If you're running a business, large or small, online or offline, chances are good that part of your marketing strategy involves search engine optimization (SEO). And if you want to do SEO effectively, keyword research is vital. The process of uncovering the keywords your customers actually use can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be. By following a few simple steps and taking advantage of some great tools available today, you can quickly and easily uncover the keywords that will help improve your SEO efforts and bring more visitors to your site.
Type of Keywords
Head (single word) keywords
There are three main types of keywords that you'll encounter when doing keyword research. The first type is head keywords, which are keywords with a single word or acronym. Head keywords are typically the worst type of keyword to target, for a few different reasons.
One reason is that the intent isn't clear. For example, let's say someone searches for the keyword "cars". Are they actually trying to buy a car? Or are they just trying to find more information about the movie "Cars"? It's difficult to determine the intent behind head keywords, which makes it hard to optimize for them. Another reason why head keywords aren't ideal is because they're often too broad.
It can be difficult to understand what somebody intends when they use head keywords, which is why you shouldn't target them. This lack of clarity in intent leads to poor traffic quality and low conversion rates. You might see a boost in ranking for head keywords, but it's not worth it when you consider how few conversions you'll get. Plus, competition to rank for these keywords is fierce, so unless you have a lot of resources, it's not worth trying.
Body keywords are a type of keyword that are more specific and have a clearer intent. For example, a body keyword could be “used cars.” Things are getting more specific now and it is becoming easier to understand what searchers actually want. Most body keywords will be no more than two or three words maximum, and they often tend to be very competitive because they are easy to find and therefore most competitors will invest heavily in them.
Long tail keywords
When it comes to creating content for a website, it's usually best to focus on long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are phrases that have four or more words, like "used cars douglas georgia." Compared to shorter keywords, like "cars" or "used cars," the intent for a long tail keyword is much clearer. Long tail keywords are also less competitive, making them easier to rank for in search engines. For example, according to SEMrush, the keyword "cars" has a 100 difficulty score, while "used cars" isn't much better with a 99 difficulty score. There's no question that keywords are important for SEO. However, simply choosing keywords with high search volume is not enough. You must also consider the intent behind the searches. For example, someone searching for "cars" is likely to be in the market for a new vehicle, while someone searching for "used cars douglas georgia" is probably more interested in finding a specific type of car in a specific location.
Given this, it's clear that "used cars douglas georgia" is a far superior keyword phrase to target than simply "cars." Even though the latter has much higher monthly search volume (823,000 vs 320), the former is much more likely to result in a conversion.
There are three great ways to find keyword opportunities:
- The first is to look at the keywords you're already ranking for. These are the best keywords to target because Google is already signaling that you're relevant for them.
- The second is to look at your competitor's keyword profiles, because you know that these keywords are profitable and you have a chance to rank for them.
- The third is to look at your customer's search queries. These are good keywords to target because you know that people are already searching for them.
One tool to help you find good keywords is SEMrush. Go into SEMrush, enter your domain into the search. Go to organic research and click on positions. Now you'll have access to all the keywords your website is ranking for within the top 100. It’s best to categorize existing keywords into three different buckets. First, low hanging fruits, which are keywords ranking from positions 2 to 15, these are the keywords you should attack right away. Just click on the positions drop down and go to the custom range. Enter 2 and 15 to see all of your potentially good keywords to target.
To take it a step further, filter this set of keywords based on keyword density percentage. Start with 0 to 14 to find the lowest competition opportunities now. Keep in mind you'll need to prioritize keywords based on intent and relevance as well. The next type of keywords are from position 16 to 50 which you can label as "existing". They are also good targets but they should be second on the priority list.
The final category of keywords are from positions number 51 to 100. If a page isn't ranking in the top 50, then there's a good chance that the page isn't targeted enough. You can create a page specifically for these keyword phrases, and it will likely rank much better. Google's number one priority is to deliver the most relevant results possible, so remember that when looking for opportunities to look for the right keywords. These opportunities are a great way to capture more organic search traffic and build more relevance, which will improve the performance of all pages.
One way to find keyword opportunities is to use SEMrush's Keyword Magic Tool. To do this, go to the Keyword Research section in SEMrush and click on the Keyword Magic Tool. Now, there is no right or wrong way to begin your search, but the key is to leverage the filters. For example, the keyword “seo,” this head keyword is extremely competitive and should be avoided pretty much at all costs. However, we can use it as a seed to find better opportunities. It’s best to start with the lowest keyword first and work your way up.
