The Fundamentals of Keyword ResearchReading Time: 5 minutes
Keyword research is the process of building a list of keywords you’d like your page to rank well in the search results for. A keyword is typically made up of multiple words, and can also be referred to as a keyphrase. Keyword research begins with making a list of “seed” keywords to discover actual search phrases your customers might use. Keywords and their discovery make up the foundation of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Know Yourself – Know Your Customer
To do a good job of keyword research, you must know yourself and your customer. To discover what search terms your customers might use, you must also consider the identity of your site. What makes you special? Your blog won’t always be directly related to your service, but it should have a theme related to the identity you create for the site. What will make it stand out? You could even come up with a mission statement for the blog.
Determining the identity of your site and your blog will also tie directly into who your target customer base is. You need to know your customer, their needs, their interests, challenges, hopes and fears. By knowing your customer, I mean learning who you want your page to speak to. Who are you already doing business with? Who do you want to do business with? The answers to those questions will directly impact the image you present in your content. You might find it helpful to make customer profiles on index cards, or a white board, each describing a particular segment of target customers.
IDEA: Purchase test campaigns throughout your process, driving traffic to your site with particular keywords, and tracking conversions over at least 300 clicks to determine how valuable a keyphrase is.
The overarching goal is to learn about your customer and satisfy their needs. If you haven’t done so already, enabling site search is an easy way to learn what your customers are interested in. By identifying the needs of your visitors, you can then create new content, make the answer they needed easier to find, or promote niche services you might not otherwise have considered. The same goes for your blogs comments, customer e-mails, interactions with chat bots, surveys of previous clients, etc. Feedback and other customer data can help you in the process of building customer profiles, determining target niches, and your overall SEO strategy.
You will begin with “seed keywords” that describe your product in your own words, or how someone else might search for it. Tools like KWFinder can be helpful for determining keyword difficulty, and finding long-tail, low difficulty keywords. A long-tail keyword is specific and focused on a niche. Since these keywords are less commonly used, they are easier for your site to rank with.
Besides long-tail, there are also head and body keywords. Head keywords are typically 1 or 2 words, and nearly impossible to rank for, body keywords are 2 to 3 words long, and difficult to rank for. Long-tail keyphrases could be made of 4 to 6 words.
Any site will typically have head or body keyword that is its main theme, but would be difficult to rank for. You can’t optimize each page for that main keyword, rather your whole site overall will focus on its body keyword, while each page and section will have their own long-tail keywords, branching out from the main theme. The longer and more specific your keywords are, the easier they will be to rank for. They don’t bring in a lot of traffic, but if you optimize for a number of them, that can add up to a lot of additional traffic.
“More than 1000 is probably too many” – yoast
There is no concrete number of keywords you should aim for. “As many as possible,” is a good answer. However, be careful not to throw up hundreds of keyword stuffed posts overnight, or your site will be penalized. Focus on high-quality content, optimized for your target keywords. Since you’ll need a lot of keywords, you’ll need a lot of tactics for choosing them.
- Use Google Analytics to explore relevant keywords on your site, and to explore what your website’s visitors have searched for within your site.
- Use Google Trends to look up your primary keywords, and discover trending related topics.
- Browse Wikipedia to discover niche keyphrases.
- Use Google Adwords Keyword Planner to discover estimated search and traffic volumes for your potential keywords. If you choose a website, phrase, or category it will offer you keyword suggestions and other helpful information.
Once you’ve grown your seed keywords into a starter list of long-tail keywords its time to head to google search and see what comes up when you enter the niche keywords you’ve collected, keeping an eye on “related searches” which can provide a number of other keyword ideas for your list.
While you’re in the search results, identify top competitors you’d like to rank well against. Find out what keywords they use, with tools such as moz.com/explorer:
These can be used as seed keywords, to discover related keywords you’re more likely to rank for.
It’s not enough to drive traffic to your site.
Your goal is to drive customers to your site.
Traffic that converts into sales is what makes a keyword valuable.
Building Domain Authority
The difficulty of ranking for a given keyword will depend upon your site’s domain authority, which is determined primarily by how many sites link to yours, and how many of those sites have a high domain authority, themselves. The best way to get other sites linking to yours is to find content that many sites already link to, and create content so much better that other websites have to link to yours, even better if you can get a link on a high authority site like Wikipedia.
It’s important to make use of quality images and video, and have a beautiful, clean presentation on your site. Proper use of internal linking, to highlight your cornerstone content is also crucial. Cornerstone content is the 4 or 5 pages you want the world to read when first visiting your site. Those pages will link between each other, and the rest of your content should link to them. All of your content revolves around the cornerstone. Internal linking helps Google determine what content is important, and which keywords you should rank for.
You may find inspiration for your cornerstone content as part of your keyword discovery process. The cornerstone content could include more information about your business and who you are, alongside information on topics of interest to your target customer and a general audience. Depending on who that audience is, you might also consider SEO for Bing, or DuckDuckGo.
Keyword research is a field that is both deep and wide. Hopefully, I’ve narrowed down the subject to a manageable scope. It’s an iterative process, whereby you use keywords, to find approachable target keywords, and use the knowledge you’ve gained about your customer and your own sites identity, to build cornerstone and evergreen content around. Revolving around the cornerstone content will be numerous landing pages and content targeting your chosen long-tail keywords while linking back to the cornerstone.
- Link Building – Skyscraper Technique
- Evergreen Content
- Keyword Research for Blogs
- Stop Keyword Research for Blogging
- Moz Beginners Guide to SEO – Keyword Research
- How to increase Domain Authority