Keyword Research – How to Select Keywords

SEO Guide Step 1

A rose by any other name would not get searched as much
Photo by T.Kiya (CC BY-SA 2.0), modified

What is Keyword Research?

Keyword Research: The research phase of an SEO project where you identify how your visitors search and establish those keywords as ranking and traffic targets for your SEO project. It includes brainstorming, competitor analysis, analytics, and tools research to build a comprehensive list of viable SEO projects. It is commonly the first and most important search engine optimisation step.

In this SEO lesson, you learn the basics of how to do keyword research, try out free keyword research tools, and start your SEO plan of attack!

Getting Started with SEO Keyword Research

The first task is simply brainstorming. Ask yourself some basic questions to select keywords that might make good targets for search engine optimisation, like:

  • What is your website content about?
  • What would you ask a search engine to find what your website offers?
  • What do you think other searchers would ask for?
  • What are your most popular pages/items about?

Most people can make a short (or long) list of keywords that might be used to find their own site. You should extend that step to ask other people what keywords they would use to search for your product or service without your brand name and add their keyword suggestions to your list. Doing so will help you go beyond the words that only you and insiders know. When doing keyword research for SEO, you want to discover what real people in your target audience would query to find what your site offers.

Don’t limit your ideas. Brainstorm whatever subjects and phrases could lead the kinds of visitors you want to lead visitors to your site. Your brainstorming will “prime the keyword pump.”

This initial list will be expanded upon and refined in the next few steps. But start with the logical keywords.

Find Keywords People Already Use for Your Business

If your site is already live, you may have hidden keyword gold just waiting to be dug up.

site search box

  • A good place to look for keywords is your internal site search. Offering visitors a search box within your site is good for users but also good for you because it collects search query data. Looking at these queries primarily helps you improve usability (since it reveals what people want to see, what website content may be missing, and where your site navigation is weak). But you may also find nuggets of keyword gold, useful phrases that people search for. Add those to your list.

Google Webmaster Tools icon

  • You can find valuable data using Google Search Console (formerly called Webmaster Tools). ​This free service from Google gives website owners a wealth of information about their own sites (especially with Google Analytics set up). Particularly useful is the Performance report; when you look at it by Queries, you can see what key search terms are bringing up your webpages in Google searches. Google also uses Search Console to notify you of errors or penalties, and you’ll need the diagnostic SEO tools offered there to keep your site in good health. So don’t miss out. (Here’s how to set up Google Search Console.)
  • Dig through your customer communications to find additional, actively used keywords. Talk to your customer service people to find out what customers are asking about (in their words). Also check social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to read what your community has said. Run searches for your primary keywords to discover how people are currently talking about your products, services, or subjects.

Get Keyword Suggestions

Take advantage of free keyword research tools to find additional keywords. Our Keyword Suggestions Tool below shows you keyword ideas that are related to any seed word you enter.

Type in one word or phrase at a time. The resulting suggestions come from search query data, so select the keywords that match your website content and add them to your growing keyword research list.

SEO Tools – Use our free Keyword Suggestions Tool:

What the Keyword Data Tells You

With our tool, you can see keyword suggestions with data on the average click-through rate (CTR) and cost per click (CPC) for advertisers bidding on that keyword.

It reveals how many webpages contain those words in their title tag (not necessarily as an exact phrase) under AllInTitle. These metrics indicate how competitive a keyword phrase may be.

You can also see an Activity column, which shows the approximate number of monthly searches for that keyword (also known as “search volume”).

CAUTION: Don’t get greedy looking at keyword activity counts.

Record this activity number with the keyword in your spreadsheet. But keep in mind that a keyword’s search volume should not overly influence your choices, especially at this point. You want to select keywords for SEO only if they reflect what your website is truly about. Going after high-volume keywords that don’t relate to the rest of your content would be deceptive and even punishable as spam.

Rolling or wheeled backpack
What should you call this? Keyword research can tell you.

How Should You Use Search Activity Data?

