Chapter 4 – Keyword Research
In our last chapter, we talked about the significance of having web content that is relevant to users’ queries. You may be wondering how exactly do search engines judge what’s relevant and what’s not. The answer is keywords. So, here in this chapter, we will walk you through the processes of doing keyword research and some commonly used keyword research tools.
What is Keyword Research? How Important Is It?
You’ve been investing a lot of resources to improve the quality of content, but somehow the ranking, traffic and click-through rate you expected still seemed far out of reach. In that case, you may be targeting the wrong keywords. Keyword research should be the starting point for creating quality content. Understanding the kind of information users are searching for, and the words they are using is the first step to creating content that meets the needs of your target audience. Keyword research is not a one-off task because users’ needs vary with time and change depending on their environment. By conducting regular keyword research, we can provide users with the most timely and practical information.
All in all, doing keyword research is going to help you understand the needs of your potential customers, bring higher-quality traffic to your website, and convert these traffic into sales easily.
How to Do Keyword Research for SEO?
Three ways to choose the right keywords for your website:
1. Users’ Search Intent
The first step in keyword research is to recognize the users’ search intent. We can summarize the search needs of our target customers by creating personas that represent the characteristics of different demographics, such as gender, age, occupation, and preferences. Taking a closer look at the entire consumer journey can also give us a better understanding of the information consumers need at different stages. A consumer journey can be divided into four stages/phases:
- Awareness: consumers are aware of an existing problem and are trying to gather more relevant information to solve it.
- Consideration: consumers want to buy a specific product or service and are comparing different brands on the market.
- Conversion: consumers have decided to purchase a specific brand of products or services.
- Retention: consumers are satisfied with their purchase and intend to purchase it again.
We can efficiently find targeted and relevant keywords based on different personas and the consumer journey.
2. Search Volume
After identifying relevant keywords, we can further analyze the keywords’ popularity based on their search volume. The higher the search volume, the greater the demand there is for relevant information in the market, and the more opportunities there are to improve search impression share for websites with this keyword.
3. Keyword Difficulty
Keyword difficulty reflects the level of competition. High keyword difficulty means that there are already many websites competing to rank for this keyword. Keywords with higher search volume typically have higher keyword difficulty. We usually recommend brand new websites to avoid keywords that have extremely high search volume and difficulty because their competitors may have already dominated the search results for these popular keywords.
We should also avoid choosing the same keywords for multiple pages. Otherwise, there will be a chance of keyword cannibalization, which makes it difficult for search engines to determine which page is more relevant to the user’s query. Pages will “devour” each other’s chances to rank, hurting the SEO performance of the entire website.
The Different Types of Keywords
When formulating a keyword strategy, it is best to choose different types of keywords to increase keyword diversity. This helps to improve the search impression of the website and tap into more potential customer bases. Here are three methods of keyword classification:
1. Keyword specificity
- Short-tail keywords: the search volume is high, but so is the competition. These keywords are more generic and usually composed of only one to three words. The search intent is ambiguous, e.g., “chocolate”.
- Long-tail keywords: these keywords usually have relatively lower search volume and are less competitive. They are typically composed of three words or more with clear search intent, e.g., “chocolate shops near me”.
2. Timeliness of keywords
- Evergreen keywords: generally refers to keywords that will not become outdated and have a rather stable search volume and popularity over time, e.g., “chocolate recipes”.
- Seasonal keywords: there is a sudden surge in search volume and popularity of these keywords during a certain period of time, which will then show a downward trend once that period has passed, e.g., “valentine chocolate”.
3. Purpose of keywords
- Informational keywords: consumers are in the “awareness” stage and want to obtain information or find solutions to specific problems, e.g., “what is white chocolate”.
- Navigational keywords: consumers are at the “consideration” or “retention” stage and want to further search for specific brand information, e.g., “Godiva chocolate box set”.
- Transactional keywords: consumers are at the “conversion” stage and are preparing to take action, e.g., “chocolates on sale”.
Keyword Research Tools
There are tools to help us organize and analyze relevant data while conducting keyword research. Three useful keyword research tools are:
1. Google Trends
Google Trends is a free tool launched by Google in 2008 that gives insights into search trends of a keyword at a specific time and place. It will also tell you trending topics and queries that are related to a keyword so that you can catch these trends early and leverage them into your marketing efforts.
2. Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner is a free Google Ads tool. Although it is designed for advertising purposes, we can refer to the search volumes of specific keywords and estimate their value to make sure resources are used wisely.
SEMRush is an integrated marketing tool covering SEO, advertising, content, and community marketing. In terms of keyword research, not only can you obtain multiple sets of data, such as keyword search volume, difficulty, and search trends, it can also allow you to conduct competitive analysis. With this tool, you can examine your competitors’ performance (and your own) that will give you the insights needed to adjust your keyword strategy.
Now that we’ve covered building keyword strategies, in the next chapter of our Ultimate Guide to SEO, we will be analyzing the relationship between content marketing and SEO, and how to create search-engine- and user-friendly content. Got a question about our SEO services? Get in touch and see how we can help!