There are endless online guides to keyword research. And many claim they are simple or for beginners…but they really aren’t.
If you want to become an expert, then this isn’t for you. But if you want to have a basic understanding and be able to write and add some keyword focused content on your website then stick around for this 3 minute read.
(I have included some bonus content at the end for those wanted to get a bit more scientific about their approach).
First the basics…
What is Keyword Research
The trick is to find keywords that have high monthly searches but limited competition so it’s easier for you to achieve higher ranking in search engines. The downside of this practice is that usually keywords that have very little competition aren’t searched for very often while those who get millions of searches per month are very difficult to rank for.
How to do keyword research in 4 simple steps
Keyword research can be complex (and costly if you are paying someone to do it). But sometimes it’s just using a bit of common sense paired with some simple research.
Your aim is to identify commonly used phrases that people will use to search for your business. Put yourself in their shoes. Try to think about what they would type in search engines to find a business like yours.
- Start with your customers. What problems are they having that you can solve?
- Brainstorm keywords and phrases that are relevant to your industry
- Check competitors’ sites and blogs
- Google auto-complete
- Social media. Popular hashtags. Join Facebook and Linkedin groups in your niche to discover hot topics
- Dictionaries and thesaurus
- Your analytics and Google Search Console
- Google Trends
- If your business is locally based think about the format – service in location (SiL)
If you’re still stuck for ideas then move to the keyword tools. Good free keywords tools to use:
Google keyword planner – you’ll need a Google adwords account but you don’t need to activate it or pay any fees.
Step Two: Group the words together into the same meanings/intent
Now you’ve got an exhaustive list, first go through it and remove the terms that don’t seem very relevant.
Then group the words together into the same meanings/intent. Two searchers may be using two different terms or phrases but if both of them have exactly the same intent they will want the same answers from the website and their query is going to be resolved by the same content, so we want to give them one page to serve those.
Have synonyms and plurals of your main keywords within the group. For example, if I’m talking about an architect, I also want to use keywords like architecture and architects.
Step Three: Analyse the keyword groups
Or, as I like to say, the hard bit!
Keyword analysis can be a long and laborious process and if you really don’t have the time or inclination to analyse the keywords then I would suggest the very least is to carry out steps 1 and 2 above (research and group keywords) and then just go on gut feel as to which you should use on your site.
If you put together good content that answers your customers problems, you may well get up in the rankings even if all the analysis says you won’t. Ultimately there is no guarantee that you will rank for the keywords and it’s often surprising where you win and where you don’t.
If you want to have a more scientific approach, then you need to carry out keyword analysis to identity:
- What the monthly search volumes are
- How competitive the term is (how difficult it will be rank for this term)
I’ve delved into this in more detail in the bonus section the end of the blog, otherwise go with the keywords you feel represent your business the best.
So what do we do now that we have this keyword group?
Step Four: Create keyword “themed” pages and post on your website
Write each page or post making sure it contains the relevant terms and of course is informative, useful and worth sharing. Keep it NATURAL. Try to use as many of the keyword phrases you can without overkill.
Add the content to your website and use your keywords in the:
- Page Title
- Page URL
- Meta Description
- Headers (H1 and lower level headings)
- Images alt tags
So there you have it. A simple keyword research guide. If you get stuck and need some training or want someone to do it on your behalf, please get in touch with me.
Bonus content – For those wanting a more scientific approach to keyword research
There are many excellent tools that carry out keyword research and analysis. Generally any decent tool will cost. Top ones include:
The objective is to identify keywords that score highly on:
- relevance to your business
- high volume of searches (or significantly high enough to be worth the effort)
- not too competitive i.e. you might have a chance of ranking for that search term
Unless you are an SEO practitioner yourself or endlessly carrying out keyword research, one approach is to create your own spreadsheet to analyse the keywords.
Here’s a sample one
To use the spreadsheet firstly take all the keywords and put them back into the Google keyword planner (or another free tool) to get an approximate volume of searches per month (put this into spreadsheet to give you a total score for the group).
Then you need to assess the value to the business of this keyword group. I’ve used a score between 0 to 1 so we can use it as multiplier later on. If this is a search term that your customers absolutely use and is something you provide, it’s a 1. If it’s a product related to yours but not something you do, perhaps its 0.5. If it’s business you want to avoid, it’s a 0. Don’t get too hung up on this- it’s just a guide to help you determine which are the better keywords to focus on.
Next is the hardest part – how hard it will be to outrank competitors and therefore whether it’s worth even trying to optimise for this term. At this point I would say if you are a complete novice to this and don’t intend on doing this regularly, it’s worth outsourcing this. But if you want to do it yourself, here’s a very quick guide as to what you should be judging the competition on. (Many of the tools I mentioned will do all of this for you).
Firstly, put in the search term on Google and make a note of the top 5 or even 10 websites and then carry out the following analysis:
- Backlinks– Identify the backlinks to your competitor’s page. The more links your competitor has, the harder it may be to outrank this site.
- On-page SEO– Evaluate the quality of on-page optimisation of the competing pages by scanning their titles, descriptions, content, and internal link anchors.
- Content– Inspect competitors’ page for quality content. Google rewards for good content and so do the users.
- Domain authority– Finally, check the age of the competing domains, their Alexa rank, and their popularity in social media.
Having looked at the competition, mark them between 0 to 1 on how hard it would be to outrank them. If you think you can easily compete because the competition is weak, put a 1 and then scale it down to 0 according to how hard it is. Only put a 0 if you believe it’s completely impossible to get anywhere near the first couple of pages of Google and therefore not worth trying.
Now use the spreadsheet to multiple the number of searches by value by ease of ranking to give you an overall score for that keyword group. Complete this process for each keyword group and you’ll end up being able rank the groups from highest score to lowest to determine which are the best keywords to use on your site, and which should be avoided.
Now take your keywords and jump back up to step 4. Good luck!