Keywords are invitations to your website from search engines. SEO starts with keyword research. It helps you to understand user needs and find content ideas for your website.
This keyword research guide will help you to:
- Find more keywords for your website.
- Analyze keywords to fit your website.
- Prioritize keywords to speed up traffic flow to your content.
- Choose keywords to improve conversion.
- Use keyword research tools.
Using the right keywords will increase traffic and conversions for your website.
Table of Contents
What is Keyword Research?
Keyword research is the process of finding and analyzing search terms for achieving marketing goals. You can use it to increase traffic for your website, increase conversions, create website content, create video content, create ads, create products to sell.
Think keyword research as market research. By analyzing keywords you can learn what users want and create content and products to meet their needs. Earn money while providing what users want.
Importance of keyword research for SEO
Keywords are terms that use search on the internet. Knowing what users search you can create content that matches their needs. You will know which articles to write, what important points to mention in your article, how to explain topics highlighting areas that are interesting for your audience, and know what users want to see for certain search terms.
Keyword research will help you to create content that users want to consume. By giving to users exactly what they are looking for will make your website rank high in search engines.
Keyword research will help you to use your content creation resources effectively and avoid creating content that can damage your site’s SEO.
You will also know how to attract users via email, ads and social media. Positive user behavior signals from various traffic sources will also increase your website quality and help rank higher in search engines.
How keyword research helps my site to grow
When you create content and realize that some pages are attracting visitors from search engines. Others posts have no visits at all.
You start to analyze your existing content and find that posts with more visitors have better ranking and not much competition with high quality content.
What does it mean?
This means that doing good keyword research before creating content will increase chances to rank high and attract more visitors to every article on your website.
Good keyword research brings more traffic than any other traffic source to my website..
This single research showed that it has great potential to rank high if you provide a good solution for the problem. So I created a super lightweight solution with a couple lines of code. Then created corresponding article to share given solution explaining all of its benefits.
And after a couple of months an article about “sharing button without plugin” started ranking higher in search engines.
This article regularly brings new visitors to my website. It is currently the third most popular article bringing traffic from search engine.
How to find keywords?
First step to keyword research is to find as many different keywords to match your website niche and marketing goals. Every person thinks differently when searching on the internet. You need to find keywords that most of your target audience uses.
Start with seed keywords
Use keywords that describe your business or article. These are general keywords that most people search and come to your mind first.
For example for internet marketing niche these seed keywords come to mind:
- Internet marketing
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing
These are not target keywords yet. It will be very difficult to rank for these seed keywords.
Use the following methods to find more keywords that will be easy to rank and bring traffic to your website.
Google makes it easy for searches to type search terms with the autocomplete feature. Autocomplete is generated with most searched keywords.
We can use google autocomplete to find those most searched keywords that match our content marketing goals.
Go to google website and start typing your seed keyword.
For example when we type “internet marketing” to Google autocomplete it will show these most searched terms. This will generate more content ideas for your website that people search regularly.
Google Gemini (formerly known as BardAI)
Gemini is a new tool by Google to get quick answers using Artificial Intelligence (AI). Instead of searching various tools you can directly ask Gemini to show keywords for “internet marketing”.
Google Gemini will suggest keywords and group them for you by intent and competition. You can find keywords with high intent, medium or low competition, long tail keywords etc. Gemini also will give advice on which keywords to target for best results.
Wikipedia is a well organized free resource on the internet. Every article is written by many professionals in their field. This makes Wikipedia a treasure to find keywords for any niche.
For example check the following screenshot for topic “Brand Awareness“.
You will get keyword ideas that cover for given topic. Each of them can be a separate article with lots of examples and use cases.
Related searches on Google
Google has a related searches field that helps to refine given search terms using most searched related terms.
Use it to get more keyword ideas related to your business. Click on related terms to get even more related keywords.
Repeat the process to get as many related terms as you need.
Keywords from forum threads
Forums are places where users actively discuss topics. You can find good keyword ideas from forum pages.
To find related forums to your niche search on google using following terms:
[keyword] + forum
[keyword] + discussion
For example if you are writing about dancing classes then search “dancing class forum” or “dancing class discussion”.
Once you find an active forum check recent threads. Pay attention to discussions with lots of replies and detailed topics.
How to analyze keywords?
Now when you have big list of keywords it is time to identify their ranking potential for your website. For this you need to use an excel sheet with additional columns to filter keywords after completing analysis.
Let’s have a look at some important metrics for keyword research.
Long tail keywords
Long tail keywords contain 3-6 words. More words in your keyword means more long tail it is.
Long tail keywords are easy to rank and more precise. Users prefer long tail keywords when they know what they want.
They do not want general results that millions of other websites answer. They want detailed articles that no other website answers.
