A Complete Guide to Keyword Research

Keyword research is the foundation of your winning digital marketing campaigns. If you start with keywords that are directly relevant to what you sell and not too competitive in the space, your SEO and ad campaigns will be more successful.

The process of keyword research can help you create better content that delivers on a prospect’s expectations and begins to build a relationship from the first click. This guide will cover what you need to know about keyword research, how to do it effectively and efficiently, and include some tips on avoiding common pitfalls.

Keyword Research Is an Iterative Process

Before you dive into the process of finding winning keyword phrases, you’ll want to have the right mindset. As the foundation of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM), keyword research is an ongoing process. You will start with some initial ideas and generate your first list of keywords, but from there, you can improve the quality and accuracy of your list over time.

Many marketers mistakenly see keyword research as a one-time event that happens at the beginning of a new marketing campaign or during a website overhaul. However, the online landscape is not static. It is always changing. To stay current and maximize your marketing investment means regularly staying on top of keyword research.

Before Keyword Research, Understand Your Customers

Another common mistake business owners and marketers make with keyword research is diving in without adequate context. To select the best matching words and phrases, you need to get inside the minds of people who are searching for your product or service.

If you skip this crucial step, your keywords may not target the right prospects, unnecessarily wasting marketing money and effort. The best keywords are not only relevant but match user intent down to the stage of their process. Here are some questions that can help you understand your customers:

  • What are the problems, concerns, or desires before they start searching?
  • What specific types of
    are people searching for when they start looking?
  • Who is searching for these terms?
  • When are people searching for
  • What do people most often know when they start looking?
  • What are the most common words or phrases used?
  • What questions do we hear from customers most often?
  • What motivates people to seek
  • Where are potential customers located?

Finally, what do people want and need to know about your product or service? What are some content topics that can inform, educate, and inspire people to action? Answering these questions is a vital planning step that will guide your keyword research and maximize your marketing result.

Start Your List of “Seed” Keywords

Seed keywords are the starting point of your research process. They create a starting point when working with a keyword research tool and help you identify your competitors. Seed keywords are usually too general and too competitive to be useful to your marketing campaigns, but they are the right place to start.

Your list of seed keywords will include the products and services you sell as well as any terms shoppers are likely to type into Google when searching for the solutions you offer. For example, if you sell BMWs, your seed keywords might include the following:

  • BMW
  • Buy BMW
  • Best BMW
  • BMW i7
  • BMW X5
  • BMW X3
  • BMW i8
  • BMW M7
  • BMW parts
  • BMW service

This should be a quick step in the process. Don’t feel like you need to identify every possible seed keyword at this stage. Write down the broad ideas that come to mind and move on to the next step.

Choose Your Keyword Research Tool

If you are serious about your digital marketing, you will want to invest in a keyword research tool. There are free options online. Many paid options give you a limited number of monthly searches for free, but if you are doing the research yourself, the tools are invaluable and worth the investment.

All of the keyword research tools work the same way. You type in a seed keyword or phrase, and they generate keyword ideas based on that keyword.

Google Keyword Planner (GKP) is a free tool. It won’t deliver all of the information of some of the subscription keyword research tools, but it’s a great place to start if you’re not ready to invest.

With GKP and any tool you use, when you discover a promising keyword, try a new search using it as your seed phrase. This process will help flush out your list and spark ideas that may not have occurred to you otherwise.

If you’re serious about your keyword research, there are several outstanding paid tools you can use. The most popular include:

Each of these paid services has a free but limited option for you to try them out. A subscription gives you access to more keyword ideas and additional helpful tools, like SEMRush’s content idea generator.

That may seem like an overwhelming number of keywords to work with. And it is. But don’t worry. You’ll learn how to narrow them down in the tool later in this guide.

Check Out Your Competitors

A look at what keywords already work for your competitors can accelerate your keyword research process. If you don’t already know who the competition in your space is, you can enter your seed keywords into Google and see who comes up in the top three to five listings.

