What is Keyword Research
Keyword research is what we do to find out the words, terms and phrases people use on search engines to search for some specific information or product. We do this so that we can target all the viable terms or phrases to reach those people and motivate them to visit our website. This is why we do keyword research.
Think of it in this way. If you want to create a website then you need to know the language in which you can create which means to know the language which a website speaks. Similarly, to target specific groups of searchers on search engine we need to understand what they speak there which is know the vocabulary of searchers on search engines. This is keyword research.
Keywords research also helps us to know who are our audience and how they look at websites like ours.
Before understanding the search vocabulary, understanding of search, how search engines work, why we do SEO, and how we prepare a website for search was necessary, and we understood all these in previous chapters.
Now to better understand keyword research and keywords, let us briefly go through the process.
Search engines are platforms where people search online. These people are looking for information like, general information; about some company or organization; about any product or service; for a place to go and visit; to know what they should buy, eat; etc. They search for that information on these search engines using terms and phrases.
These search engines will then show them results as list of websites with related information. This they do by matching these searched terms and phrases with the content in websites in their index and display the best.
Here knowing and understanding keywords becomes important as it is through these keywords only that those terms are matched and the results are displayed.
We can understand it this way that searchers ask questions through searching and search engines provide answers by showing them a list of websites that have best of the information which they asked for with their questions.
Websites provide these information, general as well commercial or product, services and company related information. And what SEO does is show best of the websites for each type of information or queries. So, websites are looking to target the traffic on search engines. This traffic is the volume of different queries which is the number of people using each type of query to find some particular information.
Keywords are what connect searchers with the list of websites which answers or satisfies their queries in the best ways.
What are keywords
Keywords are what someone will type in to search for some information or product, services or company, blogs, etc. Keywords are also what the websites use to target the searchers or groups of searchers who use search engines for seeking such information.
Keywords are those words that define a web page content and also represent what searchers are looking for.
When we begin to understand keywords we also need to know what are queries and also know the similarities and difference between the two i.e. keywords and queries.
Keywords and Queries
All the terms and phrases what people to find information are called queries. Whether you type a single word or a sentence, everything typed in the search bar is a query. All those queries look to find information ‘about’ something.
Keywords are what those queries are pointing to, the meaning of those queries.
Three different people search for three reasons using three queries:
Where to buy formal shirts – query
Occasions to wear formal shirts – query
Types of formal shirts – query
All these queries are about formal shirts. All three are looking for different types of information, yet they all are asking something about formal shirts.
So, the keyword which is common in all three is “formal shirts”.
Keywords are the core words about a subject. Websites use these keywords to target all related queries about that subject. Then the search engines match these keywords with all the related queries and terms people search for.
Keywords are the terms which a website and the SEO world uses and optimizes. Queries are what searchers use and type in search engines. And the search engines use both, they match queries of searchers with keywords on websites to find the best match websites for each of searchers’ queries.
Why need keywords
Keywords are very important, in fact are the core and base for SEO and what search engines focus on. Nearly since the invent of web search engines, keywords are used to categorize the websites and index these. Every page is indexed, categorized and ranked for keywords.
These are what search engines match queries to. And these are what websites optimize for.
We cannot write a meaningful and effective article or essay or a news without giving it proper heading and dividing it with various sub headings. These are what keywords do. They define and categorize content. Keywords indicate the meaning of content.
Steps to start Keyword Research
Keyword research means finding out all the relevant keywords which a website can target. It is the first step in search engines optimization, and is a thorough and detailed process and involves few steps.
There are basically three stages of keyword research which are as follows:
Creating keyword universe
Selecting the right keywords
Assign to pages for optimization
We list the process in little more detail before we go into explaining what all you need to do in each of the stages.
- Creating keyword universe
- Topics & Framework
- Expand into Keyword Universe
- Selecting the right keywords
- Group the keywords
- Nature of keyword
- Check for competition
- Volume of keywords
- Difficulty level of keywords
- Assign to pages for optimization
- Final set of keywords for each page
- Keywords arranged by their importance to the page and its content
- Existing page or new pages for set of keywords
How to do Keyword Research
Creating keyword universe
This is the first step in keyword research. This step is about finding out all possible keywords which can represent our website and therefore create our keyword universe.
Here we look at the business and all its various aspects and then try to figure out what all keywords searchers may use to find about our company, its information, products and services.
This is the step where all the possibilities are considered and taken into account. The aim here is to get as many keywords as possible to create a solid universe for our keywords. It will not be specific or narrow or very relevant at this stage.
