How to Do the Best Keyword Research to Optimize Your Content for SEO

by in Marketing

Successful SEO begins with a strategy, and an SEO strategy begins with researching keywords. For visitors, the search always begins with words typed into a search box. If you don’t know what people are searching for, you won’t be able to deliver the content that they want. You will also not attract the visitors that you want.

Remember, it’s not just about getting traffic to your website. It is about getting the right traffic. Researching keywords is like reading the minds of your customers. By doing this you can learn about your customers, understand their behaviors and predict shifts in demand and market conditions. You will find keyword research a hugely rewarding experience.

Good Keywords vs. Bad Keywords

Before embarking on keyword research let’s first define what a “perfect keyword” is. A perfect keyword is a term that has the most volume and the least amount of competition. Think of it as the lowest hanging juicy fruit. Targeting a keyword that no one searches is like picking a fruit that isn’t ripe.  At the same time, going after the fruit at the very top of the tree requires a lot more energy, so it’s best to just focus your efforts on the lowest hanging fruit in the first place. Here are the 5 steps for selecting the perfect keywords for your online content.

Simple SEO Strategies

Step 1: Create a List of Potential Keywords

Begin by establishing what people call your product or service and how they will search for it online. What terminology do people use? What are some of the related services and products people are looking for? What are some of the queries already generating traffic to your website? (You can find this out by using Google Analytics. Go to: Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries.) Try to expand or improve on this initial keyword set.
Create a seed keyword list by thinking about how people refer to your product or service in real life

Step 2: Determine Keyword Popularity and Search Volume

Next, let’s look at the popularity of the keyword and the search volume that it produces. We will be using two tools for this:

1. Google AdWords Keyword Planner
The Google AdWords Keyword Planner gives you estimated numbers of monthly searches and suggestions.

2. Google Trends
Google Trends shows trending for a search phrase over time, and allows you to compare them as well as suggests alternatives.

First, use Google’s Keyword Planner to narrow down your list to the “lowest hanging fruit”.  The idea is to focus on keywords that have the most monthly searches but the least competition. Note that because Keyword Planner is designed for AdWords, it shows competition within AdWords and not the organic search; therefore, real competition data may be different.  After you compiled this list, compare your findings to Google Trends.

Determine keyword popularity and monthly search volume using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner and Google Trend

Step 3: Find Closely-Related Keywords and Variations

Expand your keyword search by using the ‘suggest’ feature in both the Google AdWords Keyword Planner and Google Trends. Also, try Ubersuggest, which is a great tool that includes all Google’s suggestions from various sources. Look for synonyms and variations or derivatives of the same keyword. Then group these keywords in keyword groups.

Talk to your team members and your customers to learn keywords they use to search. For all new suggestions, go back to Step 2, and retest the keywords for volume and competition.

Expand your keyword search by looking for closely related keywords, synonyms and variations

Step 4: Group Keywords and Map to Your Website Content

Assign each keyword group to various pages of the website based on the keywords’ correlation to them. To help with that you can split your website into zones. I suggest creating three zones:

1. First Zone – This is your homepage. You should select more competitive keywords with the number of searches in thousands that closely describe what your company does and .

2. Second Zone – These are your inside pages, such as pages for your products and services. These keywords may be more specific and less competitive with monthly searches in hundreds.

3. Third Zone – This is your blog, or other section of your website where you conduct ongoing content marketing (whitepapers, articles, videos, etc.). These keywords may be very specific and may naturally have lower monthly search numbers (less than a hundred). These keywords are often referred to as “long tail” keywords. They may be long and very specific, which is good, because they will have little, if any, competition.  A lot of content targeting long tail keywords could be cumulatively producing massive amounts of traffic to your website.

Divide your website into three zones and map specific keywords to each zone

Step 5: Assess the Competition for Your Keywords

When you have narrowed down the keywords, you need to analyze the size and activity of the competition for these keywords. First, search for it in Google. I recommend using Google’s Ad Preview tool, which shows search results without factoring your personal preferences, geographic location, etc. Think of it as a stripped SERP.

You should make note of the following:

1. The number of search results – With how many pages are you competing? The number of pay-per-click ads on the page – how many companies know the keyword is so valuable that they are willing to pay for it?

2. Who is ranking in top positions – Does it appear they are employing SEO strategies described in this book? Will you be able to compete with these websites?

Another great tool that allows you to compare how your website stacks up to your completion is Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Look at domain authority, PageRank and other factors.

Assess the competition for your keywords by using the Google Ad Preview tool and the Moz Open Site Explorer

Next article: Content Optimization – Easy Tips to Optimize Your Content for SEO

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