quality) of backlinks;
Domain Rating (DR);
Content length, relevance, freshness;
Use of the target keyword, synonyms, entities;
After talking to many professional SEOs about the signals that a reliable Keyword Difficulty score should factor in, we realized that everyone agreed on at least one thing: backlinks are crucial for ranking. So, in the end, we decided to base our Keyword Difficulty (KD) score on the number of unique websites linking to the top 10 ranking pages.
As you can see in the image above, each KD score relates to an approximate number of websites that should link to your page for it to get to the top 10 search results.
Knowing how KD works, many people misuse the score by setting the filter from 0 to 30 and focusing solely on the “low-hanging” opportunities. They never bother to cover high-KD keywords on their websites, and that’s a big mistake for two reasons:
You should go after high-KD keywords sooner, not later
As you’ll need lots of backlinks to rank, it pays to create your page and begin promoting it as soon as possible. The longer you delay, the bigger headstart you give your competitors—making it harder to outrank them in the future.
The bottom line is this: KD is not there to deter you from targeting specific keywords. It’s there to help you understand what it’ll take to rank for a given query and the ‘link-worthiness’ of the topic.
You should see high-KD keywords as link opportunities
The fact that the top-ranking pages have lots of backlinks is a sign of a ‘link-worthy’ topic. In other words, if you nail this topic, it might attract a lot of backlinks for you.
Cost Per Click (CPC)
Cost Per Click (CPC) shows how much advertisers are willing to pay for each ad click from a keyword. It’s more a metric for advertisers than SEOs, but it can serve as a useful proxy for a keyword’s value.
For example, the keyword “office coffee” has a relatively high CPC of $12. That’s because most searchers are looking to buy coffee machines for their office, which can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. But it’s the opposite story for “how to make good espresso.” That’s because most searchers aren’t looking to buy anything. They’re looking for information on how to brew espresso.
However, one important thing to know about CPC is that it’s much more volatile than Search volume. While search demand for most keywords stays roughly the same from month to month, its CPC can change any minute. That means that the CPC values you see in third-party keyword tools are snapshots in time. If you want real-time data, you’ll have to use AdWords.
How to target keywords
Identify the Parent Topic
Identify search intent
From here, you can analyze what we like to call the three C’s of search intent to learn how best to target the keyword:
Content types usually fall into one of five buckets: blog posts, product, category, landing pages, or videos.
Content format applies mostly to ‘informational’ content. Typical examples are how-tos, listicles, news articles, opinion pieces, and reviews.
Content angle is the main selling point of the content. For example, people searching for “how to make latte” seem to want to know how to do it without a machine or any special equipment.
How to prioritize keywords
Keyword prioritization isn’t exactly the final step in the keyword research process. It’s more something that you should do as you go through the steps above. As you’re looking for keywords, analyzing their metrics, and grouping them, ask yourself:
What is the estimated traffic potential of this keyword?
How tough is the competition? What would it take to rank for it?
Do you already have content about this topic? If not, what will it take to create and promote a competitive page?
Do you already rank for this keyword? Could you boost traffic by improving your rank by a few positions?
Is the traffic likely to convert into leads and sales, or will it only bring brand awareness?
How to gauge the “business potential” of your keyword ideas
Many content marketers and SEOs judge the ‘value’ of keywords by mapping them to the buyer’s journey. That’s the process people go through before making a purchase. Conventional wisdom says that the earlier people are in their journey, the less likely they are to buy.
How do people do this? The most popular method is to group keyword ideas into three buckets: TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU.
Top of the Funnel (TOFU): online marketing, what is SEO, how to grow website traffic.
Middle of the Funnel (MOFU): how to do keyword research, how to build links, how to do website audit.
Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU): ahrefs vs moz, ahrefs reviews, ahrefs discount.
Generally speaking, TOFU keywords have the highest traffic potential, but visitors aren’t looking to buy anything just yet. And MOFU and BOFU keywords will bring you less traffic, but those people are closer to becoming your customers.
Probably it is better to make “business score” to determine a keyword’s value. And this is based mainly on how well we can pitch our product in our content.
There’s absolutely no way to mention our product.
Our product can only be mentioned fleetingly.
Our product helps quite a bit, but it isn’t essential to solving the problem.
Our product is an irreplaceable solution to the problem.
Focusing only on low-difficulty keywords is a mistake that a lot of website owners make. You should always have short, medium, and long-term ranking goals. If you only focus on short-term goals, you’ll never rank for the most lucrative keywords. If you only focus on medium and long-term goals, it’ll take years to get any traffic.
Think of it like this: picking low-hanging fruit is easy, but those at the top of the tree are often juicier. Does that mean it’s not worth picking the ones at the bottom? No. You should still pick them. But you should also plan ahead and buy a ladder for the ones at the top now.
Keyword research tools
For its unique keyword suggestions and up-to-date CPC values.
For trend comparisons and researching the geography of trends.
For checking the top 1,000 keywords you already rank for and how much traffic those keywords send you.
For checking all the keywords you currently rank for, along with their estimated search volumes, Keyword Difficulty scores, traffic potential, and other useful SEO metrics.
For generating hundreds of free keyword ideas from a seed keyword.
For checking the ranking difficulty of a keyword, as per Ahrefs’ Keyword Difficulty (KD) score.
For checking where you rank for any keyword in any country.