Topics & Framework
Here you start with your website as the base. Look at the website and list out all the things it does or provides. If there is no website at this time then look at the business and make a list of all what it does and what it wants to target or market.
What is your main theme or subject or business and what are the sub topics and products or services.
This provides us with our seed keywords and our overall keyword universe framework within which we want to proceed.
Look at the following table/charts to understand keyword framework which you will have at this stage.
Digital marketing – search engine optimization SEO, social media marketing, Pay per click advertising, search engine marketing, email marketing, content marketing
Furniture – home furniture, office furniture, wooden furniture, decorative furniture
Shoes – men’s shoes, women’s shoes, kids shoes, formal shoes, casual shoes, sports shoes
Expand into Keyword Universe
Now we have seed keywords for different pages of a website or for different aspects of a business.
After this we will create our keywords universe from these main keywords. What we want to do here is to find all keywords that are related to the page and similar to our main keywords. These are also keyword ideas for every page or section.
So, what this basically involves is creating a broad list of all possible keywords that seem related to a website. This provides a strong and wide base to know the keyword portfolio which can be targeted and which is related to the website.
The objective here is to know what people, our target audience, searches for and how & in what way they use our primary keywords. We need to explore all possible ways or keywords to build our universe.
We can use various ways and tools to find many related keywords. What you can do is go deeper into niche and find terms and phrases related to product and its usage; look at your competitors and their keywords, and use different free tools which we will mention below.
Marketing team of a company can be the best people to suggest terms and keywords which their customers would be using.
Then we can go deeper into our niche industry and when we dig into it we will find keywords from that information.
One of the best ways is to look at the competitors and find all the keywords that they are targeting. We can look at their websites and through the information they provide on the website and share on other platforms.
There are free tools to do this too. The first tool which all should use is Google keyword planner. Go to google ads and login with your gmail account.
There are two ways you can find related keywords with keyword planner. Select the "Find new keywords" option and type your main keyword in the box and search. This will show you a long list of keywords. Select all keywords or take the ones which are relevant to your business and its objective. For example if you are targeting buy interested audience then keywords having or starting with "how to", "where", etc. may not be that relevant.
You can also type in the URL of your competitor websites in your niche and it will show the list of keywords which are relevant for each of the websites. This is another great way to build list of relevant keywords.
You can also use other free tools like ubersuggest and answerthepublic to further expand your keywords list. These are two wonderful tools to expand your keyword list with relevant and meaningful keywords.
Selecting the right keywords
This stage is a sort of filtering stage or process where we try to pick those keywords which are relevant for the website.
Selecting keywords that are most relevant
The objective of this stage is to select the keywords which we can optimize on our pages and target for ranking.
Here we will go back to our universe or large set of keywords that we created at the first step. This would mean significantly narrowing down our keyword universe into the most useful and relevant keywords.
From that list of keywords, now is the time to select the keywords which we want to focus upon. These are keywords which we will target and use on our website. We already have a rough and broad base of keywords and do not have to now search for keywords or ideas. What we are going to do is just use that universe to find our focus keywords which we want to target and rank.
What this filtering process or selection of keywords basically means picking the right keywords and removing the wrong ones. So, we have a set of factors through which we will evaluate those keywords. Through these factors we would be able to evaluate the usefulness, profitability and relevancy of those keywords. This will help us decide which keywords we can or we should target. We further narrow down this list by looking at other factors to decide which keywords we actually can target and rank for.
Every website has stages of growth and authority. So, keywords have to be selected on the basis of website’s current authority and what we can reach in a near future. A new website cannot rank for every keyword because many are difficult. Only websites which are old enough and have acquired enough authority and have enough SEO power behind them can rank for those keywords.
So, the first and the most important criteria of selecting keywords is to know what can we rank for at this stage of our website growth.
Let us now look at all the various factors to select our focus keywords.
There are a few factors against which you need to evaluate your keywords.
Group the keywords, if you have not already done that
Look at those keywords again from a narrower perspective and pick those which are most relevant. At this stage you might have that set of your keywords in two forms. Either you have a long and random list of keywords which means they are uncategorized. This would ideally be the case where you do not have a website already and have to create it. Then when we have a website then usually we categorize all the keywords according to the pages. The keywords can be categorized even without having a website.