General terms that have hundred thousands monthly searches. They are usually single or double word keywords like “insurance”, “dogs”, “recipes” etc. Almost impossible to rank. Very limited number of keywords available. User intent is not clear. For example what user want to see when they search “cars”? It may be new cars, concept cars, car images, car prices, cars for rent, history of cars etc. It is impossible to write article without clear knowledge what users wants.
Mid tail (medium tail) keywords
Keywords containing 2-3 words. More precise but still hard to rank. Monthly searches are more than 2000. Example keywords are “car insurance”, “car images”, “car parts”. Has a limited number of keywords available and for this reason has high competition. Hard to rank. You can rank for them once you have lots of articles ranking for long tail related terms. Has low conversion because not all visitors have clear intent to purchase.
Long tail keywords
This is gold for all SEOs. Low competition and high conversion keywords. Easy to rank. Not all long tail keywords are good for targeting. You need to analyze other metrics (that explained in current article) for keywords in order to find good keywords. Long tail keywords contain more than 3 words. They have clear user intent. For example “car insurance companies in [country]”, “toyota camry 2024 model brake pedal for sale”. Has less than 1000 searches per month.
Do you want to rank keywords that bring lots of conversions (sales, signups, affiliate clicks, downloads, calls ets.) easily? Then long tail keywords are exactly what you want.
This is a great chance to create detailed articles and rank high easily.
Once your article gets more visitors from long tail keywords it will start ranking higher for general terms as well.
Always choose long tail keywords for your articles.
For example “Search button for WordPress without plugin” is a long tail keyword. Instead of the more general head term “share button”.
With head term I had no chance to rank, while long tail keyword allowed me to rank in a couple months and increase downloads.
Monthly search volume
Make sure that keywords you choose have some monthly search volume. Generally 300-500 monthly search volume is a good target for long tail keywords. Because low search volume means less competition by professional websites with high domain authority.
Accept that these numbers are rough estimates and calculated yearly then divided to 12 months. This way monthly search volume eliminates seasonality.
What does each search volume number mean?
- 0 – calculation mistake or keyword is not searched at all. Use this keyword only if it is suggested by google autocomplete. Otherwise you will be targeting a not searched keyword.
- 100 – Very low search volume. Can be easy to rank. Use if it is closely relevant to your website niche.
- 300-500 – Low search volume, generally easy to rank.
- 1000+ – medium search volume. Harder to rank.
- 10k+ – high search volume is very hard to rank. Competition goes between big websites with high budgets.
Monthly search volume can be found in various keyword research tools. Popular tools for it are Google keyword planner (free), Semrush, Ahrefs, KWfinder.
Monthly search volume inside keyword tools.
Google keyword planner (free tool) shows rough monthly search volume.
KWfinder also shows monthly search volume.
Make sure to use single tools to write monthly search volumes. Because each tool uses a different algorithm to calculate and estimate search volume.
You may also find some keywords that have 0 monthly search volume according to these tools but already bring lots of traffic to your website. They are anomalies and cannot be detected by these tools.
Make sure that keywords you choose have some monthly search volume otherwise you will be creating articles that nobody is searching and will not get any search traffic.
If keywords populates in Google autocomplete it definitely has some monthly search volume. You can safely target such keywords.
Keyword difficulty is an indicator of how hard it will be to rank for a given keyword. It is calculated by analyzing results on the first page of search engine results.
If you have lots of detailed articles from high authority websites on the first page then it will be very hard to rank for that keyword.
When you find a keyword with some low quality pages on the first page then it is easy to rank the keyword. Low quality pages are generally forums, pages with thin content, articles without images, poorly designed pages, sites with very few pages etc.
You can automate keyword difficulty calculation using some paid SEO tools like ahrefs, semrush, KWfinder.
Keyword difficulty displayed in KWfinder.
Keyword research tools use domain authority, page authority, page type, number of backlinks and many other metrics to detect the quality of pages ranking on google first page. When the first page has a couple low quality articles then it is an indicator of low keyword difficulty.
Prefer targeting keywords with low difficulty.
Search intent for keyword
Goal of every blog should be converting visitors to customers. Search intent will tell you what searcher wants.
Group your keywords by search intent for better targeting visitors and increase your rankings by making visitors happy.
Search intent will tell which stage of marketing funnel keyword belongs and what should be your call to action for the article targeted with that keyword.
Use the following search intent cheatsheet to group keywords by search intent. You can see relation of each search intent to marketing funnel and suggested call to action ideas for best conversion.
Search intent cheatsheet.
There are 3 main search intent categories.
- Informational: Users with informational intent are searching for understanding particular topic. They might be researching products, learning about subjects, and comparing available options.
- Keywords contain phrases like “how to”, “what is”, “tips for”, “guide to”, “best practices”.
- Marketing funnel stage: awareness, TOFU (top of the funnel), users get information about their problem.
