Keyword research is a crucial first step to achieving great SEO, building organic traffic and determining content marketing efforts. Keywords should be considered the building blocks of SEO - without which there is no foundation to a content marketing campaign. Each block that is chosen contributes to the strength and stability of the SEO architecture.
Keyword research is the process of understanding target customers' language when searching for specific products, services and content. It then involves analysing, comparing and prioritising the best keyword opportunities for the content.
Here we have shared our tried-and-tested method of conducting keyword research for content marketing.
We divide this process into three simple parts:
- Discovering relevant keywords
- Analysing the keywords
- Using the right keyword tools
1. Discovering relevant keywords
There are different kinds of keywords, and it is crucial to know the benefits of each type. Below is a list of the type of keywords to choose from:
Short tail keywords
Short tail keywords are made up of one to three words that are generic in nature. Customers use these keywords at the first step of researching, making it difficult to determine their clear search intent. Though generic keywords have a vast amount of search volume, they are also highly competitive. It is good to use them as part of themed keywords consistently throughout the website.
Example: content marketing, search engine optimisation.
These keywords consist of more than three words, thus potentially offering a clear user intent. Since they have less search volume compared to the short tail keywords, they are less competitive. Usually, users do searches with these long and detailed keywords when they are ready to make a purchase. It is good to use these keywords for targeted pages, especially product/service pages and blog posts.
Example: How to rank high on a search engine, content marketing strategies for small business.
These are keywords targeted for a specific locality; a city, state or even country.
Small and local businesses must focus on geo-targeting keywords for establishing solid local SEO to attract local customers. These keywords are simply the location and address of the company integrated into the content. Since they have a specific search intent with low search volume and low competition, they have a very high conversion rate.
Example: Content marketing agencies in Seattle, best SEO agency in Dublin.
Short-term or fresh keywords
As the name suggests, these are short-lived but fresh keywords—the search volume of these keywords peak when there is hype around a particular subject. Businesses should always be on the lookout for trending topics relevant to their products/services or when customers chime in with the latest news.
These keywords bring explosive search volume and high conversion with specific search intent and medium competition. However, their value drops equally as quickly once the hype around the subject is over.
Example: Google’s new algorithm for 2021, content marketing during the pandemic.
Long-term or evergreen keywords
Evergreen keywords are the ones that remain relevant all the time. The content surrounding evergreen keywords tends to be informative and educational in nature. These keywords, along with a nicely crafted content piece, draw consistent traffic over the years while giving said content authoritative points by the search engine.
Evergreen keywords have moderate search volume, competition and search intent but high and lasting conversion rates. This is why a content marketing agency intending to build more loyal readers should target them.
Example: How to start and run a successful blog, successful social media strategies.
These are the keywords that explain and describe the products and services of a business. They are relevant when users are looking for something specific that the company might match. Customers using these keywords are already at the early stage of purchasing and need more detailed information to make a final call. It is best to be as detailed as possible when targeting a product/service defining keyword.
The best way to determine these keywords is to evaluate the product/service list and create a detailed description for each of them. Then one can pick out one or two fundamental keywords from the description and add them to the product/service name. These keywords have low search volume and low competitive rate but specific search intent and high conversion rate.
Example: BUZZVALVE case studies.
These are the keywords that address the pain points of the target customers specifically. Businesses that have a targeted buyer persona may use analytics to know their customers' age, location, gender and preferences more specifically, making it easier to create targeted keywords for a particular demographic.
These keywords are chosen from the previous customer testimonials and experiences. Using the keywords picked from customer experiences draws familiarity with others who have similar expectations and creates a sense that the products/services are tailored.
Since customer-defining keywords are not very common, they have a low search volume and low competitive rate. However, they have a specific search intent and high conversion rate within the target audience.
Example: Best content writing agency.
2. Analysing the keywords
After having a list of some good keyword ideas, it is now time for businesses to analyse which ones are the best. A good solution is to use the following SEO metrics before adding keywords to the content calendar:
Keyword search intent
Search intent is the main goal a user has when typing a query into a search engine. Analysing keywords by intent should undoubtedly be the first step when diagnosing conversion issues. Users' search intent may be divided into informational intent, navigational intent, commercial intent and transactional intent. An excellent way to track user intention is SERP analysis.
