You already know that search engine optimisation (SEO) helps your website to stand out from the crowd in search engine results. But which keywords should you target? Without good SEO keyword research, you’re taking a shot in the dark. You might target keywords that nobody uses in search, or you could err in the other direction and choose keywords for which there is so much competition that you don’t stand much chance of ranking for them. In this article, we’ll look at how to choose keywords for SEO so that you can power your website to search engine prominence.
What You’re Looking For in SEO Keyword Research
Keywords are terms that people use when searching online for businesses like yours. But, unless you have a very unique or highly specialised business, there’s lots of competition out there. The early birds have already caught the metaphorical worm, and you’ll have a hard time catching up with them. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use those keywords at all, but it does mean that you shouldn’t base your whole SEO strategy on them.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are search terms that relate to your business, but that very few people would think of using in search. Like the high competition keywords, they won’t form the backbone of your SEO efforts, but unlike those highly competitive terms, you stand a good chance of ranking for them. Sounds good? The drawback is that only a handful of people use them, so you won’t get much exposure from using them.
When doing SEO keyword research, you’re looking for the middle ground: keywords with a relatively high search volume and little competition. With a bit of luck and the right skills, you’ll find some keywords that lots of people use in search but that your competitors aren’t really targeting effectively. That’s a golden opportunity!
Elements of Keyword Research
Keywords with high search volumes and low competition are the top choices to boost traffic to your website, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook other types of keywords. Let’s look at the elements your SEO strategy might include.
- Broadly matching keywords have a lot of reach, but may not be relevant. For example, if you use a phrase like “flower garden,” you may attract people who are interested in flower gardens – but they may not be looking for the seeds you offer for sale.
- A modified broad match uses a broad match keyword, but refines it somewhat. Using our example, it may be something like “flower seeds for spring.” Although fewer people will use this search term, it’s more specific and may result in a better match between your business and a person who is searching for flower seeds.
- Phrase matches are longer keywords that include the broad match keyword used in a phrase. They’re another step down in reach, but another step up in relevance. Using our example, “spring flower garden seeds for sale,” could be among your options.
- Exact matches can be hard to win on, but if you rank for them, they will have the greatest relevance. In our example, the business sells flower seeds. “Flower seeds” is the most direct match, but to get noticed, the owner of the website will need to use other keywords to support their ranking.
During your keyword research, you’ll be looking for keywords that fall into all these categories, and each of them will lead you to a range of secondary keywords that relate to them. At the same time, you’ll be checking out the competition, looking for overlooked keywords and checking their search volume.
To sum up, you’re hoping to find SEO keywords with high relevance, a reasonable amount of traffic, moderate to low competition, and a high potential for conversion. In the process, you’ll identify several “primary” keywords that will work for you along with secondary keywords that support them.
How to Research Keywords for Your SEO Strategy
Begin Your Research With Brainstorming
Identify categories that relate directly to what your business does and that might attract people to your website. Don’t overdo it! A dozen of these categories are more than enough, and less could be better.
Now, imagine you were a person who is searching for information about these broad categories. What would you enter in search? If you already have a website, you can check your analytics for ideas. As you identify possibilities, list them under each category you’d like to optimise for.
Research Your Ideas
You have a concept. Now you need to start the real research. Begin by looking for related search terms in your browser. You can also use Google’s Keyword Planner to see what it suggests. So far, everything you’re doing is free, but at this point you may want to save yourself some hassle by using a paid keyword research or SEO tool. And, since you’re diving into real online data, you can start looking at search volumes and competition.
You’re shocked! All your favourite keywords are super-competitive. Should you give up? Absolutely not. If you can outdo your competitors with the quality and amount of information you provide and the way you present it, you can still beat them. At the same time, it might be more beneficial to choose a less competitive keyword or phrase with fewer searches and get quick results. Consider your options.
Think it Through
Just using keywords effectively isn’t enough to get you to the top. The results web surfers find when clicking on your links should match their intentions. If they don’t, users will move on quickly, and that will harm your rankings. For example, this article uses the term “SEO keyword research.” A person entering this term in search either wants to know how to do it, or hopes to find someone who will do it for them. The former is more likely, hence this article’s “how-to” approach.
User Intent and SEO in Action
Trade secret: you came here to learn about keyword research. We just told you how to find keywords for SEO and how to evaluate them. In other words, we’ve catered to your “user intent.”
Having learned about finding SEO keywords, you have discovered that it’s a time-consuming task that requires skill and experience. You can go ahead and try it yourself, but you might just decide to leave it up to the professionals. After all, you’re already an expert in your field, and you have a business to run. Although you’re curious about SEO and want to use it to boost your online conversions, you may not feel equal to learning an entirely new speciality – and SEO certainly is just that.
Why has keyword research evolved?
Google’s Keyword Tool became the Keyword Planner.
Google’s Keyword Tool was an excellent piece of an SEOs arsenal and there was much uproar from the SEO community when they switched to the Keyword Planner. Certain functionality was lost or at least significantly hindered such as producing relevant related keyword ideas. Some SEOs do claim that the Keyword Planner is in fact better, but we would disagree. Exact match vs broad match keywords was merged into one, keyword ideas are not as good in this current iteration of the tool and the figures do not seem particularly accurate, especially when cross referenced against Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools (now Google’s Search Console) data. More on this below.
Changes in Searcher Behaviour
In the early days of what would now be considered primitive search engines, people treated the search bar with very little trust. They did not consider them to be complex tools capable of understanding the meaning behind a phrase. Instead you would enter your individual keywords in order to return results that also mention that keyword. It made life very easy for SEOs, all they then had to do was match those keywords. Nowadays it is slightly different, people now treat Google more like a human being asking questions and using longer tail search phrases because they trust that Google can match their intent visa vi the Hummingbird update. This in turn changes how we not only assign keywords but also how those keywords then dictate strategies such as content creation.
Search engines are constantly getting better at understanding what we are trying to get out of our searches. Latent Semantic Analysis is essentially Google’s giant thesaurus. Google will know that a pear is a fruit and that a ferrari is a car. As a result, often a page will not have to mention the exact keyword to then be returned as a result, as long as it is talking about the same subject. It is a bit of a weird concept to get your head around but something that certainly affects content creation and puts more emphasis on in depth content.
While there’s nothing to stop you from using our information, it may have shown you why using a professional service to formulate your keyword strategy is a smart move. And, since you can see that we’re SEO experts, it makes sense to use our SEO services. One thing leads to another, and before long, we’re watching your website rise through the rankings. That’s SEO in action! Are you ready to make this happen? We are! Talk to Yellowball about your website’s SEO today.