How To Do Keyword Research for SEO
Steps to Successful Keyword Research
Before proceeding with on-page optimization, we need to conduct keyword research following these steps:
- 24 Pick a topic to research: Focus on one topic or theme at a time. Imagine what the webpage you want to optimize looks like.
- Brainstorm keywords: Research keywords with similar meaning around a closely related topic. Focus on quantity over quality at this stage.
- Review keyword value: Gather keyword data to help decide how useful the keywords are, and whether they are within reach.
- Prioritize keywords: Decide which keywords are the most important, and which ones you wish to focus more on.
Your research topic could be a product or service, a source of information, or a brand or person. For example, ‘What size snowboard do I need?’ appears both informative and transactional but is considered informative as the searcher is researching before deciding to make a purchase.
Picking a Topic to Research
When picking a topic to research, it’s important to focus on one topic at a time and make sure that it’s closely aligned to your objectives and your industry. As you carry out your research, it’s good to have a web page in mind as well as the needs of your customers.
Avoid being too generic or trying to research the whole website in one go. The most common mistake people make in keyword research is focusing on short-tail keywords that aren’t relevant enough for search engines to rank. For example, targeting the phrase ‘shoes’ on a running shoes page is too generic, and not relevant enough for search engines to choose and searchers to be happy with.
The next step is brainstorming keywords. This involves coming up with a list of keywords that are closely related to the topic you have chosen. You’ll need to think of synonyms as well as plural and singular keywords. It is important to aim for quantity rather than quality, but the results still need to be relevant to your topic. Try to think of at least 10 keywords where possible. When you are brainstorming, try to avoid straying too far off-topic, trying to find only perfect match keywords, or stopping at two or three keywords.
Tools to Help You Brainstorm
There are some useful tools available to help you brainstorm for keywords.
- Search engine suggestions and related searches: You can see an example from Google below. The star has been added to the keyword search to get more specific results. The related search suggestions give more ideas around the same topic.
- Google Keyword Planner: Another useful tool is Google Keyword Planner, which is part of Google Ads. You can enter a keyword and it will give you a list of suggestions related to that keyword, as well as search volumes for the keyword. You can also use filters to customize your search.
- Keywords Everywhere: This is another helpful tool for brainstorming keywords. It is a free Chrome plugin and that can be used with Google Keyword Planner and other search engine interfaces.
- Competitor keyword analysis: Another approach you can take to brainstorm keywords is to look at the keywords your competitors use. SEMrush is a popular competitor keyword analysis tool. You can put in a website's homepage and it will provide you with a list of that website’s most valuable keywords.
- Search volumes: As you brainstorm, compile a list of keywords and include the search volumes for them so that you can compare them later on. In this example, you can see a list of keywords in the left column and the search volume for each keyword in the right column.
Steps to Reviewing Keywords
There are five steps to reviewing keyword value and difficulty:
- Get the keyword search volumes
- Get the keyword difficulty scores
- Get the keyword rankings
- Review the keywords
- Assign a relevancy score
Search Volume and Relevancy Score
There are two key considerations when deciding which keywords are best for your topic and business.
Search volume: The higher the search volume, the better the keyword is. For SEO we tend to target keywords at a country level, so select the most relevant country that you wish to target.
Relevancy score: This is a subjective grading between 1 (high) and 3 (low) on how relevant a keyword is to a topic.
In the example below, we have graded ‘picking a snowboard’ as a 3 for the relevance to the topic. The topic is about snowboard sizing, so while ‘picking a snowboard’ is a related topic, it is actually a parent topic. You can also put an ‘X’ against keywords with zero search volume.
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 conversions.
Keyword stuffing is frowned upon. If you look at a title tag, which is the blue clickable link in a search result, you'll see that it is a specific size. If that size is exceeded, it will be truncated; and if it is exceeded by a large amount, it will start to be ignored by search engines. On average, you can aim to work between three and five keywords into a title tag. It is important to focus on the most valuable keywords, and that’s why prioritizing them helps.
Based on the metrics you have acquired, pick out the most important keywords. Keywords with a good relevancy score and good search volume should be most highly prioritized. There will also be a subjective factor regarding how good a fit the keyword is for the business and the likelihood that it will convert into business objectives.
- Always choose one P1 keyword. This is the most important one to focus on and is known as the primary keyword.
- Choose two P2 keywords. Also known as secondary keywords, these are the next most important keywords after P1 keywords.
- Choose three or more P3 keywords. Known as tertiary keywords, these are the next most important keywords after P1 and P2 keywords.
In this example, all the keywords have been graded with 1 for topic relevancy which means they are highly relevant. So, in this case, prioritization has been decided based on search volume and subjectivity.