Search volumes do cast light on your keyword research. They reveal what people actually call things, and they help you prioritise similar keyword phrases.

For instance, a retail site might choose to use “rolling backpacks for kids” (1,600 monthly searches) rather than “wheeled backpacks for kids” (320 monthly searches) because the first keyword phrase gets searched 5 times more often. However, that retailer should not pin its hopes on ranking for the broad term “backpacks,” no matter how attractive that word’s sky-high search volume looks.

The moral: Don’t be tempted by the huge numbers for broad keywords. With enough time and effort, you might be able to rank for them, but you’d be battling large, established brands for unfocused visitors who might not even be ready to buy. (We’ll talk more about broad keywords later in this guide.)

Save that keyword spreadsheet! You’ll find out more about how to select your best SEO keywords in the coming steps. Next, you learn how to identify your real SEO competition.

Related blog posts and articles:

Need SEO services? We can identify your site’s needs and help you increase your website traffic and revenue from search. Fill out our request form to start the conversation.

FAQ: How do I analyse competitor keywords for my SEO strategy?

When it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), one of the most potent strategies is analysing your competitors’ keywords. This practice provides you with a roadmap to outrank them and offers valuable insights into your industry’s dynamics.

Before delving into the analytical aspect, it’s crucial to grasp the basics of competitor keyword analysis. Start by identifying your key competitors in the digital sphere. These businesses or websites consistently appear alongside yours on search engine results pages (SERPs). Once you’ve identified them, it’s time to unearth their treasure trove of keywords.

  1. Keyword Research Tools

Invest in reputable keyword research tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz. These platforms offer a comprehensive view of your competitors’ keywords, including their organic and paid search terms. Enter your competitors’ domains, and you’ll gain access to a wealth of data, from top-ranking keywords to estimated traffic volumes.

  1. Analyse Keyword Gaps

Identify the keywords that your competitors are ranking for but are missing from your own strategy. These are your golden opportunities. By optimising your content for these keywords, you can siphon traffic away from your rivals.

  1. Evaluate Keyword Difficulty

Not all keywords are created equal. Some are highly competitive, while others are relatively easy to rank for. Focus on keywords with a reasonable search volume and lower competition to maximise your chances of success.

  1. Long-Tail Keywords

Don’t overlook long-tail keywords, which are longer and more specific search queries. They may have lower search volumes but often lead to higher conversion rates because they align closely with user intent.

  1. Content Gap Analysis

Take a deep dive into your competitors’ content. Identify topics they’ve covered, but you haven’t. Create high-quality, informative content around these topics to establish your authority in your niche.

  1. Monitor Trends

SEO is a dynamic field, and keyword trends can shift rapidly. Regularly monitor your competitors’ keyword strategies to stay up-to-date and adapt accordingly.

  1. User Intent

Understanding user intent is key to effective keyword optimisation. Analyse the type of content that ranks highly for specific keywords and tailor your content to match user expectations.

Competitor keyword analysis is not a one-time task; it’s an ongoing process that should inform your SEO strategy continually. By following these steps and leveraging the right tools, you’ll gain a competitive edge and drive organic traffic to your website. Keep refining your approach, and you’ll see your rankings soar.

Step-by-Step Procedure: Analysing Competitor Keywords for Your SEO Strategy

  1. Identify your key competitors in the digital sphere.
  2. Invest in reputable keyword research tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Moz.
  3. Enter your competitors’ domains into the chosen tool to access keyword data.
  4. Analyse keyword gaps between your strategy and your competitors.
  5. Evaluate the keyword difficulty for potential keywords.
  6. Consider long-tail keywords for niche targeting.
  7. Conduct a content gap analysis to identify topics your competitors have covered.
  8. Regularly monitor keyword trends and competitor strategies.
  9. Understand user intent for the keywords you target.
  10. Tailor your content to match user expectations and intent.
  11. Continuously refine and adapt your SEO strategy based on competitor keyword analysis.

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