Keyword research and determining the best types of keywords to target is the first (and most important) step to any successful SEO campaign. By the end of this article, you’ll discover exactly what keywords you should be trying to rank for and why. Let’s begin!
Over 3.5 billion Google searches are made every single day. That equates to about 40,000 per second.
And with such an astronomical number at play, it’s critical to focus on the right types of keywords to drive traffic to your website. Otherwise, it’ll become just another unknown backwater floating through the depths of cyberspace.
After all, there are almost two billion other websites out there. That’s a lot of competition to contend with.
As you’ve probably heard, Google has been tweaking their algorithms quite a lot over the years. Undoubtedly, they will continue to do so in the future as well.
To help keep you on top of the ever-evolving SEO game, I’ve compiled this in-depth guide. Within it, you’ll learn all about keyword types and how to master the art of keyword research.
What Exactly Are Keywords?
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Keywords can be one of two things:
- the words or phrases that people search for
- the words or phrases that best describe the topic of your website
Ideally, these will align.
The keywords on the topic you write about should be the same as those your ideal persona (user) will search for.
What is Keyword Research?
In a nutshell, keyword research is the process of determining which relevant keywords are popular.
A content creator or marketer can use this information to decide which keywords to focus on in their site. If done correctly, the process can result in a significant increase in organic inbound traffic (traffic from Google).
Ok, so Why Bother?
Keywords remain an essential part of any content or SEO strategy.
Google examines keywords in its algorithms to determine what the content of a website is about and where it should rank.
Keyword research allows content creators to get an idea of what their target audience is searching for. Once this has been determined, creators can then alter their content to better align with what their audience wants.
Both large and small scale content marketing strategies are based on keyword research. The concept also applies to both marketing and promotional activities.
Some organizations conduct keyword research by examining the keywords their competitors are targeting and adjusting their strategy accordingly.
Do I really Need to Know This? I Thought Keywords Weren’t Relevant Anymore
Not as relevant as they once were, but relevant nonetheless.
In days gone by, cramming as many SEO keywords as possible into an article was more important than the content itself. These days, Google is wising up to these tricks and penalizing the nefarious practice, which is commonly referred to as keyword stuffing.
A few examples of how the keyword game has changed include:
- more natural search terms as users tend to prefer the voice search function on their mobile phones
- optimized and relevant content popping up immediately through Google’s Answer Boxes
- the use of semantic keywords, which refers to synonyms or alternative phrases which essentially mean the same thing.
So to answer your question: keyword research is still relevant, although admittedly less so than it was back in 2008.
Learning the Types of Keywords
We like to classify keywords into different types:
- Head keywords are usually one-word keywords that have a high search volume and, consequently, a lot of competition. These are typically very difficult to convert because they are far too broad. Take the head keyword “water,” for example. The user could either be looking to purchase water or research a science project.
- Body keywords are more specific two or three-word searches which have a medium search volume. Examples could be “bottled water” or “water composition.” The search volume will be lower than the head keyword, but there will still be a significant amount of competition.
- Longtail keywords are super specific phrases of four keywords or more. For example, “bottled water distributors in the Oakland area.” Naturally, these have a significantly lower search volume. On the plus side, they also have much less competition which makes them easier to convert.
Other equivalent terms are head, modifier, and tail; or short, medium, and longtail.
Allow me to demonstrate. Let’s say I want to buy some shoes.
- Head = shoes
- Body = black men’s shoes
- Longtail = black men’s shoes in Colorado
As you might expect, the user would get a more specific result via a longtail search term. The downside from a business perspective is that very few people would search for the term.
Nevertheless, most SEO experts would advise avoiding head keywords entirely, as they are simply too broad and competitive. Unless your company happens to be Wikipedia, it’s unlikely you’ll rank on the first page with a head keyword.
With that in mind, most content marketing strategies focus on body keywords while throwing a few longtail keywords into the mix as well. Longtails are known to perform exceptionally well for companies which offer a very specific product.
An Introduction to Keyword Intent
It’s all well and good to know your keyword types, but you’ll need to understand why the user is typing these words into Google as well.
This is known as “keyword intent.”
According to Practical Ecommerce, intent can be summed up into four different categories.
- Navigational: the user is searching for a website.
- Informational: the user is searching for the answer to a question.
- Investigational: the user is searching for information about a product which they may purchase later.
- Transactional: the user is ready to purchase something.
Let’s put these into real-world examples. Say I want a cheap cell phone:
- Navigational: “Motorola”
- Informational: “What is a good cellphone under $200?”
- Investigational: “Moto G6 versus the Nokia 6.1.”
- Transactional: “best price to buy Moto G6.”
According to Search Engine Journal, within this process users frequently search for:
- ratings and reviews
Understanding this user behavior and the associated keywords are a crucial part of keyword research for the owners of any E-commerce business.
How to Choose Keywords for SEO
Before conducting in-depth keyword research, it is essential to identify your ideal persona. This is the person, perhaps a potential customer, who you want to attract to your site through a Google search.