- Call to action: subscribe to newsletter, browse our website, download free guide, join discussion group.
- Benefits: more traffic.
- Transactional: Users with transactional intent are ready to take action like making a purchase, sign up for service or download an item. They are aware of the problem and actively looking for a solution. They are considering what solutions exist and want to know which one is best for them. Commercial intent is also part of transactional intent.
- Keywords include phrases like “buy”, “order”, “download”, “sign up”, “discount”.
- Marketing funnel stage: consideration, MOFU (middle of the funnel).
- Call to action: buy, try our tool, download, request demo.
- Benefits: average traffic and conversion.
- Navigational: Users with navigational intent have already made a decision and are looking for a specific website, login page, contact details, address of company, specific brand etc. They use search engines to locate exactly what they are looking for. They know exactly where and what they want to buy.
- Keywords contain brand name, website url, “login”, “customer support”, “official website”.
- Marketing funnel stage: decision, BOFU (bottom of the funnel).
- Call to action: buy, contact us, sign up, navigate to your product/service.
- Benefits: high conversion.
Categorizing your keywords by search intent will give you clear direction on how to write your article and what actions to expect from each keyword.
When it is hard to identify search intent, use the long tail alternative of the keyword. Long tail keywords are more targeted and clear.
Check keywords on google and analyze first page results. They are ranking because they are meeting user search intent. Use it to identify search intent for the not obvious keywords.
Because search intent closely related to the marketing funnel stage starts with BOFU keywords. After covering all available keywords move to MOFU and TOFU keywords. You need to cover all stages of the marketing funnel to have a constant flow of customers.
Informational keywords will bring more traffic, transactional and navigational will bring more conversions.
How to prioritize keywords?
After gathering all keywords and related information about their ranking potential it is time to choose optimal keywords for your website.
Here are main points to consider when choosing keywords for articles on your website.
- Choose long tail keywords. They are easier to rank, better to understand search intent and better for conversion.
- Think in topic clusters. Work on one cluster at a time. Cover all subtopics for chosen topics. This will increase your authority for the topic. Which will result in higher rankings.
- Work in 10 – 20 keyword groups from the same cluster. After completing them work on other 10 keywords.
- Choose keywords that have real search volume. Make sure that chosen keyword populates in google autocomplete.
- Prefer keywords with navigational and transactional search intent. These keywords should increase your conversion rate. After creating content for them, cover informational intent keywords.
- Choose keywords for evergreen content. Update content every year with actual information.
- Keyword targeting does not end after creating content. Repurpose content in other formats like video, infographics, images, audio, pdf, course, cheat sheet etc.
Keyword Research Tools
SEO keyword research tools will help you to find more keywords, see their monthly search volume, calculate keyword difficulty, group keywords by search intent.
Keyword research tools will help you gather more information about keywords much faster. They will help you save time to get search volume and ranking difficulty calculations.
Here are popular tools to complete various stages of your keyword research:
- Find keywords: Google autocomplete, Google related searches, Google keyword planner, Semrush, Ahrefs, KWfinder, Google Gemini.
- Monthly search volume: Google keyword planner, KWfinder, Semrush, Ahrefs.
- Keyword difficulty: KWfinder, Semrush, Ahrefs.
- Search intent: Semrush.
No keyword research tool will choose keywords for you. They will just show various information related to keywords.
You need to choose and prioritize keywords using a combination of that information according to your traffic goal.
Need more SEO tools for various tasks? Check this detailed list of free tools.
How often should you do keyword research?
You should conduct keyword research regularly for writing new content and updating existing articles. Keyword performance metrics and search volume change over time. Use fresh keyword research every couple months.
Why does keyword difficulty change over time?
The Internet is dynamic as is life itself. Many things happen over time. Many SEOs do keyword research and create content over time. Google algorithm also changes. All this led to change in keyword rankings. When more websites target the same keyword with quality content that keyword becomes harder to rank. For this reason what is easier to rank now may be harder to rank next year.
What happens if you constantly create content without keyword research?
You will be wasting your effort creating content that no one is interested in. Keyword research is market research for websites. In order to get search engine traffic you need to have content that users want to read, share and enjoy.
Keyword research is an essential part of SEO. Choosing the right keywords will bring you desired traffic. Targeting wrong keywords or creating content without targeting any keywords will not bring any traffic to your website and waste your marketing efforts.
We learned how to find keywords and collect related information for each keyword by analyzing them. Then depending on your website needs to prioritize keywords to increase conversion, grow traffic, and gain topic authority.
First start with keywords to increase conversion then focus on keywords to grow traffic. And always work in topic clusters to gain authority.
Prefer long tail keywords for ease of ranking.
Start with navigational and transactional keywords for faster conversions. Then move to informational keywords to reach more users.
Learn more SEO optimization from my detailed guide.