How to Do Better Keyword Research
It’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance of keywords in search engine optimization. They’re what Google uses to determine what your pages are about, so your content is shown to the right people at the right time.
More than that, by researching and analyzing keywords, you can develop a better understanding of what your targets are searching for – and what kind of content you should develop to appeal to them.
Strategies for Better Keyword Research
Build and Expand Your Keyword List
If you’re reading this, you probably already have some familiarity with the basics of keyword research, but in case you don’t, let’s quickly cover the fundamentals. There are a number of ways to come up with a list of words and phrases to target, but some of the most basic are:
- Brainstorm – Alone or as part of a team, try to come up with as many keywords as possible. Remember that there are no “wrong” ideas in this process, in this case quantity is more important than quality. You can sift through these later to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff.
- Use a keyword research tool – There are dozens of keyword research tools available for use, many of which are free. It’s likely that everyone in your niche is using Google Keyword Planner to identify new opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be too.
- Check out the competition – Many research tools, including Ahrefs and SEMrush, let you analyze your competition’s website to see which pages are capturing the most clicks. You can then examine these pages to see which keywords they’re using to drive traffic and update or create your own content to steal it.
Advanced Keyword Research Strategies
Every SEO professional worth his or her salt is already using the tactics above to identify keywords. If you’re really looking to stand out, you need to go beyond the basics with advanced research strategies.
Because the head terms, or main keywords will usually have a high level of competition, it’s worthwhile to go after what are known as long-tail keywords. These are specific words and phrases (usually longer ones) that are less commonly targeted. The most valuable of these are rare, but highly sought-after ones that also have high traffic. Finding them usually requires thinking outside the box.
You can discover them for yourself by employing advanced keyword research strategies like:
- Examine existing search results –Google’s search engine results pages provide you with a ton of information that can be mined for keywords, including rich results like featured snippets, related searches, “People Also Search For,” and PPC ads.
- Identify branded keywords – Branded keywords are queries looking for a specific company or product, for example “Nike” as opposed to “athletic shoes.” You can go after this traffic by presenting your site as an alternative to the brand being searched for.
- Reverse-engineering “weak” sites – Despite the best efforts of SEO professionals, sometimes a premium search position will be occupied by a webpage that seems out of place or doesn’t provide an accurate answer to a query. Finding these and creating your own content to supplant it is every optimizer’s dream. And they do exist, so comb through the competition.
- Look on message boards and forums – Niche-specific messaging sites can provide a wealth of keywords you may not have considered. Because the posts on these sites tend to be written by your targets, using vertical-specific language, they’re an excellent way to uncover similar topics.
- Use question phrases – Every web searcher is looking for something. For many, it’s information – and their queries come in the form of questions like, “How do I fix my leaky faucet?”, or “Where can I get Chicago-style pizza near me?” As a webmaster, using these questions as keywords can help you target search intent with laser-like precision. This is especially valuable as voice search and natural language processing continue to claim a bigger slice of the search pie.
- Target intent – Closely related to the previous strategy, choosing target keywords based on intent can help you secure more traffic. There are four main types of intent you’ll find in most visitors to your website:
- Informational – These are queries looking for specific information
- Navigational – These queries are people seeking specific pages of a website, e.g., contact us.
- Commercial These web searchers are shopping around for products or services but not ready to buy.
- Transactional – These queries are performed by people with credit card in hand, ready to buy or otherwise complete a specific action.
Maximize Your Keyword Content
By this point, you should have a solid list of keywords you want to target. Prioritize these based on what you feel are the best opportunities and/or the most urgent, then create content around them.
As you’re doing this, make sure to avoid keyword cannibalization, in which two or more pages on your website are targeting the same keyword, to the detriment of all of them.
One Final Tip
To ensure you’re not wasting your efforts or your target’s time, it’s important to go after the right audience. For example, it’s a waste of energy to perform SEO for a manufacturer of livestock pens only to primarily attract people looking for writing instruments. Both are pens, but one has no interest in your site.
This is a bigger concern in PPC campaigns but is also something you should be aware of in SEO. You can ensure you’re hitting the right the right audience by building a negative keyword list that tells Google which queries are not relevant to your site.
You’ll also want to ensure your content makes it clear to Google’s search crawlers exactly what your site is about.
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