Once that’s been determined, it’s time to do some brainstorming.
In a group, or on your own if need be, come up with at least ten different keywords that relate to your ideal persona and write them down on paper.
Alternatively, mind mapping software such as Mindjet works like a charm and allows for remote collaboration as well.
Each of these phrases is now a topic from which you can further derive additional keywords.
Let’s use another real-world example. Say we are a nursery and our ideal persona is into gardening:
- potting mix
- pine trees
And so on.
We’ve got a few topics now, so it’s time to look at more specific phrases that relate to the keywords.
One way we can do this is to type the topics into Google and evaluate the autocomplete search queries. Some will be relevant to our business while others won’t. Make a note of the pertinent phrases only.
- rhododendron care
- rhododendron in pots
- rhododendron diseases
- rhododendron oregon (not relevant as our business is not in Oregon)
These are what real people are searching for and are interested in.
Another easy way to find related searches is to perform a Google search on the desired keyword. We’ll stick with rhododendron for this example.
Scroll down the very bottom, and you’ll see a list of “Searches related to rhododendron.” In this case, they are:
- rhododendron care
- rhododendron pruning
- rhododendron varieties
- rhododendron tree
- rhododendron bush
- rhododendron problems
- rhododendron flower
Note that these are all popular related searches which are relevant to our business.
So now we have a bunch of keyword phrases which are related to our topic (rhododendron). Anywhere between three to ten will do.
The next step is to make an account with Google Key Word Planner. Upon copying all your keywords into the planner, you’ll receive an in-depth analysis which includes competition and search volume, among other metrics.
With this information at hand, you can make an informed decision regarding which keywords are worth targeting and which are not.
How to Find Good Keywords for SEO Through Analytics
Let’s assume our gardening website already has stacks of traffic. Programs such as Google Analytics can help determine what gardening related keywords people have used to find it.
Say we have a popular blog post entitled “How to Care for a Rhododendron Plant Through Regular Pruning.” You may find, for example, that someone found it through the search term “Types of plants that don’t require pruning.”
Obviously, they landed on your page through a longtail keyword which wasn’t at all relevant to your content. You can use this to your advantage, however, as now you have a robust longtail keyword in which to build a new blog post around.
Identifying SEO Keywords Through Social Media
Reddit isn’t just the front page of the internet; it’s also an awesome place to identify unique SEO keywords.
Make your way to the subreddits that relate to your niche, in our case r/gardening and r/landscaping. Next, search for your keyword and check out the most upvoted posts.
Generally speaking, the topics with the most upvotes are those which your ideal persona is most likely to care about.
At the same time, you can also work out the exact terminology your ideal persona is likely to use.
For example, we now know topics about rhododendrons either “dying” or “blooming” are popular.
Hence, a blog along the lines of “How to Keep Your Rhododendron from Dying This Summer” or “Make Your Rhododendron Bloom with Six Easy Steps” could rank well.
The same concept applies to other platforms such as Quora too.
Making the Most of Keyword Research Tools
Google Keyword Planner has long been the undisputed king when it comes to keyword research. After all, they literally created the whole industry themselves.
Nevertheless, there are a few alternative tools worth investigating.
- Ahrefs is a handy bundle which has content and SEO tools including keyword research.
- Google Trends is the go-to program for working out which keywords are popular right now.
- Market Samurai is an old-school favorite among SEO geeks. The premium version is pretty similar to Google Keyword Planner but has a bunch of advanced features to boot.
- Long Tail Pro also requires a subscription but is worth it for those who need to identify the most valuable long tail keywords.
- Answer the Public turns keywords into the most common questions so marketers can create content accordingly.
- SEMrush is a subscription-based program that allows the user to determine related keywords, as well as many other SEO features.
- SEO Book Keyword Suggestion Tool supplies the user with values, related terms, and search volumes.
The Next Step
Now we’ve got a whole bunch of targeted keywords. But how do we use them?
The answer depends on precisely what you are trying to achieve.
Advertisers will want to enter their keywords into Google AdWords Keyword Planner to work out which best fit their goals. Bear in mind that popular keywords won’t always yield the best rate of return. Sometimes, it’s more profitable to invest in cheaper related keywords.
Content creators and marketers, on the other hand, will want to focus on where to use these keywords in their content for best results. Keyword difficulty (how easy it is to get a good ranking) and keyword opportunity (the probability of ranking) are also important considerations.
Putting It All into Practice
Still with us?
We never said it would be easy.
The truth is this introduction article barely scratches the surface. Finding the best types of keywords is a multimillion dollar industry which is evolving at a lightning pace.
Nevertheless, by gradually adapting this information into your own content marketing strategies, you’ll be well in your way to becoming an SEO master.
But if that still sounds like a bit too much, get in touch with the experts at Innovative Solutions and ask us about our affordable SEO services. We’ll find the most relevant keywords and formulate a content marketing strategy for you in no time.