Keyword relevancy reflects how relevant or important the keywords are to the content. Search engines use keyword relevancy to determine what the page is about. Irrelevant keywords to the content negatively affect the search ranking. Therefore, it is essential to focus on their relevance to rank higher on a search engine than the keyword frequency.
Keyword search volume
Keyword search volume refers to the number of times a specific keyword is searched for within a defined timeframe. When the content has these keywords, it is exposed to more frequent visits.
It is hard to rank organically for keywords with high search volume. Even with paid ads, more clicks mean much higher costs with less promising leads. Keywords with low search volume may have fewer user searches, but the chances of conversions are more promising.
Therefore, among the pool of keywords that a business selects, it should find a balance between keywords with high search volume and low search volume.
Keyword competition is the measure of how difficult it is to rank for a specific keyword. The competition for a keyword varies depending on its popularity and industry. Many keyword tools like the ones we shared have a keyword difficulty score based on an exhaustive list of factors. Some of these are: How are existing web pages already targeting and ranking high for that particular keyword? How many backlinks do the existing pages have? What is their domain authority? What are the website loading times? How is the user engagement?
3. Using the right keyword tools
Using the right keyword tools leaves little room for assumption by helping businesses make fact-based decisions and gain a broader perspective of the content and SEO strategy.
Once the business has a list of keywords and has analysed its intent, it is time to use keyword research tools to refine the search terms further. These are the three versatile and promising tools that we use for keyword research:
SEMrush is one of the finest tools for content marketers to carry out keyword research and improve SEO rankings. The keyword overview tool gives a full breakdown of the monthly keyword volume, the keyword trends and the cost per click distribution. It also shows a handy list of related keywords and phrase match keywords. It also has a list of organic search results. If one clicks on that tab, one will see relevant keywords, competitor’s search engine ranking positions for those keywords, traffic volume from those keywords and the competition for those keywords.
SEMrush’s interface is laid out logically with graphs that make it easy to understand the large quantity of data. Compared to its competitors, SEMrush is also very generous in the number of reports one can pull in one day. The only noticeable downside is it only provides data for one search engine - Google. SEMrush offers a 14-day free trial with Pro, Guru and Business plans ranging from $120- $450 per month.
Ubersuggest is a solid keyword research tool from Neil Patel that offers search volume data, SEO difficulty, paid difficulty and cost per click. If one enters a specific keyword in the search bar, it displays various keyword suggestions with other SEO metrics. It also shows related keywords, comparisons, prepositions and questions with those keywords.
The tool offers a glance at the top 100 Google results for that keyword, with estimated visits, the number of backlinks, a domain score and social shares. Under content ideas, it also shows content related to the keyword, estimated monthly visits and backlinks. Its downside is it only offers Google’s search engine data. The fact that Ubersuggest offers a decent-sized list of keyword analysis for free makes it an incredible starting point for businesses and individuals that are not in a position to pay for a keyword tool yet.
Ahrefs is another robust keyword research tool that shows multiple keyword ideas simply by typing a keyword into the search box. Every keyword comes complete with local and global monthly search volume estimates. What is unique about this tool is that it shows the search volume and the number of clicks one will get with the keywords. One can combine filters to find untapped keywords with high organic traffic potential and low keyword difficulty.
One can use Ahrefs to see the keywords that their competitors are ranking for to create new content pieces targeting keywords related to those subjects. The key SEO metrics page shows the current top-ranking pages to see how difficult it might be to crack the first page. Ahrefs stands out from other keyword tools because its suggestions and results are not limited to Google but include nine other search engines. Ahrefs keyword tool is part of its entire SEO tools package costing $99-$999 based on the package a business selects.
Keyword research is not a one-time deal but something that should be performed regularly. One must remember that keyword research may seem daunting at first, but it will lay down the foundation for the rest of one’s content strategy with a strategic approach. Keyword research is also an opportunity for the content marketing team to better understand the audience and their problems and use it to produce great content.