Keyword Research: The Pillar of SEO

Keyword Research: The Pillar of SEO

Keyword research is the foundation of your SEO strategy. To rank for the keywords that drive your business, you need to know how users search. By knowing this, you can write content that people want to read, link to and is ranked well on Google and other search engines.

To get you started, this handy guide covers:

  • How to start keyword research
  • Understanding query intent
  • Organising your keyword research
  • Evaluating your keywords
  • Using this in content

How To Start Keyword Research

The first thing to do when beginning keyword research is to talk to your client or team about goals. Each business, whether it’s within the same industry, is very different and can have hugely different goals and focuses for their product or services.

As an SEO, you need to make sure that businesses aren’t looking to rank for concepts but are focused on their target audience and potential customers. Some key questions to get you started include:

  • What is the business selling? How does the business operate? What are the goals/vision?
  • How are people currently searching? How do they find the business? Are there any audience personas to give you a headstart?
  • What are the seasonal trends with the business (if any)? - you can use something like Google Trends to find the split of search traffic.
  • Why do/should the customers buy from them? What problem is being solved?
keyword research 1 2048x1367.jpg

Understanding Query Intent

The four major query intents (Google Quality Rater Guidelines) are:

  • To Know
  • To Do
  • Website Query
  • Visit-in-Person Query

These can simply be broken down as: 

  • Informational searches (e.g. how tall is the Eiffel Tower? - which is actually answered within the search bar now)
  • Transactional query (e.g. buy red Converse)
  • Navigational query (e.g. Nike website)
  • Plus, local search queries (e.g. bakeries at London Bridge).

Understanding what a search query refers to and how that relates to the business you’re working with is important in deciding the importance of keywords.

Organising Your Keywords

These intents help us to know where someone is within the sales funnel, which goes something like:

  1. Top - Defining a problem
  2. Middle - Researching solutions
  3. Bottom - Comparing solutions
  4. Purchase

What we find is that as you go down the funnel, you’ll generally get more long-tail, specific searches. For example, if someone’s looking for a car, they may go something like this:

  1. Best family cars
  2. Range Rover v Volkswagen
  3. Range Rover Sport dealership near me

The other thing to consider is semantic keyword topics. Since the Hummingbird update, back in 2014, Google has been pushing results that match the intent above rather than the language itself.

With the increase in conversational search queries, this is only going to grow and if we look at something like this topic - keyword research - the semantic group may include:

  • seed keywords
  • long tail keywords
  • organic search
  • search engine optimisation
  • keyword research tool

To get started doing this, you need to get a list of keywords for each level of the funnel (top, middle and bottom) and then:

  • Fill with 400-500 keywords - start with what you know and then use a tool like Moz Keyword Explorer or SEMRush Keyword Research to get variants.
  • Filter variants - identify the best variants and sort them into priority to get a concentrated list of key targets.
  • Set pages to target by each keyword.
  • Label the different campaigns by topics or semantics to track over time.

How To Evaluate Your Keyword Research

When you put these keywords into a tool, you will get information like monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, cost per click estimates for ads, variations and questions. Take a look at this example:

keyword research overview semrush.png

As we can see, the volume is relatively high but the keyword difficulty and the level of competition within paid search (0.9 out of 1) make it a tricky keyword to rank for and get the benefits from. 

Underneath that, we’re able to see the current top ranking pages:

keyword research serp analysis.png

With this information we’re able to go and do competitor research on how their content is structured, the links the website is getting and how strong the domain is. This helps us to get an idea of whether we can look at this keyword as a long-term or short-term and which related topics we can look at as well.

We need to start tying keywords together now. If we’re looking to rank for 6 month car lease then the image above shows us there are 15 questions we might be able to use, keyword variations that we might want to target instead/as well as and related searches for more ideas.

Use this to build a list together in a spreadsheet with the difficulty scores, click through rates, SERP features and whatever else you can find.

Creating Content After Keyword Research

Now’s the time to use this keyword research to build out your content. Generally, your website will be structured like this:

  • Homepage - Cars
  • Primary category page - Lease Cars
  • More detailed page - Six Month Lease Cars
  • Specific information - Volkswagen Tiguan Six Month Prices

You need a page for every concept you want to rank for and you can use synonyms and related terms to improve your semantic search. Use different types and see how audiences react and the traffic/actions it brings. Repeat what is working, tweak what isn’t.

Key things to optimise with your keyword research:

  • Title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • H1 headings
  • Alt attributes
  • Source code

Once you’ve started creating the content and blog posts that you know your audience is searching for, you can begin to look at link building. Handily, we have a post around what are backlinks and how to build them to your website.

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