Next, investigate the competitor’s website to confirm that they offer the same products and services as you. You want a solid match to get accurate keywords that will work for you.

Once you find a competitor website that is a good match, you are ready to plug the website address into a competitive intelligence tool like SEMRush, Ahrefs’, or BuzzSumo to get details about which competitor pages bring it the most traffic and what keywords are working.

Repeat the process for a few of your competitors, and you’ll have a pretty significant list of highly relevant keywords. You’re off to a great start!

Later in the process, you will organize these keywords by user intent, specifically whether people are searching for information or product pages. What matters in this stage is building your list of relevant keyword ideas.

In the next few steps, you’ll learn how to select the best keywords for your business.

Low Competition, High Volume

Your keyword research tool will help you identify two critical details about the keywords you want to use: competition and volume.

The search volume shows how many people each month search for a specific term in your geographic area (i.e., the U.S. or your local market). The higher your search volume number, the more potential customers are using that term.

The competition tells you how many other businesses are already ranking for that keyword term and the difficulty you will have to get onto the first page. The lower the competition number, the better your chances of creating content that can rank for it. Avoid keywords with high competition because unless you have thousands and backlinks and lots of relevant content, it will not be an efficient and effective use of your time and money.

The Advantages of Using Long-Tail Keywords

Another detail you want to consider as you sort through your potential list of keywords is how specific they are. Detailed and specific keyword phrases are called “long-tail keywords.” They are more relevant to users and tend to have less competition. Because they are more specific and targeted, long-tailed keywords make it easier for you to rank in the search engine.

Not all long-tail keywords are low competition, so check carefully. It can be a bit of a trick to find low-competition long-tail keywords that have enough monthly searches, but finding those gems is what pays off in the long run!

Another benefit of long-tail keywords is that they tend to convert better because people who type in these types of phrases know what they want. They are more likely to have done some research and are closer to making a purchase.

Now that you have two critical ways to pare down your list of keywords, you can refine and organize your list further before understanding user intent.

SEO – Search Engine Optimization for Online Marketing Concept. Modern graphic interface showing symbol of keyword research website promotion by optimize customer searching and analyze market strategy.

Understand and Identify User Intent

Understanding user intent is just as important as the keyword itself. User intent refers to what the user wants to accomplish when they search Google, Bing, or another search engine. If your content matches their intent, you will hold their attention longer.

In marketing, three broad categories define intent. They are:

  • Lead generation (awareness, interest)
  • Lead nurturing (consideration, intent)
  • Sales (evaluation, purchase)

For example, if someone searches “best car safety rating 2022,” they are likely in the first stage of awareness and interest. They are thinking of buying a car but haven’t narrowed down their options yet. The best content to satisfy this level of user intent is information.

On the other hand, if someone types in a specific car make and model, they may be at the evaluation and purchase stage. They want to see a product page and compare available options.

Create Content That Aligns With User Intent

While SEO is a complex topic, keyword research is the most fundamental aspect of it. Getting your keywords right gives you the basis for a strong and successful SEO campaign. You are ready to create content that uses your target keywords and fulfills user intent.

When people type something into Google’s search bar, they are telling Google what they want to know. When your results match their intent, they will spend more time looking at your content and browsing your website. This signals to Google that you are a good match and strengthens your ranking position.

The corollary of this principle is also true: if your site doesn’t match user intent or provide value for users searching on those keywords, then Google will replace your link with a better-optimized option, and you will miss out on that traffic.

Keyword Research Leads to an Outstanding User Experience

You can increase your search engine ranking by conducting thorough keyword research and creating content that builds a relationship with prospects before they call your company or walk into your location. The payoff of your time and energy can be a steady stream of leads from content you created weeks or months ago.

If you want more targeted leads coming to your website, our digital marketing experts can help. Contact us today and find out how we can help you achieve your goals.

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