In that case the first and broad categorization is making two groups of keywords with one group having keywords that are related to business or company or organization. These keywords will typically have words like company, manufacturer, services provider, etc. The second group is of those keywords that contain types of products we have.
Nature of keyword
You know your business or subject and what you want to offer. Select those keywords that directly or closely talk about and point towards your subject or business. So, you look at the nature and meaning behind those keywords.
Let's say you have a list of keywords which focus on a particular software. The keywords which have words which indicate or point towards buying or using that software then you target those keywords for your product or service page. If the keywords point towards finding information about that software then you can use those keywords for a blog post. If you only want to promote selling aspect then look for keywords which indicate buying behavior or need.
Check for competition
What keywords we select to target and rank depends hugely on competition. Competition means the existing top SERP results for those keywords. Here you need to look into what kind of websites are ranking presently. If you are a business or local business then you can judge the level of competition by these questions. Are they all your direct competitors in terms of products and services? Are they competitors in terms geographic location? How old are their websites? The answers to these questions will give you a fair idea about competition level.
Volume of keywords
It is also important to know how popular is a particular keyword. Whether there are people who are using that keyword to find your business or product. Keyword volume is the best way to judge popularity of keywords. It tells you how many people use that keyword and the volume of traffic you can expect when you rank for that.
Difficulty level of keywords
It may not be practical to go for a keyword with high volume if it is too tough for your website at this stage. It is always better to target keywords which you can rank for.
Volume of a keyword is the first and a good indication of its difficulty level. Generally, higher the volume more difficult it could be to rank. But this is not 100% true, and even lesser volume keywords can be difficult.
So, we will look at the top ranking websites again. The first thing to check here is how well each of the websites relate to the keyword and its subject. If there are websites that are not 100% relevant to the subject or there general websites in top pages then it means that there is a good possibility for a new and more relevant website to rank on those top pages.
Then check the number of links each one has. What is the level of on page content which reflects the quality level in the covering that keyword.
Domain authority matrix by MOZ is one of the best ways to look to judge the difficulty level. It shows you domain authority (DA), page authority (PA), and number of links for each of the websites in SERP.
Also, one important thing to observe here is the content coverage for your main keywords. The most important thing to note and the bottom line in ranking is that if you can create much better, lengthy and in depth content for any of your main keywords then you have a good chance of ranking on top even if the competition is little higher. It may take some time, but your website will rank.
Assign keywords to pages for optimization
Now you have a much smaller and more targeted and action oriented list of keywords that you want to target with your website. So, now what you want to do is to group these again into keywords which are similar in meaning, nature, etc.
At this stage you will assign the final keywords to different pages as per their meaning and relevancy or decide types of pages to create and design.
This would also mean creating or rearranging page wise list of keywords by an ascending order or their importance and relevance. This means selecting main keyword and sub set of keywords for each page.
Again let us mention here that if you already have a website then see which types and group of keywords can be better targeted from which page. And then assign those keywords for those pages.
If you have to build a website then you can now decide what all types of pages you want to create on the basis of your different groups of keywords.
In case there already is a website, there might be some keywords which do not directly fit into the existing pages. This means they are not relevant for the pages but these keywords score high in terms of relevancy and rankability and profitability.
So, looking at those keyword again through our selected factors we can decide to create new pages for those.
Concluding and revising keyword research steps
This gives us an opportunity to briefly list our the keyword selection process.
Step 1: — Look if those keywords are company specific or product specific.
Step 2: — Look at their nature. Do these keywords show buy intent or information seeking intent?
Step 3: — Check the competition which means the top ranking websites and see if you can rank and what kind of page would be suitable to target that keyword.
Step 4: — Look at their volume and judge the popularity to know if you should target that keyword.
Step 5: — Look at how easy or difficult a keyword by looking at top ranking sites and note if there are any irrelevant websites in top 10 or 20. If so, then you have a good chance to rank.
Step 6: — Check the DA & PA scores and number of backlinks of each of the websites. If there are websites with low DA and/or there is high fluctuation in DAs of all the sites then it is a sign that you can also rank.
Step 7: — If the competition is not too high and you can create much better content for that keyword then also you can rank on top pages.
Repeat this process for every set of your keywords. Now group similar keywords with similar meaning and rearrange these as per the order of the importance for each page. This will give you main or head keywords and body keywords for each page.
It would help here if you maintain a spreadsheet with each sheet having different pages and their assigned keywords.
The next thing to do is to optimize each of the pages for their assigned keywords, which we will cover in our next chapter about on-page SEO optimization.