What you'll notice right away is that there's a lot of keywords that aren't relevant. You can get rid of these by setting the language filter to only show the target language. For this example, we're only interested in English keywords. You can also use the exclude filter to eliminate more irrelevant keywords. I've added five to this filter. At this point, you should be left with a nice pool of perspective keywords. Add each relevant keyword to your keyword list and then repeat this process going further up.
If you want to really take your SEO to the next level, I recommend using Google's "People Also Ask" section. This tool is incredible for finding all of the relevant long tail keyword phrases that you can use to build topical relevance and attack keywords that no one else is paying attention to.
You can conclude that these are real searches occurring on Google because Google wouldn't show them as options in the first place. In short, the "People Also Ask" section is giving you real-time keyword validation. Now, the tool also streamlines this entire process. Just enter your keyword, in this case let’s use "SEO" again. The first tier of ideas might be competitive but you'll strike gold in the second tier and so on because it gets more granular as you go.
You should have a nice database of keyword opportunities, but how do you decide what keywords are best to target? That's when keyword qualification comes into play. But before you can qualify keywords, one very important point: you need to select a primary keyword. So you have a page that's ranking for "St. Louis personal injury lawyer," and "St. Louis injury attorney." These are variations of the same primary keyword, and they should be targeted on the same page. The key is to select whichever variation has the most search volume.
But, let's say you also want to rank for "St. Louis car accident lawyer." Well, this keyword has a totally different intent and, therefore, deserves its own dedicated page. So, as you go through the following process, just remember one primary keyword per page.
There are several key factors that should help you filter through your list of keywords:
- Your current position. So, if you have existing keywords that are ranking well, these should be prioritized.
- A minimum of 100 searches per month for most industries, but if it's local, you may want to adjust this downward.
- Keyword difficulty is important too, so focus on low competition keywords first and then work your way up as your site builds more topical authority and acquires more backlinks.
- Focus on keywords with transactional intent first and then work your way up the funnel to broader targets.
- It's always best to prioritize keywords that are highly relevant to your core offerings. For example, if you're selling SEO training, keywords like "SEO training Boston" are more important than a keyword like "SEO tools."
- Pick trending keywords. You can find trending data using SEMrush keywords research tool, in the overview tab.
- CTR potential and this is the final consideration for qualifying keywords which is the potential organic click-through rate. For example, if there are many serp features and ads then your ctr will be lower. So, with SEMrush you can easily see at a glance how many serp features are present by looking under the serp features column.
Use these seven factors to find the best keyword opportunities. Once you've selected a nice pool of 50 to 100 keywords then you need to decide which ones are best to target in priority order and that's when keyword prioritization comes into play.
Now, there are a few factors you can use to prioritize your keyword set. It largely has to do with resources. That said, you should prioritize keywords based on content and backlinks. For content, you need to gather word count targets for each individual keyword. So, go into SEMrush, go to the On Page and Tech SEO section, and click on On Page SEO Checker. Now, run each primary keyword through this tool and collect the target word count. Then, go to the Top Ten Benchmarking tab and under content length, SEMrush will show the average for the top ten and this will ideally be your target length. The goal is to identify the ideal length so you can estimate your budget.
The second part of prioritization is based on backlinks. Go to the keyword tool and find the primary keyword. Scroll down to SERP analysis and look under "ref domains". This will give you the total number of unique domains linking to each ranking page. Get the overall average of these top 10 ranking pages. Repeat this process for every primary keyword. Let's just say it costs $300 to acquire a backlink, based on resources and time.
You can now estimate, based on content length and the total number of backlinks, how much it will cost to rank for this keyword. From there, you can prioritize keywords that have the lowest investment or, in other words, which will be the most profitable to rank for.
That is how you do keyword research like an SEO pro. Keywords are like the base of SEO, they make the foundation. You’ve just gone through a simple yet powerful way of conducting your keyword research, although keyword research is highly subjective. This blog will surely guide you in the right direction. SEO is vast and can sometimes get overwhelming. One CMS tool that helps you with Technical SEO is TypeStack.ai, try it so you can focus on writing exceptional content and leave the technicalities out.