How To Conduct Keyword Research Effectively
Before proceeding with on-page optimization (keyword targeting and writing the content), we need to take a structured process of picking a topic to research, brainstorming keywords, reviewing the value of the keywords and then prioritizing keywords.
1. Pick a topic: focus on one topic or theme at a time. Imagine what the webpage you want to optimize looks like.
2. Brainstorm keywords: research similar meaning keywords around a closely related topic. Quantity over quality at this stage.
3. Review keyword value: gather keyword data to help decide how useful the keywords are and whether they are within reach.
4. Prioritize keywords: decide which keywords are the most important and which ones you wish to focus more on.
A topic could be for a product or service (transactional keywords), a source of information (informational keywords) or around a brand or personal (navigational keywords).
For example, “what size snowboard do I need?” has signs of both being informative and transactional but it’s more an informative keyword because the searcher is researching for information before deciding whether to buy or not.
Have a webpage in mind, that you would like to optimize, even if it isn’t one that has been created yet. This will help you throw out keywords that may be too specific or too broad.
The biggest mistake SEO newbies make in keyword research, is focusing on short-tail keywords that are too generic for the page they wish to optimize. For example, targeting the phrase “shoes” on a running shoe page is too generic and not relevant enough for search engines to chose and searchers to be happy with.
When you type a keyword into Google and most search engines, you’ll see related suggestions below. If you put a * before your keyword, often you’ll get more specific topics suggested. These can be a great way for coming up with new topics.
As long as you stay on topic, try and think of as many closely related keywords as possible.
A good test to see if you are going off-topic is to recall what the page/topic you’re researching might look like and ask whether the keyword is best served on it or another page.
If it’s better served on another page, then you should put the keyword to the side and re-visit it when you research that other page. As this is at the brainstorming stage, try and think of as MANY related keywords, rather than the absolute best. We’ll filter out some and prioritize the best keywords later.
Earlier we put the * before our keyword but you can also include it within the keyword to get even more keyword suggestions. Once you have a topic in mind, this is a great way of discovering longer-tailed keywords.
Another way, is to look at the related searches which tend to be at the bottom of SERPs.
Google’s Keyword Planner is part of Google AdWords and is a great way for brainstorming and researching keywords.
It works where you provide an initial seed keyword, and Google provides related keyword ideas that you may find useful, plus some extra keyword data like keyword search volumes.
It does require an AdWords account and if you are not spending money on Google adverts, the keyword search volumes are given in vague ranges. We’ll look at overcoming this by getting more specific search volumes for free later.
For the most part, the results you get from the Google Keyword Planner are usually on-topic but in the above example, this is not the case.
You will see at the top of the image, we are researching the “what size snowboard do I need” but the suggestions are to do with snowboard boots.
Keyword Options à “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms”
If you select this option from the side menu, you will get less results but more specific results. 70%+ of the time this is not necessary but in this case, it is because the results shown without it are too generic.
With “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” enabled you can see the results are more on topic.
More specific search volumes
You may have also noticed that an extra column has appeared in the above image with exact search volumes, rather than ranges, which is far more useful. This is using a free Chrome extension which we will now cover.
Google only gives keyword volume ranges, unless you spend money with them, but with some magic, you can get the exact search volumes without spending a penny.
Keywords Everywhere is a useful tool that reveals precise keyword search volumes in Google Keyword Planner, Google Search Console, Google, Amazon and many other sites. It works as a browser extension in Chrome and Firefox.
You will need to edit your Keyword Everywhere’s settings and supply a free API key which is provided on signup. Also, select the right country and currency you would like reported back for keywords.
Tools you can use to conduct keyword research
SEMRush and Spyfu are tools that report back what keywords a URL or website ranks for. This can be great for brainstorming keywords and keeping tabs on what competitors are up to. Both offer a freemium model, meaning you get some functionality for free.
When compiling your list of keywords that closely relate to your topic, aim for 12 or more.
Include the search volume in brackets after each keyword.
For very niche topics, 3 – 6 keywords may only be possible, but aim for as many as you can.
For beginner SEO’s deciding which keywords are the best for their topic and their business, there are two key considerations; search volume and topic relevancy score.
The search volume and topic relevancy is available to everyone and should always be used.
#1 Search Volume
We’ve covered that search volumes can be gained through Google’s Keyword Planner/AdWords and also with the Keywords Everywhere plugin. Be mindful that for SEO, we tend to target keywords to a country level, so select the most relevant country that you wish to target.
#2 Relevancy Score
is a subjective grading between1 (high) and 3 (low) on how relevant a keyword is to a topic. Judging the relevancy score is subjective. if you are new to the industry or the products/services/topics you are researching, you may need help from a colleague to best help grade how relevant keywords are to the topics you are researching.
You’ll see there are a number of keywords also graded as 3s which are best saved for other topics/pages. We’ve also put an X against keywords with zero search volume.
Note: In some very niche industries, especially where there is a high average order value, you may still wish to target keywords that are flagged with zero search volume as it’s still possible they may bring in traffic and convert.
Title tags need keywords but it’s not possible to fit all the keywords that we want to rank for in there, and even if it was, that could look like keyword stuffing which is frowned upon. Instead, we need to focus on the most important keywords and that’s why prioritizing them helps.
For on-page optimization, keyword targeting and prioritizing keywords is important when you are trying to conduct keyword optimization.
Now we will look at prioritizing keywords by collecting keyword data from brainstormed keywords. The goal here is to pick a half dozen or so keywords to target and order them by importance.
#1 P1 keyword
You should always choose one P1 keyword and this is the most important one to focus on. This is known as the primary keyword.
#2 P2 keyword
Choose two P2 keywords. Also known as secondary keywords, these are the next most important keywords after P1 keywords.
#3 P3 keyword
Choose three or more P3 keywords. Typically there are three to six keywords. Known as tertiary keywords, these are the next most important keywords after P1 and P2 keywords.
Keywords with a good relevancy score and good search volume get prioritized higher. There will also be a subjective factor about how good a fit the keyword is for the business and the likelihood it will convert into business objectives.
The above example could be expanded further to include more P3 keywords.
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